All this talk about broken society that has been catalysed by Cameron's brilliant speech this week, and Graeme and Peter's depressing anecdotes in particular, remind me of this article by the Guardian's Madeleine Bunting in January. Starting off with an anecdote about anti-social behaviour of her own, it's an astute analysis of the "pathological individualism poisoning public life" (and the blogosphere).
Most of the many comments it attracted knock it for being a "Daily Mail-esque" hearkening back to a mythical golden age of morality and community. But such people who always reach for - as one CiF commenter beautifully put it - that cosy bromide "T'was ever thus", miss the point.
They invariably bring up that quote commonly attributed to Socrates about how the youth of the day are ill-mannered, contemptuous of authority and disrespectful to elders, as if that was evidence that nothing has changed since the 4th century before Christ. It's pretty simple logic: just because I'm in London now and was in London last Tuesday doesn't mean that I must have been in London over the weekend. I could have been lucky enough to be back home in God's country (known to mortals as Liverpool).
Things change! The very youths that Socrates allegedly decried will have ended up being the ancestors of well-mannered citizens respectful of their elders at some point down the line, if they didn't become such themselves in later life. Cameron and early years Bush have both talked about "the nation of the second chance" when it comes to helping people get on their feet, why can't we give society at large a second chance? We're only doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors if we let ourselves be so by wallowing in complacency. Belittling the problem like Balls et al do is contemptible. What scale of degeneration would have to occur for these people to recognise that it wasn't always thus?