Theodore Dalrymple

Young Turks

Put in an international perspective, British youth looks even nastier

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Comparisons are odious, generalisations dangerous and stereotypes invidious, but without them conversation would be tedious and talk nothing but an endless regression of subordinate clauses, each qualifying what the previous one had asserted. It is cowardly and dishonest to refuse these means of arriving at truth, nor would we approach any nearer to truth were we to do so. Refusing to generalise is often a form of denial.

So when I say that a recent trip to Turkey reminded me (once again) of the repellent character of British youth, I do not mean that every last British youth is repellent, very far from it: only that, as a human group, British youth is, by and large, the least attractive in the world, at least of any known to me.

I found a comparison with Turkish youth both reassuring and alarming: reassuring because (as in other countries to which I have recently travelled, for example India) it convinced me that my objections to British youth were not just those of a ageing man, embittered at the loss of his own youth, for I was still quite capable of liking and even admiring youth where it was attractive; but alarming because it meant that my view of British youth was founded upon real observation, and not mere preconception, prejudice or parti pris. Moreover, I have met many foreign visitors to these shores who arrived Anglophiles and departed Anglophobes because they saw what I have seen. Their Anglophilia was strictly for a country that exists no longer except in the imagination; the past really is a foreign country, especially here.

Turkish youth does not pride itself on its principled rejection of elegance, nor make itself uglier than it is by the various methods seen on British high streets. Although the excellent Turkish cuisine is by no means slimming, a far smaller proportion of it is fat in that fast-food-made-flesh fashion of the new British. This suggests that the Turks, who have the financial means nowadays to become fat, have much better control over their appetites than the British. No one has yet persuaded them that to let oneself go is man’s inalienable right, and that no right is real until it is exercised.

This self-control exhibits itself in other ways. Turkish youth does not go in for extravagance of gesture, screaming and shouting, or generally drawing attention to itself; even relatively poor or uneducated youths show themselves capable of refinement as to manners, intonation and bearing far superior indeed to that seen among even the better-off and well-educated youth of Britain. Turkish youth does not regard getting drunk in herds as psychotherapeutically beneficial or even enjoyable, nor does the concept of pre-loading, of drinking at home before going out drinking because drink consumed at home is cheaper, exist among young Turks. Turkish youth does not get lashed, smashed, bladdered, wasted, hammered, legless or rat-arsed, nor is it likely that Turkish youth ever uses alcohol-induced amnesia as evidence that it must have had a good time the night before. For British youth, oblivion is the highest possible pleasure; in its ‘culture’, vomiting is self-expression, and (what is worse) vice versa.

Even liberated young Turkish women do not expose their white-puddingy thighs to the freezing winds of two or three in the morning, as British young women do (no one who has been to the centre of Newcastle on a Saturday night can fail to appreciate certain advantages to the burqa). Turkish youth — I am speaking of western Anatolia — is hard-working, polite, charming and frequently accomplished. It understands instinctively the connection between effort and achievement; in short, it has self-respect. The young British, by contrast, do not even know what self-respect is or why it is necessary. What they have instead is self-esteem, that invariable precursor to a lifetime of resentment.

Can anything be done about this? It is obvious that — excepting political catastrophe — the future of Turkish youth is bright. That of British youth, by contrast, is dismal; you look at British youth and think of that great British invention, the service economy without the service.

I take it as read that there is nothing that can be done to improve the British — things have gone far too far for that. You can’t make eggs out of an omelette. The only hope that remains for us is to corrupt others, and bring them down to our level. We must export our militantly moronic culture as fast as we can. Every country must export that in which it has a competitive advantage: in our case, charmless decadence.