We are used to catalogues about the woes of modern society. The party’s over is no exception and a breeding ground for simplistic right-wing jingoistic solutions: Spare the rod…
Of course, it is all cogent. We have just as much if not more in France. In the years following World War II, there was a boom in scouting, the Glénans sailing school, the Sea Scouts and many more youth movements. Myself, I lived through the 1960’s and went along with some of the reaction against the old conservative order. My parents were convinced that I needed an education especially suited to building up the character and the ability to get on in life, to overcome the difficulties I had to live with. We all have our problems, and none can pretend not to have suffered from our own sense of disorientation.
Much of psychiatry is pure bunk and many of the medicines used for mental conditions do more harm than good. At the same time, mental illness can be very real and distressing. All too often, the cure is a change in life, in attitude and in one’s fundamental philosophy of life.
About a month ago, I had a long conversation with my father about the tendency of people to high expectations of life and a sense of entitlement. I do believe in essential human rights to life, freedom and happiness – but with corresponding duties.
Technocratic or bureaucratic solutions to the problems of mankind… Don’t I know it! I had a car break down in England. One solution was to have me wait several days for spare parts and spend a fortune for a car that was at the end of its road. Some great guys in Yorkshire did some improvised repairs, and the car got back to France under its own power, giving up the ghost as it arrived home. I seem to have come from a background that considers things to have been built to last, only needing repairs within the capabilities of someone who has skills in woodwork and metalwork. Bureaucracy refuses the humanity of those who have to address themselves to it, for the simple reason that it is not human. Increasingly, our relations with banks are with computers, not with a human who can give sound financial advice.
I don’t know about drugs. I stopped smoking nearly nine years ago. I had occasionally taken a puff or two of cannabis in my student days. I did well to listen to the warnings of my father – never even try heroin, cocaine, LSD, etc. Nicotine was a nasty one to beat, but I know it is almost entirely psychological rather than physical addiction. Addiction as a concept of dependence against which the will is impotent is something that needs a lot of study. The solutions aren’t simplistic, but they are hardly rocket science either!
It is particularly important to do everything we can to preserve high culture. Classic FM in England is a tedious station to listen to, but it has got many people to appreciate classical, baroque and romantic music. I admire such initiatives. I don’t know about schools these days, but we learned about music, art and poetry. They were often insensitively taught by masters who seemed to lack personal interest in their subject. The problem goes back a long way.
The welfare state is a part of technocracy and bureaucracy. Vast amounts of money are squandered and we all have to pay this money for the privilege to work! Health and social security (stealth and total obscurity) have become a lumbering and inefficient monster. One thing that causes resentment with mass immigration is that immigrants seem to be getting more entitlement to state handouts than us natives. Many of us who are working have to give to richer people than ourselves!
Civil behaviour gets rarer. There are exceptions and there are still good, civil and polite people everywhere. I don’t buy the idea that we are less civil than in the 1970’s or earlier. Some people are really horrible and aggressive, and many others are as virtuous as in any “good old days”.
The ideology of political correctness, paired with technocracy and bureaucracy, will be a tough one to crack. We have to be cunning and detached, and above all critical and capable of challenging it with satire. You never challenge a problem by head-on confrontation, but by eroding it by the edges. That is the way of France, Italy and other Latin countries: everything is regulated and forbidden, but there is always a way round the problem – la combinazione! You just have to get used to it.
There are real problems in society and we all feel concerned. It is a part of our human condition to want to improve life and society. I read many different articles. Would four dozen with the lash do more to correct a delinquent than ten years in prison? I would be tempted to advocate a sharp way of dealing with delinquency and crime, but it has to be just. Prisons do more harm than good, and they are more vindictive than medicinal. Again, the bureaucratic spirit rather than freedom of judges to judge…
It is indeed tempting to want to remake the world, but we will not succeed in doing so. We do well to work on ourselves lest we be the worst hypocrites in our conservative rhetoric. We can either live with it or go and live somewhere else – but beware lest the grass be found not to be greener on the other side!