Jafar's Reviews > Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass

Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple
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's review
Sep 13, 2009

really liked it

I probably wouldn’t have like this book if I had read it in California. I wasn’t exactly a bleeding-heart liberal, but I acted outraged when Bill Clinton reformed the welfare system. Only a heartless conservative would be against providing subsistence to the weak and the vulnerable. I had enough compassion in me, like any other yuppie, not to want to see those poor single moms thrown out in the cold. I couldn’t believe people had fallen for Ronald Reagan’s myth of Cadillac-driving welfare queens.

Moving to England, however, opened my eyes to the wonders of the welfare state. One of my first memories in London is from visiting my cousin in one of those ghastly council towers. I remember a pool of urine on the elevator floor. Hallways were littered with trash and beer cans. Loud music and kids screaming. The smell of piss and puke and ganja. The tower was inhabited by immigrants and the British underclass. They hated each other, but had one thing in common: milking the system. They were all on dole. This was at the height of the economic boom. There was plenty of work available. Those who worked did it for cash and hid it from the authorities. The small town in southwest London where I work is known for its population of teenage moms. While in other countries the cause of teenage pregnancy is too-stupid-not-to-get-knocked-up, England has a different breed of teenage moms: girls who get knocked up intentionally, so that they can get out of school, get free housing, and get beer money. The more babies, the more beer money. On occasions I have seen a young girl having children, each with different racial features. Multiculturalism at its best.

Dalrymple is a psychiatrist who worked for many years in prisons and inner-city hospitals. This book is a collection of essays from his experience. Most of them are just telling what he had seen. Some of the essays offer his analysis of the situation. His main point is that the well-intentioned, middle and upper class liberals have created a permanent underclass with their policies. They have the intellectuals on their side to provide lofty moral justifications for their policies. These intellectuals, who are mostly middle and upper-class and are insulated from crime and poverty and the realities of the underclass and how it lives on, are smug with their sense of goodness and moral superiority and don’t see the effect of the policies that they’re promoting. They have a distorted, often too rosy, picture of human nature and can’t see what might happen when personal responsibility is no longer required of the population. There are a lot of compelling and strong arguments in this book.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Andrew (new)

Andrew I was grew up in one of those 'ghastly council towers' so I think we can safely say I know far more than you do about the inhabitants of said towers. To say everyone who lives in a council block is milking the system, unemployed and racist as you so eloquently point out in your review is pathetic, a lazy generalisation and completely untrue.

None of my family members have ever been on the dole, we have always worked and paid taxes. None of us are racist and none of my sisters have ever gotten pregnant in order to get a 'free house'. None of us now live in the same block, we all own our own properties and are doing reasonably well.

Your review is awful; the review of a Republican ignoramus. I love the fact you have become an expert on the British working class from one visit to a council estate; you sound like the worst kind of small minded bigot. This comment proves it:

""On occasions I have seen a young girl having children, each with different racial features. Multiculturalism at its best.""

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee Welter Bill Clinton did not reform the subsidize poverty programs. He said "The era of big government is over" because he knew he had left a bad taste in peoples mouths.

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