More official exhortation from the British state. This a poster on the underground.
Quite an interesting case, I think, because it isn’t the standard minatory approach: Do X as the Y agency demands, or get a big fine. This has the superficially laudable object of preventing children from bullying one another.
You may think (I do) that it ought to be unnecessary to urge people to protect children against bullies, and that this is not a suitable topic for state propaganda – that most adults could be counted on to intervene as a matter of ordinary humanity. But that reckons without the passivity and inanition fostered by 60 years of welfarism, and 30 years or so of ‘child protection’ doctrine under which speaking roughly to a little boy (let alone touching him), makes one the wickedest of criminals. You might have to work on people these days to get them to do something.
But plainly that isn’t the object of the exercise here. This ad doesn’t encourage people to stop bullying. For all the empty vapourings about ‘active citizenship’ (See here for an example of the Government propaganda on that topic that is churned out by notionally independent organisations), nothing may undermine the dependency culture. What this campaign is for is to get people to report incidents they think might be bullying to the authorities. There is a website and a subsidised telephone line for you to do so.
It is obviously impossible that this could help the unfortunate smaller boy. One has to conclude that isn’t really the point. The point is to get members of the public to adopt official attitudes, and engrain them by providing a mechanism to rehearse, to act out, concern. It is for to prove you are a compliant member of society by watching others carefully and reporting deviant behaviour. The state will deal with the problem, however minor, however fleeting, however apparently amenable to personal decision.
I don’t think that this is a deliberate, explicit project. I think it is a natural outcome of the cultural assumptions of those who commission such ads. We are not just supposed to love the surveillance camera, but to identify with it. The ideal citizen is a passive tool that reports back as requested; that fits in with the total bureaucracy’s demand for record.
For those of us – left and right – who still hold to the western liberal tradition of individual moral responsibility, this is a sickening, vertiginous conception of social life. The life of ants, not human beings. For those who are broadly conservative communitarians – right and left – who would like embedded institutions, direct relationships and personal responsibilities to dominate, likewise. The possibility that we may – all taken together – be in the minority should be a source of terror.
Secure beneath the watching eyes? Not in the slightest, me.