Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

THERE may be a nation more frivolous and contemptible than the English, but somehow I doubt it. I have travelled the world and sojourned in several remote countries, but I have never encountered a people which knows so little about how to live as the English. A village in the African bush is a school of virtue and an academy of culture by comparison with an English town. Long governed by bullying incompetents, the English have given up using their brains: they have the intelligence of sheep and the morals of a hyena.

I generalise, perhaps, but from a large experience. The frivolity of the English is nowhere seen to better advantage than in officialdom's ardour to succour the guilty and humiliate the innocent. Not long ago, I received a letter from the mother of a prisoner who had tried to stab himself in the stomach. He had done so, he said, because the mother of his two children had run off with his best mate even though, according to the letter apprising him of his former girlfriend's deep new attachment, she still loved him `to bits'.

What the prisoner's mother wanted to know was why the prison had allowed him to stab himself in the stomach when it knew he was so depressed about his girlfriend. Why had he not been prevented from doing so?

I called the prisoner into my office. He was serving his fifth sentence for burglary. In the course of our conversation I asked him, as a matter of interest, how many burglaries he had committed. 'I can't answer that,' he said.

`Why not?' I asked.

`How many worms has a bird eaten? …

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