On England’s Continued Decline.
Read Theodore Dalrymple’s latest City Journal column, “It’s This Bad,” and try to convince yourself that what he describes is not coming here if the Left ever acquires control of the levers of power. Excerpts:
Returning briefly to England from France for a speaking engagement, I bought three of the major dailies to catch up on the latest developments in my native land. The impression they gave was of a country in the grip of a thoroughgoing moral frivolity. In a strange inversion of proper priorities, important matters are taken lightly and trivial ones taken seriously.
This is not the charming or uplifting frivolity of Feydeau’s farces or Oscar Wilde’s comedies; it is the frivolity of real decadence, bespeaking a profound failure of nerve bound to have disastrous consequences for the country’s quality of life. The newspapers portrayed frivolity without gaiety and earnestness without seriousness—a most unattractive combination.
The newspapers confirmed what I had long perceived before I left Britain: that the zeitgeist of the country is now one of sentimental moralizing combined with the utmost cynicism, where the government’s pretended concern for the public welfare coexists with the most elementary dereliction of duty. There is an absence of any kind of idealism that is a necessary precondition of probity, so that bad faith prevails almost everywhere. The government sees itself as an engineer of souls (to use the phrase so eloquently coined by Stalin with regard to writers who, of course, were expected to mold Homo Sovieticus by the power of their words). Government thus concerns itself with what people think, feel, and say—as well as with trying to change their freely chosen habits—rather than with performing its one inescapable duty: that of preserving the peace and ensuring that citizens may go about their lawful business in confidence and safety.
Read. Every. Damned. Word.
I am reminded once again of Kim du Toit’s explanation of why he and I and others comment on Albion’s decline:
(W)e Americans can’t help but be horribly fascinated by what’s happening to our British cousins.
I’m serious about this. The slight disturbances in the late 1770s and early 1810s notwithstanding, we Americans have always held our British cousins in the greatest esteem. No, that’s not strong enough. We love Britain, as much for our shared heritage and language as for the fact that when we’re traveling, it’s an enormous relief not to have to struggle with a map and a language guide.
I could fill these pages with news of similar atrocities happening anywhere in the world—the British Disease is by no means confined to Britain, as witnessed by car-burning being the recreational favorite of French teenagers—but, if I may be frank, I don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to France, to the French, or to any other country in the world for that matter.
But I care, deeply, about what’s happening in Britain nowadays, and if it seems any other way to my Brit Friends and Readers, then I humbly beg your forgiveness.
Dalrymple says much the same:
Therefore I have removed myself: not that I imagine things are much better, only slightly different, in France. But one does not feel the defects of a foreign country in quite the same lacerating way as the defects of one’s native land; they are more an object of amused, detached interest than of personal despair.