Author Archives: DalrympleFans

At least benefit scroungers are alive

The pleasure of being nasty to neighbours through the State’s mediation

Dalrymple is not much in favour of public denunciations, especially in a situation in which they are easily made. He reminds us that in France and Germany under Nazi rule,

millions of people denounced one another with a variety of unpleasant or downright evil motives.

He notes that one idea of the incompetent British government is to

encourage people to denounce those whom they know to be cheating the social security system, for example working while claiming unemployment benefits. The poster promises anonymity to the informer.

However, as Dalrymple points out, the fact is that the British benefits system

is tailor-made for fraud, and in my experience people who defraud it rather than merely accept its cold comforts passively save their sanity thereby.

At least they show that they are alive;

they have initiative and are even entrepreneurs of a kind, in an environment in which practically all genuine entrepreneurialism—for example, by selling on a small scale—is closed to them by regulation.

In England,

if you set up a stall in the street to sell something, you will be apprehended quicker than if you rob your neighbour.

Arguably the most vacuous large monument of them all

Britishers are the worst architects in the world today, and Dalrymple reports sadly that one of them, Ian Ritchie, creator of the grotesque Spire of Dublin, believes Notre Dame’s spire should be ‘a refracting, super-slender reflecting crystal to heaven’, a glass version of his Irish monument. God help the French.

The world’s worst architect

Dalrymple explains that among Norman Foster‘s creations is

the bulbous London skyscraper known without affection by Londoners as the Gherkin.

Foster is also the designer of

a new tower that resembles a Brobdingnagian spring onion stuck upside down in the ground.

Foster has said that the spire of Notre Dame should be ‘a work of art about light’. Dalrymple comments:

This papalistic pronouncement is typical of architectural newspeak that permits architects to do what they please, irrespective of context. A church spire is, or ought to be, a monument to the glory of God, not to that of an architect, and rebuilding Notre-Dame should not be taken as an opportunity to show off.

Greta Thunberg’s face oozes sanctimony almost as a secretion

This Swedish girl is odious

Dalrymple writes:

When few lived long, old age was respected.

But

now that almost everyone seems to go on for ever and, thanks to a declining birthrate, youth is a rare commodity, it is the young who are looked up to and accorded the kind of reverence African tribes once accorded their elders.

This is why so much attention is paid to

that odious Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, who makes Mr Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend seem about as self-doubting as Hamlet, and whose face oozes sanctimony almost as a secretion.

Dalrymple counsels:

She needs to be sent to her room and told not to come down before breakfast.

Dalrymple notes that

the cult of youth is, at heart, a very sad one. It implies that the peak of life is reached early and thenceforward it is downhill all the way.

Youth: a narrative

Dalrymple writes that

contrary to what is frequently supposed (as if no one were capable of serious or sincere reflection on his own past, or had forgotten what it was to be young), youth is not idealistic but profoundly egotistical. Even where it is hedonistic, it is censorious – towards all those who are not hedonistic. Its hedonism is not that of spontaneous enjoyment but that of putting two fingers up to Mum and Dad.

Youth

  • never ceases to think of itself even as it is claiming to agitate for the betterment of the world.
  • wants to save the planet but forgets to pick up the litter when it leaves, as (for example) attendance at the Glastonbury Festival would soon convince anyone.
  • is an unavoidable condition that we all have to go through, as diseases such as measles and whooping cough once were. Dalrymple doubts that there will ever be an immunisation against it, and perhaps it is better that this is so (one of the explanations for the rise of allergic conditions is that children grow up in too clean an environment, with not enough immunological challenges).

Dalrymple affirms that

there is no reason to make adolescence our cynosure or youth the object of a cult.

A pitiful case of adolescent senescence

Immaturity held up as the highest good

In a café, Dalrymple watches a man in his early seventies making his way slowly and painfully to the latrines with the aid of a wheeled walker. Dalrymple writes:

This, of course, was reason enough to sympathise with him and, if I could have helped, I should have done so.

But what made the man a tragic figure

was not his physical handicap (of a type that many – perhaps most – of us will experience if we live long enough) but his insistence on dressing like an adolescent, in jeans, a flowered shirt, and basketball shoes, with a single, large gold earring and a Keith Richards coiffure c. 1970 except for its greyness.

Here was a man

who had not (as Mr Blair would no doubt have put it) moved on. He was caught in adolescence as flies were once caught in amber.

This was a tragedy

not only for him as an individual but, on the assumption that he was far from alone but rather representative of a trend, for society: for as everyone knows, having once been adolescent themselves, adolescence is a time of extreme bad taste and what might be called conformist rebellion, or rebellious conformity. It was a tragedy for him as an individual because it made him dream an impossible, worthless dream; and a tragedy for society because it made immaturity the highest good.

We can rebuild it — more beautiful than before

In central Paris, modern architecture is vandalism; in the suburbs, it is hell

Dalrymple writes that the French president’s speech about the Notre Dame fire

contained a terrible threat: he said that the cathedral would be rebuilt to be even more beautiful than before.

And the French prime minister announced that a competition would be held to design ‘a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time’. This, says Dalrymple,

should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the efforts of modern architects in Paris, the effects of which can be seen all around the city.

The monumental public buildings constructed using techniques to meet the challenges of our time include

  • the Centre Pompidou
  • the Tour Montparnasse
  • the Opéra Bastille
  • the Musée du quai Branly
  • the new Philharmonie

Each one of these structures would, says Dalrymple,

gain at least an honorable mention in a competition for ugliest building in the world.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France, too, was largely rehoused using the techniques of our time, which

included failure to notice that the damp caused by a low water table and sun shining directly through walls of glass were not very good for 15th-century books.

Dalrymple notes that the post-Second-World-War vernacular, with its curtain walls and ribbon windows, is

universally depressing, a single one of its buildings being able to ruin the harmony of an entire street.

In view of

the narcissism of modern architects, particularly of the star variety, when called upon to make additions to older buildings,

a strict restoration of Notre Dame would be safer.

There should be no competition, except among craftsmen and those who can suggest new ways to make old appearances.

Macron said that he wanted the cathedral restored within five years—in time for the opening of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Dalrymple comments:

It would be hard to think of a more kitsch idea in the Soviet tradition than this.

The Machiavellian genius of Theresa May

Dalrymple explains that he made a mistake in his assessment of Theresa May. He writes:

Like almost everyone else, I regarded her as a pygmy in courage and a giant in incompetence.

However,

it is time for a re-assessment.

After the European Union granted a further delay to Britain’s departure, Donald Tusk said that it was his secret dream to prevent Britain from leaving. It is, says Dalrymple,

pleasing to know that Mr Tusk’s secret dreams so entirely coincide with those of the British political class, including those of Mrs May. At last we have a basis for full and final agreement.

Dalrymple notes that

like the great majority of the British political class, Mrs May was always in favour of remaining in the Union. This class was so confident of its ability to persuade the population that it was right that it agreed with practically no demur to a referendum which would pronounce the winner as the side which obtained 50% plus one of the votes cast. Thus the matter of British membership, it thought, would be settled once and for all.

The problem for the political class was now

to find a method of overriding the result of the referendum without doing so in too blatant a fashion. And here, in Mrs May, it found a perfect leader.

May

could not just put forward her conviction that Britain should remain in the Union and say outright that she had no intention of carrying out the will of the majority. At that stage, such a disavowal of the result would have been politically impossible and might even have caused unrest.

Instead, she went through

a brilliantly elaborate charade of negotiating withdrawal, in such a way that the result would not be accepted by Parliament. Her agreement would be withdrawal without withdrawal, the worst of all possible outcomes, all complication and difficulty, and no benefit.

She knew that the EU,

having drafted this agreement unacceptable to Parliament, would not renegotiate it. Why should it, since it knew that Parliament had no intention of demanding a real and total withdrawal, since it did not want to withdraw? She also knew that Parliament would never agree to a withdrawal without an agreement with the Union, as Parliament has repeatedly made clear.

Thus, says Dalrymple, May has

brilliantly manœuvred the country into the following dilemma: it has a choice between her agreement and total withdrawal, neither of which is acceptable or ever likely to be accepted.

The only way to cut the Gordian knot

is to withdraw the application to leave; and the whole process has been so long-drawn-out, and so boring, that such a result would be welcome not only to the vast majority of those who voted to remain (though a few have been sufficiently appalled by the European leadership to have changed their mind), but to quite a number who voted to leave who imagined, as Mrs May once so cunningly put it (meaning quite the opposite), ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but who have discovered what perhaps they should have known all along, that when the people don’t like the government it is the people who have to change. The light of Brexit is not worth the candle of the deliberately-induced agonising uncertainties.

Britain

has thus fully joined the modern European tradition: the holding of a seeming consultation with the people only to ignore the results if the people get the answer wrong.

The appearances of democracy are preserved, but not the substance. May, says Dalrymple,

has proved brilliantly adept at preserving the appearance while eviscerating the substance. 

Racist agitprop: over-representation of black actors in the theatre

Militant ruthless mediocrity is one of the prevailing cultural currents of our time

Dalrymple writes that black actors

are included in casts out of all proportion to their number in the population, and unlike such disproportion in football teams, it is not the consequence of superior talent or ability. It is obviously, but unmentionably, the consequence of policy.

He goes on:

When John of Gaunt is black and Bolingbroke is white, the audience is being bullied into pretending that it notices nothing odd when father and son are enfolded in each other’s arms. The audience is forced both to see and to deny what it has seen, being subjected to the kind of mental discomfort that was produced by propaganda in totalitarian countries, which was so powerful a method of cowing populations.

An entirely black cast of Richard II

would not be in the slightest disturbing, or even a production in which Richard II alone were played by a black actor. I once saw (about a quarter of a century ago) an excellent Macbeth in which Macbeth was black, in this case a very fine actor of superb diction. Any initial surprise was soon overcome and disbelief easily suspended.

But

it is harder to suspend disbelief when Bagot and Aumerle, John of Gaunt and Lord Willoughby are played by black actors, moreover without great distinction.

One is, Dalrymple notes,

in the presence of agitprop of a racist variety. The British stage is riven with racism, if by racism we mean the tendency to believe that race is and ought to be an important determinant of policy, for example in the allocation of jobs. And it is obvious that, lying not very deeply under the positive discrimination exercised in the casting of plays in British productions, is an attitude of condescension at best and contempt at worst.

You would never guess from the British theatre that

the largest ethnic minority by far in the country is of Indian subcontinental origin: it will be a very long time before you see a Bangladeshi Juliet or a Sikh Angelo. It might be argued that those of Indian origin are not interested in appearing on the British stage, but if so (according to a certain way of thinking) this would only be an argument for even more positive discrimination in their favour. More probably, it is felt that people of Indian origin can look after themselves: they need no helping hand up.

It is here, says Dalrymple, that we see

the implicit condescension or contempt in the positive discrimination in favour of black actors (of course, there can be no positive discrimination without negative discrimination). They are believed to be people who could not survive by their own unaided efforts—unaided, that is, by the intellectual keepers of our conscience. They are like household dogs that could not survive in the wild.

The mental contortions

that are required of us to be considered, and to consider ourselves, decent respectable citizens would be enough to baffle Houdini. Some demographic disproportions must never be alluded to or even noticed, others must be referred to ad nauseam, and the decent person must know by instinct which is which. Some disparities must be constantly measured, others persistently ignored. And you must never let your guard down in discriminating which discriminations are discriminatory. After all, received wisdom can change as quickly as the enemy during the hate sessions in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

If you sling enough mud, some of it sticks

Dalrymple writes of Sir Roger Scruton’s appointment to an architecture commission that it was

a wound to the predominant faction of the British intelligentsia, one that could be healed only by his dismissal. The hideousness of most of what has been built in Britain over the last few decades (so apparent that only an intellectual could miss it) was no excuse for having allowed Scruton to sully the corridors of power even for a few months. In the great work of ridding the body politic of the stone in its shoe, any slur would do, any libel or slander that came to mind was acceptable.

A man at the Leftist New Statesman periodical called Eaton

counted on the pusillanimity of the British government.

Eaton

had himself pictured swigging Champagne directly from the bottle immediately after the government dismissed Scruton.

In the published version of the interview, Eaton

gives an impression of Scruton as an anti-Semite, hater of Muslims, and despiser of Chinese. These accusations are false and defamatory, as any reader of Scruton would know — he often quotes Islamic writings knowledgeably and with respect, while maintaining that Islamophobia is an invented category to shield the religion from rational criticism.

But

if you sling enough mud, some of it sticks, and enough mud stuck for the British government to lose whatever little nerve it ever had and to sack him.

Dalrymple’s view is that there is a reason Scruton was hated in his role, other than the fact that the existence of the commission, by its very name (‘Building Beautiful Architecture’) brings attention to the ugliness of what progressive social-engineering architects have wrought. Namely, Scruton was

unpaid. This set a bad precedent, for those who truly have the good of the country at heart, such as progressive social engineers, should surely be well rewarded. Scruton was letting the side down by working for nothing, and had to be punished.