Friday, August 31, 2007

today : the five percent

Boris Johnson was close to the mark when he commented on Liverpool's tendency to be mawkish about it's own misfortune. Perhaps it is the Celtic influence on the culture that makes the city's upper lip not quite as stiff as the rest of the country. Open grieving and shows of collective emotion are just not very English.

Having said that, there is nothing wrong with a community pulling together in times of crisis - perhaps we should have more of it.

The moment when Liverpool fans paid tribute to the family of Rhys Jones was genuinely moving. However, the thing that I don't like is the fact that football no longer pays its tributes with silence, but applause. Which is sad for two reasons. Firstly, standing in a place amongst a crowd of many thousands of silent people is one of my favourite things. It is a strange, mysterious hyper-sensory experience. The second is the fact that a minutes applause is the direct response to the fact that football crowds attract the kind of people who annoy the hell out of us in general society - the ones who always have to point at themselves at the expense of others, the ones who will break social rules just to feel important. After one too many silent tributes were ruined by drunken idiots shouting obscenities and chanting, the protocol was changed.

Today I was almost run over by a guy in a Range Rover who was rat running my street at about 50 mph. The street is narrow and has cars parked on either side. I was crossing over to get to my car and he just didn't slow down. Despite the fact that I am clearly disabled and struggle to walk he simply expected me to get out of his way and made no move to slow down. At great pain I jumped out of the way as he sped past close enough that my walking stick clattered against his bumper. Angry, shocked and shaken up I gesticulated at him. His response was to stop, back up and get out of his Range Rover to hurl abuse at me. His first words were "I was fucking nowhere near you!", which kind of gave him away. How did he know I wasn't simply waving at him in a friendly manner, or gesticulating at a neighbour. The point is that everything about this guy screamed attention seeking. His Range Rover Sport was orange with a personalised plate. When he got out he was smothered with gold and the latest trendy overpriced designer jeans and sunglasses.

After a little exchange of abuse and threats on his part and verbose insults and threats on my part (imbecile, ignoramus, go home and wait for the police to arrive because I'm calling them in a minute) I made him go away without getting myself shot or stabbed. Little did he know that my experience as a school teacher stands me in good stead when dealing with bullies and idiots. I know how to stand up to imbeciles like him, can avoid making threats and can wind situations up or down pretty much at will, as well as being able to think almost as quickly as Jack Reacher. He had a memorable reg plate that even gave away his name and my thought is that he didn't really want to deal with police, which I promised. That's because he was exactly the kind of person who might have nine points on his licence for speeding or a bunch of unpaid parking fines for blocking up disabled spaces and narrow alleyways. He was clearly one of what I call The Five Percent - that one in twenty people whose arrogance and self-absorbed nature means they exist simply to piss the rest of us off with their attitude and attendant behaviour.

These are the people who cannot resist shouting out in a stadium full of silence. These are the people who graffiti their names on ancient monuments. These are the people who hate speed cameras because they should be allowed to drive as fast as they wish. These are the kids in the class who are more interested in challenging the rules than in following the curriculum. These are the people who park in the disabled space, who push to the front of the line, who drive down the hard shoulder or on the pavement, who go the wrong way down a one way. All this because, of course, they are better people and deserve to be noticed. Look at me! They need to feel above the rest of us (hence the Range Rovers), even as they know they are probably on the step below. The five percent are the cause of 95 percent of all our woes.

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