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British propriety

American conservatives long admired England as the homeland of Civilized Standards. Russell Kirk wrote a whole book on America’s British Culture because he wanted to refute multiculturalism. It’s worth noting though how their ideas of civilized standards now operate:

  • They’ve awarded their top literary award, the Booker Prize, to an unusually disgusting piece of illiterature.
  • Recent revisions to their hate-crime laws, together with existing harassment laws, seem likely to solidify the status of saying homosexuality is bad as a criminal offense. [UPDATE: the High Court has confirmed that a man who holds up a sign that says “Stop immorality. Stop homosexuality. Stop lesbianism.” and is assaulted by hecklers who throw him to the ground and rip the sign from his hands has thereby committed a crime.]
  • A top official commission has asked the police to investigate a television talk-show host for a newspaper column he wrote in which he truthfully—though harshly and one-sidely—referred to Arabs as “suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors.” The man has also been suspended from his job.

What happened? Civilized Standards are a good thing, but today they just don’t work as a final standard. The Brits have preferred to avoid ultimate issues because they might lead to unpleasantness, relying instead on habit, moderation and social convention—“civilized standards.” That’s fine if you have a settled class structure, an established Church, and a population that mostly stays put for a thousand years and more. When those things disappear settled standards go too, unless there’s something definite to anchor them, and all that’s left is the desire to avoid unpleasantness. As a result, avoiding any suggestion that there are standards becomes the only standard. That isn’t enough for civilized life, though, so in the end the cult of Standards—“internationally-recognized standards of human rights,” for example—becomes the enemy of any civilized existence. You can’t do things well if you don’t know what you’re doing, and in life there’s no substitute for having a definite position on what life is all about.