söndag 25 februari 2007

British kids are not 'miserable'... they're arsey



I really liked Barbara Ellen's article in last Sunday' (18 February) Observer. She was commenting on the UNICEF report that put Britain at the bottom of the league.

Her piece was headed

British kids are not 'miserable'... they're arsey

"Our adolescents are vile, stroppy, sarcastic ingrates, which explains exactly why their lives are worth living.."

She really pulled the UNICEF report to bits, with a well-aim swipe at countries like Sweden and the Netherlands which came at the top of the UNICEF league. I was in Scandinavia last year. It is a horrible part of the world. The trains have brushes in the toilets, would you believe? And alcohol gel to clean the seat with. How prissy can you get? And paper towels, which people use to wipe their hands on instead of shoving them all down the pan and blocking it. And they take their shoes off if they put their feet on the seats.

Cyclists are another thing. In Copenhagen there were all getting off their bikes and walking when they came to a pedestrianised area. How feeble can you get?

At a seaside resort I was at, again in Sweden, I found a public changing room and showers for swimmers, built out of timber - the picture at the top of this blog. Seemingly the local kids don't have the gumption to smash up the showers and burn the thing down, which would have been pefectly easy to to do, especially as you hardly ever see the police. What's the matter with them?

Again in Sweden, although it is reassuring that people leave lager cans strewn around, I spotted someone picking them up so they could get the deposit back. How daft is that - giving people an incentive to collect up rubbish? Whatever next.

The last straw was in a town called Halmstad, again in Sweden, where there was a stall in the market square, selling garden buildings. There was a timber shed and glass house left on display as samples. I couldn't believe it. They were still there on a Sunday morning. I mean, these kids aren't even up to the simplest challenge. Who wouldn't enjoy smashing up a glasshouse for fun? What a ghastly country.

So it's great to be in Britain, where if anyone complains if kids are acting with total disregard for anyone, they get a good mouthful of Anglo-Saxon for their impertinence, and it is normal to put your muddy shoes on the seats on the seat opposite when travelling by train. Good on you, Barbara Ellen.

If you missed this gem of perceptive and incisive analysis, here are a few selected paragraphs, but you can read the whole article here

"And so, in the only parents' race that really matters, we limp in last, egg fallen from the spoon, potato sack tangled around the ankles. Last week, the Unicef report (An Overview of Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries) placed our children overall bottom of the world's 21 most developed territories, behind the top-ranking Netherlands and Scandinavia, and countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

"Not only were British children ranked 'worst off' in the developed world - with the highest rates of drunkenness, obesity, bullying, early sexual intercourse, cannabis-taking, and teenage pregnancy - they made it clear that they felt worst off: unhealthy, unhappy with family relationships and friendships, more likely to feel left out, disenfranchised. Ultimately, the picture painted by the Unicef report was of British childhood as the 'toxic' equivalent of a nuclear-waste dump, oozing through the soil of this green and pleasant land - the makings of a true asbo nation. It was time for British parents to feel ashamed and responsible, and of course we did. At first, anyway.

"Hand-wringing aside, are British children really the most deprived in the developed world? The last time you looked in a school playground was it bursting at the seams with drunk, stoned, pregnant, friendless manic depressives? Would our adolescents really be better off cultivating acne in Holland or Sweden, or queuing for Clearasil in Poland? While no one would deny our tragic levels of child poverty, the devastating teenage pregnancy rate, and not least the recent child-shootings in south London, common sense dictates that this cannot be the whole story.

"The Unicef report has already come in for criticism for ignoring younger children, and using out-of-date data, as well as (shame on them) seizing upon lone parenthood as a surefire barometer of social degeneracy (thereby branding huge numbers of children as 'failures' before they even begin). Unicef also chose to employ a bizarre 'relative poverty' grading system that conveniently ignored the fact that most of our children live the life of Master Brooklyn Beckham compared with children in less economically stable nations...

"Indeed, British teenagers are, have always been, by nature, rebellious, stroppy, and a lot less interested in being fair than they are in being interesting. Which to my mind is much less creepy and disturbing than the thought of all those sucky-up kids from Holland and Sweden (henceforth known as the apple-polishing nations) chirruping away about how much they respect their elders. Bearing this in mind, this was the only possible result for this study...

"Unlike their Dutch or Swedish counterparts, British children were never going to answer such questions as 'Are your contemporaries kind and helpful?' with po-faced sincerity; to piously and publicly abhor the idea of sex, drugs, and other 'bad behaviour'; and pour anything other than molten scorn upon the status quo. Indeed, the vast majority of British adolescents are as they always were, as most of us were - vile, stroppy, preternaturally sarcastic ingrates, who would doubtless be labelled dangerous, disaffected sociopaths in any other European country. And this is supposed to be a bad thing..."

Congratulations on a great piece of journalism.

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