Friday, June 10, 2016

Good Moaning: Accountability

There is a compilation of some of the best moments of Officer Crabtree on YouTube. "Allo Allo", it is fair to say, did have its detractors. Not me. Juvenile the show could be, and little was more juvenile than Officer Crabtree's attempts at speaking French (albeit in English). "Good moaning." Priceless.

Oddly enough, there is a line of etymological argument which suggests that "moaning minnie" is a reference to a one-time captain in the French army. A certain Claude Etienne Minié introduced a bullet which came to be known as the minnie ball. It almost certainly wasn't the origin, but the French connection seems in keeping with Officer Crabtree, as is what probably is the origin: to describe the sound of the German Nebelwerfer mortar of the Second World War.

As to when "moaning minnie" definitively slipped into general colloquial use is not really known, but its longevity is such that it proves that there was such a thing as moaning before they invented social media. That might seem hard to believe. However did people moan before Facebook came along and facilitated good moaning?

My own personal moaning on this global Moan-a-Gram system has, I like to believe, been moderate. I rarely use it anyway, but one moan I can recall had to do with being fined for parking on the pedestrian zone by Alcudia market. All of one minute. If that. Stopped to deliver to the tourist office (a town hall facility), to which I had been supplying (free) all sorts of things for several years. Along came plod (town hall employee) on a bike. Surely not? Surely yes. I never got round to sending an invoice to the town hall for all the unpaid translation work: I would have accepted the equivalent to the fine and even have been prepared to declare it for tax. They wouldn't have paid anyway. Bloody ingrates (if that doesn't sound like moaning).

I'm guessing that a key reason for not using Moanbook extensively has to do with my browser(s) no longer being supported. Oh, I've attempted to moan, but when it comes to hitting return, nothing happens. In fact, I can do virtually nothing on Moanbook any more, except to like people's moans. Should I moan that my now ancient Mac operating system is deprived of Firefox and Safari updates? Well I should, given how much the Mac cost in the first place, but I'm rather content with being unable to engage in some good moaning. And before you ask, I can't be bothered using my smartphone instead. (There's a moan I do need to get round to: why did I ever get one?)

Instead, I have to make do with everyone else's moaning, of which there is a seemingly unlimited supply. In the overall scheme of things, the fact that, inter alia, it has taken Pollensa town hall months to get its arse in gear and get some sun loungers out on the beach isn't life or death. Nor, now that the municipal posterior has been engaged and there are sun loungers for the resort's tourist class to place its collective buttocks on, is the fact that some people preferred the beach when it was lounger-less. No pleasing some folk. Moan, moan, moan.

But is this moaning such a bad thing? Good Heavens no. Moaning is good. Everyone repeat after Officer Crabtree: good moaning. And it is good for the simple reason that if it is justified, it might just have the desired effect. They take notice. Eventually.

Trivial though such issues as sun loungers can be (though God knows the principal environmental moaners in Mallorca, GOB, are elevating them to matters of state), there is a principle. Town halls are supposed to meet certain obligations. The commandment is written - thou shalt place sun loungers on thy beaches - unless thou is a municipality without beaches: life must be so much simpler for town halls like Ariany, unless the sheep are prone to moaning about the lack of pens.

The point is that there didn't used to be a culture of moaning, as in making town halls and other public administrations take note or, perish the thought, be accountable. Yes, the citizen was always prone (still is) to issuing the "denuncia" at the drop of a hat, if the hat in question offended the complainant for some obscure reason, but that was all rather personal: a bit of a hangover from the Inquisition, one's always felt. With public authorities on the other hand, all of them appointed by the state regime, you didn't moan or complain, unless you fancied a couple of years hard labour.

The culture has changed dramatically and very much for the better. Town halls seem to still struggle with accountability, but they are getting there. The more the moaning, the better. These are not the times of Officer Crabtree.

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