12 June 2013

endemic irritation

● Everyone’s in a state of “hair-trigger fury”, wrote someone the other day, in connection with Higham-gate (the village dog show fracas). It reminded me of something I wrote myself a while back.
Reacting personally (or “reactively”) is, I believe, a more widespread phenomenon than is generally realised. It may be related to the fact that, in a mediocracy, the old systems of politeness have been stripped away, leaving everyone continuously irritated and (beneath their affected nonchalance) on a hair-trigger to express barely-contained anger.

This type of behaviour seems to have permeated every section of society. Spitting into restaurant food, or assigning bad plane seats, are traditional ways of responding to someone who ticks you off. More recently, we have heard of such phenomena as bank managers giving one bad credit ratings if one has upset them in some way, e.g. by sounding too shirty on the phone.
What are the sources of this modern anger? Not only that politeness has become discredited. Surely also that most people nowadays have been to state schools where – because the teachers, not being remunerated directly by parents, have no economic incentive to do their charges psychological good rather than harm – their amour propre has been crushed, leaving them feeling relatively dejected and useless.
Add to that an ideology which censures any feelings of smugness, or other forms of feeling pleased with oneself, and which encourages everyone to critically analyse themselves and each other in cod-Freudian fashion.
It’s not a pretty mixture.