"Good people are like a defeated class" in Britain

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The trouble with Theodore Dalrymple is that he writes so beautifully and clearly about such a tragic topic, the decline of English character. His insight in this piece showing how Prime Minister Tony Blair both reflects and has shaped the nation, particularly the public service of Britain:

I recently met a public servant who had risen up the ranks and had about him a triumphalist air, as of a successful revolutionary. He had arrived in bureaucratic heaven. He travelled to London on the train first class every week (a ticket costs the equivalent of an annual working class holiday in the sun), and attended sumptuous functions there attended by others such as himself, under the impression that by so doing he was working. Had he been a little boy recounting a visit to Father Christmas in a department store, it would have been disarming: as it was, I found it profoundly alarming.

Here was the voice of militant mediocrity, who expressed himself even in private in the language of Health Service meetings, believing that his large salary and high living at public expense were all for the good of those who paid for them. Just as the countries of Eastern Europe once had their little Stalins, so every department of every branch of the British public service has its little Blairs.

Such a development could not have taken place overnight. My wife, who is French, was attracted to the culture of this country because, as late as 1979 or 1980, the people, including administrators in hospitals, were obviously upright, whatever else their failings might have been. A quarter of a century later, all that has changed; deviousness, ruthlessness, an eye fixed on the main chance, sanctimony in the midst of obvious wrongdoing, toadying and bullying have become the ruling characteristics of the British people, or at least those of them who are in charge of something. The old virtues - stoicism, honesty, fortitude, irony, good humour and so forth - can still be found, but only in people who are of no importance, at least in the public administration. If I may put it very strongly, good people are like a defeated class in this country.

Go read the whole thing. The disease is not peculiar to Britain; it can be found in bureaucracies at every level of government, the social services, and academia here in America.


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 31, 2007 10:46 AM.

Remembering east Tulsa in the '60s and '70s; Tulsa street names was the previous entry in this blog.

Belfast writer wishes Bob wouldn't holler is the next entry in this blog.

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