"Take physic, pomp"
The British government rushes on with its "Respect" agenda. Councils must set and meet targets for "Respect" on penalty of fines. People must show "Respect". Failures face rehabilitation - or cuts in housing benefit.
What does "Respect" mean? "Anti-social behaviour" is its opposite since "Respect" is being judged on how many Anti-Social Behaviour Orders have been handed out. Councils must find and punish "Anti-social behaviour" to show they're enforcing "Respect.
My head spins. Are there quiet areas? Must "Respect" police penalise unruly umbrellas or wilful showers of blossom?
There's no such quiet. That's a detective fiction facade - quickly unpicked by Holmes and Marple. The violence lies behind.
Cutting housing benefit gives the game away. "Respect" isn't about equality. It's about keeping the poor in line.
Most people don't get housing benefit. Bad behaviour isn't confined to a single class. We're being sold a myth of undeserving poor, guilty of all wrong, needing to be taught "Respect". Line up - forelock-tugging classes start here.
We used to dream equality. Now it's a new age of chav jokes and open sneers. There's a skeletal rhetoric of olden charity , but just round the corner the workhouse looms as the Lord of the ASBO proclaims, "Never darken my doorstep again."
Don't look down - look up. Look behind those who want our "Respect". See the warmongers, traders in shoddy goods, thieves of our safety, robbers of health. What have they done for society?
Real respect matters. It's not for society's wreckers. Save respect for those who struggle. That man sleeps rough, needs a dose of cider to get him through day and night, smells foul, swears at passers-by and urinates in public - maybe he needs more respect than our polite, clean, smiling leaders. I bet he's faced more hardship and heartbreak. He didn't order bombing of babies. He doesn't sell schools or peerages - or sell a people short.
Risk conversation. Think. Perhaps it's better to listen than to punish. Maybe the daft and desperate need our respect.