Epiphany, Liberty, Modernity

"It" happened a couple of days ago. I reached the point where I wondered whatever had gone wrong with the world. I usually kid myself I'm way too young for such pessimistic musings, but sitting on a bus, surrounded by argument and aggression, I finally reached the point where I admitted that some days I'm not too fond of modern society. Please don't misunderstand: I'm naturally liberal-minded, don't expect the world to play like a Disney film, and I'm certainly not one of those straight-arrow sorts who are absolute in their confidence that their personal mark of comfort marks precisely the level of censorship to which we should all adhere. I have little problem with cursing, have been known to throw a fair few around myself, I can happily watch films containing what the British Board of Film Classification call 'strong language' or 'violence' when it's relevant to the story. Although, on the subject of these classifications, I've often wondered whether they actually do more harm than good. The tv companies now seem to show warnings before almost any broadcast. 'This programme contains adult themes' and 'moderate sex' are among their favourites. Although quite what the latter means, I'm yet to establish.
But what I really don't understand is the nannying of a society that tells us , before a showing of the classic family tale 'The Railway Children' - certificate U, by the way - that it 'contains scenes of characters in danger', yet appears to have a laissez-faire attitude to the behaviour of real people. While I was sitting on a bus on the way to town I certainly began to wish that we had a censorship board for every day life. At the front a couple of surly teenagers discussed, using what those censors would no doubt call 'mild language' the anticipated fate of their friend, whose court hearing for some alcohol-fuelled misdemeanour was later that day. A few rows behind them a young couple argued. As her boyfriend casually stroked her thigh, the girl loudly chided him for some insult he'd hurled at her in earshot of his friends. Although the girl's apparent reticence did not prevent her from broadcasting their argument to 30-odd assorted passengers and the scene containing "strong language and scenes of a sexual nature' continued unabated.
But the most alarming little scene was playing out behind me. On the back seat of the bus two young men - one a scruffy looking man wearing an overcoat that should long ago have been taken for dry-cleaning, if not thrown out entirely, the other an overly-neat lad, with close-cropped hair and wearing far too much aftershave were barking insults at one another. What had started out as a debate over the second lad mistakenly sitting on the corner of the coat of the first, had quickly first degenerated into accusations of ill-intent, speedily evolved towards mutual nasty threats and was, any moment now I was certain, edging towards 'scenes of bloody violence'. As I looked around for an escape route and wondered whether either might be concealing a knife, the pair suddenly quietened down. I wasn't sure whether this was good or bad. After all either might, even then, have been preparing to silence their tormentor. As it happened the story came to a quick denouement as the bus reached its destination, and most of the passengers disgorged none the wiser to the Quentin Tarantinoesque scene that had occurred. Even the warring lovers now seemed content to indulge in only 'mild slapstick violence' as they batted each other playfully, and I watched as the two young men strode off in reassuringly disparate directions.
But as I stood there I had an epiphany. Just when did it become so commonplace for ordinary, everyday arguments to escalate into acts of such terrible violence that I would fear for my own safety on a bus ride from a peaceful suburb to the city centre? When did couples decide it was appropriate to discuss the ups and downs of their relationship within earshot of strangers? And when did it become a boast, rather than a moment of shame, for teenagers to reveal their drunken misbehaviour?
Some people claim that what people are exposed to on tv and on DVDs is responsible, but I don't buy that. Most of us know what it right and wrong, what's acceptable and what's not or at least we did when we were kids. Just because we sometimes see a different set of rules on a small screen in the corner of our sitting room doesn't change that. And if tv and films are so influencial, why is it only the negative behaviours that we take on?
Blaming tv simply absolves people of responsibility for their own behaviour. And I don't necessarily blame 'the parents' either. There are plenty of adults of all ages, some born and raised well before the age of so-called liberalism, who are every bit as guilty as the young.
I don't have an answer. I wish I did. I wish someone did because I fear that, unless we have a huge shift in thinking, or more of us dare to take a stand, before long there'll be nothing left to preserve. And all the censorship in the world won't matter one jot.