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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Brutish behaviour

Thursday, December 12th., Cadogan Square, London.

If a set of young men from the East End or from some provincial centre of Association football had gone in mass formation to Twickenham Football ground last Monday and by force and rowdyism rendered impossible the playing of the inter-Varsity match, there would have been a loud outcry in the newspapers, and in all polite circles, against their ill-mannered lawlessness; the police courts would have been densely populated next morning, and the non-payment of fines imposed would have ended in many doses of imprisonment.

Yet such conduct would have been no worse than the conduct, on that same day, of undergraduates from our ancient universities, which conduct began with processions on the tops of dining tables in fashionable restaurants and ended in the breaking up of a performance in at least one West End theatre; and which conduct occupied only a few inches of space in the papers and was forgotten by the enlightened public in less than twenty-four hours. It was generally understood that university rowdyism in London had been finished for ever by certain outrageous, destructive antics last year. Not so. 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If years of education at public schools and universities result in exhibitions of loutish violence which have no equal in Great Britain, what are we to think of the real value of such education? Whatever young men are taught at universities, they are not effectively taught either decency, or good manners, or self-control, or self-respect for the elementary social rights of others. They are taught to behave like savages - and to be proud of it. The immediate cause of these disgraces is, of course, simple drunkenness, senseless and brutish indulgence in alcohol. The excuse offered for the youths is that they are young. Which plainly implies a theory that we ought not to expect citizens to be decent, civilised and law-abiding until they have reached the age of at least twenty-one. Is this a tenable theory?

Additionally for December 12th., see 'On modern poetry' -

T.S. Eliot is arguably the most influential of the 'modern' poets, though I have never been able to understand why. I have read I don't know how many times his celebrated poem, The Waste Land, at the mention of which every younger poet bows the head in awe, and I simply cannot see its beauty. I don't say it has no beauty: I say merely that I can't see its beauty. I once asked Eliot whether his explanatory notes to The Waste Land were not a pulling of the public leg? I seriously thought they were. He seriously assured me that they were not. I bowed the head!

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