Society is going to the dogs, isn\’t it?
There seems a remarkable degree of consensus on a definition of today\’s social evils. Individualism is top, closely linked to greed and the decline in community; also part of the definition is a sense of decline in values and a deterioration of virtues such as honesty, empathy, respect and reciprocity. Family breakdown and poor parenting feature, as do misuse of drugs and alcohol, inequality and democratic deficit.
Perhaps using a word like \”evil\” inevitably prompts an outpouring of moral horror, but the JRF study, at the high-water mark of the economic boom years, is only amplifying what has been emerging in plenty of other research: a 2007 study claimed that 83% of the UK public felt the country was in moral decline. In January, the European Social Survey claimed that British under-25s have less trust or sense of belonging than in any other country; it was only the more positive attitudes of older age groups – those over 50 – that ensured that Britain didn\’t bump to the bottom of the index below Bulgaria and Slovakia.
That European Social Survey comes from the nef so we know that there\’s something wrong with it.
And a quick eyeballing says that the sense of trust or belonging increases with age right across Europe (there are those places which have high trust all along, but with, as I say, a quick eyeballing, I\’m not seeing trust decline with age). And we shouldn\’t find that all that surprising. Someone who\’s been living in a society for 60 years is more likely to have a sense of trust and belonging with those they have been living with for 60 years than those who are still making their contacts and their way.
So what explains the way in which people then say that everything is getting worse? Simply the standard response to people looking at the young. Society\’s going to the dogs, you know. Been said since Aristotle was a lad. The young kids of today, don\’t trust each other like we wrinklies do. Thus things must be getting worse.
It\’s an extraordinary thing to try and build a political movement on, the observation that the young aren\’t quite grown up yet.