Thursday, 24 September 2009

Excuses, excuses

The other day I saw an earnest journalist explaining on television her ‘amazing’ insight gleaned from research into why teenagers turned to crime. They had told her, she said with an air of bemused wonder, that it was because they hadn’t been taught properly to read and write when they were 6 or 7; and so when they turned 13 or 14 and realised they were illiterate they felt so ashamed that they believed they were unfitted for anything else than stealing, stabbing, mugging and drug dealing. The good lady seemed to think that this explained the whole juvenile crime problem, and that poor teachers are primarily to blame.

This brought out my customary ‘Duke of Wellington’ response of “If you believe that, you’ll believe anything”, and reminded me of the song “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story. These kids have obviously convinced themselves that they are the victims of a social disease - the notion that they are, in fact, like everyone else, responsible for their own lives and actions has clearly never entered their heads.

We do indeed live in a moral quagmire, and it isn’t surprising that when youngsters are surrounded by adults – some of them in positions of power and privilege – who refuse to take responsibility (Hi there, Baroness Scotland!) they blame everyone else except themselves for their delinquent behaviour. It is, in fact, news to me that illiteracy is to blame for crime; I hadn’t realised that all literate people are, ipso facto, model citizens.

Blame isn’t the issue, anyway. Responsibility is. The refusal of almost everyone nowadays to take proper responsibility for themselves, their families, their neighbourhoods, the social climate they function in, the quality of their political representation, and their country’s behaviour in the world is the cancer which eats away at the fabric of what used to be a far more decent society.

No-one is irredeemably stupid unless they suffer from physical brain damage. Some are more naturally intelligent than others, but everyone can improve themselves by education and application. To refuse to do so is a choice. And the consciousness of choice – ‘free will’ in old-fashioned terms – is what distinguishes humans from other species.

Today, we have largely lost the freedom to choose in many aspects of our lives. We are over-governed, over-regulated, over-policed by presumptuous and often incompetent nanny-persons who automatically assume that they ‘know best’ and that we, the citizenry, cannot be trusted to take sensible decisions about our own lives and are also mostly dishonest given half a chance. This expiring New Labour government is the worst offender in this respect, and it unfortunately looks as if any alternative won’t be much of an improvement. Because of what Frank Furedi has labelled the ‘culture of fear’, we seem to be drifting largely unawares into a Stasi-type State where people are encouraged to spy upon, snoop and snitch about their neighbours. To someone as old as I am, who grew up during Hitler’s war when we all knew that it was this type of tyranny we were fighting against, the current social scenario is deeply dismaying.

As for the feckless youth who drift into crime because they are too ‘ashamed’ to try anything else, they need to be taught – as Linda Creed’s moving song, written when she was dying of cancer tells us – to love themselves. There is, however, one very misguided line in that song: “Whatever else they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity”. That, alas, isn’t true. They do it at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib; they do it in our sink schools and cesspits of prisons; they do it with their lies and evasions and their refusal to take responsibility.

Hi again there, Baroness Scotland! Are you listening?


Merkin said...

I live in a lovely area.
My parents chose it as being near to the Coo-op, doctor, library and 'bookie'.

It's fine.

Throw a stone and you see the Viki Pollards of this area.

I am fortunate in that my social skills allow me to be protected by those (rather than such as those).

'Such as those' have been deliberatly bred by NuLab as part of The Project.

Aldous Huxley wins vs. Orwell.

zola a social thing said...

Here we are agin appy as can be,
All good sods in jolly good company.

However for the suspicious and academic reader let me shorten the Anticant excursis into something more plain and simple.

Our Anticant is trying to say (while fighting at the same time his Yuff-ful Jungian jinglr jangles)that crime is made by the law.

Then he says that the law is made by people in power.

Then he says that these laws protect the people that made them laws in the first place.

My advice is to be very careful of Anticant. He will lead you into troubled waters.

anticant said...

Spot on, Zola! I believe that governments should serve the people - not the other way round. If they don't, they are more deserving of the guillotine than the French aristos were.

Bodwyn Wook said...

I am just now reading the memoir of W O Bentley, the racing-car boffin, b 1888. He went from school at sixteen, not having completed the third form, and left his middleclass London home (except at the week-ends) for a premium apprenticeship in the railway shops in Doncaster, alongside working-class young men whose starting rate was 5 S pw. He went at it for five years before deciding that the top wage prospects on the railway of 250 (quids) pa were not quite the thing. Then, in that very middleclass way, his name was put forward by a friend, the Autocar editor, E M P Boileau, and so Bentley got into, well...Bentleys!

But the important point here is how he, himself, describes a whole education that was conducted by /mentors/, adult men who mostly loved their craft and were proud to teach their skills. The demands for respect, punctuality and responsibilty were such that this was an education for a completely adult life. Not least, the young men were helping to build real and needed products, the childrern of their hands. By the time Bentley, now twenty-two, left the railway he could do virtually /any/ job associated with either erecting or operating a steam locomotive as he'd had plenty of time to learn it all, both in the shops and on the foot-plate.

The present system of 'schooling' both in England and the States now herds the young in hermetically isolated age-gangs, treats them as social-work clients as much as pupils, and insists on their living for years in a semi-permanent fiction of 'adolescence', in which already at all hours out of the class-room they are having their personalities bathed, by a mainly rotten and lunatic 'pop' culture. They are kept, in other words, as cash-cows for the elaborate gangs and subsidised relayss of 'helping professionals' and other thieves who now ooze everywhere in the garden of a formerly-tolerable public life. In short, for many, the 'semi-permanent fiction of adolescence' becomes absolute, and they are condemned to whole lives as the drooling moronic stooges of an essentially sociopathic mass-media.

Our dads after WW II are lots to blame, too, as the high rates commanded by unions in those days (I am speaking of the US) meant there was no strong pressure for decent apprentice and journeyman conditions as such, because of the intense upward wage-pressure by senior members. Rather, they insisted on a too-high entry-level 'dumb labor' hourly rate for all. Accordingly, this drove the corporate move to more and more automation, and to-day off-shore production. It is a vomplete and objective pisshopuse, and I for one do nmot what is tro be done.

Presumably when The Chinamen get here, they will at least want some myriads of the less-doughey young blonde females (those not already picked over by upstart young Paki bravos from Bradford, I mean) for their mobs of sex-starved young men, at least those who've not resorted to other courses -- but, these North Atlantic males in all cases are a drug on the 'global market' indeed, and what my Yanks call "a shitaree of jack-off artists!"

The award-winning retired NYC high-school teacher, John Gatto, has written lengthily about the disaster of American schooling, but of course he's "not liberal!" Or something.

Jose said...

And still in Europe, France, there are voices who are raised in defence of "under-18" children. The French government intends to gather together all rights under one single heading, but this is contested firmly.

Sorry it's in French.

I am not against rights for children provided these rights are used in their defence, but special care must be taken so that they are not used as an offensive weapon by the very children. Ages should be re-considered because in my opinion after 13 they are not so much children, if you know what I mean.

anticant said...

Of course adolescents are not 'children', and should not be treated as such past the age of puberty. But they are not adults either. The 'teens are the most important phase of socialisation, and almost always involve some degree of conflict with and rebellion against adults, teachers and other authority figures.

But due to what some are now characterising as the 'feminization' of education, there is a trend, supported by government regulation, to treat all adolescents as if they were children up to the age of 18. There is a great deal of discussion about this at the moment, and a growing degree of dismay and resentment at measures such as the new child protection register which assume that adults who work with children are inherently untrustworthy and must pay for a license before they do so.

See, for instance,

The outcome of all this is that an increasing number of adults keep well clear of children and teenagers, and certainly don't intervene to reprimand anti-social behaviour. We are rearing a generation of feral youngsters who experience no discipline, and in consequence will make abysmally awful parents.

Emmett's description of the old apprenticeship system which existed in the engineering and manufacturing industries during WW2 and the years immediately following and has almost completely disappeared today is one of the lost keys to responsible socialisation of teenagers. I agree with Jose, and have long maintained that teenagers should not be regarded as overgrown children, but as pre-adults who are expected to assume increasing degrees of self-responsibility. This, it seems, is another difference between British and European society where the UK shows up to its disadvantage.

anticant said...

And how about this:

Jose said...

I'm reminded unfortunately of the ills Communism brought to the societies in the countries where it was imposed: families ceased being families, friends were no longer.

A late University professor here, a friend of mine who escaped the Romanian communist yoke, received years later his daughter who had been reared up by the Communist system. He confessed to me that he was praying she went back to her country, so many troubles having being caused by her manners in his environment.

Is the English government becoming communistoid?

anticant said...

Several members of the present New Labour government were Trotskyists in their student youth. Though they pay lip-service to parliamentary democracy, their political mindset remains that of Leninist 'democratic centralism'. They believe in social engineering - sometimes of an extreme 'Politically Correct' style.

zola a social thing said...

Pray tell me AntiRant : What is this "political mindset" that you fear is "paying lip-service" to this age old and traditional "parliamentary democracy"?

We need to know.

anticant said...

The mindset that thinks democracy is best imposed from above, and should not be permitted to well up from below.

"The people who shout 'Power for the People' are the people who want power for the people who shout 'Power for the People'".

I am not a Populist, by the way.

And what's happening over at Ink-Spots? Is Zola still paralytic after quaffing all that Guinness?

Bodwyn Wook said...

Well, History doesn't rhyme as Chesterton or someone said, but it puns:

A hundred and fifty years since, the Geordi engineer-entrepreneur was the wonder of the World.

Now, these Scotch social engineers and assorted brain geniuses are the bane of Britain.

Ironically as it may be, the Senior Chinamen of the politburo there are engineers -- actual environment-wrecking ones I mean -- who take their hands-on technical credentials to be a kind of lunatic Mandate of Heaven in spades, shifting millions at a go out of the way of new dams, and stuffing them into purpose-built 'new towns'.

Christ on a clap-ward, I reckon these past-sell-by Blairites just defecate in a rage in their small clothes with the bleak envy of it all!

Jose said...

Seems to me that what's learnt in the early stages of our life is always latent in our subconscious and sooner or later will emerge to betray us. What may be happening to those former Trostkyists you refer to, Anticant.

anticant said...

If this lot had been running the UK in the 18th century, the industrial revolution would never had happened. The pioneer inventors and engineers would have been so enmeshed in red tape and 'health and safety' regulations that they wouldn't have been able to produce anything that worked.

Jose said...

Nowadays you never know who are communists, socialists, right-wingers, because money - which many call pragmatism - has taken them all over.

Bodwyn Wook said...

Our libertarian idea is that on the material level of bodily existence the free flow of ideas and money are both needed, to work together. Naturally, this is idealism. The physical reality however seems to be cyclical, boom and bust. Of course time for time, information is acquired, this is additive longterm -- seemingly no matter how much whomever may fidget with the power-levers.

Equally, all political "solutions" fart out in the face of the human cycles, just as all latently are full of holocausts for someone or other.

zola a social thing said...

Thanks Anticant. Now I understand.

You, as an Anarchist, want to see democracy that is not parliamentary.

Yet, at the same time, you refuse the collective neccessities of any social life.

What then is this "Democracy" that you talk about?

anticant said...

No, dear Zola, you don't understand. What I want is a society in which people are prepared to take individual responsibility for their own lives to the maximum extent posible, and don't expect to be either spoonfed or bossed around by a vast Nanny State and its - mostly incompetent and badly trained - apparatchiks.

This does not mean that there should be no collective social provision - quite the contrary: there would be a myriad voluntary social groups and enterprises. But - again, as far as possible - these would be organised voluntarily, not compulsorily.

In those areas where the State does need to organise, there should be provision for opting out. There is far too much regulation and compulsion in contemporary life.

There will always be perverse, selfish and amoral/immoral people who will persist in driving on the right when the majority drive on the left, which is why I am an 'anarchist but' - the 'but' being that we do need basic rules of the road and so forth.

Did you never read Herbert Spencer's "The Man versus the State"?

zola a social thing said...

Oh dear me Anticant you do not grasp the issue and nor you you understand it.

By your own words you cannot be an anarchist actor within a "voluntary group" yet then you ask for a postmodern society and all that.

If you missed that one Herbert Spencer was a kind of "Functionalist" and he usually thought that his nose was there because he could smell his food better that way.

Now that is design theory is it not?

anticant said...

No, no, Zo-Zo I've never asked for a postmodern anything.

Postmodernism is pseudo-academic bilge.

Bodwyn Wook said...

The only legitimate use of 'post-modern' is by Amateur Free (!)Cranks & Historians such as myself, to denominate the objective fact that THIS (whatever else it be) is no longer /modern/.

Moving right along, as a nascent anarchist I /also/ notice that I am a social critter -- obviously, then, the solution to our epistemological dilemma here is to anarchically (!) engage in whatever co-operative doings with other anarchs that we may mutually choose to get up to. Trop claire, nicht wahr?

(This 'whatever' is a mare's nest, of course, given that as yet we do not have a uniformly high moral class of men -- some of our activity as eleemosynary anarchs providing aid to others will, alas, necessarily consist in doing down the violent aggregationists. I know of no way around this; as Aunty points out very (!) often, religion has passed its sell-by-date for loads of folks, as a convincing moral suasion I mean; and, likewise, these post-modern languid statists & scientific types don't have any higher level of success: certainly /not/ in winning assent by improved numbers, to The Superior Modes of Conduct.

anticant said...

Try this for size, Zola:

"I am the very model of a postmodern phenomenon

I blog away from day to day and post nothing that’s common on

My site that’s very erudite and filled with thoughts opaque and new

To puzzle all the bourgeois who believe some things are false or true.

I’m very well acquainted too with notions so sophistical
That sometimes I’m all surrealist and lapse into the mystical.

In short, in philosophic talk abstruse or hypothetical
I tie poor Anticant in knots and label him heretical."

Jose said...

Oh, my! This is becoming really literate.

Merkin said...

Anti, I am going to be singing that all day now!

Bodwyn Wook said...

This is some ditty, Aunty,
and you know it,
you are making Zola out a Sufi,
if not yet a poet...
your verses' feet quite show it,
they are long fellows!