Tuesday, 15 January 2008

British Youth: Hanging or Firing Squad?

What's the best way to deal with the youth of Britain? Hanging has a certain old-school appeal-- more humane than drawing and quartering but, when properly, um, executed, just as fatal. A firing squad, on the other hand is more festive. It involves more people, more pomp, more circumstance. And it has that son et lumiere thing going for it.

Oh no, I hear you saying, why must the youth of Britain be killed at all? Surely we can just flog them. To which I reply: Flogging is cruel, you heartless bastards. I won't have it.

What has brought on this burst of law and order in this liberal's suddenly-stony heart? Only having My Lovely Wife being told to "fuck off" yet again by yet another youth of Britain.

Now there are times when "fuck off" is the exact, appropriate response to a situation. If, for example, My Lovely Wife had pinned a British youth to the pavement and was slowly decanting a beaker of fire ants into his eyeballs. Or, less extremely, if she and the British youth were friends and joshed in that profane manner that friends sometimes do: "Give me a french fry, you twat." "Fuck off!"

But it was not the appropriate response when My Lovely Wife was riding her bicycle past a nearby car park a few months ago and saw a group of British youth attempting to destroy the wrought iron fence that was surrounding a tree, rocking it back and forth, trying to pull it from the ground. In a jocular manner she said, "C'mon, what's that tree ever done to you?" To which the British youth replied: "Fuck off!" They were 8 and 9 years old.

Nor was it the appropriate response last night when two British youth laughed after their unleashed dog ran into the street, almost toppling My Lovely Wife from her bicycle. She pointed out that the dog should be on a leash, lest both it and she be injured. They responded, with an originality and wit that Shakespeare and Shaw would have appreciated, "Fuck off!"

I am embarrassed to report--though I understand the impulse completely--that Ruth's response utilized one of their two words, and that word wasn't "off."

Such is the affect that British youth can have on you. Not all British youth, of course, but enough that walking down the street can convince you--what with the swearing and the aggression and the limpid pools of binge-drinking-induced vomit--that "Clockwork Orange" was a documentary.

The boys are marginally worse than the girls, but what the girls lack in foul-mouthed incipient ultra-violence they make up in hooker-shaming fashion. The Oxford Skankocracy, I call it: teased hair, kohl-rimmed eyes, trashy blouse, and either capillary-constricting jeans or a mini skirt so microscopic that it seems to have been designed to allow gynecological access. I count it a good day if I can make it to the High Street and back without seeing a stranger's genitals.

God I sound old, don't I?

"Thatcher's children" is how one English acquaintance described the youth of Britain. I couldn't quite follow his argument, but it involved how the go-go '80s infected their parents, whose quest for filthy lucre then caused them to ignore the basic tenets of parenting, which evidently includes teaching your children not to tell adults to fuck off.

Maybe that's true. All I know is that if one more spotty British youth in trainers and a hoodie tells my wife to ...well, you know, I shall be in the market for a rope.

13 comments:

mark from alexandria said...

Unfortunately, the parental abdication of responsibility that leads to this kind of behavior is alive and well on both sides of the Atlantic. While, the "f-bomb" is not thrown with the kind of joyful abandon here that it is there, I have heard incredible tales of youth gone bad by parents who failed to heed the advice once given by Nancy Reagan...to just say know. School psychologists are having to give parenting classes to the parents of middle and high school students. Were these parents just "fucking off" during their kids' developmental years? Your description of a skankocracy, John, is sad, but universal. Your lovely wife sounds like a brave woman to confront the miscreants. Try to enjoy and make a game out of the genitalia display...maybe like the license plate game we used to play on long trips.

Sally said...

Well and cleverly written, is there any other way with Kelly, but am squirming and uncomfortable. Can't imagine how uncomfortable I would be trying to raise teenage daughters in such an environment. In spite of the distractions of parenting it is refreshing to see that you and The Lovely Wife report, to one another, lives daily trails.

Henry said...

Commiserations, and apologies on behalf of my country, although I'm ashamed to say that I drop the f-bomb much too frequently to pass judgement. When I was a lad in the 1970s, bad behavior was usually blamed on permissive left-wing hippy parenting from the 1960s, so it's funny that the problem now is meant to be right-wing greed-heads from the 1980s. Maybe it's significant that the UK and US came last and second last respectively in a 21-country study of child wellbeing that Unicef put out last year. Or maybe, as a (fake) social-worker advised on "Not the Nine O'clock News" a few years ago, we should just cut their goolies off...

suburbancorrespondent said...

You forgot the guillotine option...or is that too French?

Candadai Tirumalai said...

I don't know if the loutish youth in question recognized your wife as an American but in my experience foul-mouthed British youth seem to think they have a special license to be even more free with "foreigners".
I remember an older English lady admonishing a rude group on a bus to admit "please" and "thank you" into their vocabulary--with no effect.

Paul said...

John,

I am so sorry to hear about your wife's run in with loutish youths, who most likely were taught "they're rights" but were never taught to respect other people's. Here in DC last week, s teenage girl slipped on the metro escalator next to me. I reached out and held her arm to stop her falling over. She laughed hysterically and said "don't touch me". Young people don't want to acknowledge the real world around them but pretend they can live in their ego bubble.

MEB said...

"Such is the affect"?! Shame on you, John.

mark, not from alexandria said...

Do you think this is any worse than the behavior one sees/hears daily on the Metro, or in downtown Silver Spring?

Mary said...

Personally, I loved today's blog. Well said, John!

GPK said...

I think the difference between silver spring and oxford is that in silver spring, large, loud, and generally annoying groups of teenagers will congregate only in place that seem to be in the way, they will generally be loud amongst themselves. No doubt as soon as the adult walked away there would be much snickering behind their back, but here in Oxford teenage don't seem to have any problem being standoffish without really being provoked and doing things like screaming at you when you are riding home on your bike in the dark. I think English teenagers have seen how much the older generations fear them and have decided that if they are going to have that reputation, they might as well live up to it and even exceed it.

Jack said...

Use the little shites as human mine detectors on the Falklands. Those who survive throw them into a Penal Battalion as cannon fodder

Jack said...

Better still, use the little shites as human mine detectors on the Falklands. Those who survive put them in a penal battalion as cannon fodder.

Jack said...

Better still, use the little shites as human mine detectors on the Falklands. Those who survive put them in a penal battalion as cannon fodder.