The truth of the matter is that significant achievements and hard work on our behalf are frequently overshadowed by evidence of crass insensitivity and, frankly, sheer idiocy at all levels of public service.
Often, departmental officers are to blame for lapses of good sense, but just as it should be in a representative democracy, the buck must ultimately stop on the desks of elected politicians who have the final responsibility for seeing that departments are run properly.
Two recent cases illustrate almost perfectly just how bone-headed officialdom can be and how lax the political control of departmental actions often is.
The first involves the ludicrously misleading and no doubt highly expensive milestones which make a very poor job indeed of telling people how far they are from the Royal Square – information of questionable value in the first place. The second concerns the St Aubin Harbour notice prohibiting the feeding of geese.
The milestones, which echo a traditional style but are utterly incomprehensible to anyone who has not had the benefit of an explanation of their meaning, are at least attractive. However, in other respects they qualify as absurd wastes of money, effort and the time of public employees who really should be prevented from engaging in such meaningless folly.
The ‘don’t feed the geese’ notice is, meanwhile, a first-class example of the official tone of voice which, quite rightly, most people loathe with a vengeance. It makes sense not to throw crumbs and crusts to the St Aubin fowl – and hence the rat population which shares the harbour – but why the threatening, officious and offensive approach to advising the public of this? And why the large, ugly and intrusive sign which does absolutely nothing to enhance the appearance of a picturesque quayside?
Against the background of the present zero-ten tax shock and impending public-sector deficits, milestones and hectoring notices might appear to be trivial matters. If, however, we cannot get the fine detail right, what hope is there of making sense of the major challenges which threaten to damage not only the quality of Island life, but also the fundamentals on which it is built?