National Review / Digital
Glorious Decline
The 2011 census of England and Wales is cause for worry, not celebration


One of the defining characteristics of the modern European liberal intellectual is cultural and even racial self-hatred: and nowhere is this self-hatred stronger than in England. Such self-hatred has become an ideology, and the strength to which it is felt by the intellectual the litmus test of his virtue and broad-mindedness (the two being now regarded as virtually identical).

On the day on which the results of the 2011 British census were published, the liberal newspaper the Guardian published a front-page commentary that began:

Perhaps we will remember 2012 as the year we learned who we are. The London Olympics did it first, offering a glimpse of a different nation from the one lodged so long in the collective imagination: not washed-up and living on past triumphs, but confident, capable and, above all, gloriously plural.

This passage is dense with hidden suppositions: for example, that the way in which people “imagined” the nation in the past was inaccurate or even fantastical, whereas now that we have reached our current state of enlightenment we can see it for what it really is. Multicultural tolerance or understanding, then, does not extend to the past, provided that it is the past of one’s own country. To the true multiculturalist, all other pasts are acceptable, excusable, or even laudable.

There is also the supposition that our glorious plurality has saved us from being a nation of washed-out incompetents. But when it comes to capability, at least in the higher fields of human endeavor, there are indications that it has been in relative decline rather than in the ascendant, to say nothing of an absolute and catastrophic decline in general levels of probity.

A few years ago, there was an advertisement for Barclays Bank at the baggage carousels at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. It showed a clunky platform shoe with a spangly Union Jack design. The legend read: “Our taste may have been suspect, but our banks never.” No one, I think, would nowadays dare propose such a legend. At a time when the British economy depends to a dangerous extent upon the financial sector, it turns out that our banks are banks of crooks, for crooks, run by crooks.

As to the inventiveness implied in the word “capable,” there are clear signs of its decline, the new presence of millions of immigrants in the country notwithstanding. The rate at which British scientists win Nobel prizes has fallen dramatically; Britain, with its centuries-old history of scientific inventiveness, now registers fewer patents than South Korea. There is hardly a single field in which the British are the industrial leaders; for example, there is not a single major British car company even though Britain’s automobile industry was one of the largest in the world 60 years ago. If British industry were to disappear altogether, hardly anyone in the rest of the world would notice. The reasons for this decline are no doubt complex, but “glorious plurality” has done, and will do, nothing to halt it.

As to the culture of the country, it has, as any long-term visitor will tell you, become shallow, shockingly crude and vulgar, and utterly worthless sub specie aeternitatis. The best that can be said for it is that, unfortunately, and to the discredit of the rest of the world, it finds an export market. The country’s public finances are disastrous, and (in contradistinction to many countries in Europe) its private finances too. The confidence in its own capability symbolized or brought about by the shallow and trashy opening ceremony of the Olympics is an indication of just how self-deluding and unable to make proper distinctions it has become.

The nature of the glory of “glorious plurality” is not further explained: It seems to consist mainly in such facts as that the population of London is now only 45 percent “white Britons,” no doubt soon to be lower still. Only people who think that there is something intrinsically undesirable about the white British could see this as a good, let alone a glory, in itself. Physically, the city has lost much of its distinct legacy, and looks increasingly like an unhappy hybrid of Dubai and Novosibirsk. Its police force, once famous for civility, at least by comparison with all other police forces in the world, seems increasingly like a paramilitary force employed by an unpopular foreign occupier, and its new reputation for bullying incompetence and fixation on crimes of opinion means that it is feared mainly by the law-abiding.

December 31, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 24

Books, Arts & Manners
  • William Voegeli reviews A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic, by Nicholas Eberstadt.
  • Rob Long reviews The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage, by Greg Gutfeld.
  • Florence King reviews The End of Men and the Rise of Women, by Hanna Rosin.
  • Bruce Cole reviews Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, by Camille Paglia.
  • Robert Dean Lurie reviews Who I Am: A Memoir, by Pete Townshend.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
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