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

Date: 04/10/13


Because I've never had the urge to take on a position of authority (on those rare occasions when I've had one, it has always been pushed upon me and I could never wait to get shot of it), I'm always at something of a loss to explain how it is that so many who do occupy those places set above us mere serfs turn out to be capable of behaving in ways which deny even the most basic requirements of human intelligence.

Something seems to happen to them which means that, however ridiculous, however bizarre or surreal, however just plain fucking stupid their actions may be, they believe that they and only they are in the right. And the more mere their position actually is, the more intense is the quarterwittery displayed; think of car-park attendants, for example, who strut their little patch of wasteland like a Khan riding out over the Steppes.

Or perhaps I'm putting the rotten cart before the clapped-out old horse; perhaps this all happens because positions of power have a deep attraction to those who are predisposed to twattish attitudes and wankoid behaviour.

Whichever way round it is, the world is never short of examples. Here's yet another from this week.

One would like to think that those running a school would be absolutely delighted if one of their 'students'...

(and where has that designation come from, by the way? They used to be called 'pupils'. Perhaps it wasn't thought 'aspirational' enough; or maybe it derives from the same impulse which led to the principal of the sixth-form college I attended a century or so ago habitually to address a bunch of 16 to 18-year-olds as "Ladies and gentlemen", despite the place being a school in all but name? Anyway...)

...if, as I say, one of their students decided to raise money to combat an illness which had affected three of his relatives by shaving his head. Very public spirited, in the vein of 'active citizenship' (as we were once encouraged to call it), or just simple, straightforward humanity.

One would like to think so, but this appears not to be the case for a pupil at Milford Haven school in Pembrokeshire. Fourteen-year-old Rhys Johnson is the 'student' at the centre of this particular tempÍte de merde. Having made this fine gesture for a good cause, he has found himself this week being taught on his own, away from the rest of his class. This was after the Governors (and I'm sure they cherish that capital letter) decreed that this young fellow had wilfully flouted school rules which forbid extremely short haircuts.

Now there may, in the main, be sound enough reasons for such a policy to be in place in general; I find the tendency of teenagers to have what we used to call a 'jailcrop' slightly odd, in that when I was that age I couldn't bloody well wait to grow mine down to the shoulders (the fact that I looked a right one when finally I did is not relevant here....because I say so, that's why). And the 'look' can certainly be given a sinister interpretation by those of us of a nervous or suspicious disposition.

But to insist on the 'rule' being upheld in all cases, irrespective of anything which one might call 'context', has led Milford Haven School into the brown stuff. And deservedly so. For here we have once again the elevating of 'rules' which were formulated by people full of their own 'little, brief authority' and not much else to the status of Divine Law. Not only is this arrogant, it is cowardly, as it is designed primarily as an arse-covering exercise by those who love 'authority', but hate responsibility. Something goes wrong? Just point at 'the rules' and say, "It has been decided" (and never disregard the habitual use of the passive voice in such statements - it means that no-one can be held to account for them). All safe, chaps!

A society properly vigilant against the abuse of petty power by petty people in petty contexts should always respond to such events by doing the socially-aware equivalent of throwing rotten tomatoes and shouting, "Gawn, gitoutofit you little tosser!" at those who are determined to foist their overbearing idiocies upon those they deem to be beneath them.

Fortunately, some of Rhys Johnson's fellows have shown the way. Today, they staged a walk-out in protest at his effective exclusion from classes. The self-same Governors who were the direct cause of the problem by their tin ear for humane impulses expressed themselves "disappointed" by the protest. Of course they are 'disappointed'; they no doubt expected that Rhys Johnson and his family and fellow 'students' would knuckle under quietly and pay full obeisance to the power and wisdom of the Mighty Ones Set Over Them, and thereby provide a stark warning to anyone else determined to fail to conform for the best of reasons. It obviously sticks in their throats that, by this one simple act, the pupils of Milford Haven school have proven themselves to be the betters of those who claim to be their own betters, and they have - one hopes - gained a very useful lesson in what playing an active part in a notionally-free society should involve.