Where have all the flowers gone?

A butterfly flaps its wings in New Mexico and causes a hurricane in China, or so the introduction to Chaos Theory goes. Or, to put it another way, a mainland Baby Boomer votes for more austerity resulting in cash-strapped Island resorts having no spring bedding plants.

I recently had some visitors from The Other Side. No, not ghosts (that’s another story), but retired chums from the wealthy shires keen to enjoy a weekend break on the Isle of Wight. Like any resident of the Island, I was delighted to get the chance to show off hectares of glorious landscape emerging from its winter fug, and bimble around its crinkly edges admiring the ever-changing sea.

I guess I see the county through rose-tinted glasses as I found myself indignant and affronted by my guests’ brutal appraisal. In with the left hook: “Aren’t the roads terrible!”, followed by the knockout punch: “Sandown – what a dump!

I caught myself harrumphing. Admittedly Sandown is unlikely to return to the glory days of the mid-twentieth century bucket and spade brigade, yet thanks to EU legislation its bathing waters will undoubtedly be cleaner now than back in the polluted 1950s. And somehow the town’s faded charm is the acme of the quintessential British seaside experience, which can be found the nation over; shabby and tired, yet still holding up its head despite years of under-investment and competition from foreign resorts, which deliver reliable sunshine via cheap flights.

But let’s not look at what’s not there, let’s have a gander at what is. That giant hole on the Esplanade is evidence of construction of a new hotel. Wight City is being demolished and the area regenerated. Heck, even the roads – which were as pockmarked as the Moon – are gradually being resurfaced.

But really, anybody who cast their vote for more austerity politics because they swallowed #FakeNews about Lefties burning piles of money funding lesbian cooperatives, can’t then moan that the Isle of Wight’s public toilets are closed. You did that, YOU – with your irrational fear of a decent socialist society and reluctance to support others through fair taxation.

The fate of Sandown and the wider Wight could be almost a textbook definition of the Tragedy of the Commons: where individual users act independently according to their own self-interest, behaving contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.

The way we vote can have far more debilitating consequences than a lack of spring flowers in the Isle of Wight’s municipal beds. Try living in Syria as British bombs drop. Is that the inhumane deed you craved when you drew those two lines in the polling booth? For every action, there is a reaction.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 4 May 2018.

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