Sunday, January 18, 2009

Britain’s failing “in its most basic duty”

For more than 25 years I’ve visited Britain (mostly England) 2 to 4 times each year, with my time spent there each year totaling about 5 or 6 weeks.

The visits have been for both professional reasons and vacation travel.

Obviously, I like the country and its people.

But based on what I observe of daily life there, what I learn from its media, and hear from its people, I agree with what Brit Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, author and social critic recently wrote in
City Journal, where he serves as a contributing editor.

Dalrymple's CJ column follows in full - - -

For millions of its inhabitants, Britain is a failing state. It assumes responsibility for education and health care without regard for results; and it fails in its most basic duty, to ensure that its inhabitants can go about their business with reasonable security.

A recent incident—the assault of a 96-year-old man—has brought home to the British public just how little it can rely on the state for protection. The assailant, 44, was frustrated that the elderly man was in his way as he tried to board a train.

Shouting “You bastard!,” he punched the man in the face, blinding him in one eye. The attack occurred in full view of many other passengers, and a closed-circuit television camera captured it as well.

Police subsequently apprehended the man, who claimed that the 96-year-old had attacked him first. It would be difficult to imagine a more brutally unfeeling and egotistical crime or more cynical self-justification. It is extremely unlikely that the guilty man is a model of kindness in his other human relations.

The judge in the case, however, said that sending the man to jail would “do nothing to protect the public,” and therefore sentenced him to just three years’ probation. How he came to the opinion that requiring the perpetrator to have a brief chat once a week with a probation officer would achieve this objective is a complete mystery.

As the judge himself conceded, “a significant prison sentence would well be justified,” and the charge was such that he had the power to sentence the guilty man to life imprisonment.

The very next day, fittingly enough, the government released figures revealing how probation endangers the public. Over the previous year, serious offenders who had been released from prison early and placed on probation committed at least 83 murders and rapes, a significant portion of the national total.

Given the extremely low arrest rate for reported crimes of violence in Britain—
and bearing in mind that one-half of all crimes are not even reported—the real figures for violence committed by serious offenders placed on probation after early release from prison must be significantly higher.(emphasis added)

The train assault case was also a perfect illustration that, in the absence of proper sentencing, surveillance by CCTV cameras is perfectly useless and merely a form of official voyeurism.

If a man can attack and seriously injure a 96-year-old without excuse in front of many eyewitnesses and a CCTV camera, yet receive what amounts to no punishment at all—he was even seen smirking as he left the court—who can blame the public if it concludes that the British state lacks legitimacy?
Straight line

Dalrymple's most recent book is
In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas.

I haven’t read it. How about you?

I did recently reread his
Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.

About Dalrymple, Michael Rose in the New Oxford Review said - - -

Dalrymple is without a doubt a cultural critic par excellence: His blunt writing style is engaging and his subject matter riveting and even unique. Refreshingly, he eschews the style manual of political correctness, but without coming across as a hardhearted bigot, something he most certainly is not.

Anyone concerned about the fate of the world will no doubt benefit from his unique insights and analyses of today's most pressing societal problems, and the informed reader won't fail to notice the prophetic messages found in every essay of this impressive collection.

With specific reference to Our Culture, What’s Left of It, Rose said - - -

The examples given throughout this selection of incisive essays diagnose a societal affliction, what Dalrymple calls the "frivolity of evil": the elevation of passing pleasure for oneself over the long-term misery of others to whom one owes a duty.

Dalrymple recounts some of the hundreds of conversations he's had with men who have abandoned their children for the sake of their own convenience, knowing that they are condemning the mother and the children to lives of brutality, poverty, abuse, and hopelessness: "They tell me so themselves. And yet they do it over and over again. The result is a rising tide of neglect, cruelty, sadism, and joyous malignity that staggers and appalls me."

Complicating this social plague is the effect of the government on family life. The state in effect absolves the deadbeat dads of all responsibility for their children. Without financial and familial commitments, the biological fathers behave like spoiled children who become demanding, self-centered, and violent when they don't get their own way. ...


If you’re not familiar with Dalrymple, his
City Journal writings and Our Culture, What’s Left of It are good places to strike up an acquaintance.

Also, one of my goals for JinC in 2009 is to post more often referencing Dalrymple.

Hat tip Commenter on this Althouse thread found via Instapundit.


Anonymous said...

I traveled to the UK in 1985 and went back in 1999. The greatest changes I saw during that 14 year period were in the service orientation of Britons who work with the public.

In 1985, the work force still had people who came up when Britain was Great. Fourteen years later, many of that generation had retired and been replaced by the "whatever" generation. There were scraps of the old British efficiency, courtesy, and cheer but they were few and far between.

The best example of "Old Britain" I encountered during the 1999 visit was a recent immigrant from Africa who drove me to the airport. He was punctual, polite, service-oriented, focused, and motivated. He had been in London for only two years and had not yet picked up the sense of entitlement and apathetic attitudes that were so prevalent among many of the native born.