A bolt as a multi-faceted metaphor

This is a picture of the head of a bolt (approximately 15mm diameter) sheared off near to the head. The bolt was corroded into place so solidly that on applying pressure (and quite a lot of it) the head of the bolt made a number of revolutions while the rest stood still – until eventually the metal gave way. The bolt was actually one of three – and the second hardest to remove (“remove” being a euphemism for “destroy” in this context).

The hardest to remove had the head of the bolt rounded into a smooth circle on applying sufficient torque. It had to be cut at both ends and then hammered – hard – with a drift – for hours. By the time that particular bolt surrendered it had flowed like slow motion plasticine. To remove three bolts took more than half my day, though I’m used to that rate of progress now. This boat was a project for a reason – previous owners had failed to invest their time, effort and money into long term thinking and now I must pay for their mistakes in the proverbial sweat (and occasionally blood). A necessary trade if one is richer in sweat than cash.

Sheared 15mm bolt

Sheared 15mm bolt

At the risk of stretching a point too far, I think the bolt can serve several metaphors:

The first metaphor is the value of looking after things. The designer and subsequent owners went with what was quick and dirty – simple expediency and short term thinking. They did not care about the long term consequences of their actions. This is a metaphor for the attitude of our society and most especially those who control it towards our planet. They have not cared and do not care about the long term future, nor do they give thought to the later owners who must pay for the consequences of their selfish and callous short termism. Most of us are guilty of this attitude in some measure and the longer this goes on the harsher and more bloody the price the next owners – especially children and the as yet unborn – will pay.

The second metaphor is that violence can indeed solve problems. It is an oft repeated politically correct phrase: “violence solves nothing”. It also isn’t true. In my experience of life – the judicious application of force can solve problems and sometimes is the most expedient and direct approach. As a child who spent a portion of his life being rather severely bullied I learned parents and teachers would not (perhaps could not) do anything about this – but a relatively limited application of my fists could work wonders. As an adult I very seldom even need to hint at an application of force, but perhaps that’s because I’ve evolved into such a nice person nobody could possibly dream of giving me problems. There is a deeper point here about the sort of future I believe our world is headed for – a future dominated by violence and conflict – but I will present that particular ugly truth in a later blog post.

The final metaphor is for the strength of the human spirit. We can shape and destroy steel with our muscles and a certain amount of bloody minded stubbornness (mild steel at least, whatever they make the drifts out of is incredibly tough stuff). We can do many other things besides and people generally fail to realise that all people have this potential within. We are almost all born essentially the same – it is the choices we take (or do not take!) that come to define us as individuals. If your first answer when confronted with a choice or a challenge is “I can’t possibly do that” – you already decided you couldn’t do it. It is the box that we allow our minds to be confined within (in large part from the pressure of society and peers as well as self) that limits us. Break that box and remove your mental chains – and you can do great things.

These metaphors all serve to express the sort of person I aspire to being.