Bring on the burqa

No one, writes Dalrymple,

who has been to the centre of Newcastle on a Saturday night can fail to appreciate certain advantages to the burqa.



England’s shambolic economy

The economic auguries for the UK, writes Dalrymple,

are poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones.

The present prime minister, Theresa May,

is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats.

The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who has a strong chance of taking over from May,

is an unapologetic admirer of the late Hugo Chávez.

In light of this, Dalrymple notes that

it is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well

  • weaken property rights
  • impose capital controls
  • increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice

It would not take very long, Dalrymple points out, to turn England into

a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Dalrymple lists some of Great Britain’s economic weaknesses:

  • a large and persistent trade imbalance, because Britain does not produce enough of what the world wants and cannot easily be made to do so
  • a large national debt, about the same size as that of France, but without a highly functioning infrastructure such as France’s to show for it
  • household debt which is among the highest in the world

For many years, Dalrymple comments, UK economic policy

might as well have been presided over by Bernard Madoff.

Defeat of the little platoons

The UK’s social policy, writes Dalrymple,

has been to smash up all forms of social solidarity or support for the vulnerable that do not pass through the state.

He points out that the crushing of the little platoons

has been thorough: most large ‘charities’ in Britain are now dependent on government rather than on private funding, and hence are in effect departments of state.

The self-preservation of the European political class is at stake

Important (for good or evil) as Brexit may be to the future of Britain, writes Dalrymple,

it is not without its importance for the European Union. Indeed, it was always essential for the Union that Britain’s departure should be an economic disaster for Britain: for if it were not, why have a union at all?

It was therefore entirely predictable

that the Union should drive a hard bargain with Britain, even a bargain economically harmful to itself, provided only that it was worse for Britain. In the European Union, politics always trumps economics.

In Britain too,

political considerations were uppermost in the minds of those who voted for Brexit. They saw in the European Union a Yugoslavia in the making, led by a megalomaniac class without effective checks or balances.

Dalrymple in Port Harcourt

The doctor-writer and a friend drive past a naked corpse which

bloats like a barrage balloon in the sun.

No one takes any notice; people drive past

as if it is the most natural thing in the world.

The corpse has been there for two or three days.

Dialogue of the Dalrymples

Dalrymple and his wife, also a doctor, have put up at an hotel. It is one of those hotels

in which television is a compulsory accompaniment to breakfast: not a boiled egg without an interview with a gormless footballer or a report on the weather 2,000 miles away relayed with fatuous facetiousness.

He asks the waitress at least to turn the sound off, which she does. However, Dr (Mme) Dalrymple says that Dalrymple

should not have asked, for two reasons.

One, he ought, especially at his age, to accept the world as it is; and two,

perhaps there are others in the room who want to listen to the state-sponsored drivel (it is the BBC).

But Dalrymple argues that his right to silence

exceeds anyone’s right to listen to (or hear) drivel. If they want drivel, they should listen to it in privacy and not impose it on others.

He suggests

a law in which any form of electronically relayed noise is illegal in the presence of any person who does not want to hear it.

Dr (Mme) Dalrymple’s response to this proposal is not recorded.

Britishers are ferocious in defence of their egotism

Great Britain, writes Dalrymple,

has become among the least disciplined nations known to me in the matter of making a noise, and the most ferocious in its defence of its own egotism. The English, it used to be said, took their pleasures sadly; now they take them loudly. As they walk through the streets in pursuit of their generally gross and unrefined pleasures, or after they have taken them, they scream and shout fit to wake people on life-support machines in a vegetative state. The women are worse than the men, or at least their voices are more penetrating.

UK City of Culture 2021

Dalrymple is privileged to have an opportunity to visit Coventry, which has received the coveted accolade (beating off a challenge from Stoke-on-Trent).

He explores aspects of the refined culture of the Florence of the West Midlands, noting that

amid the hideous and dilapidating buildings of a failed modernism,

there are

  • precincts with half the shops boarded up
  • youths in hoodies skateboarding all day along the walkways
  • the prematurely aged, fat and crippled unemployed occupying themselves in the search for cheap imported junk in such shops as remain open
  • lurkers, muggers and dealers waiting for nightfall

He stays in an establishment

whose nearest architectural equivalent is the hotel in which I stayed in Makhachkala in Dagestan.

Many men hate what they admire

This is so, writes Dalrymple,

especially when they admire it from afar and it is unattainable for a long time. When they are in a position to do so, therefore, they both imitate and destroy, crushing with delectation those who kept them for so long from the enjoyment of what they admired. They revenge themselves on those whom they envied and admired.

Dalrymple avers that humiliation is

a much-underestimated factor in the revolt against colonialism, and the history of both anti-colonialism and post-colonialism.

As is so often the case with revolts, those who led the revolt in Africa

were not themselves the worst off, far from it; they were the educated few who, instead of being incorporated into the colonial élite as partners, as they thought their due, were daily humiliated by people whom they believed to be their inferiors.

To many a colonial white,

an African with a doctorate would still be a boy, in the technical colonial sense of the word, merely by virtue of his race. A white would often speak disdainfully of Africans in front of them, even though he knew the Africans understood his language. I do not think that Ian Smith was personally so insensitive, but many of the people who elected him were.

Dalrymple notes that this type of repeated and often daily humiliation

is a wound that very rarely heals. (I am not sure I would ever have got over it had I experienced it. I rather think I would not.) It is all the worse when you admire the people who are humiliating you by constant small humiliations that demonstrate that they do not consider you their equal, or even fully human.

Small humiliations of this type

are worse than great but abstract injustices. It is humiliation, in my belief, and not the unjust distribution of land, that galled Mugabe and gave rise to his Comrade side.

Bayoncée’s world-historical importance

Dalrymple reports that the musicology department of Copenhagen University is to offer a course on the ‘music’ of Bayoncie.

To judge, he notes, by the number of Google entries devoted to this fourth-rate popular singer, she is 25% more important than Hitler and three times more important than Lenin.

He comments:

Philosophical relativism, the denial that there is any objective basis for judgments of worth, has become almost an orthodoxy in humanities departments. And if there is no real difference between good and bad, why go to the trouble of studying the difficult when the easy is just as good?

He notes another trend,

the commercial imperative under which universities operate. To put it crudely (and as academics often put it themselves), they need bums on seats. What better way to get them there than to ‘study’, as if academically, what the students already know and like, and to flatter them into believing that their taste is impeccable?