By now you must have heard of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who imprisoned and raped his daughter Elisabeth for twenty-four years. If you haven't, the Wikipedia page will give you the details.
I figured that if I rolled through my bookmarks for Theodore Dalrymple's favorite haunts, I would find his commentary on the case. After all, how could he resist? My diligence was rewarded when I found this article in the New English Review. Dalrymple sensibly concludes that we shouldn't expect ourselves to be able to understand why someone does such terrible things.
I haven't posted anything about Theodore Dalrymple for a while. I was mousing around a bit this afternoon, and I came across I can't quite figure out how I missed this one Dalrymple's review of Efraim Karsh's Islamic Imperialism: A History.
A few months ago I blogged an article that Karsh wrote for Commentary in which he summarized some of the claims made in his book. But don't bother to read my old post: unfortunately, the links are dead. Instead, go to this page on OpinionJournal. There you'll find Karsh's article in its entirety. I haven't yet read the book, but it's on my list.
What, you ask, is the Dalrymple maneuver? If you've been reading my posts on Theodore Dalrymple, you know that it's the dogmatic insistence that some particular instance of anti-social or self-destructive behavior is the fault of liberalism. The insistence is dogmatic because it intentionally overlooks other possible explanations of the unseemly behavior. It's not that I habitually disagree with Dalrymple's conclusions; it's that the case that he makes in support of them is almost always inadequate.
It seems that Hayes has been studying at the feet of the master Dalrymple routinely publishes in The Spectator but at least he goes Dalrymple in a way that is considerate of the difficulties facing Muslims (and other immigrants) who are trying to raise children in Great Britain:
Many moderate Muslims believe that much of Britain is decadent. They are right. Mr Blair says that the fanatics who want to blow us up despise us, but he won't admit that their decent co-religionists who are the best hope of undermining the extremists at source despair of us. They despair of the moral decline and the ugly brutishness that characterise much of urban Britain. They despair of the metropolitan mix of gay rights and lager louts. And they despair of the liberal establishment's unwillingness to face the facts and fight the battle for manners and morals.
They are not alone. The Windrush generation of Caribbeans came to Britain with the most traditional of values proud Christians with dignity and a sense of duty the kind of people so steeped in our history that they gave their children names like Winston, Milton and Gladstone. As vice-chairman of the British Caribbean Association, I recently had the chance to ask such people why so many young British blacks had got into trouble with the law. They unequivocally blamed the licence they encountered almost as soon as they arrived here, which made it so hard to inculcate their standards in the next generation.
The alienation felt by young blacks and Asians is not a result of any intolerance shown towards them, but of the endless tolerance of those who would allow everything and stand up for nothing. It is the excesses permitted by a culture spawned by the liberal Left that have produced a generation that feels rootless and hopeless. The young crave noble purposes as children need discipline; neither get much of them in modern Britain and the void is filled by disrespect, fecklessness, mindless nihilism or, worse, wicked militancy.
It is unreasonable to expect Muslim leaders to put right what's wrong in their communities if we are not going to be honest about whats wrong with ours.
Conservatives are certainly correct in pointing out the role of community in raising children to responsible adulthood, but it's naive to accept without question the testimony of parents who blame their surroundings for the failings of their children. To do so is to exonerate these parents of any responsibility for what becomes of their children. That's hardly a genuinely conservative response to a complex issue. Hayes is a politician, which means that he refuses to offend potential supporters. Consequently, culpability must be assigned only to his opponents.
The Dalrymple maneuver requires an initial description of the malady. In this case, of course, it's the decadence that Hayes sees all around him:
A sickening decadence has taken hold. People's sense of identity has been eroded as our traditions and the institutions that safeguard them have been derided for years. People's sense of history has been weakened by an education system that too often emphasises the themes in history rather than its chronology, and which indoctrinates a guilt-ridden interpretation of Britain's contribution to the world. People's sense of responsibility has been undermined by a commercial and media preoccupation with the immediate gratification of material needs, regardless of consequences we want everything and we want it now, so we spend and borrow, cheat and hurt. People's self-regard has diminished as, robbed of any sense of worth beyond their capacity to consume and fornicate, they feel purposeless. We have forgotten that pleasure is a mere proxy for the true happiness which flows from commitment and the gentle acceptance that it is what we give, not what we take, that really matters.
The vulnerable are the chief victims of decadence. Children suffer when families break down. The old suffer as their needs are seen as inconvenient and their wisdom is no longer valued. For the rich, decadence is either a lifestyle choice or something you can buy your way out of. But for the less well off stripped of the dignities which stem from a shared sense of belonging and pride the horror of a greedy society in which they can't compete is stark. The civilised urban life that was available to my working-class parents is now the preserve of those whose wealth shields them from lawlessness and frees them from the inadequate public services that their less fortunate contemporaries are forced to endure.
Then there's the casting of blame. Who are the culprits? Liberals, of course.
Safely gated, the liberal elite do not merely turn a blind eye though that would be bad enough. They voyeuristically feed the masses with Big Brother and legislate to allow 24-hour drunkenness. In answer to the desperate call for much-needed restraint, we hear from those with power only the shrill cry for ever more unbridled liberty.
Politicians who should know better fear debates about values, preferring to retreat to morally neutral, utilitarian politics, as uninspiring as it is unimaginative. It is the kind of discourse which leaves those who aspire to govern reduced in the heat of a general election campaign to debating how efficiently their respective parties can disinfect hospitals. Most Church leaders have also given up the fight. Many have convinced themselves that to be fashionable is to be relevant and that being relevant is more important than being right. Is it any wonder that the family-minded, morally upright moderate Muslims despair?
So, with little understanding of the past, little thought for the future, little respect for others and virtually no guidance from those appointed or elected to give it, many modern Britons each with their wonderful, unique God-given potential are condemned to be selfish, lonely creatures in a soulless society where little is worshipped beyond money and sex.
The roots of this brutal hedonism are in soulless liberalism. Against all the evidence, the liberal elite who run much of Britain's politically correct new establishment continue to preach their creed of freedom without duty, and rights without obligations. [. . .] It is through the constraints on self-interest and the restraint that good Muslims revere that we can rebuild civil society. The most fitting response to the terrorist outrages would be the kind of moral and cultural renaissance that would make Britons of all backgrounds feel more proud of their country.
I'll leave it to my readers to decide for themselves how much of this they find convincing. Don't think, by the way, that I don't sympathize with Hayes' conclusions to a certain extent.
One would think, though, given that the ills that Hayes describes affect Great Britain as a whole, that the Conservative Party should be regarded by a large majority of British voters as having the proper prescription for reforming British society. But since the Conservatives can't seem to win a general election, it might be the case that voters are more sophisticated in their thinking about these problems than some Conservative politicians.