Author Archives: DalrympleFans

The Danube of Thought’s visit to Pyongyang

Dalrymple points out that Nicolae Ceaușescu was

a great admirer and would-be imitator of Kim Il-sung. I cannot recommend highly enough the film of the Danube of Thought’s visit to Pyongyang. It is both terrible and hilarious, especially the dancing.

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A year down under, then a career in accountancy

A young Frenchman whom Dalrymple knows has just returned from a year in Australia. For many young French people, writes Dalrymple,

a year in Australia has become almost a rite de passage, their favoured destination for such a rite.

The young Frenchman

did not regret his choice before he knuckled down to the serious business of having a career that he did not really want and would not really enjoy. Such is the fate, perhaps, of most of mankind, or at least of educated mankind.

The hope of the world

Mailer, having taken racial stereotypes as seriously as any Ku Klux Klansman, saw in the supposedly uninhibited sexuality of the Negro the hope of the world for a more abundant and richer life

Hauteur and haughtiness at the Guardian

Leafing through a copy of the London newspaper the Guardian, Dalrymple comes across the following sentence written by a woman called Bunting:

When a girl at 17 decides to go ahead and have a baby, there is no tragedy of lost opportunity other than the local checkout till waiting for her low-paid labour.

Dalrymple comments:

This sentence breathes snobbery and disdain for those who actually do such work; it assumes, moreover, that once a supermarket checkout cashier, always a supermarket checkout cashier, a fate worse than death. That there might actually be people for whom such work is suitable, and potentially not odious, does not occur to the writer.

What makes the work odious, Dalrymple points out,

is not the work itself, but those who communicate their disdain of it.

Thus snobbery, of the kind expressed by the Guardian,

makes the import of labour necessary.

South Africa takes the road to penury, tyranny, and famine

Dalrymple writes that farmers, however efficient,

tend to be heavily indebted, but their debts are performing so long as they produce profitably. Expropriation of their land leaves the banks holding huge unserviced debt, for the new owners, producing much less or nothing at all, have no means to service them. The only way to prevent the banks from collapsing is drastically to increase the money supply and to keep doing so.

One might have hoped that the example of Zimbabwe, with its long border with South Africa to the north and its long stream of refugees to the south,

would have been sufficient warning to South Africa not to embark on any similar policy. After all, the stakes are much greater than they were in Zimbabwe. The population is many times larger than Zimbabwe’s, and vastly more urbanised, so that any last resort to subsistence farming is impossible. There is no south for the population to flee to. South Africa’s is already a much more violent society than Zimbabwe’s ever was, with more severe social problems. A catastrophe could easily ensue.

A fifth of white land in South Africa has already been transferred on the basis of willing seller, willing buyer.

  • Why were the sellers willing to sell when they had been settled for so long? Because the longer-term prospects for them in South Africa are dim; many white farmers have been murdered and the rhetoric towards them has long been of a threatening kind which sooner or later would have to be acted on if the rhetoricians were not to lose face.
  • Have the persons to whom the transfers were made maintained former levels of production? It would be surprising if productivity were not changed for the worse. Large-scale commercial farming is not something that is learned in the twinkling of an eye.

From Marx, Capital, volume 1, chapter 32

Dalrymple notes that commercial farms in South Africa

are heavily indebted to the banks. If the farms were expropriated without compensation, the state, or to whomever the state passed on the farms, would be taking on the liabilities as well as the assets. State farming does not have a very good record anywhere in the world, to put it mildly; and it is unlikely that people could be found to continue farming the land profitably. Either the banks would be obliged to write off enormous debts, with the consequent possibility of collapse, or a Zimbabwe-type inflation would have to come to their rescue. This is without mention of the severe food shortages that would occur. The expropriators are expropriated. The problem is that those in whose name the expropriations take place starve to death afterwards.

The very possibility of expropriation without compensation

will have a devastating effect on production, for who will invest if it is only to be expropriated later? That is one of the reasons why security of property is so important, and the South African parliament has shown that it does not understand this. The spectre of expropriation will encourage more commercial farmers to leave and they will not easily be persuaded to return.

Dalrymple says that expropriation without compensation

is so obviously a bad idea that the wonder is that it has been voted as a possibility, all the more so as there is the experience of South Africa’s northern neighbour to draw upon.

Mere stupidity does not account for the proposal.  When Dalrymple was in South Africa he met prominent members of the African National Congress. He had the impression that they were

positioning themselves much as the Russian oligarchs positioned themselves. It was a question of the division of the spoils in a corporatist state. They would set about disproportionate self-enrichment under cover of the rhetoric of dramatic change after an oppressive past.

Rhetorician of resentment

The ANC’s task now

is to ensure the continued loyalty of the political class. There is no better way of doing this than by arrogating powers of patronage, both to confer and to confiscate property. This can all be done under cover of the rhetoric of resentment; and the policy will be disastrous only if its aim is the betterment of the lot of the population. If its aim is the consolidation of power, at least for a time, it makes perfect sense.

 

White farmers turned Rhodesia into the breadbasket of the region

Living in Rhodesia in ’76, Dalrymple read up on the question of land distribution. He

came to the utopian (and false) conclusion that a reform in which white-owned commercial farmland was redistributed to African peasants could serve the cause of justice without reducing production.

The whites, he writes,

were 5% of the population and owned half the land (the better half too). The commercial farmers among them were a small minority of a small minority. There was no doubt that at the historic root of their ownership (not very far back in time, either) was the ruthless use of force and fraud. There was also no doubt that they had turned Rhodesia into the breadbasket of the whole region.

Land expropriation, when it came,

neither served justice nor preserved production. It was not the peasants who benefited from it, but the régime’s cronies.

Production fell 90%

and turned a country that had long been a magnet for immigration into one of mass emigration. The alternative to mass emigration was mass starvation. The land expropriation played its part in Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation, one of the most dramatic in history.

Dean Swift turns in his grave

Michael Foot, Dalrymple explains, was the scion of an upper-middle-class English family who became a left-wing leader of the UK’s Labour party. He was a decent man, though naïve and misguided, and

unlike most of the politicians of today he was cultivated, being a literary scholar.

He published a study of a year in Swift’s life, called The Pen and the Sword (1957). After his death, his large collection of books by or about Swift was sold. Dalrymple intended to buy a few of the items that he could (barely) afford from the bookseller’s catalogue,

but the whole collection was suddenly bought by an American university library. It was worth more than the total wealth of all but a tiny minority of his countrymen, but Foot devoted his life to bringing about the economic conditions to ensure that no one would ever again be able to assemble such a collection.

In Dr Strangelove, I Presume (1999), Foot argues for total nuclear disarmament,

a cause long dear to his heart, or mind, or some combination of the two.

The first words of the author’s preface are:

Every day when I tried to complete this book with a proper review of the latest evidence, I was interrupted by new discoveries. One of the most moving and instructive was the letter printed opposite.

The letter printed opposite was an open one from ‘Naveena’, a 12-year-old schoolgirl, to the Indian prime minister. It starts:

I am writing on behalf of all children.

Michael Foot

Dalrymple finds this

grandiose, self-important, arrogant and presumptuous, in the manner of youth of a certain kind. It irritates me.

‘Naveena’ goes on to lecture, or hector, the prime minister:

I don’t think bombs protect anybody. You don’t get power by possessing arsenals.

These statements

are highly disputable. Naveena is no little boy crying out that the emperor is naked; she reveals nothing and speaks and writes in clichés that have been uttered hundreds of millions of times, daily and for years.

What is significant, says Dalrymple,

is that a man like Foot — who had spent a lifetime studying and appreciating Swift, of all people — should have claimed to be moved by such claptrap. I suspect that he was not so much moved by ‘Naveena’ as moved by the goodness of his payment of attention to her, and anxious to demonstrate it to the world. Therein lies a sickness of our time.

Notes on the indoctrination of children

Dalrymple is in favour of indoctrinating children so that they are

  • polite and respectful to their elders
  • eschew pop music
  • do not chew gum
  • resist the temptation to drop litter
  • refrain from sending text messages to their friends in restaurants

But he is against indoctrinating children

on contentious political matters, where their minds are filled with ill-digested slogans from which they never recover the ability to think independently.

Dalrymple’s impression is that children

have become increasingly like those who have been to madrassas, except that what they have been taught is not the Koran but a vulgate of political correctness.

When he talks to young people, he senses that they have been

brainwashed, and that some thoughts are beyond the range of their neuronal possibilities. When I say that I am uncertain about global warming, they react as I presume people would if, in Mecca, I denied the existence of God and alluded to the less attractive characteristics of Mohammed even as depicted by early Moslems.

‘I don’t care what you all say: there is no Allah and Mohammed is not his prophet’

Save the whale and the worm

Dalrymple observes that the many children at the Marche pour le climat

looked almost as pleased with themselves as their parents, who were very pleased indeed. I daresay that had I asked the children why they were at the demonstration, they would have been able, like performing monkeys, to say something about saving the planet, making it safe for the whales, dolphins, and pandas.

Dalrymple himself has nothing against the whales, dolphins, and pandas,

in fact I much prefer a world in which there are such creatures.

He confesses, however, that he is not so sure about Ascaris lumbricoides,

the absolutely disgusting, large white roundworm that parasitises the human intestine, sometimes in large numbers, and emerges through various orifices.

Terre + erreur = terreur

So read one of the idiotic banners at the Marche pour le climat. Dalrymple comments:

Only people who had lived all their lives in a state of the utmost comfort and security (try that slogan in Rwanda or Cambodia) and who had hardly ever suffered fright, let alone terror, could have held up such a banner and believed that it really meant what it said.

Terror for these pampered nitwits

was a distant prospect enjoyable to contemplate, as in a disaster movie, rather than something that was within their own experience.