From today’s Bleat:

I went outside to read “Life at the Bottom,” an account of the British underclass by Theodore Dalrymple. “Bracing” does not describe it, anymore than “Brisk” describes the sensation of a bucket of lemon juice poured on a sucking chest wound. The book concerns the ideas that animate, if you can use that word, the sullen masses of the impotent and indifferent, where they come from (two guesses) and how uncouthness becomes chic, and trickles up.

I’m reading the same book. Amazon was selling this along with his latest book, Our Culture, What’s Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses at a discount last week, freight included, so I ordered them.

Lileks’ description is apt. These books need to be read, but “entertainment” they most definitely are not. The first essay in Our Culture is Dalrymple’s City Journal piece, “The Frivolity of Evil,” if you want a taste.

I was watching Inside the Actor’s Studio yesterday afternoon, and the guest was Jamie Fox. James Lipton asked Fox what a “Playa” was. Fox defined it as (and I paraphrase) someone whose opinion is valued by the public. I don’t have the book in front of me as I write this, but in the very first essay in Life at the Bottom Dalrymple illustrates how the British newspaper The Guardian ran an article about how there had recently been a meeting of America’s “greatest minds.”

They were talking about rap artists.

Talk about “trickle up.”

Edited to add: Here’s the actual passage. It’s from the introduction, not the first essay:

Just as there is said to be no correct grammar or spelling, so there is no higher or lower culture: difference itself is the only recognized distinction. This is a view peddled by intellectuals eager to demonstrate to one another their broad-mindedly democratic sentiment. For example, the newspaper that is virtually the house journal of Britain’s liberal intelligentsia, the Guardian (which would once honorably have demanded that, in the name of equity and common decency, the entire population should be given access to high culture), recently published an article about a meeting in New York of what it described in headlines as “some of America’s biggest minds.”

And who were America’s biggest minds? Were they its Nobel prize-winning scientists, its physicists and molecular biologists? Were they America’s best contemporary scholars or writers? Or perhaps its electronics entrepreneurs who have so transformed the world in the last half-century?

No, some of the biggest minds in America belonged, in the opinion of the Guardian, to rap singers such as Puff Daddy, who were meeting in New York (for “a summit,” as the Guardian put it) to end the spate of senseless mutual killings of East and West Coast rap singers and improve the public image of rap as a genre. Pictures of the possessors of these gigantic minds accompanied the article, so that even if you did not already know that rap lyrics espouse a set of values that is in equal part brutal and stupid, you would know at once that these allegedly vast intellects belonged to people indistinguishable from street thugs.

The insincerity of this flattery is obvious to anyone with even a faint acquaintance with the grandeur of human achievement. It is inconceivable that the writer of the article, or the editor of the newspaper, both educated men, truly believed that Puff Daddy et al. possessed some of the biggest minds in America. But the fact that the debased clture of which rap music is a product receives such serious attention and praise deludes its listeners into supposing that nothing finer exists than what they already know and like. Such flattery is thus the death of aspiration, and lack of aspiration is, of course, one of the causes of passivity.

Which reminds me, once again, of Tytler’s timeline:

From bondage to spiritual faith
From spiritual faith to great courage
From courage to liberty
From liberty to abundance
From abundance to complacency
From complacency to apathy
From apathy to dependence
From dependence back into bondage

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