Steel Yourself

Dalrymple’s new essay for the New English Review harks back to his earlier City Journal pieces, with reports from the frontlines of Britain’s dependency culture, occasioned this time by his recent visits to two former steel mining towns, one in Wales and the other in the North of England. As in those earlier pieces, he describes the almost dehumanizing influence of the undiscriminating welfare state but also finds that it hides an underlying core of civility:

It astonishes me, however, that when I speak to the people here – posh voice, obviously an emissary from another world, if not from another universe altogether – I am responded to not with hostility, but with smiles (though I inwardly remark on the terrible dentition), kindness, cheerfulness, and helpfulness if for example I want directions. I am not sure I could live their life and talk to a stranger so politely.

This underlying decency makes me all the sadder. I think of the words of Edward, Prince of Wales, when he visited South Wales at the height of the Depression: ‘Something,’ he said, ‘must be done.’

Yes, but what? Certainly, pity, with its almost inevitable leaven of condescension, is no answer.

Read it here

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