Sunday 22 September 2013

The Great British Moan Off

As I sit here waiting for the Great British Weather to make up its mind as to whether we're going to have an Indian Summer or not, it strikes me that now is as good a time as any to respond to the latest "blogger tag" that has been bestowed upon by that fine fellow of the North, G.M. Norton.  Less of an award and more of a sharing experience, it involves the somewhat different - albeit typically British - trait of moaning.

Mr Norton has highlighted three things that he would consign to his own personal Room 101.  Good manners, or rather lack thereof, naturally makes it to his list and can also be found amongst the gripes of others who have been tagged and quite right too.  The three I have chosen could be said to encompass common courtesy, but all I think share a similar thread.

Insularity and the death of community

Like it says on the top right...
If there's one thing guaranteed to make me miserable, it's walking to the shops or around the local park and trying to engage with people I pass on the way.  I should know by now that it will usually end in disappointment.  The local uniform of grey jogging bottoms and sweatshirts, the grim faces, the downward/straight ahead look - they should all tip me off that saying "hello", "good morning/afternoon" is a waste of breath.  Yet, ever the optimist (this post is certainly not my usual fare) I still do it.  Although to be honest these days it's more often a mumbled "hiyathereyouallright", which I always mentally kick myself afterwards for the slovenly cop-out it is.  Still it's better than nothing, I suppose.  And heaven forfend I should ever smile and nod at someone for I seem always to be met with a look of shocked disgust and confusion, as if I'd just slapped them round the face with a wet kipper.  Try keeping eye contact for more than 3 seconds and you can almost hear "How dare you look in my general direction, you strangely well-dressed man?!  Weirdo."  (As a single man, who may appear to others as being slightly differently dressed, the spectre of being thought a sinister deviant is always at the back of my mind, especially when it comes to children, which is a sad indictment of modern society in itself).  Occasionally you'll be gifted with the odd person(s) who will respond positively (and I can bet they generally won't be younger than the Baby Boomer generation, who seem the last to have been brought up to recognise this courtesy - present company excepted, of course!) and when it happens it truly does feel like a special occasion, a day-maker, so rare is it otherwise.  And that's the beauty of passing greetings on the street - it shows you recognise the equal importance of the other party (not to mention simply acknowledging their very existence) and have good will enough to pass the time of day with them.  Better that than the attitude of suspicion that seems to pervade most places these days.  This, then, is my first moan - the demise of day-to-day community spirit and the insularity of modern society. 

Apathy and the death of personal responsibility/common sense

Take it to the tip yourself or call the council, before someone
comes along and sets fire to it...
To use a personal example - so, Mr Fellow Resident, having gouged lumps out of the newly-plastered walls in the communal entrance hall with your clumsy removal skills you're now just going to leave your old sofa dumped outside, eh?  Not your problem anymore, I suppose?  The refuse workers will just pop it in the dustcart with the black bags, you think?  Even after it's been out there for three weeks?  The fact that someone else nearby did the same thing and then had their house burned down when arsonists came a-calling doesn't bother you, I imagine?

There, then, is a microcosm of an epidemic that has swept the nation - the abdication of personal responsibility and an apathetic attitude to others (and even, I would venture to suggest, themselves - it would certainly help explain the appearance of some I see around here).  How can these people not have even a twinge of conscience, of selfless thought to do what would often be the simplest action to make things better for everyone?  It is left to the authorities and the likes of you and me to do what they will not, which in the long run can only compound the problem ("someone else'll do it").  It's a thorny issue with no quick fix but something needs to be done to rid these folks of their apathy.  In the meantime I continue to shake my fists at them in frustration.

Swearing in front of children

Even I might utter the odd oath under my breath from time to time, but only when provoked and never in company.  Swearing in public in general is a particular bugbear of mine and I have nothing but admiration for those people with the courage to speak up to the perpetrator.  But one aspect that makes my already steaming blood boil is when people do it in the presence of children (e.g. on the bus, in shops etc.).  And within that aspect is another...

Now I don't usually get involved much on the subject of modern parenting; being a single chap myself I know I'm not particularly qualified - any observations I make still tend to be along the lines of "when I was a boy...".  Generally it is up to the parent to bring up the child as they see fit and to their credit most do a good job of it.  Bad parenting on the other hand is a wide-ranging issue and the subject of many a social commentary or government policy, if not worse.  I won't attempt to cover the whole issue here but only one small, particularly irksome aspect which I'm afraid I sometimes encounter.  I really do hope any responses to this will be along the lines of "I don't know what you mean, Bruce" or "Nope, never come across that before".  I refer to those parents who walk around with three or four children in tow, double buggies etc., smoking like chimneys and swearing like sailors.  My overwhelming feeling upon encountering these groups is utter pity, mixed with helplessness/hopelessness (plus a little extra antipathy for the parents), for these poor children who will grow up thinking that is the norm.  "There's another generation lost", I can't help but think, and there are times I've even wondered how far the child cruelty laws extend...  As mentioned earlier the whole subject of proper, healthy parenting can be a hideously complex issue, encompassing both personal responsibility and government provision.  I won't even begin to go down that road here; I think I've gone on quite long enough as it is!

As is often the way with rants, I seem to have ended up writing a mini essay - apologies!  If you've made it this far, well done, and I hope you've nodded in agreement at least somewhere along the way.  I won't pass this on, if you don't mind - I think I've spread enough doom and gloom with this as it is, things that Eclectic Ephemera was expressly set up to banish, but do feel free to add your own thoughts and pet hates here if you want.  Let me end on a happy note by wishing you all a happy and frustration-free week!


Don't just sit there, type something! I enjoy reading all friendly and positive comments.


Popular Posts