Over the past couple of weeks, life in Edinburgh has moved along at its usual break-neck (for a stroke survivor) pace. But the news cycle hasn’t stopped. In rUK, they’re in the midst of the party conference season.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Manchester look so nice! The wee fella in the picture above gets a look-in because, in 1933, he ordered a project that would produce a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h. And this led to the creation of Volkswagen, which has been featuring in stroke news while I’ve been busy. Although you might not know it, cos no one’s suggested VW has been trying to give you a stroke, right?I don’t think that Hitler is the first thing people think about these days, when they think about Volkwagen. Personally, I think about this endearingly rakish chap who put a million on black, and it came up red.
Everyone must have something in life they can rely on, y’see? And for years we’ve known that Volkswagen is synonymous with, well, with people who are alright. Decent folks. Norville “Shaggy” Rogers drives his dog, Scooby-Doo, around in one. That madcap little bug Herbie is a Volkswagen, for Pete’s sake!
If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen. And then, just over two weeks ago, everything went a bit katastrophal for the people’s car maker.
18 September: Volkswagen is told to recall 482,000 cars in the US after it is caught deploying sophisticated software to cheat emissions tests and allow its cars to produce up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.
So far, so boring, right? Emissions, schmemissions. Respected scientists from Sarah Palin to Melanie Phillips can tell us that climate change is a lot of hooey. Except that, while the VW scandal has been reported in the shorthand of “emissions”, reporters have rarely delved into what this actually means. And this is where strokes come in.
The Volkwagen fraud doesn’t involve greenhouse gases which – let’s be honest – are a problem for our bratty kids. The defeat software that has been installed in (at least) 1.2 million cars in Britain alone involves the detection of nitrogen oxides (NOx). So, phew. We’re not going to have to grow gills, after all.
Because we’re all going to die of strokes.
The government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has estimated that the effects of nitrogen dioxide on mortality “are equivalent to 23,500 deaths annually in the UK.”
The always readable and often terrifying George Monbiot writes here that, putting greenhouse gases aside, air pollution is a great neglected health crisis of our age:
Heart attacks, strokes, asthma, lung and bladder cancers, low birth weight, low verbal IQ, poor memory and attention among children, faster cognitive decline in older people and – recent studies suggest – a link with the earlier onset of dementia. All these are among the impacts of a problem that, many still believe, we solved decades ago. [Emphasis mine.]
It has been suggested that VW’s criminal fraud was detected first in the U.S. because the vast majority of diesel cars are manufactured in Europe. But frankly, who gives a shit why and where a regulator actually decided to check whether a car manufacturer was OK giving you a stroke so they could make a buck.
On Thursday, the British government declared that it would “start its own inquiry into car emissions and testing, running new lab tests on engines from across the industry and comparing the results with on-the-road emissions.”
Because it hadn’t occurred to them previously that real-world emissions were the issue.
Because your government doesn’t give a shit if you die of a stroke.
As a former lawyer, I would be touchy when people got all uppity about punitive damages. The VW scandal makes it clear that in most cases, the only way to make people like Martin Winterkorn and his successor as VW CEO, Matthias Müller, care about whether they’re killing you is whether that’s likely to hit their bottom line and lose them their jobs. Not because they’re bad people, per se, but because that’s the milieu in which they live and that has an effect on all but the very strongest of people.
Similarly, every person who doesn’t want their children and their friends’ children to be murdered by effin’ Herbie shouldn’t buy a VW. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not when they “clean up their act”. The consequences of deliberately giving people strokes for money should be apocalyptic. If modern capitalist society is to work, if we are to live in the “shareholder democracy” that the Chancellor spoke about this morning as he prepared to sell off the government’s shares acquired when it bailed out Lloyds, if we are to take responsibility for our own fates – we have to embrace the theoretical powers we have.
So as Big Bad Bill Wallace would say, “Educate yerself, hae a scooby, and take responsibility.”
Or if that’s all a bit heavy, get the Apoplexy Newsletter for some proper whimsy and chat.