By the time I learned to drive, seat belts were already fitted to all cars and we were expected to wear them. I didn't even notice the Creeper in action there because it was already well advanced. Seat belt wearing became compulsory just after I passed my test and before I could afford a car and anyway, I was taught to wear one by the driving instructor and didn't give it a second's thought.
I can't remember if my first car had seat belts in the back but I don't think it did. it was a Mk 2 Cortina which cost me £75 and it didn't always have seats in the back, never mind seatbelts. In those days it could pass an MOT even though I'd taken up the carpets and pulled all the plugs out of the floor because the door seals leaked. If it was still alive now, it would cost me more to scrap it than I'd paid for it.
Anyway, I only really experienced the tail end of that creeper. I remember the introduction of compulsory seat belts in the back and the fines for not wearing them and I remember laughing at seat belts on a bus that was big enough to plough straight through anything that might be in the way. Those belts are not yet compulsory, and there are no seat belts on trains, so that creeper might still be edging forward.
It was when I read this over at Devil's Kitchen that an old memory surfaced. Especially when I reached this link.
It's a very old memory, of a time when we children were unrestrained in the back seat other than by the threat of the car stopping for the administration of the old-style 'don't do that' lesson that really worked. My father was not one for reasoning with children. He rarely hit us but then he was of a size and shape that meant he rarely needed to. He just had to look as though he might.
He had just fitted shiny new seatbelts to, if I remember correctly, a Ford Corsair which looked to us kids like some kind of space machine. At the start of the next trip, my mother immediately asked him why he wasn't wearing the shiny new gadget. His answer -
"You have to have them, but you don't have to wear the bloody things."
He had fitted them not because he wanted them but because the law stated he had to fit them. He didn't fit rear seat ones and he didn't use the belt until the threat of a £50 fine forced him to. That came later. Years later.
The Creeper is a slow and insidious technique. On trains, it started with one no-smoking carriage. On buses, it started with smokers at the back and upstairs on the double deckers. It was not a new technique even then because, as the Filthy Smoker's post reminded me, it had already been used - and is still going - on seat belts.
Seat belts, you might argue, save lives. Indeed, in many accidents, they have. In others they have taken lives. Now you can get a sharp thing for cutting through your seat belt for those crashes where your car is upside down, flames are toying with the fuel line and your life-saving safety belt has jammed. It has kept you alive, unharmed and whole so that you can experience the full effect of being barbecued. It is not compulsory to carry the sharp thing. Yet.
You might argue that in most cases, the seat belt saves lives and only in a few cases does it take them. All very well unless you happen to be one of those few cases. The real point of the seat belt is that the only life it saves is yours. The only life you have any control over is yours and the choice of whether to risk it should be yours. I can agree with fitting seat belts as standard because if they aren't there, neither is that choice. However, whether any individual wants to make use of them should be a matter of choice.
It is not. The choice was taken away from you. Hardly anyone even noticed because by the time that choice was taken, every car had been compulsorily fitted with seat belts for years. Many were already using them. Many were surprised when they became compulsory because they thought they already were.
Seat belts became a compulsory item in the rear seats years before those adverts showing an unbuckled teenager in the back seat piledriving into his mother in the driver's seat in a collision. When it became compulsory to wear them, the population acquiesced because, well, it didn't cost anything. The seat belts were already fitted. The compulsion to fit them was in the past.
The compulsion to wear them was then easy to achieve.
The smoking ban is the same technique. One non-smoking carriage became one smoking carriage and then that was taken away, then the no-smoking area extended onto the platforms and now right outside the station. The slow and insidious nature of the creeper means that the rabid antismokers of today often have no idea how or why they became so keen to round up all the smokers and gas them to death. Just as the citizens of Nazi Germany had no idea why they were so keen to be rid of Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, smokers, gypsies, anyone who wasn't fully compliant with the State. Today, the smoking creeper is still growing and will soon reach into private cars and homes. It is not the only one, not by a long way.
When you see the technique, and appreciate the long timespan it uses, then you can recognise its application.
Alcohol is now banned on many forms of public transport. Bus drivers and train guards can refuse to let you travel if they decide you're drunk - even though that was the whole point of taking public transport to the pub in the first place. People now look down on anyone with the slightest whiff of booze about them even if it's just one pint's worth. Soon they will moan about the stench of alcohol on a drinker's breath. Passive drinking is already here. Controls are already in place. Warnings are to be put on alcohol, the age restriction at point of sale is going up and up until people get so used to it they'll be surprised when it officially rises from 18 to 25, because they'll think that is already the limit.
Look at the technique applied to anyone deemed overweight. It's the same. The public's right to make a citizen's arrest is similarly eroded. Salt. It's just at the beginning but it's the same technique.
One you might not have spotted yet. Photography.
It is perfectly legal to photograph or film anyone or anything in a public place. If you're publishing those photos it is only decent to remove identifiers from innocent bystanders - blurring faces and number plates, for example. You're not legally required to. There is no law against any form of photography in a public place.
How many people now believe that it is illegal to photograph public places?
How many will be surprised when it becomes illegal to do so - because they thought it was already?
The Creeper gets you used to the presence of something first, then makes it compulsory. There are portable ashtrays on sale for smokers. I refuse to buy one because I resent being forced outside in the first place. They are not compulsory but we're all getting used to seeing them on display, aren't we?
Supermarkets are pushing up the age at which they ask for ID until anyone under 30 will simply present that ID automatically. Anyone 18 is already treated with suspicion when buying booze, even though they are legally entitled to. Then the age limit can be increased and when those under the new limit - probably 21 - object, those around them will say 'Well you really shouldn't be buying beer under 25 anyway. It's been like that for years.'
Photographers are routinely harassed despite public pronouncements that they should not be. People are now suspicious of cameras and will not be at all surprised when a photographer is pulled over by police. They will not be surprised when he is arrested. They will not even be surprised when he is jailed. They have accepted a law stating that it is illegal to photograph the police and that leaves only one more step. 'Hey, if they can't photograph the police, they shouldn't be allowed to photograph me either.' Then we'll get 'possession of a camera with intent to photograph...'
The Creeper is a long, slow game. A little bit at a time. Get the public used to something first but don't press them on it until they've mostly accepted it. Get them used to seeing those seat belts on buses now, but don't make them compulsory yet. Wait until all buses have them on all seats, until anyone who shows any hint of a rebellious streak - smokers and drinkers, especially - and anyone who can't easily use them - mothers with children in pushchairs - are disposed of. That just leaves the conformists and the last act to weed out anyone who isn't going to be easily controlled is simply to announce a compulsion to wear those belts.
Here's a quote from Pavlov's Cat, today:
The steady drip-drip-drip of propaganda and regulation never ends - There's the Change4Life nonsense advertised by more amorphous and less barkingly insane plasticine people. Presumably the intention is to Change people into unthinking, conformist, cardio-workouting, goretex-wearing, celery eating vacant, glassy eyed conformists 4LIFE. Sounds like a death sentence to my ears.
This one is from Ivan Lawrence, in March 1979, 31 years ago:
Since I have been in the House I have seen the cogent arguments and the telling pleas of hon. Members on both sides of the House persuading and succeeding in persuading the House that it is only a very little piece more of liberty that we are withdrawing and for such great benefits and advantages. As a result we have far fewer of our freedoms now than was ever dreamed possible a few years ago. In the end we shall find that our liberties have all but disappeared. It might be possible to save more lives in Britain by this measure—and by countless other measures. But I do not see the virtue in saving more lives by legislation which will produce in the end a Britain where nobody wants to live.
They could be talking about the same thing, and they are, because they are not talking about salt and seatbelts.
They are talking about the Creeper.