Survival of the grossest as manners make a monkey of Darwin
DARWIN very nearly got it right: he was simply looking through the wrong end of the telescope - it is apes that are evolving from humans.
Since then, the advance of the simian society has accelerated, its progress charted and deplored by Robert Bork, in Slouching Towards Gomorrah, and Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind. Those works addressed the larger issues involved in the trampling down of the Judo-Christian ethic in the western world: it was left to a collection of essays published in Britain just six years ago to explore the implications of the micro-degeneracy that has destroyed good manners and the civilities of social intercourse. Gentility Recalled, edited by the admirable Digby Anderson, was a classic of social insight. Again, the subtitle said it all: ‘Mere’ Manners and the Making of Social Order.
The central thesis was simple: mannerly behaviour is a barometer of civilisation. Its decline signals the collapse of the social order, which will also manifest itself in more sinister ways. Daily, the truth of this proposition - axiomatic to our ancestors, crassly ignored by progressive theorists today - becomes more evident. Civilisation is foundering in a morass of incivility, selfishness and violence. The abolition of small courtesies leads inevitably to grosser aggression.
This is a dysfunctional society, at every level. It begins with the minor gaucheries encountered in places of public resort: the ill-trained waiter serving food and telling one that there one goes; or the waitress employing the Service Industries Dative ("Everything all right for you?") which has a vaguely post-coital ring to it - one almost feels one should be lighting a cigarette for her. Then, more ominously, there is the totally undisciplined limb of Satan running amok, unchecked, in restaurants and other public places while the surrounding adults, who would formerly have embarrassed its mother into exerting some control, now simper indulgently. For your peace of mind, whenever you see an aggressive-looking father encouraging his earringed scumlet amid apprehensive Saturday shoppers, try to forget Disraeli’s claim that "The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity."
Today, in the most affluent era of human history, people are worse dressed than in any previous century. Even among those who rank, at least by economic criteria, as middle-class, the most proximate precedent for their dress style is that of medieval varlets. With the costume of the churl goes churlish behaviour. The wardrobe of the lout is a manifesto: he has no intention of making himself presentable, since neither the opinion nor sensitivities of anyone else is of the least consequence.
The debasement of women is even more destructive. The ‘ladette’ phenomenon is peculiar to this generation and to western society. It is the worst ever degradation of human dignity: historically, instances of female decadence were both transient and restricted to sections of society. The present experience is universal and progressive. There is an unmistakable element of self-loathing about young women who mutilate their bodies with tattoos and pierce them with metal, fetishes previously associated with the most primitive societies. Certainly, they have no vestige of self-respect.
Not since Tom Sawyer duped his friends into whitewashing his fence has so huge a confidence trick been perpetrated as the current exploitation of women, effected under the banner of feminism. What sort of emancipation does a schoolgirl enjoy if, even while her careers adviser is offering dazzling prospects, peer pressure is robbing her of her virginity? The ‘brilliant’ career that ensues - a pseudo-glamourised niche in the marketing of widgets - will in turn impose the postponement of motherhood, as her fertility is put in suspension while she is exploited as an economic unit. Marriage, if an available option, is as likely to bring divorce as stability, and an emotionally brittle relationship with any children.
It is small wonder that young women, deprived of all the security and support enjoyed by previous generations, turn into the drunken, drug-addicted, promiscuous ladettes seen vomiting on street corners on Saturday nights. Men, on the other hand, have been relieved of every obligation towards women that was formerly imposed upon them by social consensus.
If there is one single manifestation of contemporary oafishness that might be regarded as totemic, it is the ubiquitous use of foul language. Television dramas and documentaries are routinely preceded by the warning "contains strong language", which subliminally implies that only wimps will find it unacceptable. The content should more realistically be described as obscene language. It is heard everywhere, on the streets, in public places, in the presence of women and, increasingly, on the lips of women. The most educated society ever is also the most inarticulate and low-minded.
The gross vulgarisation of society is a consequence of the near-extinction of Christianity. It has been supplanted by a cult of The People, in which deference - the essential cement of society - has wilfully been misinterpreted as servility. The new manipulative social force (eg the Diana syndrome) is sentimentality underpinned by violence. Having sloughed off the social illiteracy that was Marxism, after 72 years, western Europe is again in thraldom to the delusions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
So we are undergoing a process which is the reverse of the Darwinian theory: the evolution of man into ape. Two centuries later, we must still lament with Edmund Burke the loss of the values of the anien rgime, of "that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness".
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 15 C
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Wind direction: West
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