Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ah, sweet suburbia

Taking advantage of early summer weather here in Robin Hood's hood, I've been incredibly suburban in that I've done a bit of D.I.Y. then cleared out the greenhouse for some constructive growing - and my homebrew - then did a bit of weeding in the front garden.  It's very pleasant.  It's surprisingly relaxing.  You feel a sense of "getting something done".
It isn't, then, so inexplicable that so many true crimes - and therefore fictional cases - were based on respectability, social acceptance and, shall we say, bourgeois suburban standards.  You may scoff at a crime being motivated by a neighbours cat constantly dropping "its business" among the peonies or someone else "bringing down the tone" of the street but the drive for social acceptance is strong, no less for it being in a social group that the offended demanded entry.

People like labels and being able to pigeon-hole others.  Bad or not, appearances do count.  And if one has set a standard or target milieu, then woe betide anyone who bucks against it.  Every country has it's class system but England has had it for far longer - the feudal system is only the most basic example.  Throughout the Victorian days, social standing was highly prized and quite complex.  Two world wars - and the slaughter of men from all social strata - meant that the class system took a hammering and changed, but never left.  The fifties and sixties saw the Middle Class become a desired power in of itself and, by extension into the present day, the suburban ideal of ... what?

A nice-looking house (from the outside, at least) with possibly one garage/garage extension to demonstrate a substantial yet modest income.  A pleasant garden showing an abundance of pretty flowers throughout the growing season and, most desired, a lawn.  The average Mr Average will not employ a gardener to get the latter.  By the very fact that they have enough time to get the desired effect means that they are employed but have enough time to treat gardening as a hobby.  I once lived next to a "professional" couple with two kids.  They employed gardeners once a week to cultivate a lovely garden, trim hedges, cut trees and so on.  Their statement was "we can afford workers and we have such busy lifestyles ..."  I'd have loved their garden, just to potter around in and work on myself.
The thing is, appearance is all.  You may do some things because that is the way "it's done" or the way you were told.  But, essentially, most folk limit themselves on public displays by considering what the neighbours see.  I could happily plant vegetables in the front garden but the entire street would be outraged and wear their lower jaws out in their vitriolic outpourings - to the right people, naturally.  But I'm an easy-going chap and like a decorative flower.  So I'll trim the hedge to regulation height, fight an ongoing conflict with dandelions and mutter about wall flowers.
And this leads me to crimes committed for "respectability" or standards or such.  It is important to many, even more so to those who care.  All it would take is someone whose sense of social position is all they have as a benchmark for acceptance and "tribal" rank and they'll be as brutal with the neighbours as with the weeds!

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