The Royal Society of Arts has just published a report, covered in the national press, which concludes that Britain is becoming the ‘walk on by’ nation of Europe, that is to say, fewer and fewer of us intervene if and when we come across anti-social behaviour.
Odd that the RSA produced this, but that notwithstanding, it doesn’t take an Einstein to see why this has happened. The loosening of social ties as a result of years of cultural onslaught, coupled with the effects of large scale immigration, have played a part, according to the report.
Last year I wrote a piece for this magazine based on my week-long experiences of ‘speaking up’ in such situations. This included very minor stuff – waiting in queues, travelling by public transport etc – and I can confirm that yes, nobody backed me up when I protested at selfish, anti-social behaviour, even when I did it in the politest of terms. The reason was not, as some conservatives still like to fondly imagine, the British desire not to make a scene, but from a much simpler motive, ie fear.
What is interesting however is that a modish body like the RSA should cite immigration as a factor, for it goes against the current, endlessly repeated mantra that diversity is strength, that we are all the better for it etc etc. The truth, as has been pointed out in wide-randing studies in the USA, is that increasing ‘diversity’ has the effect after a while of increasing distrust between people, of weakening shared assumptions and generally of increasing social stresses – even amongst those people who would say they welcome it.
There comes a point when what feels happily cosmopolitan and interesting gradually evolves into alienation. In London at least, that point was reached some time ago.
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