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Monday 14 December 2009
Letters: Video games
Weary of the demonisation of video games
Terence Blacker (9 December) describes video games as a "masturbatory activity" (betraying a somewhat Victorian outlook?). Video games get a rotten press sometimes, and those of us who approach them as simply another form of entertainment and education which, like TV, can be harmful if taken to extremes, are getting heartily sick of having to defend our interest. Devotees of television get to look at me askance when I say no, I didn't watch The X Factor last night, and I have absolutely no interest in what happened on I'm A Celebrity...
Blacker's concern over video-game addiction is a fair one, but any addictive personality is at risk when he or she becomes involved in something compelling. Children are more vulnerable because their brains are still developing, and parents don't always understand the importance of time limits; not least because the medium is not taken seriously and is perceived as a toy with ideas above its station.
The "training, study, fitness, social skills or effort" involved in some games go far beyond the dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination required to handle a controller. I presume that Blacker is, sadly, without acquaintances who could introduce him to the lateral thinking of the Professor Layton games; the social, political and environmental commentary of the Final Fantasy series; the historical context of Call of Duty; or the moral decision-making required for Mass Effect.
But what offends me most is his accusation that gamers would be quite happy to see countryside levelled to create space for malls full of "computer shops", when, as any gamer worth their salt can tell you, the best buys are all online.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Fleeing bankers will not be missed
I am sure most of the country felt as cheered as I did by the threat of an exodus of bankers concerned about taxation of their undeserved and obscene bonuses (report, 9 December).
At a time when so many competent and committed workers are losing their jobs, or are being asked to take a pay cut due to a financial crisis brought about largely by the reckless behaviour of crass bankers like the head of Barclays, the exodus of these people is more than welcome news.
If they are able to find jobs in the real world where most of us live, they will soon discover that even excellent work is rarely rewarded financially. I earn less as a counsellor with 14 years' experience than I did in 1993 working as a receptionist, and I feel deeply privileged to be able to do the work I do.
It is obvious that a new version of the Tebbit "cricket test" has been discovered. Mr Diamond has, of course, failed dismally. He and those he purports to represent will not do their bit to help the country out of its mess – the mess they dropped it into by their collective greedy activities.
Everyone on my street is a patriot, and we would not duck the chance to help our country for free, let alone be paid for it. Bankers deserve a good salary, to be sure. So do dustmen, sewerage operatives, doctors and nurses and other far more essential workers. To expect an individual annual salary that is of a magnitude far greater than the combined income of the average suburban street is breathtaking greed.
May I offer my services to hasten the departure of Mr Diamond and his ilk? In our time of need we need patriots, not mercenaries.
Bruce Anderson (Opinion, 7 December) warns that bankers might move abroad if Labour's 50 per cent top rate of income tax becomes permanent, and suggests instead that an unemployed person taking a job should have no rights under employment-protection laws for three years. It's good to see Tories demanding that those who caused the financial crisis should be made to pay for it.
I wonder if an ancestor of Bruce Anderson's decried the loss of the tulip-futures industry in 1637? As with our modern-day investment bankers, these traders added no value to the assets with which they were gambling.
We in the UK are suffering more than other developed countries from the current crisis because of our reliance on a banking sector where monstrous bonuses have driven catastrophically bad decision-making. To attempt to resurrect this broken business model is madness. To take vast sums from our pension funds and taxes to fund it is theft and should be treated as such.
Bob Diamond's "...up to £40m a year" equates to roughly 2,200 times what I earn a year. Considering people were asking why MPs were earning as much as £100,000 (around five times as much as me, for whoever hasn't already got out their calculator to see if they earn more than me), how long can this possibly go on?
I'm not particularly clued up on the details of history, but surely the fall of monarchies and the establishment of republics were preceded by such inequalities. Bankers: enjoy it while it lasts.
During a 25-year career as a professional musician I have spectacularly failed to be successful in any way and I was wondering if I am now entitled to a six-figure bonus?
East Boldon, Tyne & Wear
The Rosetta Stone must stay in the UK
Peter Groome's letter ("It's time to gracefully relinquish the Rosetta Stone", 12 December) has only spurious plausibility. Taken to its logical conclusion, every significant cultural artefact from another country currently housed in the British Museum would have to be repatriated. But how dull, then, if our country boasted only its own heritage and culture. Surely part of living in the global village is learning to share and value each other's art and history? In any case, modern media and travel make it easy enough for genuine "ruin bibbers, randy for antique" (to borrow Larkin's words) to access or visit the originals in the British Museum.
ALAN D FOSTER
Blair's quick wit led us to disaster
Mike Abbott is quite right (letters, 10 December); Gordon Brown is not suited to the gladiatorial contest of Prime Minister's Questions. He does not have the quick wit and glib tongue of Tony Blair.
But quick thinking is not always good thinking, and often those with glib tongues succeed in imposing the wrong decision; the Iraq war is one such example. Blair's quick wit and easy style won the voters over at elections, but he was a disaster for the country. The conviction with which he imparted information that turned out to be false has resulted in tragedy.
Prime Minister's Questions is a farce that should have nothing to do with the running of the country. Serious questions should be raised in advance so that a reasoned response can be given. Then, perhaps, we could get away from yah-boo confrontational politics.
King's Lynn, Norfolk
So Tony Blair is now saying that he would still have led the country to war in Iraq, even if he had known that it had no weapons of mass destruction. This completely flies in the face of what he said at the time. For example, on 25 February 2003 he said of Saddam: "I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully."
I have no doubt that Mr Blair has read A Pilgrim's Progress. Perhaps the character Mr Facing-Both-Ways might remind him of someone?
Police treatment of photographers
Your description of the treatment of photographer Grant Smith by the police shows how far the UK has moved from the rule of law (report, 9 December). Essentially, Mr Smith was forced to submit to an infringement of his liberty for no other reason than that he refused to "explain" to the police what he was doing. Once, the leading case on such matters was Christie vs Leachinsky  AC 573; it is useful to be reminded of its principles.
The police may argue that the (stop and) search of Mr Smith did not amount to an "arrest" in the formal sense. But the old-fashioned definition was expressed in that case by Lord Justice Scott: "The essential point is putting the man under your control and taking away his freedom so that he acts under your domination; that is an infringement of the liberty of the subject and is prima facie wrong."
Viscount Simon added: "No one, I think, would approve a situation in which when the person arrested asked for the reason, the policeman replied, 'That has nothing to do with you: come along with me'. Such a situation may be tolerated under other systems of law, as for instance in the time of lettres de cachet in 18th-century France, or in more recent days when the Gestapo swept people off to confinement under an over-riding authority which the executive in this country happily does not in ordinary times possess."
Or in the words of Lord Justice Simonds: "Blind, unquestioning obedience is the law of tyrants and of slaves: it does not yet flourish on English soil."
Have the basic principles so eloquently stated in Christie vs Leachinsky become quaint relics from a previous age? Do we all now, in the "war against terrorism", have to be placed under the dominion of any Tom-Dick-or-Harry policeman because we "fail to explain" what we are doing, innocuous though our actions may be?
That is too high a price. I would rather face the risk of the odd, outrageous bomber than submit to the arbitrary dominion of the state.
Professor of International Law,
London Metropolitan University
Because so many of our members have been questioned by the police while innocently taking pictures, we introduced a blue card last year. This outlines the rights of photographers to take pictures and is designed to be shown to police when they are stopped. It has had some success in preventing police from engaging photographers in a full "stop and search".
BUREAU OF FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHERS, London N13
Boyd Tonkin's fascinating appraisal of our current preoccupation with lists (Arts & Books, 4 December) refers to Rowan Atkinson's "school register" sketch as "a comic classic". Well, yes, but why do so few people these days recall the equally bizarre school register that featured in Giles Cooper's 1958 radio play Unman, Wittering and Zigo, to which Atkinson, knowingly or not, was paying homage?
It is time for the use of all mobile phones while driving to be banned; they are known to affect concentration at the wheel, and it is absolutely indefensible to use them while on the move. The mobile-phone service-providers know when a call is made or received when a vehicle is moving and should be forced to reveal to the police the names of those who flout the law and endanger other road users. With severe enough penalties for breaking the law, the problem would be solved immediately for all but the most stupid of drivers.
Cameron's EU vow
Andrew Grice (12 December) refers to David Cameron dropping his "cast-iron guarantee" that the Conservative party would hold a referendum on the EU's Treaty of Lisbon. This reminds me of my days as an apprentice mechanical engineer when I was delegated to carry out gas-weld repairs to broken cast-iron gear wheels. Due to the amount of work I had to do, I never had much trust in cast-iron guarantees.
New Year's baby
Joanna Biddolph writes that those born on Christmas Day can feel short-changed (10 December). Being a New Year's baby is not so good either. As a child you are not allowed to stay up late to see the New Year in "because you'll be too tired for your birthday party tomorrow". As an adult, you find that many restaurants and pubs are closed after the night before and that many of your family and friends are too hungover to want to share a drink with you anyway. You can't win.
Spade waved through
Janet Hyde (letters, 12 December) is right to feel hard done by with respect to her spoons. A couple of years ago, while on my way to begin a ski/mountaineering trip, I had a 2-inch penknife confiscated at Heathrow despite my bag containing a 3ft-extendable snow spade. Had I had violent intent, I know which I would have chosen.
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