Magazine article The Spectator

Money for Nothing

Magazine article The Spectator

Money for Nothing

Article excerpt

When future historians sift through the wreckage of Western Civilisation to try to find out where it all went wrong, I do hope they chance upon at least one episode of The World's Strictest Parents (BBC3) and one of Deal or No Deal (Channel 4).

The World's Strictest Parents is another TV variant on the Lad's Army/Wife Swap theme. Unruly, selfish, vile teenagers are sent from their grotesquely overindulging middle-class British homes to far-flung places, there to spend two weeks under the kind of old-fashioned parenting regimes where they still uphold traditions like family meals, respect, discipline and a strict moratorium on dope, booze and the wearing of nipple rings. They return transformed.

In the episode I watched, the dopeaddled nipple-ring wearer and an even more feckless female thing were sent to Botswana to live with an army officer's family. Every meal began with a tradition I'm considering introducing to my own household: the children brought bowls of water and respectfully washed their parents' hands for them. Other house rules: no lying; no swearing; no smoking; total respect and hard work and obedience at all times. You can imagine how well this went down with the British teenagers.

But the great thing was they had no choice. Sure, there was never much danger of their being beaten with one of the whippy sticks which are, apparently, a key part of Botswanan disciplinary tradition. Not on the BBC. On the other hand, when the boy you're sharing a room with catches you having a crafty fag and says it's his duty to squeal to his parents, one of the options not on your list is to carry on smoking as before. Either you fess up and apologise (as the teenager did), earning Brownie points from the parents for your (belated) honesty. Or you get punished for being a lying, devious toad.

Thanks to decades of cultural brainwashing by the BBC/Guardian power nexus, we've been conditioned to think of this kind of upbringing as authoritarian, constricting, Victorian. But as we saw in the school scenes, children themselves find these clear boundaries both comforting and liberating.

In the optimism, the joy in achievement and the lack of cynicism of these Botswanan kids (which eventually infected the British teenagers too) you had a glimpse of how Britain might have been if it hadn't been hijacked by the progressive orthodoxies of the left. It made you want to weep.

Exhibit B, Deal or No Deal - presented by the inimitable Noel Edmonds - has been with us for some time. …

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