Sunday, September 11, 2011

Who broke Britain? No one.

David Cameron goes on about "broken Britain", as though it was once a law-abiding haven where socially responsible people with family values lived; the sort that Margaret Thatcher was fond of referring to. Who broke it? And how? When did this happen? Cameron did history at A level, then PPE at Oxford, so maybe his grasp of history, particularly social history, is tenuous, but it doesn't take much research to discover that things have been a lot worse in the recent past. Far from being "broken", Britian's fixed a lot of things.

They mentioned an interesting fact on QI; crime went up by 57% during the Blitz. Hitler provided a helpful distraction while home-grown criminals went looting. Some pretended to be ARP wardens, complete with helmets, so that no one questioned them when they were helping themselves. They didn't confine themselves to looting shops, the wartime criminals; some went into bomb-damaged homes and helped themselves to other people's valuables, even while there were bodies close by.

Last month's riots started when a few idiots high-jacked a peaceful demonstration. Once the fires started and civil disorder spread, urban criminals seized the opportunity to go looting. It was nothing like as widespread as what happened in the Blitz. The proportion of offences committed by people who already had criminal records has been disputed - Boris Johnson claimed it was three quarters (in one report, it said he referred to "three fourths"), while the police say that they targeted known criminals - but whoever was right, criminal opportunism seems to explain a lot of it.

It's been said that civilisation is a thin veneer. There will always be people who'll exploit any opportunity to get things the easy way; by helping themselves. There will always be people who behave as if no one else matters. They're a minority. Nothing is "broken".

As for "family values" - here are just a few examples of "the good old days":
  • The number of births outside wedlock shot up during and immediately after the war.
  • Infanticide was far more common than now in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, as girls in service who'd been raped by their male employers or their employers' sons were desperate enough to abandon their babies to die because they had no means of support.
  • During the same era, the fear of crime drove people to wear spiked collars, like the ones worn by modern S & M aficionados, to protect themselves from thieves who garrotted their victims - today's muggers are tame in comparison.
  • There were enormous numbers of prostitutes in London and other cities during Victoria's reign, and many wives were infected with VD by their erring husbands.

Since the 1960s, when many imagined that the introduction of the pill and women's liberation meant the end of civilisation as they knew it, we've become far less tolerant of drunkenness, domestic violence, and casual criminality. Most people's lives are far safer, healthier and more comfortable than the lives of their great-grandparents (as a funeral celebrant, I've heard lots of life stories about people who were born at the beginning of the 20th century).

Nobody broke Britain. Cameron's fluent in bullshit and crap at running the country.

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