Monday, December 31, 2007

Britain is the 5th worst place to grow up (in the world)

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.


Anonymous said...

'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.'

Wow Bryony, you must live in shitsville because that doesn't really sound live where I live ;)

JJC1138 said...

Impressive post.

I have a theory about Britain: Since the British Empire ruled the waves and at one point consisted of one quarter of the entire world, there were ample opportunities in recent history for anyone with any sense of adventure to go do something exciting someplace else (hopefully someplace less gray).

So those of us who are still here are mostly the offspring of those people who stayed put despite the huge opportunities on offer, so I think we have a genetic disposition against taking risks. That's my explanation for the lack of entrepreneurialism in this country compared with our cousins across the Atlantic.

There are some benefits to our British sensibleness, though, like relatively-low crime, moderate politics, and sane justice; so maybe it's just that the grass is always greener.

Anonymous said...

I should've said 'sound LIKE where I live' of course.

Sometimes I think we overplay the greyness WAY too much. We have a moderate climate with dark dingy winters and usually excellent summers.

Perhaps the absolute lack of a summer altogether last year makes it all seem so bad!!

And Bryony, you really should explore all of the UK it might alter you views about the greyness. You have come accross in some of your videos as very London centric which you have admitted too.

I don't really get the lack of 'entrepreneurialism' either? I'm sure every Tom,Dick & Harry growing up in the US doesn't get opportunity landing at their feet.
And British people travel far more than people from most countries do!

BadAlbert said...

That is a grim picture you paint, and there is some truth to it but not exclusively so. Without getting all 'smash the system man' it's important to realise that poverty is not a side effect of capitalism but is in fact a necessary component. The gap between rich and poor has never been wider. Think about the government, the banks giving mortgages to people who clearly cant afford the repayments, so they make money while the boom lasts then sell the debt on later, just like the credit card companies and all the other dodgy loans promising a way out of debt while handing you a golden shovel so you can dig yourself deeper in, but they don't care if you can't pay it back either.

And who wants to be a teacher or a fireman? You can't have a house like MC Fuckface off mtv cribs on that money.

There is a very different attitude in this country than there was only 30 or 40 years ago. There has been a gradual shift both economically and culturally away from community, away from traditional industry to the individual, leisure, and celebrity. It's the Me Culture. Politics has no small part to play, with Thatcher and Blair et al. Laziness is not born of itself. I could go on but I can't be bovvered.

streakfreak said...

I'm sorry, but Britain's inclusion on that list is ridiculous. There must be a couple dozen developing countries in the world that are shittier places for kids, or adults, for that matter. It's an old tactic to make some sort of list and then shoehorn some ridiculous entry into it to stir up a bit of controversy/interest.

Yes, England has some problems, but let's get real!

Bil The Man said...

I lived in Britain for about two years and I'd say that the kids there are pretty scary. I'm American, I've lived and visited most of the big cities here and I certainly realize that we have a lot of scary troubled teens roaming the streets. The problem that I saw in Britain is basically what you described. Kids have nothing to do but get drunk in a park and gang up to beat up strangers. It is quite disturbing and happens even in small villages. I'm a big guy so I never felt too threatened, however, I knew an English guy who was pretty tough and he had gotten beaten up by a group of kids waiting on a train. They didn't even steal anything they just wanted to hurt someone. You'd see them in parks menacing anyone who looked weak. Also, kids would ride around on the buses terrorizing people "Wot you lookin at!". I couldn't believe it.

So, you are right from what I can tell, not a great place to bring up kids. Of course, that being said, I know lots of English people and they are all normal so maybe the dark side of the British kids is just more obvious in England.

One final note, cops in Britain take a lot of crap. I watched a ~15 yr old screaming in a cops face once. It was crazy, I wanted to hit him with a club. Wouldn't happen in the US.

zombiejesus said...

Quote ****
"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."

Hmm Bryony maybe drugs and teen pregnacy are limited to the poor in England. However those social issues are a bit more wide spread here in the USA.
You sound a bit like a petty deb here.
If I missed something my apologies
also I think you are a pretty cool person I just don't agree with some of what your saying here.

I = The guy in the loud car smoking a joint. When I was in my twenties

zombiejesus said...

Oh an yeah I agree I can think of a helluva lot of worse places than Britain to grow up in wtf ?

tejayce said...

i would never take that ranking serious. to us of course, "Smoking, drinking, and getting pregnant" might seem like serious issues. but there is dozens of countries around the globe which are worse ... not only 4 .. thats ridiculous. in addition to that, the relevance and interpretation of issues which might be of concern is up to discussion(and can depend on circumstances).

but to adress your post ...
most of the things you describe seem quite common to me. just a wild guess, but if its worse in the UK, maybe thats just because a development(which is happening in the western countries) started earlier there? i see these things everywere, and it makes me so sad. i even heard about explainations for those developments in classes on uni.

i cant agree with you on the nationalism thing. imo thats a bad thing, and to some extend its a symptom of people having nothing in their lives to be proud of and hope for. at least thats what we were tought in school.

i greatly appreciated the fact you wrote about this serious issue. im gonna read it again to inspire further thoughts. thanks!

Thomayus said...

The Uk is a rainy sort've place.

The conclusion to that depressing post really cheered me up, thanks.


Alex said...

'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.'

woot, at least you've got Peugeots!

I'm from the US and even I tend to get a little angry when anyone criticizes the UK, haha I have a bit of a Brit love.

nwtrunner said...

As a Canadian who was born in Glasgow and returns to UK (mostly Scotland) fairly regularly - I'd have to say that some of what you wrote is right - there are certainly parts of the UK that are pretty grim and grey. Same is true for USA and even for Canada.

But as others have already commented - there is a lot more to Britain than London and the other urban areas. I travelled around most of Scotland this past fall and had nothing but wonderful times with people I met and my fingers got sore from the number of photos I ended up taking!

At the same time - I do understand the point that you were making and you made it well. I'm a relatively new visitor to your blog and greatly enjoy it.

Happy New Year from northern Canada to you and yours, and to all Paperlilies readers!

Staticharge said...

I'd agree with streakfreak, I don't think Britain deserves to be on that list over tons of other shithole African and middle-eastern countries. Britain may have its problems, but I don't think it's anything that can't be solved much easier than what's wrong in those other places. At least you people have healthcare, which is more than I can say for my family.

If I had to pick a place to worry about the future of, it'd be here in America actually. With the shitty fads of rap and the gangster mentality being shoved into the current generation's mindless heads, the majority of youths I see don't look like they'll amount to anything but jailbirds on down the road. I don't go bike riding or walking around my block anymore, where as 10 years ago or so I probably would have. Crime has risen in my own neighborhood, where as we never used to have any of that sort of thing. They're dumbing down the schools to shove some of these sorts of people through instead of reinforcing rules and standards. The economy is starting to suffer because of Bush's endless war, so college is going to become harder and harder to afford. The list goes on and on. I consider myself fairly patriotic, which is why it bugs me to no end to see the downward spiral of our culture into some of this kind of shit. But what can one do, really, except wait to show up on some list some guy pulls out of his butt to stir up controversy.

Pantouffle said...

In all honesty, and let's not get all nationalistic and liary about this - you may as well been talking about the Netherlands. (after all we (Endemol) sold you the crap that is - Big Brother - to you)

Every country in Europe is bloody shit, except for the countries that decide to be boring without a news factor. The US is to be very honest the biggest screwup there is, it's the biggest country there is besides Russia and China, and eventhough China and Russia are pretty shit as well, the US pretends to be all great but meanwhile screws up the entire bloody european economy while fighting useless wars due to Oil needs. And the current government doesn't care one bloody bit about their own economy. If we hadn't introduced the Euro - honestly - we'd be going towards a global crapheap of economic disaster area where the only currency that is safe to use was the Yuan and the Yen. The bloody non-democraties would've won.

Everything is relative anyway. Every country has its problems. I'm convinced the UK has its share of crappyness, and I feel unworthy to compare it to anything else.

Let's just say; we all have our share of crap, but some people have it worse.

Tucker said...

Well, the UK isn't a third world country ravaged by disease, so it can't be that bad,

but you didn't exactly paint a pretty picture with that description.

I will admit that I know nothing about it, really, but I would guess that London is like any city and it has sketchy bits and nice bits, and, sadly, the sketchy bits are usually the poor parts.

streakfreak said...

Like jjc said before... very impressive post. Forgot to mention that as I got so annoyed with the article that inspired it.

Here are a few AIDS statistics I found on the web:

"By the end of 2005, the epidemic had left behind 15.2 million AIDS orphans, defined as those aged under 18 who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. These orphans are vulnerable to poverty, exploitation and themselves becoming infected with HIV. They are often forced to leave the education system and find work, and sometimes to care for younger siblings or head a family. In 2007, around 420,000 children aged 14 or younger became infected with HIV. Over 90% of newly infected children are babies born to HIV-positive women, who acquire the virus during pregnancy, labour or delivery, or through their mother's breast milk. Almost nine-tenths of such transmissions occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa's lead in mother-to-child transmission of HIV is firmer than ever despite the evidence that HIV ultimately impairs women's fertility; once infected, a woman can be expected to bear 20% fewer children than she otherwise would. Drugs are available to minimise the dangers of mother-to-child HIV transmission, but these are still often not reaching the places where they are most needed."

I guess the author of that list thinks that being a pregnant or a drug-user or chav scum is worse than being an orphan and/or a corpse. If I were the parent of one of those children, I think I'd tend to disagree.

WildbillthePirate said...


Another english word I've never heard before: Chavs. I assume it is analogous to hoodlum, ruffian etc...

I don't need the "Hot for Words" explanation either...LOL!

There is the same type of attitude in NYC; a loss of Traditional Values,Morals and Work Ethic. I believe that this is due to the hopelessness that Youg People feel: The System has no use for them, that they won't do anywhere near as well as their parents and they have no stake in the future.

I've been wrong before & I might be wrong now, but unless Opportunity exists, people will make up their own Entertainment, no matter what it is.

BTW: I think the author(s) of that article put that in to shock people. There are many places on Earth that children shouldn't be raised in. Drinking, Smoking & early Pregnancy are mild in compasison to suicide bombing, kidnapping, drug processing/dealing and my personal favorite: Cheap Labor and Soldiering.

Magick and Science said...

1. Change a few things for each country and you've just described most of the western world. ie: It is the same everywhere.

2. Sounds like some of those who look at you from out of the U.S. wanted to visit them again and were trying to get you to think/feel about your home in a less than favorable way.

3. Getting a bit over the top on the negativity with a slight twist of sarcasm in there.

4. You are trying to discourage any "fans" in the U.S. who might move to the UK?

5. It all sounds a bit much like a Pulp song in there somewhere.

6. You are a bit confused. You sound politically correct one minute and like a fascist the next. I suppose it is to be expected.

7. They've never had it so good.

ladadidah said...

haha, every other day, it seems like Bryony goes on a blogging frenzy...but it's uite entertaining! =]

Tom said...

I don't see the issues of teen pregnancy, crime and overall apathy being as widespread as you claim.

The fact is that the media will always overstate and exaggerate a country's situation in order to justify its own existence.

Statistics dealing with the issues that you mentioned will always be on the increase in a nation that enjoys a significant level of population growth and immigration. Quite simply, there are more people to COMMIT crimes, though of course, this isn't something mentioned by the media because they want to pander to the popular public feeling of 'victimization'.

This feeling, which stems from an intense self-involvement, can ONLY occur in a developed and highly priveleged nation. The idea of feeling sorry for yourself based on the fact that poor little you has to pay taxes to contribute to the infrastructure and proper running of the country, and you disapprove of the way that your Government is spending that money is one that is EXCLUSIVE to countries that have very little else to worry about. Do you honestly believe that nations that TRULY deal with serious social issues have time to fall into the 'me-culture' that you have?

If worrying about the fact that your country can afford to buoy up a few idiots (whose existence, i do not doubt, though how widespread they are is another matter) then you really dont have anything to complain about, innit?

Sorry, couldn't resist the 'innit'. I'm Australian, and when you fall into what passes for British slang down here, people tend to look at you blankly and then feel embarrassed for you.

Anonymous said...

be careful with these posts... as soon as personal views on political subjects come up, you risk alienating a massive amount of people.

it's not that i think you got everything wrong, but some of your post is completely misleading.

it's up to you [of course] but if i were you, i'd steer clear of airing my opinions on these subjects, only because of the size of your audience and how you are perceived.

you risk tarnishing your reputation!

bikenik said...

To me this is a problem of the break down of the family and community.

The article is describing juvenile delinquents. JD's act out to get the attention they are lacking at home and in school.

Any problems of juvenile delinquency can be directly traced back to parents and community that failed to provide proper care and attention during the years of child development.

Kids want and need direction, if they don't get it problems result.

Unanimous Coward said...

Britain has produced Shakespeare, Bryony, and the most amazing song that I have ever heard, which is called Paperlilies and is on YouTube. I would live in such an England any day. So there!

Amjan said...

On Bryony's attitude, I can tell you this:
Exaggerated negativity has always had a lot bigger creative potential/force and the power to change things than exaggerated positivity. And that's the bottom line.

Face the facts. If how Bryony depicted things isn't the reality... it sure will be in the near future, won't it?

Dr Winston O'Boogie said...

Nationalism is not the answer. Industrialism and consumerism are destroying culture all around the world. There are many cool and beautiful things that are unique to English culture and people. The songs of John Winston Lennon have very relevant lyrics. The ones that I mean include: "Bring On The Lucie (Freda People)" "Working Class Hero", "God", "Mind Games", "Instant Karma", "Imagine", "Gimme Some Truth", "Give Peace A Chance", "Happy X-Mas(War is over)", "Power To The People" ...

sorryimlate said...

You got it completely spot on Bryony. The middle classes are leaving the UK and I dont doubt why. The Uk really is pretty grim, yes it has a lot of positives (great 'media', modern art, amazing music and some very pretty parts to it but in the main its not a pretty sight.) The majority of Brits are uncultured and with a growing chav culture, shitty weather, horrible architecture, short termism, negative pessimistic people, terrible food, 'heat magazine culture' and (I could go on!) I dont see why people think its so great to be living here. It isnt the innocent, simple countryside, 'Hovis advert' life anymore. Look around you, there are so many better places than here.
I intend to run away to New York or somewhere in Europe one day!


sorryimlate said...

PS - Excuse the vitriol in my last post, its either that I have to go to work tomorrow or the horrible hangover!

psycoticsinginchick said...

I was considering moving to England, though now I'm not quite so sure. I live in America now, and our problem is that our government is greedy and are too easily paid off by drug companies with too much money for our own good. Our "Health Plan" is to deny as many people as possible so that the Health Insurance Agencies make a profit, so people won't get help because they're too skinny, too fat, too young, too black, too white, too poor. Which leaves people fending out of their own pockets, and sense drugs and operations cost a couple million dollars (only a slight exaggeration, it's more like a quarter of a million) each without insurance. Yet they never get blamed if someone dies from not receiving some operation that would save their life because nobody would help them pay for it.

Also after coming out of College, people are suddenly in debt for $2,000 on average. I, personally, didn't finish College from lack of that kind of financial aid. (I also got tired of the stupid teachers). and I owe about $3,000 from one year.

So, I thought that by going to England, I'd receive the benefits of a socialistic health care plan, and perhaps go to college for free. I also heard that musicians get paid on a socialistic level just like the teachers, policemen, firemen, etc. do here. And seeing as I was trying to be a musician, I thought that would be a pretty decent benefit as well.

Let me know i I'm wrong, but I considered those pretty strong reasons to move.

JJC1138 said...

To psycoticsinginchick, this will probably not be what you wanted to hear:

University isn't really free in the UK. It's all a bit complicated because for UK citizens the fees vary depending on how much the student and their family earn, but all you really need to know is that it isn't subsidized at all for non-EU students so the tuition fees for international students are about the same as tuition fees in the US.

Also, I'm afraid I've never heard of this socialistic paying of musicians that you mentioned. There are scholarships and such, like there are everywhere, but there isn't some huge program to pay all artists. All the starving artists here are working in Starbucks too.

Sorry to be such a downer! :-(

greenteapot said...

not forgetting jeremy kyle, our lord and saviour. oh jeremy shout at me some more for shacking up wiv my muvvas luvvas bruvvarr.

Anonymous said...

I don't live in Britain so I don't actually know how it is, but I do live in Europe, Holland to be exact.

You said that we don't have these problems. Guess what: we do. In holland, we don't have a sense of pride of our country at all. We have pretty much the same problems as you have, and although they might be a bit different, they are just as big...

People get leaghed at here if they say that they're a little bit proud of their country.