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  • Alastair Cavendish

Politeness costs Everything

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

If you ever find yourself thinking that the British government, while astonishingly stupid, is not actively malicious, try spending ten minutes on any one of their official websites. After this you should find yourself able to cook breakfast without benefit of gas or electricity, simply by balancing a frying pan on your head.

My latest close encounter of the infuriating kind occurred when I attempted to look up what requirements I would have to fulfil to leave this benighted country and spend some time in a more liberal environment, like Burma or North Korea. The government website contained a form, accompanied by the words “Complete this form to confirm that you have a reasonable excuse to travel abroad from England.” I do not think I have been asked for an “excuse” of any kind since I was 10 years old and wanted to get out of going on a cross-country run. Adults do not give excuses. We give reasons and explanations. Nor was this a single aberration. The site was full of references to “excuses” and concluded (really) with a reminder not to lose the form.

When, I wonder, did we start allowing our servants to speak to us like this? Who told Matt Hancock to conduct all his briefings in the shrill, peevish manner of a kitchen-maid complaining that half the jam is missing from the pantry. Who decided on the vicious, ill-mannered tone of all the government propaganda, hectoring the public with impertinent questions about out private lives? Who, above all, thought it appropriate to use the disgusting and degrading word “lockdown” to describe what was allegedly a measure for the protection of public health.

It is a great mistake to think that courtesy is a minor matter. To be polite is to show magnanimity and kindness in small ways, and those who fail to display these qualities on such a scale are scarcely likely to show them in great matters either. Our unspeakable prime minister was a member of the Bullingdon Society at Oxford, a group largely notable for the shocking discourtesy of its members. The initiation rituals were secret, but it was widely reported that they included burning a fifty-pound note in front of a homeless person. Although I never saw this happen, I did witness a club member jeering “My coat cost more than your education” at a beggar on Magdalen Bridge. This type of conduct is, quite simply, training for psychopaths.

The British public has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign of bullying and gaslighting by a government of uncouth louts. When the High Court finds, as it repeatedly has, that a cabinet minister is breaking the law in an attempt to hide his corruption, the minister in question responds that we should all be thanking him for his dedication to duty, which means that he was too busy to observe the law. When the prime minister’s closest advisor claims that his method of testing his eyesight is to speed along the motorway with some children in the back of his car, ministers trip over each other to insult our intelligence by telling us that this is the approved method of ensuring that your eyes are functioning correctly.

The discourtesy is the point. The government spends huge sums of your money telling you that you are too childish and stupid to have any control over your life. You are a disease-ridden plague rat, whose only function in society is to spread contagion. You deserve to be locked away and hidden behind a muzzle. Only those who embrace their slavery and kiss the whip are accorded a modicum of patronising praise for their compliance.

The government adds insult to injury, precisely because it is the insult that justifies the injury. You do not deserve freedom, they tell you, since you would only abuse it. Do not believe them, gentle reader. Ask yourself this: have you ever joined a club which existed for the purpose of jeering at poor people? Of course you have not. Have you been walking round hospitals spreading disease in order to make yourself feel important? I rather doubt it. Are you a virulent racist, a serial abuser of women, and a compulsive liar? Certainly not. This means that you are, in every possible way, a better human being than the haystack in a cheap suit who currently occupies the office of prime minister. This poisonous vegetable has made it his business to scour the length and breadth of the country for a cabinet so talentless and repulsive that they actually make him look acceptable by comparison. It would be a sacrilege, an offence against nature, if you were to allow such degraded creatures to persuade you for a moment that you deserved the abuse they have been heaping on your head continually for the last year.

We have all seen, on a train or in a supermarket, some appalling child screaming and bawling at its mother, who is, at least temporarily, cowed by this display of foul temper and rank bad manners. Such is the predicament of the British public. Well-behaved politicians should be seen and not heard, or, ideally, not seen much either, since most of them are remarkably ugly. Their job is to ensure the smooth running of the country, while the rest of us get on with our lives. It is when they forget themselves, and start squealing for attention, that they become a positive menace. This government’s disgusting rudeness has been a matter of both inclination and policy. They genuinely do not know how civilised people behave, but they have also used their vile manners to blame us for the chaos they have created, and distract us from their own culpability. The sooner someone gives them a good slapping the better. Where, I wonder, are all those people with milkshakes who were roaming the streets a couple of years ago, looking for fascists who would be improved by a dairy-based topping? When the wretched creatures are out of slapping or pouring range, however, the least we can do is to ignore their puerile insults, along with their ill-mannered and insubordinate attempts to tell their superiors what to do.

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