Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Life at the Bottom" This is the title of a book by Theodore Dalrymple, a wonderfully literate British physician who is fast assuming a position in my personal Pantheon alongside, for example, Fr. Neuhaus. The book has a series of essays on the people he has dealt with in his medical practice at a large hospital in one of London's poor districts and at a prison where he treats the inmates. He refers to these people as members of the "underclass". Look at this:

That the heart wants contradictory, incompatible things; that social conventions arose to resolve some of the conflicts of our own impulses; that eternal frustration is an inescapable concomitant of civilization, as Freud had observed - all these recalcitrant truths fell beneath the notice of the proponents of sexual liberation, dooming their revolution to ultimate failure.

The failure hit the underclass hardest. Not for a moment did the sexual liberators stop to consider the effects upon the poor of the destruction of the strong family ties alone that made emergence from poverty possible for large numbers of people. They were concerned only with the petty dramas of their own lives and dissatisfactions. But by obstinately overlooking the most obvious features of reality, as did my seventeen-year-old patient who thought that men's superior physical strength was a socially constructed sexist myth, their efforts contributed in no small part to the intractability of poverty in modern cities, despite vast increases in the general wealth: for the sexual revolution has turned the poor from a class into a caste, from which escape is barred so long as that revolution continues.

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