Thursday, 27 October 2011

Our basic niceness will be destroyed by the attempt to make us perfect

Theodore Dalrymple
That masterly chronicler of our disintegrating society, Theodore Dalrymple, wrote an article entitled “Ordinary People” in the last issue of The Salisbury Review (a publication I would urge everyone to subscribe to, if only to keep it going so I can go on reading it).
Despite a lifetime dealing with the dregs of society in a professional capacity (prison doctor and psychiatrist), Dalrymple assures us that he has nothing but admiration for the mass of ordinary people:

“Contrary to the impression I have sometimes given… that my life was largely a matter of avoiding and evading the horrors of modern existence, from drunken vomit in the gutter to chewing gum freshly applied to the undersides of seats in buses and the menace of feral-faced young men in hoodies and track-suit bottoms, I find much of my existence not only pleasant but made pleasant by the many helpful and good-humoured people whom I meet and who render me service, though I feel I have done nothing to deserve it.”
Hear! Hear!

I suspect that one of the depressing things about being left-wing must be having to resent everyday human niceness as an affront to your deeply-held belief that people won’t behave with true decency until society has been reconfigured (using blueprints created by huge teams of government-appointed “experts”) to enable them to do so.

Meanwhile, pleasantness, cheerfulness and helpfulness must be read as unhelpful to the overarching project - or as sure signs of simple-mindedness. Left-wingers are far happier when faced with people stridently, resentfully, selfishly demands for “rights” which, of course, turn out to be nothing but new forms of privilege. People cannot behave with true decency until the distorting influence of the class, race, sexual-orientation and gender bias of institutions created by the wicked, selfish forces of conservatism has been eradicated.

As far as I understand the Left's outlook, human beings are perfectly loving, compassionate, sharing and selfless until The System gets at them. The only way to release this innate capacity for perfection is either to eradicate The System – or, because there are one or two minor impediments to achieving that, replace it with another System which will eradicate the myriad imperfections created by the previous System. With this new System in place, all expressions of cheerfulness, selflessness etc. will be truly authentic, not phony and meaningless as they are now.

When it comes to human nature, we right-wingers and conservatives tend to go with the flow. Human beings are as they are, and society should be constituted in such a way that most of our good qualities are allowed to shine through, while most of our baser aspects are held in check. We don’t demand that human beings are somehow “improved” or led back to some state of prelapsarian perfection, because we know that the concept of human perfectibility is a ridiculous fantasy.

The Left is correct insofar as it believes that institutions matter. The worse our institutions, the worse we’ll behave: the better, the better. It’s surely a sign of the strength of our institutions that Britons spent so much of the 20th Century behaving pretty well towards each other.

But if, as is now the fashion, society – through its institutions - increasingly rewards bad behaviour, the worse our behaviour will undoubtedly become.

Around 80% of the people I come across strike me as basically decent. For every moronic thug in a school uniform behaving like an animal on our local high street, I meet at least four pleasant young folk who are evidently destined to make the world a slightly better place. For every chippy, stupid, incomprehensible call centre operative I have to deal with, I speak to at least three sensible, helpful, intelligent ones who speak a form of English I can understand. Ditto shop staff, postal workers, tube travellers, gas meter readers etc.

I’m sure some members of this seemingly decent 80% indulge in some unpleasant activities when not selling me stamps or fixing the plumbing. Perhaps they abuse their spouses, consume vicious pornography, write poison-pen letters, bet on dog-fights, snort cocaine, or even vote Lib-Dem. But in my dealings with them, they’re fine – more than fine, in fact. Because, for a long time now, British society has evolved systems to reward what most of us would consider good behaviour and to punish the bad.

Now, because the Left basically understands that returning human beings to their factory settings isn't really on, and that a new System is necessary, we've all been unwittingly signed up for a radical social engineering programme designed to make us believe that, among other things,  that immigrants are all cuddly, the EU is basically a good thing, Christianity is silly, being kind to criminals will turn them into decent citizens, treating nurses as if they were doctors will improve patient care, penalising the better-off will automatically improve the lot of the “poor”, compassion is the preogative of public sector institutions, using non-renewable energy sources is innately wicked, the phrase "social justice" actually means something, and awarding degrees to students who haven’t earned them will make this a better-educated country.

I doubt very much whether the innate affability of the British will survive the onslaught.

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