In the aftermath of the unrest of the summer of 2011 one might be forgiven for thinking that civilisation is collapsing around our ears and that we are facing the end of days. Except that this kind of doomsaying itself is nothing new and has existed for as long as mankind has been keeping records of it. An excellent article in The Economist put it far better than I could and suggested that perhaps Grand Theft Auto is no more responsible for the moral decline in today's youth than Chaplin's early silents were for the Great Depression.

If anything such invective merely demonstrates that if one thing is inevitable it's aging. The old will always disparage the young because they are angry about getting old. The answer to "are you getting old or is it crap?" is invariably "You're getting old".

Or is it?

I work at the same educational establishment where years ago I studied for a degree. Back then things seemed so much simpler, so much more black and white. We successfully conducted a campaign to ban the sale of The Sun from the campus newsagent mainly because of Page Three and its offensiveness to women.

In cynical retrospect I suspect that many of the spotty young men who got involved with this (myself included) may have had ulterior motives.  In allying themselves with such a feminist cause they no doubt hoped to gain enough brownie points with the women that they might stand a chance of seeing some real breasts...  Nevertheless it was a start. Whatever their original motives, involvement in such campaigns might mean that some political thought might rub off on such young men. In the end might they not become better people for it? It is not for nothing that ones student years are often synonymous with political activism.

Fast forward to the present day as an employee of said establishment when during Freshers' Week I get cornered by an angry student complaining that I was "infringing his rights" by not permitting him to view pornography sites on the PCs in the computer labs.

Excuse me?

Quite apart from the fact that computer labs are not exactly the ideal arenas for masturbation or indeed that the presence of a lascivious lad lubricating the love monkey might make any female students in the vicinity feel threatened, does he really think that his right to view porn is something worth making a political stink about?

This is the difference between then and now. No longer what can I do for my politics?, but instead what can my politics do for me?  The association of activism with students has remained but the focus of such activism has moved from the world to the self.

I hope that this is a temporary measure. Just like those schoolboys who hoped campaigning with feminists might get them a girlfriend, I would like to think that exposure to the mechanisms of activism will eventually convince members of the Open Access Porn movement that there are other more worthy  causes to champion, that politics doesn't always have to be about the self.

Some people never make the leap from selfish to selfless politics and even go on to make a career in it, but this is nothing new either. This egocentricity is perfectly demonstrated by the current government - personal selfishness writ large. The Tories are not an evil empire with a grand plan - that would imply too many organisational skills on their part and people are far too inefficient for that. They're just selfish and such draconian measures they implement are symptomatic of this.

The only reason they get away with it is that people buy into the illusion of power. The idea that the government is in control and has an overarching plan is about as plausible as any other conspiracy theory. There is no conspiracy, just a bunch of very unpleasant people in control whose opinions are amplified by the people accepting the structure of the status quo and believing the falsehood that if they've got into power they must ipso facto know what they are doing.

They don't know what they're doing.

They must be stopped.


References

Like many infuriating things, it happened on a bus.

Perhaps I travel on buses too often these days. Given the attitude of the local bus company and the various ways I have been treated by them over the years from outright lying to abusive emails, perhaps I should simply take my custom elsewhere? Easier said than done. They have a virtual monopoly in the area and on days when cycling is not an option (say when the weather decides to drop lakes on the city from a great height or when I have several errands to run either before or after work) what else am I supposed to do?

I usually sit upstairs. This is partly a hangover from childhood where not only is sitting upstairs more exciting but also something that inexplicably my parents never wanted to do, and partly because on the whole there tend to be more seats up there. Perhaps some people experience the same disinclination to climb the cramped staircase as my parents did.

Sometimes it gets crowded; that's unavoidable. Somebody will sit next to me. If I'm lucky it will at least be somebody with a passing acquaintance with the notion of personal space.

Of course on this occasion it wasn't.

He was one of a group of three or four people, all of whom were so indistinguishable that is was almost as if there was a secret factory somewhere turning out these monsters. For a start he was about six foot ten. He dropped into the seat next to me and decided to sit with his legs apart. Giant hairy legs clad in baggy khaki shorts and hiking sandals. I could no more have stood my ground than I could have stopped the tide coming in. He had a thick wiry beard and big sunglasses; from the way he behaved I could only assume that the latter cut out not only the excess light but the sight of anyone else at all, so selfish and unselfconscious was his behaviour. He dropped his overstuffed rucksack on the floor in front of him and with one swift movement  unzipped it and pulled out out a family sized jar of Nutella which he placed on the seat between his legs. He unscrewed the lid and set it to one side.

I was puzzled. Was he about to start making sandwiches or something?

No, it was far worse than that. He reached into a transparent plastic bag stuffed in the side pocket of his rucksack and extracted a large wholemeal bread roll from which he proceded to tear chunks, and dip them manually into the Nutella before stuffing the whole chocolaty mess into his maw. He did this skillfully and with such precision and economy of movement that it was almost like watching an animal performing some instinctive behaviour on a wildlife programme.

It was a million times more infuriating that that, though. I wanted to kill him. There was something so insulting and wrong about what he was doing, even though I couldn't quite put my finger on why. I suppose part of it might have been because I have had to be careful about what I eat in recent years lest I balloon out, and the sight of this great galoot stuffing high calorie foodstuffs down his gullet was taunting me with what other more fit and healthy members of the human race could do with impunity.

But it wasn't really that; I don't like Nutella anyway. It was more the relentless way he was ramming these carbs into his mouth and the way that when he swallowed his Adam's Pineapple bobbed up and down in a neck like an elephant's leg that disgusted me. It was maddening on a very basic animal level, on the same level that watching a pig at its trough is a less than an appetising sight.

Finally the ordeal was over. The bread roll was consumed. I was just breathing a sigh of relief when the unthinkable happened. He deftly reached down into his rucksack and with a flourish produced another large bread roll and begun the process all over again.

Inside I was screaming.

The strangest thing is that to this day he has no idea of the depth of negative emotion he produced in me by doing something which, to him, was probably almost unconscious.

He was a bit hungry.