Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"This Is British Culture"

Sexually transmitted disease is up again. Can't imagine why.

Most of Birmingham is asleep, but here on Broad Street no one will go to bed for hours.

Despite the near-freezing temperature, people are dressed in astonishingly little. Women in mini-skirts, high heels, and halter tops shiver visibly, hugging their sides with cold. A girl staggers down the sidewalk on stiletto heels, bent over and clutching her stomach: She’s about to vomit.Another collapses entirely, and her friends howl with laughter as policemen stare impassively. The crowd, which is multiracial, ranges from white men with shaved heads to Bangladeshis with gold-capped teeth. People eat as they walk, dropping fast-food wrappers on the ground.The noise is unbelievable.

The throng includes the unlikely figure of Anthony Daniels, better known to readers of City Journal, the New Criterion, and the London Spectator by his pen name, Theodore Dalrymple. Stocky and balding, he has a wheezy laugh, a pugnacious mouth, and the devil-may-care smile of the born provocateur.

“If you can have ideological drunkenness, this is ideological drunkenness,” Mr. Daniels says, almost shouting to make himself heard.

“And what is the ideology?”

“The ideology is, ‘I’ve got a right to do whatever I like, and you’re not going to stop me.’”

Mr. Daniels has invited me to look at what’s going on not because it’s unusual, but because it’s commonplace, ordinary, and to be seen every weekend in urban centers all over the country. “This is British culture,” he says. “What you are now seeing is British culture.”

Portrait of the great man by the New York Sun. RTWT.

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