Category Archives: vulgarisation

What lies behind Grant’s adoption of gutter language?

Dalrymple explains that Hugh Grant (left) was the star of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and once had some kind of trouble with the police

A tweet by the actor and thinker Hugh Grant, addressing the British prime minister, reads:

You will not fuck with my children’s future. You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you [sic] little gang of masturbatory prefects.

Dalrymple comments:

No doubt the space allowed by Twitter does not encourage profound or logical reflection (though in the Analects, Confucius manages concision and compression somewhat better than Mr Grant). What is important in the above mental eructation is not its thought, or even feeling, but its mode of expression.

Grant’s dull and tedious adoption of the language of the gutter is

much more significant in the long term than Brexit or the actions of the prime minister. It points to the cultural degeneration of a nation that, insofar as it has an ideology at all, has made vulgarity posing as egalitarianism its ideology.

Grant’s greatest rôle: defender of freedom and democracy

Grant, says Dalrymple,

if I have understood correctly — though I am open to correction — has made something of his character as an upper-middle-class Englishman. But he is at one with the British cultural élite in vulgarity of expression.

We may be sure that,

irrespective of what the prime minister does, Mr Grant will be able to arrange for a bright future, at least in the material sense. We may be sure that, if any government were to threaten that assured material future by genuinely and inescapably egalitarian economic measures, his howls of indignation would be a good deal more sincere than in the tweet above.

Dalrymple notes that vulgarity as an ideology

is a substitute for economic egalitarianism, in which neither I nor the ideological vulgarians such as Mr Grant believe, and which both of us fear. Mr Grant, however, thinks that he can deflect some of the envy no doubt directed at him if he can show by his employment of vulgar language that he is really in the same boat as the most subterranean members of the underclass. He is asserting some kind of equality with them by his use of debased and inexpressive language.

The tendency to act down,

which occurs in spheres other than language, does not derive from any guilt about social or economic inequality, which, on the contrary, it is designed to preserve and maintain. It is rather a camouflage or smokescreen for privilege, whether that privilege be earned or not. But though it is playacting — indeed, defender of freedom and democracy may be Mr Grant’s greatest rôle — it is not without real cultural effect, an effect that is baleful if you do not approve of the coarsening that it brings with it.

Moreover,

lack of verbal restraint is not liberation, it is impoverishment of thought.

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

The English: ugliest people in the world

Something that strikes Dalrymple every time he returns from France, where he lives much of the time, to the country of his birth is

the extreme vulgarity of the English by comparison with the French.

It is as if the English had

adopted vulgarity as a totalitarian ideology, a communism of culture rather than of the economy.

The vulgarity is

insolent, militant and triumphant. It will brook no competition and tolerate no dissent. It exercises a subliminal terror to discourage any protest. It is the ruling characteristic of England, of the prosperous as of the poor.

At the airport,

you can always tell a flight bound for England by the number of grossly fat and hideously apparelled passengers waiting to board. No man can be blamed for being ill-favoured by nature; but every man can be blamed for making the worst of himself, as the English do as a matter of principle.

Britishers are

the ugliest people in the world — but this has nothing to do with biology. Their facial expressions, their gait, their speech, their laughter, their gestures are crude. The mothers of no other nation known to me address their children in tones so lacking in tenderness and so expressive of shrewish irritability and exasperation, with voices shrill, penetrating and impossible to ignore (except, of course, for their children, who will very soon sound like them).

The crude and corrupt British state broadcaster

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 17.15.49For the right to receive television broadcasts in their homes, British households must pay a poll tax equivalent to about $210, which subsidises the British Broadcasting Corporation. 

This broadcasting system, writes Dalrymple, exemplifies two of the guiding principles of contemporary British public life:

  • the active promotion of adolescent vulgarity and sniggering crudity
  • the shameless looting of the public purse

Needless to say, the BBC

is losing viewers and listeners all the time; a growing proportion of the population never tunes in to any of its programmes.

The BBC certainly cannot claim any longer

that it produces, as it once did, the kind of intelligent programmes that commercial broadcasters shun.

Dalrymple points to vast payments made to the BBC’s fifth-rate ‘comedians’. These payments, he notes,

represent a gift from state functionaries (who themselves have also looted the public purse unmercifully)

on condition that the ‘comedians’

keep contributing to the ideologically-driven vulgarisation of the culture.

There has been a return, says Dalrymple,

to the 18th-century days of state patronage, with this difference: that the men who exercised it back then were men of taste and discrimination. They knew a Dr Johnson when they saw one.

Dalrymple on…

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 18.02.43♦ his reportage
I was just describing what I saw. I probably made it less terrible. I saw almost straight away that raw want was not the explanation.

♦ moral relativism
It has disastrous effects on those worst off, those least able to withstand the practical results of moral anarchy.

♦ loss of self-control
It leaves people trapped in cheerless self-pitying hedonism and the brutality of the dependency culture.

♦ the British
Now they are all the Lumpenproletariat.

♦ middle-class emulation of the barbarian
When you imitate something, the role becomes the reality.

♦ Jimmy Savile
The start of an evangelical vulgarisation that has proved unstoppable.

♦ English downward cultural aspiration
Among the causes:
Loss of confidence of the middle class (which is quite easy to enter, unlike France which is far more snobbish).
⇒ Loss of British power and influence in the world. It’s catastrophic when that happens.
In France, politicians pretend to be more cultured than they are; in Britain it’s the opposite.

♦ exports of UK vulgarity
Why anyone finds British culture attractive I can’t imagine.

♦ British urban residents
Barbarians camped out in the ruins of an older, superior civilisation they don’t understand.

♦ litter
You don’t have to wait 3,000 years for litter to become archæology before it tells you something. You can track diet, habits, attitudes, how people see the world. It’s a complete loss of interest in the public space.

♦ his character
People have great difficulty marking themselves out as individuals. I didn’t, but I’m odd. From an early age I was contrary. Not in any aggressive or egotistical way. But I was always quite happy that I knew best. It’s not true, of course, but I never let it destroy the illusion.

♦ the worst fate
To be an intelligent and sensitive person born into the British underclass. The social pressure on you to fail is enormous. I remember a girl who wanted to study French but ‘they said I was stupid because I was clever’. Can you imagine growing up in that environment?

♦ British education
A modern miracle. People come out of school knowing less than when they went in.

♦ England’s cultural level
Extremely low, at least on a mass scale. The British are so degraded culturally they can’t even answer the telephone properly.

♦ Britain’s ‘service economy without the service’
The English can’t tell the difference between service and servitude, which is a terrible thing in a service economy.

♦ emotional constipation
The British used to be known for it. Now it’s emotional incontinence.

♦ why he became a psychiatrist
The gossip.

♦ disappointment
The permanent condition of mankind. Life would be intolerable without it. We would all be so smug.

♦ tolerance
A society that tolerates everything is rather bad. Shouting, screaming, intimidation. We are prepared to tolerate public vomiting, but if you use the term ‘actress’, you are a sexist. A very well-educated lady told me public vomiting is all right: ‘They can clear it up.’ This is how the élite thinks. They are so anxious not to seem narrow-minded or bigoted, or of being ‘judgmental’.

Sordor of the Britishers

Dalrymple writes:

A crude culture makes a coarse people, and private refinement cannot long survive public excess.

In no country

has vulgarisation gone further than in Britain. A nation famed not so long ago for the restraint of its manners is now notorious for the coarseness of its appetites and its unbridled and antisocial attempts to satisfy them.

The mass drunkenness

goes hand in hand with the crude, violent and shallow relations between the sexes.

Britain’s mass bastardy

is not a sign of an increase in the authenticity of our human relations but a natural consequence of the unbridled hedonism that leads to chaos and misery. Take restraint away, and violent discord follows.

This is not nostalgie de la boue;

this is total immersion in the boue itself, the boue in which they live and breathe and take their cultural being, the boue from which it is highly unlikely that they will now ever crawl.