Try as one might, there are some folks who will just never reach that stage of joining up the dots and saying, “Ooo look – it’s a bear-trap, and we’re heading right for it”.
We have quite a few friends like this. They thought Tony Blair a safe pair of hands. Miss trains a lot. Overspend their credit cards. Get muddled about why their breathing, farting lifestyle is more important than the odd aeroplane flight. And so forth.
Last week, we were at supper when a Bright Young Thing treated us all to her enthusiastic approval of folks snitching on their neighbours about what were ‘obviously’ acts of perversion going on in that next-door household.
For once, I didn’t let rip. I suspect this is because my long-suffering wife has finally convinced me that those who spout this unsuspecting stuff are merely under-educated rather than nasty. Had I been across the table from Lord Mandelson or Boris Johnson, it would’ve been different.
Snitchers are the Next Big Thing in Cruel Britannia. So far, I have come across three cases of these curtain-twitching low life telling on neighbours who were recycling incorrectly, or kicking dog-poo into the hedgerows rather than using a designated council-issued pooper-scooper. But other cases are abundant.
The case recounted recently by our own dear Thaddeus about the lollipop-man who hadn’t been vetted, and was therefore barred – thanks to a busybody who saw him helping kids across the road near their school. The fact that police forces are now openly encouraging citizens to grass up anyone who tells a homophobic joke. The growing reliance of planning authorities on neighbourly resentment for information about breaches of planning regulations.
This is not the stuff of Daily Mail urban myth. Rather, it’s the kind of thing I find myself following up these days….and discovering to my chagrin that it is entirely true. As a result of this, I unearthed a married couple in Plymouth who had lost their kids – because the social services had paid the neighbours to spy on them.
It makes me want to demand a documentary to appear at peak time on every terrestrial channel about the ways in which first Nazi Germany and then Communist East Germany relied upon exactly this kind of information to turn citizen against citizen – and into reliance upon the State for income as a regular spy. In this way was community trust lost…and forced loyalty to the all-powerful State evoked. (If you find this fanciful, rent the marvellous Oscar-winning German movie The lives of others.)
As I wrote at the outset, some people never join up the dots and see where all this is leading. Our nation is going to get poorer and poorer over the next decade – pretty much regardless of what anyone does in the immediate term. In such an environment, snitchers in search of additional income come into their own. Old scores are settled via this method, spite is used to bring good folks down, and weak people used to confirm the fantasies of those in government who are constantly on the lookout for any form of deviation – however harmless.
One last, spectacular example will suffice. A couple of years ago I became personally involved in a case where a group of neighbours had decided to sell wasteland to a developer. One dissenting resident objected and – when overruled – made life a misery for the others with a stream of unfounded accusations about land misuse, broken planning rules, traffic violations, building irregularities and bribery. Imagine what a field-day that old biddy would’ve had with a local authority’s police force desperate for gossip about everything from sexual diversity crime to Islamophobia.
We should all beware of the situation – uncomfortably close now – in which ‘good’ citizens are defined as those whose tittle-tattle condemns the innocent; and ‘bad’ citizens become those who shrink from finding such innocents guilty without trial.
Copyright John Ward December 2009.