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April 03, 2007



My mother was born in 1912 too. Like many women her age, she wore a head-scarf from time to time.

Paul Craddick


I don't agree with you that this piece is self-evidently absurd. To my taste, it's certainly OTT (and flat-out wrong about some things). However, it's a useful exercise to separate the substance from the hyperbole, and ask some questions.

Is it the case that there was a different *esprit de corps* amongst the British services in days gone by - for example, would servicemen have been expected not to cooperate with captors in ways that we've recently seen, and thus would servicemen have been more likely not to do so?

Was there really such a thing as "British self-confidence" in days gone by? If so, did it rest on (relative) contempt for other peoples? If yes to the latter, it wouldn't surprise me; Nietzsche, for one, linked up a "noble" ethos with a "pathos of distance." Anyhow, self-confidence needn't rest on any uncritical-contemptuous comparison to another person or nation, but rather on an appreciation of one's own (or one's nation's) virtues.

Finally, isn't the *de facto* notion of "multiculturalism" - namely, the imperative to abstain from criticizing any culture except one's own - a factor which would tend to undermine "national self-confidence" in a country where the idea has wide currency?

I'm a real Anglophile, and am alive to the dangers of romanticizing any past age as embodying the "good old days" (often the virtue of an epoch is, paradoxically, also its shortcoming). Alas, it's difficult not to view contemporary Britain as being quite enfeebled, in its reaction/response to the Iranian provocation.

Mick H

Well yes, there was a British self-confidence. For better or for worse it's not there any more. In this case I'd say it's for the better.

I don't really know enough about the author of the article, John Derbyshire, but it strikes me that he's one of those Englishmen in the US who trades on a certain kind of Anglophilia, and, being away from the country, manages to preserve a reactionary and romantic view of the past. No doubt he'd cite multiculturalism as one of the reasons why he doesn't live here anymore, but pardon me for thinking what he'd really mean is that there are too many immigrants, too many of whom aren't anglo-saxon.

And I do think there's something amusing - absurd even - about basing the article on what his dear old Mum would do, which lifts it out of the ordinary just-a-bit-over-the-top category.

As for the feebleness of Britain's response - well, it's too early to judge. I do find these comparisons with Mrs Thatcher or even Nelson (or Wellington, or Churchill, or Henry V at Agincourt) pretty tiresome though.


I assume this John Derbyshire is the same one who writes for National Review. He's famous for writing "Kick him again for me" when he first heard about Abu Graib. He is annoyingly anti-gay, for no obvious reason, and he has that strain of carefree rascism-with-a-small-r that other writers at NR have.

He also writes some wonderful books on popular mathematics.

He and the guy who calls himself Dalrymple form a genre all to themselves -- you might call it the "smart right-wing". Frankly, I love reading both of them. Even when they are wrong, as JD is in this case (if you ask me), there's a certain intelligence behind it.

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