A typical great piece by 'Dalrymple', worth reading for its historical references, including (thank goodness it finally reminded me where I read it) the comment that English football crowds behave (or rather, once behaved) like church meetings. I used to live just up the road from Charlton Athletic in the days when it was almost all terraces and thousands would turn up on foot or by train for games. I never worried about walking through the crowd on a Saturday, I never once saw a violent incident, and the loudest noise was the vendor selling those old rattles fans used.
[...] Gradually, but overwhelmingly, the culture and character of British restraint have changed 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.
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. The little town where I now live when in England transforms by night. By day, it is delightful; I live in a Queen Anne house that abuts a charming Elizabethan cottage near church grounds that look as if they materialized from an Anthony Trollope novel. By night, however, the average age of the person on the street drops from 60 to 20, with few older people venturing out. Charm and delight vanish. Not long ago, the neighborhood awoke to the sound of a young man nearly kicked to death by other young men, all of whom had spilled forth from a pub at 2 am. The driver of a local car service, who does only prearranged pickups, tells me that it is now normal (in the statistical sense) for young women to emerge from the bars and try to entice him to drive them home by baring their breasts, even pushing them against his windows if for some reason he has to stop in town.
I laughed when hearing this, but in essence it is not funny. The driver was talking not about an isolated transgressor of customs but about a whole manner of cultural comportment. By no means coincidentally, the young British find themselves hated, feared, and despised throughout Europe, wherever they gather to have what they call “a good time.” They turn entire Greek, Spanish, and Turkish resorts into B-movie Sodoms and Gomorrahs. They cover sidewalks with vomit, rape one another, and indulge in casual drunken violence. In one Greek resort, 12 young British women were arrested recently after indulging in “an outdoor oral sex competition.”
No person with the slightest apprehension of human psychology will be surprised to learn that as a consequence of this change in character, indictable crime has risen at least 900 percent since 1950. In the same period, the homicide rate has doubled—and would have gone up ten times, had it not been for improvements in trauma surgery and resuscitation techniques. And all this despite the fact that the proportion of the population in the age group most likely to commit crimes has fallen considerably. Read more
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