|Justice for All
by Sandy Newman
Alas! for poor Jack Bluster, new Home Sec to Tony's Government, who was observed to walk the silver beach alone, stooping to finger curious stones, who was observed to strain, stooping, as if his augmented belly contained a stiff spring which could only by might be compressed - was seen turning almost intimidated out to sea, a quarter turn in its bit-by-bitness conscious of the big and frightening spaces there, alas Jack Bluster had no time to loiter in the sand with his Jack Russell terrier, Bozo, who was seen to caper over a dune to lick Jack's toes, which the mournful gentle Home Secretary suffered, frowning at a horizon that would never be his
- for he was seen thus in the mind's eye only, of a single female viewer of his interview on Newsnight, who then turned back to her uncompleted drawing of a seal and forgot the apparition forevermore.
That was before. For one day Bluster woke to find himself the victim of a distressing neurological skid, a psychic ailment which caused him to reason thus:
If: Plato is a Greek. And: Plato is a man. Then: All men are Greeks, and they're probably in this country without a visa, collecting dole.
He announced the Zero Tolerance Plus! programme that very morning, to the fluster of his team and the incredulity of journalists, for no one could believe -
"So, let me just get this straight, Mr Bluster, you intend to introduce prison for all offences? For instance, if I commit a parking offence, surely -"
"That is what I intend. Nip illegality in the bud. Working hand in hand with our expanded CCTV network -"
"But critics will say all this smacks of Big Brother."
"Well, we must keep things in perspective. Of course any CCTV would have to be requested by... that is, it's just a matter of providing funds."
"And I presume you have the Prime Minister's backing for this, to be telling -"
- in his bed, agog at the telly screen, pressing to his white lips the slipper he had been donning when Bluster started, the PM shrilled "NO!"
- and looked left and right, fearful of being observed to be soft on crime.
That was after. Or before the next after, which gave way to yet more afters, each bigger and shaggier and more -
- 2 -
That Bluster should receive upon that beach, that imagined shore of another's absent mind, such fierce intelligence -
- for no less is implied in these lines, it was the damned girl all right, who must have gotten into a bad mood over her seal drawing -
- should little surprise those who have felt the insinuating tug of those threads which weave us all into a glistening great a-boing a-tremble web of mankindness. But in short, the lass thought (something along these lines) "Fucking seal, keeps coming out lumpy," abandoned her vision on that ill-natured note, and monsters galloped from her ocean to gobble Bluster's mind.
- 3 -
So Security Blanket was launched, providing CCTV surveillance "round the clock, on every block" (so cheeped the advert kiddie, orphan of a lass unhappily taken from her doorstep by a masked abductor and dismantled in alphabetical order
- a crime which might have been prevented had that Broadmoorish baddie been snapped on CCTV, having, as he did, vestigial horns, which narrows him down, I happen to know, to three families in whom that trait has been passed down, and who all live, better still, on one outer Hebride, the "lost" one which appears on only pre-1918 maps -
on which descended in that year - that is, on that misfortunate isle descended, in 1918, a Horned
- but that, you will graciously accept, is another story -
) on every street corner, in businesses and homes requesting this service, or where the landlord had requested this service on behalf of tenants, the Cyclopean eye of the video was opened, to the crazed glee of video manufacturers, who headlong, created jobs -
- which, as a group of existential philosophers have conclusively shown, in laboratory tests on shaven brain-damaged rabbits, in a previously little regarded outpost of the University of Chicago, is the purpose of Man's existence -
resulting, especially as, in a shock development, desperate criminals targetted houses not inviting surveillance; aye, houses which preferred the hallowed privacy of a bygone age were burgled and their inhabitants raped, et cetera, repeatedly, until they too cracked, resulting
in a cornucopic wealth of video surveillance, the friendly lens appearing like a universal logo in the corner of every scene, to declare on every occasion that the public would not sit still for crime! no! not sit still! not! or so it certainly did seem from vox pops on Sky, time-honoured source of politicians' feel for the grassroots
interpreted as they were (the pops, that is, were) by a cutting edge vox-ometer which tipped a little for
- those who cross the street when they see a Sky journalist - those whom Sky journalists do not observe, even under their very noses - those whom, though observing, Sky journalists don't ask anything ever - those of whom, though asking, Sky journalists do not like the answers - those who, though liking whose answers, have so little personality the impression they make is subtly disturbing, causing one to suspect the introduction of replicants in our midst
and then the result multiplied by 5, divided by pi, and sent to the analysts to be "finalised" by a 20 year old Work Experience volunteer, giving the resounding answer: no! not sit still! not! not!
So to these public plaudits, Britain's Security Blanket was drawn up to our collective chin.
- 4 -
The single female viewer pinned her seal drawing on the refrigerator, like children's drawings displayed by mystifyingly proud parents; there is warped around an insufficient supply of novelty refrigerator magnets in the shape of common fruits
a red apple, a yellow banana
and looked undeniably like a seal, albeit lumpy and too brown, with a weird devilry in its single, maniacally widened, eye.
Soon she decided it did not really comfort her, but the reverse, and crumpled it in a fit of loathing. It appeared she was not really the sort of person who had hobbies: she lacked, so she felt, the requisite self-belief.
- 5 -
CCTV recordings were transmitted to regional HQs, where video screens were manned by armies of former inner city truants, rescued for society by the Government's New Handshake programme -
under which, for 60 pounds, they worked a 40 hour week with unpaid overtime at tasks which constituted a genuine step up to real employment, yet not at real jobs for which at one time real employees had been paid,
in fact staring into screens with a thin, glistening line of drool descending, descending, descending from agaped mouths, but, as videotaped evidence - for the surveillance too was under surveillance - proved, being mopped by grubby knuckles always before, never after breaking free -
those video screens recorded multifarious wrong-doing, which was noted by the Trainee Partners for Future British Competitiveness with the glee of nasty ill-wishing gnomes, the deeds in question being committed generally by elders, often ones earning in excess of 60 pounds a week.
They met quotas, vied for even measly performance bonuses, yes, the Trainee Partners studied stocks to understand insider dealing - property and contract law - dug up ancient statutes which allowed them to finger ever straighter and more inoffensive Middle Class Wanker Partners whom, in 40 hours a week of watching on a drab bank of screens, they had grown to personally loathe with an intensity comparable to the incandescent heat of foundries
"Ah! Look a' that! Spidey! I got the Wilkinson bitch on claiming contingency mining rights for tax purposes without a pre-existing performance contract! Your ass, tart!"
And though in certain regions Trainee Partners were known to wear a certain distinctive brown shirt and chant disquieting things, the nation cheered them, aye, the vox pops were unequivocally pro
"But some say," tax-evading, weed-craving Sky journalists wheedled, "that otherwise law-abiding people are being picked up for trivial offences."
The pavement analysts were unmerciful and blunt: "A crime's a crime."
And old ladies hung wreaths of paper flowers on video cameras - rather, on the cages which protected each video camera - doing which they too were caught on film and broadcast to a grateful nation, though the man in the street was not to know that thereby they were violating
- 6 -
Poor Bluster began to suffer not from sleepless nights, alas, but from restless -
- do we call them dreams? this bastard progeny of two unacquainted minds, these aquatic journey among gun-toting fish and paedophilic octopi, where Bluster was condemned to stroll, lumbering, along the sandy sea bottom, bearing unwieldy equipment whose workings, he suspected, were to boot badly affected by immersion in salt water, condemned to struggle up and down these blue abysmal dunes in search of television owners who had not paid their licence -
and though it might last but the span of REM sleep, subsiding after some minutes into sweet unknowingness, there was, alas, an element of ever, of eternal, of damned, in that vision, which Bluster, on waking, would strain to understand -
for had he not done his utmost? had he not? had he not sacrificed his all, his family life, his career as a great novelist, to serve the public interest?
Jack Bluster, ghostly white and stubbled, staring into his bathroom mirror, begins to think he sees the hand of jealous Neptune in his affairs.
- 7 -
CRIME RATES SKYROCKET! bellowed headlines, shouted, shrilled and stamped their feet the headlines, CRIME BOOM CRIME BOOM. Though in the nooks and crannies of the 20th page analysis greyer heads, nay minds, suggested that detection only might have risen, panic won the day, good old panic won another in a string of days stretching back, oh, well, let's just say over the hill and out of sight. Hysteria peaked amid the police forces, their officers depleted by the diligent efforts of Trainee Partners who were, so the Press Office had it, "especially concerned to ensure honesty among those entrusted with our safety," or -
"Do you bird, filth!" as the Trainees would chorus.
So the police were swamped. The courts were swamped, the prisons too were swamped, until in the frenzy of prison-building, screw-hiring, what have you, it became what Bluster called "the most successful job creation scheme in recent history -"
- and cue the clip of shaven rabbits.
But jobs were crucially required; for it transpired that, when deprived of opportunities for malfeasance, company directors just scratched their heads. They scratched their heads, releasing pale, embryotic thoughts like new-born kangaroos, not ripe enough to live out of the pouch - scratched and dug up near-ideas, scratched amid the mid-brown mid-grey mix of hair, but to release dandruff-like flecks of semi-project which availed nothing.
Time honoured accounting systems staggered under the weight of the zoom lens; stock-broking houses, deprived of inside information, crashed; factories were closed by work safety regulations. Everywhere, key workers vanished into the vast prison camps growing around all Britain's major cities, in what was flippantly called a "blue belt" after the distinctive colour of the prison uniforms -
and the cry became for fewer laws, for "deregulation," but no onslaught on the statute books halted the decline; there could not be few enough laws, if we must actually obey them.
Other countries, which had briefly flirted with the "Bluster model," dropped that hot potato with a giggling squeal - ooh! hot potato! fuck that, that was a hot potato!
- and retreated, laughing, behind a security blanket of comfy chicanery, calling it "liberte" and "droits" and other suspect foreign things. It was, in particular, a much-needed shot in the arm for Italian patriots.
And the Trainees became policemen, albeit part-trained, for the rush was such to get them on the beat that they were let loose with a bare week of class, bearing a tell-tale L on their backs to differentiate them. It was noted, too, that, though many had been ex-prisoners themselves, and thus no doubt given to the odd antisocial jape, they were much less likely to fall foul of the video tattle -
- 8 -
The single female viewer never committed any crimes. She thought she would have liked to - in particular she fantasised about burgling, because the hours were at night, for which she had a great affinity; and for the physical exercise. But the opportunity never arose. She knew no burglars, and it wasn't the sort of thing you just do, felt the female viewer.
She had no particular skills and no remarkable success at anything. Often she just watched TV, even One Man and His Dog. At other times, she worked long hours at jobs for which one gets little thanks. The elderly featured in many of her jobs; also dishes.
Once someone said to her, "Janine, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have you in my life." It may have been many times, this is just an iconic mention, representing that moment when the face - really tear-stained as if purple bruises had spread on the aura of the sufferer - is turned up - even when directed at a shorter person -
and the grateful utterance is deliberately formed and compressed to have weight, is made as much like a lump or stone, in fact, as can be, so that it may be kept, and even perhaps passed on. But the single female viewer didn't pass it on. She wasn't very grateful to anyone for some reason; probably they didn't do much.
- 9 -
Bluster resigned his Cabinet post during an unrelated controversy over ID cards. At the next election, he was voted out. Later that year he woke his wife in the middle of the night to confess that he was actually a dolphin. He had taken the form of a human to complete a top secret mission.
"I've lost contact with my people," he sobbed. "My blowhole has grown over, and now I don't know how to get back..."
Bluster's wife, a sensible woman, led Bluster to the bathroom, and came back to address, in her usual gracious-with-a-hint-of-gun-barrel soprano, the lens which seemed almost to hover and aim in the corner of their bedroom; "If you breathe a word of this... if... you ever mention this, I'll see you put away for the rest of your life."
A cluster of Trainees, hunched, captivated, at the one screen which had so enlivened their late shift, could, squinting, lip-read her addendum:
"You little toe-rag."
- and might have rebelled, but that fear, that phobic reflex of the British schoolchild to the tone we might describe as pre-menstrual headmistress, won the day, and Bluster
alas! poor Bluster!
It was thought best not to make public his decline from sense, tacitly I add it was also presumed that he was not an aquatic mammal in disguise, a possibility we, however, need not rule out -
(for, as shock bestseller The Dolphins Among Us explains, there are cases of dolphins not only in government but in key posts among the police, the security services, and not least in the Vatican)
but a certain agency was consulted and provided a keeper to ensure Jack Bluster's safety during the hours his wife was otherwise engaged.
And so, every day, Jack Bluster, heavily disguised, was led, by a colourless but sympathetic female, down to the seaside, where he paddled in the curly, inconsequential waves, frowning out to sea as at a blue paradise forever lost
and the keeper's Jack Russell terrier, Bozo, romped up to him in greeting then to lick the briny water from his bare toes.
- 10 -
The pink sheeny bit in a pigeon's armpit tender as mother of pearl; about this, the City whirlpools, pulled ever down God's open regard.