Monday, 26 November 2012

Great Expectations.

Am I all that different to other people in that I have a certain level of expectations from other people, especially those in authority?  I am one of those people who hates to be late and if someone asks me to do them a favour. I like to be prompt in doing so. You know, you make some informal query. You expect that people will be back in touch within a reasonable time scale.

I have a friend who is currently seeking work. Not being one to let the grass grow under his feet. He is very proactive at looking for a job. He describes his job applications as being a bit like a letter in a bottle. He launches them in the expectation of never getting a reply. He is often left wondering if the letters ever get through to their intended destination at all. 

At one time he decided to try and test the system. So he started adding a stamped addressed postcard, acknowledging receipt of his application. After about twenty attempts with no reply he gave up. One day, a postcard arrived. It was one of his acknowledgements, but it was five months after the closing date for the job had passed. He was then left wondering if the postcard itself had been delayed in the post.

What I have noticed is that more and more my expectations are not being met. As secretary to a waterways activity group, I have to send formal letters from time to time to various bodies. Almost without exception, replies are hard to get. I get the feeling that there is some, "head in the sand" burial in the hope that the questions might go away.

It's the same for text messages, which fair no better. But you can elect to get a memo sent back when the message is delivered. So, if your persistent you start looking at other ways of getting a reply. Picking up the phone and talking to them directly. But you often get the answer phone message asking you to leave a message. When you do get to talk to people you often get the most vague of assurances.

One way if you are really persistent is to write to someone at the top of the tree. In the hope that when the message is cascaded down the system. It might carry a bit more weight or gravitas. We did this a couple of years ago with our bank - we got a bunch of flowers sent by way of compensation from the man at the top. We are left waiting the answer to the original question which never arrived. So we moved banks.

Now, I understand that some people are even more bloody minded than me. The escalation of weapons goes to the miss-named "Freedom of Information" act. Around 120,000 requests are made each year. Private citizens make about 60% of them. Businesses and journalists accounting for 20% and 10% respectively. Journalists' requests took up more of officials' time than businesses' and individuals' requests. However, many such FoI requests still get ignored on the basis, that it might even at the 11th hour go away!

There is now a new method being trialled in the media. It's the covert hidden camera and/or voice recording method. You set up an innocuous meeting on some subject or other. Then ambush the person with your real questions. If that doesn't work you confront them on neutral ground like in the street. I find it makes interesting television to watch, whilst you while away the time waiting for the reply that you know in your heart of hearts will never come!

Mobile phones in the public's pocket now complement the on street surveillance cameras. It's amazing the number of times that the public recording is now provide the damning evidence obtained from the streets. In some cases the watchers are now being watched by the watched. You was a demonstration marching down the street. The marchers now use cameras to record the cameras used to record them. I was puzzled why they would want to do that. Then I was told that quite often they use the recording to gather evidence of the people who were recording the event for later use when arrests are made. 

So in the ever escalating war of video and sound technology and public persistence in getting a reply to their question. Will the hidden camera or covert recording come into the mainstream of use by the general public. I can see it now, going into the bank to make a deposit and recording the transaction for later used as evidence. pressing the record button in my pocket as I get to the front of the queue. George Orwell's Big Brother surveillance is alive and well, but like a reply to a question has been a bit late (28 years) in arrival. 


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