Two German crusties got on my train last night. They had odd, abrasive accents, were dressed like hippy scum, and seemed drunk or high. The woman kept screaming and wailing: “Michael! Michael! Nein! Nein! Nein! Arschloch! Nein! Fick dich!” and so on. The other passengers looked amused and disapproving. Things like this don’t happen in Munich. Or they happen in Oktoberfest and such antics are then regarded with tolerant disapproval and mild disgust and secret glee, as evidencing the vile coarseness of all other nations, and hence, the superiority of Germany and in particular Munich.
In Watching the English Kate Fox asserts that the English are shy and nice and polite – and so we are scandalised by the antics of footballers. She dismisses laddish subculture (drinking, fighting) as largely harmless. i wondered if she’d spent much time in just about any English town or city on a Friday night. i guess she has, but perhaps as a woman she hasn’t directly experienced the general menace and occasional violence to which men are subject. i’ve found that women and the elderly sometimes just don’t notice the broken glass, pools of blood, fights, screamed threats, that are normal in England now, because the perpetrators and victims are usually young men.
England became noticeably worse in the decade before i left (2009). When i worked in Manchester i sometimes asked my colleagues when they felt the real decline had begun; they all named the late 90s. It seems improbable that the Nu Labour government could have done so much harm, so quickly, and yet it’s hard to ignore the coincidence of dates – they came to power in 1997. By the time i left England in 2009, vowing never to return, it had changed a great deal. Orwellian posters threatening punishments were everywhere, as was CCTV, but it was rare that anyone would go to prison for anything less than murder, so the threats had no effect on the mass of no-good-boyos; they only served to remind you that the State is now everywhere and you should keep your head down. A typically conflicting message: under New Labour the welfare state expanded as the socialist government encouraged an underculture of lifelong scroungers, with a vast apparatus of public sector workers to administer welfare payments – both parties dependent on the State; and meanwhile posters like this were everywhere:
i saw one with a picture of a rat-like chav woman scuttling out of her council house. There was a hotline for good citizens to call, to let the State know something was amiss. At first i thought it was a joke, a satire on Nu Labour’s increasingly Stalinist methods; then i realised it was just the way things were, after a decade of socialism.
i think it’s true, as Fox contends, that most English people are fairly nice and wouldn’t bash your head in with a human thigh bone. But it’s not necessary for everyone to be a Rooney, for an English city to be dangerous. It would be strange if every single English person was a sociopathic animal. It is, however, only necessary to meet one, to end up on the pavement with some Rooney-alike kicking you repeatedly in the skull. The Rooneys may be a minority but they exercise disproportionate influence, rather like a particularly deadly poison – you only need a drop.
So while it’s true that there have always been no-good-boyos, there seem more of them these days. And you don’t really need millions more – a few thousand will do, to make an entire country into Sunderland. These are the scum who rioted last year – not, as Guardianistas and BBC fools maintain, because of Capitalism and Injustice, but because they wanted a bit of action and a new TV. i would guess that in the past, the no-good-boyos were principally nutters & hardcases; now, they seem to be just about anyone who’s had a bit to drink or is fed up with his Playstation.
i’m not sure why this has come about, though it certainly got much much worse in the Nu Labour years. One factor may be the prominence of people like Rooney and John Terry – for many young people, footballers are role models and when, instead of being sacked for their misdeeds, put in stocks and pelted with rancid eggs, footballers are paid more & more, and treated like gods – then naturally belligerence and crass selfishness becomes the norm. However, the state of the culture is now such that no one would seriously discipline these vermin. To do so is to be branded a puritan or a snob or just plain Hitler (as one can see with the abuse heaped on conservatives like Peter Hitchens and Theodore Dalyrmple).
i think societies tend to be hierarchical, to some degree, and our leaders, our perception of them, has a strong influence. One can see this in offices, when a manager is away, or is replaced, the atmosphere changes a great deal. In addition to the ruinous policies of Nu Labour, perhaps one could also point to the ruinous personality of Tony Blair, a Pecksniff of a man – profoundly hypocritical, brainless, greedy, sentimental, self-righteous, and an inveterate hater of British traditions and culture (or any tradition and culture pre-dating the 1960s). Theodore Dalrymple’s essay should be read at Blair’s funeral:
Blair’s resignation announcement was typical of the man and, one must admit, of the new culture from which he emerged: lachrymose and self-serving. It revealed an unfailing eye and ear for the ersatz and the kitsch, which allowed him so long to play upon the sensibilities of a large section of the population as upon a pipe.
He knew exactly what to say of Princess Diana when she died in a car accident, for example: that she was “the people’s princess.” He sensed acutely that the times were not so much democratic as demotic: that economic egalitarianism having suffered a decisive defeat both in theory and practice, the only mass appeal left to a politician calling himself radical was to cultural egalitarianism. He could gauge the feelings of the people because, in large part, he shared them. A devotee himself of the cult of celebrity, in which the marriage of glamour and banality both reassures democratic sentiment and stimulates fantasies of luxury, he sought the company of minor show-business personalities and stayed in their homes during his holidays. The practical demonstration that he worshiped at the same shrines as the people did, that his tastes were the same as theirs, more than compensated for the faint odor of impropriety that this gave off. And differences of taste, after all, unite or divide men more profoundly than anything else.