Thursday, 25 February 2010

Standards - decline and fall or already sunk?

We do not live in an enjoyable society today. Many would want to echo MacMillan's famous 1950s phrase during his premiership - 'Britain has never had it so good!' Austerity post war Britain was coming to terms with a new social fabric, we were just coming out of post war food rationing and people were buying tellies and a family in every street was beginning to vie for a telephone line as one up on the neighbours.

That is all a long time ago. Double or even treble the lifetime of today's new generation.

It saddens me to see so much in decline by way of standards. In the last year alone I have seen a lowering of standards at such speed that even 2 years ago I would have said was not possible. I deal with elderly clients by and large and it is this that worries me - it is they who seem to be losing the standards.

Shaking hands is now, in just a few months, all but gone even at first meeting in the formerly hallowed precincts of solicitors' offices and other professional institutions.

Now there is an aggression, the like of which I have not seen in 56 years, from people right across the social spectrum.

When I started this 'blog' - I confess I dislike that word immensely - I called it "a very British revolution" after the manner of an important news report a year ago. But I would not have expected to see this revolution turn so ugly so quickly.

People today are spiteful, vengeful and utterly self-seeking. All seem to be enthused, bouyed up or goaded on by that marvellous institution "Thursday Evening Question Time" but for all the wrong reasons. It is no longer a respectable forum of principled debate and argument, censure and calling to account. We saw that certainly last year when it truly came of age over the MPs Expenses Scandal and I am convinced was instrumental in bringing about the timely removal of the then Speaker of the House of Commons.

But today, I watch with dismay the general public tear into respected politicians, leaders and the like with all the diplomatic tact of the playground bully.

And this is reflected everywhere I go. Belligerent, argumentative and thoroughly repugnant behaviour by people who should know better and who should be setting an example.

How strange that we live in a society now where the use of one's surname and the title Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms or Madam or Sir is all but eschewed; or that the use of the term 'sir' is seen as a sign of weakness.

To all who know me I would say this. Do not take my politeness to be weakness.

I never thought I would write this, I who have proudly held the Queen's Commission, the ancient office of Constable and have been a School Governor and now a commissioner for oaths but I am going to say it anyway. I am thoroughly ashamed to be British.

Never in all my long years have I seen on the one hand such good reporting by the media of certain matters, but conversely on the other hand, a general lowering of standards and indeed display of double standards by all aspects of the media generally.

Whether it be the morning Radio 4 Today Programme or the Weekly Radio 4 5pm Today programme, I find at times the cross examination and interrogation regularly employed by the broadcasters, especially on 5pm disgraceful. There is a a smugness about these broadcasters and they are doing this nation, this people, and these islands a grave disservice.

I have always believed that as a people we respond well when our backs are against the wall. It is a national characteristic.

Our young people, or at least a section of them, display incredible courage in fighting a deadly war of insurrection, violence and murder in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places too; I view with alarm the ambivalence of many other young people to just what sacrifices are being made by their peers on their behalf and I find it repugnant to be berated by 18 year old know alls who start talking about our crimes against humanity in the far gone days of empire. They do not know what they are talking about and they have been very badly mistaught by a whole generation or more of teachers who have had their own private agendas.

This decline in standards and lack of respect is seen most starkly in our hospitals throughout the country by the various NHS Primary Care Trusts.

I regularly visit hospitals in my work and I too often come across scruffbags who in fact turn out to be the nursing staffs of acute medic wards. Slovenly, uncaring, contemptuous even of elderly people, especially those who they know are in their last days in this earthly realm. And when the patient breathes his or her last, in some cases it is greeted with shoulder shrug, a couldnt care less attitude and a refusal even to attend to basic nursing duties because apparently such duties are beneath them.

I cannot understand how a hospital can function when it leaves meals stacked up for a patient who is totally unable to feed himself; whose staff show no interest when berated by his daughter and make it clear that it's her job to feed him, not theirs.

All of this is very worrying for in the absence of standards we have the very real danger of people like the BNP gaining a foothold - a factor that should fill all of us with dread.

No. I loved this country and I think I still do. I love this people and these islands. I have many very genuine friends. But I am thoroughly ashamed to be British and I have no doubts that notwithstanding the ability of our armed forces in conflict and war, we the people here at home, would never be able to stand alone again and fight and win a war as we did sixty five years ago. We no longer have the ability and a large swathe of the population has no inclination to even take an interest.

And that starts in the corridors of power, in Whitehall where more than anywhere else apart from our university campuses, we have the policy of dumming everything down.

The wall still stands but the cement in the bricks has gone. Just as we saw a lady's garden drop into the sea last week a week after she had bought an idealic cottage for a song, so too we now watch this island metophorically slip beneath the waves.

I do know many young people though who do give me that glimmer of hope. To all of you I would urge you to seize back the standards, heighten your self-respect and those of the institutions that mean so much to all of you and to many of my own generation. Demonstrate leadership, be positive and insist on the highest standards in everything each of you undertakes, but in all those who either work around you, with you or for you.

Prove to me and to many like me that we are an island people, free and determined, with high principles and a vigour to make our way in this world. The future is in your hands now for, plainly put, my own generation has lost the plot and probably thrown the baby out with the bathwater in its stupid insistance on seeing everything we did as wrong, bad or even worse, as criminal behaviour.

That is my challenge to you all. When I presented that challenge to the young people on my Squadron 20 years ago they rose magnificently to the occasion and we attained heights that even today fill me with pride.

Now I throw that challenge to all of you right across this country in all four nations. Do your best and prove me wrong.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

Liverpool and Blackpool
Friday 26 February 2010