Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Britain today: ’sloppy and sentimental’

There's a lot to dislike about Melanie Phillips. She is, as a friend aptly put it, a "vanilla right winger". She supports the War on Drugs, unquestioningly defends Israel, and attributes most social ills to a decline in church attendance. However, despite her prejudices, she occasionally gets things right. Her latest article on the sentimentality of modern Britain is spot on:
This general attitude has its roots in the therapy culture, which tells us that it is bad for the individual to repress emotion. That doctrine has now developed into the belief that anyone who fails to display emotion is a bad individual.

It has produced a culture in which genuine emotion, which is almost always private, is deemed not to exist, while inappropriate or vicarious emotion, or sentimentality, is mistaken for the real thing.

This has the pernicious effect not only of devaluing real feelings such as grief, but elevating histrionics such as self-pity and narcissism. Hence the obsession in our society with ’self-esteem’.

One result of exchanging the stiff upper lip for the trembling lower one is that people become less able to cope with the vicissitudes of life.

That is what the octogenarian Duchess of Devonshire was getting at when she recently branded Britain as ’sloppy and sentimental’. Her generation ‘made little of sorrow. . . it wasn’t the thing to bellyache’.

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