Trash Culture is an insulting name for broad spectrums of poor social behaviour in the UK. The concept links together many traits: binge drinking, pub culture, smoking, littering, the denigration of experts; specialists; and the well-educated, petty crime, violence at home, football fanaticism and hooliganism. The Institute for Public Policy Research reported in 2007 that British teenagers are the worst behaved in Europe1. It's tied to traditional pub culture and trashy tabloids such as The Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Daily Telegraph. A me-first selfishness sees the same people refuse to wear masks during the COVID19 pandemic.
Associated forms of xenophobia, such as racism, homophobia, and intolerance of others, have grown loud and go unchallenged on social media, even entering mainstream politics2. Attacks on liberal movements involved in fighting those things is routine.
Together, and with a social life centred online on groups of like-minded people sharing poor quality content that supports their points of view, it has formed an entire lost culture, which has too little influence upon it from the outside world. This culture is sometimes galvanised by outlandish (but increasingly mainstream) politicians that feed them with simple one-liner slogans in order to attract their votes. Parties include racist ones such as the BNP, National Front and related ones such as UKIP and groups such as Britain First. They have exerted a strong influence on the UK's Conservative Party, resulting in Brexit and other nationalist movements that are damaging the UK's future. Unfortunately, it will take some serious national failures before the backwardness of this movement is truly appreciated.
The UK has seen a 50-year growth in alcohol consumption and it has become a public-health crisis3. In 2007-8 it directly cost the NHS £3 billion3, and overall the national cost is up to £55 billion a year3,4. Across 2007-8, the UK had up to 40,000 alcohol-related deaths, including 350 from acute alcohol poisoning and 8,000 from cirrhosis of the liver3. Consumption has doubled since the late 1950s, whilst in other developed countries such as France and Italy, it has more than halved5; liver disease rates are falling in the EU, but the UK's rises6. The price of alcohol is half what it was in the 1970s5. Between 1995 and 2001, binge drinking increased by 35% in the UK5 . The increase in drinking "is reflected in rising death rates from chronic liver disease, the primary cause of which is too much drink", and the UK has some of Europe's worst rates of childhood drunkenness and several thousands of babies are born each year with foetal alcohol syndrome3, which has lifelong effects.
Pub culture is based around drinking relatively strong beer in a (once) smoky, noisy environment that is devoid of any intelligent conversation. It serves as the place where social groups all default to meet in, where businessmen network, where all go to relax. In trash culture the home is not a primary place to entertain friends: the pub is. Home cooking in the UK has quartered, fast food, eating-out and take-away consumption have experienced long-term booms. Once a proud nation of kitchen-socializers, our fitness and health is plummeting to the same fast-food standards of the USA. Pubs are centres of youth violence, shrines to football and sport and most pubs show frequent football games on a variety of large and small screens. Alcohol over-use has become institutionalized, and not just in labour industries. Professional meetings are frequently held in pubs and involve after-discussion binge-drinking. Feminist groups have complained that this pub & alcohol 'circle' around work meeting discriminates against women (who drink less).
Alcohol, irresponsible behaviour, crime and all the other factors of trash culture are all inter-related. Sociologists sometimes classify households according to the wages of the principal income earner of the house; "lower social groups tend to smoke more, drink more, take less leisure, fewer holidays and participate less in voluntary work"8. There is an association between poverty and drinking, but also between drinking and smoking, and between drinking and all the other aspects of trash culture.
With determination and persistent, it is possible to fight against trash culture. The UK has done excellently in reducing its smoking rate:
“Smoking is the UK's biggest cause of preventable death and 100,000 people die from related diseases every year9. The health of the nation affects everyone in the long-run10 - although in 2016/17 tax on cigarettes earned the government £7.6 billion11, in 2010 statistics showed the total cost to the economy of smoking (including NHS costs) was £13.7 billion12. 474,000 hospital admissions every year in England are directly due to smoking11.
But things are moving in the right direction. Since the 1970s, the government has enacted a stream of laws to improve public health: strong restrictions on advertising cigarettes, enforced health warnings on packs, increased costs, banned sports sponsorships and banned smoking in public enclosed spaces.11,13,14. Each of those measures was fought through long legal and PR campaigns by the tobacco industry13,14. But it is working, and smoking rates in Great Britain have declined from 50% in 1974 to 16% in 2016, and the spectre of childhood smoking has declined to 3%.11,15”
Smoking is intertwined deeply with "trash culture". If you smoke, you are more likely to drink. If you smoke or drink, you are also more likely to do drugs. Such was the conclusion of the 1999 publication from the Office for National Statistics entitled "Smoking, drinking and drug use among young teenagers in 1998". A key factor of trash culture is that it is self-promoting. Once trash habits become accepted, they spread themselves.
Smoking is higher amongst those who are already in trouble: single mothers smoke at 55%, most homeless do and practically 100% of drug addicts do16.
“Today only 15% of men in the highest professional classes smoke, but 42% of unskilled workers do.”
The Economist (2007)16
“As annual income increases prevalence of smoking generally decreases. In 2016 those with an annual income of less than £10,000 were almost twice as likely to smoke as those with an annual income of £40,000 or more.”
"Briefing Paper: Statistics on Smoking" by Lydia Jackson (2017)11
Amongst young teenagers, "the likelihood of having ever used drugs is strongly related to smoking experience: 63% of regular smokers had used drugs, compared with only 1% of those who had never smoked". With drinking the statistics are also similar and cyclic: 44% of young teenagers who drink also get involved in drugs, compared with only 1% of children who don't drink. And importantly, in case it is doubted that all these factors propagate one another, "virtually no children who had never smoked or drunk had ever used drugs".
The key for parents and teenagers is to delay drinking and smoking until children are older. This usually means giving up themselves, especially in front of their children.
So far we have seen that smoking, drinking and immature drug use have all gone hand in hand. The evidence is social, but there is also direct biological links between smoking and trash culture that transcend social factors, as reported in the British Medical Journal (2005)17:
If a mother smokes 20 or more cigarettes a day during late pregnancy, their child will have reduced IQ by an average of 6.2 points.
Smoking's "adverse effect on the central nervous system and brain may be a factor" which "may explain why smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to behavioural problems and increased risk of criminality in offspring"
This direct link is part of the self-propagation of the irresponsible and short-sighted aspects of trash culture. What is more is that the effect of smoking takes place across all income classes. It affects the children of professionals as much as the children of the unemployed: Money cannot make up for the loss accrued from smoke (and passive smoking) during pregnancy.
|Compared to Europe (2016)19|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
|2||Bosnia & Herzegovina||53.3|
Over 2 in 3 adults in the UK are overweight20. It has widespread knock-on effects for the rest of the UK, resulting in lost-hours of work, developed disabilities and social care costs. A UK government Commons Health Select Committee report in late 2015 stated that obesity costs the UK economy £27 billion every year21 and the total costs to Britain were widely reported in 2014 to be £47 billion22,23 - more than war, violence and terrorism combined22,23. It costs the National Health Service £5.1 billion per year24. Childhood obesity presents the greatest long-term risk (and cost) and parents must do more to instigate sensible eating practices25. In early 2016, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that UK rates of childhood obesity constituted a national emergency26.
All modern countries have been witness to a gradual improvement in health, as huge amounts of research and development have been put into medical services, as well as comprehensive and careful regulation of toxic materials, product safety and workplace risks. In the face of this, a new generation of complacent and daft adults has arisen, who are addicted to poor lifestyle choices, trusting that the state, that the welfare system, will look after them.
The British Army has to recruit an increasing number of soldiers from abroad - from Fiji, Nepal and Ghana: Michael Yardley in The Oxford History of the British Army (1994) writes that "entrants from abroad tend to be mentally and physically tougher than locally harvested recruits and highly motivated to boost their skills and academic qualifications" and that local British Army recruits tends to be "not as tough" as previous generations - they are "soft" and "couch potatoes"27.
As obesity rises, there are a whole suite of physical jobs for which British natives are becoming unsuitable. Workers imported from elsewhere in Europe are physically fit, motivated, and much more likely simply to get on with it, unlike the 'couch potatoes' mentioned by Michael Yardley.
British youths in particular (not so much older people) are very fashion-conscious. As in history, cliques are largely identified by fashion. The worrying thing in trash culture is that others are actively hated for dressing differently. Whereas in other cultures differences are accepted as part of the natural order of society, in trash culture only the "in" styles of dress are seen as "normal". Toleration extends to business suits only through pragmatism, but stops short of anything else. So, those who wear foreign dress, religious dress, the alternative dress of subcultures, etc, are all actively sought out as victims. This problem persists as much in rural areas as it does in urban ones. Although not unique to trash culture, this style of shallow intolerance is notable for its deeper ignorance than is usual. Thankfully, this particular aspect does seem to reduce with age, so that it is worse with the youths.
The whole thing is called xenophobia - a negative emotional reaction to those who are different, and which underlies intolerance, illiberalism. It's most well-known is the ugly grimace of racism. Civility requires that we do what we can to curb the horrible human instinct to distrust those who look different to ourselves.
Although, overall, the developed world has been going in the right direction since the fascists were defeated in World War Two, there have now been two decades in which far-right nationalism, together with its racist drum beats, have been growing in volume.
“Anti-semitism, weapons-grade misogyny, white supremacism, homophobia and quite horrible attempts to frame all Muslim people as complicit in the actions of any Muslim terrorist or criminal have moved squarely into the mainstream media. I believe that this has happened precisely because divisive sloganeering and rancid rhetoric have gone unchecked. In short, people are not being challenged to justify their views, or to explain why they think what they do.”
"How To Be Right... in a World Gone Wrong" by James O'Brien (2019)2
The UK has a growing problem with prejudice against immigrants and foreigners28,29,30. A smattering of horrible racist gangs such as Combat 18 and National Front dispersed into a series of more media-savvy outfits, giving leadership, expertise and followers to Britain First, UKIP and the English Defence League (EDL)31. They run on a popular30 platform of anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric. These groups, spurred on by misinformation and distortions in online social bubbles of hate, became so popular as to shift the Conservative Party, the UK's main party, to the extreme right of mainstream politics. Nationalism, prejudice and racism has become overt over the past 10-15 years32, and mainstream defence of human rights and democracy is under attack along with ill-defined "lefties".
Some very popular papers report on immigration in entirely skewed and negative terms33,34. The formula is that everything bad can be tied to immigration, foreigners and fraudulent asylum seekers.29. The UK does not have high levels of immigration30 but it is impossible to reach a sensible view of the truth by relying on the hot-blooded, xenophobic and misleading diatribes of some popular newspapers such as The Daily Mail29, The Express, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph and The Sun.29,35. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights singled out The Sun as a source of hate due to its dehumanisation and demonisation of migrants36. These newspapers are also the most popular. How can the populace ever vote in elections wisely, when their understanding of migration is tainted with this type of horrible bias? The emotional response (even if followed up with more careful news reports seen elsewhere) is hard to replace with balanced tolerance. There is nothing to stop the papers endlessly peddling this type of trash: it sells because it panders to fear and ignorance, and in being sold, they encourage those traits in readers.
For the full text on this topic, see: Misinformation and Fake News on Immigration in the UK.
Irresponsible popular newspapers such as The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Daily Telegraph, have ran long campaigns, spreading misconceptions and hostility to Europe, even though neither "troubles to keep a staff correspondent in Brussels" to see what is going on there. As a result of British prickliness "many EU countries are fed up with Britain and especially, with the Tories". In a democratic institution involving so many countries the only way to get what you want is to compromise, so senior Conservative leaders have expressed hope for a more harmonious relationship, including Mr Cameron and William Hague.37
“Why is the Tory party so Eurosceptic? One answer is that it reflects public opinion. So the real question should be why so many of the British (and more specifically, the English) are so hostile to the European project. Eurobarometer polls consistently put Britain at or near the bottom of the heap in answers to such questions as whether EU membership is a good thing or how much trust people have in the EU institutions. The explanation for such views is to be found partly in the country's geography and history, partly in its experience as a member and partly in ignorance and prejudice. [...] Making things worse is a profound ignorance of what the EU does and how it works.”
The Economist (2010)37
One effect, because of the sensationalism of the press, is a massive exaggeration in the popular mind of how many EU immigrants there are in the UK. Even those who accept and embrace the EU (i.e. 'Remain' voters in the 2016 referendum) think there are twice as many EU immigrants as there really are:
Source: Ipsos MORI poll (2016)38
Europhobia is a compound effect of various elements of trash culture combined: xenophobia, adult ignorance, distrust of intellectuals and reliance on poor sources of news on politics.
There is a massive market for mass media products aimed at low-attention-span types. Male-dominated trashy tabloids depict female nudes, fictional short stories of the most banal and stupid kind, advice columns designed to shock rather than educate, and news stories that are widely known to be entertaining rather than true. The Sun, The Star, The Daily Sport, for example, are three of most popular "news" papers. Television has become the resident priest of Trash, nearly all programs cater for people with short-attention spans. Adverts are quick and shocking, programs are simplistic and moronic. Although more educated content exists, it is unpopular.
British soap operas are famously violent, angry, shocking, melancholic tragedies depicting casts of characters that are all short-sighted, utterly dumb, emotionally-challenged failures who seem allergic to honest, good relationships and intellectual pursuits. The masses are taught every way to fail a relationship and shown none of the compassions or developed attitudes expected of responsible adult relations. Petty crime, short-tempers and stupidity on the TV soaps reflect perfectly the mentality of trash culture, the self-perpetuating cause-and-affect cycle of this coupling is hard to break without serious top-down change.
Football is an institutionalized sport in Britain. Major matches are almost national holidays, with employees and their bosses finding ways to, almost religiously, watch the game live. It is the trademark of English yob culture, but suffers from long-standing negative associations with rowdy and antisociable behaviour39. Our fans are the most violent, least respectful, most disruptive and worst behaved in the world. It seems that it attracts the worst types of people, frequently sending them abroad en masse, crowding them together in the worst possible ways. But worse of all the culture around football doesn't only attract these personality types, it seems to develop them. It has become a self-indulgent sport of national moral decadence; around football you will find the worst violence, hatred, racism, xenophobia and homophobia. The most ignorant people will be commended in their stupidity, the entire culture of football is the tallest tower that trash culture can manufacture. The attitudes surrounding football have become an ugly monstrosity that overshadows what would otherwise be a sport concentrated on tremendous skill. But English trash culture, stupid, irresponsible, uncaring and violence, has made this sport its mascot and its primary recruiting ground. English youths are pressurized into football culture by peer pressure as much as they are sucked into trash culture; the two are both symptoms and causes of an inherently dysfunctional central-mass of the English populace. International distrust of the UK, and our culture, comes from our pitiful public displays during football matches, especially abroad.
Jeremy Paxman is only stating obvious and well-known cases when he spends multiple pages of his book listing the atrocious activities of British hooligans abroad and at home, fighting with visiting fans. "The English Problem is the hooligan problem"40. Amongst the horrifying events he iterates is one in the summer of 1985 May, "when a major disturbance between Liverpool and Juventus fans left nearly forty Italians dead on the pitch". Drunken English youths throw chairs, stones and anything, at anyone, especially at opposing fans, shops and police. No other country has fans that act in the same league as ours".
Our good-natured fans do little or nothing to restrict the bad ones; football culture is beyond repair, an international bother, an embarrassment, and no-one has the societal know-how to do anything about it. Clearly the "scum of the Earth" lowest-of-the-low recruits that were once indulged to join the Army have now found a new societal outlet: Football, under the protection of trash culture, is Britain's belated Hitler Youth movement.
“In Turin in the late 1980s, the writer Bill Buford watched with horror as a group of bloated Manchester United football fans staggered off the aircraft that had brought them from England [...]. The fans colonized the town center, sitting in their tattoos in sidewalk cafes singing "Fuck the Pope" over and over again, occasionally getting up to piss in the street. And that was when they were being well behaved, and not attacking the 'fuckin' eyeties' with sticks, knives or bottles. [...] Certainly, you don't expect to find plane-loads of Italians pouring into the centre of London and behaving in a similar fashion. [...] In Sardinia for the 1990 World Cup, Bill Buford watched as a mass of English football hooligans fought a pitched battle with the Italian police. [...]
The problem is not exclusively English - Dutch and German fans have developed their own versions of the sickness in which puffy-faced young thugs proclaim their loyalty by kicking or stoning anyone who speaks a different language or wears different colours. But the truth is that the English gave the world soccer. They also gave it hooliganism.”
Less serious than that is simple football mania. Charlotte Church, singer, said "I just can't stand the UK's obsession with football. It's on the telly all the time. Saying that, I'd be the first to admit David Beckham really is very gorgeous. But men who talk football, football and nothing else - no thanks! They're such a bore"7. The television, largely catering for trash culture types, but especially pubs that show all football matches, have created classes of people who drink, eat, talk and sleep football. It forms a barrier against friendly social contact with non-fans in the same way you can't really talk to a raving fundamentalist Christian about anything else other than his own strong opinions. Socially, it causes alienation of the British public that so many of us are football mad, especially when the very same people are frequently the ones to deride USA patriotism... they don't see their own fandom as the same thing, the same personality trait that sweeps up fans into aggressive fanhood also whips many Americans into fervent and unreasonable patriotism. Football is the UK's answer to patriotism, the only problem is that those involved don't admit it is the same thing as the USA's.
The 2015 Feb Paris Incident
In 2015 Feb, an incident in Paris saw a large number of English football fans chanting Chelsea football slogans, and, shouting racist chants, and comments about World War 2 that were probably anti-French39. They forcibly ejected a black man from the carriage when he tried, twice, to enter, and prevented another black woman from entering. The scene was caught on camera by another Briton at the station who described the yobs at the "ugly scene" to be "very aggressive"39 and it was widely reported in the News in France and the UK, causing much embarrassment for the British public as a whole. Together, the British crowd sung "We´re racist, we´re racist and that´s the way we like it"39,42.
Josh Parsons posing with Nigel Farage, leader of the
anti-foreigner UKIP party, 4 months beforehand42
Josh Parsons (21) and Mitchell McCoy are two of the chanting thugs who have been identified. Mitchell has tried to defend the crowd, making the excuse that the train was crowded and so they saw to it that no more people got on. But this hardly explains the racist chanting, in English, on a French train. "At the time of the incident, McCoy sent a number of tweets which he later deleted, including one which read: Our captain is a racist a racist a racist and that is why we love him we love him we love him"42. Both identified thugs are supporters of UKIP, a toxic single-issue political party that campaigns against foreigners in the UK. These two young men and their chanting friends no doubt complain loudly about antisocial foreigners coming to the UK and not speaking English. The racism, attitude and chanting are abhorrent and hypocritical, and everyone involved and all those that know them should forcefully tell them what a national embarrassment they are.
Children are coming into the schooling system completely undisciplined, uneducated and unsocialized. Teachers are having to double-up as crowd-control agents and triple-up as moral teachers. Peer pressure to conform to the negatives of trash culture is powerful. One report says children are given "crisps and chocolate for school breaks to prevent peer ridicule"43. Ill health, obesity and lack of exercise are three things that also dim intellectual health. Children from families immersed in trash culture educate poorly, and are more likely to fail to educate their children, therefore perpetuating a cycle from which people escape only in ones and twos.
A comparison of major European countries showed British youths to be near the top of every table comparing drugs, drink, violence and promiscuity44. The UK has the highest rate of under 18s pregnancies not only in Europe, but in all the developed world except for the USA45. Brits "are more likely to binge-drink, take drugs [...] and start fights. [...] 38% confessed to trying cannabis, more than five times the rate in Sweden. British teenagers are also bigger drinkers, with 27 per cent admitting to getting drunk regularly. In Italy, the figure is five per cent and in France it is just three per cent"1. There's only a few years between youth misdevelopment, and young adult delinquency. "Townies", and drunken ones at that, make most city centres and the areas around popular pubs unfriendly and noisy places across all of Britain, every Friday night.
Multiple attempts to reform schooling have not been successful and the government is reluctant to be seen to be interfering in parenting. An entire culture change is required.
In youthful trash culture, intelligence is attacked. In pubs, intelligent conversation is frowned upon, scorned, laughed at and sought for as a target for ridicule. That mainstream culture rejects better people is not new, but the depths to which this has permeated British culture is the principal dangerous aspect of trash culture. Mature relationships, long-term planning, health, fitness, responsible living and all other personal endeavours are scoffed at. It is a mass reaction against anything elitist, so much so that intelligent culture has abandoned large swathes of the country, retreating into sidelined subcultures. The youthful short-term wish-fulfilment of trash culture has become the accepted norm.
Jeremy Paxman (1998)46 charts the modern British rejection of intelligence. Intellectuals, once respected, now hide. Across British lands we distrust, ridicule and dislike them. It is an odd and disappointing loss, in a country responsible for the foundation of so much of Western academia! The only consolation is that we are still endowed with common sense; the ordinary Brit is resourceful even whilst ignorant.
As a result of the lack of understanding of issues and facts, the populace hold "ideals", meaning thinking, to be useless. Debate of ideas is frowned upon, distrusted and disliked. The rejection of intellectual methods of debate, argument and active learning are all rejected; instead, it has become taboo to question peoples' opinions and beliefs on issues. Frank Furedi writes insightfully that "a strong argument has been redefined as a form of mental intimidation", I quote him in full below. This modern trend is also eating away at the superiority of British Universities, the once-bastions of worldly knowledge and wisdom!
“British universities encourage academics to ban an 'adversarial' style of debate from the seminar rooms and provide a 'supportive environment' for students. A strong argument has been redefined as a form of mental intimidation. Such attitudes are even more in evidence on American campuses. 'Debate has gotten a very bad name in our culture', notes Jeff Nunokawa, a professor of English at Princeton University. '[I]t's become synonymous with some of the most non-intellectual forms of bullying, rather than as an opportunity for deliberative democracy.'
Given the extent to which the authority of knowledge has been devalued, the negative connotations acquired by conflict of opinion and heated debate are entirely understandable. With so little at stake, what's the point of arguing? If ideas have such little consequence, insistence of one's point of view appears as pig-headedness and bad manners. Criticizing someone else's ideas is readily interpreted as ego-tripping or as an act of insensitivity, while the very act of questioning someone's view can appear as a personal insult. 'It's as though there's no distinction between the person and the argument, as though to criticize an argument would be injurious to the person', observes Amanda Anderson, an English professor at Johns Hopkins University.”
It is not only the University academia that has become loathed, but also the authority of scientific knowledge. Hughes and Fergusson, two sociologists with the Open University, write that although the notion of an authority figure of knowledge & intellect was respected and trusted, nowadays their wisdom is not appreciated by UK society48. They say in the UK that "we have become progressively disenchanted with those who claim to be grand 'experts', especially those that rely upon the authority of science to back up their claims". The anti-intellect and anti-responsibility auras of popular culture both combine to form a particularly ignorant form of science-blindness amongst masses of the population.
More humorously, in the light hearted "How to be an Alien49" George Mikes says that "in England it is bad manners to be clever, to assert something confidently. It may be your own personal view that two and two make four, but you must not state it in a self-assured way, because this is a democratic country and others may be of a different opinion"50.
The decline of several major industries in the UK and the dismantling of the Empire left a country with fundamental holes in its social fabric. This, as much as the trash culture that rose to fill the space, caused the occurrence of petty crime at the same levels as seen in other modern industrial countries. Traditionally (they say) a more dutiful country of obedient citizens; the British lost their code of honour. Petty crime, robbery, street crime and the likes are a part of all major cities, but it seems it is made doubly worse by the pervading drunken, short-sighted trash culture; and such a behaviour is learned and therefore runs in families51. A culture of anti-police and anti-authoritarianism exists where criminals are all but encouraged. This was apparent in the nineteenth century when professional police forces were gradually being created across Europe and it was the British who protested most loudly; Britain came to lag behind Europe in the effectiveness of the judiciaries and in civilities52. Small-time benefit fraud has become a norm in all poverty-stricken families as the short-term, muddled minds of the mainstream populace fail to see the long-term consequences of social misbehaviour. Selfishness and irresponsible behaviour extends to both the criminal and innocent sides of pub culture.
Smoking, drinking, drugs, low intelligence and other symptoms of trash culture are not only prevalent amongst the same groups of people, but they all act as factors in each other's propagation. This is what the sociologists Boreham & Blenkinsop published as a result of their survey of 10,000 secondary school children (aged 11-15, in school years 7 to 11) carried out on behalf of the Department of Health by the National Center for Social Research and the National Foundation for Educational Research. The use of multiple substances; cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, volatile substances and class A drugs, were all found to be individually related to each other53. It can start before birth. If you smoke whilst young, you are more likely to drink too. Over-drinking mothers reduce the average IQ of their children, and, the less intelligent are more likely to drink more. Even the over-indulgence in fast food can cause pregnant mothers' children to be born addicted to junk food54. Peer-pressure plays an undisputed role. Of pupils who had taken drugs in the past year (30% of all children), only 8% said none of their friends did. In other words, amongst users, 92% had friends who had also used.
“All correlations were statistically significant and positive, thus pupils who had recently taken one of these substances were more likely than pupils who had not to have taken each of the other substances. [...] Pupils who had ever played truant were considerably more likely than those who had not to have taken drugs in the last month (38% compared with 7%), to be a regular smoker (33% compared with 4%) and to have drunk alcohol in the last week (52% compared with 19%). Similar patterns were found for pupils who had ever been excluded.”
The elements above are causes and effects of trash culture. To definitively sort out the causes from the symptoms of cultural change is impossible. One cause/symptom is the simple fact that the length of TV adverts and popular music has reduced. Adverts are shorter, pop music tracks are shorter, public entertainment is briefer. In addition, thrills are quicker, cheaper and simpler. Do all these things shrink because our attention span is decreasing, or, does the production of cheaper, quicker thrills cause attention spans to decrease? Intelligent music; classical, intelligent "upper-class" entertainment such as theatre, intelligent movies (not mindless ones), radio, all require greater patience and calm intellect to be enjoyed. It is very hard to point to which elements of pop culture are causing trash culture elements and which are causes of it.
Does a decreasing sophistication of the arts and public entertainment cause the short-attention-span mentality, or is it simply that those with short attention spans or low intellect are now given an entertainment that suits them and keeps them occupied? Is it that there has always been a trash culture at the center of every social empire, and now in the West we have simply given them centre stage? Or is it that the pandering to our simple sides creates shallower behaviour, in a self-perpetuating cycle?
Sociologists would give the name of secondary reference group to the position of trash culture in the UK. This means that the general background culture is a culture of short-term thrill-seeking & youthful ignorance, and this is the cultural reference under which all subcultures exist in the UK. A primary reference group is normally an individual's immediate family. Academic circles, intelligent subcultures, highly skilled classes, etc, have all become effective subcultures to trash culture. In the history of the British Empire it was the educated, ignorant-but-educated masses that was the mainstream culture. Sometime since the late 1940s, trash culture rose to prominence and displaced aristocratic idealism as the central mass. This decade has seen heavy government intervention cause slow reverses in some of these trends, but the cycle of trash culture remains. To break it, each individual element must be resisted and greater levels of general education must be reached.
Three generations of trash culture have existed since its rise to prominence after World War 2, and many of its anti-intellectual youths institutionalized the culture. Uneducated adults of the first wave have produced an entrenched system of family-based and local systems of ignorance. Adults with racist, stupid, ignorant and short-sighted emotional goals proudly pass on their traits to their children. Children are not coached into becoming more developed, intelligent adults: that type of future is actively discouraged. Only the most unique children break free. For many, trash culture it is no longer a potential trap to fall into but a default from which escape is necessary: Since the 1960s there have been no more English gentlemen56.
If democracy is to work, the electorate need to be well-informed, and therefore to support parties and lobbies on the basis of good evidence and sensible argumentation58. Too often, mass delusion overwhelms good sense. Such problems undermined several early attempts at democracy in Europe in the 18th century59. Founding thinkers such as Aristotle, Fortescue and Machiavelli taught that deliberation (which requires intelligence and knowledge) is a key aspect of democracy60. It is sensible to assert that if you don't understand a topic, then you shouldn't vote on it61. But the problem is, many do vote on stances based on an inadequate footing: sound-bites, one-liners, sensationalist newspaper stories, short-term thinking, and anecdotal evidence62 cause unbalanced opinions. A "race to the bottom" condition is created whereby parties come into power based on who has the most pithy reactionary statements rather than who has the best policies63.
Such are the issues referred to when commentators worry about "post-truth politics". In a world where reality-TV is orders of magnitude more popular than politician's policies most news reporting centres on interpersonal battles that ought to be kept private. News outlets report trash because it sells; and politics continues a nosedive into rash popularism. If the populace do not soon began to vote with deliberation, then, the entire democratic project runs the risk of failure62.
The widespread lack of understand of social issues and democracy, causes the government to rule by stealth. As people do not understand politics or worldwide issues, science or sociology, so the concerns of the electorate become worryingly vapid. People vote on the most simple and nonsensical things and so the government must run one campaign for the masses, and one for the intelligent. It is the campaign for the masses that brings most votes. It is no longer respectable for the government to claim, as it could do, that its members are better educated than most and actually do know what is best, unlike the mass population who have little appreciation of the concerns a modern government faces. British Conservative and Labour governments have made themselves incapable of dealing with trash culture in an honest way; allowing parties that have simplistic, pseudo-racist and poorly-thought-out policies to rise, such as UKIP.
A humility amongst the educated and the wise is a form of disability that has accidentally grown trash culture. A culture that deems delinquency acceptable contributes to youth conduct disorder64.
The Institute for Public Policy Research report 2007 warns that "British adults are becoming afraid of trying to curb out-of-control youngsters. We are less likely than our European counterparts to confront teenagers about antisocial behaviour and vandalism"1. What is needed is a strong movement of civilist preachers, teachers, philosophers and writers, all to encourage the active recognition and condemnation of trash culture for what it is. Pupils in schools should be taught how to think critically and not to follow others mindlessly. Independent minded youths are less influenced by peers to take substances65. But this campaign must be done without invoking images of class warfare (which it is definitely not - the modern upper class have more than their fair share of drunken racist idiots too). We need a culture that once again makes it a matter of public pride to be civil, fair, considerate, and intelligent. This, in short, means destroying the social acceptance that trash culture has gained in the media and in society.
Britain now (2006) has some of the toughest anti-social behaviour laws in Europe.
“Since coming to power in 1997, the Labour government has forged more than a dozen legal weapons to combat the petty incivilities that are thought to corrode society. They range from on-the-spot fines to "dispersal orders", which can be used to expel people from designated areas, to ASBOs.”
The Economist (2006)67
These are described simultaneously as "unusually tough powers" for a government to be allowed to pass, and part of the reason is that the anti-social 'hard line' is popular. Many people, even whilst participating in it, profess a belief that trash culture is bad for society, disturbs the peaceful life, and should be curbed by the government. As a result, as trash culture has become more assertive; spilling into the streets of adulthood rather than being confined to rebellious youths of the 1970s, there is a constant feeling that something has to be done. As a street-level government, Labour is in touch with this movement and does indeed proceed to battle with trash culture. It has done pleasingly well; the Labour government has reversed the smoking trend, partially turning smokers into outcasts with all kinds of anti-public-smoking laws and regulations, and has run campaigns against obesity, even taking this campaign to the constitution of school meals. The Guardian newspaper, reported that in 2006 that the "tide of binge drinking that threatened to engulf Britain has started to recede" amongst men and women over the last two years68 and The Economist (2012)69 reported that some of strongest brands of beer have reduced their alcohol content from 5% to 4.8%. This is the biggest decrease breweries thought they could get away with without consumers noticing, but, it is still a start!
Britain's level of education was once a proud symbol of civility; but after a century of stagnation, most of Europe (and the rest of the developed world) have greater levels and length of education. This was partially rectified from 2013, which saw legislation demand that all young people in England stay "in education or training until at least their 18th birthday"70.
“The measure... reflects a determination to bring Britain into line with the rest of the developed world. [...] The plight of the so-called "NEETS" - young people not in education, employment or training - is another powerful reason to reform things. At any one time about 10% of those between 16 and 18 fall into this category. The 1% who stay in it for the whole two years are likely to end up among the long-term unemployed.
So from 2013 all 16-year-olds will have to spend at least 16 hours a week in education or work-based training. The only alternative will be working at least 20 hours and training in the classroom for just a day a week. These rules will be extended to 17-year olds in 2015.”
The Economist (2007)71
The government, and sociologists, are hopeful that public education and improved social policy can continue to reduce the harmful effects of trash culture, but the clash between sense and mindless hedonism is apparently an eternal one.