in North America, begin to understand that the imagined,
ideal Britain which they have treasured for so long has
been swept away and is being replaced by an entirely
different country-a place of shrinking liberties, of
increasingly arbitrary authority, of bad manners and
violence, of illiteracy and ignorance, of cringing conformism.
As the culture disintegrates, the physical, political,
diplomatic and military entity formerly known as
Britain is also breaking up, and is likely to be
incorporated into a new European superstate.
Any Anglophile will say his or her love began with British literature: Austen, Tolkien, Trollope, Pym; Thackeray, Herriot, Chesterton, Milne; Lewis, Eliot, Stevenson, Read; Bronte, Wodehouse, MacDonald, Grahame. Page by page we are drawn to the customs and manners and mores of Britain. We take trips to find the Britain of our literature. We search for pockets of preservation, places that match the geography of our imagination.
If you want to hold on to that Britain, if a look at modern reality will dispel your dreams, stay away from this book.
and when those memories are allowed to die,
it is less of a nation.
What Morris Berman does in The Twilight of American Culture–describes what he calls a cultural massacre in America–Peter Hitchens does in The Abolition of Britain. Hitchens outlines the changes that have taken place within one generation, between the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 to the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Morris’ view is from the left; Hitchens’ is from the right.
so that it can no longer recognize itself in the mirror.
Hitchens recapitulates themes from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death; the decline in literacy, curiosity, imagination, and the ability to think for oneself. He examines the effects of television and computers, the decline in education, the rise in divorce and single parenting, the ignorance of history, the rejection of great literature, the loss in one generation of religious sensibilities.
habit is likely to become extremely passive,
because his ability to imagine, to hold conversations,
to think without prompting, has already been
weakened and withered. He does not need them.
We welcome into our homes the machines that
vacuum the thoughts out of our heads
and pump in someone else’s.
Blunt as his brother Christopher, but conservative and unrepentant of his politically-incorrectness, Hitchens exposes the inconsistencies and unintended consequences of present policies. One weakness I see in this book is that Hitchens ignores the failures of the British Empire; there is a reason that it came down. While he decries the direction England is going, he doesn’t delineate a solution. As a journalist, Peter Hitchens’ thoughts are accessible at his blog. A few random quotes from the book:
into paid work has emptied the suburbs…
Home death is becoming as rare as home birth.
and where more and more women are
married to the State.
The most significant change for the majority
is that life is no longer so safe, so polite or
so gentle as it once was.
Funnily enough, I just posted on my main blog the other day about being an Anglophile…and yes, my love for all things British initially began with the literature (along with the fact that I attended a British school in Beirut, Lebanon, for a couple of years.)I’ll probably take your advice and avoid this book, but I did enjoy your insightful review!
Oh, this book sounds intriguing and depressing! I read Peter Hitchens’ The Rage against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith last summer and enjoyed it greatly. I blogged about it here.
Carol, thanks so much for the author suggestions…I will definitely check them out! Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog…we obviously have some things in common!I didn’t know Christopher Hitchens had a brother who had turned from atheism, either. You learn something new every day in the blogosphere!
I haven’t been by in awhile but as always, here you are…making me think.