27 NOVEMBER 2004, Page 34

Kul turkampf

From Joachim Karl Greve Sir: I very much welcome the article by James Bartholomew (`The death of decency', 13 November). As a teenager at school in my native Germany I learnt about gentlemanly behaviour, fair play, modesty, courtesy etc., virtues which in my mind have always been associated with England. There is even a German saying for people who didn't adhere to those civilised principles: `Das ist nicht die feine englische Art.' (`That is not the fine English way.') Since my arrival on these shores some six years ago, I have wondered if these values have not been eroded somewhat and that is where I find myself in agreement with Mr Bartholomew.

To blame the welfare state, however, seems a cop-out to me. Sweden is one example where an almost overpowering welfare state still produces citizens who behave in a responsible way. For me the problem lies in the sharp rise of what I would call 'mob culture'. The freedom of speech or expressing one's point of view is being confused with the freedom of 'how' it is said. And the big newspapers are not bucking the trend but are trying to outdo the yobbish yellow press by going more tabloid. Television companies are increasingly scraping the bottom of the barrel as well. What does 'We thrashed Argies!' (referring to 1-0 football victory) as a headline tell you about yourselves? Shouldn't one be magnanimous in victory?

Being born a certain nationality or class isn't a virtue in itself. To endeavour to live up to the universally identifiable positive achievements of one's culture is much more laudable.

Joachim Karl Greve