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Theodore Dalrymple and prison September 17, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Here is the article I referred to in an earlier post where Mr. Dalrymple talks about folk finding some sort of contentedness in prison. The article recounts a grim but gripping story; the grimness is, in my view, in no way unusual. There’s plenty of it about. I can’t agree with Mr. Dalrymple, though, that the welfare state is almost exclusively to blame. I live in Germany and see only too many people who live on welfare and who seem to have lost the ability to participate actively in society. Yet I would be surprised to hear – I haven’t checked statistics, so this is conjecture – that there were such high levels of this sort of grimness in Germany as in Britain. I think the problem must equally squarely lie at education and ‘general culture(to be French about it)’s’ door. Yes, this poor girl grew up in an appallingly unstable set-up where violence and sexual abuse and booze and drugs were the norm. A dizzying cocktail of social ills. Yet there’s something doubly nihilistic about some of Britain’s underclass; a grimness and hopelessness and despair I haven’t seen elsewhere. I’ve got a feeling a disdain for education/knowledge might have quite a chunk of the blame here. Many Britons seem to revel in their uneducatedness; in Russia, France and Germany, the three countries I know best, there still seems to be a respect for knowldege, for education, for ‘culture’ that there just isn’t in the UK. This is not meant to sound condescending, snobbish or paternalistic. I’m not saying at all, “These are good for nothing riff-raff. Lock ’em up and throw away the key”. But Britain’s underclass is so undernourished, culturally, educationally, in every way, that it seems hard to imagine a prosperous future. Is it a lack of values? Is it a lack of respect for anything but money? Mr. Dalrymple would no doubt think it’s also due to a lack of limitations on the way we conduct ourselves. Whatever the cause, and as much as I love the place, there is a side to life in the UK that is DEEPLY depressing and which I am only reminded of when I return.

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