Theodore Dalrymple

Young Turks

Put in an international perspective, British youth looks even nastier

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.

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