Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Community Doesn't Care

Community local, yesterday
I'm sure you know the drill by now. Evil Enterprise or Pusillanimous Punch decide your local pub is no longer viable. So they run it down and put the landlord on notice. You don't approve of this, as it's where you go to avoid the wife and family. Thankfully, the government is (sort of) on your side.  You can declare "your" pub as an Asset Of Community Value. This, if nothing else, buys you 9 months. But not the pub itself, as the hideous PubCo will ask you to pay over the odds for it.

CAMRA trumpets the success stories that somehow occur through this process. There's a whole article about it in the latest edition of BEER. What you tend not hear about is the failures. The stories that get a paragraph article in the Morning Advertiser and disappear from the home page in a couple of days.

Mostly, it seems to be that most misunderstood institution "the community local" that's most affected by this. In many ways, it's symptomatic of the death of community in the UK. If people were using these locals, then there'd be little incentive to close them. As I've said before, in ye olden days (up to 1990 or so), people HAD to go to the pub for entertainment as there was very little else to do. Other humans, amazing as it may seem today, were the most interesting thing available. And what better place to encounter them than at the pub, where copious amounts of alcohol would make even the most tedious bore tolerable.

Nowadays, the average young (and even not-so-young) male has Sky Sports, Spotify and streaming internet porn.  He doesn't have to deal with god damn people to avoid the crushing boredom of post-work existence. A few cans in front of the TV and computer suits him fine. So now the out of town local without a decent food option is deserted.  Sad. But thems the times we live in. Sorry, Barbara Streisand, but people don't need people any more.
Misanthropic drunk in empty pub, yesterday
The only pubs that are reasonably succesful are in town centres, where they are generally "sought out" rather than "dropped into". Sure, the clientele tends to be beer fans, asocial misfits and general weirdos. And alcoholics. But business is business.  What they have in common is they're there for the drink, not for people.

"Community" is slowly receding into the past in the UK in the 21st Century.  Misanthropy and misunderstanding are the default interactions between people. Suits me fine, as I'm a complete and utter bastard. But it bodes I'll for certain previously cherished social institutions.

If you don't need people, why would you need a local pub?


  1. Who is that weird looking guy with a tash? maybe he is frightening the punters off.

  2. You've hit the nail firmly on the head there. Vast swathes of pubs have closed because of a fall-off in demand resulting from a variety of causes and, broadly speaking, it's the ones in residential areas that have suffered worst. Sadly some people are so consumed by a hatred of pubcos that they fail - or refuse - to recognise this.

  3. Quite a lot of truth in what you say, but there's more to it than that. Our rulers, of all 3 main parties, don't much like ordinary people. They're handy when you need a path laying or your bins emptied, but otherwise, they'd rather you just sat at home and interacted only with your family and - if you're employed - with your colleagues during the day. But don't take that interaction at work too far: they don't want you collectively to exert pressure to get your employer to do something for you that he or she doesn't want to, such as better pay or safer working conditions - 'burdens on business' is the cry (I prefer the term 'responsibilities'). Which is why they hate unions.

    Another place where ordinary people can get together, but increasingly don't, is the pub. Our rulers have been terrified for centuries of what a mass of ordinary people might do when drunk and out of control. They can't just ban pubs, so they try to tax them out of existence: compared to 1972, beer is approximately twice the price it would be if inflation had been the sole factor in beer price rises, and taxation is to blame for a large part of that.

    Break society down into families - remember what Thatcher said ('there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.') - and create a system where, they hope, people are so afraid to lose their job, they won't rock the boat. Pubs for an occasional night out with your family and/or a meal are okay; pubs that are genuinely a community focal point where people go regularly to meet other people - not okay. The evidence of their success in achieving all this is that Cooking Lager's question is increasingly a valid one.