OBSERVATIONS ON A SNOWY DAY…
Some years ago I came across an article that someone had written about how we as a nation had changed. It described our collective childhood memories – cycling in flip-flops without helmets, kneepads, shoulder-pads, with wooden lollipop sticks rubber-banded to the spokes of our bikes so we could make a sound like a motorcycle (apparently!); it talked of disappearing at sunrise and coming back at sunset with never a concern about where we were or what we were doing; it talked of leaving front and back doors open, of giving spare keys to our neighbours in the event that we locked ourselves out, or just so they could ‘check on things’ while we were on holiday; it spoke of low school and work absenteeism, of how we did our best to get well when we were sick so we could go back to school or work; there were no childproof lids on medicines – we just knew to stay away; there were no airbags or safety belts, and riding up-front was a treat; we drank water from the garden hose; we shared fizzy pop from cans and bottles, and no-one ever died from it; we spent hours building go-carts out of junk, and then hightailed it down steep hills at breakneck speeds, and ploughing into stinging nettles three or four times soon made us wise to the need for brakes; we had no mobile phones or tracking chips in our shoes, and no-one worried about whether or not we would get lost or kidnapped or run over; we did not have playstations, x-boxes, no video games, no videos at all, no cable, no internet, no personal computers or chat rooms…but we had friends, and we went places with them, and we discovered hidey-holes and secret places and we built dens in the woods and lit fires, and we fell from trees and scraped our knees, and sometimes we lost a tooth or two. There were no lawsuits. There were accidents, nothing more nor less, and we learned very quickly not to do that again. We had fights. We punched as hard as we could. We got over it, and usually became best friends. Our dads didn’t go round and fight each other, nor did they call the Police. They took us out in the garden and taught us how to fight back even harder. We rode bikes in packs of six or eight or ten, and we wore our coats by the hoods only. We made up games with bits of wood and stones and old tennis balls; we threw worms at each other, and mud, and sometimes we ate things that we shouldn’t have eaten, but no-one went to hospital and no-one died. The Police were there to be respected, and we did respect them. We said ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’, and we minded our manners when we were told to. If we got in trouble our parents sided with the authorities, and said things like ‘It serves you right…’ as they cancelled our pocket money.
Our actions were our own, and consequences were confronted.
My son is twelve. This is the second day this week that his school has been closed. Because of snow. About two and a half inches of snow.
I went to school in the wilderness of Oxfordshire. It was a mile and a half to the nearest post box. There was no such thing as a ‘day off’. Snow banks reached three and four feet in height, and we walked to school. In shorts. We had snowball fights all the way, and when we got to school the teachers threw snowballs too.
If that happened now there’d be a lawsuit, a civil investigation, suspension, internal inquiries, and someone somewhere would lose their job.
What in God’s name has happened to us?
Where did it all go so wrong?
Political correctness has become ‘fear of saying anything even when it’s the truth’.
We live in a world that seems populated with frightened people, people who want to say and do and think and feel, but believe they cannot.
We live in a society where the younger generations are being taught to never think for themselves, to expect something for nothing, to believe that calculating how much public benefit you can get is better than working for a living.
What happened to pride in a career? What happened to the feeling of doing a damned good day’s work, and never once thinking that you deserved more than you had legally and legitimately earned?
And the education system? Don’t even get me started!
So, apart from ranting away on some polemic about how dreadful things have become, I will temper my diatribe with a simple observation: People do not need to be told how to live their lives. They are more than capable of making their own decisions and learning from their own mistakes. Tell a child what to do, and they will invariably contradict and do something else.
Forbid someone to do a certain thing or behave a certain way, and they will behave that way just to get back at you. It’s human nature.
The government (a term I used advisedly as they seem to govern very little of anything), continues to fail us. They spend so much of their time worrying about what we might think of them that they have become afraid of doing anything decisive.
The comment that Obama made when he met with David Cameron? ‘What a lightweight’. That says everything about who we rely on to manage our affairs, control the corrupt and greedy bankers, advise and direct the actions of the Police and the legal system, provide social and community support, and give us a means by which we – as a society - can co-operate with one another racially, politically, culturally and religiously. Look where they have got us. We don’t go to school because someone might slip over, or someone’s parents might be late to collect them, or a teacher might get a snowball thrown at them…and then where would be be… Oh my God.
Sometimes I look at our history as a nation – our heritage, the legacy of the Victorians, of Elizabeth I, of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Brunel, Watt, Churchill, of what we accomplished in the First and Second World Wars, of London surviving over two hundred and fifty consecutive days of the blitz, of the sacrifice that ordinary people made to preserve some degree of sanity in Europe…and then I see those same people, now in their eighties and nineties, being left alone without heating or adequate food, being treated disrespectfully by teenagers and children, and a government that stands by and allows this to happen, all the while worrying about whether the ‘human rights’ of some burglar have been violated because he slipped on the floor while he was stealing your DVD player.
What is the deal with these politicians, the very people who are supposed to represent the very best of this country, those who are supposed to epitomise honesty, integrity, intelligence, courage, hard work, decency and trustworthiness?
Are they all just naturally liars and idiots? I am afraid to say that they just might be.
I can only hope that the future will see a change for the better. I am naturally optimistic, but it seems that the society within which we live, at least the society that seems to be being created for us, makes it harder and harder to be optimistic.
Instead of spending millions putting internet facilities and CD and DVD rental services in libraries, apparently to ‘entice’ more people into those libraries and thus get them reading again, why not teach people to read in school? Do what the Romans did – reading, writing, basic arithmetic until you are twelve, and then apprentice in a trade and learn the value of work, of getting something done, of having created something that has a value that can be exchanged for something else. How hard would that be? Get rid of OFSTED, Social Service bureaucracies, pen-pushing desk jockeys who spend all their time figuring out how they can pass the buck. Let the doctors and nurses use their training and ability to help people the best way they know how, and don’t belabour their days with paperwork and reviews and threats of legal suits. Give the Police back control of their own services. Let them catch real crooks as opposed to having to fulfil ‘arrest quotas’. Have the government use the vast resources of money that we give them to pay for real healthcare, effective schools, for creating new jobs, and make ministers and politicians really accountable for their own decisions and actions; approve unemployment benefit on the basis of the number of hours of community work that an individual does each week – if he doesn’t have a job, then let him work for twenty-five hours a week alongside local councils as they repair things, regenerate run-down areas, remove graffiti, plant trees and other such projects. Stop rewarding people for being sick and incapable. People are not sick and incapable. Make a job valuable. Make it worthwhile. Cut back income tax, road tax, council tax, death duties, tax on alcohol and cigarettes…and apply a standard sales tax on goods. Give people the money that they earn – all of it – and they will spend it. Use a standard sales tax from those expenditures to fund the social services we need. And stop spending billions on drugs, psychiatry, warfare and unemployment. No-one wants them. No-one needs them. We will survive an awful lot better in their absence.
And those are my thoughts on this snowy day – as the Scots, the Poles, the Scandinavians, the Canadians and so many other peoples laugh at us for our pathetic response to two and a half inches of snow.
I really do not want to be considered a ‘lightweight’, and I’m sure you don’t either!