Sometimes I really do think that my ADHD is proof that ADHD is on the autism spectrum. I say this on the basis that I have never been able to follow the advice that everyone else I know seems able to follow without a second thought. That advice is this:
Pick your battles.
I simply can’t do it. While others ‘let things go’, I wage war on injustices be they minor matters or ones of life and death.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know I’m part of a team of people desperately trying to save our local school from closure. All the way through a minority of voices – powerful and influential though – have tried to tell us ‘not to make a fuss’ and to accept the inevitable. But we believe this is a battle worth fighting even if we lose. There will be a hefty rant of a post coming about this shortly, after the latest obnoxious and outrageous announcements from the governors and their vicious snarling dog on a leash, but not today.
What you don’t know is that I’ve been fighting three other injustices which range from trifling argument to taking on fearsome figures of authority – some in other countries. I fight all of them with an indignation and obstinacy that comes from so deep within that I couldn’t stop it if I tried. While others tell me to ‘let it rest’ my head can’t see it that way at all.
But I’m not going to speak of these either. Instead I want to talk of my anger about buying an ice cream.
Let me give some context to this (fast, lest you move on and think I’m barking mad) – Today I’ve been enjoying wandering around the streets of Gloucester. My family and I came down yesterday to stay with dear friends. We heard that ‘tall ships’ (think Pirates of the Caribbean) were at the docks and went down to have a look. Normally you can walk down on the quayside freely and enjoy the shops and restaurants there. Today you couldn’t. The entries were barred with railings and you were charged £2 for a wristband giving you entry or £6 if you wanted to go on the tall ships.
I had no problem with this. It was a good way to make a lot of money because there were thousands of people milling around. The ships were beautiful and I imagine they’re not cheap to keep in tiptop condition. The Quayside was filled with marquee tents selling various things including one which sold exquisite cheeses which you could taste before buying. We bought three and are looking forward to devouring them soon. It was fun and it was good to see business booming all around. God knows we need it in this country battered by recession and ‘austerity measures’.
But the ice creams were a different matter.
Before we got to the quay my son (known in these pages as Thing Two) decided he wanted an ice cream from an ice cream van parked in the street. My daughter promptly wanted one too and we scraped together enough pennies for them to buy a simple cone of ice cream each for £1 per scoop.
But later, as we wandered along the quay, enjoying the sights and sounds, I fancied an ice cream myself. We wandered up to one of the ice cream vans parked inside the quayside area next to the marquees. I took one look at the prices and they were exactly as I could have guessed they would be. An equivalent one-scoop simple cone of ice cream was £3.50!
So that’s a mark-up of 350% simply for being in a special ‘festival’ area.
I know what you’re thinking – if you’re British anyway – ‘So what Ken? That’s just the way things are!’
You see that’s just the kind of attitude which makes me see red. It should not be the way things are. It is, quite simply, corruption. Worse, institutionalised corruption. I liken this kind of corruption compared with the supposed terrible corruption of countries like Bangladesh which I know so well to comparing bullying at state and private schools. In the former the kids will beat you up and flush your head down the toilets; in the latter the bullying is subtler, more psychological. Both result in the same devastating effect. In the same way, corruption in Bangladesh (reputedly one of the most corrupt countries in the world) is in your face and obvious. But in the UK it’s so deeply sown into our way of life we just don’t see it for what it is.
The idea that because you have a captive audience you can charge hugely inflated prices is a disgusting abuse of power. The opposite ought to be the way we do things. What these ice cream vendors do on the small scale is what businesses do every day in every way. When will we start to see business in a completely different light? When will ice cream vendors think to themselves “today I’m going to make a lot of trade because thousands will be here and business will be brisk. I know! – As I’m going to get a lot of trade today and operating costs will be minimal as a result I will lower my prices instead.”
Just imagine if we had gone into that fair on the quayside and ice creams were just 70p instead of £1? Or even just the same price?
What if all businesses operated that way? What if they attempted to make as little money as possible? Not through shoddy work or paying their employees poorly but by paying everyone a fair wage instead of inflated salaries and rewards for those at the top? What if instead of looking at profit margins as an indication of the health of a business we looked at how little they made as profit and how much their customer base grew or how satisfied customers were with the service?
I know, I know. It’s bonkers. It’s bad economics. But maybe if we started a revolution at the community level – the cottage industries, the entrepreneurs, the sole traders – where we looked not to getting a profit but to helping the maximum number of people we could with our skills, we might make a new form of economics. An economics based on taking enough for what we need for today and passing the rest on to those for whom today has simply not brought enough.
If my ADHD was responsible for all these thoughts just from buying (or not) an over-priced ice cream, thank goodness, one of those aforementioned real battles didn’t come my way today – I would have gone in guns blazing! I walked away from the ice cream charlatans on the quayside and was able to make sure the only guns blazing were the cannons firing from the tall ships. But I only just managed it.