“The best lack all conviction…”

‘…while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

In the comments to Sean Gabb’s piece on Saturday, Stadtler draws our attention to a young man’s account of this incident on the London Tube:

On the afternoon in question, I was making my way north to catch a train to the Hackney Empire and a theatre-reviewing assignment. It was hot and crammed. Irritation was in the air even before three young lads got on the train with their blaring ghetto blaster. Everyone in the carriage met each other’s stares. Eyes were rolled. There were a couple of tuts. Then we all looked at the ground. Hell had just got worse.

The young man, Kieron Quirke, decided that he should act. It went about as well as you’d expect, of course…

I tapped one of them on the arm and asked either “Sorry, could you turn the music off ?” or “Sorry, could you pleaseturn the music off ?”The “please”, or lack of it, was crucial. In the prolonged, subsequent debate, what I in fact said was never satisfactorily resolved. I was anxious to move past what I considered a subsidiary issue. They, however, considered it most pertinent, their argument being that since I hadn’t shown sufficient respect, they were now entitled to turn the music up.

The situation rapidly went downhill from there, with Kieron snapping the CD and being verbally harassed by the (apparently descriptionless) thugs . But it was his anguished soul-searching, dithering, and lack of moral certainty that struck me most:

“Of course, replaying the situation, that was when I slipped from the moral high ground. On the scale of righteous interventionists, I was now a good few centimetres away from The Good Samaritan and edging closer to Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who took the law into his own hands.”

“…what did surprise me was how unaware the ringleader of my pack of three seemed of his age. It wasn’t just the faintly ridiculous way he tried to impose himself physically upon a man well past puberty and taller than him by a foot. It was the total confidence with which he asserted his own right to do whatever the hell he wanted in the face of the adults around him.”

“I stood there – 28 years old, with no dependants, a happy representative of a generation that avoids responsibility like the plague. I probably don’t plan for the future any more than that boy. Probably as many of my friends use drugs as his. To help me ignore the bizarre collection of Nineties-style sawheavy house he was playing, I took out my mobile phone and played a computer game. Hardly an adult activity. So I doubt I made an impressive disciplinarian.”

“Even at the time, a part of me wondered what authority I possessed to tell him to shut down his music.”

“…such an embarrassing act of Tube rage.”

Is it really any wonder we seem as if we are going to hell in a handcart?

3 comments for ““The best lack all conviction…”

  1. December 6, 2011 at 7:39 am

    He might not lack conviction for long. Theft, destruction of property, threatening behaviour….. sounds like an easy addition to BTP’s monthly numbers. šŸ˜‰

  2. Jeremy Poynton
    December 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    It’s not just London. Seven or eight years ago, having pitched camp and set up at my favourite, used for 20 years camp site near Lands End, four young folk turned up. Apparently intelligent, smart car, able to string a sentence together, they got out their tent, and before setting it up, put up a table, put a ghetto blaster on it. and proceeded to blast.

    SO I go up to them and say – look, I – and most everyone else who comes here – come here for the peace and quiet we get here, out of the City. If all you want to do is listen to loud music, why didn’t you stay at home? They did turn it off, but spent the rest of the time they were at the site making chippy remarks about the old twat up there. It’s the utter disregard for other people that gets me, the implicit, “fuck you”, we’ll do what we want. As I may have noted before, I’m 6’6″, big boned, and can look mildly derange when required. It does help, but fuck me these arseholes do piss me off.

    I have the greatest respect for the old guy on a train – this was reported some years back – who, when some twat had been using his mobile phone and talking at top volume for some minutes, and said twat went to the loo, leaving his mobile on the table, got up, opened the window, and chucked it out. Round of applause all round, I gather, and everyone pretended nothing had happened when said twat returned to his seat.

  3. Maaarrghk!
    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Two years back I shut the dividing window as a pair of drunk yobs were hurling abuse at a bloke in our carriage because he had helped a lass who had fainted at the last station, thus delaying the train by a couple of minutes.

    Next moment they were through the door and threatening me. I stood up to them and forunately so did a black guy and a couple of Iranian asylum seekers who were not much bigger than kids. If not for them I may well have been beaten to a pulp in front of my wife and the whole crowded train.

    When these thugs got off (still hurling abuse and threats) the looks I got from other (English) passengers were like something they’d just trod in.

    Says it all.

    Adopts most whinging whining tone anyone can possibly imagine – “Iiii dooon’t want to get invooolved”.

    Maybe one of them is you.


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