Here’s another social issue I slipped into After. This snippet comes from chapter two, where Sgt Marie Wood ponders why Josie Ford may have decided to take some time out.
She turned her thoughts to Josie. Why would an apparently happily married mother of two teenage boys disappear first thing in the morning? Well, she was a teacher. The things they had to put up with would be enough to push anybody over the edge. Teachers didn’t get much respect these days and it was becoming fashionable to blame them for everything that was wrong with today’s young people. So much for parental responsibility. Now it was all some teacher’s fault for not disciplining little Johnny or not teaching him properly. Parents were even going into classrooms and threatening teachers when their little darling was called to account for his latest outburst of anti-social behaviour and it wasn’t just the boys mucking up in schools. Just last week she had attended the local high school when an angry parent had turned up and threatened to shoot the principal.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like working as a teacher these days? It’s certainly not an easy task. Perhaps it never has been.
A lot of us have trouble managing our own children. Can you imagine what it must be like being responsible for other people’s children? And not just one or two of them but maybe twenty-five or more, all of them vying for your attention and some intent on making your life as difficult as possible.
It’s probably just as well most kids are good-natured and want to get the most out of what their schools have to offer, otherwise, there probably wouldn’t be any teachers. What would we do then?
A thought-provoking extract from After, book 1 of the Inspector West series.
The bus arrived at his stop in the city. He got off and ambled towards the bank. No point in rushing in for another routine day in the world of banking.
Paul started his day, like he did most mornings, sharing a cup of coffee with Henry, his team leader for the last two years. It was an opportunity to sort out the day’s priorities and discuss the state of the world before they got down to the serious stuff.
‘I look at the people working here, Paul, especially the ones that have been here for twenty years or more, and wonder how anyone can work in a place like this for that long and be satisfied with a basic clerical position.’
‘I think I might know why. It’s called economic slavery.’
‘Think about it. The first workers anywhere were slaves. I mean, who built the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China?’
‘I thought it was the emperor.’
‘Well, he got the credit but who actually did all the work? The slaves and all they got for it was food and lodging. The emperor lived in luxury while the ordinary working man slaved away building the great whatever.’
‘But you can’t be serious about slavery in today’s world.’
‘It’s more subtle these days. In the past, the rich could buy and sell slaves on the open market. They can’t do that anymore and they don’t have to. We turn ourselves into slaves. Think about it. The rich still own the means of production. They make all the things we need and want. They advertise all their wonderful stuff, which we can buy in their shops with money they will lend us, provided we agree to sign a mortgage, a bill of sale or credit card and work for them for minimal wages to pay it all off.’
‘Paul, you’re having me on, aren’t you?’
‘Henry, what’s stopping you from resigning this morning? It’s such a neat system most people don’t even realise they’re slaves, until it’s too late.’
One of the fun parts of writing crime fiction is you can tackle any social issue within the context of the story. Who knows how many others I slipped into this one?
Your worldview is determined by your exposure to the world. If you stay in your home territory, you see the world as an extension of your home. You live in a belief bubble.
It’s hard to imagine things being different someplace else if you’re always in familiar surroundings – whether those surroundings are physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. Continue reading “Opening your mind.”
We take computers for granted but it wasn’t that long ago we were doing a lot of things we now do with computers by hand.
I suspect the world’s become a different place since the arrival of computers.
Let’s consider a few places computers are making a difference.
I remember the days when a bank teller wrote entries by hand in your passbook every time you deposited or withdrew money, and the long queues at the bank. When I started working in a bank, they were still using passbooks but a computer did the writing, and then passbooks became plastic cards and the computer sent you a monthly statement.
Then banks replaced tellers with safes attached to a computer (automated teller machines) which identified your account from that plastic card and dispensed cash into your hand.
Hardly anybody uses cash these days. We get paid electronically, we pay our bills online and use those plastic cards to make our purchases. There’s even talk of us becoming a cashless society, thanks to computers.
Where would we be without our smartphones? How often do we stop and consider that we’re walking around with a computer in our hand or in our handbag? And, isn’t it so easy to stay in touch?
It’s not just personal communications. Computers are all through the telephone system. We might not like speaking to a computer, choosing which button to press, or keying in our customer number when we call customer support but those things allow the computer to route our call to the appropriate person and display our information on that person’s screen when we reach the top of the queue.
It used to be accepted that nobody but a pharmacist could read a doctor’s handwriting. These days when you visit, the doctor spends most of the time typing and the script is printed by a computer. Not only does that make it easier for the pharmacist, it also creates a legible record that the next doctor can read.
Modern policing involves extensive use of computers. Take a look inside a patrol car the next time you see one parked in the street and think about the use police make of databases. It might not be like what you see on CSI just yet, but computers have given police an edge many of us (except crime writers like me) don’t think about.
For example, in response to a growing heroin problem in New York City, the NYPD recently announced it is using data collected by its officers on the street to predict where heroin will show up next in the city. Apparently, the NYPD has been using data collected by its officers to manage crime in the city for several years. Can you imagine them doing that without computers to collect, collate and analyze their data?
In the UK, police use a database called HOLMES 2 to analyze the massive amounts of data collected during investigations. That type of database makes information visible, instead of leaving it in one officer’s head or notebook, and allows more officers to join the dots.
I think it’s got to point where we’ve become dependent on computers, so we’d better make sure there’s an ongoing supply of renewable electricity, as I can’t see us going back to a pre-computer world. What do you think?