Posts from June 2007

Blown Away

Friday 22nd June 2007

F1 fans (none of which read this regularly, if at all) will probably know that most of the teams have been testing this week at Silverstone. I went yesterday – the picture above was taken by my Dad (and well done to him, he got shedloads of really good photos, which is by no means easy). It was my first time seeing F1 cars being driven in anger, “in the metal” so to speak.

And wow. When we arrived the cars were already running, and as we approached the circuit you could hear them going round, really clearly. From a distance, an F1 car sounds like a swarming nest of wasps; if the wasps were pissed off and on steroids. As you get closer though, it’s something else. Hearing them on TV – or even from a distance – doesn’t prepare you for the piercing wail of the engine, or the vicious thud of the gear changes. We stood on the exit of Luffield (pretty much the last corner before the pit straight) for a good portion of the day, and the sound as they booted it out of the corner was just amazing. Especially on the Ferrari – Massa seemed to be able to put his foot down right at the apex of the corner and literally launch himself out of it. Which probably goes some way to explaining why his front-right wheel was in the air…

The sheer pace of the cars is bloody cool too. When you watch on TV you know they’re going quickly, but you don’t quite get how quick they actually are. When you’re there, you can’t help but notice the speed they carry through the corners, how little time it takes them to build up more speed out of them, or how quickly they can shed it again for the next turn.

Makes you realise how good all of the drivers really are. I mean, it’s one thing to see them correcting a slide on TV, but when you see them doing it right in front of you, it’s different somehow. You end up thinking “I well never, ever be able to drive like that”. I shall certainly bear that thought in mind in future, when a driver is doing badly.

Anyway, if you’ve never been before, I strongly recommend it if you’re even the least bit interested in motorsport. Actually even if you’re not, I’d recommend it – it’s something that just has to be experienced. I certainly can’t wait to go back – the Silverstone Classic next month looks particularly promising…

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Trial and Retribution

Saturday 9th June 2007

There was a story on the BBC a while ago about a 74-year-old man. He’d been in prison a few times, had an alcohol problem, and was basically in a bad state. So he decided to do something about it to sort himself out: he walked into a bank, demanded they hand over some money, and walked back out. He did this with the sole intention of being sent back to prison.

As a society, we seem to demand that criminals be punished, above all else. We feel that if someone wrongs us, we should get our own back or avenge the victims somehow. Whilst I can understand that perspective, I’m not sure that it’s always the most worthwhile way of going about dealing with people who commit a crime.

I don’t think that we should be looking to punish the vast number of criminals. For people who commit “serious” crimes (like rape, murder, voting for the Liberal Democrats), then we should definitely be looking to punish them, and to be honest prison is probably the best way of doing that. But what about other, less serious crimes, like theft? Is prison always the answer?

Well, what are prisons? Essentially, they’re societies full of criminals; places where crime is accepted as “normal”. So if we send someone there, we probably shouldn’t be surprised if they reoffend once they leave. If a first time offender spends, say, six months locked away with other people who may have been in and out of prison all through their lives, then are they likely to start afresh when they leave, or are they just going to pick up tips and tricks off the more experienced criminals, so that they think there’s less chance of them being caught again?

I think that instead of just seeking to “punish” people who commit crimes, we should try to do more. If we, for instance, look at why they commit them and try to remove the circumstances that cause people to commit a crime, then perhaps people will feel less inclined to reoffend (or possibly offend in the first place, in some cases). Like with the man in the story I linked to – if someone was around to help him sort his life out (either in prison or after he left), he possibly wouldn’t have robbed the bank.

Of course, there is a certain question of limits as well. For instance how far do we go in “correcting” a criminal (I’m guessing something like the Ludovico technique would be off-limits), and for what level of severity of crime do we stop trying to help someone, and focus purely on punitive measures?

Given the level of overcrowding in British prisons at the moment, it would probably be worth there being a massive shakeup in the way we deal with criminals. But I suppose “helping” people is a harder option than just bunging them in prison, and possibly pretty unacceptable to the tabloid-reading portion of society…

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