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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Hope Is a Theological Virtue

Theodore Dalrymple, in his excellent book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass (Amazon USA) (Amazon UK) , wrote in the year 2000 that the liberal elites at the BBC and other UK media were denying the reality of the British working class's degeneration in the previous few decades.

He describes what he saw in the downmarket seaside resort of Blackpool, in Northern England, which he had visited for the purpose fo writing an article commissioned to him "to describe the conduct of the people who go there for a weekend":
This sophisticated innocence has departed. Without the institution of marriage, mother-in-law and divorce jokes are pointless and passé. Fun now means public drunkenness on a mass scale, screaming in the streets, and the frequent exposure of naked buttocks to passersby. Within moments of arriving on the street along the beach, which was ankle-deep in discarded fast-food wrappings (the smell of stale fat obliterates completely the salt smell of the sea), I saw a woman who had pulled down her slacks and tied a pair of plastic breasts to her bare buttocks, while a man crawled after her on the sidewalk, licking them. At midnight along this street—with the sound of rock music pounding insistently out of every club door, and each door presided over by a pair of steroid-inflated bouncers, among men vomiting into the gutters, and with untold numbers of empty bags of marijuana on the pavement—I saw children as young as six, unattended by adults, waiting for their parents to emerge from their nocturnal recreations.
He recounts how, after the article's publication, he was accused by the mainstream media's intellectual elites of being a snob, and letters sent to these media outlets accused him of not understanding the working class "culture".

But other, unpublished, letters sent by the public were supportive of his position:
The liberal assumption, in this as in most things, is that to understand is to approve (or at least to pardon), and therefore my disapproval indicated a lack of understanding. But strangely enough, the letters that the BBC and the newspaper that published the original article forwarded to me—those they hadn't broadcast or published—wholly endorsed my comments. They were from Blackpool residents and from working-class people elsewhere who passionately denied that working-class culture had always consisted of nothing but mindless obscenity. Several writers spoke very movingly of enduring real poverty in childhood while maintaining self-respect and a striving for mental distinction. The deliberate exclusion of these voices from public expression provided a fine example of how the British intelligentsia goes about its self-appointed task of cultural destruction.
Since the time when Dalrymple wrote about his difficulty in breaking through the media wall on the subject of descent from self-respecting working class to underclass, the press and TV networks have repeatedly published images of events similar to the ones he described occurring at weekends in many other cities and towns across the country, and indeed even abroad, in places like Spain or wherever British holidaymakers can be found.

A single man armed with a pen, determined to expose a problem and indicate a solution, has had a lasting influence in showing a path that other mass means of communication followed.

It is just one of the numerous examples of how change can be easier than we sometimes think.

When I was a teenager in the 60s and 70s, the radical ideas of the Left seemed unrealistic and their goals unattainable. Now for them it's almost mission accomplished.

Things can turn around the other way just as easily as they did this way.


  1. LIfe At the Bottom is fiction. Sorry to blow your world apart with that.

  2. You seem to be in great need of feeling very powerful and being capable of "blowing someone's world apart" with a casual comment, without any substantiation in the form of evidence or argument to support it.

  3. I see that you are 'London based' and therefore quite capable of making the trip to Birmingham and visiting City Road Hospital in which Doctor Dalrymple claims to have spent a decade and a half working as a consultant psychiatrist. I look forward to your firsthand impressions.

    1. I honestly fail to see the point you're making.