Category Archives: British character (deterioration of)

In Britain, abuse will be tolerated

Compared to the old days, writes Dalrymple, England

has managed the difficult trick of being both much richer and much nastier.

He remembers an Indian doctor in the hospital where he worked half a century ago,

whose exceptional sweetness of character inspired the instant affection of all who met him, telling me that he considered Britain the most civilised country.

No one, Dalrymple points out,

could make that mistake now, not for an instant, for even at the airport at which he arrived he will have noticed prominent written warnings to the British public that violence or abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated: meaning, of course, that in most instances it will be ignored.

From having been among the most self-controlled populations in the world, the British

have gone in half a century to being among the least self-controlled.

Dalrymple notes that the British population is also

the most spied-upon. Britain has almost as many closed-circuit television cameras installed as the rest of the world put together, but they seem to have hardly any effect on the general level of civility. Testifying quite often in court as an expert witness in murder trials, I am astonished to discover in the course of those trials just how much of British life now takes place on camera: every Briton, indeed, spends more time on screen than the most ubiquitous of film stars, whether he knows and approves of it or not.

At the same time,

menace and incompetence have become the twin characteristics of British officialdom.

Dalrymple reflects that societies fall apart when (among other causes)

their ruling élites, political and intellectual, lose faith in their own right or duty to prescribe standards. They become Hamlet-like: the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and they become persuaded that generosity of spirit and broad-mindedness are the only true virtues, even if they result in paralysis in the face of disorder, with all the accompanying miseries of those who suffer it.

Dalrymple warns the Britishers

The doctor-writer points out that Britain’s enormous cultural, social and economic problems do not originate from membership of the European Union, nor will they be solved by exit from the Union, if exit ever occurs in fact rather than in name only. (More likely is that a second referendum will be staged at which the British people will be invited to give the right answer, or the means will be found simply to annul the referendum result.)

The country’s problems are so deep, Dalrymple argues, that they

can be solved only by something more resembling a religious revival than by any likely government action.

He gives examples of the sort of changes that are needed:

  • reform — or dismantle — the educational and social-security systems
  • liberalise the labour laws
  • repress crime much more firmly

And that’s just to start with.

However, he says,

expecting a population to bethink itself while simultaneously being offered political solutions that require no effortful cultural change is unreasonably optimistic.

This is a country in which

more than 50% of children are born out of wedlock and 20% do not eat a meal with another member of their household more than once every two weeks.

A dangerously high and perhaps unsustainable proportion of the population

is unfitted for productive life in a modern economy, having attained an abysmally low educational level despite (or because of?) considerable state expenditure. This section of the population is not merely indifferent to refinement of any kind – intellectual, æsthetic or of manners – but actively hostile to it. Similarly, it is not merely not anxious to learn, it is anxious not to learn.

This explains why Britain has persistently imported labour from Eastern Europe

to perform tasks in its service industries that ordinarily one might have expected its large fund of indigenous non-employed people to perform. Although these tasks require no special skills, they require certain personal qualities such as reliability, politeness, and willingness to adapt: and these the eligible local population lack entirely. No hotel-keeper, for example, would consider using British labour if he could get foreign.

Perhaps nothing, says Dalrymple, captures the levels of personal incompetence and lack of self-respect in Britain

than the fact that young men of the lowest social class are about half as likely to die in prison as they are if left at liberty. In prison, though adult, they are looked after, at least in a basic way, and told what to do. They are no longer free to pursue their dangerous and crudely self-indulgent lifestyle, in which distraction is the main occupation. In prison they receive the healthcare that, though it is free to them under the NHS, they are not responsible enough to seek when at liberty.

They do not know, because they have never been taught,

how to live in a minimally constructive fashion, though they were certainly not born ineducable.

Other comparable countries have similar problems, but none

has them to anything like the same extent.

In England, inner emigration is the only option for decent people

Britishers, writes Dalrymple, are

more comprehensively surveyed as they go about their daily business than the poor Soviets ever were.

The surveillance

is intended not to protect or deter, but to intimidate.

There is in Britain, he notes,

a nomenclatura who wield great and irresponsible power, whose life is distant from that of the great majority of citizens. As in the Soviet Union, they do not own the state institutions in which they work, but they have the usufruct of them. Their privileges are wildly out of proportion either to their merits or to the privileges that others enjoy. The first-class carriages of trains, for example, are almost exclusively for their use.

Sovietisation

Dalrymple points out that England has become

a propaganda state. No matter what economies are imposed on those parts of the public services that deliver services to the public, there is always time enough and money enough in state institutions for the production and distribution of glossy propaganda to the workers who receive it compulsorily (for they are never asked whether they want it or not).

As in communist countries, the purpose of the propaganda

is not to persuade, much less to inform, but to violate the probity of the recipient, who has neither the energy nor the courage to protest against its lies, and therefore becomes in some way complicit in them. The more untrue the propaganda is, the more at variance with the lived experience of those who are subjected to it, the better, for the more completely it destroys the integrity of the recipient, rendering him docile.

Therefore, at the very time when hospitals are under threat of closure,

the staff receive glossy handouts portraying them as happy and smiling, at one with the management, just as Soviet peasants were portrayed feasting at tables groaning with produce at the height of famine.

There is

a constantly-changing langue de bois used by the hierarchy of public institutions, to disguise the reality. Words no longer have tolerably fixed meaning, but must be construed in their dialectical sense. Experience teaches, for example, that when the chief executive of an NHS institution says, ‘I am passionately committed to x,’ he means x is about to be disbanded or closed down, and about time.

Careless talk costs careers

An atmosphere of fear stalks Great Britain, says Dalrymple.

People are reluctant to speak their minds, even if what is in their minds is by no means outrageous. Whole subjects, some of them of great national importance, are beyond the pale of acceptable discussion. In the public service, underlings are afraid that their superiors might get to hear anything that contradicts the latest ideological doctrine, or that fails to use the latest accepted terminology, and that they might suffer.

Professionals have to take part in many fraudulent

ceremonial procedures, such as endless meetings of a semi-political nature, and perform bureaucratic tasks ever more intellectually corrupt and disconnected from the real goal of their work, compliance with which destroys their probity and turns them into ciphers.

Failure to protest

induces a state of self-hatred and contempt.

The best

go into inner emigration, and withdraw from public life completely.

The worst

join the apparatchiks.

Careerism, cronyism and looting of the public purse

Who is to blame for the Sovietisation of British life? Dalrymple explains that Margaret Thatcher played a large part.

Not only did she give the impression of being an economic determinist, a mirror-image Marxist, and not only was she a great centraliser, giving an impetus to the most ruthless forms of careerism and its corollary, cronyism, but she vastly increased the role of supposedly technocratic management in society, and particularly in the public service. She thought that professional managers were the way to control the vested interests of professions and public servants; in the process she created the new nomenclatura, with vested interests that dwarf all previous vested interests, and a looting of the public purse such as has not been seen for two centuries.

The Labour party,

to do it justice, saw its opportunity presented to it on a plate by the Conservatives. Trained in dialectics by those (many) among them with communist pasts, they read the situation with some subtlety. Not nationalisation, but a permanent revolution of ever-changing regulation, favour-swapping with big business, bureaucratic reorganisation, and the proliferation of parastatal bodies was the road to eternal power and the spoils it brought with it.

In the process,

the freedom and independence of the citizen had to be destroyed: a small price to pay, since they never valued it in the first place.

Dalrymple does not expect to see the Sovietisation reversed in his lifetime,

at least not without a cataclysm: and that might bring us something very much worse.

In the meantime, he has

joined the inner emigration.

Only something like a religious revival can begin to solve England’s deep, deep problems

Britain, Dalrymple notes,

has enormous cultural problems, perhaps only to be expected in a country in which more than 50% of children are born out of wedlock and 20% do not eat a meal with another member of their household more than once every two weeks. A dangerously high and perhaps unsustainable proportion of the population is unfitted for productive life in a modern economy, having attained an abysmally low educational level despite (or because of?) considerable state expenditure. This section of the population is not merely indifferent to refinement of any kind – intellectual, æsthetic or of manners – but actively hostile to it. Similarly, it is not merely not anxious to learn, it is anxious not to learn.

This explains why Britain has persistently imported labour from Eastern Europe

to perform tasks in its service industries that ordinarily one might have expected its large fund of indigenous non-employed people to perform. Although these tasks require no special skills, they require certain personal qualities such as reliability, politeness, and willingness to adapt: and these the eligible local population lack entirely. No hotel-keeper, for example, would consider using British labour if he could get foreign.

Perhaps nothing, says Dalrymple, captures the levels of personal incompetence and lack of self-respect in Britain

than the fact that young men of the lowest social class are about half as likely to die in prison as they are if left at liberty. In prison, though adult, they are looked after, at least in a basic way, and told what to do. They are no longer free to pursue their dangerous and crudely self-indulgent lifestyle, in which distraction is the main occupation. In prison they receive the healthcare that, though it is free to them under the NHS, they are not responsible enough to seek when at liberty.

In short, Dalrymple observes,

they do not know, because they have never been taught, how to live in a minimally constructive fashion, though they were certainly not born ineducable.

Other comparable countries have similar problems, but none

has them to anything like the same extent.

He points out that these problems do not originate from Britain’s membership of the European Union,

nor will they be solved by exit from the Union. They can be solved only by something more resembling a religious revival than by any likely government action.

But

expecting a population to bethink itself while simultaneously being offered political solutions that require no effortful cultural change is unreasonably optimistic. And politicians are unlikely to be frank about the problem for two reasons: first because alluding to the deficiencies of their electorate is probably not the best way to get elected, and second because it downgrades the providential role of politics, which politicians are understandably reluctant to do.

Britishers are ferocious in defence of their egotism

Great Britain, writes Dalrymple,

has become among the least disciplined nations known to me in the matter of making a noise, and the most ferocious in its defence of its own egotism. The English, it used to be said, took their pleasures sadly; now they take them loudly. As they walk through the streets in pursuit of their generally gross and unrefined pleasures, or after they have taken them, they scream and shout fit to wake people on life-support machines in a vegetative state. The women are worse than the men, or at least their voices are more penetrating.

An epiphænomenon in the life of the British people

It is often argued that Thatcherism played a rôle in

the terrible deterioration in the character of the British people,

but Dalrymple reminds us that

the deterioration was evident many years before Margaret Thatcher’s advent to power — which changed nothing.

Thatcher was

an epiphænomenon in the life of the British people. She spoke much, but achieved little.