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Friday, July 27, 2007

UK Inc is so depressing

At the time of the World Cup there was initially quite a lot of patriotic fervour about the England team and the nation as a whole. Flags suddenly appeared all over the place and the country was on a brief high, unified and optimistic.

It all ended in tears and the country went back to its normal brooding state of resentment and confusion. Unlike the US, France, Italy and Germany, the UK has no true sense of identity. Scotland, Wales and Ireland yes; England no. Until recently, it was bad to even display the flag of St George because it was owned by the fascist fringe.

I find myself pondering over England's sociological status and identity confusion. I made the decision this week to stop buying papers, except on Sunday. The reason is that every day, the papers are just full of doom and gloom about the UK. I'm not talking about terrorism, murders or any other crimes, but simply the cascade of stats everyday that paint the UK as one of the worst places in Europe.

Let's take yesterday as an example. Britain has the worst behaved teenagers in Europe. Earlier in the week, it was revealed that 15 year old girls drink more than boys their age, and get drunk on average once a week. Wonderful. A former boxer dies after challenging three yobs who were smoking. In Gloucester, flooded houses were looted and vandals and children have vandalised water bowsers. Other people meanwhile were marching in and taking far too much water with the "I'm all right Jack" selfish attitude that prevails these days.

Then there are depressingly regular reports about obese teenagers; teenagers armed with knives; bullying; Britain having the highest number of teenage mothers in Europe; Britain having the highest number of university dropouts in Europe.

That's just the youngsters. Then there is what I consider the hidden scandal of how the elderly are treated in care homes and by the NHS; the NHS in general (crippled) and poor public transport.

It all adds up to a picture of a thoroughly unpleasant, divided land. It's unlike other countries where the majority of people are principled, honest and caring. I despair of the mentality of people. What makes someone think it's OK to damage a waster bowser? Or loot someone's flooded house? Or for a gang of teenagers to choose a victim and knife him to death? It's as if millions of people have grown up among wild animals with only a will to survive but no psychological training on respect or self-esteem.

I wonder how we got to this state. A lot of commentators and the Daily Mail blame either "the government" (and I do believe the avaricious Thatcher years have a lot to do with it because the divide between rich and poor became too great) or lax parenting. I think it's a combination of the two plus a general resentment that although we're supposed to be one of the richest nations in Europe, our priorities are wrong and somehow a lot of our public services - the NHS, education to name two -are worse than those found in third world countries. We'll happily spend millions parading up and down with America in countries where we seem to think we have a God given right to "restore justice" based on flimsy evidence. We give great tax breaks to the super rich allowing them to have some sort of "domiciled" status that means they don't pay any income tax. We fail to uphold the family as the structure on which a successful country is based, but make it so attractive to be a single mother there is no incentive to work.

I know there are positives about the UK. Er.....well, the sense of humour and the beauty of the place are the two things that immediately spring to mind. But it's all far outweighed by what is wrong, and I try not to dwell on it because it's just too depressing.

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