Ever since I began talking to my mother and brother about the Politically Incorrect Guides, Evelyn Waugh has been a major topic of discussion. Elizabeth Kantor described Waugh as
“one of the last really first-rate English novelists”and said that we can learn the following two things from him:
“Without religion, human beings are disgustingly selfish and shallow”and
“The loss of the Christian faith means death of Western civilisation”Arthur Brooks' cultural study of modern Europe manifestly demonstrates the first claim. I imagine Waugh and other aristocratic Catholic converts like Edith Sitwell and Graeme Greene knew that Europe's secular urban working class was in 1926 (when Waugh became a Catholic) as selfish and shallow as Kantor says and Brooks proves. (History shows stricter and deeper piety among the aristocracy could not slow, let alone reverse, the secularisation of ordinary Europeans).
The latter point is, looking deeply, more doubtful since one would need to explain more rigorously how pre-Christian societies survived and declined.
When an American journalist turns as Dreher did to the Sydney Morning Herald to find an article about Evelyn Waugh from 100 years after he was born it starkly reveals how conservative Australia is vis-à-vis the rest of the OECD. Though Waugh’s novels remain popular even amongst people like my mother and brother who detest religion, it is very surprising that somebody from the United States would turn to an Australian journal for an appreciation of him. However, if we realise that Australia has not had (at least not to the same extent) political correctness controlling what is taught in schools, then we can see Australia's culture as growing far apart from from Europe’s or North America’s or New Zealand’s. A piously Catholic writer deploring the idleness and philistinism of Europe's working class would not get an audience in Europe, Canada or New Zealand today, and would have a tough time in most of the US under Obama. Australia, however, remains a different story.