We recently published an article, Lessons from Life at the Bottom, providing an overview of one of the best books we have read this year. It is Dr. Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom. This article expands the discussion by profiling the British underclass, which serves as a canary in the mine for America. We are following Britain's path exactly, and their underclass provides profound insight into what is happening here, what has been causing it, and where we are along the continuum of degradation.
British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple devoted 14 years of his professional life to the diagnosis and treatment of members of the British underclass, whom he encountered in hospitals and prisons of urban England. Almost a lone voice, he is trying to tell us that the underclass of England today is unlike the underclass of any previous period in English history. Today's underclass is the offspring and the responsibility of dominant leftist British intellectuals. England has undergone a complete inversion of the nature of its lowest socioeconomic inhabitants; the middle and upper classes of England are now adopting the values and behaviors of their lessers as England enters into what may be its final stages of cultural degradation.
The British underclass is a clear-cut example of cause and effect, something not so crystal clear to the social and psychological intelligentsia of today, who invest in obfuscation and war on clarity and objectivity. The underclass and their influence on British culture are the effect--that is the subject of this article. Later, we will deal with the causes—the same causes at work in America and in all the countries of the West. As always, all of this comes down to the very simple fact that people are only as good as their ideas, and those who do not understand their ideas and those of others that affect them face consequences as grave as if they went before a firing squad.
Few journalists, intellectuals, academics, and politicians will tell the truth about the nature of the low socioeconomic (LSE) stratum of society. A pervasive sense of guilt and paralysis from political correctness and multiculturalism blot out objectivity of those who write about this subject. LSEs have long been the raison d'etre of modern intellectuals, who absolve LSEs of criticism, while transferring blame and guilt for their status to the middle and upper classes, and, of course, to capitalism.
In England, LSEs, i.e., the underclass, have become a novelty in British history. These are not the wretches of Dickens, Thackeray, and so on. The underclass of yesteryear were actually a far better sort. The underclass of today are the children of the ideas that produced postmodernism, "lives dominated almost without exception by violence, crime, and degradation." (p. vii).
Their pervasive patterns of behavior are not just poor; they are self-destructive,:
- Neglect and abuse of children
- Broken relationships
- Victimization by crime
- Dumb despair (p. viii)
To be sure, all of these features are to be found in some individuals of all of the other classes. However, these features are not ubiquitous, nor pervasive, nor do they have all five components operating on everyone in the middle and upper classes, all of the time.
The foregoing are not sufficient to understand the underclass. The answer to the question, "What makes these people the way they are?" does explain them, however.
The general principles for all humans is that any of us is the way we are because of the ideas we hold and how we use them. British LSEs have a distinctive cognitive profile:
- Passive thinking
- Denial of agency and personal responsibility
- Dishonesty and self-deception
- Rationalizations for self-induced helplessness, such as "addiction"
- Perverse, primitive, valueless sexualization
- Absolute refusal to apply or accept judgment
Dr. Dalrymple provides many rich illustrations from his patients, which interested readers will learn much from.
Thought and behavior have almost no separation in the lives of the British underclass: In mind, into action. Instead, their behavior is dominated by impulses. At times, when confronted with the facts of reality, they recognize this and even acknowledge it. Seldom, however, does any of this insight improve their behavior.
As in the United Kingdom, America has a subculture of "victims." Whatever such self-anointed victims claim about their lot, they always blame persons and any system outside themselves; they do not accept responsibility for any of it. "They experience themselves as putty in the hands of fate." (p. 5). As with the expression, "Shit happens," e.g., a knife-wielding murderer says that the "knife just went in," completely disregarding his role. A burglar blames the church for his chronic thieving because the church was lax with its security! Crime-committing addicts see themselves as "good" because they just cannot help themselves due to their addiction. Routinely, brood mares of the underclass attribute their litters on "It just happened."
In Lessons from Life at the Bottom, we discussed the profoundly important schism LSEs have between their phenomenal selves and their real selves:
"In a particularly illuminating paragraph, Dr. Dalrymple explains the "psychobabble of the slums" by exposing one of the mental devices criminals use to deny that the good part of them (the Real Me) participates in crime. To them, they are the Real Me, i.e., the good me. The explanation that follows is pure Kant:
"The Real Me is has nothing to do with the phenomenal me, the me that snatches old ladies' bags, breaks into other people's houses, beats up my wife and children, or repeatedly drinks too much and gets involved in brawls. No, the Real Me is an immaculate conception, untouched by human conduct: it is that unassailable core of virtue that enables me to retain my self-respect whatever I do. What I am is not at all determined by what I do; and insofar as what I do has any moral significance at all, it is up to others to ensure that the phenomenal me acts in accordance with the Real Me." (Page 10)"
"I'm what this society and this government made me," (p. 19), they spout, sounding just like the social workers who, in turn, learned it from their Marxist/Freudian professors. They hate the police and blame them for all their troubles; with incredible mental perversion, they see the police as the ones doing them wrong. Again, having learned so well from the intelligentsia of England, they come up with rationalizations such as: their thievery being ethical because they rob only the insured and do no physical harm. What could be more ethical than putting those robbed into the hands of insurance reimbursers?
Ya just gotta love the intellectuals! They taught these people the enormous value of psychobabble. Those in the media prattle about the chronic injustices done to the underclass, and the underclass absorb it like sponges, just as the media did from their professors. Being "sick" with psychopathology is nothing more than convenient, manipulative rationalization allowing the "sick" to tap into all the social network open to the mentally "sick." They master the buzzwords; the middle and upper classes long to hear them, since they validate their own brainwashing as well as their sense of life. Their guilt feelings, questioning the creation of additional new programs, and, at the expense of the taxpayers ("the rich") spread the words out for others to use for the same reasons. Part of this includes blaming everything on their upbringing as well—the "bad childhood" shtick, of course (made famous by Freud).
Since the 1950s and 1960s, the underclass have discovered "deliberate overdosing." Formally, it can be called "suicidalism," but it seldom causes either death or serious harm. It is mostly a LSE ritual, manipulative at many levels, not the least of which is getting "documentation" of having a "psychological illness," a key to the British treasury for welfare. Many LSE women use this behavior to cement personal relationships, most of which are indescribably dreadful. They find themselves drawn to such relationships over and over without ever benefitting from experience.
Dr. Dalrymple contrasts this behavior in England with his extensive experiences among truly poverty-stricken people of the third world. These phenomena just do not occur among the third world poor. This illustrates the uniqueness of the modern British underclass: It is not a third world phenomenon, nor is it a second world phenomenon; it is a FIRST WORLD PHENOMENON.
Throughout Life at the Bottom, Dr. Dalrymple echoes a powerful refrain about an aspect of cognition of the British underclass. They have absolutely no interests and no idea of how to go about having interests (other than eat, copulate, drink, etc). Worse yet, they have never tried hard to learn; it is not socially acceptable to do so. They are profoundly anti-mind, anti-intellectual, anti-achievement, and, above all, anti-education. (We will devote a future article to British secondary education, as it pertains to their underclass—it is more shocking than one would ever anticipate.)
The British underclass have completely mastered the "sexual revolution." They have taken it to its logical consequences. Their sexual behavior has been cleaved entirely from relationships, values, contract, and consequences. It is at the same level as urinating when the bladder needs emptying. Bastardy runs rampant in England now, with absolutely little regard for the lives of the children they sire. These offspring grow up with less proper parental than pups born to a street dog. Now they have second, third, and fourth waves of underclass, all of which are feral. They live lives in the perceptual level, in the range-of-the-moment of "now." They fight to reject schooling and win, so they are completely unarmed to live in an advanced society. They are impulse-dominated and willfully blind to violence. They are as licentious as a pack of wild dogs in heat, and never understand what the proper relationships humans need are.
Their Social Lives
On a personal level, the LSEs are fractured people reflecting life and each other as a shattered mirror reflects unintegrated bits and pieces of the world. They are violent with each other socially because that is the only way they know how to relate. In their perverse way, they see violence as the familiar, the understandable, and, get this, as the good.
Their social scene is being duplicated in any ghetto in America today, and now, we see it commonly promulgated throughout the entertainment industry. The rite de passage is the tattoo, which reflects their highest values, e.g., tattooed knuckles, which, when fingers are interlocked, spell out "let's fuck." They have gang and club-identifying marks such as the blue dot, as well as other idiosyncratic expressions (e.g., spider webs on the neck), for which they have no explanation for why they got them or what significance they have.
Their perversity comes out when they try to verbalize why they got the marks on their skin. The pain reassures them that they are alive: "It hurts, therefore, I am alive." (P. 53). Others cite their reasons as "I was bored." On the level of interpersonal interactions, skull fractures are not considered serious by these folk, which helps explain their frequency.
Dr. Dalrymple is a marvelous writer as well as a thinker. In the context of the social expressions of these members of the underclass, he refers to the "fathomless…ignorance" of their "ill-furnished mind[s]" and their characteristic expressions of "bovine vacancy and lupine malignity." (pp. 54 and 55)
Social life for these people is pure nihilism. The chapter "Festivity, and Menace" is simply a must-. Dr. Dalrymple describes "provincial downtown" on a Saturday night. The underclass young are thronging, much like a schooling of anchovies, only without their innocence.
Watching these folk socialize is very close to watching attributes-without-entities, in action. Of course, there can be no attributes with entities, but the underclass social behavior strongly suggests what that might be like, if it could be at all.
"What are you interested in?" the doctor asked over and over. The answers were much the same: "Clubs. Everything else is shit." (p. 67) "Why do you take ecstasy?" "I want to get through the night." (p. 66)
The young as a lot look like something from the anti-rational Weimar Republic days (Cf: Leonard Peikoff's outstanding book, Ominous Parallels). Dr. Dalrymple notes "the wonderful vulgarity of English girls," (something we note all too often here in America). His description of dancing completely captures the social scene:
"On the dance floor itself, a great seething mass of people move like maggots in a tin. With so large a number of people crammed into so small a space, it is astonishing that there is no social contact among them. Most of the pairs do not even look into each other's eyes; because of the noise, verbal communication is out of the question. They dance solipsistically, each in a world of his or her own, literally entranced by the rhythm and the continual physical activity. They dance the way Scotsmen go to bars: to blot out the memory of their lives." (p. 64)
Fighting and being maimed are expected parts of the festivities as are the "Glasgow kiss," i.e., the head butt.
What Goes Up and Down at the Same Time
Among the saddest of the new underclass are the devolving offspring of those from the Indian subcontinent, the children of immigrants. Previously, such immigrant families started at the bottom and always tried to work up to the top, and usually succeeding. No longer, however, does this universally apply to the young Indians and Muslims. Many chose devolution downward instead of evolution upward.
Their reasons for this deleterious change in their behavior tell volumes. A percentage seek out drugs and a life of nihilism. "Why do you take drugs?" The answer comes back, "There is nothing else to do on the streets." Why are these young people vacating their minds?
As with so much of British society, there is an aping of the underclass by the upper and middle classes. It used to be that the underclass wanted to strive upward and leave their poor lives for something better. Now, they are altogether too content to lie in the hammock of the British social safety net, on the dole, enduring life in a state of passive indolence. Living this way takes no effort; just as they eschew freedom, they also eschew effort. Besides their "betters" are emulating them now. Being like the underclass has become "cool." That attitude pervades the sons and daughters of immigrants as well.
Other, more fundamental reasons, belong in a subsequent article dealing with the causes and the causers of the British underclass. Suffice it to say for now, the offspring of the immigrants are living out the expectations of the intelligentsia, who have always sought to preserve a caste society, with immigrants always at the bottom of their list. The young are living out those expectations. Also, these young have discovered adolescent rebellion, a là James Dean and the host of ne'er-do-wells in the entertainment industry who live by the whim of the moment, always "rebelling," and always "without a cause." Nihilism has become cool to them also.
The Answer is NOT "Poverty"
Only modern liberals could go warm and fuzzy about welfare. Call it the "social safety net," or "public assistance," or even "doing our duty," it is social carcinoma by any of those names. The liberals bleat about the terrible conditions of the "poor," yet by any rational standard, few are truly poor.
Dr. Dalrymple has worked in Africa, Asia, and South America among the lowest of the third world peoples. What he found there, no modern liberal would be able to accept as true, because it so completely invalidates everything the modern liberal believes and advocates.
Since we will be comparing the "poverty" of the third world with the "poverty" of the first world British underclass, it is worth taking a little time to present Dr. Dalrymple's findings. In the third world, people struggle to eke out an existence. They work for food and for everything they have, and they do not have much by any standard. Yet, they have something the first world underclass does not have. They have a sense of personal success and an attitude about themselves that comes from winning the struggle every day to get food and whatever else their subsistence requires. "I did it," seems to be their motto. They face life as a set of excruciatingly existential challenges that they must do battle with and win. Never do they expect a "social safety net" or anyone to be there to provide for them and to take away all their efforts and cares.
(Author's note: No, there is nothing admirable about the third world standard of living or the necessity for their existential struggles. They are presented to contrast as aspect of the two worlds.)
The physician sons and daughters of immigrants to England do not understand or accept the chronic sense of ingratitude that the British underclass shows for the medical care provided them and for anything else anyone does for them. The more they get, the less grateful they are. "When every benefit is a right, there is no place for good manners, let alone for gratitude," says Dr. Dalrymple. (p. 136) [Emphasis added.] England has a public agency to deal with every conceivable problem.
Surely, it must be poverty, say the modern liberals. No, it is not, Dr. Dalrymple makes clear. He illustrates several examples including this, which involves an underclass woman griping to high heaven about her life and how everybody was supposed to fix it. She insisted on consorting with a terribly abusive man, from whom she refused to extricate herself.
"I discussed the case with the doctor who had recently arrived from Madras and who felt he had entered an insane world…There was nothing to compare with it in Madras. He asked me what would happen next to the happy couple."
Dr. Dalrymple described how the British welfare system would respond; it would ride to the rescue, provide a new apartment, new appliances, and charge her nothing for them or for her rent. Once in her new place, she will invite the abusive man back into her life. He will wreck the place, and the state will step back in to house, feed, and entertain her.
"I asked the doctor from Madras if poverty was the word he would use to describe this woman's situation. He said it was not: that her problem was that she accepted no limits to her own behavior, that she did not fear the possibility of hunger, the condemnation of her own parents or neighbors, or God. In other words, the squalor of England was not economic but spiritual, moral, and cultural." [Emphasis added.]
Dr. Dalrymple describes taking his junior doctors on weekly walks through the nearby governmental housing terrain of the underclass.
"I ask the doctors to compare the shops in areas inhabited by poor whites and those where poor Indian immigrants live. It is an instructive comparison. The shops the Indians frequent are piled high with all kinds of attractive fresh produce that, by supermarket standards, is astonishingly cheap. The women take immense trouble over their purchases and make subtle discriminations. There are no precooked meals for them. By contrast, a shop that poor whites patronize offers a restricted choice, largely of relatively expensive prepared food that at most require only the addition of hot water." (p. 141)
POVERTY IS NOT THE ISSUE! Repeat, poverty is not the issue.
"When such slovenliness about food extends to all other spheres of life, when people satisfy every appetite with the same minimal effort and commitment, no wonder they trap themselves in squalor…They have no cultural activity they can call their own, and their lives seem, even to them, empty of purpose. In the welfare state, mere survival is not the achievement that it is, say, in the cities of Africa, and therefore it cannot confer the self-respect that is the precondition of self-improvement." (p. 142)
I will close this discussion of the British underclass profile with this important quote from Dr. Dalrymple. Referring to what he witnessed in the terrible dictatorship of Tanzania, he writes:
"…[N]othing I saw—neither the poverty or the overt oppression—ever had the same devastating effect on the human personality as the undiscriminating welfare state. I never saw the loss of dignity, the self-centeredness, the spiritual and emotional vacuity, or the sheer ignorance of how to live that I see daily in England…[T]he worst poverty is in England—and it is not material poverty but poverty of the soul." (p. 143) [Emphasis added.]
Many years ago, I heard for the first time the old saying, "Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it." England has gone from Great Britain to Less Britain to Least Britain almost to No Britain. It has been committing suicide by getting just what it asked for.
It has a vast under population totally dependent in mind on the dole, considering it an absolute entitlement. Look at what it has done to the souls of those who took the dole. We will soon deal with the souls of those who demanded that the dole be given.
Britain is dying from poverty of soul. The middle and upper classes are using the lower class as their role model. Soon, the whole population shall be one great British underclass, with everyone demanding cradle to grave care. It will be generations, if ever, before Brits become the brave and stalwart men and women of the "mother country," whom we admired so much.
Our liberals are demanding the same for America. Just look at the Democrat Party presidential candidates. Their lack of British accents are the only things that set them apart. Alas, the Republican Party candidates are still too much "me too" regarding the same demands.
We either have rights, or we have entitlements. We cannot have both. If we keep going on the present course, we will become Britain West.
[Next, we will explore the causes and the causers of the Brit-Rot.]