Gradually, but overwhelmingly, the culture and character of British restraint have changed [from self-control] into the exact opposite. Extravagance of gesture, vehemence of expression, vainglorious boastfulness, self-exposure, and absence of inhibition are what we tend to admire now—and the old modesty is scorned. It is as if the population became convinced of Blake’s fatuous dictum that it is better to strangle a baby in the cradle than to let a desire remain unacted upon.(via reader Doug J.)
Certainly, many Britons under the age of 30 or even 40 now embrace a kind of sub-psychotherapeutic theory that desires, if not unleashed, will fester within and eventually manifest themselves in dangerous ways. To control oneself for the sake of the social order, let alone for dignity or decorum (a word that would either mean nothing to the British these days, or provoke peals of laughter), is thus both personally and socially harmful.
I have spoken with young British people who regularly drink themselves into oblivion, passing first through a prolonged phase of public nuisance. To a man (and woman), they believe that by doing so, they are getting rid of inhibitions that might otherwise do them psychological and even physical harm. The same belief seems universal among those who spend hours at soccer games screaming abuse and making threatening gestures (whose meaning many would put into practice, were those events not policed in military fashion).
Lack of self-control is just as character-forming as self-control: but it forms a different, and much worse and shallower, character. Further, once self-control becomes neither second nature nor a desired goal, but rather a vice to avoid at all costs, there is no plumbing the depths to which people will sink.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Maybe There Won't Always Be An England, Part 3
Anthony Daniels, writing as Theodore Dalrymple, pens a depressing piece in the City Journal on the decline and fall of British civility: