In the wake of the conviction of the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, an editorial in the Guardian referred to the ‘hard lives etched on the faces’ of the accused. By hard lives, it meant not the kind of materially difficult lives that coal miners once lived, but lives lived in a brutal and fundamentally stupid culture: such faces not being biological, but biographical and cultural artefacts. You look for them in vain in pictures of even the poor at the beginning of our monarch’s reign. When you compare the faces and manner of dress in the football crowds from that era — or of footballers, for that matter — when football was a much more proletarian game than it is now, with the faces and manner of dress now, you see only human retrogression. And in no other country do you see so many horrible faces, like those of the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, as in Britain.
Are we more criminal and more violent? In some ways, yes: the murder rate is a little less than double what it was in the early 1950s. Burglary and theft have soared — although many of the things which get stolen nowadays, such as mobile phones, simply did not exist in the 1950s.