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With faith in future we can defeat yobs; How the Church can lead.

MIRROR read-ers had their say last week about what they believe to be the fundamental causes of yob culture.

Parental neglect, senile judges, the emerging underclass, Government incompetence, hollow materialism - all these reasons were advanced, and all are valid.

But the one that caught my eye was from N Jarvis of Aberdare, Mid Glamorgan. "The main reason for yob culture is the erosion of Christianity," he or she suggested. "As churches close, so crime increases."

Amen to that. It might be unfashionable to say so, but a country that loses its faith also loses its adherence to a moral code. Quite literally, it can't tell the difference between right and wrong. It has no concept of good and evil.

Tony Blair will be the first religious Prime Minister this country has had for generations. And his faith is not some pious "More tea, vicar?" Christianity but a robust set of beliefs that is at the very heart of New Labour's appeal. Tony Blair's political beliefs are inseparable from his religious beliefs. What they add up to is the conviction that man does not exist in a moral vacuum.

Prize

Yet the people of this country are certainly estranged from their faith. And perhaps this is because the Church of England is distanced from the people.

The Bishop of Wakefield described the pounds 42 million Lottery prize as "obscene". It would be interesting to know how the good Bishop describes the mass graves of Bosnia. Or the crimes of Fred and Rosemary West. The Church of England has a genius for making itself look irrelevant.

Now we learn that it is so strapped for cash that it is considering flogging off the lavish residences of its bishops. Already the Bishops of Worcester and Portsmouth have given up their historic homes for more modest accommodation.

But a spell in the real world will do them no harm at all. Perhaps they should consider doing the Lottery.

WAIL OF A TIME

PAUL Gascoigne was not the first footballer to shed tears on a football pitch. Bobby Chariton wept openly at the end of the 1966 World Cup Final.

But Sir Bobby wept tears of joy and triumph because England had just stuffed the Germans. Gazza wept tears of frustration and self-pity because his booking meant that he would miss the World Cup Final even if England stuffed the Germans.

Charlton wept for his country. Gascoigne wept for himself. Now the big daft ha'p'orth is reliving his most famous moment in a new commercial for Walker's crisps. And a very funny and effective ad it is, too. Gary Lineker, once again cast against type in a Walkers' commercial, plays Mr Nasty, angrily fending off Gazza's attempts to get inside his crisp packet.

Sobbed

When Gazza realises that the yummy, crunchy crisps are going to slip through his fingers - rather like that World Cup medal in 1990 - he bursts into tears that you could use to clean your windscreen.

It is all good fun, but I wonder if we should really be encouraging this sort of behaviour. After Gazza sobbed his heart out in Italy, the Nineties have witnessed a steady procession of hairy-bottomed lads blubbering like babies.

Tom Hanks seems to win an Oscar every year and every year uses it as an excuse to have a good old cry. Andre Agassi turned on the waterworks at Wimbledon. And Chris Evans wailed when he won a BAFTA. There is a place for male tears, but they should be used in moderation. They should be saved for moments of tragedy and grief. But after Gazza demonstrated that the world loves a weepy geezer, men started crying at the most inappropriate moments. Even chirpy umpire Dickie Bird cried as he announced his retirement from Test cricket.

Red-blooded male animals now feel free to act like female impersonators because large numbers of the population believe that the tears of a man demonstrate what a wonderful sensitive guy he is, even if he is crying for all the wrong reasons.

We can no longer tell the difference between cheap emotion and real feeling. But there is never an excuse for a man getting his BAFTA wet.

Men should stop acting like honorary women and save the tears for matters of life and death. Or we will be shaving our legs next.

PACKING A PUNCH

THESE are strange days when you can get coffee without the caffeine, cola that is sugar free and beer that has no alcohol.

So perhaps we shouldn't have been too surprised at the emergence of lemonade that can get you rat-faced.

Two Dogs, Zest and Hooch all sound as though they are enriched with marrowbone jelly and bits of rabbit. In fact what these "soft" drinks are enriched with is alcohol.

Since they were introduced from Australia six months ago, alcoholic soft drinks have become big business. But now the brewing industry has announced a clampdown on "alcopops", realising that unless they introduce a responsible code of practice on marketing, somebody else will.

But while we wait for brewers to put their house in order, be alert if a small child stumbles up to you and squeaks: "You're my best mate, you are . . . hic . . . no, honest, you're my best mate in the whole rotten stinking world . . . hic . . . who are you looking at? . . . I'm going to smash your face in."

And don't let them tell you that they are sober enough to ride their bicycle.

SHARKS CIRCLE FOR BILL

THERE was a nasty fishing accident in Konakovo, Russia, this week when an angler celebrated catching a 28in pike by giving it a big wet kiss.

Unfortunately, the pike wasn't in the mood for that sort of thing and promptly bit the unlucky angler on the nose.

The jaws of the beast remained tightly locked on the man's hooter, even after his friends had cut off its head. Doctors eventually removed it - the fish not the nose.

This kind of thing could not happen in America where armies of lawyers exist to punish men who force their attentions where they are not wanted.

Kissed

That pike would have been on the phone to its lawyer the moment it was kissed. The angler would have been taken to the cleaners rather than the casualty ward.

One American man facing charges of sexual harassment is Bill Clinton. Secretary Paula Jones, 28, is bringing a civil lawsuit against the President and seeking pounds 450,000 in damages.

She claims that Clinton propositioned her in a hotel room five years ago when he was Governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee.

Clinton insists the incident never happened and that Jones is a pawn of conservative elements who wish to scupper his chances of re-election.

Biting

What puzzles me is why Jones thinks she is entitled to pounds 450,000 even if Bill really did make eyes at her. Why should turning down Clinton be like winning the lottery?

Even more puzzling is why Americans can't settle this kind of incident without hordes of expensive lawyers. A woman has a hundred ways to tell a man "No".

She should have tried biting him on the nose.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Parsons, Tony
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 15, 1996
Words:1197
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