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Beware the barbarians howling at our gates

The rioters who pillaged and burned vast swathes of British cities recently have been universally condemned as amoral, materialistic, self–absorbed thugs, with an overweening sense of entitlement engendered by an overly indulgent welfare state.

An apt description, perhaps, but it merely catalogues the symptoms of the disease that lies at the root of what is so manifestly rotten about modern British society. The riots are, in fact, the fruit of a decision by Britain’s governing elite to banish God from the nursery, schoolroom, and public square and to put politically correct, all–embracing social engineering programs in his place.

Unlike France’s young Moslems, the rioters who plundered Britain’s cities are not members of a beleaguered and alienated minority. They comprised a broad cross section of British society—from the unemployed through the middle class to the upper crust.

They typify the godless and narcissistic British mainstream, motivated largely by envy, greed, and a nihilistic joy in destruction. They do not, however, behave the way they do because cradle–to–grave welfare systems inevitably foster laziness, lack of ambition, and dependency.

Surely, welfare systems tend to have that effect. But laziness, lack of ambition, and dependency do not alone necessarily engender a tendency to riot and pillage.

Until recently, violence and other criminal behaviors were effectively deterred by the restraints societies traditionally imposed on themselves. Sometimes those restraints were the product of national culture and tradition, as in Japan. Elsewhere—in places like Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the former Soviet Union—the ruthless exercise of force was the primary restraint.

But in Britain—as in some of the other countries that hitherto constituted Christendom—the most vital restraint of all was self–restraint. To be sure, there was the full panoply of the justice system—police, judiciary, and prisons—to deal with those who would not, or could not, exercise self–restraint. But society’s first line of defense was a general acceptance of the notion that “one should do as one would be done by.”

The principle was instilled in Sunday school, church, and around the supper table. But the groundwork was laid in the classroom—during public prayer at assembly time and in the regular daily teaching of the nation’s language, literature, history, and religion.

The system sought to foster virtues like decency, honesty, industry, integrity, kindliness, loyalty, courage, a sense of honor, responsibility, and self-sacrifice. It laid a heavy burden on the well–born and wealthy—teaching that from those to whom much had been given, much was expected. It was dubbed by both its admirers and detractors alike as “muscular Christianity.”

After World War II, “muscular Christianity” came to be seen by Britain’s intellectuals as patronizing, paternalistic, and even racist—a legacy of a shameful colonial past. As a consequence, no hint of muscular Christianity is to be found in British schools today.

The traditional virtues of loyalty, honesty, industry, integrity, kindliness, courage, honor, responsibility, and self-sacrifice have been edged out by smug, self–oriented qualities—including self–awareness, selfesteem, self–fulfillment and self–gratification.

Children are no longer taught to rise above their disadvantages. Rather, they learn they are an unjust society’s helpless victims—a view reflected in the justice system’s sentencing guidelines to the judiciary.

Absent any genuine form of restraint, moral or judicial, the sole real surprise about the widespread rioting is that it took so long a–coming. For years now, even in small towns, roving bands of foul–mouthed youthful marauders make life after dark intolerable for ordinary citizens while the police look the other way.

Similarly, life in Europe’s most beautiful cities is constantly disrupted by hordes of belligerent British drunks, staggering through the streets, shrieking obscenities and mercilessly harassing anyone—man, woman, or child—who crosses their path.

These barbarians have nothing in common with the generation that so stoically endured “The Blitz” and so bravely sailed their tiny fishing boats and pleasure craft to evacuate a defeated army from Dunkirk’s beaches.

Even so, they are monsters the British themselves created when they allowed God to be driven out of public life in general and the classroom in particular. And in this regard America has no reason for complacency—for we are headed in the same direction.

Sadly, our political leaders are either oblivious to the barbarians howling at the gates, or worse, they lack the moral courage to face them down. GPH✠

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