Manarchy in the UK: The Decline in Manners

Oh I’m sorry. Am I going too slow?

‘Manarchy in the UK’ is a play on words. A combo of ‘Manners’ and the title of the Sex Pistol’s song – ‘Anarchy in the UK’…

Apparently, the 1970’s punks were pretty much rude and ‘in your face’, but this was a part of their identity. You knew where you stood with them. However, these day, I suppose some of these attitudes have become much more common in a lot of people. They may even have become the norm.

This article discusses what I perceive to be the general decline in manners in the UK and an increase in rudeness in society. I also discuss chavs.

One long moan

The post may come across as being one long rant. So be it. Sometimes it’s good to have a long moan and get some of that anger out of you. It can be pretty cathartic.

The Canary in the Mine

The state of manners is a useful barometer of a society. It’s like the canary in the mine. If the average stranger you come across – be it on the street, on public transport, in a shop or park is respectful of your space, is non-intrusive, polite or friendly in conversation and does not behave in an intimidating or rude way, and you are the same back, then you can get the feeling that you are living in a well-mannered society. But if not, you can start to suspect that society is moving in a downward direction.

Manners in decline

Most people in the UK are polite and for the most part civil. The stereotype of the English gentleman does carry some element of truth behind it. However, there are some occasions, where manners are not so good and people can be rude, bordering on offensive in modern Britain.

Drivers

If you were walking down the street and someone suddenly walked right up behind you a few inches, and then started  making a ‘hooting’ noise with their mouth, swearing and shouting at you to move over, then you would turn round and give them an earful. Either that or you may clock them.

That’s why most people don’t do something so rude. Because it will surely lead to a direct altercation or at worst a complaint to the police.

Walking or driving behind people is the same

So what’s the difference when someone does it in a car? Some people will honk at drivers to move over even when it is dangerous to do so. I’ve seen people right up behind other cars at traffic lights honking to move over. How can they, the car are stationary? But these same people would never walk up to a slow-moving person in the street and tell them to move over.

Basically these kinds of drivers are asses. Be consistent. If you are going to be an asshole to other drivers on the road, then you should also be an asshole whilst walking down the street to other pedestrians too.

But of course they don’t do that because it is far too direct and there is a risk that someone may just call you out. It just irks me these people use their cars as some kind of shield.

Chav BMW drivers

It’s quite often BMW drivers who seem to be the most impatient and inconsiderate. I used to think I would like to own a BMW years ago, but when I see the kind of people driving them, I have decided I will never drive one.

One time, I gave way to an ambulance, but a BMW driver took this as an opportunity to overtake me rather than give way too. I mean, why let a potentially seriously sick person who needs to get to hospital stop you from driving in a hurry.

Kids

Most kids, I’ve come across are pretty polite and well-behaved. But there are times and places you must avoid. Avoid streets around schools when school breaks out, especially inner city areas. These kids are not really kids. They are young adults designated as kids.

In some areas, the schools have to have policemen stand outside the schools at home time. I can only assume that something must have happened in the past to warrant this need.

By this same token, absolutely avoid taking buses at this time particularly if they service schools. Kids are loud and wild and make you wonder why school closes so early in this country.

Little acts of rudeness, all add up

On the bus going home from work, a small girl of around 7 or 8 years old was sitting in the chair behind me. After a few minutes of me sitting down, I suddenly became aware of a pair of size 4’s on the top of the seat rest next to my head.

I was quite surprised at this obvious act of rudeness and turned around to gesture to put her feet down. The thing that surprised me was that her mother was sitting right next to her glued to her smart phone. She didn’t care.

I decided not to say anything as I weighed up the possibility that the mother would just tell me to F-off. It just felt like it was a battle not worth bothering with. Possibly, a lot of people would do the same these days.

Chavs

We have this expression in the UK – ‘Chavs’. It is a derogative term used to describe an ‘underclass’ or people from delinquent or anti-social families. They are stereotypically said to wear Burbery caps and live on rough council estates. They may be from broken families and engage in anti-social or sometimes even criminal behaviour.

The Origin of the word ‘Chav’

I became acquainted with a scriptwriter who wrote a small book on police terminology – the expressions they use as a form of code to refer to what they encounter in the line of their work.

The term ‘Chav‘ is actually a police acronym for ‘Council Housing and Violent’ or ‘Council Housing and Vermin’. I don’t think many people know the origin of this word.

Just to put this in perspective, most people in council housing are not violent or vermin. I grew up in a council house. My father too. One of my aunts raised three kids in a council house. They all went on to be boring middle class citizens of the country with their own families. I also grew up in a broken family, but I’m not a Chav. Whilst I’m not completely normal, I don’t engage in much anti-social behaviour. At least not recently.

London is generally free of Chavs

I think one of the best things about London is the lack of Chav activity. There just doesn’t seem to be many of them in certain areas. I am aware that this is not true for the outer-skirts of London, particularly in the South and South East, but I have lived in several different areas (thanks to the uncertainty of fixed tenancy agreement) and I have usually been able to walk to my local off-licence late at night without having to run the gauntlet of feral kids in baseball caps, hanging around looking and being intimidating.

But there is still some Chavvy behaviour

There was one occasion in Lewisham when I walked past a group of teenagers playing with a football in the middle of the street. One of them kicked the ball very hard deliberately at me but it missed and bounced off the wall and came to my feet. When he came to retrieve it, I kicked it away which made him look stupid. So he pushed me, but I held my ground.

In hindsight, I should have just carried on like most people would, but it annoys when people in groups think they can act like this. They would never do this if they were alone or if there was only two of them. It is just cowardly and basically, they are asses.

These kinds of encounters are breaking the law

In the UK, any kind of physical contact like that immediately constitutes an assault. However, as he was surrounded by his friends, I decided it more prudent to walk away quick as possible.

I didn’t feel in any particular danger in that situation. As a child, I grew up in a council area too and occasionally got into fights when I was younger, so I could kind of read the ‘danger level’.  Although, I was quite a soft kid and lost almost every fight I ever got into. But I don’t like to be offended and so would rarely back down and I think a lot of British people are the same.

Chav Hit and Run

On another occasion, a colleague told me a story of how she went to B&Q – the home improvement store. As she walked in the car park, a woman driving a car clipped her with her side window. There was an obvious loud banging noise as she struck her. My colleague was stunned and in a mild state of shock after being hit by a car.

Not stopping for a ‘hit and run’ is a criminal offence in the UK yet the driver carried on driving and then even parked up her vehicle in the B&Q car park. She didn’t give a damn. She was doing her shopping at B&Q too.

No stopping, not caring

At this point a crowd had gathered around my friend to check how she was. They all had witnessed the incident and watched the driver as she checked her wing mirror to see if it was ok and then walked past the crowd.

As she passed my friend (the person she had hit), she made a small comment along the lines of – ‘you’re ok, right’ and then carried on into the shop. My friend described her as a chav and I can believe her.

In this situation, the husband of my friend ended up reporting this to the store who alerted the police and detained her. Otherwise, she would have likely done her shopping and gone home oblivious to the potential harm she may have caused someone. It was only then that she apologised.

I suppose the threat of imprisonment will have that effect on people. But still, why is a threat necessary? This is one of the most bizarre stories of a lack of manners I have heard before.

I suppose that is how it is these days in the UK.

The Home Counties

Despite its flaws, I like London. It is a really ethnically diverse place and a very open society. There are lots of different cultures and things to do. The housing issue definitely sucks and the transport system needs some improvement, but it is a great place to live.

On the other hand, my hometown – a small town in the Midlands is a different matter. I was asked once whether I liked my home county by a work colleague. In previous conversations with her, I must have given the impression that I was not altogether keen on it.

In truth, it is because I am convinced my home town hates me. Every time I return to visit my aging parent I am nearly always abused in some way by some young idiot adult, child or chav. The Chavification is strong there.

Beware the alloy wheels

For example, on one occasion in an area where I went to school, I was filling up my mother’s car at a petrol forecourt, when some wannabee gangsters (four young men in a souped up fiesta) gave me some abuse for no reason, other than perhaps I was alone or well-dressed (i.e. not wearing trainers).

Or perhaps it was because I didn’t look like the sort that would fight back, which I’m not, because I’m not stupid enough to start an argument with four ‘youths‘ in a crappy fiesta.

In London, I have rarely been abused in any comparable way as in my home county even though London contains more a wider number of ethnic groups, poorer areas  or council housing. London is doing something better than the home counties.

It’s a shame because my home county is actually a really beautiful place, with some areas of natural beauty and lots of cultural history. It was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and has a great museum.

The rise of the chav

However, this has all been sullied by a strange phenomenon – the rise of chavvish or churlish behaviour. Or in other words – the chavification of the UK. And its nothing to do with being brought up in a council house, because as I said many people have been brought in council houses, but are nothing like this. My father was brought up in one and so was I. But we don’t feel the need to abuse our fellow neighbours.

Ludlow

In the past 20 years, we have seen a ‘chavification’ occurring of many towns and cities throughout the UK. I would call this a reverse process of the ‘gentrification’ effect, which is occurring in London and other major cities.

Ludlow is a prime example. It has two cultural great historic spots – Ludlow castle, a ruin, but a grand ruin nonetheless and Ludlow arts and crafts market. There are also lots of old Tudor houses.

Ludlow is a beautiful old traditional town. It is the sort of town you can imagine where they might build a Waitrose’s or Marks & Spencer’s to cater to the middle class/liberal/ Green Party fanatics or NIMBY’s (not in my back garden) people who occupy these kinds of places. However, instead they have a big Lidl and a large chav population.

I have taken my wife there to see the castle. In the past, I visited with a girlfriend. It is a great historic site and I love climbing the steps up one of the towers.

Ludlow chavification

However, Ludlow is not how I remember it from when I was a child. It has a significant chav population that hang around the carparking areas. On one occasion with a friend, I had to walk past a group of loud mouthed, ‘in-your-face’ teenagers hanging around the one single footway from the car park to the centre of the town.

With the distraction of ‘people’ to momentarily take their attention away from loitering, they made some rude comments, but rather than walk on, I engaged a little with them and ended up talking a little about X-factor.

Overall, I would say their presence would be intimidating especially to tourists. The curious thing is that it was the teenage girls that were the loudest and most obnoxious. The boys didn’t say anything.

And it’s not just Ludlow. There are plenty of towns replete with chavs. So what really is going on here?

Is it a conspiracy?

It’s almost like that movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but instead all the normal well-behaved people have been replaced by some kind of alien species of subhuman.

I assume people must have been better behaved in the past, when I speak to my father or aunts, but perhaps it has always been the same. I wouldn’t know. Perhaps, there are always going to be rude or badly mannered people around. It is a part of life.

After being in the UK, so long, you get used to it in that it becomes normal. I wonder if it is like this in other countries? Has the chavification process occurred. I can imagine it has, maybe even worse. In which case, good manners are then a reflection of your family, background and upbringing and not just about country.

Apply ‘My Fair Lady’ Lessons

So if you are from a scummy background and upbringing, the way to lift yourself to a higher status or level is to get used to being polite and showing manners – kind of like Eliza does in the Rex Harrison movie My Fair Lady.

Or if you want to lower your status, regardless of your background, then start acting like a chav, swearing, getting angry at people and maybe even assaulting them. A good way to start is becoming a dick behind the wheel.

What it means is that politeness and manners are a state of being. We can choose them, and they affect us accordingly by raising our energy level. Or we can reject them and then sink and play in the sty energetically with all the other filthy pigs (no offence intended to actual pigs, who are quite charming). This is metaphorical. It is our choice in life.

Japan

My only point of reference is Japan, where I lived for a few years. For the most part, people are civil and kids are well-behaved in public. In school, it may be a different matter.

Most people are law-abiding especially young men. On the streets or on public transport you can be sure that you won’t have to endure anti-social behaviour, aggressive driving, or risk of abuse or assault.

Japan is not all sunshine and roses despite its reputation as a safe country

There are some exceptions to this. For example, I had a Philippino work colleague who told me he was rudely shouted at by a stressed Japanese salaryman whilst on the train because his kid kept crying, so clearly there are some dumbasses in Japan too.

This may have been caused by racism as some low-level Japanese look down on people from South Asian countries. (But then again, they also treat their own population like work-slaves).

Crazy Japanese

On another occasion, my wife told me how on her way back from work, she passed a man in the street who suddenly and for no reason punched her and then carried on walking. She was not hurt as it was not a strong punch, but still nonetheless in the UK that would be considered a criminal assault. I tried to get her to call the police, but she just let it go. She thought he was just a mentally disturbed person. Perhaps he was, but still…

Train perverts in Japan

Another issue is the ‘chikan densha’ phenomenon (train groping). This is where a respectable middle-aged company worker gropes school girls whilst in the middle of a crowded rush-hour train. Sounds unbelievable, but it is really common.

The girls will rarely complain so it just goes on. This is one the reasons why they have ‘women only’ train carriages there. And if you are male, you had better stay the hell off them during their hours of operation, because these normally friendly Japanese women will give you some really ugly looks if you get on them by accident and even male foreigners don’t get a pass.

Women’s only carriages in the UK – I don’t think so

The dumb thing is that the government in the UK tried to introduce ‘women’s only’ carriages onto the London underground a few years ago. They were probably inspired by the Japanese approach.

However, the fact that they thought it was necessary in the UK tells you that none of these ‘politicians’ clearly use the underground. Women don’t get groped on trains in the UK in any way similar to how it occurs in Japan. Women here are far more stronger-willed and more vocal, so if any man dared touch a woman’s bosom, I’m pretty sure it will turn ugly very fast.

The UK train system discriminates against disabled people

I suppose the idea of a ‘women’s only’ carriage could work but it would be a waste of time and money.

But here’s an idea… If they really wanted to do something good – how about adding in lifts and ramps to all stations so that disabled people, the elderly and mothers (or fathers) with buggies could safely use it?

Or perhaps London likes having a tube system that belongs to a different era and is discriminatory towards disabled people in society?

But it’s old

They may argue, the London underground is 150 years old – it was built in the Victorian age and so it is very difficult to add in new constructions like lifts and ramps.

Stuff and nonsense, I say. What it means is that we’ve had 150 years to make it better by adding in ramps and lifts, but we couldn’t be bothered to invest. In Japan, every single train station has a lift or ramp.

Instead 150 years later we have strikes and unannounced “planned engineering works” on bank holiday weekends – exactly when people want to use the tube. In the UK, there is this strange situation where some stations will have elevators but then will still have an extra flight of stairs or two that passengers have to traverse.

Pushchairs

I have carried countless pushchairs (mine and other people’s) up and down steps, whilst rail staff stand around. I don’t blame them. They would probably permanently damage their backs if they spent all day lifting pushchairs up and down stairs.

The irony is that if they damaged their backs and got signed off work as sick or disabled, they’d have to stay home all day because they wouldn’t be able to use public transport to go anywhere, what with all those stairs.

But anyway, going back to my original topic, I suppose there are good and bad manners  everywhere you go.

Police presence

Perhaps this high level of lawfulness and politeness is because on many street corners in Japan, there is a manned police box (koban) and the police there are armed. They usually just sit and in them and give directions to locals, but they are there nonetheless ready to go into action.

In the UK, the ony time you see police is when they are ‘nee-nya-ing’ in their police cars, driving at high speeds past traffic lights, whilst you have to make way. Although you will see hundreds of them at protests or marches.

I suppose there are also those community officers. I saw them flag down a young woman on her way to work in the morning on her bicycle. Perhaps it was because she didn’t have a helmet on or something. Important police work that.

Call to report a crime: Your call is in a queue…

If a non-serious crime happens, like when my father had his phone stolen, you have to report it by telephone or online. We initially tried calling but our call was put in a queue and we got fed up of waiting. So we did it online, which was quite an efficient way of doing it for me. Although, not so efficient if you are a pensioner with limited computer skills.

Mind you, it’s kind of ironic having to call a number to report your phone being stolen.

Conclusion: Man in the mirror

As the Michael Jackson song goes – ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways’.

Politeness and manners are something we all have to take responsibility for, whether it is in us or our families. There are many acts in our daily life that can be perceived as rude and many acts that can be seen as polite.

Even the simplest thing like saying ‘thank you’, or ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’ makes a huge difference. Civility begets more civility.

It is not about being a wallflower. There are times when you have to be firm and sometimes even hard. Although it is good to diffuse those situations before they have to go that far. And I think politeness is one way. It’s kind of like being a crocodile with a smile. Be polite, but behind that politeness is toughness. Kind of like an old-skool school teacher.

Thank you for reading.