Britain is the 5th worst place to grow up?
Well... my first reaction in reading Tom's blog post about this was one of 'hey, yank.... leave Britain alone, you don't know!' which is my default reaction to any American criticizing the UK, so (apologies Tom, I don't mean it).
Then I read the article, and I remembered actually hearing things like this before.
First of all- poverty is not confined to Britain. People live in poverty all over the world, including America, so.. yeah. Its a shocking sounding word, but poor people live poorly. That is just how it is. Sure governments want to combat that, and they do, but England and Britain have more social aids for people than America for starters, so... yeah.
But then, I actually think that is one of the problems we have, and why Britain is in a bad way. There ARE so many fallbacks, so many government handouts, there does feel like there is this climate in which someone in an office will write you a cheque if needs be. And I hate that. I think it breeds laziness. I've never signed on to the dole, but people do, and that's ok, but it makes me feel like... why is that ok? For me to work and pay money for you to not work??
These things that are supposedly the reasons that you wouldn't want to bring a child up in Britain: Drugs, Alcohol and Teen Pregnancy: They aren't ubiquitous, they aren't what every child has to traverse. They are poor things, things of the lower classes. Usually, the teenage girls you see who are pregnant: poor. Kids drinking out in the street: chav.
And that isn't right, by any stretch of the imagination, that there are whole swathes of the country that are poor and bored, so they drink and take drugs and fuck each other for something to do. It's not right at all, and noone likes to think of it as being so, but it is.
Everything here is so fucking hard to do- school is a constant barrage of tests and learning nothing more than how to pass more tests. If you aren't interested, there is nothing for you there. Getting a good job is now dependent not only on getting through all the years of testing, affording university (no grants anymore), passing 3 years of testing at university, before finally floating around in the air once you finish it all, with no hope of getting work with al the other people who just left university before you.
There is so much pressure in that route, that people don't stay on at school, they don't get A or AS levels, they go on the dole. They do some vocational course, they doss around for years, with no goal in sight, because everything is so fucking hard to actually do.
So they drink and screw and drive too fast in shitty cars. Because there's nothing else to do. Even if they wind up with a job in retail or a call center (I know, I am TOTALLY generalising), they have no goal, no ideas for where to go or what to do, but go out and drink lots and lots at the weekend.
So, yeah, Britain IS a horrible place to bring up children. Where people are scared of the children they see in the street because they probably have guns or knives or broken Aftershock bottles that they'll shank you with. They are painted as that in the Daily Mail and on the news. Asbos, hoodies, chavs. So why wouldn't they act in the way they are perceived?
In this climate of being feared by their own communities, with nothing to do except hang around on corners smoking and drinking and looking for something to do, wouldn't YOU turn to drink? Wouldn't YOU think it was a way out, to keep the baby you just found out you are going to have, cause after all, then you will have something to DO at last? And a flat from Mr Government, with some child support thrown in?
I know, I know. This is so horribly snobbish. 'Oh, I'M ok, its all those horrid chavs out there.' But that's how I see it. Other countries have sports that people get into, whereas here, noone is ever really that bothered about playing games. Everything is so damn expensive in this country that it's been dubbed Rip-Off Britain, by us!! It's expensive and boring if you've no money. It's illegal to buy booze so why not go the whole hog and buy drugs instead? And seeing as you'll never be able to afford a house, why not get a tidy little Government flat while you still can?
The reason Britain is a lame place to bring up kids is because it is boring for young people. There is nothing to do. So while the middle classes and the upper classes buy things to fill their time with, poorer people drink and take drugs and have sex young.
Britain has no idea what it wants for itself. It has no idea what it is, it is a headless beast with hundreds of bodies. There is no sense of 'I am BRITISH' or any feeling of pride in it, which, regardless of how you feel about nationalism, or that kind of national pride, is something that is evident in all the countries of Europe, which do not have these same issues as we seem to. So maybe that is something that we should try to reclaim, or start from scratch, a sense of belonging in this verdant isle, instead of a feeling of malaise and boredom at it. And isn't that mad?? That we fought all those wars for the whole of Britain's existence, yet any country we fought has more pride and sense of self than we do.
God, there are plenty of other things which make this country not a great place to live- the weather and everyone's fear of paedophiles making noone want to go outside to play sports, the media making it seem like every street in the country is littered with immigrants trying to pick your pocket, the same media lauding morons who were in Big Brother once. The fear everyone has of having any sense of pride in their accomplishments. The fear everyone has of being laughed at, which perpetuates everyone's willingness to conform with whatever the rest of their peer group is doing. The way everyone's fear of looking like a tit means they drink til they can't stand up anymore and they can blame it all on their drunkeness.
If you have some romantic notion of Britain as a green idyll where everyone lives quaint little lives, then you have a wrong image in your head. The reality of Britain is a grim grey concrete block of council flats with chavs outside it in loud cars, smoking a joint and swearing at you as you pass by in your Peugeot.
I hope Laura doesn't read this because she will call me the worst snob on the planet.