"...in England's green and pleasant land" - and Britain, in summer sunshine, is a hard place to beat for scenery, fresh air and that sense of history that has never quite been captured by other, even more ancient, civilisations. Of course, the fact it is particularly green this year is due in no small measure to the inordinate amount of rain that has fallen during the summer, but I am less certain what has happened to some aspects of the "pleasant" part of the William Blake song.
It seems that Britain has suffered a number of serious setbacks in its basic "make-up" when you read headlines that indicate the country has fallen victim to a spate of gun crime, particularly among teenagers. (While the highlighted article starts with a comment on a recent event, the statistics that follow are scary). When you read that a law-abiding citizen was shot dead because he asked some people, politely, to stop smoking in a non-smoking area. Other example include news that provides a glimpse of one of today's role models (so they tell me), Pete Doherty - former boyfriend of Kate Moss - who is allowed to walk free - yet again after escaping sentencing for drug related offences. Together with him, the troubled singer Amy Winehouse, the antics of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears elsewhere, and a series of British Government ministers who have admitted to smoking weed, no wonder the impressionable teens in Britain think that "beating the rap" is legitimate.
From a different corner, comes news of a woman in Britain who suddenly discovered that she had gained GBP135,000 in her bank account; unexpected and unexplained - and so she spent it! She was convicted of theft, and now awaits sentencing. It is not my place to comment on the case, but this seems inherently correct.
What surprised me though was the attitude of many people interviewed after the event. I heard people saying that something similar had happened to them, and they had returned the money to the bank - but that they were shocked when the bank did not "reward" them for their honesty. Have we become so morally bankrupt that we now have to expect a reward for doing what is morally correct? Or, bizarrely in my view, are seriously contemplating some form of payment to children to "encourage" their attendance at school? The list goes on...and who gets the blame?
Usually the finger gets pointed at the Government. But surely what has been created in Britain, and perhaps other "developed"(?) countries, has been the result of parents abdicating responsibility for their children's upbringing, being in some cases "scared" of their children - and not using a word like "No!" because in our morally sensitive society, saying "No!" creates negative feelings in a child's development.
The creation of an environment that protects a child against any kind of ill-treatment is welcomed, but just allowing children to do what they want is seriously at the other end of the scale. It puts at risk the moral fibre of the country - a set of standards by which we should live. While countries in Asia continue to try and improve their moral standards, Britain will not necessarily be the best model to follow in the future.
I generalise. Of course I do, but if the level of serious teen crime continues to rise, if the standards of education fall (despite apparent record increases in exam results this year), if the role models escape censure, and if we don't learn to say "No!" a little more frequently, William Blake's song might have to refer just to "...a green land" - that is if they haven't actually set fire to it!