Yesterday I had coffee with Cath, and I brought up (once again) the subject of The Girl Who Spat On My Hair. Really, I still can barely believe it happened. There I was on the bus, not saying a word in any accent whatsoever, not wearing anything particularly noticeable, and a girl in her teens, sitting directly behind me, spat in my hair.
Now this was, of course, the Rough Bus, and the girl did, of course, get out in a neighbourhood notorious for povertycrimedrugabuseteenpregnancy. But--how do I put this--she was Scottish. Since when do Scottish teenagers spit on adult women, eh? When half-Scottish I was her age, I could barely SEE older women on the bus, unless they were pregnant, and then I gave up my seat.
So I go about asking Scottish people how this incident might have come about. First I asked my husband, who suggested that I previously had a romantic view of poor Scottish girls. Then I asked the son of a labour organiser, who suggested that it was a result of the collapse of heavy industry. And then I consulted Cath, suggesting that it might have come as a result of the loss of religion, and Cath agreed. And whatever the reason, we decided, moral degredation was the result.
The problem with private behaviour is that it so rarely is, or remains, private. Unless you're a hermit, what you do affects everyone else. If you snigger and sneer at chastity as a bourgeois value, then simple people, those who have the most to lose by unchastity, are going to start devaluing chastity, too. And apparently the girls who are most likely to submit to underage sex are girls whose friends have already submitted to underage sex.
Yesterday the story of a poor Scottish child appeared in the Daily Mail. She got pregnant at the age of 11, after a booze-fuelled consensual romp with a boy. She gave birth at 12, and both she and her infant were taken into care.
Authorities decided that the baby would be better off with a married adult couple, and now, age 16, the child-mother would like access to the baby. She swears she's off booze and drugs--well, drugs, anyway. Still a bit of booze. No mention if she's off romps with boys. Pardon me if, having read her interview, I suspect that she is still not a particularly fit influence for a four year old girl. The one thing I can say for her is at least she had the moral gumption not to have the baby killed before she was born. And having an adoptive mum and dad means baby is likely to have a better childhood than the birth mother did.
This is where my husband would observe that this story could very well have been the story of a poor Scottish girl in any decade going back to 1790. But before 1960 (the collapse of heavy industry, the breaking of the Scottish Sabbath), most girls in Scotland were taught that premarital sex, drug-taking and boozing would make them unhappy. These activities were not held out to them as glamorous pursuits. They were described as sure routes to hell, both literally and figuratively. A self-protecting society frowned.
Now society smiles indulgently but finds its hospital wards packed with dangerous people out of their minds on drink and drugs every Friday and Saturday night. In some communities, more babies are born out of wedlock than in, which means that increasing numbers of children never know the absolute security of going to sleep as their father and mother companionably watch telly together. And increasing numbers of teens and adults have their hearts broken because they think A) sex is a just a bit of a laugh or B) "a piece of paper won't make us love each other more than we do." No wonder so many turn to drink and drugs.
So I am feeling particularly fond today of Single people who do not get drunk or drug or have sex. Drinking, drugging and having sex are all fun things, but legions of decent people eschew these pleasures for the greater values of sobriety and chastity, values that nourish society. In addition, I am also feeling fond of people who sit up straight, who dress with dignity, who keep their voices down on the bus so as not to disturb others, who do not spit in public and who watch their children like hawks, to make sure that they will grow up as decent people.
Cath and I were giggling over some American neo-Calvinist who is trying to promote Calvinism as cool.
"Cool is the problem," I said. "Christians should be against cool. We should be decent, dull and buttoned-up to the neck."
Death to cool. Long live decency!