There is much concern about the slowingdown of social mobility in Britain today. Far from "class", as it was once defined, disappearing, such social divisions are widening.
What to do about it? Increase education? Strive for more income equality? Send more mothers out to work (Gordon Brown's panacea)?
My suggestion is this: bring back the aspiration to "respectability". It was this striving for "respectability" — much supported by the Christian churches — which changed England from Hogarthian coarseness into the "gentle" people that Orwell observed when he stepped off the boat from France in mid-20th century. .
On a ferry from Calais last weekend we were treated to scenes that certainly echoed the England of Hogarth and Gin Lane.
We were placed near to four awful young men. They used every swear word, and all the time. Much of their discourse was pornographic. One of the youths bragged odiously about his sexual proclivities, in the most explicit barnyard terms. There was also an air of aggression, and a total inability to be still and concentrate.
My husband said, referring to the group: "Children of the BBC."
There have always been what the Victorians called "roughs" — yobbish young persons who are uncouth, aggressive, publicly drunk, and lacking in any sense of decorum. But never before has this behaviour been encouraged and even admired by the mainstream cultural influence. And that is what has changed. Such "roughs" are not new: but the endorsement of their behaviour is. They see their own coarse language mirrored and even applauded on the television screens which are never turned off in their homes.
And then I thought of that line in My Fair Lady, where Professor Higgins says, of Eliza Doolittle, that it's the noises she makes that "keeps her in the gutter". Quite. These young "roughs" will never benefit from any form of social mobility constructed by politics or economics: they will be kept in an underclass because of their lack of social skills and low language. Because, while television teaches that you can use language aggressively or offensively, in real life it isn't like that. There are different contexts for different conversations.
The cult of respectability — and the teaching of religious values — once helped such "roughs" to improve themselves, to acquire social skills, and to understand what was not acceptable. Within living memory working men would tone down their language with the words "there are ladies present" — until we women let ourselves down by employing this self-same profanity.
A fair society should advance social mobility. But an obligatory adjunct to social mobility is the acquisition of a sense of decorum and respectability.
/thought it wouldn't be long before the "climate change" fanatics got around to population control.
We are now being told that any couple with more than two children should be penalised — to stop "climate change".
This is dangerous rot. First, family size in Britain, and virtually all of Europe, is already below two children per fertile woman. For every family in Britain which has more than four children, there are more than enough people who have no children or only one child.
Moreover, there has been climate change before, when the population was minuscule. The planet both hots up and cools down in cycles.
I agree that we shouldn't act wastefully about resources. There's no harm in calculating our "carbon footprintand treating the environment responsibly. But there is an anti-people agenda concealed within some of these "Green" movements.
Let's never forget that the greatest "Green" of all was Adolf Hitler. whose political convictions were at least partly prompted by his passionate love for German forests, nature, and clean mountains, unpolluted by metropolitan man.
we live in a house whose previous owners rented it out over a period of years, and thus we continue to receive mail addressed to families who have not dwelt at the address for two, five or eight years. Some of this correspondence is quite intimate, from allegedly close friends and family. In an effort to "return to sender" I am obliged to open these missives, and it astonishes me how much people confide, and send "lashings of love" to folks who have not even apprised the senders of a change of address. "Love" is promiscuously signed on every epistle now, and yet real intimacy is often strangely lacking.