Personal responsibility, Covid and Bojo. MY rant.

People have got understandably upset over the thousands of Londoners* crowded into St Pancras last night trying to escape London. Yesterday, travel was banned for Christmas in the south of England with 8 hours notice. Previously, there were repeated promises that that definitely wouldn’t happen, so everyone made plans and promises and then had eight hours to fulfil those plans and promises, leading to scenes like the above picture.

With our new mutated virus, this could be catastrophic, and I’m seeing a lot of anger towards the people who travelled, but not enough with the people who caused all this. And since the virus started so much blame has been turned on individuals making stupid decisions, which hasn’t helped at all. The argument I keep seeing from anti-maskers is ‘It’s all about personal responsibility.’ ‘Stop telling me what to do, leave it up to personal responsibility.’ And then from the government ‘These people aren’t using personal responsibility, what’s wrong with them?’ For example:

‘The Government should allow us to take personal responsibility in the ongoing battle against Covid, not put us on the naughty step’

Julia Hartley Brewer from a Telegraph headline.

‘Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that ministers will fail to get the new strain of coronavirus under control unless the public take personal responsibility for preventing its spread.’

From the Independent

And it’s bollocks. Utter utter bollocks.

Because these people in St Pancras ARE using personal responsibility, that is exactly the problem. Their personal responsibility is to their families, their mental health, their happiness. They’re trying to get home to fulfill their personal responsibilities, but in such a panic that it doesn’t occur to them that lots of other people would do the same or how disastrous that might be.

What these people need is group responsibility, social responsibility, and that isn’t (in our individualistic society) so easy to come by, especially in a crisis.

That’s why we need a government, to control society in times of trouble so that our individual needs don’t take over. We need them to make calm, logical, consistent decisions so we know what to do. Instead we’ve had vague, rambling, ever changing decisions that are so ludicrous it’s led to constant doubt that the virus even exists despite 1.6m deaths worldwide.

From the people I know who are trying to do the right thing, I keep hearing the same cry. They say, ‘I need someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do for the best,’ and more importantly, ‘I need someone to tell the people I’m letting down that it is for the best.’ Because this situation is complicated and unfamiliar and no one can agree about what’s going on we each cling to what makes sense to us personally. It’s the work of our government to think in terms of the country as a whole, we can’t do that.

But in order for our rulers to be capable of that, they have to have social responsibility. We need a prime minister who isn’t acting purely with selfish, panicked (or disaster capitalist) interests and can instead make decisions that benefit the people of the country he’s responsible for, no matter how difficult. That’s the role he chose to take on.

We need a leader, not Bojo the clown.

* Actually, they probably aren’t Londoners if they’re going North to get home for Christmas

Psychometric Driving Test (and maybe how to pass one)

Most people at my work have to drive a van, and in the past having a clean driving license was considered enough to show that we could do that. However, that has now changed, and this week we all got given psychometric driving tests to do. We were told these tests used clever algorithms to determine how careful and conscientious we were, how quick our reaction times were, etc. There were three possible outcomes: to be low, medium or high risk. Almost everyone came out as ‘medium risk’, which is fair enough, but the two most dangerous (reckless, rude and impatient) drivers were the ones given a ‘low risk’ status, which made me suspicious. After doing some investigation, I think I’ve figured out why this was: the test doesn’t use clever algorithms at all, it isn’t testing reaction times and conscientiousness, it’s just bollocks.

Disclaimer: no promises here, presumably there are a few tests like this around, and I only have experience of one. I’ve done my best to figure out how the tests work, but it’s all guesswork.

I took the test first. It consisted of a series of very simple questions you don’t need any knowledge to answer, such as:

When a cyclist pulls out in front of you without warning, how often do you get annoyed?

When late for an appointment, how often will you exceed the speed limit to get there on time?

There are five possible answers, things like: always, often, sometimes, rarely or never and you have to pick one.

The questions seemed so simplistic that I assumed to just put ‘never’ to every negative trait and ‘always’ to every positive trait would raise a red flag that I was lying. It being a psychometric test using a fancy algorithm, suggested that there was something complicated going on. So I didn’t completely lie, instead I put answers that were a slightly better version of me, my answers to the above questions were ‘rarely’ and ‘never’.

I came out medium risk. I discussed it with another colleague, and he had much the same approach, assuming that to claim he never got irritated with another driver or never sped up to get through the lights before they change would be unrealistic. He was also medium risk.

Then today I asked the colleague who got low risk, how he did it (I was in the van with him at the time, he was speeding through lights and cutting people up as we talked about it.)

“Well, they obviously just wanted us to put that we’d never do anything wrong, so I did that. I don’t know why they even put options other than always and never, because those were clearly the only answers they wanted. I mean they’re just idiots really.”

So there you are. As far as I can work out, there is no fancy algorithm or subliminal testing, they assume that if you say you’re a great driver who never does anything wrong, that you must be telling the truth. When asked if you’ve ever sped up to get through an amber traffic light, you should put never. Having asked around other colleagues for how they answered, backs that up also.

The frustrating thing is that the kind of personality that is comfortable and confident about lying, is not likely to be one that is a safe driver. Those who put more cautious answers (the ‘rarely’s and ‘sometimes’ answers) are penalised. I’d quite like to find out I’m wrong about this though, so if anyone has a different experience, or knows more about how the tests are designed would like to comment, that would be great.