Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 27/05/07

Out Of Control

I've been debating with myself whether I should put this here, but over a week has gone by since the main incident described below, so I may well be safe by now.

First, a sort of prelude:

Two or three weeks ago, coming home from work on the bus, there was one of those little madams (about 14/15 years old) playing music on her mobile phone for all passengers to hear (whether they wanted to or not). Apart from the fact that this is anti-social in the extreme (a bus being not only a confined space, but a form of mobile captive audience), the - for want of a better word - music which comes out of phones always leads me to suspect that someone amongst the mental molluscs of the music 'biz' is trying to co-ordinate a Chipmunks revival.

When this happens, usually the bus driver does nothing. I think this is because most bus drivers hereabouts are men and are, as such, far too wide open to the possibility of false accusations being made at them by teenage girls: and even mere accusations are enough to destroy a man's career - or even life - in these hyper-hysterical days.

On this occasion, however, the driver was a woman in her thirties. She stopped the bus and ordered Mademoiselle to turn the noise off (which, it seems, she'd already had to do once before I got on). "I've turned it off!", whined the bitchlet. We set off again.

Scarcely fifty yards further on, Little Miss I-Can-Do-What-I-Like-And-You-Daren't-Stop-Me switched the racket back on again. Once more, the driver pulled in. She turned around from her seat and told the twerpette off in terms which were non-obscene, but nonetheless forceful and extensive.

The phone was switched off once again, and the only sound to be heard from then until Miss Selfish got off the bus two stops later (with, it goes without saying, a face like a smacked arse) was the silent hum of approval from the rest of us.

Now, the main act:

Just over a week ago, I had a hospital appointment after work. This meant catching a slightly later bus home than usual. When it arrived, it was almost full, but some loud adolescents at the back of the bus told me there was a seat up there. Like a fool, I accepted the invitation.

One of the gang (for such it clearly was) was a girl of about fifteen, who was sitting in the seat in front of mine. I'm pretty sure I'd had a run-in with her before a couple of years previously, when I'd had the temerity to tell her to shut up and stop making a noise on the bus.

Immediately, she turned around and started asking very personal and pointed questions in a very loud voice. I tried to parry them as best I could, but wit and repartee simply do not work with pond life.

Her friends were alternately egging her on and squirming with embarrassment from the fact that Madam was a) loud enough to be heard all over the bus, and b) in possession of an extensive working knowledge of those parts of the English language beginning with the letter 'f'.

The questioning became more vituperative and the insinuations (if so subtle a word could be used for what she was saying) became more intense.

Then, she snatched the glasses off my face and tried to put them on herself. I snatched them back. She then continued with her loud innuendo about what she imagined was my private life, then tried to grab my glasses again. I fended her off and held her by the wrist.

At this point she accused me (at full volume, of course) of being a "fucking paedo".

I wasn't feeling well in any case, but I was angry now as well. I detest bad behaviour in public by anyone, but by teenagers and children in particular.

I lost it.

I slapped her across her left cheek. The slap wasn't that hard, if only because I didn't have the room to get a good run up at the little cow.

It was the first time that I'd hit anyone in anger since my school days, some thirty years before.

She wasn't hurt. She wasn't even upset. I think 'mild surprise' might be the best description of her reaction. She moved to a seat across the aisle from me, and continued her flow of rhetoric unabashed until she got off about a quarter of a mile later. As she got off the bus, she was complaining volubly about my slapping her and that she'd "not dun nuffing".

(A couple of stops later, a little boy of about three or four years old got off, saying to his mother, "That lady wasn't nice", and when I got off, the driver responded to my customary "Cheers, mate!" with a cheery "Thanks a lot!" I found myself hoping that he'd been looking in his mirror at just the right moment.)

What little joie de vivre I'd had earlier had completely evaporated, and I spent the evening half-expecting a loud knock on the door. Oh, I was sure that she didn't know where I live, that she was unlikely to report the incident (if only because there were far too many witnesses to her lousy behaviour), and that the threat to get her alleged father on to me was probably just that - a threat. But it made for a very uncomfortable and paranoid evening and weekend.

I'm not proud of what I did. I should have maintained a cool silence and just sat it out. I'm only human, alas.

Now, the coda:

Sitting here last night, a knock came on the door. I opened it, to find three trainee idiots, aged about eleven or twelve, standing there. One of them claimed to be looking for his cat, to which one of the others remarked that his friend was "looking for his pussy". They became nearly incontinent with mirth at this.

Well, I suppose I found that sort of thing funny when I was little, but they then ran off making other innuendos about homosexuality and paedophilia.

Well, examine the facts:

Of course I'm a pervert! With a life-history like that, I must be, mustn't I? Just like that poor woman in Newport was a few years ago. You remember, the one who had her house vandalised because the mob which did it was too fucking dumb to know the difference between 'paedophile' and 'paediatrician' (as if a paedophile would put a plaque on his wall advertising the fact!).

As the years go by, I become increasingly worried about what sort of 'society' we have now and will have in the future. We seem to be in a state of near-terminal breakdown, and the most obvious signs of it are in the behaviour of children and teenagers.

I'm not going to get misty-eyed about this. Every age has had to deal with similar issues. But I can't remember my generation ever behaving as badly, or with such a sense of untouchability, as they seem to do now.

(Note: this is a generalisation, of course. I'm talking about a minority of them, and quite a small minority. But a noticeable one nonetheless).

All sorts of fancy theories can be adduced to account for this: one may claim in mitigation that the parent(s) must go out to work in order to keep the family in the style to which it has become accustomed; it could be argued that the type of law-of-the-jungle capitalism we have suffered under for the last quarter of a century encourages aggressive behaviour; you can claim that the paucity of expectations of the Underclass (how dreadful a description of human beings that is!) leads to resentment which expresses itself in violence or resort to drugs (both legal and otherwise); you can even make a case that a diet rich in chemical additives has unhinged an entire generation (where have all these cases of ADHD come from?).

None of these will wash, I'm afraid, although they could all be making a contribution.

The problem, to my mind, is that there are too many parents nowadays are are unable or unwilling to control their offspring. In order for children to develop the self-discipline which is essential for us all to have a working society, the concept of discipline must first be inculcated in them, and the younger the better. When children have regard for the way their parents would react if they knew of bad behaviour on their (that is, the children's) part, then their conduct is likely to be more controlled, and more in keeping with notions of civilisation.

Note: this does not necessarily involve the use of physical force. One of the things which kept me in line, for example, was the knowledge that if I pissed my mother off, she would go into a dreadful sulk with me which would last until I had conducted a humiliating (or just totally embarrassed) climbdown.

Of course, one must not use any species of force (physical or emotional) to instill proper behaviour in children nowadays. We're told that it damages the poor darlings, leaving them to cope with the most dreadful traumas. We therefore have now raised at least two generations of what someone wonderfully termed 'free-range children'.

But even if discipline cannot be enforced in the old ways, it can still be enforced. The trouble is that, for whatever reason, a significant proportion of parents don't seem to be willing or able to do so. They would prefer, for example, to crash out on their ever-widening arses in front of whatever trash Sky Television is pumping out that evening or to get half-pissed in their living rooms, rather than to take full responsibility for the children they have brought into the world who are, at that moment, causing alarm (or worse) in the general vicinity.

(I still consider it remarkable that parenthood, one of the most important roles any human being can undertake, can be achieved by people who have little aptitude for it, and no qualifications other than possession of the requisite physical organs).

Things have come to such a state now that the only way in which inadequate parents could be dealt with may be to place them under the same penalties as their offspring when they transgress. If their running-wild sprogs get ASBOd, let the parents be ASBOd too. If their spawn are dragged before the courts, let them stand in the dock and face the music as well. Let us have a campaign to 'name and shame' inadequate parents. Not only would it place the blame for delinquency where it most properly belongs, it might even deter unsuitable people (that is to say, those with no talent for it, or those who simply don't give enough of a damn anyway) from breeding in the first place.

OK, perhaps that is a little far to go. But not by that much. Let's have a move to enforce parental responsibilities properly. Then, perhaps, we might have a society worth living (and growing up and growing old) in.