Thursday, July 28, 2005

In the latest print issue of National Review, the is a very sharply written critique of the Live8 concerts written by Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple-his pen name). To be honest, I haven't seen any single writer write as sharply about contemporary western social issues as well as Daniels.

Daniels begins by noting the character of Mrs Jellyby from Dickens' Bleak House who "was so concerned for the welfare of the natives of Boorioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger, that she quite neglected to look after her own children." This ends up being the heart of his argument, and what I find most persuasive as well, though he addresses a few other interesting points as well. (By way of confession, I very recently attempted to read Bleak House but was unable to engage myself to it and put it down halfway through).

Daniels notes the oddity of rock stars trying to act as moral instructors. "Their profession, after all, has not been a byword for restraint, good sense, or selflessness . . . have not these same musicians therefore the inescapable moral duty to maintain their silence and do all in their power to prevent the further dissemination of their music . . .?" I left out in the middle his anecdote from a prison officer about the effects of rock vs baroque music on his charges.

Back to the main point though: " . . .the live 8 conception of virtue is now very widespread . . .the vast expansion of tertiary education has increased by orders of magnitude the numbers of people who think in sociological abstractions rather than in concrete moral terms. Statistical generalizations are more real to them, and certainly more important, than the trifling moral dilemmas of their own lives. How, after all, can your own sexual conduct compete in significance with the infant mortality rate or lefe expectancy of the inhabitants of Africa?"

This reminds me once again to recommend his book, Life at the Bottom (written under the Dalrymple name), which shows in frightening detail the effects the our modern ideas are having on the inhabitants of modern English cities.

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