9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review From A Briton...
I think, with the lack of reviews from actual British people resident in Britain under customer comments upon this book, it behoves me to put across the viewpoint that other reviewers seem to have been asking for.
The cover of Peter Hitchens' book shows the Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain, flown at half-mast. The image comes from the days after Princess Diana died...
Published on May 1 2001 by Richard Semple
3.0 out of 5 stars A British "Slouching Towards Gomorrah"
First I must say that this is an extremely well written and engaging work. You will enjoy it whether you agree with the author or not. As an American I cannot rely on first hand knowledge of British society over the last few years to say whether Mr. Hitchens is overstating his case or not. From my experience of the United States over the same period, I suspect that some...
Published on Feb. 27 2001 by John D. Cofield
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review From A Briton...,
The cover of Peter Hitchens' book shows the Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain, flown at half-mast. The image comes from the days after Princess Diana died and part of a nation mourned. Notably, however, another part of it clearly did not. Hitchens takes this fact and runs with it, and he is not wrong to do so. He points out that, as part of Britain poured out its emotion in a tremendous fashion, another part looked on aghast at the nakedness of sentiment being displayed. I am a mere 20 years of age, but as a passionate Brit I do not find it hard to sympathise with the point he is making here.
Most of the time we in Britain look around and things seem okay. Occasionally we wonder whether things aren't just a little bit wrong. In the aftermath of Princess Diana's death, some of us felt like strangers in our own land. The author is right to state that people are asking now and may continue to ask in ever greater numbers: exactly what happened to the country they thought they grew up in? The point is as true for all the other English-speaking nations in the world as it is for Britain.
Certainly, as some reviewers have pointed out, it would have to be conceded that Hitchens on occasion puts on rose-tinted spectacles when examining a British past often characterised by impoverishment and occasionally meaningless sacrifice. But he is no fool, and if he sometimes lapses into sentiment then we ought to forgive him if only for the many other highly relevant and prescient points he makes in this work. Further to that, he may look at Britain and see only England, but to all Americans who might not be aware of this fact (including, apparently, some reviewers here), England is absolutely the dominant constituent part of the United Kingdom and in fact houses 85% of the inhabitants - this much has not changed drastically for a century, so if England is all he sees, he isn't missing too much.
Foremost in Hitchens' firing line is what essentially boils down to the new liberal orthodoxy. To any Americans who have read or might read this book, unless you are a passionate Democrat you might well recognise the point Hitchens is making here. In all its forms, be it in its control of state-run schools, its management of state healthcare, its changes to the justice system, and many others, the politicians who have sought to change things for the better have actually changed things for the worse. In Britain, state education has noticeably collapsed in the quality of its output since the left-wing destruction of selective schools in favour of comprehensives. The National Health Service in Britain has been a monument to folly almost since it started but has become so much the religion of Britain that not even right-wingers would think of challenging its inherent absurdity - that being the misguided that health is a right, and thus free healthcare ought to be a tax-supported provision. In the liberalisation of the justice system following the calamitous abolition of the death penalty, people with good intentions have plainly shown they are willing to sacrifice ever-increasing numbers of innocent lives to criminal whims for their high moral stances. Admirable though this idealism may be, it has caused inestimable downturns in levels of popular intelligence, hopeless health provision and ever-rising levels of crime.
Particularly relevant also is Hitchens' attack upon the denigration of a proud history. Liberals of the modern age have been quick to change the teaching of history in state-run schools, to propagate notions that what the British did in the past was wrong, or that cultural and social history such as how the peasants lived is more important. That is palpably not history, and an essential problem with all well-meaning liberals in Britain today, with their pro-Europe sentiments and socialist inclinations, is they have no sense of history. History is a cycle, and it repeats itself. Attempts to deny a culture, past or present, and to deny the greatness of what it achieved in favour of a lame modern day apologeticism is a recipe for disaster.
The above are simply a few of the arenas upon which Hitchens has decided to wax literal, but throughout on many separate topics his arguments are both coherent and potent. This is a remarkable book from a remarkable mind, and its points about the inherent dangers of the modern orthodoxy and its brutal refusal to accept points of view contrary to its own are exceedingly pertinent to Great Britain and the British people. Britain is a country whose culture has been effectively torn asunder, but not under the arm of foreign invaders or occupiers but paradoxically and almost incomprehensibly by its own natives. The same is true in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It's a terrible shame, and it is good that we have people such as Peter Hitchens to give voice to an opposition that has been too silent until now.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Excellent!,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objections to the first review displayed on amazon.com site,
This review is from: The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana (Paperback)I object to the inclusion of the first review of my book 'The Abolition of Britain' in the amazon.com site. The 'reviewer' plainly has not read the book since he repeatedly and almost obsessively refers to content on immigration. The book does not even mention immigration. I don't object to uncomplimentary reviews. They are part of the author's job. But I am baffled that amazon.com should have selected this hostile and ignorant diatribe as the FIRST review of my book(out of more than 20) displayed on the site.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sweeping Indictment of Tony Blair's "Cool Britannia",
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Passionate Review of What Progressiveism Has Cost,
Our progressive age (the past century and a half) has certainly accomplished some things that were worthwhile. But at times the progressive urge has overtaken any sense of reason or restraint and there was change for the sake of change. Worse, change for the sake of fantasy. Hitchens, in this wonderful book, presents us with some views of what he thinks we have lost. I say we, even though he is speaking of Britain, much of what he talks about has at least an oblique corollary in the US.
We have to get over this notion that all change equals progress and that progress is universally salutary in consequence or that our age is the most enlightened and humane that has emerged from a recently benighted past. If the Whig interpretation of history is the view that all of the past was building up to the realization of the glorious present there is also a Progressive interpretation of history. It is that the present could be a golden age of happiness for all humanity if only they would realize how awful the past really was and how miserable their lives truly are and awaken from this false consciousness to the Progressive view of things.
As Hitchens points out so masterfully over and over again, no amount of evidence can overcome invincible ignorance. However, I think by reading this book and at least thinking about what he has to say rather than simply rejecting it as reactionary blathering there is a lot to be gained. It certainly can help us understand more about how the present go this way and why some traditional things still linger on when the Progressive view says that such things should simply evaporate in the mists like a bad dream. Well, my friends, there is much more to history than any one view of things can account for. And Hitchens has done us a service by helping us see clearly what we have too easily consigned to the dustbin of history and what it has cost us.
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written with passion, but for what end?,
However, Hitchens does not only attack the cultural left. Some of his strongest vitriol is for Margaret Thatcher, who he accuses of addressing economic modernization at the expense of cultural concerns. The Anglican Church, school teachers, the media, social workers, EU enthusiasts, and the United States (which he seems to believe is some sort of corrupting influence on the working classes) all end up in his sights.
This will not resonate well with most American conservatives, especially those of the libertarian bend (such as myself), nor do I suspect with most modern British conservatives. For in Hitchens' world, if not born the landlord, you must work as the servant.
Reading this work, and some of the essays of his better known leftist brother Christopher, really makes you wonder what was in the water at the Hitchens residence in the 1960s.
5.0 out of 5 stars Peerless,
4.0 out of 5 stars Highlights Difference between American &English Conservatism,
Hitchens has identified the essential nature of Britain as a conservative, monarchical parliamentary democracy, and sees changes to the education system, the Established Church, the censorship of plays, capital punishment, and so on as direct attacks upon the essence of being British. He sees such attacks as of a piece with the great Oliver Cromwell's attack on King Charles I.
He does not identify support for the free enterprise system as an essential feature of being British on this view.
Whatever view one takes of the controversy, this is a book that should be of interest to American conservative intellectuals. In British terms of 100 years ago, American conservatism is Whiggery. Edmund Burke was a Rockingham Whig. American liberalism is radicalism. Tom Paine was an extreme radical. Both Paine and Burke had strong Quaker roots.
Britain has 2 further groups that are not present in America to any serious extent - namely, socialists and Tories. This is a very Tory book. Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the radical mould.
The Whig can agree with much of this book, in its attacks on political correctness, the "dumbing down" of the syllabus in the government school system, etc. But at day's end, the Whig will not endorse the underlying theme of one size fits all Toryism. The lesson I derived from the book is the great danger to freedom where there are philosophies of government that do not feel any obligation to "ring fence" the sphere of government action. This applies to Toryism, but even more strongly to socialism.
Hitchens' intelligent and gifted Tory lamentation is that the government is doing the wrong things, rather than the government is doing too much and much of it poorly.
For myself, I think it is a bit hard on New Labour's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in seeking to suggest that there is a litmus test for being British apart from being a subject of the Queen resident in the United Kingdom - Britain is not America - it is hard to see being British as an allegiance to an idea - but to anyone familiar with Seymour Martin Lipset's "Continental Divide," this is a fascinating book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a stark, clear, commonsensical and pugnacious primer on what ails society from a Tory point of view, especially as Hitchens goes the extra distance and offers for consideration an aetiology germane to those ailments. It is a popular, but yet scholarly, work. It would rate 5 stars if it were a little less pugnacious, but it would not be half as confronting or enjoyable.
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad book but raises important issues,
By A Customer
Immigration to Europe from non-Western countries has fundamentally changed certain aspects of British life. This has manifests itself in many positive ways and the exchange between traditional British culture and immigrant cultures has made for some interesting and unique contributions to contemporary Britain and beyond. Food, music, art, fashion, style, politics and popular culture in Great Britain have all greatly benefited from this unique encounter. I think many Britons would agree with this assessment. However, the questions that Hitchens raises are to do with the downside of this interaction. While he may focus on the negative aspects of immigration to the exclusion of admitting any of immigration's positive effects, his criticisms should still not be totally ignored. The questions that are raised are: are all immigrants that come to the UK coming because they want to be productive members of British society? Do they want to adopt the fundamental ideas of British society, culture and politics, while adding to them or do they display an attitude of indifference boarding on contempt for the host culture? What are the long-term effects of immigration and what do Britons want and expect their country to look like in 25 or 50 years.
I have spent many years of my life studying and living in London and I was struck by a recent BBC survey on "Race in the UK". Many Britons that took the survey had a fairly positive opinion about immigrants and immigration however, a substantial amount where somewhat suspicious of the motives of immigrants and the perceived exclusivity of immigrant communities in the UK. Many participants questioned whether immigrants respected British culture and identified themselves with Britain and British national interests. We cannot and should not dismiss this uneasiness or wish it away as unsophisticated bigotry because to do so alienates and silences the concerns of a substantial segment of British society. To suppress or silence healthy debate on the effects of the interaction of immigrant cultures with the host culture only invokes anger in those that feel choked off. Those silenced will undoubtedly search for ways to express themselves and this creates fertile recruiting ground for right wing extremism and potential violence. The hostility many people feel towards the term "political correctness" is one such manifestation of feeling alienated or excluded from cultural debates. While I agree with most of what is deemed "politically correct" I think it is healthy to explain to people why I do and to acknowledge that there are some less then utopian aspects to multiculturalism. We should also acknowledge that some people do pervert and abuse the open, tolerant and accepting aspects of multiculturalism.
Treating Hitchens like the British fascist Oswald Mosley is not only intellectually arrogant it is politically dangerous. He is not a fascist and he once supported progressive causes (like the late Pim Fortuyn) we should ask why did he change course and will others follow his lead? If so why? I recommend this book only if you consider yourself an open progressive person and are trying to understand some of the feelings that are leading to a mounting backlash against multiculturalism and immigration in the UK.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read to save a great civilization from extinction,
Peter Hitchens describes how this world was subverted and finally chain-sawed into oblivion by an unholy coterie of jealous and doctrinaire do-gooders, misfits, intellectuals and an evermore influential leftwing media.
We now live in a geographic entity called Britain where state schools are obliterating our extraordinary achievements with a Stalinist airbrushing of history; where policemen operate like an occupying army; where the media indoctrinate the population with trash culture and scandalously biased 'news' and opinion.
Now I know why I became out of sorts with the Archers. Those stolid farmers had become uncertain, self-critical, simpering, lap-dogs to masterful, bossy, manipulative and crusading wives. They were eating quiche for tea and measuring their manure in "kilos". In the novel '1984' George Orwell invoked a creepy feeling of alienness in the reader by having his hero go into an English pub and order a "litre" of beer. Well, pints are still in English pubs - just, but the new Archers' Britain invoked exactly the same feeling of alienness in me. And Peter Hitchens has explained why.
That Archers' England has been captured by scriptwriters, politicians and activists who have a clear agenda - to mock, denigrate and finally wipe out all that they could find of beauty and strength and worth - and replace it with a gender neutral, guilt-ridden, multicultural nightmare. Meanwhile the general population is sedated into apathy by consumer prosperity and brain rotting, social conditioning TV. It is an England that "would have lost at Trafalgar and Waterloo, and given up on the attempt to colonize America, because of the absence of safety nets, sexual equality and proper child care."
This same coterie hypocritically sends their children to élite schools to avoid them being turned into "mannerless, uncultured ignoramuses" by the state cooperative.
Peter Hitchens' work challenges head-on the new taboos and shibboleths erected by this coterie. Of course they spit and fume in frustration when he mercilessly dissects the cancerous, illogical and spiteful nature of their doctrines. Some of them have written sulphurous reviews on this page. Pay no attention to them - they are the Little Folk. Low self-esteem, the worm in the wood, the taint in the blood. They might change masters but they will be forever slaves.
As Anatole Kaletsky wrote, "a nation that loses its self awareness will lose its self-respect" and "Many people have become embarrassed, even afraid of being British". On those nosey, multi-racial official forms I am reduced to writing 'Native English' in the 'Other' box...
Is there any hope? Peter Hitchens book is a magnificent call to arms. It is required reading for the British people to confront the dry-rot that is eating the heart out of their cultural identity.
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The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana by Peter Hitchens (Paperback - Feb. 15 2002)
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