Should condoning terrorism be a crime?

Repellent as condoning it may be, writes Dalrymple,

I do not think so. I am not even sure about incitement. After all, everyone is normally held (until proven otherwise) to be responsible for his own acts, and it seems to me a poor defence to a wicked deed that someone else encouraged me to do it, even if I was the part of a mob at the time being whipped up to frenzy by a demagogue. There is no better way to infantilise people than to make others responsible for their acts.

He is willing, however, to be persuaded otherwise on the question.

I might concede that I am being psychologically unrealistic in expecting everyone to be able to resist the siren-song of accomplished hate-mongers. And if at the time of the Salman Rushdie affair the British authorities had taken a more robust stance towards those who marched through British streets calling for Salman Rushdie’s death, it is even possible that the world might have been saved quite a lot of trouble. The episode pretty clearly revealed how lukewarm or feeble was our defence of free speech when it was seriously threatened by a determined enemy.

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Naipaul: the cure for simple minds

Dalrymple points to V.S. Naipaul’s

utter probity as a writer, which he exhibited from the outset of his career when it might well have paid him, in his then-difficult circumstances, to lower his standards. He held it a duty, both to himself and the world, to produce only the best of which his prodigious gift as a writer, of which from the first he rightly had no doubt, was capable.

The shallowness of Naipaul’s roots to a particular place

helped him understand the sense of uprootedness that is so important a feature of life in the period in which he lived, and which is with us still.

He was

always intellectually his own man and never accepted the simple ideological nostrums that took over the minds of so many intellectuals as a virus takes over the working of a computer.

In his books,

he exposed the reality of the new world without fear or favour, without genuflection to any piety, without attachment to any ideology or the use of any Procrustean bed of theory to distort what he saw and wrote, his virtue lying in seeing and describing what was there to be seen, once all the distorting lenses of ideological wishful thinking had been removed. His bedrock was human nature, and he was often derided—or even hated—for his clear-sightedness and his courageous determination to describe what he saw, from which no force on earth could have diverted or deterred him.

Hypertension tiff

The controvery, Dalrymple reminds us, was over whether high blood pressure was merely one end of a normal distribution, or whether there was a bimodal population, one part of which suffered from the discrete disease. The dispute rumbled on for years.

A blueprint for all that was most harmful to development

The currency was called ‘pictures of Nyerere’

Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania, writes Dalrymple,

illustrated best and most clearly the politicisation of life that foreign aid promoted.

It was regarded by silly Western intellectuals as

a beacon to Africa, if not to the world. Mwalimu, or Teacher, was admired because of his apparently modest manner and lifestyle. Because of the uncritical high regard in which he was held, the economist Peter Bauer called him ‘St Julius’.

What had Teacher taught, and what were the miracles that St Julius had wrought? The country

was impoverished, with young men walking around in Western women’s coats, sent out in bundles by charities from Europe. There was nothing to buy. The currency was called ‘pictures of Nyerere’. Everyone was thin except for members of the Party of the Revolution, who were inclined to be portly. You could tell a party member in the countryside by his girth.

Party of the Revolution

Dalrymple explains that every 10th household had a 10-cell leader,

a man whose certificate of political reliability it was necessary to secure even for a child to continue beyond a certain age at school. This became a system of bribery that reached into the tiny interstices of life. It created, in conditions of penury, a cadre who were not only the eyes and ears of the régime, but loyal to it for the small advantages it gave them. (One thinks here of Freud’s phrase, the narcissism of small differences.)

Nyerere

was adept at talking the language of left-wing European intellectuals, while blinding them—in all conscience, not a very difficult thing to do—to the natural consequences of the forcible collectivisation of peasant agriculture and the removal of millions of people from where they were living, on the supposition that it was only thus that equal and equitable development could take place while the government provided the population with its inestimable services.

The maintenance of this system required tyranny and corruption even on a micro-level. Dalrymple had a patient, an Indian trader,

who had contracted tuberculosis in a Tanzanian prison, to which he had been sent for six months during one of Nyerere’s so-called economic crackdowns, conducted by the army to search out people who had supposedly dealt on the so-called black market (which Bauer would have preferred to call the open market). My patient—one of a class of admirable people, small merchants who had begun their careers by bringing a few simple consumer goods to remote rural areas where it was still possible to be attacked by a lion, and who had gradually reached a modest prosperity—had been found to be in possession of six cups and saucers for which he did not have a receipt.

Foreign aid paid for this iniquity. (Dalrymple also was a small beneficiary of the aid, buying his first house from the proceeds.) The collectivisation

was predictably such a disaster, economically, that there was only one solution: more foreign aid. 90% of the people lived on the land, but still the population could not feed itself, and produced practically no cash crops, they being subjected, if grown, to forced requisition by state marketing boards.

Nyerere recognised the nature of his system when he explained why he refused to devalue the currency.

Such a devaluation would have destroyed his powers of political patronage, for access to foreign currency to favoured persons was a way of ensuring their loyalty. ‘And I would lose everything I have,’ were Nyerere’s precise words.

 

Equality of outcome is a chimera

Ugandan Asians

Dalrymple writes that

there is no possible way, short of extreme force, in which outcomes between different groups of people can be equalised or smoothed out; and therefore, in liberal economies, and probably even in illiberal ones (for egalitarianism is rarely carried out equally), differences between groups, often very large, will persist. This has been so throughout history and will remain so, short of genocide.

He notes that

superficial or demagogic egalitarian objections to spontaneously-generated differences have brought us such delights as

  • Nazism
  • the slaughter of Chinese in Indonesia
  • the expulsion of Asians from East Africa

Indonesia pogrom

German fascism

New ways of understanding youth

Dalrymple writes that Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was

sycophantically respectful of and grateful to Sigmund Fraud, which meant that, being the kind of man that he was, she remained in his good books. This was not the case with Freud’s daughter, Anna, who could not forgive her for having been the first to apply psychoanalysis to children, which is how she, Anna, wanted to be known. Pettiness and spite have always been the hallmarks of psychoanalysis, despite its claims to wisdom.

She was leading an arid existence, involving herself

in an arcane sect that contributed nothing to human understanding. Rather, the reverse: it erected elaborate screens of absurd theory between people and their proper self-reflection or self-examination.

She had an illegitimate elder half-sister, Antoine, who in 1906 gave birth to an illegitimate son called Rudolf. In 1924, Rudolf murdered Hermine brutally, shortly after publication of her book, Neue Wege zum Verständnis der Jugend: Psychoanalytische Vorlesungen für Eltern, Lehrer, Erzieher, Schulärzte, Kindergärtnerinnen und Fürsorgerinnen. It is hard, says Dalrymple,

to suppress a smile at the irony of it.

Sex only at the end of an elaborate pas de deux, if even then

Dalrymple observes that the world depicted by Alan Thomas in The Surgeon (1964)

would be almost as remote to a young person today as that of, say, the court of Frederick the Great.

The surgeon

is called to the hospital because a minor Conservative politician, Sir Humphry Halland, Bart., has had a car crash and fractured his lumbar vertebrae, on which the surgeon operates. In those days, if the novel is to be believed, titles still inspired awe; when Halland’s young wife asks to be called Gloria instead of my lady it is a sign of her broadminded and democratising informality.

The surgeon and Lady Halland

fall in love while Halland is flat on his back in hospital. They do so very chastely, I must say, despite Lady Halland being 20 years younger than her husband. He is referred to throughout the book as if he were an old man, though he is only 53.

The novel, Dalrymple observes, is

Lady Chatterley in reverse.

The world that Thomas portrays is one in which

  • hospital consultants are gods
  • nurses are ministering angels
  • divorce is an utter scandal
  • porters and butlers are deferential
  • Daimlers are chauffeur-driven
  • sex occurs only at the end of an elaborate pas de deux, if even then
  • the rich smoke as a matter of course

Dalrymple wonders if such a world ever existed.

The unsung heroes of our culture

A dying trade

Precarious lives of Britain’s few remaining sellers of second-hand books

Dalrymple writes:

I remain firm in my admiration of those who do not work exclusively or even principally for money; and among the latter must surely be English provincial sellers of second-hand books.

Theirs is

a dying trade, and entering their shops – now, alas, fewer and fewer – one cannot help but wonder whether it ever truly lived. As long as I can remember, which is now quite a long time, they have been cold with a kind of irredeemable cold, an absence of warmth upon which no paraffin heater, no pre-war single bar electric heater (of the kind favoured by booksellers), no clement weather, can make the slightest impression.

When you take a book from a shelf of one of these bookshops,

you get a puff of cold air in the face, as well as of dust, as if you had opened a mediæval tomb complete with a curse against grave-robbers. One associates dust with dry heat, but this, at least where English provincial second-hand bookshops is concerned, is a mistake. They contrive to be cold, dusty and damp at the same time.

Dalrymple finds it remarkable that

in so materialistic an age as our own people can be found who not only spend, but want to spend, and cannot conceive of not spending, their working lives in such conditions, and all for little monetary reward.

True,

they are more or less protected by their avocation from the seamier and more violent side of modern society; burglars and armed robbers in even the worst areas for crime do not think to break into second-hand bookshops; and the comings and going of governments do not trouble them. Not for them, either, the shadow-boxing of modern party politics, in which one political mountebank sets himself up as the last bastion against the depredations of another, in truth not very dissimilar, mountebank.

Rather,

they concern themselves with the eternal verities of light foxing, cocking, small tears to dust jackets, and the like. The worst that can happen to them is a gentle slide into insolvency as rents rise (all such shops are now found in the unlikeliest places because they can survive only where rents are low) and readers decline – both in number and in discrimination. For my money (of which, incidentally, they have taken a lot down the ages) they are the unsung heroes of our culture.

Happier times

The Dylan Thomas cover-up

Dalrymple writes in the British Medical Journal:

Everywhere degeneration

We are barbarians camped out in the ruins of an older, superior civilisation that we don’t understand.