“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.