Vile Bodies

Trying to Lead a Whore to Culture

April 26, 2012

Multiple Pages
Trying to Lead a Whore to Culture

My friend Mark Brennan and I were talking about class warfare. “It’s cyclical,” Mark said as he executed a perfect uchi mata during judo practice.

“Perhaps over here,” I answered, “but in Europe it’s a way of life.”

“Just look at the 1890s, followed by the crash of 1907, then the Roaring Twenties before the Great Depression, and then the 80s and 90s followed by the crash of 2008,” Mark insisted. “It’s cyclical.”

By then I was too out of breath to counter him, literally as well as metaphorically. The only way to put the pain of extreme effort out of mind is to discuss politics while trying to throw one’s opponent. Our discussion during an extremely tiring session was about class warfare, or what Obama and the Democrats and their ass-wipers such as The New York Times and Washington Post insist are tax breaks only for billionaires who vote Republican.

“The European welfare state has led our prosperous society to an advanced state of moral decay, with a trashy, vulgar culture of neither spiritual nor aesthetic value.”

Mark is an American, and so am I. But I’ve lived in Europe most of my life. What Obama and his media catamites have to say about the rich or well-born I’ve been hearing all my life in the Old Continent, and then some. Even my old man blamed it on the class system, one that had performed swimmingly since Roman times until well past World War I. There was an upstairs and a downstairs; you’ve seen Downton Abbey and know the rest. People knew their places and stuck to them. Pliny the Younger had two houses, one more showy than the other, where elegant food was matched by deep thought, clever chat, and stunning scenery. It was a Platonic ideal of dining, an event where all the elements were in perfect harmony, although I’m not sure the servants agreed.

Listening to some European protesters nowadays, one would think that nothing has changed since Pliny’s time. A leftist Oxford professor told me it was the blithe impenitence of the upper class that drives him up the wall. He said they display a demented disregard for common decency’s humblest demands. When I suggested he get real, he called me a fascist, then asked me to buy him a drink.

As Dorothy Parker once said about horticulture, “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.” The European welfare state has led our prosperous society to an advanced state of moral decay, with a trashy, vulgar culture of neither spiritual nor aesthetic value. Repulsive behavior has become the norm, crime rates have gone through the roof, and the less fortunate are appeased by the idea that they are only unsuccessful because they aren’t propped up by an army of publicly funded bureaucrats. Our British cousins and their world-renowned bad manners are leaders in this field.

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 “Jesus 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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