April 26, 2012

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

The decline of the upstairs-downstairs system had something to do with the general cultural decline. It began with a healthy challenge to deference from below and became a crisis of nerves from above. The people who belonged to the Establishment, the old authority figures”€”and by that I don”€™t mean only lords of the manor and millionaires, but also teachers, religious leaders, and politicians”€”no longer believe in the ethos that made them what they were. They no longer feel able to uphold traditional values. Parents, bombarded by generations of lifestyle gurus on bringing up their children, simply lost the plot. Respect for one’s elders is now an alien concept.

I put 90 percent of the blame on intellectuals and educators who have consistently derided all standards of decency over the last forty years. They lost faith in the moral and cultural traditions which they inherited”€”reimagining them as smokescreens for oppression and hypocrisy”€”in order to be trendy. The result has been a barbarous nihilism which currently reigns supreme in so many British inner cities, and to my everlasting horror, at universities themselves.

Manners were the first casualty. Four-letter expletives are part of the culture of triumphant ignorance”€”the belief that behaving like a slob indicates virility. Alas, the rich, the middle classes, and the working poor all use them. They all copy Hollywood, where untalented mental cavemen rule the roost. Between Hollywood, rock stars, and our beloved sports idols, the F-word has become proof of some sort of authenticity.

Yet I remember when hardworking people were appalled if someone said “€œJesus Christ,”€ especially in front of women and children. Most people I grew up with never swore, and I don”€™t think my mother would have recognized a swear word if she heard it. She was kinder to people who worked for a living than, say, a countess or a princess of the blood, and in a way I”€™m glad she’s no longer around to see our current mess. I only hope Americans don”€™t turn into Europeans. Let them hate the rich and privileged in cycles, unlike us Europeans who hate everyone and everything at all times.


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