The extreme right-wing English Defence League (EDL) held a “protest” gathering recently on the streets of East London, presumably to gather more support, as effective police work prevented them from going far. Despite bottles and firecrackers being thrown at officers, the metropolitan riot police – admirably restrained and controlled, unlike scenes where they have “kettled” innocently marching students (see my earlier post on the increasingly worrisome practice of kettling) – held the EDL within set boundaries and arrested at least 16 people for breaking the law, including assaults on officers.
The most vivid example, however, of law-breaking came with the declaration by EDL leader Tommy Lennon that he had broken the conditions of his bail in order to be present. Lennon, who was heavily disguised in a beard and hat – in fact, he was dressed remarkably like an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, which was perhaps his intent – took pride in the fact that he’d thumbed his nose at the law which had dared to set limits on his behavior.
Is there anything more discouraging than witnessing an adult who fails to act like one? Somewhere along the line, Lennon failed to learn that the “naughty stair” is simply a metaphor for the consequences that arise when bad behavior emerges from someone old enough to be prosecuted.
I’m not singling out the EDL alone (though its members need to rethink their attitudes toward mature behavior) – the same non-recognition of healthy limits has been demonstrated in the UK by: rioters and looters in various English towns; News International phone hackers and those who approved the hacking (and, since we now learn that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is godfather to one of NI mogul Rupert Murdoch’s daughters, it’s safe to wonder where the buck actually stopped); and English bankers and money-marketeers who wedged their country – and the US – into a financial corner.
I’m willing to bet that the nannies they hire are given leave to employ the naughty stair or time-outs for the privileged offspring those same nannies are paid to rear.
The problem is, when chronological adults act up, act out, too seldom are their friends and colleagues willing to say “enough”. It’s only when the behavior becomes egregious that brakes are applied – by the law. Suddenly, instead of facing the “don’t do that” of friends and family, people face legal sanctions.
By that time, they’re often too far down the road of self-congratulation at having gotten away with their behavior to stop. It’s a dead shock when they abruptly need to hire legal representation, or face – as Lennon will – more sanctions and possible jail time.
If only they’d employed, earlier, the “naughty stair” in their mind.