31 August 2007

Spectator Double Standards

Having spent about 10 minutes trying to find where my wife had hidden the post in her drive to tidy up the house now that we are putting it on the market, I was relieved to find that my copy of the Spectator had indeed arrived safely, especially since delivery has been a bit erratic of late. Turning, as I usually do, to the lighter and shorter articles (saving the heavier and longer articles for bedtime, when I am lucky to make it half way before dropping off - not a great way of staying informed), I read David Tang's tribute to Mark Birley.

Tang makes no bones about Birley being "spoilt" - "If he had been at the feeding of the 5,000 he would have complained that there was no lemon for the fish" and goes on to record "his distain for the hoi polloi" and recounts an incident when Birley lit up his cigar in his room at the Brompton Hospital. What a character...

However, the lead feature in this week's edition is all about the state of Britain's youth and how it has come to pass that an 11 year old was shot dead a week or so ago in Liverpool. Our politicians talk of a "respect" agenda - themselves using the very word - respect - which forms such a crucial part of the gang culture now terrorising our cities. Gang members want respect and are likely to assualt those who "dis" them - short for disrespect.

Of course, "dis" could also be short for distain, as in Birley's attitude to the hoi polloi - which presumably in his eyes included 98% of the population, or at least those who could not afford to patronise one of his establishments.

It cannot be right that we celebrate the rule breakers and the non-conformists who happen to have money and status whilst simultaneously preach about the breakdown of morals and decent society. It has been ever thus, and the standards of the upper classes in Britain have only been acceptable insofar as they cannot be mimiced by the poor and dispossessed. The same goes for the celebrity drug takers who get handled with kid gloves by the authorities. I accept that those with more money than sense are going to behave badly, perhaps as badly as those with no money and no sense, but can't we just ignore them?