Därför byggs det så fult

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 08.52.40Dalrymple skriver:

Varje gång jag anländer till Utrecht med tåget, som nyligen, drar jag förvånat efter andan. Hur kan det komma sig att arkitekterna, med en av de vackraste arkitekturstilarna som exempel inför sina ögon, fick för sig att bygga betongmonster av det slag som omger stationen?

Flughafen Gatwick: Gott helfe mir!

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A man’s got to eat

Hier esse ich, ich kann nicht anders

Dalrymple passes through Gatwick Airport, which, he explains,

is just south of London, and is the place from which the enormously fat people of that area start out on their summer holidays.

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Early-morning repast

Different rock music

comes at you from every angle, jangling your nerves. If we must have inescapable sound, I should much prefer it to be the speeches of Kim Il-sung because they are easier to screen out of one’s ears. Announcements of special offers for fragrances exclusive to Gatwick compete with requests that passenger X go to gate 539 to join his flight to some fishing village on the Mediterranean–turned–giant-nightclub-and-drug-distribution-centre.

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Preferable to rock-music drivel

The only silent people are

the behemoths of South London grazing on their early-morning hamburgers. If Luther were alive today and a South Londoner, he would pin not ‘Here I stand, I can do no other’ to the doors of the Wittenberg Schlosskirche but ‘Here I eat, I can do no other.’

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Sad outcome to an everyday holdup

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 08.56.43Dalrymple reads about Jeffery Wood, who was sitting in a car outside a petrol station while an accomplice engaged in a routine robbery of a convenience store at a petrol station. The only hitch was that the attendant inside ended up being shot and killed.

One newspaper sums up the case as the robbery of a little store that went wrong. Dalrymple comments:

What would be a robbery that did not go wrong? Presumably one in which the robbers got away with the booty without anyone coming to physical harm. This shows how far we have come to accept the criminal’s point of view: one is peacefully robbing a store when the storekeeper turns stubborn and refuses to hand over the key to the safe — what a human tragedy follows!

A patient of Dalrymple’s

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From fresco cycle, Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua. Giotto, c. 1305

She was, writes Dalrymple,

a working-class woman of dignified mien. Her brother died in a submarine sunk during the war, and her sister-in-law was killed in an air raid, leaving her the task of bringing up their orphaned child. Her husband had died comparatively young, and her first son had died of a heart attack at 42. (‘He had just finished a game of football, doctor, and was in the changing rooms. He fell on the floor, and his mates thought he had slipped, and they told him to stop messing about. He just looked up at them—smiled—and he was gone.’)

The bitterest blow

was the death of another son, killed in an accident in which a truck, carelessly driven, crushed his car. He was 50. She brought me his photo, her hand trembling slightly as she gave it to me. He was a businessman who had devoted his spare time to raising money for the Children’s Hospital. ‘It doesn’t seem right, somehow,’ she said, ‘that he should have gone before me.’ Did she still cry? ‘Yes, doctor, but only when I’m on my own. It’s not right, is it, to let anyone see you. After all, life has to go on.’

Could anyone, says Dalrymple,

have doubted either the depth of her feeling or of her character? Could any decent person fail to have been moved by the self-mastery she had achieved, the foundation of her strength?

Yet such fortitude

is the virtue that the acolytes of the hug-and-confess culture wish to extirpate from the British national character as obsolete, in favour of a banal, self-pitying, witless, and shallow emotional incontinence.

Too far gone for Salvarsan

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 22.48.55Dalrymple notes that Llewelyn Powys

detested the Kenyan colonists, whom he saw as greedy philistine brutes.

In one of the stories in Ebony and Ivory (1923),

a farm labourer is so badly treated by his employer, but has so little chance of escape, that he decides not to kill himself but simply to lie down and die – and he does, his corpse being burned as ‘Rubbish’, the title of the story.

In another story,

a young man just out to the colony starts out better and more refined than the other colonists but is gradually coarsened by them. He takes a local girl as a lover but contracts syphilis from her, so virulent that the doctor tells him that even Salvarsan cannot help him. He takes a pistol and shoots himself in the head.

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A paranoid-schizophrenic African dictator

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 08.54.18The worst dictatorships, writes Dalrymple,

try to destroy not only people but memory itself.

Among the worst dictatorships in a century full of dictatorships

was that of Ahmed Sékou Touré, president of the West African state of Guinea for more than a quarter of the 20th century. A third of a population fled his rule, and many thousands were tortured and killed, victims of the dictator’s paranoia.

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How the Left destroyed many of England’s finest schools

St Marylebone Grammar School, where Eric Hobsbawm was a pupil (though he rarely alluded to his time there, and it was never mentioned in brief biographical accounts in, say, blurbs for his books). The school was closed in 1981 under the government of Margaret Thatcher who, Dalrymple points out,

St Marylebone Grammar School, where the Marxist historian and Stalin apologist Eric Hobsbawm CH was a pupil (though he rarely alluded to his time there, and it was never mentioned in brief biographical accounts in, say, blurbs for his books). The school was closed down in 1981 under the government of Margaret Thatcher who, Dalrymple points out, did much—perhaps more than anyone else—to forward the destruction of the grammar schools

Modern political thought fails, writes Dalrymple,

to distinguish between élitism and social exclusivity. From this failure stems an enormous, costly, and increasingly intolerant attempt to rectify what is not wrong in the first place. One fights chimeras the better to avoid confrontation with real enemies.

In Britain,

the fanatics of formal equality of opportunity have triumphed over the moderates of at least some real opportunity for all, because in the world of modern democratic politics, a declared aim is more important than an actual effect.

In the pre-reform British state educational system,

attendance at a grammar school in a poor area was a virtual guarantee of its pupils’ social ascent into the middle class. In these schools, the education given was self-consciously not ‘relevant’ to the pupil’s experience. It was often precisely his experience that held him back, that forged the man-made manacles. The learning of French, say, might not be of much use in the slums, but it was not supposed that the pupil would stay in the slums forever; at the very least, learning it would broaden his outlook on the world.

This education

reflected, and required, a cultural and even a mildly ideological confidence on the part of those who transmitted it. The preceptors believed that there were higher intellectual attainments that were worthwhile in themselves, and that assisting the low-born to ascend the social ladder was a worthy and even a noble end.

The system came under attack for two reasons.

(1) The practical reason was

the correct observation that the education offered in the non-grammar schools was often, or usually, of a wretched standard, neither academic nor even properly technical. A large part of the population was left semi-literate and semi-numerate. This left them difficult to train to become skilled workers. A large and increasing bureaucracy such as that which ran and runs the British educational system, faced with a part that functions well and a part that functions badly, will always choose the destruction of the part that functions well as the solution to supposedly improving the whole. It is their equivalent of  Schumpeter’s creative destruction, except that it is destructive destruction. It is easy to destroy (success is almost certain) but difficult to improve. Moreover, all judgment being comparative, the good always throws a lurid light on the bad. Equality of mediocrity assures the peaceful existence of the bureaucrat.

(2) The political attack was from two directions.

(a) It was increasingly denied by intellectuals that there were any higher intellectual attainments that were worthwhile in themselves. The hierarchy of such attainments was based upon a foundation that, being metaphysically assailable, was deemed not to exist. This affected pedagogy profoundly, once the attitude had made its long march through the institutions.

(b) The point was made by the ‘reformers’ that social ascent was undesirable, and positively harmful in so far as it reinforced the structure of an unjust society that was in need of destruction, not amelioration. Offering poor children the opportunity for social ascent was like treating cancer with an anti-depressant. Aspiration in an unfair society preserved the unfairness.

Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School, where Margaret Thatcher was a pupil. Needless to say, her government decided not to close it

Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, where Margaret Thatcher was a pupil. Needless to say, her government decided not to close it

There was, Dalrymple points out,

no demand from below for the amalgamation of good and bad schools. The demand came almost entirely from the intellectual wing of the political class.

The meritocratic system was destroyed

in the name of undermining social exclusivity, the theory of it being so much more important than the practice.

Once the destruction started, resistance crumbled. Margaret Thatcher,

herself a product of the system, did much—perhaps more than anyone else—to forward the destruction.

The result was that

a class society came to look more like a caste society. If the teaching of grammar, for example, were abandoned on the theory that no form of language was superior to any other, an enormous additional advantage was handed, ex officio, to middle-class children for whom Standard English was their native tongue. In addition, the middle classes were able to avoid or evade prevailing low standards.

The British socialist politician Anthony Crosland (Highgate and Trinity College, Oxford) served as education secretary and was one of the architects of the destruction of the grammar schools. He once said: 'If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.'

The British socialist politician Anthony Crosland (Highgate and Trinity College, Oxford) served as education secretary and was one of the architects of the destruction of the grammar schools. He once said: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.’

The grammar schools had cultural as well as educational effects.

They kept aspiration alive where it was so easily lost (all the more so as jobs for an unskilled working class evaporated). They suggested a hierarchy of achievement, in which celebrity and football had little place, let alone the hegemony in the minds of the poor that they now have. (Surveys of British children show that the word ‘talent’ is associated by them with pop music or football, and nothing else.)

Élites tend to reproduce themselves,

which is as it should be when you stop to think about it by comparing it with the alternative: a society in which parents do not care specially about their children and make no efforts to secure them the advantages that they themselves have had or achieved.


a class society is not a closed society.

A closed society

is what attempts to bring about a type of equality other than equality under the law eventuate in.

Warped values of certain Western Muslims

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 08.58.13The young Islamists of western Europe, writes Dalrymple,

  • resent strongly but incoherently
  • blame their conduct on others
  • use their frustrations to justify outrageous and vicious acts
  • pity themselves to the exclusion of all others
  • use their minds as echo chambers for the wrongs, real or imagined, that they have suffered
  • have a grossly inflated sense of their importance
  • have an ideology at hand to make them dangerous on a big scale

Self-pity, last resort of monsters

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 23.10.18No one, writes Dalrymple,

not even the most murderous psychopath, is so lacking in compassion that he does not pity himself. Indeed, exaggerated self-pity may be one of the salient characteristics of those who commit the most awful acts, for it is what justifies almost anything in a mind devoid of balance and proportion.

Self-pity, he says,

is what unites the stories of two notorious recent English killers, Raoul Moat and Mohammed Emwazi (better known as Jihadi John).

Lifting the spirits

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 17.25.48Dalrymple gives rides to hitch-hikers whenever he can

as a symbolic means of thanking all those (most of whom must now, alas, be dead) who gave me a lift all those years ago when I was a young hitch-hiker.

Dalrymple forms

a very swift and rough estimate of their character from their faces before I offer them a lift.


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