Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 20/03/20

"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens"

("Against stupidity, the Gods themselves struggle in vain" - Friedrich Schiller)

I suppose it's the difference between seeing a photograph or video of a major accident and being an actual eye-wtness to one. The former will never inoculate you against the emotions invoked by the latter.

I had such en experience this morning.

A little background: I have been strongly advised to work from home for the foreseeable future as a result of being a 'vulnerable' person within that dehumanising category of having 'underlying medical conditions'. My first day of purdah was Thursday, much of which I spent either trying to help other home-workers connect through the Depratment's Virtual Private Network (VPN) or trying to get the bastard to work in my own instance (I had spent nearly all of my last day in the office - possibly for ever, since I'm being made redundant at the end of June, of which more some other time - doing much the same whilst at least being able to connect perfectly well myself). It was a frustrating experience, not only from my own point of view but from the standpoint of wishing to assist my colleagues and friends in getting their own work done, but I logged off at 1340 satisfied that I had done my poor best.

I had long since booked Friday as leave, and had intended to have a nice lie-in. As ever in these things, however, my body clock kicked me out of slumber around 0700, and so I was awake when someone from work texted me to ask how the network was behaving.

Failing to get back off again, I decided that I would bring forward my shopping day from Saturday just in case of partly-foreseeable developments. So it was that I set off just before nine (there were, of course, far fewer people on the buses than would be normal for a Friday morning) and got to Sainsbury's just after half-past.

I had thought that the pictures I had seen and the reports which I had read were possibly outliers. Surely, I reasoned, things couldn't be as bad as they had been portrayed.

Well, there were certainly no fist-fights in the dairy aisle, nor were there any incidents of Trolly Rage (except the rage felt by me when people were blocking an aisle whilst gawping at their shopping lists on their phones, or whilst just chatting (*)). And we were entertained by a loop of patronising announcements requesting that customers limit their purchases.

But it shortly became clear to me that things were largely as they had been described. The fresh meat, fish, cheese and deli counters were all completely closed down. There was no rice and precious little pasta. There had quite plainly been a run on the soup, and what was left demonstrated only that a lot of people aren't keen on mushrooms. The bog-roll shelves were empty, natch. And - get this - there wasn't a single tin of beans in the whole shop. Even the Weightwatchers ones had been cleared out.

It was at this point that I started getting a little anxious. I had only gone in for what I usually get, but the fact that such basic items were unobtainable made me feel uneasy.

Then it made me feel angry.

Not angry at the shop - the supply chains are out of their control beyond a certain point - and certainly not angry at the staff, who were totally blameless.

No. I was angry to the point of high luminescence at the stupidity of my fellow 'consumers'. Not so much today but in the preceding two or three weeks. Last Saturday, I was stuck in the checkout queue behind a woman wearing a face mask whose trolley (one of the big, deep ones) was piled to the gunwales with stuff, even to the point of having to hand two or three large packets of rice back to the woman at the till (she still seemed to be buying a half a dozen of them anyway). £140-odd worth of groceries, when I bet her normal weekly shop would have been scarcely half that.

The stiff-upper-lippery which we have been propaganised into believing was 'the British way', if it ever had any validating reality to it, has been clearly exposed as a sham, and the similar saccharine cliché of compliant stoicism has not survived contact with Life As She Is Lived Today, where a shopping trip is treated like a cross between Supermarket Sweep and Death Race 2000. And how can a far-too-long-delayed policy of unofficial rationing by supermarkets possibly work with 'customers' who have been used to getting their own way without rebuke for forty years, and who have long experience of gaming any system which seeks to rein in their unfettered desires. What has been learned in the sharp-elbowed practices of getting their sprogs into the 'best' school in the district can clearly be put to use in other settings.

It is inconceivable that ninety-five per cent of those who have depopulated the shelves within minutes of their being restocked could possibly need that much rice, that much pasta, that many tins of beans (although this may dovetail nicely with all that Andrex).

So why do it? They do it because they can, and no-one until the last couple of days has tried to prevent them, however ineffectually. It is the zenith of consumer hyper-capitalism, summed up in the phrase, "I want it, and I want it NOW!", forever the cry of the terminally spoiled.

After witnessing this at close quarters, I have one message for my fellow citizen-consumers:


This will all fall on deaf eyes, of course. Four decades of being told from every conceivable orifice of State and media that there is 'no such thing as society', and that the way to get ahead is by stamping on everyone else's have now reached their climactic apotheosis somewhere between the frozen peas and the floury baps.

It isn't solely the plebs' fault, of course. They are after all only following the example set by those who are - de jure or de facto - our 'leaders'. Such as:

I now concede that we are in a crisis, and there is a lot more of the same to come. If only we could be sure that what passes for our 'society' will not return immediately afterwards to 'business as usual'. But, given the draconian powers that the State is just now handing itself, the complicity of the State and corporate media and the supreme idiocy of a large proportion of the population (like that dim woman interviewed on television last night who said that she wasn't practising 'social distancing' because if she did then, "...the virus has won", as if waving the Butchers Apron and singing The Greatest Hits of Vera Lynn (103) was a sure way of defeating it), I have scant hope of that.

Take care of yourselves, and of each other. We are, after all, all we really have.

(* Although I did not on this occasion encounter a Doris. I'm sure that you've all come across a Doris. Dorises used to congregate in post offices in the days when we still had them. Doris is always about five-foot-four with a face which looks like a piece of disgruntled dried fruit. She has a pair of glasses on the end of a pearly string, and has a blue-rinse perm which she has covered with a transparent rain-hood even indoors, because she's worried that the sprinklers might go off and ruin her hairdo. She stands right in front of what you want to get at and the only way you can reach your desired purchase is by violently flinging her into the couscous and quinoa. She is slowly and carefully reading all the ingredients on the label (it's a tin of beans, dear! What else do you expect to find in there? Marzipan?), and then you look again and see that she's holding the tin upside down).