Rules? What rules?
There have always been rules in English society. They are the standards of behaviour that people are expected to follow. The social etiquette that defines what is acceptable. The rules are copied by other cultures too. The British had an empire and influenced many other cultures. We were influenced in turn by European cultures and the European aristocracy. The rules seem to have been well-defined in the Victorian era and even earlier when people knew their place and how to behave. But why did some people ignore the rules?
The rules of behaviour seem to have historically been observed by the aristocracy and then to a lesser extent by the middle classes and then a different set of rules applied to the working classes. Then there was a sub culture that survived the best way they could and ignored most of the rules. There was crime in the Victorian era and prostitution. People had to survive and it wasn’t just the rule of law that was ignored, but the standards of behaviour that appeared to be required at the time.
Is it any different now as people try to survive hardship and unemployment. They get drunk, behave badly and use illegal drugs. The sub cultures in society seem to be the most violent and young unemployed people in deprived areas group together into gangs. This is common in all societies, but is it desirable in a modern society like Britain?
There are pressures on people to behave in an acceptable way, get a job, even if it is on minimum wage. They are threatened with having their benefits withdrawn if they don’t behave as required by the Jobcentre. Is that strategy a good one, trying to force people to behave in a certain way with threats? Should the following of rules and etiquette be a matter of pride, not forced on people with the use of threats?
I was asked what the term ‘that’s a shame’ means recently. In Victorian times it meant something would bring shame on you. Can’t get a job? That’s a shame. It’s a shame you don’t have a friend who can help. Lots of things brought shame and embarrassment on people at one time. There is no need to feel embarrassed about not having a job these days, it’s quite acceptable. That is because life is now considered to be unfair, people are better educated and know that most people who don’t have jobs are not to blame for their predicament. It is harder for the ‘haves’ to accuse the ‘have nots’ of idleness.
Young people are more likely to ignore social conventions, they want to stand out and been seen; often by the opposite sex. Older people want a quiet life and are more likely to accept the laws and conventions. People with more to lose the wealthy and middle classes will accept conventions and rules more easily too. Many conventions and standards of behaviour are instilled in people as children. Working class parents have less time to stand with their children and often give them more freedom of expression. In the subcultures of society children learn that if they are physically punished for something, then that is acceptable. They learn to behave in a way that basically means that the only rule is to do what you think you can get away with without getting punished.
Do we need more standards of behaviour that define what is morally right and wrong? Who could set an example for children? Teachers and other professionals? Who could set standards for the general population? The media? Could MP’s and public figures set a better example? It would seem the role models that were popular in Victorian times don’t really have a modern equivalent.
Who do you look up to and admire in modern society?
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