Monday, June 19, 2006

The Sharps Committee

It is illegal for anyone in Britain to carry a knife with a blade over 3 inches long, so of course the arsehole who breaks into your house or mugs you in a back alley won’t be carrying anything like that, will he? Also, the teenager carrying a knife ostensibly for self-defence but really because he thinks it’s cool to do so, is going to stop at once, isn’t he? I mean, hasn’t the post-Dunblane ban on handguns (the one that resulted in out Olympic team having to practise in Switzerland) cut down on gun crime?

Cue hollow laughter.

(And hey, why 3 inches? If that’s the average depth to the heart or a major artery then the obesity epidemic is worse than I thought.)

The answer, of course, is to lock up for five years those who are caught carrying knives. Excellent – this from those whose ideology doesn't allow them to believe in the effectiveness of punishment, but who have faith in rehabilitation and re-education. Soon, if you are caught carrying a knife, you might spend about the same amount of time in prison as a paedophile.

Reading about the recent furore concerning knife crime, and the ridiculous calls to ban pointy kitchen knives (Yeah, that 3 inch rule really worked, so let’s make another one!), I can see nanny government introducing an outright ban on carrying a knife of any length. I can see bureaucracy burgeoning as legislation is passed to make tradesmen register all their knives. I can see carpet fitters having to buy licences for their Stanley knives and being forced to go (at their own expense) on two-day courses, organized by the HSE, on how to use them, and that the throwaway blades will have to be disposed of in an environmentally and socially responsible manner at special depots. And in all this (going off at a slight tangent here) I’m reminded of an excellent book called Half-past Human by T. J. Bass.

In his book Bass portrays a far future society in which trillions of humans live in hive cities underground, whilst the planet’s surface is used wholly for growing food. The humans are weak, they have rose-water blood, the survival characteristics of hamsters, and are referred to as ‘four fingered nebbishes’. The number of humans able to exist on the planet’s resources had reached saturation point, so the next step was taken: make smaller humans so more can exist on those same resources. In their society too the people are ‘looked after’ by a concerned state, for they have their ‘Sharps Committee’ whose sum purpose is to relieve citizens of sharp and possibly injurious objects.

Welcome to the future.

6 comments:

ondra.trnak said...

It is so hard, politics try to simulate activity, so they makes stupid laws and ministerial regulations about nothing or with so many holes that make it possible to elude them. But I think that it isn't problem so bad how it looks, every government do this stupid restrictions. But I can do mistake, you can have another oppinion about it in England where is functioning democracy compared to post-communist republic like Czech Republic.

Alex Cull said...

Well, that's the answer to crime isn't it - can't stop the criminals, so the next best thing is to criminalise law-abiding folks. We're sitting ducks, really.

I'm just imagining the finance news - economy's not good, but at least the crime industry's doing well.. Can't complain...

Half Past Human & the Godwhale - brilliant books. Did TJ Bass ever write anything else?

The thing I remember from Half Past Human was when giant apartment blocks collapse, the nebbishes get pressed into nutritious meat patties. Waste not, want not...

Re your theme, I'm also reminded of The Humanoids by Jack Williamson.

Cheers,
Alex

Neal Asher said...

Ondra, politicians certainly do try to simulate activity, how else to justify the ridiculous amounts they pay themselves?

Alex, I think those two books were the only SF ones T. J. Bass wrote, though I believe he did write some other stuff.

Matt said...

The nanny state is a truly pernicious force in human affairs. There's a bad one in Canada too, though recently rolled back a tiny bit by the recently elected conservative government (they're supposed to ditch the Gun Registry at least.)

I enjoyed your speculation about where it would all lead in Cowl (so far my favorite work for it's thoroughly original treatment of time travel.) A massive bureacracy that serves only to keep the weak alive, thus breeding disease and eventual dieback.

Personally I hope that something less catastrophic happens to defang the nanny state (or at least, refang the populace.) I can't help but wonder if the current craze for pink shirts might not be tied to the forced sissification of western society.

Neal Asher said...

Hah! The pink-shirts - I like it!

Bob Lock said...

See the news item tonight Neal about the murder of Daniel Pollen by those three cowards?
One did the actual stabbing but the other two morons were as just as much to blame for instigating the attack in the first place.
The main one gets a life sentence (minimum 15 years) so probably out in 7?
The other two get 5 a piece.
Perhaps we should start amputating hands if you are caught with a knife? The jail sentence handed out certainly isn't a detterent, perhaps something more brutal would be?