Here in East Anglia last night we were treated to a silly and unsavoury example of the modern "blame" culture. Almost four inches of rain fell in some parts of Norfolk, and the media descended on Great Yarmouth to film disgruntled householders mopping out their houses yet again.
While the stalwart emergency services swept up in their gleaming red fire-engines and silly hats and were hailed as saviours of the hour, the normally very reasonable Stuart White from BBC "Look East" apparently decided that this was his chance to become the John Humphrys of provincial television. He buttonholed some poor sod from Anglian Water and suggested that the downpour was somehow his fault. It was useless for the poor sod to try and explain that four inches is one hell of a lot of water in one day, and that just because one of his pumps had broken down under the strain, it didn't mean he was responsible for (a) the weather or (b) the fact that some people choose to live in waterlogged places.
It was, no doubt, intended to be informative, edifying, cutting-edge television, and I'm sure the rest of the nation really needed telling that a lot of rain had fallen, some people's homes were wet and "they" should be doing something about it. It might have been more effective if those same waterlogged people hadn't featured so heavily, variously shouting inarticulate abuse at water board officials because they could go home to their nice dry houses while the waterlogged people couldn't, or cavorting in the background being terribly funny by waving their arms at the camera and shouting stuff. This was Norfolk, of course, and in Norfolk the word "stupid" carries depths of meaning unknown to the rest of the country.
I suppose it's pointless to tell BBC "Look East" that some parts of East Anglia are actually very low down? Or that the sensible thing would be for people to live in the high bits, not the low bits? It's not as if this hasn't happened before - this particular flood was the fourth this year. If this one was Anglian Water's fault, who was responsible for the other three?
And it's probably equally useless to point out that when it floods in Bangladesh, scores of bodies float downriver to the sea, or that in 1953 when lots of East Anglia was invaded by high tides, many people died (my brother-in-law was floated to safety in a drawer, and where was Stuart White then?), and that this little sprinkle just ruined a few carpets and on the global scale of things it really wasn't such a big deal? Oh well, I guess it's silly to give these television people the chance to rush round being important, attracting crowds, signing autographs while thousands of viewers hang on their every word, and still expect them to show some sense of proportion.
There's one good thing about global warming. When the sea rises and reclaims millions of acres in the east, it'll be the stupid people who go first. The rest of us will have taken to the boats, or moved to higher ground. But they'll stand at their front doors with a sandbag in one hand and a broom in the other, the salt tide lapping round their throats, still demanding that someone should do something about it … glug … glug …
But the television cameras will be remote-control by then. We wouldn't want Stuart White to get his feet wet.
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