Magazine article The Spectator

Global Warning

Magazine article The Spectator

Global Warning

Article excerpt

For a British patriot, it is a great relief to go to Marseilles. At last somewhere in Europe as filthy and littered as almost the whole of Britain! If we can't make ourselves better -- and of course we won't, so long as the final purpose of our public service is to employ the people employed by the public service -- we can at least rejoice in the degradation of others.

Indeed, in one respect Marseilles was worse than anywhere I have seen in Britain: for I have never seen so much graffiti anywhere in the world. Every concrete surface -- and, to adapt the words of a well-known song slightly, there is an awful lot of concrete in Marseilles -- was covered in the handiwork of -- well, of whom exactly?

Am I wrong to see in the rise of graffiti as a phenomenon the inflamed egotism of mass self-importance, the desire at all costs to impose oneself upon the world?

What else can account for the risk that young men run who deface the sides of a high bridge with their indecipherable yet supposedly unique calligraphy? Young men like risks -- I was not averse to them myself, indeed still am not -- but even the most pointless war seems replete with higher meaning by comparison with the ugly defacement of the inaccessible.

Of all the virtues, humility is perhaps the least in fashion. Who can admit, in these days of so many rights, that, actually, one is not very important, not only in the scheme of the universe as a whole, but in the scheme of one's own immediate surroundings? Besides, as it says in a chain of French supermarkets, a customer is sacred: and what is life if not an expedition in a vast supermarket? …

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