Theodore Dalrymple explains how Britain went down the drain

Theodore Dalrymple explains how Britain went down the drain, by Kevin Chinnery.

He’s the psychiatrist who broke a taboo. In 1990, Theodore Dalrymple, prison shrink, slum area hospital doctor, and freshly appointed magazine columnist started telling the awful truth about Britain’s poor. … His books, essays, and columns for The Spectator, The Times and the New Statesman, have been compared to Orwell in their observations of Britain. …

He shows a new Gin Lane, a Hogarthian horror show of self-destructive behaviour: drink- and drug-addled deadbeat parents, feral children, random violence and chosen idleness. Chaos and ignorance, encouraged by the welfare and education systems, and treated as both normal and unavoidable. …

Blame is reserved for the intellectual class that made all this happen. Not through the indifference of the 1930s, but overindulgence. Trendy 1960s social theories have run amok and caused endless harm to the people they are supposed to be helping, he says. Academics, writers, artists and journalists tore down old values like personal responsibility and civility, replaced by ideas that “society is to blame” and a moral relativism that says that nothing is wrong. …

Zero self-control and zero connection between effort and reward did not make people happy, but left them trapped in “cheerless self-pitying hedonism and the brutality of the dependency culture”, he wrote in the book, Life at the Bottom.

The start of the rot:

Dalrymple hazards a precise starting date for this: when John Osborne replaced Terence Rattigan as the leading British playwright, he says, and angry young men replaced the stoicism of The Browning Version. It was people who “showed off their cleverness and their virtue” by attacking the status quo. The damage didn’t matter, so much as their pet theories. It’s the radical vanity I well remember at uni in the 1970s … with intellect equated with contempt for conventional life. It’s the same in art, he adds, where you have to be transgressive just for the sake of it. …

The rot works its way through Britain’s classes:

Having trickled down from the top, moral licence has now percolated up again from the bottom. Its tidemark, for Dalrymple, is tattoos. The middle classes began tattooing themselves out of empathy, he once thought, with marginal people like criminals or bikers.

“But unfortunately, when you imitate something, the role becomes the reality.” Mass drunkenness and mass vulgarity is now routine across British society. In the 1960s, stung by criticism it was too middle class, the BBC hired Jimmy Savile, he says. Decades before Savile’s sexual predation was revealed, “he was the start of an evangelical vulgarisation that has proved unstoppable“. …

Random observations about the loss of culture in modern Britain:

British urban dwellers, he wrote in his book Our Culture, What’s Left of It, are like barbarians camped out in the ruins of an older, superior civilisation they don’t understand. …

“I have often thought the worst fate is 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?” He looks sad as he says it. …

What’s the answer? The real problem is “the modern miracle of British education, in which people come out of school knowing even less than when they went in”. …

You could run a hotel in France with French staff. In England, employers would choose a Pole. Their English is more functional and their attitude better. The locals “can’t tell the difference between service and servitude, which is a terrible thing in a service economy”. …

He says that he once signed up as the vulgarity correspondent of the Daily Mail – he smirks at that one – sent on assignment to an England soccer friendly in Italy. A hundred middle-class Englishmen he travelled with routinely hurled abuse at any passing Italian. “I asked one of them, a computer programmer, why he did it. He said, ‘you have to let your hair down’. I said, ‘well, no, you don’t. You should keep it up’. We used to be known for our emotional constipation. Now it’s emotional incontinence. …

“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 elite now thinks. They are so anxious not to seem narrow-minded or bigoted, or of being ‘judgmental’.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil