Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Britain in the Ashtray

"...Let it simply be said that Notes on a Scandal shows a kind of genius. That genius lies in the completeness with which it reveals a society as free from all ethical moorings - as free even from the vaguest recollection of ethical moorings - as Weimar Republican Berlin. Apart from two minor characters (Stephen’s bewildered father, and a briefly glimpsed veterinary surgeon who attends to Barbara’s cat), the only figure capable of behaving like an adult is Barbara. And she herself soon comes to take an unhealthy interest, possibly erotic, in Sheba. The difference is that she realizes the interest’s unhealthiness, and labors to abide by a moral code that she did not simply filch from last month’s number of Marie-Claire. Such labors make her as undesirable a freak, to her colleagues, as if she were Jane Austen. Therefore she must be punished with the full rigor of BoBo justice, where the Nanny State’s law counts for everything and the wider natural law counts for nothing; where friendships are ended not by grown-up discussion, but by the issuance of restraining orders; where being a narcissistic little girl trapped in a fortyish art teacher’s body is considered, not a disgrace to adulthood, but a valid lifestyle choice.

There is no reason to suppose that this near-perfect depiction of nihilism exaggerates, in any way, the quotidian horror of Britain under Blair. There is every reason to suppose that, if anything, it understates such horror. The British dispatches from Theodore Dalrymple, Peter Hitchens, and Geoffrey Wheatcroft regularly convey to us a land as unrecognizable from its 1970s self (some of us remember that self from our youth) as today’s Spain is from Franco’s. Note that to perceive Britain’s current thoroughgoing civilizational corruption, we need not even behold Blairism’s most specific miseries: the exorbitant crime rates that have ineluctably resulted from gun control; the inundation of every British metropolis under Islam’s tide; the home-grown terrorists; or the same-sex “civil union” bill that a putatively Christian Queen Elizabeth II signed into law. Notes on a Scandal leaves these unmentioned. They would be irrelevant. Sheba Hart’s environment is, heaven help us, the comparatively amiable face of modern Britain. Orwell’s words remain apposite:

“Emancipation is complete. Freud and Machiavelli have reached the outer suburbs ... one is driven to feel that snobbishness, like hypocrisy, is a check upon behavior whose value from a social point of view has been underrated.”..."