But his most recent comments are disappointing. Clarkson's dog had to be put down and some of this twitter followers responded with cruel comments. Which then led Clarkson to write the following in Top Gear magazine:
Britain is a nation of 62million complete and utter bastards. We are the country that invented the concentration camp, and international slavery.
Maybe he's being deliberately provocative. Perhaps he wrote it whilst still in a fit of anger and upset. Even so, it's a hopelessly negative attitude to take toward your own national tradition.
The jibe about inventing international slavery isn't even remotely true. Slaves have been traded across national boundaries for thousands of years. If Britain had a distinct role it was more for using its power to abolish the international slave trade rather than inventing it.
Which leads me to a theory about why so many Westerners have a self-contempt. One of my readers recently defended liberalism as follows:
Shame on both the conservatives and modern liberals and any “ism” for using the government to force people to act in ways they think they should act. The only thing that should be worth dying for is freedom from men using the government to force people to act out their ideals. Governments should only exist to protect peoples life, liberty and personal selfishness as long as their selfishness does not lead to stealing, cheating, lying or causing harm to another’s private property or themselves.
There is an assumption underlying such an attitude which is that there are no positive goods that can be known to us; instead, we are to think in terms of there being personal, subjective ideals. But this runs very close to a pessimistic nihilism, as it locks in the suggestion that real, objective goods either don't exist or can't be known.
The only thing that lessens the nihilistic blow is this: if you think that there are only personal, subjective ideals then you might be able to conclude that a freedom to pursue your own subjective ideal unhindered becomes the one significant good that can be recognised to exist.
Which perhaps helps to explain the tremendous emphasis placed on such a freedom by liberal moderns. It is something that is clung to in order to avoid an immediate descent into a nihilistic scepticism.
But it's not much to cling to. And hence the vulnerability to self-contempt and a desire for self-abolition.
The solution is to have the courage to discuss a mix of positive goods (which can include freedom and autonomy) and to develop these within the political, cultural and social framework of society. Obviously, a society which does a better job of this will have a stronger foundation than one which doesn't, but ruling out the notion of positive goods ensures that you will fail.