The unspeakable decadence of Britain’s governing elites
(See also in this thread a lively disagreement about the James Bond movie Casino Royale.)
The Equal Treatment Advisory Committee of Britain’s Judicial Studies Board has determined that the Muslim full-face veil, the niqab, must be allowed in British courts in most circumstances. In the sickly sweet, feminine language of tolerance and surrender that is the keynote of modern liberal society, the guidelines issued by the Committee say that banning the niqab would have a “significant impact” on a woman’s “sense of dignity” and could serve to “exclude and marginalise” her. The guidelines say that it should not be “automatically assumed” that the niqab would create a problem in court. “Nor should it ever be assumed without good reason that it is inappropriate for a woman to give evidence in court wearing the full veil.” The guidelines say that any request to remove the veil should be “thoughtful and sensitive.”
Can we speak of the “decadence” of Britain if it is, as I have said, already dead? No, but we can speak of its decay. The stories about this decision in the BBC News and the Sydney Morning Herald that are quoted above carry to one’s nostrils the sickening sweet stench of a country that has died.
Some people take issue with such extreme statements about the condition of Britain. Thus Sam Karnick at Karnick on Culture disputes my remark of a couple of months ago that the British movie The History Boys is the expression of a country that hates itself and wants to go out of existence. Since the James Bond movie Casino Royale made ten times as much money, he argues, “The History Boys does not characterize Great Britain at this time.”
Will Karnick make a similar argument about the decision to allow the full-face Muslim veil in British courts, that most people don’t agree with it (probably true), and therefore it does not characterize Great Britain at this time? And will he make a similar argument about the undisguisedly totalitarian Sexual Orientation Regulations, that they are actually very unpopular (probably true), and therefore do not characterize Great Britain at this time? For Karnick’s assumption of a saving contrarian majority to be correct, there would have to be a mass political uprising demanding that the Sexual Orientation Regulations be repealed. There has, of course been nothing of the kind. So, even if it’s true that only a minority of the British people actually want the SOR, the majority have gone along it. What defines a society is not what most people think or want, since most people are not political actors. What defines a society is what the society actually does, through its normative and authoritative institutions and public expressions of itself. The full-face Muslim veil in British courts, the Sexual Orientation Regulations, and, yes, The History Boys—these express what Britain actually is.
So, Sam Karnick needs to wake up and smell—the rotting flesh.
Again, I know that some people will find this line of discussion off-putting. I find it off-putting myself. Nevertheless, as long as I see Britain as a society that has died, that is the way I will speak of her. If and when I see signs that Britain has come to life again, that is the way I will speak of her.
Sam Karnick replies:
I certainly don’t dispute your claim that the current-day British elites are in the main contemptible and their ideas insane and grossly destructive. I don’t think that The History Boys is dispositive evidence for such claims. However, the evidence adduced here and elsewhere on your site (and mine, I might add) does indeed point toward such a dire and sad conclusion. I agree and lament it with you. However, I do insist on holding out hope, despair being entirely un-Christian.Derek C. writes:
If ever there was evidence of Britain’s decline, Casino Royale is it. The plot centers around terrorists, but it doesn’t dare mention who actually commits most acts of terror in the world. Excepting an African group—shown explicitly to be Christian by a crucifix neck chain around the leaders’ neck—the main baddies are all white Europeans. The closest you get to the Middle East is an Arabic-looking middleman, who is soon identified as being Greek. The only Arab even mentioned in the film is a French Algerian, whom we never see, and is identified as a hostage.Mark P. writes:
Derek C. is not correct about Casino Royale. The plot really does not center around terrorists. Terrorism is purely tangential to the plot. The main antagonist is an apolitical, amoral “banker” who provides financial services to various shady organizations around the country, including terrorists. He invests their money and ensures “liquidity” for their assets, meaning they have ready access to their funds anywhere in the world.Derek C. replies:
Mark P. says Casino Royale is no more a comment on Britain than Spider-Man is on the U.S. I answer that, first, it was Sam Karnick who mentioned the movie as signpost of revitalization, and my response was to that point. Second, James Bond is as much a cultural icon of Britain as Sherlock Holmes. If James Bond isn’t a bellwether of Britain’s cultural health (and it didn’t always bode well, even in the glory days of Connery’s Bond), nothing is. A better American analog would probably be Superman, and we all know about the latest Superman movie.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 26, 2007 11:10 PM | Send