Category Archives: intelligentsia (British)

Vulgarity of expression in the British cultural élite

Leafing through the cultural section of the Observer, which Dalrymple explains is

the Sunday newspaper of the intelligentsia (at least, that part of it that still reads a newspaper),

he comes across the following statement, by a playwright called Lucy Prebble, about her latest work:

It’s a risky, clumsy motherfucker, this play.

The accompanying picture is of the playwright,

dressed in a rather pretty and no doubt expensive flowered frock, smiling and looking exceedingly pleased with herself.

Dalrymple notes that

apart from the obviously bogus self-deprecation of the statement,

the use of the word motherfucker

is clearly intended as a signal of her liberation from supposedly bourgeois restraint and her desire to assert her membership in the linguistic underclass. We may assume that as a successful playwright she is capable of more expressive, less uninformatively vulgar ways of describing her doubts about the value of her play. Her choice of word is not to convey anything meaningful about her play, which it is clearly incapable of doing, but to establish her social and political virtue, that is to say her nonmembership of an élite that once upon a time would not have used such a word, and certainly would not have wished it to be published that it had used it.

Exceedingly pleased with herself: Lucy Prebble

Storm clouds on the horizon for the British monarchy

The kitsch industry

The English intelligentsia, writes Dalrymple,

are hostile to the monarchy as never before. Ever on the lookout for old institutions to destroy, little but the monarchy remains for their attention. Thanks to the expansion of tertiary education and the decline of industry, the intelligentsia are larger and more influential than at any time in history; they never rest until they get what they want.

Made in China

Moreover, the British population is

so disconnected from its country’s past that it has not the faintest idea of the constitutional role of the monarchy. So weak has understanding become that those who defend in public the extravaganza of the royal wedding and its expense are reduced to performing a cost-benefit analysis. The security and other arrangements will cost £x; but the receipts from the extra tourism, television rights, and kitsch industry — royal memorabilia such as plates, mugs, biscuit tins, and bogus commemorative coins — will amount to an estimated £x+n, even if most of the kitsch will be produced in China.

There is, says Dalrymple,

something undignified about the use of the language of profit and loss about a monarchy that has lasted, with a short break for revolution, a millennium. If after a thousand years the best or only thing you can say for a political institution is that it brings in a few extra tourists, who are a market for foreign-produced junk, attachment to that institution in an age that prides itself on its rationality and ability to found itself on self-evident first principles is not likely to be very strong or to last long.

Foreign-produced junk

The whole point of a constitutional monarch,

that he is head of state and symbol of national unity not by virtue of a popularity contest or of any personal qualities, and is therefore above the fray to whose violence his very existence places a limit, is entirely lost on young British people, who believe in their own unlimited sovereignty. If they celebrated the wedding at all, it was for them just another occasion to get drunk.

Continentals view the NHS with horror

In England, writes Dalrymple,

the hold on the intelligentsia of statist solutions to practically all problems is still immensely strong.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its attitude to the National Health Service,

the establishment of which it almost universally regards as having been a great achievement, perhaps Britain’s only great achievement of the 20th century. This is despite all the evidence that it has not been egalitarian in its effect, as it was originally supposed to be, or that almost all Western European health systems are superior.

The fact that all other Western Europeans regard the NHS

with at least disdain, and more usually with absolute horror, does nothing to shake the British intelligentsia’s faith in the essential goodness of the NHS. The only perceived problem with it is that it is underfunded: the same problem as with all other government services.