Friday, 2 March 2012

Britains most dangerous sectarian divide

Last night I managed to catch up with Channel 4's 'Proud and Prejudiced' documentary, about the bitter fermenting hatreds between militant Islamist's and the (largely but not exclusively) white working class in the town of Luton. Subsequently, these gave birth to the English Defence League (EDL), which has rapidly spread across the country.

For those such as myself who are interested in cultural issues the program was a disappointment. As might be expected neither side came out of the program with much glory and fully lived up to stereotype. The EDL and its leader, although when sober clearly highly articulate, came across overall as yobbish and immature;  the Islamist leader as a vain, ignorant self-publicist, 'raving on about Jihad', to use John Howard's memorable line.

There was no attempt to explore the reasons behind the rise of the worst sectarian  tensions  last seen in England for hundreds of years, and therefore no attempt to understand how such tensions could be dissolved. Instead, what we got was a purely factual narrative which ended on the palliative assurance that 'support for both groups had plateaued' during late 2011.

The program was highly illuminating in one way, however, albeit unintentionally.

It showed once again that the most dangerous cultural divide in this country is between the Metropolitan liberal elite and the rest of us.

Most people are well aware of some aspects of this divide: the inherited wealth and privilege of those holding most senior positions  in all the LibLabCon political  parties, in the legal profession and of course the media means our Establishment is woefully out of touch with the lives of ordinary people. Having known nothing but elite success all their lives and, in the case of many members of the Political Class never having had a proper job,  their life experience is often pitifully narrow. Consequently, although in many cases people of extremely high  intelligence, their ability is not matched by the wisdom most people accumulate along the way with all life's set backs and disappointments. In terms of politics, the result, of course, is poor policies born out of ignorance of how most folk live.

So far, so obvious. But what is, to my mind, much less understood is that these factors are much compounded by a cultural trait of the metropolitan liberal classes far more dangerous than mere ignorance of the lives of others: - their overweening narcissism.

Narcissism  has been a increasingly important part of liberal culture since the1960s, and anyone who has spent much time in metropolitan liberal circles can attest to what an enormously inflated sense of self-regard they tend to have for themselves. Indeed, one scientific study has shown that such groups have a signifcantly higher levels of the chemical dopamine, which stimulates feelings of high self-esteem.

But like any other chemical high, dopamine highs can be become addictive, and this leads to a pronounced metropolitan cultural tendency of incessant ego-masturbation. It is not going too far to say that many Metropolitan liberals are dopamine junkies, addicted to forever telling themselves and their friends just what great people they really are.

The political ramifications  are far more serious than is generally realised: mistakes in policy for wider society are not only made out of ignorance, though that is undoubtedly an important factor, but because policy choices are made on the basis of what "feels good". It is not only the case that hard choices are avoided because of cynical careerism, but also out of emotional and moral cowardice.

The result is that malign cultural trends in society are simply ignored, or at best, grudgingly acknowledged but not dwelt on, on the basis that if something doesn't make you feel good, it isn't really happening. Long before last summer's riots, for example, the liberal left laughed at the idea of 'feral' children. After the riots showed without doubt such children existed, there was a desperate attempt to blame the cause of the riots on material deprivation alone.  Such deprivation could, of course, be alleviated by more government spending, administered no doubt by nice metropolitan liberal people such as themselves.  On the Left in general, there was a total refusal to even countenance that the widespread breakdown in civil order may have had deeper cultural reasons such as family breakdown.

And that leads us back to Channel 4's 'Proud and Prejudiced': profoundly malign cultural trends in British society which the program should have examined are avoided, because such examination itself would prove to be unpleasant. Meanwhile, an increasingly alienated and disengaged electorate are forced to live with the consequences.

Because the people who are most 'Proud and Prejudiced' are the metropolitan liberals themselves.