A public flogging

That is the proper penalty, writes Dalrymple, for any man

who uses the phrase European project without spelling out its denotation.

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The folly of underestimating Corbyn

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-18-40-46It would be a mistake, writes Dalrymple, to conclude that Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK socialists, is unelectable. Talk of the demise of his Labour party

is premature: we heard it when Mrs Thatcher won her third election, and we heard of the death of the Tory party after Mr Blair’s third election victory.

Dalrymple points out that when things go badly,

people seek an alternative, even if by rational calculations the alternative is worse than status quo.

If there were

a serious economic downturn or some other hardship that occurred under the present dispensation, people soon would look for another.

It is true that as things stand,

Mrs May would win hands down if there were an election tomorrow. But a day – an hour in the age of the social media – is a long time in politics.

Postcards from Walsall

The art gallery was built at vast expense

The art gallery was built at vast expense

Ceaușescu’s Romania with fast food outlets

Walsall in the Black Country is, Dalrymple points out,

the ugliest town in the world.

To the hideousness of 19th-century industrialisation is added

the desolation of 20th-century obsolescence.

Secret police headquarters

Secret police headquarters

The town’s art gallery, built at enormous expense, strikes Dalrymple as

a hybrid of grain silo and secret police headquarters.

Of all Western European countries, England is

the most richly endowed with unutterably dismal towns and cities, in part the heritage of the Industrial Revolution and in part that of modern architects and town planners.

Grain silo

Grain silo

Yet France is not to be outdone. Dalrymple writes:

I was under the impression that nothing quite so awful was to be found in France. Imagine my patriotic joy (for though not a xenophobe, I am a patriot) when I stopped for the night in a French town at least as bad as any in England. I could scarcely believe my eyes; I felt such a relief. The incapacity of others to do better than we is a great, if not the greatest possible, consolation.

Bus station

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A stalking horse for unfreedom

Dalrymple writes that the burkini affair

leaves me uneasy. There are two current demands in our societies: the right to mark ourselves out from others, and the right not to be discriminated against if we do so. These two rights are not logically incompatible, but if too strongly insisted upon simultaneously will destroy the cohesion of any society.

Moreover,

I cannot help but recall the words of Mr Erdoğan, well before he became as eminent and powerful as he has since become. Democracy is a train (or tram, in some citations) which is useful in getting you to where you want to go, and then you get off.

Could it be, asks Dalrymple,

that the demand for freedom is here a stalking horse for unfreedom, that a demand for freedom for oneself will end in a demand for the abrogation of the freedoms of others? This would not be unprecedented in recent history: the communists demanded full liberal-democratic freedoms in order later to be able to destroy them.

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Candles and teddy-bears

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‘No one should dismiss their effect on the political thought of a modern electorate,’ writes Dalrymple.

Isolation hospitals for Muslim fanatics

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-04-33-49No one in Europe, writes Dalrymple,

has the faintest idea how to react—at least within the bounds of decency—to the alarming propensity of young Muslim citizens to become partisans of violence and terrorism.

There is a tendency to think of ‘radicalisation’ as

a kind of disease, one that will appear in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, offering the hope of some technical procedure—pills, perhaps, or psychosurgery?—that will cure it.

Dalrymple asks:

Is Islamic extremism a disease, whose ideas (if they deserve to be called such) are like infectious agents? Should those infected be treated in isolation hospitals in the hope that the disease will burn itself out? Prevention is better than cure, of course, but what is the vaccine that immunises people against this disease?

Gen. Hitler and Mr. Wilson Church-hill

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General Hitler holds a Press conference at the German National Hall in October 1913

Arriving in Onitsha, Dalrymple heads for the market. In the stationery, school textbook and chapbook section, he leafs through a pamphlet entitled The Complete Story and Trial of Adolf Hitler.

On its pink cover is a faded picture of an angry-looking Hitler in Lederhose sitting on a garden wall, with the caption: ‘This is the picture of Adolf Hitler, the strong man who believed in action and retaliation.

The pamphlet is in the form of a play,

which the author recommends for use in schools.

The opening scene takes place at

the ‘German National Hall‘, where ‘General‘ Hitler gives a Press conference. ‘Fellow countrymen and women,‘ he says, ‘I, General Hitler, have decided to call this important meeting today being October 1913 just to explain to you the recent events hanging about.

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German Lady: British envoy’s son beat her savagely, then failed to issue a letter of apology, claiming he had acted in self-defence

General Hitler

then complains that a German aircraft was forced by British agents to land in Liberia.

The general also complains that

the elder son of the British ambassador to Germany ‘mercilessly beat a German Lady‘ without even a letter of apology.

The reporters ask General Hitler

about Germany’s military strength.

Herr General answers:

Germany have Army, Navy and Air force of over 100,000,000 strong men and over 50,000,000 Police men and in addition to all this, all German citizens are trained to serve as soldiers‘.

In the next scene,

the British leader ‘Mr Wilson Church-hill‘ admits that the ambassador’s son hit the German Lady, but says it was in self-defence.

The climax of the play is Hitler’s trial for war crimes.

Dalrymple gives the pamplet to his driver, to seek his opinion.

‘This was a bold man,’ he said, after reading that Hitler murdered 6m Jews because Jewish civilians killed 10 Germans and nearly poisoned three others.

Later, Dalrymple picks up a copy of the National Concord newspaper, and comes across an article headed Hitler in Passing.

One sometimes prays,‘ writes the author, ‘for a Hitler here, who would make black people start seeing themselves as being a race for once superior to any other, who would zoom to all America, Russia and South Africa military installations where all cruise missiles would be turned into specie of rats that carries Lassa Fever. The point is, there is a fearful underestimation of ourselves this way.

This is the picture of Adolf Hitler

This is the picture of General Hitler

British agents forced a German aircraft to land in Liberia

British agents forced a German aircraft to land in Liberia

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National Concord: it is perhaps worth the risk of acute viral haemorrhagic fever as we work to turn cruise missiles into mere rodents

Germany's armed forces number about 100m men

Germany’s armed forces number about 100m men

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A few of Germany’s 50m policemen

The bazaar at Onitsha

The bazaar at Onitsha

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Mr Wilson Church-hill

Mr Wilson Church-hill

All German citizens are trained to serve as soldiers

All German citizens are trained to serve as soldiers

General Hitler in the dock at his trial for war crimes in Nuremberg

General Hitler in the dock at his trial for war crimes in Nuremberg

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One sometimes prays for an African Hitler

One sometimes prays for an African Hitler

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Specie of rats

Specie of rats

Willy Maugham’s kind of hotel

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-07-32-47On a flight to Bangkok, Dalrymple falls into conversation with the passenger next to him, a washing-machine salesman. By coincidence, Dalrymple and the washing-machine salesman are staying at the same hotel, the Oriental.

DALRYMPLE: Joseph Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham stayed there too.

WASHING-MACHINE SALESMAN: Who?

DALRYMPLE: Just some writers.

WASHING-MACHINE SALESMAN: Oh. The only trouble with the Oriental is they don’t allow women — hookers — in there.

DALRYMPLE: I don’t think that would have troubled Somerset Maugham much.

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The dilapidated West

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-08-14-36Dalrymple points out that with the economic centre of gravity having shifted to Asia,

North America does not seem able to assure its population of an increasing standard of living, and Europe is sluggish.

Paris, for instance, is

tired. One feels it is in a time warp of the trente glorieuses, during which it modernised with the help of a concrete-based infrastructure that looks past its best. France has an almost communist air of dilapidation; this is a society that has to run very hard just to stay where it is.

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Surely no human existence can be as empty of meaning as this

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-28-10From time to time Dalrymple receives invitations to attend conferences on something called medical leadership. The invitations ask,

Do you want to be a leader?

The answer, in Dalrymple’s case, is

No.

The latest conference on medical leadership, Dalrymple reports,

has 80 speakers and lasts three days. The organisers seem to believe that the longer the conference and the larger the number of speakers on so patently dull a subject, the more impressive it is, no doubt in the way that a big box of chocolates impresses a greedy person more than a small one. All things considered, I’d rather stay at home and read the collected works of Kim Il-sung.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-25-28Dalrymple looks at the biographical details of a couple of the speakers, taken from the list at random.

Mr R.

is founding Director of Harthill Consulting. His extensive practitioner background includes working with senior leaders from organisations such as Fujitsu, Danone, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Volvo, Eli Lilly and Microsoft. Co-author of HBR’s award-winning article ‘Seven Transformations of Leadership’ (April 2005) it has since consistently been named as one of HBR’s ‘Top 10 Must Reads’ on Leadership.  He recently co-authored and contributed to the large-scale 2015 PwC study on leader transformation and retention. His expertise is exploring leadership as a process of evolving ‘wisdom’ — enabling individuals to integrate discernment, courage, power and compassion.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-31-37Ms A.

is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Chief Executive of Real World Group (a University of Leeds spin-out company). She is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Business and Enterprise, University of Southern Queensland. She has been working with Real World Group for the past 15 years, supporting leadership development with both individuals and groups up to Board level globally. She has a particular passion for a focus on positive psychology and diversity & inclusion in leadership. She has helped establish Real World Group’s approach to Engaging Leadership, based on uniquely proven research involving tens of thousands of people across the world, and has authored or co-authored most of Real World Group’s diagnostic instruments. The research she has been involved with has established the common sense but often missing behaviours that distinguish leaders from managers, and effective leadership among teams and organisations. They are factors that drive productivity in a sustainable way, even when resources are diminishing. As a result of her research and experience in working with organisations, she has been invited to speak at international and national conferences, and consults on behalf of Real World Group with organisations from the UK, North America, South East Asia and the wider Asia Pacific region. She has worked extensively in Higher Education, including at leading Universities and with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. She has authored and co-authored a number of articles in practitioner and peer-reviewed journals, as well as book chapters in academic books by leading publishers on leaders’ career development. She is Co-Chair of the Steering Group of the government sponsored Engage For Success movement (www.engageforsuccess.org) and the editorial committee of the International Congress on Leadership, Management and Governance. She has an MSc in Occupational Psychology from the University of London, Birkbeck College and an MSc in Positive Organization Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-22-57In case, says Dalrymple, the above

should be insufficiently enticing to prospective attendees,

it is explained why they should attend the conference:

Be a part of the first Leaders in Healthcare conference, which will bring together both the future generation and most senior of healthcare professionals and managers. The event aims to focus on the leadership challenges all nations face in healthcare to improve the care we deliver for our patients. Learn about and be part of widespread discussions including standards, professionalism and the opportunity for a step change in quality, the leadership challenges facing healthcare on a national and international scale and how we, as a profession, will face these, and contemporary leadership theory from international experts. Attend interactive workshops and hear from inspiring speakers exploring the essentials of what you need to know to continually grow your leaderships skills, how innovation in healthcare can change the way we work, and how medical education can improve leadership, clinical performance and patient safety. Represent the voice of medical students by planning your leadership skills development at an early stage of your career. Explore sessions to understand the essentials of leadership and how to take charge of your own development, and network with peers and senior medical leaders. Develop essential skills for being an effective leader who can motivate and inspire others in the team, influence the way care is given, ensuring it is high quality, compassionate and responds to individual needs, and network with the full spectrum of healthcare leaders from all professional backgrounds. Network with a broad range of healthcare professionals, develop a shared understanding of what good leadership is and how working together can benefit service delivery and patient care, consider how we can encourage greater involvement of healthcare professionals, service users, communities and the general public in shaping healthcare services that are fit for purpose, and network in a unique multi-professional healthcare leadership event embracing all levels and sectors. Leaders in Healthcare 2016 welcomes other professionals who share our passion for excellence in leadership and management.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-38-20After reading a few lines of such prose, Dalrymple’s mind

goes fuzzy as if I were suffering from a hangover, or as if an almost physical shutter comes down in my brain, just as it does on reading a paragraph of Kim Il-sung. The prose destroys my capacity, even my will, to concentrate or fix my mind on anything. My remaining thoughts are fleeting and desultory: ‘Can anyone really have a passion for diversity and inclusion in leadership?’ or ‘What can the life of someone who does have such a passion be like?’ I try to imagine it, but nothing comes to mind. Surely no human existence could be as empty of meaning as that.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-23-09Then Dalrymple begins to wonder what Alexander the Great or Napoleon would have made of the conference on leadership.

Would they have been able to reach a shared understanding of what good leadership is? If Alexander had only been better able to integrate compassion into his discernment, courage, and power, would he have found new worlds to conquer? If Napoleon had learned about leader transformation, would he have crowned himself emperor earlier in his career than he did?

Who would pay good money for such a conference?

The taxpayer. He would not attend the conference himself, of course, but he would pay for employees to attend it who needed or desired a three-day break from their work in a public hospital or as part of their mandatory continuing professional development. He would also pay the fees of the speakers, some of them flown in from distant lands.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-40-36The attendees, Dalrymple notes, would learn about something called lean management, one definition of which is as follows:

If someone tells you that ‘lean management is this’ and not something else, if someone puts it in a box and ties a bow around it and presents it in a neat package with four walls around it, then that someone knows not of what they speak. Why? Because it is in motion and not a framed picture hanging on the wall. It is a melody, a rhythm, and not a single note.

This, says Dalrymple, is

the mysticism of apparatchiks, the romanticism of bureaucrats, the poetry of clerks. From my limited observations of management in public hospitals and other parts of the public health care system, it seeks to be not lean, in the commonly used sense of the word, but fat, indeed as fat as possible; nor are large private institutions very much different.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-43-08We have entered, writes Dalrymple,

gradually and without any central direction or decree, a golden age of langue de bois or of Newspeak. Langue de bois is the pompous, vague, and abstract words that have some kind of connotation but no real denotation used by those who have to hide their real motives and activities by a smokescreen of scientific- or benevolent-sounding verbiage. Newspeak is the language in Nineteen Eighty-Four whose object is to limit human minds to a few simple politically permissible thoughts, excluding all others, and making doublethink — the frictionless assent to incompatible propositions—part of everyday mentation.

Langue de bois and Newspeak

are no longer languages into which normal thought must be translated; rather they have become the languages in which thought itself, or rather cerebral activity, takes place, at least in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that rules us. If you ask someone who speaks either of them to translate what he has said or written into normal language, it is more than likely he will be unable to do so: His translation will be indistinguishable from the words translated.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-49-41It is therefore clear that,

where culture is concerned, the Soviet Union scored a decisive and probably irreversible victory in the Cold War.

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