Life in England

Just finished reading Theodore Dalrymple's book: "Life at the Bottom : The Worldview that Makes the Underclass" Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name for Dr. Anthony A.M. Daniels who until recently was a Physician working in Birmingham at a hospital that deals mainly with "poor" people. The book is a collection of essays he wrote from 1994 and 2000.

The "Underclass" he writes about are those people who fall victim to England's socialist welfare society where everyone is judged on their own merits and a wife-abuser or criminal or drug addict is excused from their behaviour as the welfare people do not want to prejudge the person. The educational system is worse than useless -- a high-school graduate cannot multiply six times four in their heads and they do not know when World War Two was fought (not even to the nearest decade). When asked about what interests them, they stare back blankly. They spend their lives watching the television, hanging out in "clubs" with their friends, their diet is entirely pre-made food, they do not exercise or read.

The welfare people, when they realize that one theory isn't working, do not bother to dismantle that program, they simply put another layer on top of what they are already doing to the extent that for every teacher their is in England, there is an Education Bureaucrat.

A number of Mr. Dalrymnple's essays can be found at the excellent City Journal.\

Here are a few excerpts from What is Poverty?

What is Poverty?
What do we mean by poverty? Not what Dickens or Blake or Mayhew meant. Today, no one seriously expects to go hungry in England or to live without running water or medical care or even TV. Poverty has been redefined in industrial countries, so that anyone at the lower end of the income distribution is poor ex officio, as it were - poor by virtue of having less than the rich. And of course by this logic, the only way of eliminating poverty is by an egalitarian redistribution of wealth - even if the society as a whole were to become poorer as a result.

Such redistribution was the goal of the welfare state. But it has not eliminated poverty, despite the vast sums expended, and despite the fact that the poor are now substantially richer - indeed are not, by traditional standards, poor at all. As long as the rich exist, so must the poor, as we now define them.

A bit more:

Just as it is easier to recognize ill health in someone you haven't seen for some time rather than in someone you meet daily, so a visitor coming into a society from elsewhere often can see its character more clearly than those who live in it. Every few months, doctors from countries like the Philippines and India arrive fresh from the airport to work for a year's stint at my hospital. It is fascinating to observe their evolving response to British squalor.

At the start, they are uniformly enthusiastic about the care that we unsparingly and unhesitatingly give to everyone, regardless of economic status. They themselves come from cities - Manila, Bombay, Madras - where many of the cases we see in our hospital would simply be left to die, often without succor of any kind. And they are impressed that our care extends beyond the merely medical: that no one goes without food or clothing or shelter, or even entertainment. There seems to be a public agency to deal with every conceivable problem. For a couple of weeks, they think this all represents the acme of civilization, especially when they recall the horrors at home. Poverty - as they know it - has been abolished.

Before very long, though, they start to feel a vague unease. A Filipina doctor, for example, asked me why so few people seemed grateful for what was done for them. What prompted her question was an addict who, having collapsed from an accidental overdose of heroin, was brought to our hospital. He required intensive care to revive him, with doctors and nurses tending him all night. His first words to the doctor when he suddenly regained consciousness were, "Get me a fucking roll-up" (a hand-rolled cigarette). His imperious rudeness didn't arise from mere confusion: he continued to treat the staff as if they had kidnapped him and held him in the hospital against his will to perform experiments upon him. "Get me the fuck out of here!" There was no acknowledgment of what had been done for him, let alone gratitude for it. If he considered that he had received any benefit from his stay at all, well, it was simply his due.

And one more excerpt:

I often take my doctors from the Third World on the short walk from the hospital to the prison nearby. It is a most instructive 800 yards. On a good day - good for didactic purposes, that is - there are seven or eight puddles of glass shattered into fragments lying in the gutter en route (there are never none, except during the most inclement weather, when even those most addicted to car theft control their impulses).

"Each of these little piles of smashed glass represents a car that has been broken into," I tell them. "There will be more tomorrow, weather permitting." The houses along the way are, as public housing goes, quite decent. The local authorities have at last accepted that herding people into giant, featureless, Le Corbusian concrete blocks was a mistake, and they have switched to the construction of individual houses. Only a few of their windows are boarded up. Certainly by comparison with housing for the poor in Bombay, Madras, or Manila they are spacious and luxurious indeed. Each has a little front yard of grass, surrounded by a hedge, and a much larger back yard; about half have satellite dishes.

Unfortunately, the yards are almost as full of litter as municipal garbage dumps.

I tell my doctors that in nearly nine years of taking this walk four times a week, I have never seen a single instance of anyone attempting to clean his yard. But I have seen much litter dropped; on a good day, I can even watch someone standing at the bus stop dropping something on the ground no farther than two feet from the bin.

"Why don't they tidy up their gardens?" asks a doctor from Bombay.

A good question: after all, most of the houses contain at least one person with time on his or her hands. Whenever I have been able to ask the question, however, the answer has always been the same: I've told the council [the local government] about it, but they haven't come. As tenants, they feel it is the landlord's responsibility to keep their yards clean, and they are not prepared to do the council's work for it, even if it means wading through garbage - as it quite literally does. On the one hand, authority cannot tell them what to do; on the other, it has an infinitude of responsibilities towards them.

I ask my Third World doctors to examine the litter closely. It gives them the impression that no Briton is able to walk farther than ten yards or so without consuming junk food. Every bush, every lawn, even every tree, is festooned with chocolate wrappers or fast-food packaging. Empty cans of beer and soft drinks lie in the gutter, on the flower beds, or on top of the hedges. Again, on a good day we actually see someone toss aside the can whose contents he has just consumed, as a Russian vodka drinker throws down his glass.

Apart from the antisocial disregard of the common good that each little such act of littering implies (hundreds a week in the space of 800 yards alone), the vast quantity of food consumed in the street has deeper implications. I tell the doctors that in all my visits to the white households in the area, of which I've made hundreds, never--not--once have I seen any evidence of cooking. The nearest to this activity that I have witnessed is the reheating of prepared and packaged food, usually in a microwave. And by the same token, I have never seen any evidence of meals taken in common as a social activity�unless two people eating hamburgers together in the street as they walk along be counted as social.

And the six years from Dr. Dalrymple's last essay in the book to present hasn't seen any change.

Kevin at The Smallest Minority writes:

If You Want More of Something,.Subsidize It
The UK's Home Office, the department of the British state responsible for keeping track of various government statistics, reports triumphantly that burglary is down in England & Wales by 20% from the previous year, and is now half of what it was in 1995! Just look!

And how is this done? Kevin offers this link to the Daily Mail:

'Let burglars off with caution', police told
Burglars will be allowed to escape without punishment under new instructions sent to all police forces. Police have been told they can let them off the threat of a court appearance and instead allow them to go with a caution.

The same leniency will be shown to criminals responsible for more than 60 other different offences, ranging from arson through vandalism to sex with underage girls.

New rules sent to police chiefs by the Home Office set out how seriously various crimes should be regarded, and when offenders who admit to them should be sent home with a caution.

A caution counts as a criminal record but means the offender does not face a court appearance which would be likely to end in a fine, a community punishment or jail.

And of course, if the police let more and more people go without writing them up, the crime rate (on paper) will seem to drop. What they fail to realize is that they are giving the criminals a carte blanche to continue.

Fortunately, this is not as serious here in the USA but I can see bits and pieces of it creeping into the system. Sad...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on April 10, 2006 5:00 PM.

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