Category Archives: social pathology

Prophet of social pathology

Ballard with Burroughs, 1988

Dalrymple notes that J.G. Ballard, who was briefly a medical student but gave up to become a writer, was born in Shanghai in 1930 and interned in a Japanese camp there in 1943.

Having previously lived the comfortable life of the rich and privileged expatriate in a poor country, he became sensitive as no one else in contemporary letters to the fragility of our well-ordered existence.

Many of his books record

the barbarism which lies just below the surface of our apparently civilised conduct, and which our highly technological society favours because of its tendency to isolate us emotionally from one another.

Ballard with Borges, c. 1972

Ballard, writes Dalrymple,

is the prophet of social pathology, particularly among the educated middle classes: the vile behaviour of middle-class football supporters, for example, would not surprise him in the least.

Dalrymple says he feels some kind of personal connection with Ballard because his grandfather, a doctor, was in Shanghai at the time that Ballard was in the camp.

Doctors figure prominently in Ballard’s fiction, and

do not behave better than others—far from it; and the fact that they so frequently behave badly, or at least not well, is symbolic of how fragile the author thinks that their ethical standards are, and therefore (since doctors are generally so highly regarded by the rest of society) how fragile all ethical standards are. We should not forget that many Japanese and German doctors committed some of the most sadistic atrocities of all.

Ballard at his home in Shepperton in 1965. Note the bottle of Johnnie Walker at left. Asked if it was difficult reducing his consumption slightly — shifting the time of the first whisky of the day from 9am to noon — he replied: ‘It was like the Battle of Stalingrad.’

The Ballard family home at 31 Amherst Avenue in Shanghai. It was built in 1925. This is how it looked — dilapidated — when Ballard returned to the city to film a documentary at the beginning of the 1990s. The house has now been gutted by developers.

Ballard in front of his Shepperton semi

Until all can live in beauty, none shall

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 08.57.13Finding himself in

one of those ugly cities, formerly industrial, in which England abounds to an extent unknown in any other Western country,

Dalrymple discovers that one of the town’s gracious quarters, full of early-19th-century houses built for the nascent industrial bourgeoisie, has been ruined by the construction of ‘social housing’ in the midst of it. The purpose of the construction is plainly

to destroy the beauty in which so small a proportion of the population lived, since there were many other places in which the social housing, a battery farm for social pathology, could have been built.

Justice,

by which is meant equality of outcome, demands the universal spread of grunginess, the destruction of all outward forms of distinction.

A society in decomposition

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.07.37England has neither leaders nor followers but is composed only of egotists

The

intellectual torpor, moral cowardice, incompetence and careerist opportunism of the British political and intellectual class

A careerist, intellectually torpid, incompetent coward

A careerist, intellectually torpid, incompetent coward

is now very evident, writes Dalrymple. Despite everything that has happened in recent years, the corrupt mandarins continue to contrive

not to notice what has long been apparent to anyone who has taken a short walk with his eyes open down any frequented British street: that a considerable proportion of the country’s young population (a proportion that is declining) is ugly, aggressive, vicious, badly educated, uncouth and criminally inclined.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.08.41Lavish self-esteem

While British youth is utterly lacking in self-respect,

it is full of self-esteem: that is to say, it believes itself entitled to a high standard of living, and other things, without any effort on its own part.

Although youth unemployment in Britain is very high, that is to say about 20 per cent of those aged under 25,

the country has had to import young foreign labour for a long time, even for unskilled work in the service sector.

The British, idlest workers in Europe

No rational employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton

if he could have a young Pole; the young Pole is not only likely to have a good work ethic and refined manners, he is likely to be able to add up and — most humiliating of all — to speak better English than the Briton, at least if by that we mean the standard variety of the language. He may not be more fluent but his English will be more correct and his accent easier to understand.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.11.24Travesty of an educational system

After compulsory education,

or perhaps I should say intermittent attendance at school, up to the age of 16 costing $80,000 a head, about one-quarter of British children cannot read with facility or do simple arithmetic. It makes you proud to be a British taxpayer.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.15.37State-subsidised criminality

British youth

leads the Western world in almost all aspects of social pathology, from teenage pregnancy to drug taking, from drunkenness to violent criminality. There is no form of bad behaviour that our version of the welfare state has not sought out and subsidised.

British children

are radically unsocialised and deeply egotistical, viewing relations with other human beings in the same way as Lenin: Who whom, who does what to whom. By the time they grow up, they are destined not only for unemployment but unemployability.

Long bath in vomitus

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.17.38All the necessary electronic equipment is available for the prosecution of the main business of life, viz

entertainment by popular culture. And what a culture British popular culture is! Perhaps Amy Winehouse was its finest flower and its truest representative in her militant and ideological vulgarity, her stupid taste, her vile personal conduct and preposterous self-pity.

Sordor

Winehouse’s sordid life

was a long bath in vomitus, literal and metaphorical, for which the exercise of her very minor talent was no excuse or explanation. Yet not a peep of dissent from our intellectual class was heard after her near canonisation after her death, that class having long had the backbone of a mollusc.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.19.10Thugs in uniform

What of the police? They are

simultaneously bullying but ineffectual and incompetent, increasingly dressed in paraphernalia that makes them look more like the occupiers of Afghanistan than the force imagined by Robert Peel. The people who most fear our police are the innocent.

(2011)