Over lunch today Albert Harness was explaining his theory about how we have all been de-sensitised by the excessive and rapidly accelerating pace of technological development over the last hundred years or so, and how we've all fallen for the lie that our lives are somehow better for it. On the contrary, says Albert, we are controlled from the cradle to the grave by things we can never understand, leading to the erosion of the essence of our humanity and our sense of belonging; we have become slavish brutes struggling through a world beyond our comprehension for reasons of which we have long since lost sight.
Albert argues that we can only ever attain fulfillment by working with technology we understand and using machines we can mend ourselves. For thousands of years, he said, very little changed and knowledge passed easily down the generations, but it all started to get seriously out of hand with the discovery of electricity, which no one really understands, and it's been getting worse ever since. For Albert, the object which best symbolises the downfall of mankind is the indexed gear shifter.
What prompted this tirade against technology was the unveiling today of the new vehicles. We spent the entire morning being shown what they do and how they do it by our new Sector Trainer, Willy Small. To be honest, for most of us it was like stepping on to the bridge of the good ship Lollipop, accustomed as we are to nothing more complicated than a gearstick, three pedals and a steering wheel.
The yellow vans are equipped with countless buttons and switches and things; a couple of little televisions, several machines that go beep, cupboards filled to bursting with the latest advances in bandage technology, plus all manner of mysterious electrical gadgets and a siren which plays a repertoire of tunes for the entertainment of the general public. And a woman, no kidding, who tells you where to go. I really can't see the likes of Bert and Stan putting up with that. They don't even allow women near their bicycles, never mind giving them directions.
If you can imagine anything more frightening than that, how about this: hidden devices that let them know up at Ambulance Headquarters exactly where you are at all times. Surely the work of Beelzebub.