Modern Irish Life
"I think that one of the reasons for this failure to intervene may be down to the fact that most labour in urban areas these days is done in front of a computer screen. The most physically strenuous part of most people’s days is to carry home the laptop or the shopping. This leaves many of us alienated from our own bodily strength and robustness. What we need to do is send off for a Charles Atlas magazine, and perhaps lose the fear of taking a punch in the face."
I think Hugh has hit upon at least part of the truth. But I would point as well to the effects of television as the major disruptor to the fabric of society. Let's face it - people watch too much TV, and it acts as an insulator against real human contact outside the home. I'm no psychologist, but I can see how lack of social ties leads to a certain detachment (as well as the timidity Hugh notes) from intervening in situations like those he notes.
In the evenings you pass dwelling after dwelling with that glow coming from the front room (apart from those of recent non-Anglo immigrants). Banning television won't work (ask the Iranians) but is there anything else which could act as a counterweight, such as the creation of comfortable urban spaces for after-hours activities?
Or has the the extent of suburban blight (made worse by corruption) doomed such efforts already?