Cultural Pessimism

by D.J. Webb

A nation in decline

England is a nation in decline, and as much as conservatives hope for the leadership to emerge that could stem the decline and encourage a cultural renaissance, we know in our bones that this will not, or cannot, happen. Patriotism seems to contain the seeds of its own antidote: revulsion—revulsion against what England has become. Just like Winston Smith in George Orwell’s novel 1984, who dreamt of the ‘Golden Country’,England is for us an image far removed from the country around us. If we love that image, we have to recoil from the Real England that surrounds us in our daily lives. We feel less and less confidence that there is any real thread of connection between the Golden Country and the Real England of today. Would a conservative be prepared to fight for a country such asEngland today? And if so, why? Out of nostalgia? Or confusion?

Cultural pessimism means that we no longer admire the country we have become. And so we can no longer be conservative. Being conservative means resisting change. The way things have always been done seems best to a conservative. A conservative does not inhabit the realm of theory, but the practical realm of a comfortable culture: he points to the society and culture around him and hopes that politicians and their grandiose schemes will not make pointless changes that destroy that world for him. We, however, can point to nothing. Everything has already been changed, and not for the better. So we embrace the idea of change, but do so knowing that change in order to recreate the past cannot come. It is because we have become lesser people than our forbears that we, or the wider nation at any rate, no longer wish to have a great culture, to be a great nation, and so the only change that will come is more of the cultural slide downwards that we have already experienced.


Now that a great culture has been “deconstructed”, we can no longer remember clearly what it was like to be English. Most of us were not around in the 1950s to remember those years ourselves; we can only garner information about that period from books or films. Those of us, like myself, brought up in the 1970s and 1980s, can remember the days before the ‘chav’ culture was so fully triumphant, the days before anti-social behaviour became the established norm on the less wealthy housing estates. But we are constantly told that our memories are faulty, and that thatEnglandwas less vibrant, more prejudiced, more class-ridden. The truth is we are having our consciousnesses overwritten by fresh data, overwritten by the new interpretations of the past insisted on in the media and education systems.

Yet the numbers of us who have real memories, or folk memories, of a better world are relatively large. The success of historical television dramas such as Downton Abbey and lighter dramas such as the Midsomer Murders testifies to some kind of yearning for traditional Englishness. A full DVD set of All Creatures Great and Small about the life of a country vet is possibly one of the most pleasurable companions in audiovisual format. The Mad Men series set in theUS in the 1960s has also attracted a great following, owing to its depiction of a world where the women were feminine, the men smoked, and social comment on race and other topics was free.

I am sure poverty was a problem in the post-war era, but I am not so sure that our economic modernisation had to go hand in hand with our social deterioration; indeed, that very deterioration of the fabric of society in turn imperils the economy, as has become abundantly clear in the current economic crisis. Countries and territories such asJapanandHong Konghave managed to forge a path to modernity without losing their own cultural values, and it is hard to deny that we would have done well to have followed a similar approach.

Those telling us that we have to move on becauseEngland—the Real England that surrounds us—has moved on are forgetting one important thing. Even the liberals who have encouraged social change are not happy with the country that has been created. If the promotion of equality between the sexes, anti-racism, multiculturalism, and even ‘gay’ equality has been as positive for society as is insisted by our current leaders, then why is society more fragmented and more violent, why are so many struggling to raise their children with healthy social values, why were so many tricked into buying overpriced properties financed by two incomes, and why have so many people spent the best part of the last decade living on social handouts? Positive change would be welcomed, almost naturally. It would not require greater and greater state intervention to prevent supposedly positive developments from overwhelming us. There has to be something wrong; it is inadequate simply to claim that change must always be welcomed.

Change creates new vested interests, people who enjoy the bread and circuses, people who feel empowered by the political focus on sex, race and sexuality, people who benefit from the huge expansion of the state. Consequently, reversing negative social trends becomes ever harder. It is easier to accept that the world has changed. Yet there is nothing wrong with pointing out that we are going in the wrong direction. Even as we do so, we know ourselves the will to dig ourselves out of the hole, or succession of holes, we are creating for ourselves is simply not there.

Just let go?

Are we supposed to love this society? Or should we despise it? And if we do despise it, does that not mean that the basic preconditions for social or cultural improvement no longer exist? Roger Scruton, one of our best conservative writers, wrote in his England: An Elegy, that we should mourn forEngland (that is, mourn forEngland conceived as the Golden Country) and move on. As a coping strategy, that makes sense. But on a day-to-day basis, it is impossible to ignore the culture around us. Those living in neighbourhoods afflicted by the loud playing of popular music and screaming in the streets until 4 in the morning cannot simply say, “I have mourned for a decent neighbourhood and moved on”; they are faced with a depressing and dispiriting environment on a daily basis.

The creation of multiculturalism is similarly not a development that can be simply accepted, because it destroys any connection between the individual and the nation as a whole. Culture is what binds individuals to a society; lack of a common culture converts us all into guests in a hotel, an establishment for which we rightly feel nothing. Those who appear to have accepted the new dispensation have actually become more cynical individuals, seeing in society a tool for personal enrichment and not anything of value in itself. Love of country is a basic natural instinct that underpins any healthy society. Just as personal discouragement is a recognised condition in mental health that prevents a person from functioning normally, social discouragement is also a condition, a disease of the social body, a state of affairs that cannot be accepted and embraced.

So it seems impossible to let go entirely and reconcile ourselves to discouragement, impossible to ignore completely the negative social trends that dampen the vigour of our lives. That these trends are described as vibrancy empties words of any meaning. Our lives are weakened, not strengthened, by social and cultural conflict and casual lack of respect for neighbours and others we come into contact with. What is described as vibrancy is actually discouragement and dreariness in social life. Government coercion to create a diverse society with no common values or culture means that unfreedom is added to the list of our complaints, an unfreedom that is enthusiastically peddled by a well-staffed and well-paid bureaucracy that we have to pay for.

What is wrong with being unfree, you may ask? Chinais unfree, at least insofar as there is no popular participation in government and no freedom of social debate. Will it be so bad to be like the Chinese? Could it even be reasoned that our current cultural problems are caused by an excess of freedom? By allowing everyone to do what he wants, have we created a society with no centre of gravity? To this I would answer that the Chinese remain Chinese, that the Chinese government is not seeking to replace or culturally reconfigure the entire population, and so in many ways our government is worse than theirs. Secondly, our culture, the culture of the Anglo-Saxon countries, has traditionally emphasised liberty in a way that is not the case with China, and so our recognition that we are no longer as democratic or as free as we once were is harder for us to accept. Finally, we should be clear that government coercion is required to create a multicultural society, as human beings in a single society tend to create a common culture when left alone by the authorities. So unfreedom and social discouragement go hand in hand inBritain today.

Reacting to social decay

Ironically, when classically educated, our rulers were well aware of the danger that immigration could destroy the bands of society. In Dryden’s translation of Juvenal’s Third Satire, we read:

In short, no Scythian, Moor, or Thracian born,
But in that town which arms and arts adorn.
Shall he be placed above me at the board,
In purple clothed, and lolling like a lord?
Shall he before me sign, whom t’other day
A small-craft vessel hither did convey,
Where, stowed with prunes, and rotten figs, he lay?
How little is the privilege become
Of being born a citizen ofRome!

How little is the privilege become of being born a British subject! With daily reminders of this, we could well become curmudgeons, like Gildas in the 6th century, who lamented the condition of Britainin his On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain. A pessimistic view also engulfed other remnants of forgotten civilisations, such as the émigré Russians in Paris between the wars. What is different about what is happening to us, however, is the demographic change that is overwhelming our society. The original Italian stock of Italy maintained its demographic dominance and assimilated immigrants from Greece in ancient times. The ancient Britons and the Angles and Saxons later merged into a new English-speaking society with a Celtic fringe. The Soviet experiment in Russia came to an end, allowing a certain restoration of some parts of Russian culture, including the Russian Orthodox Church, in Russia today. In our case, however, the sheer disparate nature of the origins of the incoming population groups and the official encouragement for them not to forge a united culture make social anomie from now on the most likely outcome, at least for now.

Given that the political and media worlds are dominated by people who support the discouragement of our society, there is little reason to expect an improvement. Anger is one possible reaction to what has happened to our country, and I cannot deny that anger would be justified, although achieving little in the way of positive results. It seems all we can do that is more productive than a complaining or angry reaction is to try to create corners for ourselves in which to lead happy lives or establish social networks, regardless of what is happening in society more broadly. The problem is that, even if successful, we lead devalued lives. We can do what we can in the forgotten corners ofEngland, but, now there is no longer a nation or national culture, our achievements will all die with us. We have become zombies, the living dead, adherents of a culture that even we know has already passed on.

I can offer no real answer to the question of how to live a worthwhile life during the death of a culture. We should try to speak up as and when we get the chance to. We should support other members of the English nation who are penalised for speaking out. We should not vote for or otherwise support political parties that encourage our national decline. But we should also be realistic in our expectations, and try to find niche locations and occupations for ourselves to enjoy our lives despite the dispiriting backdrop. Such political work as we can do should be engaged in with the object of deriving a certain enjoyment therefrom, forging links with other like-minded Englishmen and thus creating a counter-culture. The long-term future of that counter-culture is itself in doubt, but we are on this earth and have a right to cultural expression, and we should make the most of it. Cultural pessimism does not imply that we should always be glum, but it does point to a certain detachment from the culture and even the wider interests of Englandtoday. I will certainly not be keeping my fingers crossed that the bond markets spare the state and its hangers-on during the current economic downturn, but all we can do is to wait to see how our economic difficulties play out. Roll on the crisis! As Lenin said, the worse, the better!

6 responses to “Cultural Pessimism

  1. David, since nobody else has commented, thanks for posting this. I’m inspired to write one of my long screeds, but I know you find them tiresome. Also, I am lazy.

    But I will say that perhaps you should not consider the outlook to be so bleak. The future, as they say, is radically unpredictable. You are right that the culture that you associated with England, or Britain, or whatnot, is gone. But was it still England in 1950? That England was the result of a century of Progressive reform, and very different to 1850 or 1900, and followed two World Wars and the massive expansion of the State, particularly under Attlee. It was England, but perhaps we can say it was only one possible England.

    I have myself come to see the history of the last few centuries as a series of shocks and countershocks- or continual revolution and counter-revolution- following the Reformation. And if we think of the Reformation, we might think of what an Englishman thought as these new Protestants smashed the windows and tore out the decorations in his local church, the very heart of the traditional community. It must have felt like the end of the world to him too.

    What and when will the next reaction be? The current hegemony seem, in our restricted local view, not just malevolent but immovable. But I think they are more fragile than they seem. They have committed themselves to war on many fronts and, as one German chap discovered, that is never wise, even if things seem to be going rather well early on.

    If I live another 40 years, I have no idea what society will look like then. All I am confident of is that it will be nothing I would be able to predict from here in 2012.

  2. Well, please go ahead and write any long articles you are inspired to and submit them to Sean. I think it is a case of the more articles here, the merrier.

    I think I can see the broad outlines of the demographic future quite well, although perhaps nothing else. I am living in Lincolnshire and quite happy to stay in this county, which is very English, although somewhat apprehensive that the multiculti experiment will be enforced everywhere eventually. Lincolnshire benefits from having no large cities.

    I want to write something because I think there has to be a record of what people in this era thought. Future generations must have a record of the sheer distress that the multicultural extremism occasioned to Englishmen. The very worst aspect is being unable to comment on what is happening to us freely.

  3. Actually, just reading it again spotted this-

    . The original Italian stock of Italy maintained its demographic dominance and assimilated immigrants from Greece in ancient times.

    There’s an un-PC point of view that they didn’t. That instead, the Italian Romans were demographically overwhelmed by slaves imported from the Eastern provinces, “Greek” being a catch-all term for Levantines, Semites etc of various types. Widespread manumission of slaves led rapidly to a non-Roman population of Rome who took over the culture. Which is why they got that enormous problem with “oriental cults” and ended up with the entire empire converting to a variant of Judaism. Once most of the population of Rome were no longer Roman, what did they care for Rome’s traditional gods? Even the capital city was moved! After all, how could the Byzantines consider themselves Romans; they didn’t even speak the language…

    Makes you think.

  4. Concerned Briton

    Thankyou for this article djWebb.

    Unlike what seems to be a spate of cultural relativism or perhaps a nihilist acceptance from many people in our society, I see our current situation to be a terrible misfortune which has been purposefully engineered and foisted up on us all.

    I do not see it as a simple ‘flow’ of change that ‘just happens’ or has just happened. I see it as the carefully crafted orchestration of many decades of work to smash this nation apart, happily worked for and progressed by the abundance of well-meaning “useful idiots” – in the true history of the term.

    Unlike other events elsewhere and here though history, this time we have not even had the common decency afforded to us to be able to “fight off” this threat to our collective existence.

    We have been rotten down from both within and without, people playing directly on our traditional notions and altruism as a tool against us. Psychological warfare, emotional manipulation, on top of the rest.

    Dissent from the current cultural and political hegemony has been largely crushed under the heel, to the point where even voicing opinions can have you before the courts and vilified in our ‘conditioned’ and pavlovian society, whilst at the same time, the subversive juggernaut rolls onwards without abating.

    Many of us are disgusted with how this country has now become, and deeply disturbed about the way it will end up on current trends.

    Personally speaking, this ranges from what is in effect our ethnic displacement and the (for want of a better phrase) ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the indigenous British population, through to disturbing binge drinking revellers, hedonists, coarsity, crudity, increases in violent crime, not to mention the ‘globalisation’ “race to the bottom” where standards of living and expectations will be driven to the lowest common denominator.

    I share the view that we are mostly zombies, dispossessed of our true heritage and its worth, yet some of us who know it was different and could have been a very different trajectory are past being “angry” – we are shells, quietly mournful and finding ways to cope with resigning ourselves to the onslaught that will roll out because there seems to be nothing else available to us to do.

    Whilst culture is not ever static, it is a product of the people and not visa versa. Change the people and it will change the culture, and I think that our island race, our people, have created marvellous societies and civilisations which have surpassed many others in terms of organisation, safety, freedom, liberty, justice and ingenuity. Not faultless, but in comparison, one of the better ones (until its relatively recent incarnation!).

    Although it is probably a bit of a heresy to say it here on the Libertarian Alliance website, I personally believe that if Libertarians expect the traditional thoughts and natural standpoints of Libertarianism to survive within an increasingly less indigenous/European populated landmass (which is transforming at break-neck speed), they are deluding themselves. The nature of our people and the roots of our viewpoints will be far too severed.

    Whilst ‘liberals’ have banged on about “progressing” – I think we have done the opposite in most areas which I see as being important for a decent and stable society.

    We may have better homes, better standards of living (albeit now built on fake money we don’t have), but I think education has generally slipped, that society is more morally bankrupt, more fractured, more selfish, more ‘slave’ like in its conformity and that Britain has become a much less pleasant place to live.

    Every generation has the feeling of a loss and a crisis, but I think something fundamentally much larger is taking place in Britain (and in other European / Occidental countries).

    Rather than it be a generational crisis, or a blip on our history, I think we are not going to be able to rebuild this time, not least because the people who could rebuild it will no longer exist.

    Being pessimistic and dystopian, I can only foresee more common violence, more fraudulent activities in areas like voting and backhanders, more corruption of law institutions, less quality of living, fewer opportunities, demographic decline for the indigenous (who will be despised and not treated ‘in kind’ by those who have dispossessed us), with cities resembling more Detroit, New Orleans, or parts of South Africa, fused with a Middle Eastern and Islamic nature thanks to the expansion of Islam and Islamic demographics.

    My little town is already over 35% transformed, so I suppose I know as well as any how mundane, how gradual, how realistic it is for things to simply slide that way in the future. It is kind of ‘organic’. Nobody in their right mind ‘wants’ it to happen or to end up that way, even the ones doing the transforming (when it comes to degeneracy and crime, for example) – but that is just what tends to follow, eventually.

    People can run for a while yet, but they cannot hide. If we do seek to avert a large part of the disaster, we need significant yet small incremental steps now. The first thing is probably to get people to actually wake up to and fully understand there is a problem and what that problem will represent to us in the future. Sadly, I do not think they even have the stomach to recognise it or even listen.

    I am sure many here on the L.A Blog will find much to disagree with what I have said, but I can only say it as I see it. I can only hope that I am wrong, and that things work out very different.

  5. This feelingnis common across the ‘new world’, where England supplied colonists.

    I moved from NZ, where we mourned the 1950s before Maori radicals demanded the rest of the country support them forever, and before NZ fractionated into whites, Maoris, Pacific Islanders and ‘New Immigrants” (Often to do with United Nations quotas..) For all their rose-tinted glasses, NZ has no better race relations than anywhere else, and I have live there, Aussie, South Arica and the UK.

    In inland Australia is is so refreshing to find everyone is thinking along the same lines and moving in the same direction, people happy to be Australians. In Sydney by comparison, the streets are full of Asians and Arabs, who are basically… Asians and Arabs, and would never describe themselves as Australians first.

    While it easy to write this off as ‘rascist’ rantings, I think there are a lot more ‘culturalists’ in the world than the PC brigade would like. i don’t care what colour a person’s skin is, but their behaviour affects me greatly!

  6. As someone born in 1947 I can vouch for the fact that people were generally far happier in the years following the War than they are now. Mass immigration did not impinge on most people’s lives until the 1960s or even the 1970s, the poor generally lived in communities which offered a good deal of non-state social support, there was little unemployment, material conditions were improving, large numbers of bright working class children went to grammar schools and universities and above all people felt, even if they were poor, that they had a large degree of security and could plan for the future.

    The main social problem in those years was the power of the unions and class hatred.