Cloaca Maxima

No, not another post about American universities, though the title here is certainly flexible enough to cover that subject.

This is just a link to a review of Theodore Dalrymple’s new book, Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline. A few bits from the review:

“No wonder the British have changed in character, their sturdy independence replaced by passivity, querulousness, or even, at the lower reaches of society, a sullen resentment that not enough has been … done for them. For those at the bottom, such money as they receive is, in effect pocket money, … reserved for the satisfaction of whims. As a result they are infantilized. If they behave irresponsibly — for example by abandoning their own children … — it is because both the rewards for behaving responsibly and the penalties for behaving irresponsibly have vanished.”

These attitudes have also been stimulated by “an aggressive popular culture that glorifies egotistical impulsivity and denigrates self-control” in Britain as in the United States. Arguably, American-inspired popular culture is one of the major sources of the nonjudgmental entertainment orientation and the attendant, relaxed moral relativism that provides a supportive environment (if not direct inspiration) for a wide range of amoral or antisocial behaviors.

The broader and more universal processes of modernization have also promoted the rise and spread of what might be called a runaway individualism, including “the privatization of morality … so complete that no code of conduct is generally accepted, save that you should do what you can get away with.”

I’ve been to the rim of the Cloaca Maxima, and I have seen the land that it promises.

Later: British reader H.W. comments: “The British are irresponsible not so much because there is no reward for responsibility, but because said rewards are given to them in any case. Housing, ‘security’, education, healthcare, haven’t always grown on trees – one had to work and pay attention and, well, be responsible. With the requirement for responsibility obviated, and its benefits provided in any case, all that can remain is irresponsibility.”

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