Wednesday, July 6, 2011


"MIND ... THE GAP! ... MIND ... THE GAP! ... MIND ... THE GAP!" If this warning doesn't sound familiar to you, you have probably never been to London, or at least haven't traveled on the Underground. I have guest blogged from England before, and I happen to be here again, where the government has changed, but the fundamental aspects of the culture remain the same. One of the most evident warning signs about the state of this society is ... the omnipresent warning signs! You can barely walk a hundred yards without being confronted with a myriad of warnings about dangers like gaps, wet surfaces, slippery surfaces, deep water, fire hazards, etc., as well as threats of punishment in case you do something considered naughty, such as light a cigarette. Some of the warnings are as if their author meant them to be a caricature to be shown in a comedy show, like the constantly-repeated admonition to mind the gap in the subway stations.

Even my hotel room has its share of threatening and warning signs, including two copies of the yellow sticker warning me about wet surfaces in the bathroom, and three copies of the no smoking sign threatening me with a £150 fine. Also, the window is restricted by a cord from opening any further than a few inches. I wonder how many of these are required by the government and how many are the result of the hotel management's inclination to nanny over its guests. Whichever is the case, though, they are symptomatic of the kinds of ideas characterizing British culture today: There is danger lurking everywhere, and people are incapable of looking out for themselves and, like little children, are in need of constant supervision. These ideas are antithetical to freedom, and while Britain is still a semi-free country, it is bound to continue its descent into tyranny as long as it retains this culture.

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