The Privileged and the Ruling Class

One of my internet guilty pleasures is perusing the website of the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, both the US and UK sides. I know – in the grand scheme of things, the Daily Mail is about one half-step up from a tabloid. The captions and headlines often give evidence of being written by middle-school students innocent of any knowledge of conventional grammar or spelling, they employ the execrable Piers Morgan, editorially despise Donald Trump, and have this inexplicable and unholy fascination with all things Kardashian. In my early blogging days, I favored the rather more high-class Times of London, and the Telegraph, but they went all pay-wall and frankly, hard to read. In any case and against the above-listed foibles and more, the Daily Mail is a free and straightforward read. Start at the top and scroll down; no hopscotching around to the various menu headings, hoping to get lucky and find something interesting. They nearly always do provide some daily amusement, or horror, depending on tastes. And they cover American news without fear or favor – although, as noted, they have no abiding affection for The Donald. They didn’t have for The Barack, either, so I’ll take what I can get, for easy AM reading.
This week’s headline bruhaha made the American conservative side of the blogosphere develop that kind of nervous eyelid twitch demonstrated by Inspector Clouseau’s boss in the classic Pink Panther series: an elderly retiree in a distant London suburb surprised a pair of burglars who had broken into his house in the middle of the night with the intent of robbery and god knows what other kind of criminal mayhem. This being England, land of hope and glory and strict gun control, the thirty-something burglar (who had a comprehensive record as an honest-work-shy professional criminal) was armed with an assault screwdriver, with which he menaced the home-owner. Much to everyone’s surprise – including, no doubt, the professional burglar and his faithful sidekick – the elderly retiree succeeded in defending himself against a pair of younger and presumably bigger men. Indeed, one of the felonious pair was stabbed fatally with his own screwdriver, collapsing in the street outside, whereupon his faithful sidekick abandoned him, gunned their escape vehicle, and vanished in a cloud of exhaust. (The police are searching for him, at last result, although they have located the burned-out escape vehicle. So much for honor among thieves, and the ability of the London police force.) The assault screwdriver-wielding professional career criminal was found, bloodied and dying in the street, taken to a hospital, wherein he expired. Well, they always said that crime doesn’t pay, even though for him it seemed that the eventual bill was a long time coming.

Meanwhile – the elderly homeowner, the caretaker for his invalid wife – was briefly arrested and charged with murder. This is the bit that made US conservative’s eyelid twitch. Texas is … an eccentric sort of place, but in this kind of eventuality, quite groundedly sane, thank you very much. The matter of being charged for murder, for having fatally wounded one of the local dirt-bag criminal fraternity in your own home in the middle of the night, when they have appeared there uninvited and menaced the homeowner with threats of dire bodily harm with a weapon, is a concept so alien as to be off the table entirely here in Texas. In fact, not even in the same room. According to legend, “He needed killing” is supposed to have been a valid defense, although likely not within living memory. Around here, terminating a serial criminal menace who has invaded your personal and private home without your consent, and subsequently been dropped on the doormat or farther into the home by the householder’s own efforts is more a cause for muted congratulations among the local legal and professional law-upholding fraternity. “Nice shooting” and “Thanks for taking out the trash” is more the expected official response.

I know that the usual Brit editorialist, or commentator will be tying themselves in knots over this – but honestly, where would you rather live? In a place where you must cower under the presence of a serial criminal menace with an assault screwdriver, a knife of any length (contra the dictates of the current mayor of London) or any other kind of menacing weapon, dark and threating and with that thing that goes up, and subsequently be charged with assault upon defending yourself – or in a place where your home is your castle, and defendable with anything, up to and including a pot of boiling oil? Seriously; I firmly believe that a search of my own neighborhood would turn up enough serious weaponry to equip a small European country, maybe about the size of San Marino or Monaco. Toss the entirety of San Antonio for weapons – definitely a country the size of Holland. The bottom line is – do not go invading private homes in Texas, with intent to commit robbery or other mayhem. That’s my heartfelt advice to the criminal class of whatever ethnicity in Texas. Don’t do it.

But that isn’t the worst of this story, oh, dearie me, no. The householder who defended himself successfully against a pair of criminals half his age, was released, and I hope with abject apologies on the part of the authorities. But he and his wife are now in hiding, under police protection … and the kin, friends, and tribe of the assailant spent a lot of time and effort in posting scores of bunches of flowers, balloons, notes and teddy bears – the usual kind of tatty public death memorial, on the fence opposite the home of the householder, and according to reports on the Daily Mail, threatening reprisals against the victimized householder, and by extension, his neighbors. Wrap your head around that, if you please. The police defend – first, according to current stories – the right of a dead career criminal to threaten and rob without risk to himself. And then, for the right of his scummy next of kin to memorialize and defend him in the very street and neighborhood where he committed the acts which brought him to a bad end.

One might wonder about the ethnicity of the criminal … no, not one of color. It appears that he is/was one of those known as Travelers, or Travellers; (the spelling of this designation all depends) ethnically white gypsies, given to live the peripatetic life in trailers and campers, doing the odd bit of this or that, sometimes dealing honestly with the public at large … and often, not. Hardly a month goes past where there is not a story in the DM about some bit of public or even private land, playing field, green belt meadow, park, or common, which has been descended upon by a band of Travellers for a week or month … and then, when they move on, the place has been turned into a dump. I mean – literally a dump; everything from building surplus, to trashed appliances, broken furniture, abandoned vehicles, household trash. This has happened over and over, as near as I can tell from the Daily Mail, to impotent outrage from nearby residents and the local municipalities who have to pay for cleanup, not to mention the property damage to grass and plantings. It seems to be difficult to nearly impossible for landowners or the authorities to evict a Traveller encampment until they damn well feel like moving on. Why this happens over and over again, while the local police force stands by, wringing their hands is a bit of a mystery to me. I can only think that perhaps they are seen generally as a protected class in formerly great Britain; a penchant for making responsible law-abiding citizens’ lives a misery through crime, harassment, threats and antisocial conduct will not be infringed upon, least of all by a ruling class who generally give the impression of despising their working and middle-class citizens too much to defend them against the feral protected class. Any ideas on this from over the pond?

17 thoughts on “The Privileged and the Ruling Class”

  1. In the UK, the common term for them (the ‘travelers’) is “pikeys”.

    If you haven’t seen the movie “Snatch”, it’ll give you a better idea what they’re like.

  2. Were these “Irish Travellers”? That group is very similar to gypsies (our friend who is an expert on gypsies – and one – has studied them as well). My impression was that though these groups lived by all sorts of dubious (that is, dishonest) tricks and trades, they tended not to be violent. In modern England, has that changed? It is clear that London is a lot more violent than it was a generation ago.
    Another note – I’d alluded to the knife bans in an e-mail to a friend whose daughter lives in England; unless I mistook the tone in her reply, she really thought I was making a joke. Her family are multi-generation Texans and she herself is a sharp shooter (or some other highly competent category – I don’t know anything about guns, etc.). Of course she thought it was a joke. It is sad that it isn’t.

  3. I’m American, mind you, but Snatch is one of Guy Ritchie’s first two films, and they both have a certain ring of truth to them, offhand… Like he’s telling (perhaps with suitable license) a pair of very real and wonderfully convoluted stories about Britain’s underclass.

    I rank them both as 10 out of 10 and “must see” if you have any interest in either film or storytelling techniques. Both have a wide array of characters, all very distinct and colorful enough that you really don’t get anyone confused… Which is hard to believe.

  4. Oh, yes. The Daily Mail. My wife and I are avid readers. Yeah, they’re a bit of a tabloid, but they are the first place we look to find coverage of Syria and other overseas news. Also, they ALWAYS include the immigration status of an illegal alien charged with a crime. Overall, they just don’t seem to have any sort of narrative to push, unlike almost all of the American media. It’s refreshing.

    I agree about the grammar and syntax, and some of their facts are questionable. A whopper from a few months ago was their mention of American use of jet aircraft against the Japanese during WW 2. And, no, they do not care for Donald Trump. But they didn’t care for Barack Obama either, and tore into Hillary at every opportunity. I’m beginning to think that their attitude toward Trump isn’t so much about Trump, as it is animus toward anyone in a position of authority.

  5. Pikeys must be current slang – I believe that they used to be called ‘tinkers’ which eventually became just as abhorrent as the common 19th century term for people of color. If what I have read is on the mark, Ginny – true gypsies are the Romany – originally from India, through centuries of wandering through Europe. I saw them often in Greece and Spain – especially in Spain. They weren’t particularly considered good citizens there. The curious thing is that they were very obviously ethnically different from ordinary Spaniards. They stood out, in a way that is hard for me to describe, save for saying they generally looked more … Indian. Dot Indian, not feather Indian. They were definitely not trusted as neighbors, in any case. The English travellers are basically Irish itinerants – gypsy-wannabes. Both groups seem to get a lot of mileage out of complaining how they are discriminated against by the larger culture … and then promptly go about demonstrating social behavior which demonstrates exactly WHY they are discriminated against.

  6. So is the “homeless” issue in California, Denver, Austin, etc. our developing Pikey class? The entitlement mentality and social behaviors seem similar to me as does most of the government response to their desires.


  7. It does, doesn’t it, D6 – the dissolute/criminal/illegal set are the darlings of the bureaucratic ruling class, and nothing must be done by upstanding citizens to impede them. More and more, it appears that they are the easy weapon to the hand of the Ruling Class, all the better to bash ordinary citizens with.
    Be interesting to see what happens when and if the ordinary citizens go seriously vigilante. I’d like to think that ordinary Brits would rise to that occasion, but I’d have expired some months ago, holding my breath in the wake of the Rotherham rape-gangs and subsequent incidents in other cities. Red California might just yet recover their nerve, assuming there are sufficient middle-class leaders left. Flyover-country US? Cold anger is the temperament, I think. Cold, calculating anger, not to be easily drawn into action. When it happens, the Ruling Class likely won’t know what hit them.

  8. Off topic but response: Yes, the Gypsies are Romani groups. They came to Europe from India and were in a real sense truly Aryan; they have a good case to make for discrimination – Hitler was rounding up those with 1/16th Romani blood, a broader standard than Jews. One of the Jewish survivors at a conference here described his first day – gypsies threw stones as they entered. Later, he found that to make room for his group, gypsies were sent to the ovens. Ian also spoke; he was on the Holocaust Commission under Clinton. (My husband took linguistics from him our first year at Austin and they’ve been friends since; he was also on my daughter’s Ph.D. committee.)

    The idea of putting the homeless in the backyards of the homed is the kind of idea likely to push confrontation higher – I can’t imagine it increasing the tolerance of the average homeowner, though I can imagine some sentimentalists thinking it would.

    Property rights underlies everything, doesn’t it? The “wild west” wasn’t so wild, perhaps, because there was a shared belief in 19th century America in private property. With that assumption, rough justice can be agreed to. Without it, we are tribes grabbing what we can. Or moving through a world we neither own nor nurture.

  9. There are Travellers around Chicago. Some are Irish, and some are Polish. They were responsible for a string of burglaries around the area a few years ago, but I haven’t seen much about them lately. Many break-ins usually followed a similar door-to-door pattern. They would look for an elderly person, then knock on their door offering some services or to check on utilities. While they barged in and distracted the homeowner, another accomplice would enter and pilfer whatever they could find.

  10. The latest and dreadful story on “the homeless” in Seattle is, some bum noticed a strip of land hard up against a barrier between a nice neighborhood and I-5. Then some professional “homeless advocate” helped a bunch of them relocate to this strip. The city, of course, won’t do a single, solitary, damned thing about it. There are apparently a few hundred “unauthorized” “camps” in line in front of this one to be demolished. The fact that the city can’t figure out that these people and their “advocates” are engaged in a city-wide game of Whack-A-Mole tells you an awful lot about the caliber, moral and mental, of those running this now-appalling city. What’s even worse than that, and explains a lot, is one homeowner who wants to negotiate with these invaders. Maybe he’s German.

  11. The US version of the Travellers are the often go by different names but have the same M.O. They will often do robbery scams with little kids distracting security while older kids and parents shoplift. Also they run driveway and roof sealing scams as well as other variants. They often do quite well with big RVs, Airstreams and nice houses in the towns where they congregate. They are definitely not druggies/drunks/crazies.

    “The Riches,” a serial drama about a contemporary Irish Traveller family in the US, starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, aired on FX for two seasons, in 2007 and 2008.

  12. The US version of the Travellers are the often go by different names but have the same M.O…Also they run driveway and roof sealing scams as well as other variants…

    CBS News’ 60 Minutes did a story on them several decades ago, before it became virtually a crime to notice such things.

  13. In Romania, a higher percentage of Roma will be violent with knives than the general population, yet there are gypsy villages that are not at all violent; and those who have relocated to town (usually forced by Ceaucescu) have a higher, but not astronomically higher violent crime rate.

    Their appearance is indeed much more Indian. However, this is changing moderately quickly. There is more mixed population in the villages now – for unattractive reasons, according to the locals. However, the locals may not be an objective source. My sons had Cigan friends, but generally disliked the tribe, as do most Romanians. One could make an argument that there is not anything inherently more moral about a settled versus an itinerant lifestyle, and the Roma are driven to criminal activities because they are not welcome in most other jobs. Yet at some point, the refusal to adopt the ideas of the society around you, influencing them and being influenced by them, is a statement of noncooperation over centuries.

  14. BTW, a co-worker friend of mine from Romania, commenting on Borat, was that you think he’s exaggerating for humor… according to him, he’s not. Borat is practically a documentary.

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