In 1984 George Orwell observed: “Only the Thought Police Mattered”. Perhaps weirdly, these words popped into my mind this week when a National Driver Offender Retraining Course missive popped through my letterbox.
A retraining course, bit Thought Police I thought? And lo at the behest of East and West Sussex County Councils. What next?
Note the words: ‘Offenders Retraining Course’. Smack of 1984? Smack of North Korea? Smack of Stasi East Germany under the Communists? And my crime? I drove through the 30mph sweet hamlet of Halland at 36mph. 6mph over the limit.
Maybe I deserve incarceration on Devils Island for such this offence? Maybe my hands should be amputated never to drive again? Or my legs shortened never again to reach pedals? Perhaps, I should simply be hung in the town square as a warning to drive fear into you who rarely touch 31mph? OK, OK don’t all rush forward with some rope!
But the real potential punishment is worse. Much worse. The Thought Police think I should endure four long hours of reducation/retraining. Is it me or does this seem just a little against the concept of freedom in a free society?
Is compliance to state norms the only action possible before we are enticed to endure reeducation/ retraining to turn us all into perfect little humans being in a mould dictated by a Thought Police?
And what next? Will the Thought Police elements in the East and West Sussex CC’s create reeducation/retraining classes for those found flying kites? Ooopps the Taliban have already been there. Maybe those found singing in the streets of Eastbourne and environs will have to undergo retraining courses?
What about four-hour retraining classes for those who overstay at a parking meter? What about lobotomies for those who exercise the freedom to criticize a parking warden?
Don’t get me wrong. I should not have been driving at 6mph over the speed limit. For this act I deserve the consequence of my offence? A fine yes. Points on my licence maybe. But re-education/retraining? How well Orwell foretold the future?
Some will say too many die on the road from cars travelling at 36mph. On that basis perhaps we should ban people travelling in planes that fall out of the sky now and again and kill rather a lot of people. But do we really want a Thought Police society forcing us into retraining camps?
Kafka said “its often safer to be in chains than to be free”. Hands up those who want to be in chains? Hands up those who want to be free.