Conflict at Home and Abroad

Iraq dominated events in 2003, but elsewhere throughout the world, there was unrest. Terrorism continued to increase, an outbreak of Sars killed hundreds of people, and a space shuttle exploded. Here at home, workers in some sectors went on strike, whilst other people exercised their rights to protest against the war in Iraq and, surprisingly, in favour of retaining fox hunting. Libya announced late in the year its agreement to disarm weapons of mass destruction and whilst that may have been seen as a politically-motivated gesture, it could be one step nearer to a more peaceful world. Amongst the more famous people who died during 2003 were Roy Jenkins, Maurice Gibb, Adam Faith, Dame Thora Hird and Sir Denis Thatcher.

Nothing really changes and I would often make some poignant comment upon the behavioural pattern of certain members of society. As has been the case this past week, the late autumn of 2003 saw the country experience some extreme weather conditions. Still, it seems, many selfish motorists persist in driving without using their headlights. I wonder when these muppets will realise that their lights are not simply for illuminating the road in front of them during hours of darkness, but also to show their presence to other road users. Quite simply, anyone found driving in such a manner, either in fog, heavy rain or snow, should have their licences confiscated as they are a danger to everyone, not least themselves!

Local councils continue to squander taxpayers’ money. Back in 2003, South Gloucestershire Council decided to create small islands in the middle of the road between Alveston and Aust. To accommodate these, the road was diverted into the verge on both sides and kerb stones installed. Not only did this appear to be a complete waste of money, but the positioning of these islands seemed to serve little purpose except, perhaps, to slow traffic along what is already a slow route. Kerb stones are a potential death hazard to drivers, as should a vehicle clip the kerb, the likelihood is that the vehicle will bounce off and veer towards on-coming traffic. So the Jobsworth award for December 2003 went to the traffic management department of South Gloucestershire! Coincidentally, my local council recently installed similar central islands, with the directional bollards having already been demolished twice within the space of three months.

December 2002 was dominated by work. I was heavily involved with a project to spread a so-called gospel of change, despite my scepticism. As a conscientious employee and member of middle management, I did not want to let close colleagues down (many of whom, incidentally, shared my views!) The project involved several late nights in which several colleagues delivered mini conference-style presentations to other staff within the business. To be honest, it was quite fun, mainly because of the manner in which we chose to deliver the message. I could not quite believe it when I found myself on stage with a microphone leading the singing of our adopted song…well, the tune was adopted, and the words well and truly changed to help deliver the Company message! Continuing the theme, an all-day meeting was convened just prior to Christmas to formulate plans for the new year. This meeting finally confirmed my beliefs that there were people working within the Company who had completely lost the plot. Certain individuals had decided that the way to ensure maximum buy-in of the cultural change programme by the majority of staff was to launch a series of projects. Whilst this may have appeared a sound idea on the surface, in excess of 30 projects were announced, with the expectation that the middle management team at the meeting would commit to at least six each. With valuable time already being consumed by other change activities, it was going to be impossible to achieve, and most people present felt that it would be have been preferable to launch far fewer projects, but to give them maximum coverage. My doubts and cynicism were well-founded as the mega launch of these projects failed to meet company objectives. The downside, however, was that about 800 jobs were axed, including mine, but the company only survived for a few months afterwards!

It is a strange irony that whilst Christmas spreads the message of peace and goodwill towards others, there continues to be so much conflict within the world.