Category Archives: moralising

The British Zeitgeist

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 08.56.56It is one, writes Dalrymple, of

sentimental moralising combined with the utmost cynicism, where the government’s pretended concern for the public welfare coexists with the most elementary dereliction. There is an absence of any kind of idealism that is a necessary precondition of probity, so that bad faith prevails almost everywhere.

The British State

sees itself as an engineer of souls, concerning itself with what people think, feel, and say—as well as with trying to change their freely chosen habits—rather than with performing its inescapable duty: that of preserving the peace and ensuring that citizens may go about their lawful business in confidence and safety. It is more concerned that young men should not smoke cigarettes in prison or make silly jokes to policemen than that they should not attack and permanently maim their elders and betters.

One definition of decadence, he writes, is

the concentration on the gratifyingly imaginary to the disregard of the disconcertingly real.

No one who knows Britain, says Dalrymple, could doubt that it has very serious problems.

  • Its public services—which consume a vast proportion of the national wealth—are not only inefficient but beyond amelioration by the expenditure of yet more money
  • Its population is abysmally educated, to the extent that that there is not even a well-educated élite
  • An often criminally minded population has been indoctrinated with shallow and gimcrack notions—for example, about social justice—that render it unfit to compete in an increasingly competitive world

Dalrymple warns that such

unpleasant realities cannot be indefinitely disguised.

Bathtime at the Pecksniff Hotel

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 22.29.39Ne sutor ultra crepidam

Entering his hotel room, Dalrymple finds an

unctuous, mendacious, and mildly hectoring and even bullying notice on the towels in the bathroom.

It reads:

You care, we care, we all care about our environment and carbon footprint. Please take care and only have towels washed when needed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 22.51.56Yet it was necessary only

to step outside the hotel to prove that ‘we’ do not all care about the environment. Many of us drop litter; many of us tread our chewing gum into the ground; many of us make unnecessary noise; many of us render the world slightly more ugly than it need be by our careless appearance in public. Many, indeed most, of us consume vastly more than we need. Many of us take unnecessary journeys because we cannot think of anything else to do. Many of us would not even be able to define our carbon footprint, let alone care about it.

Seth Pecksniff, shield of virtue

Seth Pecksniff, shield of virtue

The very word ‘care’

now has a Pecksniffian ring to it, thanks to its use in this kind of canting message. ‘Let us be moral,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Let us contemplate existence.’

The notion that ‘we’ of the hotel chain

do and ought to care more about the environment than, say, about reducing the chain’s laundry bill and thereby increasing its margin of profit (a perfectly respectable and reasonable thing for ‘us’ of the chain to do) is absurd and to me repellent.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 23.31.26

A worthwhile movement

We despise

the Victorians for their habit of dishonest moralising,

but ours

is an age of ultracrepidarian hypocrisy in which everyone claims to care deeply for everything except that which concerns him most.