Magazine article The Spectator

All These Green Taxes and Rules Are Just Witless Nods to Fashion

Magazine article The Spectator

All These Green Taxes and Rules Are Just Witless Nods to Fashion

Article excerpt

Galatas, Greece For one weekend each year every beach in this peaceful part of the world is taken over by gypsies, and the locals (and the handful of Western tourists) steer well clear and lock up their possessions, daughters, etc. I wandered along the shoreline of one previously idyllic cove just as the pikeys were packing up to leave on Sunday evening. And I had a brief epiphany; one toothless old hag was scurrying from caravan to caravan picking up every bit of rubbish she could find -- until, in the end, she was weighed down with a ton of plastic sheeting, carrier bags, cellophane wrappers, mysterious bits of rusted metal and the like, and made her way to the wheelie skip by the side of the road which the authorities install at this time every summer.

There you are, you bigoted pig, I muttered to myself -- how's that for the explosion of one of your nasty little stereotypes? Gypsies, or some of them, are no less environmentally aware than the best of us, I thought shamefacedly -- you have just swallowed gallons of racist propaganda about travellers, so let this be a lesson, etc. And then, as I watched, the hag dragged herself past the skip, crossed the road and with one fantastically athletic heave, deposited her haul of junk in the wildlife conservation area which fringes the beach. Then -- and I kid you not -- she went back to her caravan and appeared moments later with a large refrigerator which with laborious effort and much grunting she dragged across the road and tipped into the very same place.

Come on -- credit where it's due. This woman had gone out of her way to confirm my -- and almost everybody else's -- stereotypical view of gypsies, which was incredibly thoughtful of her. It would have been far easier to shove the rubbish in the skip -- but this woman was committed, she was a radical. She gave me a beaming, gold-flecked smile and went back to her filthy caravan.

Green taxes are very much au courant, but I don't suppose there would be much of an appetite among elected politicians for an International Green Pikey Tax. (Among the public it would be a different matter, of course. ) The hag I saw, with her spluttering emphysemic late 1980s van and her fundamentalist fervour to despoil whatever environment she chose, briefly, to make her home, must have had a carbon footprint the size of Albania. In the bigger scheme of things I would hazard that gypsies, travellers and so on, as a sector, are a long way from being the worst offenders -- even if individually they are transgressors on an epic level. And that, we are continually told, is the point: as individuals we are enjoined to believe that we can make a difference by altering our lifestyles (i. e. making them less convenient for us) and by paying a little, here or there, as a sort of punishment levy for being alive. But not all of us, mind; not the Third World (which I suppose, by proxy, contains the gypsies) because they can't afford it, and should not be deprived of their chance to enjoy the benefits of rapid industrialisation. Not the big corporations, either -- the supermarkets, the car manufacturers, the airline companies. Just you and me; people who have somehow accepted that we have no moral case to object to our lives being more expensive and less convenient.

And so the measures taken against us increase almost by the week, become ever more punitive and costly and ever more difficult to justify in environmental terms.

They seem much more like under-thecounter revenue-raising measures, or a means of saving our useless and profligate district councils money to spend on things which nobody wants or needs. Or worse than either of these things, a witless nod in the direction of a prevailing fashion -- uncosted, unchallenged, a little like that fatuous wind turbine on the side of David Cameron's house in Notting Hill, which will generate nothing whatsoever of consequence, except for a sort of inveterate loathing of the chap on my part. …

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