Category Archives: English national character

The English then and now

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 09.00.33Once, writes Dalrymple, the qualities of the English population included

  • cool and ironic detachment from its own experience, that permitted it to face adversity with great good humour and modesty rather than by resort to histrionics
  • a polite restraint that was a precondition of depth of character. This restraint seemed to me heroic in an undemonstrative way; it was also the guarantor of an implicit subtlety

Today the chief characteristics of the English, Dalrymple points out, are

  • militant vulgarity
  • lack of restraint
  • arrogant loudness
  • ferocious and determined drunkenness
  • antisocial egotism
  • aggression and quick resort to violence
  • grossness of appetites
  • prideful ugliness of appearance
  • lack of finesse in any department of human existence

Moral delicacy on Facebook

All we want is attention

All we want is attention

The internet and Facebook, Dalrymple notes,

are certainly bringing into prominence the intrinsic decency and sense of fair play of the English,

as well as their

refined use of language.

He cites the Facebook contributions that greeted the reduction of the sentence given to Lee Kilburn. Mr Kilburn, Dalrymple explains,

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.58.04is a 42-year-old man of previously good character who was driven to distraction by children who constantly knocked on his door and ran away. His wife had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Mr Kilburn chased one of the children who had knocked on his door, and there are two versions of what happened: he says he ran after her, grabbed her and she fell, he fell on top of her and she broke her nose on the ground; she says he punched her and broke his nose.

Mr Kilburn admitted that he had lost his temper and was in the wrong, but denied that he had intended to injure the girl. The judges agreed that there were mitigating circumstances, freed him from jail and suspended his sentence. One response on Facebook to the judicial decision read as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.59.15I’d go inside [i.e. be admitted to prison] just to wrap a quilt round his neck and stab the **** in his skull until his head is drained, no remorse, no mercy, dead! His cell would be covered in red.

Dalrymple comments:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 12.00.42The moral delicacy of the man who wrote this is evident from his refusal to spell out the four-letter word he wanted to use to describe Mr Kilburn. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

He asks:

Did people have sentiments such as the above before Facebook enabled them to be expressed anonymously in public, or did the possibility of expressing them in public anonymously call them forth?

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 12.02.49

Rottrollen (detail), 1917. John Bauer. Pen and wash

 

Dirtiest people in Europe

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 07.32.44Let the State clear up after me

Why, asks Dalrymple, are Britain’s councils and its highways agency

so negligent?

Local public administration

is incapable of organising street-cleaning properly, and does not see it as an important part of its duty. After all, it has chief executives to pay.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 08.06.36Why do the British

turn practically every road into a ribbon development of the rubbish dump of a Latin American town?

England’s streets are

by far the dirtiest in Western Europe. A Briton’s street is his dining room and litter bin.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 08.12.44The English seem to think that

what a beauty spot really needs is an empty, glaring-orange Lucozade bottle.

Circumambient slovenliness

The explanation lies, Dalrymple points out, in the deep selfishness of the British.

In order not to litter when it might be convenient to you to do so, you have to appreciate that you are not the only person in the world, that the world is not made just for your convenience.

If you look at the British,

you would think they were like shrews, that they have to eat twice their own body weight every few hours to survive. It is hardly surprising that people who exert no control over when and where they eat exert no control over where they leave the remains.

It is no coincidence that the British,

being the dirtiest people in Europe, are also the fattest.

 

The triumph of vulgarity in England

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 07.16.18It has been brought about, writes Dalrymple, by the likes of Max Clifford and Jimmy Savile,

with the complicity of a ruling class that has lost faith in itself.

All that Conrad admired in England is defeated, all that he detested is victorious

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 03.00.59Conrad was drawn to England, Dalrymple writes,

precisely because he saw the English national character as lacking in moral grandiosity and metaphysical flamboyance. The English people did their duty without the apparent need, or desire, to found it on any philosophical first principles.

His mistaken belief was that in England,

the Singletons would always prevail over the Donkins [a reference to two characters in the 1897 novella The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’: A Tale of the Sea]. History has proved him wrong: all that he admired has been defeated, and all that he detested has emerged victorious.