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My good friend Ricky Rhythm called round the other day.  Ricky's a sharp guy.  He laughs at my jokes.

We hadn't seen each other for a while, now that he's got domestic bliss he doesn't call round so often.  So after we'd talked about sport and cars, or whatever it is boys talk about, I figured we should get on to the more superficial stuff.  I asked him if he believed in God.

"Not in the conventional sense."

I'll take that as a 'yes' then.  Do you believe in ghosts??"


"So you believe in life after death."

He looked like he'd been caught in the headlights.

It was time to move away from eschatology.

So I told him "Famous", the nephew, had come to visit recently.  He'd been living out the country for a decade and came back a year ago for a year's work.  Yeah, he'd been living a few miles up the road for a year and only came to visit in his last week.  Hey, he can not come and visit me anytime he likes, same as the rest of 'em.

So after we'd done the family pics, I asked Famous what changes he'd noticed in the Old Country and how things looked to him.  He said there was an atmosphere of fear here.

"Fear??  Of what??"

"Crime and terrorism."

I had to declare I hadn't noticed it.  Maybe it's just crept up, being in it as it increases you don't notice it.  Maybe.  He said it was the people he met.

He was shocked at the prevalence of CCTV.  I told him he wasn't the only one and I explained that it'd come from cost savings and substituting Police presence with surveillance.  The myth is propagated that it prevents crime and surveys are produced that people feel safer under cameras.  I don't.  CCTV records crime (and much else) but it doesn't prevent it.

I thought about fear again and I told Famous about Danny.  Ricky and I used to play with Danny.

Danny and Mrs D came here quite some time ago as exiles from Apartheid.  Danny's got a hole in his leg where he got plugged by the S.A.Police once upon a time. 

They've not been happy with the way things've been going here for a while.  Politics, crime, social ambience.  Two years ago they started a family.  They've just left the country, moved to Switzerland.

It was a real eye opener for me about how bad things have got that an exile from apartheid S.Africa finds it oppressive here.  I mean, Switzerland!!  That's not even in the E.U.!!  How far does it reach??

Ricky said "yeah but Danny's worried about his kid."

"So's everyone else."

And he was blinking in the headlights again.

So then I told Ricky that Famous and I discussed politics around the place.  We neither of us understood the domestic programme of vilifying Islam.  We agreed democracy had failed.

Famous said that in the States nobody voted anymore.  It's not they weren't politicised but they didn't see the point. 

Effectively they felt disenfranchised.

And we talked about how the only change could come through violence.

And Ricky asked, why violence??

There are two great mysteries in life, sex and death.

So I told him institutionalised violence is the glue that holds society together.  The Police, the Courts, the Prisons.  It's fear of personal harm that keeps us in order.  Only through violence can change be effected.  And we have recent examples of regime change through violence.

"Isn't there another way of keeping people in order??"

"Sure, put the fear of God in them.  But we no longer have an institution strong enough in this country to do that."

"Would you prefer it??"

"Live in a country where everyone lived in fear of God.  Who wouldn't??"

"So do you believe in God??"

"Not in the conventional sense....  But I'm old enough and grumpy enough to be of the opinion that someone who doesn't believe in God hasn't seen enough of life to hold authority in what they say. They have to back it up."

And we were agreed on that.  Like I say, Ricky's a sharp guy.

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