Its sense of irony, writes Dalrymple, once protected the British population
from infatuation with utopian dreams and unrealistic expectations.
But the English are sadly changed.
A sense of irony is the first victim of utopian dreams. The British tolerance of eccentricity has also evaporated; uniformity is what they want now, and are prepared informally to impose. They tolerate no deviation in taste or appearance from themselves.
The pressure to conform
to the canons of (lack of) popular taste has never been stronger. Those without interest in soccer hardly dare mention it in public. A dispiriting uniformity of character, deeply shallow, has settled over a land once richer in eccentrics than any other. No more Edward Lears for us: we prefer notoriety to oddity now.
The English are no longer sturdily independent as individuals, either. They now
feel no shame or even unease at accepting government handouts. (40% of them receive such handouts.)
see no difference between work and parasitism.
They are left with
very little of importance to decide for themselves, even in their private spheres.
- educates them (at least nominally)
- provides for them in old age
- frees them of the need to save money (doing so is in many cases made uneconomic)
- treats them when they are ill
- houses them if they cannot afford housing
concern only sex and shopping.
No wonder, says Dalrymple, that the British
have changed in character, their sturdy independence replaced with passivity, querulousness, or even, at the lower reaches of society, a sullen resentment that not enough has been or is being done for them. For those at the bottom, such money as they receive is pocket money, reserved for the satisfaction of whims. They are infantilised. If they behave irresponsibly it is because both the rewards for behaving responsibly and the penalties for behaving irresponsibly have vanished.
come to live in a limbo in which there is nothing much to hope or strive for and nothing much to fear or lose. Private property and consumerism coexist with collectivism, and freedom for many people means little more than choice among goods. The free market, as Hayek did not foresee, has flourished alongside collectivism.