The true meaning of Christmas

Whenever we read this kind of debate about which type of middle-class professional is the most morally reprehensible or would constitute an undesirable addition to Brockley's social status-quo, we are reminded of this article by David Mitchell, ostensibly about Christmas, but actually about tribalism reductio ad absurdum among the middle-classes:

"We British love to judge our close class competitors - people incredibly similar to us and therefore most threatening.

"We're quite tolerant of genuinely different ways of life but, for those very like our own but with just a hint of either the stuck-up or common, we reserve our highest octane vitriol. And Christmas exposes so much of this because it's when families revert to type, do what they've always done: by your traditions you shall be judged."

Not all designers are drug-users, not all financiers are evil, not all social workers are dull.

32 comments:

Tressilliana said...

Christmas tree fire: last night at about 11pm someone with fewer brain cells than a jelly cube set fire to the stack of Christmas trees at the corner of Hilly Fields Crescent, Montague Avenue and Tressillian Road. Fortunately the fire brigade were on the scene very quickly as the London plane tree at that corner was starting to catch light. We were alerted by the flames and the noise, so were just concerned spectators, but thank goodness somebody who saw the fire at an earlier stage rang the fire brigade so promptly. It could have been very dangerous indeed - as it was, the flames were at roof level when the fire engine arrived.

I am so angry about this unutterably stupid, reckless vandalism. That tree has been growing there for 120 years and some fool has now damaged it - the bark is charred but with luck that's all it is and it will recover. But those trees are so important to Hilly Fields - I'm sure I'm not the only person who would be devastated if we lost any of them.

Thank goodness for the fire brigade.

patrick1971 said...

Just remember, they're disenfranchised, not yobs.

Brockley Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brockley Nick said...

Kate, do you think you could edit your post for language please :)

The Cat Man said...

or the newly planted tree (now broken tree stump) on the green area on Mantle Rd...

Anonymous said...

Talk about getting hold of the wrong end of the stick. Much of that debate was a concern about increased social fragmentation as a result of an influx of smug types.

welcome to 2009 said...

Yes anon, that's exactly the same end of the stick. The "smug" types some are so worried about are basically the same as them. It's a stupid debate - I believe that was the point of the article.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the nosy old man who used to poke his nose over my fence whenever we had a bonfire in our own garden when we were kids... "not in my back yard!" (or ours, for that matter)

Anonymous said...

I wondered when those trees would be set alight. Looked like a bonfire.

It was maybe the not the best idea to store then around a tree next to the road.

Not exactly unexpected and it could have been avoided if they had been cleared away promtly by t'council.

These sort of things can be managed, but it is maybe easier to lament the dereliction of local yoof and praise our firemen.

Tressillian James said...

Sorry Anon - I don't think the issue is with the council for not collecting - we should be able to have a Christmas tree recycling point without the fear that an arsonist is going to set it all alight.

Tressilliana said...

This is, to my knowledge, the first time this has happened in at least five years of having Christmas trees collected from that spot. Also, I haven't said and don't assume that it was a young person who started the fire. I don't think we can even be certain that it was started deliberately, although my hunch is that it was.

This isn't the council's fault (or its contractor's fault) for not collecting the trees sooner. They always wait till they have a full vanload to pick up, which seems perfectly sensible.

Brockley Nick said...

Totally agree with the Tressillians. You shouldn't avoid doing good and sensible things just in case stupid people do something stupid. It's a good and sensible policy and in the end, it sounds as though no harm was really done, so let's not bash the Council for the problems caused by (potentially) some stupid yobs (of intedeterminate age).

Brockley Nick said...

Trees don't kill people, rappers do.

Danja said...

Have you been infected by Catman?

Brockley Nick said...

@Danja - ha ha. Sorry, it's been a long day already.

Danja said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lancashire/7077511.stm

Brockley Nick said...

Maybe they set light to themselves then, just to spite us.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was caused by a kooky Brockley-dwelling artist flicking his or her jazz cigarette into the pile.

Tamsin said...

With lots of recycling sites to collect from the Council and/or contractors do not have to wait for a full van-load. Better to go round all sites every two or three days I would have thought (although we would have missed out on our spontaneous outbreak of art).
Last year in Telegraph Hill the collection was left so long that they were piled up on the pavement opposite as well. Which the contractors then ignored because it was not the "proper" collection point.

Alice and The Cat said...

Perhaps the fire was (last word underlined) art......

Anonymous said...

I am sure that if the Christmas tree collection on Hilly fields was the responsibility of someone other than the local council there would be an inspector doing risk asessements and all manner of 'Oi! that could have someones eye out' pronouncements to ensure public safety.

Fact is, they encouraged residents to leave highly flammable Christmas trees next to a road and against a tree.

They should have known better and were negligent in their duties.

Everyone pays a great deal in Council Tax around here and it is not unreasonable to expect more consideration regarding how redundant Christmas tree collection should be managed.

This was a hazard that was wholly predictable. I am sure the firebrigade are quite busy dousing these sort of fires at this time of year. It wouls not take much to move the trees away from the road and the big trees.

Anonymous said...

"Not all designers are drug-users, not all financiers are evil, not all social workers are dull."

Er......yes they are.

M said...

But not as dull as you, clearly.

sicarts@msn.com said...

Why is it that as soon as there is a crime committed (such as vandalism) pompous people always assume that it is "someone with fewer brain cells than a jelly cube' responsible?
When I was at Uni one of my pals often vadalised things walking home from the pub and he got a first in physics!
I was more annoyed by the person who defaced the Kit-Kit billboard a few weeks ago-I love that add.
As for the 120 year old tree-good riddance I say-it was blocking the light in my garden-Not in my back yard!

Tressilliana said...

We'll have to agree to differ about the tree, Sicarts. I think the trees are one of Brockley's great glories.

I stick by my jelly cube comment. Brains are for more than just passing exams. Social skills, empathy, common sense, altruism and self-control all require brain power. In my view, vandals are lacking in all those qualities.

nobbly brick said...

Tressilliana, is your view of vandals just based on prejudice or do you have first hand experience of the perpetrators of vandalism?

This is a question by the way, not a criticism.

Tressilliana said...

I think I have about as much first-hand experience of vandalism as anyone else living in an inner city environment, but probably no more than anyone else. You are quite entitled to see my views as prejudice, but I'd be interested (again genuinely!) to know why you might disagree with my views about why vandals behave as they do. I thought they were fairly mainstream. I think that people who behave in a way that upsets those around them and without any just cause are selfish. To me that suggests a lack of insight, self-control etc.

nobbly brick said...

I have first hand experience of vandalism in as much as my son used to 'tag' quite a lot when he was a certain age. Although he was making an expression of his circumstances at that time - and that is the key to vandalism - it is an expression of a circumstance and once the circumstance is understood then the problem can be tackled. Simply casting the perpetrator into a corner and 'tagging' them with a lack of social skills etc doesn't come anywhere near understanding the situation.

My son is none of the things you'd like to attribute to 'vandals' and he has passed through that stage - 'tagging' incidentally is almost always done by white middle-class teenagers - and it was also a stage that, amongst other things, shamed me, but with him, and my wife, we tackled it and he has turned (and continues to turn) into a useful member of society, hopefully without a prejudice towards, at the very least, vandalism.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the person, assuming the act was some form of spontaneous combustion, was trying to be helpful, albeit in a slightly misguided and reckless manner; burn the trees, sort the collection issue for the council. After all we do still incinerate our rubbish.

Simon said...

Point taken Tressiliana-I was only joking about the tree though.
In all honesty I hate vandalism as much as the next person but please let's not just assume it is only people of low intelligence who commit crimes such as these. There are plenty of law abiding people out there who may not be that bright but prefer to live without vandalism.
It is a shame the trees can't be left alone.

Tressilliana said...

I'll say it again, Simon - I think describing someone as intelligent (or in possession of more brain cells than a jelly cube, if you prefer) implies that they have more than just academic ability. Conversely, people with fistfuls of paper qualifications are not always particularly bright when it comes to dealing with other people.

Nobbly, thanks for that very honest answer.

I've banged on enough now and must really do something more useful!

silburnl said...

"After all we do still incinerate our rubbish."

The Xmas trees get chipped and then used for paths and flower beds by the parks department though.

Regards
Luke

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