“If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it of reasons for gratitude…Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.”
— Theodore Dalrymple (@theodalrymple) March 28, 2019
Quote of the day:
Anti-racists collect statistics about race with a celerity and obsessional intrusiveness that would have put the apartheid regime to shame. The opposite of a racist is not an anti-racist but someone who does not think in racial categories at all. Theodore Dalrypmple
This also applies to gender, age and any other difference some people consider more important than our common humanity.
Those who regard all people as equal see them as people first and foremost, not as a member of a sub-group.
Positive discrimination can sometimes be a force for good but it is still discrimination which focusses on a difference.
Being blind to colour, gender,age or any other difference means you don’t see those things, you simply see the people inside because that is what really matters.
Listening to pop songs in taxis led Theodore Dalrymple to an explanation for one of the causes of the global financial crisis:
. . . For is it not the case that one of those causes is that, on a gargantuan scale, we took the waiting out of wanting? Not only consumer credit but government deficit spending, largely to underwrite a standard of living that we did not go to the trouble of having earned, is at the root of our financial difficulties. . .
The protestant work ethic with which I was brought up taught me about delayed gratification.
You worked and you saved and you waited and eventually you’d get what you wanted because you’d earned it.
Easy credit changed that by taking the waiting out of wanting and now we’re all paying for it.
Theodore Dalrymple notes a cultural change in the USA:
. . . Now American society has many faults, no doubt, as all things human do; but the one sin of which it was traditionally freest, by comparison with all other societies, was envy. More people wished good luck to the successful in America than in any other society, though of course not all; fewer people were bitten by envy, and more people impelled by emulation, than anywhere else in the world. Indeed, there was a time, and not so long ago, when to display or appeal to envy would have been regarded as un-American, a virtual repudiation of the American dream. Mr Nixon despised Mr Kennedy as a pseudo-aristocratic spoilt brat, but didn’t dare say so in public in case it sounded envious.
So Mr Obama’s appeal to envy is a symptom, and perhaps a reinforcement, of a cultural change. It goes without saying that his own financial position is one which 99.9 per cent of the enviously-inclined might envy; but an appeal to that envy, to suggest even subliminally that a man with a large fortune is in some way existentially less suited ipso facto to the highest office than a man with less money, is no more traditionally American than would be a sneer at a man’s humble beginnings.
The excitation or exploitation of envy is wrong, even where the fortunate do not deserve their good fortune.
Politics of envy is not unknown here too.
It is part of what drives the left’s obsession with inequality.
The real economic and social problem is not that some people have a lot more than others but that some don’t have enough.
If inequality was the real problem it could be solved by dragging down those with more and making people equally poor.
That would not however, do anything to help those who don’t have enough, whatever enough is.
The experience of the Depression influenced my parents for life.
They spent moderately and saved well.
The idea of borrowing for something that wasn’t an absolute necessity or incurring a debt they couldn’t repay would have been anathema too them.
There was nothing unusual in that for them or their contemporaries.
It is no longer the norm, for many individuals and countries as Theodore Dalrymple ruminates:
. . .But to call the attempt to balance a budget ‘austerity,’ in other words to say living within your means implies ‘rigorous abstinence, asceticism,’ a kind of killjoy puritanism, is to suggest that it is both honest, just and decent to do otherwise. And this is indicative of a revolution in our sensibilities.
In fact, it is grossly dishonorable to live beyond your means, at least when you transfer to the cost to others, as is inevitable when borrowing becomes an entire, chronic way of life – as it has in many countries. Then repayment becomes impossible and is known in advance to be impossible; you continue to borrow so that you may continue to live at a higher standard of living than your earnings justify, in the full knowledge that you will either eventually default or, metaphorically speaking, pay back in tin the weight of what you borrowed in gold. Perhaps those foolish enough to lend to you in these circumstances deserve to lose some or all their money; but there is no disguising the fact that, at least according to traditional standards of morality, your conduct has been dishonorable, immoral and fraudulent.
If an individual owes money, the honorable thing for him to do is to restrict his spending in order to repay it, and not to borrow more merely so that he may maintain his current standard of living until such time comes when he must declare his bankruptcy. And I am old enough to remember the time when poor people refrained from borrowing for fear of not being able to repay the debt, and thus lose their self-respect. Their self-respect was more important to them than their level of consumption of inessentials. . .
Of course, countries are not individuals. . . Our individual sense on honor is not engaged when the borrowing is done by the government and the proceeds trickle down into our pockets.
It is in these circumstances that the moral corruption of living permanently on borrowed money that will never be paid back can be hidden from those who do so, though only vicariously. Their sense of responsibility is attenuated to the degree that they do not realize that they have any. The people in Greece, understandably but nevertheless wrongly, experience the lowering of their standard of living as unjust; they do not see it as a consequence of their undeservedly high previous standard of living, because that undeservedly high standard of living came to them via what for them was an abstraction, the government. In Spain, by contrast, it was private debt that was the culprit; but the population did not experience their high standard of living as economically unjustified either.
The idea that living within your means is a form of austerity, and not (other than in exceptional circumstances) the elementary moral duty of people of honor, shows that, underlying the economic crisis is a profound moral crisis in western society.
Living within your means was not just normal but right for my parents and their generation.
They endured an economic depression but not a moral one.