Category Archives: popular taste

The collectivist rot in Britain

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 07.54.19An infantilised people

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.)

Many Britons

see no difference between work and parasitism.

They are left with

very little of importance to decide for themselves, even in their private spheres.

The State

  • 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

Their choices

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.

Such people

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.

Flattery of degraded popular taste

Why, asks Dalrymple, should

a newspaper directed at the [apparently] most highly educated portion of a large population devote so much space to the posthumous adulation of [a second-rate, repellently self-aggrandising] pop singer, and treat his activity with such breathlessly awed veneration? Was it sincere? Was it insincere? Is it worse if it was sincere than if it was insincere?

He suspects that

in the extravagance of the coverage there is an element of flattery of the popular taste, that is to say a willing and dishonest suspension of judgment. You can criticise authorities all you like, but when it comes to criticising masses of ordinary people—there the critical faculty must halt.