Those of you who use Twitter may well have noticed that one of today's top trending hashtags is the mysterious-sounding #MyTramExperience.
This relates to the title of a pretty unpleasant YouTube clip, uploaded to the video sharing site just yesterday. In the clip, a (presumably inebriated?) young woman, who is holding a young child on her lap, unleashes a torrent of inarticulate rage directed at Britain's immigrants and ethnic minorities.
The clip is devoid of context. We don't see what caused this outburst. We just see a horrible scene on a tram. The angry young woman's face is contorted nastily as she confronts anyone who attempts to upbraid her for her behaviour. First she turns on a black woman who has rather politely asked her to tone down her language due to the presence of other children. Then she rows with a white British woman who becomes upset by the scene unfolding. Throughout, the fact that she has a toddler with her does not cause her to moderate her language or behaviour. Putting aside the content of her tirade, just by using a string of expletives in front of a child whose young brain is currently juggling the building blocks of speech, she is setting a terrible example. What should we assume about the kind of young man her son will become if this is what he hears from his mother?
A good number of people commenting on this clip via Twitter have expressed the view that it causes them to feel "ashamed" to be British. This seems hard to understand - a reaction that could only really be justifiable if public outbursts of this nature were extremely common; if this scene were truly representative of what it is to travel on public transport in the UK; if the sentiments expressed were the mainstream views of a majority of our fellow Britons. Most people, though, will surely agree that such opinions are only quite rarely expressed in such a public setting and that our journeys to and from work are only very rarely disrupted by enraged ranting of any sort, much less on this particular theme. Have you witnessed an incident like this recently? Ever? Probably not, right?
Quite apart from feeling shame, British people watching this clip can find things to feel proud of. The two people who do take this woman to task are to be commended. Also, as the shouting woman continues to express the idea that "Britain is nothing now" because of immigration, we see a small, quiet example of the colour blindness of common decency and good fellowship among our country's people - a young white woman calmly and quietly offers words of comfort and a brief hug to a young black man who has become upset by what is happening in front of him.
That said, not everyone on the busy tram speaks up. We see more than one traveller looking down into the lit screen of a mobile phone, preferring to dwell in some virtual world and avoid becoming involved in the real here and now. When watching this, do you disapprove of the woman at the centre of the action? If you do, ask yourself whether you would be one of the people speaking up or one of the people fiddling with a phone.
Either way, assuming you are among those who disapprove not only of the shouting woman's appalling behaviour but also of the muddled ideas to which she gives voice, you may be heartened to learn that decency can prevail here in England, and that the wheels of justice do not always grind with unbearable slowness. By 5.35 PM today, reports from the BBC were indicating that a 34-year old woman had been arrested in connection with the incident which, it seems, took place on the Croydon to Wimbledon Tramlink line.
The speed of this outcome says more about the fundamentally decent country in which we live than anything which comes out of the mouth of the woman now facing questions from the police.