How the English rear their young

British children, writes Dalrymple,

are regularly found to be the most miserable in Europe. This is because a large proportion of parents fear or hate their children, and by the time they have finished bringing them up are right to do so: which does not, of course, absolve them of their responsibility.

The preferred English method of child-rearing is

neglect by indulgence, with or without a little violence and emotional abuse thrown in. By the end of childhood, a British child is considerably more likely to have a television in its room than a father living at home.

Cruel and stupid ‘mental health services’

Anyone, writes Dalrymple, who has had dealings with the mental health services knows that they simultaneously

neglect the raving mad while concentrating desultory and ineffective efforts upon the voluntarily inadequate. Patients rarely see the same mental health worker twice in succession; and anyone who has examined the records of such patients knows that they consist largely of forms filled out by people who believe that form-filling is the work they are paid to do.

The reason mental health workers concentrate on the voluntarily inadequate rather than the lunatics is that

the former are relatively docile and predictable, while the latter may be hostile and both drug-taking and machete-wielding. They are dangerous to deal with, and best avoided, especially by mental health workers, who can rely on the police to deal with them when they become so disturbed that they can be left to their own devices no longer.

Form-filling

by ever larger numbers of functionaries continues undisturbed as displacement activity, in the way that mice wash their paws when confronted with a cat. They are treating not their patients but their own anxieties, at the same time receiving a salary every month.

This, Dalrymple points out, is the model

for government as a whole, which pursues policies that cause problems that then call for further policies to correct them.

The idea that

for every distress there is an equal and opposite form of therapy, whether psychological or pharmacological, is a superstition, compared with which almost any religious belief is highly rational. It is also a very shallow conception of distress, which can often be immeasurably deepened by talking about it.

Britain, Dalrymple concludes, prefers

going from weakness to weakness: It creates more job opportunities for mental health workers.

The cultural triumph of psychobabble

Theresa May: the little ones shall experience distress no more

The British prime minister, Dalrymple reports, has

spotted an opportunity to demonstrate to her sentimental electorate how much she cares for even the least of them by announcing that she wants to put a mental health professional, i.e. form-filler, in every school.

There is, says Dalrymple, a new social contract:

I will listen to your shallow clichés about yourself if you will listen to mine.

Her

compassion by proxy, at taxpayers’ expense, is typical of the behaviour of modern politicians, who need to show their electorates that they are not the heartless or ruthless ambitious nonentities that they might otherwise appear to be. An uncritically sentimental population is a perfect flock to be fleeced in this way, sheep for the shearing.

May’s project, Dalrymple points out,

is also typical of the process of simultaneous work creation and work avoidance that marks the modern state, a process that turns it into a trough from which many may feed.

Fashionable psychological kitsch

Harry: unnecessary and tasteless confessions

The psychobabbling British prince, writes Dalrymple, ought to be

firmly reprehended for his emotional incontinence and exhibitionism.

All kinds of

princely personages—footballers, rock stars, actors, actresses, and the like—display their inner turmoil. They parade it as beggars in some countries display their amputated stumps. Perhaps this is to head off the envy that otherwise might attach to them. See, they seem to be saying, ‘We too suffer, despite our wealth, privilege, and fairy-tale lives, which you falsely imagine to be enviable and without blemish.’

Sufferers and victims are turned into

heroes merely on account of their suffering or victimisation, so that those celebrities who confess to misery, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc., are even more to be adulated than they already were.

Macron’s manifold flaws

Jumping into a taxi in Paris, Dalrymple gets talking to the (Vietnamese) driver about the presidential election. The driver says he is not a fan of Marine Le Pen, but if in the second round she is pitted against Emmanuel Macron, he will vote for her. Dalrymple asks what puts him off the male aspirant. The driver points out that Macron

  • is an unknown quantity
  • has an unpleasing face — not exactly ugly, but hard, ruthless and predatory
  • is too young
  • is a bungler
  • has enjoyed a too meteoric rise
  • is a half-cocked tinkerer at the margins rather than the radical reformer needed in these times
  • lacks experience
  • has a personal life that is rather odd (maybe he is his wife’s puppet)
  • is too plainly the candidate of the European political élite, something which of course counts greatly against him

The low intellectual level of people at the centre of power in Britain

Dalrymple writes that the title ‘director of communications in the administration of David Cameron’ is one that is

instinct with dishonesty. At least one knows what a second-hand car salesman does.

One holder of the office, a man called Craig Oliver, has written Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit. The book is, says Dalrymple,

one of the worst on any subject that I have read in a long time. It is a blow-by-boring-blow account of Mr Cameron’s referendum campaign, principally in the media of mass communication, to keep Britain in the European Union.

Dalrymple notes that

a very bad book may, in its own way, be highly instructive, as this one is. If mediocrity can ever be said to shine, then it shines from these pages.

Oliver,

though a journalist, has no literary ability whatsoever.

  • He writes entirely in clichés.
  • There is not a single arresting thought in over 400 pages.
  • Wit and even humour are entirely absent.
  • He seems unable to use a metaphor, almost always tired to begin with, without mixing it (‘We are likely to succumb on this if they get on their high horses and cry foul‘).
  • He has no powers of analysis.
  • He has no sense of history.

There is, Dalrymple concludes,

no plumbing his shallows.

Oliver was

at the centre of power for several years. Everyone around him, including the prime minister, comes off as just as uninteresting as he; though it has to be admitted that the author could make Talleyrand seem a bore.

The one outstanding quality that these mediocrities seem to share is

ambition. It is disconcerting for the citizen to be faced so starkly by the fact that ambitious mediocrity is now the main characteristic of those who rule him.

Dalrymple points to

the abysmally low cultural level of the British population, including of the most highly educated class, as this book amply demonstrates.

The most boring man ever to be prime minister

Dalrymple notes that the politician David Cameron was

a dullard.

Worse, left to his own devices, Cameron was

a terminal bore.

This was tacitly admitted when

a man called Bill Knapp, a consultant (in what, exactly?)

had to be brought over from the USA in order, in the words of Cameron’s fourth-rate ‘director of communications’,

to sharpen lines for the PM’s Question Time appearances and the wider TV debates.

Dalrymple notes that Cameron was in point of fact

the dullest man ever to hold the position of prime minister.

A Procrustean political bed

The purpose of the European Union, writes Dalrymple,

is to fuse very different countries in the hope that something powerful will emerge, so that European politicians may play a role on a larger stage than their own. Who would have heard of Mr Juncker had he remained a former prime minister of Luxembourg, Mr Barroso had he remained a former prime minister of Portugal (and Maoist student agitator), or Mr Kinnock had he remained but a failed leader of the British Labour party?

The failing unitary European state

Dalrymple notes that the European Union is

  • corrupt
  • bureaucratic
  • cumbersome
  • archaic
  • inhibitory of enterprise
  • economically dysfunctional
  • undemocratic

He points out that

its two most recent major innovations, the single currency and free movement across borders, have been disasters for many of its members.

Death as a faux pas

When A.E. Housman was born, writes Dalrymple,

at least a quarter of children died before the age of five, and one in six before he was 12 months old. Housman’s much-loved mother died when he was 12, and her death caused him to lose his religious belief. Death was not then the best-kept secret of life, as it is now, hidden away out of sight as a kind of social faux pas, or locked away from view as mad relatives once were, but an ever-present reality that could result from a trivial accident or seemingly minor illness. In fact, it would have taken a special kind of obtuseness not to have noticed the fragility of the human hold on life.