Friday, February 04, 2005

Le Meilleur des Mondes*

Back when I was a poor student, I couldn't afford to get back home for the holidays. All my friends were back in the states, the people I was staying with had gone to Provence to visit other family, and I was left alone to care for the house. I remember being so depressed and lonely that I actually got the longing to read English. As luck would have it during this cheerful, cheerful time, the only book in the house was "Brave New World." Desperate to have some connection to my native tongue, I read it in spite of the sense of foreboding the back cover gave me.
About the only comfort I could find after reading of this dystopia where the masses were kept compliant with liberal administrations of sex and soma by an authoritarian state was that it was fiction. Could never happen. Or could it?

Theodore Dalrymple's article from a couple weeks ago gave me the distinct feeling that perhaps the society he works in is imitating art. No impulse control, no consequences. Sanctioned promiscuity. Feeling guilty about the bad choices you've made? No, you're just depressed. Get a prescription for antidepressants. Won't solve your problems, but at least the symptoms won't be so acute. This culture of dependence, this move away from a 'model of personal responsiblity,' is, unfortunately, not a fiction.

Much more on this subject from two blogs I found through (sigh) Oliver Kamm. Natalie Solent's post on 'learned helplessness' reminds me of some of the girls I'd met in college, the only difference being, the girls I went to school with tended to come from families who could afford to pay servants. The woman for whom time meant nothing seems to have come across a sort of personal assistant while on the dole.

Melanie Phillips writes on social policy and education matters (in addition to many other things). What I found particularly of interest in relation to the above are her posts on the "fatal combination of maleness and poverty (both 'material and spritual)," declining standards in education not being related to class size, and on the 'cultural collapse' that has produced the people who commit the crimes that the Home Office denies occurs due to "moral panic theory."

Much food for thought here in all these writers' observations. Do go take a look at what they have to say - especially if you consider the UK policies to be precursors to ours here.


*This translates idiomatically to "The best of all worlds," from Dr. Pangloss's pat phrase "tout est bien dans le meilleur des mondes."

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