There was a letter to the Daily Telegraph last weekend which depressed me more than anything I’ve read in ages. It reported the visit by a social worker to an elderly woman who made her a cup of tea. The young social worker was shocked by what she saw. Not only did this bewildered old woman insist on using leaves rather than a bag but she first poured some hot water into the pot, swirled it round, then wasted it by putting it straight down the sink. Here, clearly, was evidence that grandma was incapable of looking after herself and should be put into care immediately.
This put me in mind of another experience I had recently. I was having dinner with a group of friends in an upmarket London pub and we all wanted our burgers cooked medium rare. ‘They won’t allow it,’ said a local friend in the know. ‘We’re under Westminster Council jurisdiction, here.’ Sure enough, when the time to order came we had to beg and plead with the manager for our burgers not be overcooked, as local health laws now require.
It also reminded me of my recent adventures with my dentist, a clearly bright, well-spoken girl in her twenties of, I’m guessing, Pakistani extraction. She obviously knows all her stuff but I can’t stand her. The problem is that she has the most appalling dental-chair-side manner. She’s officious, patronising, fully bought-into the NHS programme, whereby every patient is a statistic rather than a real person. It seems never to have occurred to her that the way you address an educated, middle-aged country gent might need to be slightly different from the way, say, you speak to a porcine 15-year-old chav.
Also, she gives off these truly horrible politically correct vibes. Some of the most interesting and enjoyable conversations of my life are the ones I have with people of different races and cultures about where they come from and how the world looks from their perspective.
For example, the other day, coming back from Naples in Florida to Miami airport I had the most amazing chat — so good that I recorded it on my iPhone — with a black Caribbean naturalised American. He told me how he and his fellow black Caribbean émigrés absolutely hated being called ‘black Americans’ because he considered black Americans to be no-good welfare scroungers, whereas his own lot, he insisted — he was originally from Dominican Republic — were incredibly hard workers who just wanted to get on, and simply couldn’t be doing with the identity politics game.
‘What, all Caribbeans? What about the Jamaicans?’ I asked. My friend explained the tragedy of the Jamaicans: that they used to be the hardest working of the already very hard-working Caribbean islanders, but then Bob Marley had come along and introduced them to a) ganja and b) the concept that by working hard they were playing the white man’s game.
But my friend didn’t care about such political issues. His all-time favourite president, he said, was Ronald Reagan because he was good for immigrants and the economy. He also liked Clinton because of his way with the ladies. He was agnostic about Obama — and certainly didn’t feel any bond with him because of his skin colour.
Then he told me about his childhood growing up on a farm in Dominican Republic, in the saddle for up to 15 hours a day, making his horse stronger for racing by training it in rivers and in the sea. And about his children whom he had deliberately brought up to be ignorant of Spanish because he thought (mistakenly, he realised, in the light of how the southern USA has gone) that they would assimilate better. They were now both officers in the US Navy, one a doctor, one an engineer, clearly destined to join the upper middle class.
And you know how the conversation all began? I told him how horribly burned I’d got on the beach the first day. ‘I don’t expect you’ve ever had sunburn,’ I said. Perhaps I’m maligning my scary young dentist woman, but I can just imagine her glaring her disapproval at such a patently demeaning and racist line of inquiry. She probably thinks I’m Colonel Blimp.
I haven’t quite turned 50 yet and I really still don’t feel that old but when I encounter young people like the dentist girl it makes me feel about 80. And it’s not a good feeling, let me tell you. It gives me an inkling of how my beloved late mother-in-law felt on her final visits to hospital, when the staff would impertinently insist on addressing her by her first name (which they got wrong, by the way). And of how people of a certain generation feel when they innocently use an old-fashioned word like ‘half-caste’ or ‘coloured’ only to have all their offspring squirm with embarrassment, on account of how such phrases simply aren’t used any more.
Not so long ago, I tweeted one of my most oft-retweeted tweets. It went something like: ‘You know how 20 years ago, we looked at the dumbed-down education system and said to ourselves: “When this lot grow up, we are fucked”? Well now they’ve grown up.’
It was popular, of course, because it’s true. I don’t want to slag off the young completely: a lot of them are still great. But I do very much fear that thanks to a combination of several generations’ deliberate dumbing down of education by the Gramsciite left, widespread cultural indoctrination in the politically correct values of the state, and the arrival of a wave of immigrants who (through no fault of their own) are unfamiliar with what Britain is and what it ought to be, people of my generation and older are increasingly doomed to feel like strangers in our country. I’ll save two bullets for my revolver: one for the social worker; one for me.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.