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The socialist wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs.

  • It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.

Yet the socialist reality is

  • lies
  • enforced ignorance
  • characters formed in an atmosphere of suspicion
  • compromise with evil
  • toadying
  • self-abasement

Dalrymple once met a Marxist who told him that the level of dialectical debate in Moscow was so much higher, and so much wider in scope, than in Western Europe or North America. Dalrymple’s reply was:

If only you could fix your mind on something important, like selling cosmetics or life insurance.

He notes that communist ideas, or prejudices,

live on in those countries where Really Existing Socialism, as the dialecticians used so elegantly to put it, has never been experienced.

In Britain,

the Marxist hatred of profit subsists happily with a Jane Austen-like coyness about where one’s money actually comes from. In Jane Austen, Trade is ungentlemanly; in Marx, it is wicked; in British literary circles, it is both. Given the nature of the output of British literary circles, this wouldn’t matter very much, except for the fact that the attitude has filtered down into the rest of the intelligentsia, and is nearly universal in the public service.

Unlettered whizzkids earning a fortune in the City

particularly excite ire (and envy); I have had many arguments in the doctors’ common room about the necessary and constructive part banking and trade play in any modern economy, irrespective of the existence of dishonest bankers and traders.

But the attitude persists,

the disdainful — and essentially snobbish — attitude that unites them with Castro and Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Ulbricht, Lenin and Kim Il-sung. Any activity that is neither directly productive nor concerned with the welfare of ‘the people’ is parasitic.

The consequence of the philosophy

may be seen on the shelves of any communist supermarket or in any East European field piled with rotting potatoes.

A semi-literate Marxism is

the unchallengeable orthodoxy in British teacher-training colleges and colleges of further education. Here the politics of grievance are assiduously fostered, with ‘analyses’ of the exploitative nature of capitalist society, which causes the oppression of almost everyone except men in top hats. It is difficult to believe that something of this ideology is not communicated to children, and in my daily work I am often ‘accused’ by young patients of having a good job, as if personal activity had nothing to do with it and my privilege and their deprivation explained all.

Socialism continues to exert a strong influence in poor countries. Liberation theology, for example, is

Pravda with the word God thrown in.

There is a stifling orthodoxy among intellectuals about the origins of poverty. Poverty for them

is the dialectical opposite of wealth: we are poor because you are rich, and you are rich because we are poor. It is a destructive idea. Poverty is the result of exploitation and nothing else: the world is Marx’s Victorian England writ large. The global economy is a cake, and if Europe (the bourgeoisie) has a large slice, Africa (the proletariat) must have a small one. The immiseration of the workers in Marx is paralleled by the immiseration of continents, and has the same causes.

That poverty is the natural state of Man, and that

it is the ascent to wealth that needs explanation (Adam Smith asked the right question), never occurs to the embittered intellectuals.

Really Existing Socialism

In praise of Rhodesia

The anti-colonial struggle in Africa, writes Dalrymple,

was not about freedom but about power and loot.

The sense in which it represented a political advance

was that it accorded with people’s natural preference for being ruled by a local rather than a foreign dictator, even if the latter were the better ruler by far. Many of the progressive pieties of the 20th century thus had within them a strong core of xenophobia and racism.

Dalrymple avers that Robert Mugabe

is a fine example of his genre: the liberator-turned-despot.

Compared to that of Mugabe, the régime of Ian Smith was infinitely preferable, being

  • considerably less ruthless
  • more willing to place limits upon its exercise of power
  • administratively vastly more competent

Mugabe, Dalrymple notes,

inherited a flourishing country, despite years of international sanctions, one that even Nyerere (no friend of Smith) called a jewel. Whoever takes over from Mugabe will most certainly not inherit a flourishing country.

Rhodesian whites are characterised by the ignorant as

  • lazy
  • spoilt
  • frivolous
  • anti-intellectual
  • beer-swilling
  • rugby-playing
  • thoroughly exploitative

The destroyers

Yet it is difficult, says Dalrymple,

to see how such a people could have left a bejewelled legacy.

A plague of locusts

Mugabe’s force and fraud

have had the opposite consequence of that of the whites: the bread-basket has become the basket case.

The whites

constructed something worthwhile.

Mugabe and his cronies have been

entirely parasitic.

Why young occidentals hate

Cretinous iconoclasm

Youth in the West, writes Dalrymple, is deliberately kept from any deeper knowledge of civilisation by the

ideological self-hatred that has been so strong a current of Western intellectual life for the last three or more decades, that precludes any pedagogic affirmation of the Western tradition.

This self-denigration

explains in part the kind of hatred (and contempt) that young Muslims feel. Not only does the ideological self-hatred of Western intellectuals prevent them from learning anything of the Western tradition, other than Radio One and McDonald’s, but it supplies them with the tropes with which to justify their pre-existing anger and violence.

Dalrymple notes that the self-hatred of Western intellectuals

is not genuine or sincere: they do not really want to beat our supermarkets into souks, as swords into ploughshares. Rather, the intellectual’s expression of self-hatred is directed at other Western intellectuals, to prove the self-hater’s broadness of mind, moral superiority and lack of prejudice. It is not only rebellious youth who experience peer pressure; and anyone who pointed out, for example, that for a very long time now the Western medical tradition has been incomparably superior to all other medical traditions in the world combined and multiplied a thousandfold, would forfeit approval, even though what he said was true, and obviously so.

Barbarism

Insincere ideas can become official orthodoxies, with very real consequences. The Muslims of the West

are hardly to blame if they do not realise that the posturings of our intellectuals are not intended to be taken literally. When Western intellectuals express no admiration for or appreciation of the cultural achievements of their civilisation’s past, when only denigration and iconoclasm appear to advance an intellectual’s career, when moral stature is measured by the vehemence of denunciation of past or present abuses, real or imagined, it is hardly surprising that Muslims conclude that the West is eminently hateful; it must be, because it hates itself. They haven’t heard of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess.

The insincere play with fire

Those who claim to hate and despise themselves

will very soon be taken at their word by others, particularly by those who believe themselves to be in possession of an all-embracing creed. Far from promoting reconciliation and tolerance, therefore, multiculturalism breeds contempt, hatred and violence.

No attempt, writes Dalrymple, is ever made to explain the West’s hitherto overwhelming superiority in many fields

except by reference to injustice, exploitation and colonial depredation. That the phenomenal and unique inventiveness of the West might be connected in some way with its long philosophical and cultural development, going back to ancient Greece, is a thought that is never for a moment entertained.

In the mental world of many young people in the West, and especially Muslims,

the difference in the wealth of nations is the result of plunder, not invention and innovation, to be redressed by more effective plunder in the opposite direction.

No attempts are made at school to induct young people into the tradition of Western civilisation,

for fear of offending their parents’ cultural sensibilities if they are, say, Muslim; though no more efforts in that direction are made on behalf of kafir youth. Both kafir and Muslims enjoy the fruit without ever knowing the tree. They are like the East End boys of old, who thought that milk came in bottles because they had never seen or heard of cows.

Why young Muslims hate

Dalrymple explains that Muslims growing up in the West

see a society in which the summum bonum is consumerism, but whose members, through lack of money or lack of discrimination, are not even very good at that.

Young Muslims see a white society in which people do not know how to

  • dress with dignity or self-respect
  • eat well
  • enjoy themselves in a sociable fashion without an undercurrent of violence

The whites of the slums, Dalrymple points out, are

uncouth and uncultured, living in the eternal present moment of popular culture, wearing a deracinated uniform: shell suit, trainers, baseball cap. A way of life has emerged that is utterly charmless and that no sensible person would wish to emulate.

Young Muslims hear passionate disquisitions from their fathers and uncles about

  • the degeneracy of the white culture around them
  • the disastrous anarchy of family relationships among the whites
  • how superior to all this moral squalor their own traditions are

When they receive the racist taunts of their white contemporaries, they harbour a sense of their superiority. Yet, says Dalrymple, they cannot simply reproduce their fathers’ mental world. They are part modern Westerners too, with many of the same debased tastes as their white contemporaries. They

  • listen to the same music
  • eat the same fast food
  • play the same games
  • are attracted by the same baubles, such as mobile phones and designer trainers
  • adopt the same disgusting body-piercing and tattooing practices

The young Muslims

feel guilty about their lack of cultural purity. From guilty desire and surreptitious identification it is a short step to insensate hatred and rage.

The mixture of material inferiority and a feeling of spiritual or cultural superiority is a combustible one, found also at moments in their history in Russian Slavophils, the Japanese, and Latin Americans. The Muslim world, Dalrymple notes, is

acutely aware of its technical weakness and impotence: to catch up economically with the West it must adopt the West’s methods, and a large part of its culture. Even armed resistance to the encroachment of Western culture has to be carried out with Western weapons — scimitars won’t do. It is a humiliating thought for members of a proud culture that if that culture had ceased to exist three centuries ago, the world would not have had to go without any of the inventions that have shaped modern life.

How young French Muslims are abandoned by society

Dalrymple writes, by way of understatement, that France has not been especially successful in integrating its immigrant population into the mainstream of national life. This, he points out,

need not be because of any higher levels of xenophobia or racial prejudice: a more rigid labour market will prevent integration quite successfully. Laws to protect the employed have the effect of enclosing unskilled immigrants not merely in ghettoes, but in workless ghettoes. Anyone who has visited the ring of Le Corbusier-style ghettoes around Paris (or other French cities) will soon realise that by comparison with their inhabitants the average Brixton drug-dealer is a model of integrated respectability.

Dalrymple explains that Islamic fundamentalism is not much in evidence among the disaffected young prisoners of France,

and is therefore of not much importance, at least numerically.

The problem is that Islamic fundamentalism

has its attractions for the more intelligent, or at least the more intellectual, among them, who seek a total explanation for, and solution to, their predicament. And as we have seen, it doesn’t take many people to disturb the peace of the world.

Muslim prisoners in France are

not deeply religious, or indeed deeply anything.

France has successfully secularised the Muslim younger generation,

but without having replaced the religious ethic by any other. They are left in a vacuum, suspended mentally and culturally somewhere between the Maghreb and France, but belonging fully to neither, and therefore at home nowhere.

The rigidity of the labour market

makes it more difficult for them to redeem themselves by work,

and modern culture,

which holds out easy enrichment as a solution to existential dislocation, makes crime a permanent temptation.

French prisoners of North African origin feel that French society is fundamentally unjust.

They do not so much deny that they have done what they are accused of having done, as justify it as a revenge upon, or at least the natural consequence of, that primordial injustice.

This resentment, Dalrymple notes,

is simultaneously a powerful provoker of crime and an obstacle to rehabilitation. What these prisoners need, apart from the passage of time that in itself cools the ardour of criminality, is not what they get in prison — antidepressants and tranquillisers by the bucketful — but a Socratic dialogue that will help them to overcome their resentment. If the principal cause of crime is the decision to commit it, then the removal of a justifying sense of grievance is of great importance. In addition, prisoners, and those who will soon become prisoners, need real opportunity, not chimerical equal opportunity, which is to say government of bureaucrats, by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats.

The hate-filled egalitarians

Count your curses

The concept of equality of opportunity, writes Dalrymple,

is deeply vicious.

People who promote it

do not want to serve humanity but to torture it.

They know that their ideal

is not reachable or even approachable. It is barely conceivable.

They do not want their ideal to be realised,

for then they would have no providential role, and would have to sink back into the mass of humanity, their work done.

They criticise the world from the standpoint of an impossible ideal

not to improve the world, but to stir resentment. The resentful are easy to manipulate and willing to confer power on those who offer to liberate them from the supposed causes of their distress. It is important to keep inequalities of opportunity firmly before men’s minds.

We are enjoined to

count our curses. It accords with our desire to explain away our failure. There are whole university departments set up to train students to do nothing else.

Satanic verses

On the subject of the verses in the Koran that deal with the treatment of women, Dalrymple writes:

I am not by any means an Islamic scholar, and therefore cannot comment on what the verses really mean; but I suspect that many Muslim men choose to interpret them in a way similar to that in which the late Robert Maxwell interpreted the duties of a trustee of a pension fund.

The cultural poverty of the British lower classes

The working classes in England, Dalrymple points out, lead dismal lives.

  • Their food is filthy
  • Their housing is abominable
  • Their reading matter and entertainment are…well, uncerebral

On almost every measure of wellbeing and attainment, Dalrymple notes, the working classes score low.

  • They live less long than other classes
  • They are unhealthier, while they live
  • They are more susceptible to almost every kind of disease
  • They endure (or inflict upon themselves) more accidents, violence and mental illness
  • Their only symbol of hope is the football pools coupon

An archaic dialect

Dalrymple begins to wonder whether

I still speak modern English, or whether, approaching middle age, the language of my youth and education has become an archaic and somewhat quaint dialect.

Dalrymple’s gout

There was, writes Dalrymple,

no mistaking it. My right big toe was red, hot, swollen, tender, and painful. My foot swelled and I could put my shoe on only if I went through what athletes, in their gormless interviews, call the pain barrier.