1 Sep 2007

Despondent? Me?

I have always been happy to be British and enjoyed all that is good about our Nation. I remember the feelings of pride on taking my oath as a police officer and during the final passing out parade at PTC Dishforth. Today I’m finding it harder to know what the ‘good’ things are, where the ‘Great’ in Britain has gone and even more worrying, how I’m often embarrassed to let anyone know what I do for a living?
When you Google the subject there is an absolute plethora of people with the same thoughts! Why is this? Are we a Nation of non believers in our own worth? Or, is it just the fact we like to have a moan about something? When there is actually nothing wrong with our life do we crave the desire to invent something? Successfully concluding with a ‘rose tinted spectacles’ view that, everything was better when… Or, it wasn’t this bad years ago and, I blame the politicians etc. etc.
In the article Impressions after a week back a correspondent to the British ExPats site, asked: “Why there was litter everywhere, why there was a lack of public toilets, why everyone drives so fast, why you have to pay to park at supermarkets and hospitals, why vending machines are always broken and never give any change and… Why are there so many fat people?” Why indeed!
I think one of the fundamental reasons behind our moaning and groaning is often our staid attitude to life and, a blind acceptance of the status quo. British people today are too scared to have any outspoken opinion for fear of ‘rocking the boat’ of liberalism. How often have you asked someone with a furrowed brow how they are, just to get the reply ‘mustn’t complain’. It’s in our nature to do nothing about a problem until it is almost too bloody late, then we start to kick arse! Perhaps British people need to get to grips with some continental attitudes to life?
We always accept the marked up price of a commodity for sale, pay the extortionate amount and then proceed to wonder off mumbling about how bloody expensive it was? In many other nations the marked up price is just a starting figure for negotiation and bartering! We tend not to complain about poor service, would an American? We are prepared to queue for hours, would a German? And, we blame everyone but ourselves for the decline in moral or ethical standards.
The famous 70’s anarchist and punk rocker John Lydon once said: “I wore a T-shirt with a Union Jack on it, and I was asked if it was a racist statement! Bizarre? How can wearing your own National Flag in your own country be offensive? It drives me nuts”. Now I’m not suggesting for one moment we should all turn to anarchy but he does have a point. Why can’t we stand proud, stand up to be counted and stop rubbishing ourselves all the time?
So why does it appear we (the police) are loosing control of the streets? Tim Dowling (The Guardian) when commenting on ‘What makes Britain Great’ wrote about: ‘The world's least scary police’. He said, “It's not just the lack of guns or the breast shaped hats; British police, alone or in groups, are almost incapable of maintaining an aura of menace... The postmen are more intimidating. This may not help their clear-up rate much, but as a foreigner I find it particularly endearing”. And why do we wear ‘breast shaped hats’? Maintenance of the status quo that’s why, British traditionalist values! Unfortunately these values are not possessed by many people and, if they do have them, they certainly don’t fully understand them. You can only successfully promote values and standards that you are capable of displaying yourself and here is another problem.
Tim Dowling talks about the ‘aura of menace’ but this is not a methodology we should ever employ. We don’t police by force, despite government interference pushing us in that direction. The direction that is seeing the creation of a two tier policing structure, one that sees a level of policing with very limited powers for the ‘community’ and one with a vast armoury of weapons for enforcement. To continue with our ‘traditional values’ of ‘policing by consent’ we need to substitute ‘menace’ with the word ‘presence’. Unfortunately we are often prevented from providing that due to mountains of paper! Removal of height limits for recruits and a general scruffy appearance in many officers also precludes the public from feeling our presence. If we are tied so much by ‘tradition’ in this country, why can’t we return to traditional policing values?
I would like to think I am still proud to be British and proud to be a British Bobby but I have to say it’s getting increasingly more difficult... However, Bill Bryson wrote: "The British are the happiest people in the world. Watch any two Britons in conversation and see how long it is before they smile or laugh over a joke or pleasantry." Perhaps I should make do with that?
Despondent? Not me!

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