At the End of the Day

“Slow to take responsibility and quick to blame,” was a succinct summary of Newscorp’s morals given to me at the start of the Hackgate saga in summer 2010, when hacking mobile phones was still just a looney conspiracy theory along with gold-price manipulation.

As the years pass, however, it becomes increasingly obvious that everyone in public life is at it. Michael Fallon heaps pompously delivered blame on Diamond Bob of Barclays, despite being himself pasteurised when it comes to the Libor scandal. So too does George Osborne, having known about the practice for at least seven years.

Dianne Abbott blames private schools (a whole 7% of the education sector) for failures in the State system, and then promptly sends her kids to private schools, while refusing to accept the socio-political consequences (distrust of all politicians) that accrue. Bob Diamond pays himself a $26m bonus and blames rogue traders for his bank’s  disgrace – but accepts no responsibility for failing to investigate the obvious evidence of it.

I have been saying for nearly ten years in various online existences that the all blame/no responsibility culture is at the epicentre of our cultural malaise. The syndrome is of course as old as the hills, but what has exacerbated it in the decades since the 1960s is the universal presence of lawyers and Lefties telling people they have a justified gripe when they very clearly don’t.

I choose the 1960s as the most recent start-point, by the way, because it was the decade during which I was (variously) a mod, a hippy, a student, a Leftie, and then a copywriter. By the end of that ten year stretch, I think it would be safe to say that I was one of the larger human repositories of complete bollocks then wandering about half-drugged in the West. Millions of others have since overtaken me in this regard, not least because – before it was too late – I got out into the real world of market research. This gave me a more balanced, empirical view of the median level of human intelligence, commitment, discernment and nobility. But it didn’t turn me into a Tory, so that at least is a result. These days, I see my abhorrence of both Labour and Conservative philosophies and policy as a vital life-sign.

The 100% blame/nil responsibility thing shows itself in myriad ways at the everyday micro level, and this is where (for me, being irascible and argumentative by nature) a severe pain in the backside can be felt on an almost hourly basis. Internet trolls are a classic example: they turn up, blame you for being successful, accuse you of mendacity, but take no responsibility for obeying The Slog’s house rules – viz, no obscenity….or personal attacks based on zero evidence. This is a self-completing virtuous circle of a house rule, as it preselects trolls and then enables me to ban them. Often they turn up under an assumed aka a day later, and say something pentrating  such as “Hahahaha!! Knew you were a censor behind all the f**king talk of freedom and liberty!! F**k you, motherf**ker!!!” and uncreative variations on that theme.

However, there is now a generation growing to what is laughably referred to as ‘maturity’, and these sad folks have never questioned the deadly mix of commercial amorality and social correctness that has blighted British life since the mid 1980s. They are truly sad, because most people in the 20-45 age range these days do not display those features: they are living evidence of what neuroscientists have become increasingly certain about: brainwashing is a myth. As Mark Twain said, only the very highly intelligent continue to entertain ideas long after the facts have disproved them, but that isn’t brainwashing: rather, it is a symptom of the other great cancer of our time, self-delusional denial.

I’ve been dealing with some dysfunctional self-delusionists over the last few days, and it’s been a horrendous experience – in the context of a task that was already excruciatingly painful on every level. And once again, the experience has been one of woeful unwillingness to take responsibility coupled with unidirectional blame-storming; all, naturally, aimed at me.

There is a marvellous scene in Peter Sellers’ last movie Being There, where Chance the Gardener (Sellers) who has only known the protected life of a large house with gardens – and a channel-changer for his huge television set – finds himself evicted and in a rough neighbourhood. A mugger approaches Chance and demands all his money. The gardener points a channel-changer at him. The look of astonishment on Sellers’ face when it doesn’t work was pure Buster Keaton genius. And the fact is, you can’t just zap pricks with a remote control in real life – any more than you can ban trolls in real life.

Thus the only remaining option is stark, undiluted, mordant honesty as a means of ensuring they are unlikely ever to return. It leaves one in an agitated state afterwards. But the joy next morning of waking up to the certainty that you will no longer have to listen to the drivel of such people – or watch their predictable progress of careering towards the cliff – is a form of relief without parallel.

“I blame the parents” became a cliche-cum-ironic-catchphrase during the early 1960s (in relation to Teddy Boys, if I remember correctly) but along with politicians, teachers and the media, they do hold a massive responsibility for the burgeoning Yeh wha’evah generation. Dysfunctional parenting (Cameron or no Cameron) is massively concentrated in the Underclass, and along with very poor, misguided teaching practices, has produced millions of kids with no facility whatsoever for launching an argument containing logic and evidence to support it. But it exists further upmarket as well.

Three years ago, a super-rich friend with four children snorted at me in a restaurant, “What on Earth is wrong with our children, John?”, to which the correct answer would’ve been “You, actually”. I didn’t say that (I’m not all bad, you know) but it would’ve have been irrefutably true. His kids have been showered in money, deprived of discipline, and sent to plummy schools: from which the result is teenagers who leave University with a 2:2 in American Studies, and the attitude, “Live in Clapham? Are you mad? “

It is because of this problem that I retain my highly unpopular but entirely right objection to inherited wealth beyond a certain level – for the sake of argument, £1.5m…although I’m not prepared to argue about it, because like James Delingpole I know when something is absolutely and unchangeably right. This has nothing to do with ‘wealth redistribution’ (another busted flush of a theory) and everything to do with my life experience that, on the whole, rich and indulgent parents who leave their kids too much money produce social monsters of no value who rip through the cash during a succession of doomed marriages, expensive divorces and drugs.

While they’re about it, however, these kids are almost always a damned nuisance to those around them – and, yet again, mass producers of blame….along with a zero self-assigned personal responsibility quotient. One I know, aged 41, who has never – and I mean never – had a job beyond pushing drugs, said to me late last year about a civil servant featured in a tabloid , “You see that’s what’s wrong with Britain….another pointless paper-shuffler making no contribution to society whatsoever”.

There is no dealing (or reasoning) with these lost souls. No matter how inconvenient it might be, the only solution is to tell them why they are dysfunctional – in easily understandable and memorable terms – and then make it clear that you will not be seeking out their company ever again.

It will not have the slightest effect on them. But it will have an immediately beneficial effect on your life. And as we only get one of those, it has to be Delingpollingly the correct thing to do.

23 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Social or indeed any form of responsibility is rarely found among those with little – other than their own inadequacy – to feel responsible for.
    What you, JW, are to blame for – and no escaping this – is an excess of zealous research and lively writing. Where you spot a logical hole, please keep digging.
    Let’s turn the clock back? To the pre-sixties (pre all blame and no responsibility) where responsibility and blame could be too easily pinned on the ill-educated, socially deprived. It clearly was their fault for choosing such hapless parents.

  2. “is massively concentrated in the Underclass, ”
    As you later suggest it’s other places too, significantly I suggest at the top end where a sense of entitlement appears to be inbred. This is one of the features creating the ‘squeezed middle’ which is not just a financial squeeze but also about the morality and values of the ordinary people trying to get by in average jobs with average houses as they watch the privileged by birth and the privileged by benefits take over their world.

  3. There’s too much to comment on, some I agree with, some not….so I’ll limit myself to saying there’s nothing wrong with living in Clapham ;-)

  4. [quote] the all blame/no responsibility culture is at the epicentre of our cultural malaise. [/quote]

    JW, sir!, possibly your most insightful and important theme in all those years.

    Two generations ago, we were all accountable for our failings, especially at work. Now, anonymity and corporate ‘service’ departments, public and private, ensure impunity.

    You are so right – the demise of individual accountability has, slowly and quietly, become the most poisonous influence on our quality of life.

  5. 100% of those over 60 understand being thrifty, make do etc. it is all they knew and 100% being 40 or younger never seen it at all. Born in the middle, learned both ways you see the contrast of being thrifty and the believing in money trees.

    Hence we become the objectors as I can’t see how you can merge the two cultures without economic and social manipulation … by the politicians and powers that be. It is all they are doing anyway QE, ZIRP in one hand NHS, education, benefits in the other.

    At times I wish I was older than 60, being more thrifty “if allowed” will have salted enough away to support me better in old age. Or being 30 or less where this issue does not exist at all and lets enjoy the debt. I get caught in the middle sometimes wondering where this will all end so who is right?

    Thrifty or money tree? I think the former as you have never shown me a money tree I can believe in like some new found religion.

  6. John. I had often wondered what qualifications you could offer other than intelligence and acerbic wit, to be a self-appointed bollocks deconstructer. Now I know. Your 60′s years of full bollocks immersion! Walk a mile in the moccasins and you can smell them a mile off.
    All the issues you identify above, blame/responsibility, reality disconnect, entitlement expectations, rampant greed, etc will be addressed soon in a most brutal way. By a tsunami of, ruling class decadence and corruption, economic collapse, societal collapse, environmental collapse, agricultural collapse followed by population collapse. In fact read “Collapse” by Jared …… (I forget).
    Have a nice day.

  7. How to go back to the Adam Smith principles? there are some fundamental differences between now and then…..they are likely to be the cause…..
    Breakdown of family values…..degradation of marriage etc
    Now its much less likely that wrongdoers get penalised……partly due to the rise of the lawyer….
    Dont start me off on the expansion of beaurocracy……

  8. It’s a funny thing this libor rate. If it’s set too high then many punters have lost billions of dollars. Then again, if it’s too low another set of punters (or posibly the same) claim to have lost shed loads of money.
      I was never persuaded to use endowment or ppi products – Do we blame the nanny state or should blame be attached to the purchaser.
     Either way we all pay in the end.  

  9. Boundaries! My brother is a very successful chap and his wife is a chartered accountant. Both bright people who went to school, read books and had parents. I believe they have met other peoples children. They now have children of their own. They choose to deny them nothing and encourage them to ‘express their creativity’ at every opportunity. THey are ghastly little urchins now. My mother waited 40 years for one of us to produce Grandchildren, She was desperate for grandchildren. She doesnt want to see these ones as they are vile overindulged, ill-disciplined ill-mannered and inattentive little brats. I told my brother that’s what his kids are. He didnt seem very receptive to my opinion on his offspring. I wrote a thing about it. It’s called ‘How to bring up kids?’. It’s somewhat tongue in cheek. So, boundaries. Kids need to hear NO once in a while.

  10. JW, the sense of entitlement runs alot wider and deeper than you are suggesting. For instance we all feel entitled to cheap energy to run our cars, homes, businesses and state apparatus and exercise little or no responsibility in terms of switching to alternatives as carbon based resources run out. Its not just the question of climate change, our western industrial civilisation is predicated on continuous growth which intellectually we know cannot continue in view of resource limitations. So lets not play the blame game, lets recognise that the vast majority of us are happy to live for the short term and put off facing our responsibilities.

  11. Those of us now in our early 60′s have always had the ‘advantage’ of living and working through the regular ‘Boom and Bust’ years of the 70′s to mid 90′s. Perhaps we could learn to build more flexible business models that could expand quickly and batton down the hatches when the economy went into reverse….or perhaps we were more careful when taking on personal debt…..This instilled an entreprenerial but ‘sensible’ approach in our careers and lives. After all…..”What went up was sure to come down….”

    Without wishing to over generalise, many politicians, bankers and businessmen and women, began their careers during the 1995-2007 bubble (the one where Gorden Brown was the greatest Chanceller ever…remember ? ) …..and they are inherantly inexperienced in dealing with credit crunches, or falling markets and house-prices of the past few years, let alone with the perfect economic storm that we are presently sailing into…

    … Any fool could make money during the run up to 2008….and making a regular quick buck, or appearing to do well as a junior minister has in no way furnished most of our illustrious political leaders of all colours, or many of those guiding our major financial institutions, with the experience to lead us, fiscally or morally, in times of recessions and falling order books.

    I wish to hell that there was someone at the helm of SS Great Britain who was’nt running around in nappies, short trousers or gym slips during those crazy 1980′s roller coaster years !

    • So to use my hated phrase – there were no lessons learned from the 60′s to the 90′s, the wheel is currently being re-invented for the umteenth time .

  12. As the money runs out (because this is a huge source of all these problems socially) we will have to retreat back into a tougher world. It going to happen and luckily i was never sucked into this material lifestyle.

    Bring up kids and dont focus on stuff, focus on doing things – painting, watching the ducks, making a cake, getting down to the footy club. It’s the best way to a balanced life.

    • @Col. Spot on. On our deathbeds we are unlikely to say ‘I wish I had traded in my BMW for a newer model’ but we are likely to regret not giving more of ourselves to those we love, and not making our mark in social / environmental service as a way of ‘paying our rent’ for living on this beautiful planet.

  13. So much sense talked on this blog- but I am afraid it is only a minority of people who seem to be able to see these simple facts as they are. What can cause a return to a more widely accepted state of personal responsibility and living within one’s means, however slender. Probably only one or more of the many disaster scenarios that we could face- if cans continue to be kicked, the status quo does not have to change. Thank you JW for another piece of extreme sense, very well put.

  14. The current thinking of our politos appears to be lacking in any logic.
      Currently 60% of Barclay’s profit are delivered by it’s Investment arm. The retail group have large losses, if one considers all the miss selling activities.
     The removal of the Diamond geezer and any splitting of the group will be a disaster for the shareholders, the countries tax take and the employees. The employees will lose salary, pension rights and any promotion when one considers there status as a building society. 
     It really is a no win situation 

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