“That something might be impermissible though not forbidden is now a thought too subtle”

Theodore Dalrymple’s witty and poignant writing in The Salisbury Review:

“At last I have irrefutable evidence of successful racial integration in Britain. My wife, who is French but speaks better English than 99 per cent of natives, though with an accent, was on a train ride recently when a black man, middle class, began to speak on his mobile phone. Like all businessmen on trains, he spoke of millions, very loudly. After a few minutes, my wife asked him to speak a little less loudly.

“This isn’t the quiet carriage,” he said.

My wife said the nevertheless he should keep his voice down so as not to disturb others, to which he replied:

“Why don’t you go back to your own country?”

This is a much better than Norman Tebbit’s cricket test (which country do you cheer for): whether you say to a foreigner with whom you’re having an altercation, “Why don’t you go back to your own country?”

The other sign of the man’s full integration into modern Britain was his supposition that a quiet carriage meant that in other carriages it was perfectly in order to speak as loudly as you liked as long as you liked. Indeed, it shows just how far the British have become natural slaves, that is to say how they expect and allow officialdom to rule their lives. As far as they are concerned, if officialdom hasn’t forbidden something it must be permissible; and if officialdom has designated quiet carriages; it can only mean that any level of noise is permitted elsewhere. That something might be impermissible though not forbidden is now a thought too subtle for their dullled brains.

The man nonetheless had some faint atavistic inkling that he was in the wrong because he lowered his voice on his telephone for a while before resuming his full volume. Why should he have done so unless the still small voice of conscience spoke?

As for my wife, she found the whole experience so unpleasant that she resolved in future, should the occasion arise, to say nothing, but merely to remove herself to another carriage. I understand this perfectly; unfortunately, though, such inaction is the means by which bullies and boors come to dominate the public space.

It is a matter of dispute whether Burke ever really said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing; but if he never said it, he ought to have said it, for it is true.” (http://salisburyreview.com/louts.html)

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