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NEW BOOK FROM THEODORE DALRYMPLE:
The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.

Soundings

Theodore Dalrymple
Engineering Souls
The British tolerance police seek to remake language and the family.
Spring 2007

When the cold war ended, I thought, as no doubt did many others, that the age of ideology was over. Again like many others, I underestimated man’s need for transcendence, which, in the absence of religion or high culture, he is most likely to find in a political or social cause.

The appeal of political correctness is that it attempts to change men’s souls by altering how they speak. If one sufficiently reforms language, certain thoughts become unthinkable, and the world moves in the approved direction. The deliberate and conscious reform of language is therefore not the work of pedants, but of philosopher-kings. Stalin called writers “engineers of souls,” but they are at best (or worst) auxiliaries: the real engineers are the bureaucrats.

Recently, the British government announced that it would cease using “he” as the impersonal pronoun in its official documents. A planned development would replace the organic development of the language, and a host of language policemen (or policepersons) would presumably enforce it. Perhaps the government will come up with a Five-Year Plan for the English language.

There are other ways of changing men’s souls. In the same week, Britons learned that several public education authorities were piloting a scheme—at huge public expense—to provide students with storybooks in which children grow up with two adults of the same sex. The scheme, run by an enterprise called the No Outsiders Project, was the idea of several state-run institutions, including the Institute of Education (the ultimate source of much of Britain’s anti-educational pedagogy, which has left so many of its young unable to read, write, or reckon). The very name—No Outsiders—is an implicit lie, since the project’s organizers will treat people whose views they find contrary as outsiders, indeed as nonexistent.

Project director Elizabeth Atkinson said, with the dishonest imprecision that one now expects of British academics, that “the most important thing these books do is reflect reality for children.” Insofar as what she said had denotation rather than mere connotation, it was wrong: a very small percentage of children, even now, grow up with two adults of the same sex, and therefore the books do not reflect reality for them. She went on: “My background is in children’s literature and I know how powerful it is in shaping social values and emotional development.” She is a self-confessed engineer of souls.

The ultimate goal of the books, however, is not to promote gay parenting but to convey to children that it is not normal for them to grow up with their biological parents; and thereby, by erasing the very idea of such a “normal” path through life, to help bring about a world without nuclear families, which require no state assistance in many important matters. To paraphrase Freud, where the father was, there shall the state be.

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