Yesterday, I couldn't get my trapped car out of the station car park following an explosion on a construction site that closed the city center. As far as I know no-one was hurt, it caused a bit of local excitement, a few seconds on national TV, and inconvenience for people separated from cars, house keys, etc.
A shopping mall and bus station has been knocked down to be replaced by a shopping mall and a bus station. I'm not sure what we have achieved. It did get me thinking about the grand construction schemes that seem very often to be short term ego and career boosts for politicians. Otherwise they are grotesque wastes of money which leave us all with a legacy of financial, social and ecological debt.
What do I have in mind? Most obviously, the collection of Olympic villages across the world. I would add the Channel Tunnel, the Millau bridge in France and, if I could be bothered to do the research, a series of other mega-schemes. You can do your own research to get a good strong list!
These monstrosities seem to me to be pointless adventures where politicians posture and strut like peacocks to show how virile they are. It seems very 18th century in outlook, it seems as though the south east Asian Tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, the destruction of New Orleans and other events haven't quite convinced us that we are not in control.
In London, we are building the Olympic complex at huge expense. We are reclaiming some spoilt land that no-one could otherwise afford to develop. Why? Because it's London. Actually, I think London would benefit more from a "green lung". I also think almost anywhere in the country needed investment more than London. However, there are more votes in and around London. And that battle is lost.
The next one is CrossRail - building a mainline railway underneath London to connect the east and west. The benefits will be shorter travel times and easier commuting. I was initially in favor because I suffer from long travel times and difficult commutes using multiple trains. But thinking about it, these are really disbenefits. We are investing more money into a massively overcrowded region. We are encouraging more jobs into the region which requires either more housing or more commuting. The pressure on land drives up prices which drives up salaries which drives up inflation which means we have to think of ever more expensive ideas to increase the efficiency of the infrastructure which takes us into a vicious circle.
If we need to improve the travel infrastructure, then what about improving travel to neglected regions away from London? How about building communities? How about eliminating much of the need to travel? This won't happen because its not a grand scheme, it requires thought and votes aren't there.
We lack true leaders who can see the real needs and are prepared to tackle them. We lack real leaders who do what is right out of conviction and who trust the people to follow them because they are right. But it is our own fault, we value style over substance. We like our politician to be celebrities instead of effective stewards of our resources and freedom.
Do I have a solution? No! To change the race, you have to join the race, to join race is to be corrupted by the race. We are in a trap of our own making - maybe we need a catastrophe of the scale of the tsunami or the Pakistan earthquake to the hit the west to get some sort of change - perhaps New Orleans wasn't big enough!