Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The most dangerous word in English

Whatever. Pronounced 'wha[']evah' and uttered by surly youths with an attitude of studied indifference. The word 'whatever' is symptomatic - indeed emblematic - of Britain's decline and fall. And America's, while I'm at it.

Past generations of youth would rebel - with or without a cause; today's youth has neither a cause nor a clue, nor the drive to rebel. Gormless hoodies idling around shopping centres on their little BMXs, media studies students from St Woteva's Urban Trust Academy wearing oversized socks on their heads, listless, dull, lacking direction or dynamism. Wotevas are not deemed the threat to society that Marlon Brando's biker gang was in The Wild One (the 1953 film now rated 12 but banned in the UK until 1968). Or that snarling anarchy with which Johnny Rotten* and Joe Strummer** or Iggy Pop*** brought the 1970s to life. Wotevas do not threaten the status quo, have no real opinion about things (at their age, it's better to have a deeply-held wrong opinion than to have no opinion at all).

It's about biology. The UK is winding down; energy levels of subsequent generations are getting lower and lower. (The result of being materially sated? Or something more invidious...?)

I don't see this in Poland. Here, I see get-up-and-go; indeed many young Poles have got up and gone - to the UK. And British employers like this. It's why recruitment companies and the firms they work for think that someone prepared to travel 1,500 miles to find a job will work more effectively than someone who just has to roll out of bed and cross the road.

I'm deliberately trading in stereotypes, but there's a point here.

One word I hope I will never hear in Poland from its young people is 'cokolwiek'.

* John Lydon advertises Country Life butter
** Joe Strummer has a Class 47 diesel locomotive named after him
*** Iggy Pop advertises car insurance


student SGH said...

gosh... haven't you really never, ever heard Polish teenager throwing in the word whatever (when they spoke Polish)? I guess they've picked it up already. In my class in liceum we had a girl who grew up in Australia and would use that whatever but not in such manner. We also picked the habit up. All in all it's much better than the homelike k**** swear word.

I've never been to the UK so I don't have a comparison, but what I see almost every day is that Polish youth is in decline as well. Even on my university students' main goal is not to learn as much as possible but to slip through the studies putting as little effort as possible - the fact the least demanding lecturers are so popular only proves my theory. And teenagers - when I log in to grono.net or hear their conversations on the street or in the bus/tram/metro it seems those people are from the different generation - my peers and former teachers tend to go along with me.

Of course lots of those people have clearly set goals, but with such material oals we're evolving towards what you describe about Great Britain. Examples of goals from my entourage? Career, dough, climbing a social ladder. I've recently noticed people treat one another more and more instrumentally - rather than making friends they focus on networking. A network of contacts is good when you're looking for colleague to work on a new project, but not when you have personal troubles and want to talk to someone. Our society might towards the network of individuals - independent, self-reliant, appreciating freedom, but lonesome in it.

Maybe I shouldn't throw that stone, cause I'm one of those rats. I have the courage to speak openly about it, but not to break away from it. Actually it's not a matter of courage but a lack of alternative.

Dyspozytor said...

Polish young people have more dynamism than English kids. They want to get away from the Poland of their parents as fast as possible. What they don't realise is that they should be building a new Polish reality here and not rushing lemming-like towards the trashy plastic baubles of the West.

English youngsters have nowhere to go. 'Big Brother', 'Britain's Got Talent' and binge drinking represent a vicarious escape from boredom. Boys can practise their killing skills without leaving the comfort of their bedrooms; girls can make virtual friends on Facebook.

But tell me, did this all happen by accident or design?

White Horse Pilgrim said...

You're right that binge drinking and seeking to be entertained are endemic in Britain - and not just amongst the teenagers. One problem over here is a population bubble between the ages of about 15 and 25, meaning high youth unemployment and depressed wages.

But I also see perhaps more differentiation between those young people who think for themselves (there are some good ones about if you look) and the dull mass. It's as if the uniformity of the industrial era population has finally been lost.

Anyway, it's what the corporations want - masses of unthinking "consumers" who want the latest gadget, game or drink. I expect that the corporations have just such a plan in mind for Poland too. And, now that you aren't defending "Polishness" against the USSR and state socialism, it will be all the harder to resist this more insidious threat.

It's curious that, at work, one of the "targets" is that everyone has a "best friend" in whom they can confide. Oddly, some people are uncomfortable with this.