Author Archives: DalrympleFans

🧻 ☭ Postcards from Tiflis 🧻 ☭

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Lavatorial Leninism

A shortage of lieu roll is viewed by some observers as the first sign of socialism. The commodity, Dalrymple notes,

becomes a matter of political privilege, accessible only to those with some kind of favourable connection to power.

On a visit to a jail in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, Dalrymple found that l’eau roll was — naturally — in short supply. But the prisoners had a temporary solution: Lenin’s Collected Works. Dalrymple writes:

The Soviet Union always had a problem with the production of this essential product of civilisation [i.e. latrine tissue or Waterloo roll or ‘bog’ paper], but it never had any problem with the production of Lenin’s Collected Works.

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Of course,

there was a time when to have used the written words of that great man for hygienic purposes would have been as dire in its consequences as desecrating the Koran in Mecca in a similar fashion, but by the time I reached the jail in Tiflis the danger attached to doing so was long past.

Indeed, he avers, given a choice between normal anal-cleansing paper and the pages of Lenin’s Collected Works,

I suspect that most people would have chosen the latter, for ideological reasons. It lent a pleasure to a mundane task from which we usually prefer to avert our thoughts.

Normally, Dalrymple says, he is against

desecration of books, even of very bad ones, but I make an exception in the case of Lenin’s Collected Works, as long as examples moulder, unread but available to scholars, somewhere in libraries.

Prison No. 5 outside Tiflis

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Dalrymple recounts in The Wilder Shores of Marx (1991) what a friend once pointed out to him, that under communism, all minorities dance.

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You who sit there in your glutted complacency, are you aware that this could be your final hour?

The Black Death, Dalrymple points out,

killed perhaps a third or a half of the population of Europe.

However,

that was nearly 700 years ago. And in any case a disaster can be a lot smaller than that and still be a disaster. We are not trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records.

Exponential growth

cannot but alarm us when we see those histograms showing the daily toll of death from the infection (or at least with the infection) in ever steeper ascent. They strongly resemble the Burj Khalifa. We forget that exponential growth cannot continue for ever and must reach a peak.

Such growth

is not going to continue until the whole of humanity is extinct,

though such a consummation is

devoutly to be wished according to some of the more extreme of the pagan ecologists, who believe in the intrinsic value of the earth whether or not there are any self-conscious beings existent to enjoy it.

But so long as a peak has not been reached,

we are free to imagine the worst.

Dalrymple notes that during the Middle Ages, when the cause of epidemics was unknown, other than the justified wrath of God,

there were long processions of self-flagellating penitents through the streets, who no doubt thought that the blood that they drew from themselves and the pain that they suffered would abate the epidemic by causing God to relent. We have a pale version of this even today, with calls to prayer by clerics. I believe a mullah somewhere has claimed that the only way to put an end to the epidemic is jihad, as a result of which the world will convert to Islam, causing God to withdraw the virus from circulation.

‘God has condemned us: we are all sentenced to perish in the Black Death. You, standing there like gaping cattle, you who sit there in your glutted complacency, are you aware that this could be your final hour? Death stands right behind you; I see his crown gleaming in the sun — his scythe flashes as he raises it above your heads. Which one of you will he strike first? You, standing there staring like a goat, will your mouth be twisted in a last unfinished gasp before nightfall? And you, woman, blooming with life and self-satisfaction, will you pale and be extinguished before the morning dawns? You back there, with your swollen nose and stupid grin, d’you think you might have another year left to sully the earth with your filth? Are you aware, insensible fools, that you will die today, or tomorrow, or the next day — because all of you have been condemned? D’you hear what I say? Doomed! D’you hear the word? You’re doomed, doomed, doomed!’

The motto of the British police

It is, says Dalrymple,

Concentrate on the inessential.

He points out that it is taken from the motto of the psychiatric services. Concentrating on the inessential gives the police

far less trouble

than, say, apprehending the culprit of a crime. Today the British police

repress everything except crime and disorder

while dressing up like

the paramilitary arm of some extremist political party.

Derbyshire police turned this lagoon in Buxton black because, they said, it ‘is dangerous, and gatherings are in contravention of the current instruction of the UK government. We have attended the location and used dye to make the water look less appealing’.

A woman peeling apples with a small child

‘There was a private reason for my attachment to the painting, namely the beautiful and straightforward emotional calm that reigned between the figures, their uncomplicated and unconditional love of one another—something that I longed for as a child but never had, instead continually experiencing the petty Sturm und Drang of domestic conflict. To the inherent melancholy of any capture of a beautiful moment that is fleeting (the child, so fresh and tender, so full of trust, would grow old and die), I added a personal sorrow over the fact that I would never experience anything like the little girl’s quiet, careless rapture.’

An advanced East and a backward West

Coronavirus and the ignominy of Europe

Anyone who has been to church in France, writes Dalrymple,

will have noticed that the direction of the tide of evangelism has reversed. It used to be from France to Africa; now it is from Africa to France. Many of the priests are African: they come to serve or convert the heathen who once colonised them.

It points, he notes,

to a loss, not only of faith but of cultural confidence. The idea of Europe preaching to the world now seems ridiculous. Europe has lost the mandate of heaven.

Who would have thought, Dalrymple asks,

even 30 years ago, that China would be sending humanitarian assistance to Italy, both in the form of medical material and technicians?

There has been a reversal

of what people in the West, for so long, took as the natural order of things. The pandemic has revealed what Westerners would have preferred not to know: they are no longer in the forefront.

Dalrymple points out that Europe cannot even console itself that, if it has not responded with the efficiency of Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore, it is at least not authoritarian. Near where Dalrymple lives, people are required to show a laissez-passer. Taking a short walk in the district, Dalrymple says he half-expects someone to jump out of a doorway and shout

Halt! Ihre Papiere, bitte.

A Chinese aid worker loads humanitarian relief supplies bound for Italy at Hangzhou airport

Getting to see a GP is a labour of Hercules

Securing a five-minute slot with a family doctor in Britain’s Soviet-style health system is extremely difficult. It is necessary, Dalrymple explains, for the patient

to lie or exaggerate. He must become expert at doing so.

If you are lucky enough to be granted an appointment, for three weeks’ time,

it is awarded as if it were a minor decoration — an OBE, say, for exceptional persistence. You have joined the privileged few. You should be proud and grateful.

Save the koala

Along with the wickedness of man, we must always remember his shallowness

Dalrymple likes to read online commentary by ordinary people, i.e. non-professional commentators. He notes that in the British commentary on the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season,

apart from outrage that Britain has done nothing to help Australia (by sending its rain, perhaps), sorrow for the half-billion wild animals killed in the fires is prominent. By wild animals, the commentators don’t mean flies and snakes, they mean koalas and kangaroos. No one says, ‘Pity the poor insects,’ though they are animals and number incalculably more than half a billion. No, it is the koalas that we worry about, stuck up their gum trees. At least the kangaroos have a chance of fleeing before the flames.

He says that if he were a betting man,

I should liquidate my assets and place the money in the shares of companies that make koala stuffed toys. I think there is about to be a worldwide boom in them.

Centennial Hall, Monrovia

What do we care about a fucking piano?

Cummings looks as if he might smell

Why would you want to look like a typical urban thug?

Dalrymple writes that the only piece of writing he has seen by Dominic Cummings was

abominable, both verbose and hectoring. Reading it was like being cornered by a drunken bore at a party who has a totally new theory of the origin of the universe.

The British prime minister’s grey eminence dresses

like a thug from the slums. If you saw him in the twilight coming down the street towards you, you would think of crossing the road to avoid him.

The question for Dalrymple is whether the Svengali’s appearance

is the result of carelessness or of great care. I think the latter. He is the Marie Antoinette de nos jours. Instead of playing shepherdess he plays the boss of a trafficking outfit in a bleak public housing estate.

Why

should anyone want to look like a practitioner of ‘rap’ or of that charming musical genre known as ‘grime’? Is it a case of sympathy for or identification with those to whom such a mode of dress comes naturally, as if there were no other choice for them; or is it a question of packaging? If the latter, as seems the more likely, what is the message that Mr Cummings wishes to convey?

Cummings is said to be a revolutionary at war with the ossified, suit-and-tie-wearing Establishment. If so, Dalrymple is,

sartorially speaking, on the side of the counterrevolutionaries, though I have no particular admiration for the Establishment that he is said to be at war with.

Cold cruel Marxist-Leninist murderess

Compared with Nexhmije Hoxha, writes Dalrymple, Rosemary West was a

bumbling amateur.

Mrs Hoxha

never shrank from her duty to co-operate in the elimination by murder of those her husband, a paranoid narcissist, deemed his enemies, which was the majority of those he associated with. Many of those with whom she had once been friendly were executed; it was dangerous to know or to have known her.

On holiday with her husband

By the age of 23

she had become an accessory to the murder (on her future husband’s orders) of Anastas Plasari and other members of the resistance to the Italian occupation. The murder or incarceration in abominable conditions of those she had known and even been friendly with never caused her loss of sleep. She died with blood on her hands and a perfectly clear conscience.

She was head of the Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies,

whose function was the publication of her husband’s voluminous writings, notable for their vituperation against everyone with whom he had once been allied, except for Stalin, who remained his verray parfit gentil knyght.

She lived with her husband in

the utterly cut-off section of Tirana called the Bllok, closed to all mortals except the upper echelons of the party, who lived there in a state of permanent and justified terror.

After the régime’s downfall

she was charged with embezzlement — a peccadillo in the context of her life — and spent six years in prison. She wrote two volumes of her memoirs and lived the rest of her life in undeserved peace.

Hoxha loved his wife dearly. In his diary he wrote: ‘Nexhmije is unwell, and when she is ill, I feel ill. When she is well, I feel well.’ Dalrymple comments: ‘This devotion might have been touching in anyone other than an unscrupulous murderer writing about his willing accomplice’

 

She died aged 99 with a perfectly clear conscience