The vice of self-congratulation


To give a child lessons in moral narcissism is a dismal thing to do

Dalrymple explains that he is

allergic to the use of children for the dissemination of political messages. I think it is a form of child abuse. Poor old Kant would turn in his grave.

Dalrymple notices a newspaper photo of a girl of about 8 holding up a banner at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with I am kind, smart and important on it. The words, he says, are

thoroughly odious.

We teach self-congratulation early, he notes,

and far from learning that self-praise is no praise, children are taught that self-praise is the highest form. The object is to prevent that most frightful and damaging of psychological conditions, lack of self-esteem. From being insufficiently puffed-up about oneself all kinds of dire consequences flow, from repeatedly choosing the wrong mate to failure to progress in one’s career.

But Dalrymple points out that self-esteem is

an unpleasant quality, akin to conceit. Some of the most unpleasant people I have known were full of it, and it is perfectly possible for people to behave like monsters and have a very high conception of themselves. Self-esteem is dangerous as a positive invitation to appalling behavior, insofar as it is not derived from any effort, achievement, or good conduct, but is self-awarded as an inalienable right.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-20-24-27Does anyone, he asks,

who is kind and clever hold up a banner to the effect that he is kind and clever? A person who went round proclaiming, ‘I am important, I am important’ would seem to us either pathetic, as if he were whistling in the wind of his insignificance, or, if he used his supposed importance to push his way to the front of a queue, say, in order to be served before everyone else, very unpleasant indeed.


On 30 March, 1933, Victor Klemperer noticed a children’s ball in a toyshop inscribed with a swastika


Dalrymple is allergic to the use of children for the dissemination of political messages


It is a form of child abuse. Kant would turn in his grave


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