Broadcast on BBC Radio2, Pause for Thought, 2005
The other day I had an evening meeting in London that demanded my driving to the Capital. I found parking in a leafy suburb on a slight incline I was a little late so I rushed from the car and arrived back again at 9:00 in the evening, to find that my car was not there.
I asked around and someone had said there been a big police operation earlier and they had moved cars from the whole area due to some terrorist alert. I contacted the police and they said that they had my car and it was presently in a location south of London, so south indeed that I had to travel to the end of the tube line and then get a train before I reached the pound. I only got home at three o’clock in the morning in a car with a broken window.
Because I am Irish I am able to do foolish things with a certain amount of impunity. What I had done that day was leave my lights on, and my hand break off, so that my car slowly, slowly meandered into the middle of an intersection and stopped. My car had Northern Irish license plates and I had parked it around the corner from the headquarters of an esteemed British Regiment. Of course a terrorist alert was called.
The whole neighbourhood was evacuated. The police broke into my car with one of those little machines to look for a bomb that of course they didn’t find. But the surprising thing for me, feeling suitably sheepish as I went to collect my car, was the humble assertion of the policeman attending that I need to claim compensation for the broken window. They will be happy to pay it. Almost out of fear that I would sue them for breaking into my car.
As I drove home, although I recognised the insistence of the policeman that I claim compensation, I also couldn’t help feeling really silly about leaving my hand break off and my lights on, and causing such a disruption in what is otherwise a peaceful London suburb. The whole area came to a complete stand still, dozens of police and anti-terrorists people were involved and even a helicopter flying overhead. The cost of that operation alone was monstrous.
Why should I get compensation for being silly? Well, because we seem we have developed a culture where fear is beginning to form a major part of our relationships, not only in the work place, but also at schools, in our hospitals, and even in the family.
We all want a peaceful and loving life in our communities so maybe the challenge starts with each of us. How do we take the fear and the greed out of our relationships? Is what we want, and think we deserve, what we need? Can we forego a benefit, considering the needs of others over our own? Imagine if we all thought of others and not ourselves. It means that instead of us all thinking of one person, ourselves; we would have the whole world thinking of us. Nice, and it starts with ourselves, like not leaving our handbrake off and lights on. Hare Krishna.