Saturday, 23 January 2010

Britain's "Broken Society" Myth

Things such as the current buzz phrase "Britain's Broken Society" drive me potty. Broken suggests that at some point there was a prior working society and that our current society is not working.

Occasional stories, such as the current media child torture porn frenzy over events in Edlington, are served up to show how dysfunctional we all are.

Of course this is all poppy cock. I'm not saying things aren't bad now, but I am saying they are much better than they once were. The fact child abuse stories are now being shown more often does not mean they are happening more often. It means 1) they are being covered up by authorities less, 2) found out more often, and 3) reported more often by the media for both worthy and unworthy reasons. Do these people really think that how we treated children was better in the past (based, of course, on what we consider a "good" upbringing now)? Have they no concept of history? Do they think things like this didn't happen in the '50s? Of course they did! They just weren't reported, weren't detected or, worse, were covered up just as the Catholic Church still likes to cover up it's abuse cases.

And then Victorian Britain. Do I really need to discuss Victorian Britain?

Of course the Broken Society moniker is used to refer to other facets of our culture. Such as alcoholism. Ever heard of Gin Lane? Britain has always had a love/hate/death relationship with alcohol. It's not a new thing. It's been a part of our society for a very long time. So it's hardly something that's suddenly come about and can be fixed quickly! I wish journalists and politicians would read more history!!

Crime? Try living through the Blitz when burglary and the black market reach heights unknown previously (and subsequently). Crime is a constant, going up and down but never disappearing.

I have no problem with politicians and the media suggesting there are ways to improve our country and our culture. I support progressive ideas. But what we are seeing with this "broken society" rubbish being spouted by just about everyone is not progressive suggestions for improvements but a faux nostalgia for a time in the past that doesn't exist. These are conservative ideas of control and imposing the nanny state upon us all rather than solutions to problems arising from the human condition.

Here's a quote from David Cameron:

“I don’t think it’s right every time one of these events takes place to say that it is just some isolated incident of evil that we should look away from and forget about.
“Are we going to do that every time there is a Jamie Bulger or a Baby Peter or a Ben Kinsella or a Garry Newlove or what has happened in Doncaster? We shouldn’t, we should ask what has gone wrong with our society and what we’re going to do about it.”

Note it's not what we can do to stop this from happening again. It's what has "gone wrong" and what are we going to do about it. As if this sort of thing never happened in the past (hi Mary Bell!). Looking back, rather than looking forward. It might seem to be such a minor thing, but really it's not. We can learn from history and move forward. But we cannot hope to replicate a history that never existed. David Cameron has no solutions. Given he is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister, this should worry us all.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


Jessica Penot said...

I'm not British and can't comment on Britain's broken society, but in America everyone seems to want to harken back to the good old days of family values when everyone was a better person, but people always forget that in general we get better with time. Fifty years agon in the states blacks couldn't share bathrooms with whites and women were supposed to stay home cleaning. I think people who look back to better times haven't spent much time studying history. Things have clearly only gone right as we've progressed towards more equal and just societies.

CrisisMaven said...

Hello, just stunbled across your blog, nice. I have just added a Reference List to my economics blog with economic data series, history, bibliographies etc. for students & researchers. My take on the state of the British economy: British Economy Creeps Out of Recession?.