Whose bad behaviour?

Summer is here and nothing much seems to be wrong with the world. The news is taken up by silliness: Berlusconi is stressed and the Government is to penalise immigrants seeking British citizenship for ‘bad behaviour’ and failing to adopt the ‘British way of life’.

If this indicates a lack of serious news, you might be forgiven for thinking that moral panic is coming to the rescue. Bad behaviour, after all, was high on BBC Radio 4’s agenda today.

The news was that cinemas and even theatres are experiencing such high levels of disruptive behaviour that they are introducing officials to intervene. In a truly sad news story, we learn that a sixteen-year old from Leeds was so affronted by being asked by a fellow cinema-goer to keep his behaviour under control while at the new Harry Potter film, that he followed her and her family to a restaurant where he threw bleach in her face.

The Daily Telegraph has published a despairing blog entry bemoaning such depravity. In a bitter cry of disappointment it notes that even such Conservative heroes as Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, advocate non-involvement rather than working it out in a civilised way.

The grist for my mill in the blog entry is in the observation that anti-social selfishness can happen anywhere, not just on dark streets or public (yeuch!) transport. But then, a few British politicians have demonstrated in recent decades how quite a few of the privileged behave. (The following principles seem to sum up the approach: attack before being attacked,  fiddle the system to your advantage, just don’t get caught, and remember, only losers use buses.)

I can’t help but muse on the extremely upsetting idea that the shrill voices complaining about loss of standards aren’t just peddling a run-of-the-mill moral panic, but are identifying something worth pointing out about the British way of life as it actually is. After all, it’s a way of life that’s created the paranoid urban environments described by Minton.

City building site

I also wonder whether ‘exceptional specifications’ of these future batchelor(ette) pads might include the panic rooms of which she writes, not to mention well-appointed home cinemas.


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