I’m growing increasingly convinced that every decently sized
organisation needs to employ someone with a suitably cynical attitude in the
position of Devil’s Advocate. Such a
position would not be designed to ensure that we suddenly start to become Satanists,
in fact such a stupid suggestion would be exactly what the Devil’s Advocate
(DA) would oppose. Their main purpose in
any organisation would be to counter those in direct power and the sycophantic yes men/women that seem to
predominate in pretty much any organisation that I have ever dealt with. I would imagine that in board room or other
project meetings, pretty much every contribution they gave would start with the
immortal words, “Catch yourselves on!”
The position would need to have some clout, like the veto
that can be exercised by any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. OK, perhaps that is a bad example because it
is used politically, but you get the idea.
So why do I think this is necessary?
Perhaps a few examples would help to explain my reasoning: -
Status: If you have
read a few of the posts on this site, you will know that I live in Bangor, Co.
Down; I have done all my life. The town
became a city as part of the late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee
Celebration. If you want a good laugh
the full bid document can be downloaded here:
https://www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/images/assets/Bangor_Co_Down_City_Status_Bid_-_8.12.21.pdf. You really need to know the town, and the
local council’s role in running it down over the last thirty to forty years to
truly understand just how ridiculous this document really is. I will cover just a few points from this
document, and these are from the bid document pages below, but the happy shiny
picture it paints of the town would be barely recognisable to residents like
me. Just think of Bangor as a dying
Victorian seaside resort and you will have the basic picture. It exists now solely because of its proximity
to Belfast, as a dormitory town and is a long way off being an up and coming
City. The Council would do well to fix
what it has before it goes on with any more of these ego projects. By its own admission, there is absolutely no
financial benefit to Bangor becoming a city, yet they spend cash and time on
this (having already blown any reserves that the Council held on other stupid
Just 2 pages from Bangor’s city status bid
Ballyholme Beach: Yes, this beach could be lovely, and the
beach itself has history, from Viking burials and treasure being found here
(including one burial of a complete longship), to pioneer aircraft flights, and
being used for practice landings before D-Day.
It is however marred by currents/ tides that bring in a lot of ‘stuff’
that was initially put into the sea from a large sewerage station on Luke’s
Point at the western side of the beach.
Clean it ain’t, despite what the water quality readings say. I can only presume that the measurements are
taken at ‘convenient’ times.
The Costal Path: As you can see on the 2 pages above, the
Council make a big thing of the wildlife you can see along the costal path in
the bid document. The path is pretty
wild in places, but it is beautiful. I
have seen everything from seals and porpoises, to seabirds diving into shoals
of herring fry. There have been rare
visitors like basking sharks, minke whales, and otters too, although I
personally have not seen these. Despite
this, the Council planned to widen what is a very varied, occasionally almost non-existent
path, into a 5 meter wide route that would have been shared with pelotons of fast
moving cyclists. At the moment, cyclists
do use the path, but not in huge numbers and they are supposed to give way to
walkers. The Council’s proposal was to
give half the path to cyclists, and the other half to walkers. I have no idea how walkers are supposed to
communicate to their dogs that they cannot cross the white line in the path
that would have separated them from the cyclists for fear of getting run
over. Neither have I any idea of how much
damage this lump of tarmac and the increase in fast flowing traffic would have
done to the numerous shrews, Sparrowhawks, hedgehogs’, rare plants etc.
Since none of these plans were widely known
about, the Council simply assumed their acceptance by the public and went ahead
with them. Fortunately, someone noticed
and started a resistance movement.
Despite this widespread resistance the Council was still determined to
go ahead until the resistance group started to hold mass pickets outside the
Council meetings. Only then did they
eventually accept that the townspeople did not want their development plans for
the costal path. One of the slogans used
by the resistance sums up the situation, ‘The Costal Path is a destination, not
I suppose that in days gone by, the local
paper would have kept inhabitants informed about the Council’s plans, but who
reads a local rag these days, and that assumes that the local rag still
exists! At any rate, a Devils Advocate
in our Council would have given the Councillors and staff the reality check
that they seem to be so much in need of on these and many, many other issues.
Think of all the businesses you know of that
have gone bankrupt. BSA (remember them?),
where the exploits of Sir Bernard Docker and his wife Norah spring to mind, or Arcadia
Group, controlled by Sir Philip Green, to name but two. Think of the banking crash back in 2007/
08. Think of the exploits of people like
Boris Johnston. All these could have used
the ‘catch yourself on’ veto of a good Devil’s Advocate. The ‘yes’ men and women of this earth will
inevitably lead us like lemmings towards the nearest cliff (so long as they don’t
have to jump too). We need a good dose
of cynicism once in a while, someone to ask the why question and to make people
in power justify themselves. I’m for the
whistle blowers and those who do not necessarily agree with the status quo. Long may they oppose on our behalf.
I could tell some very scary stories about the failings of one company I have worked for, but is was bought out to save going bankrupt, and it still exists, so that is for another time perhaps.