Category Archives: adolescent senescence

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.

Fidel’s fantasy of making the world anew — violently

Dictador Supremo: José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia

Dictador Supremo: José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia

Fidel Castro, writes Dalrymple,

was the José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia de nos jours. Yet Francia had one great merit by comparison with Castro and his admirers: he made no pretence that the régime represented democracy of a higher or better kind than the parliamentary variety. Francia did not pretend that it was a democracy of any kind, and came right out with it: his self-chosen title was Dictator.

Castro was the darling of the intellectuals

partly because, like them, he was so slovenly in appearance, partly because he represented their wish fulfilment (inside every rebel there’s a dictator trying to get out). To rant for hours in front of a captive audience unable to answer or object: what greater bliss for an intellectual?

Admiration for Castro in the West was, of course, from afar. Dalrymple points out that Castro’s admirers

would not have found the régime they affected to admire supportable for a single day.

The admiration in the West

for Castro and his appalling sidekick and potential rival, Ernesto Guevara, was essentially frivolous, more a question of style than of substance. It was the promise of eternal adolescence that the two revolutionary egotists held out that rendered them so attractive at a time when adolescence was regarded as the finest of the seven ages of man.

Alberto Korda with his photograph

Alberto Korda with his photograph

Dalrymple notes that

if the photographer Alberto Korda had not snapped Guevara in an uncharacteristically romantic pose (usually he looked dishevelled and unwashed), the cult would not have existed. This was the face that launched a thousand T-shirts, not to say berets, badges, posters, coffee mugs, car stickers, and other items of kitsch.

Dictador Dalrymple would force

anyone guilty of wearing a Guevara T-shirt to read 20 pages of his writings, which make those of Leonid Brezhnev seem like P.G. Wodehouse.

When Dalrymple contemplates

the printed acreage of praise of Castro by Western intellectuals, I recall the words of Thomas Carlyle with regard to what he calls the gauchos of Paraguay:

These men are fit to be drilled into something! Their lives stand there like empty capacious bottles, calling to the heavens and the earth. ‘Is there nothing to put into us, then?’

Dalrymple:

Yes, there is: fantasies of omnipotence, fantasies of making the world anew, with us in charge.

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Revolutionary egotists

Richard Gott’s perverted KGB view of history

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Richard Gott: Guardian writer and onetime KGB agent

Richard Willoughby Gott, the upper-class English journalist and spy for the Soviet Union, was educated at Winchester and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. A communist, Gott was recruited by the KGB in the late 1970s and writes for the London Guardian newspaper.

Dalrymple observes that although Gott

accepted trips paid for by the KGB, that didn’t harm his journalistic reputation anything like taking them from the CIA would have.

The traitor Gott, Dalrymple points out, is

always on the lookout for a left-wing economic experiment to laud, preferably in the tropics,

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-23-24-51and one of his

more recent enthusiasms was for the late Hugo Chávez, about whom he wrote a book. Chávez’s policies could have produced a shortage of saltwater in the Pacific.

As for Fidel Castro, Western intellectuals have long retained a soft spot for the Cuban dictator, and Gott is one of his leading European champions, being entirely uninterested in

the economic effects of Castro’s regime. When Castro seized power, Cuba was at the economic level of Italy, and richer than Spain. It had a poor peasantry, but so did Spain and Italy. Like Perón in Argentina, but even more dramatically, Castro undeveloped his country.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-23-23-58Nor is Gott interested in Cuba’s

  • mass emigration, or why it took place
  • executions
  • imprisonment of dissidents
  • censorship
  • constant surveillance
  • arbitrary arrest
  • omnipresent propaganda

Gott, says Dalrymple,

is now an elderly man, but he is still adolescent at heart, as so many intellectuals are.

The dictatorship of libertinism

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 17.34.55The life’s work of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, who has died aged 70, was, writes Dalrymple,

a phænomenon of sociological and social-psychological significance, at least in the Western world.

Lemmy was to the end a rebellious adolescent, emerging as

a senile rebel who could never bear to leave his adolescence behind, proud of his degeneracy unto death. In this, he was an authentic representative of modern psychological development: a short period of precocity followed by a long one of arrested development.

Lemmy is quoted as saying:

I founded the filthiest rock group in the world.

There is in these words, says Dalrymple,

an undoubted tone of self-congratulation. He had done something not just filthy, but superlatively filthy, and therefore, according to his own inverted scale of values, outstandingly meritorious.

Lemmy once said:

If one day we come to live near you, that will be the end of your lawn.

In other words,

ugliness will be my beauty, and furthermore I will impose it on you.

Interviewed once in a place where smoking was prohibited, Lemmy is quoted as saying:

I’ll need another reason not to smoke than that it’s forbidden.

Thus

he was the sole authority as to when, where, and whether to smoke. Others counted for nothing.

When, writes Dalrymple,

one acts a part for long enough, it ceases to be a mere act and one becomes what one pretends to be. The result of careers such as Mr Kilmister’s is to encourage a culture or subculture, almost unique in my experience, lacking all beauty, value, virtue, charm, or refinement. Its apotheosis would be the dictatorship of libertinism in which personal whim would play the part of the supposed word of God.

Hitch’s hormone-disturbed historiography

Christopher Hitchens: lifelong adolescence

Christopher Hitchens: lifelong adolescence

Lying not far beneath the surface of neo-atheist books, writes Dalrymple,

is the kind of historiography that many of us adopted in our hormone-disturbed adolescence, furious at the discovery that our parents sometimes told lies and violated their own precepts and rules. It can be summed up in Christopher Hitchens’s drumbeat in God Is Not Great: ‘Religion spoils everything.’ What? The St Matthew Passion? The cathedral of Chartres?

The emblematic religious person in the neo-atheist books

seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber—a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England.

It is

Amply proved his mettle

Amply proved his mettle

surely not news, except to someone so ignorant that he probably wouldn’t be interested in these books in the first place, that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities.

So have secularists and atheists, and

though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behaviour, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly.

In fact, says Dalrymple,

one can write the history of anything as a chronicle of crime and folly. Science and technology spoil everything: without trains and I.G. Farben, no Auschwitz; without transistor radios and mass-produced machetes, no Rwandan genocide.

The 70-year-old adolescents

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 07.55.41Forever a teenager

When one sees pictures of ageing rock stars, writes Dalrymple,

one is torn between repulsion and pity. Their faces are canyoned by age, but with their uncompromisingly youthful hairstyles, dress and comportment, they look like revenants in a budget horror film, as if they have just brushed the clay of the churchyard in which they were buried from their face and body. There are more and more people in our streets who look like this but who have never been rock stars; we grow older as a population, but not with acceptance, let alone grace.

Western culture is one of eternal adolescence, keeping us permanently immature.

First comes precocity, then arrested development.

Dalrymple points out that adolescence

is an age of bad taste, when all that is garish and meretricious attracts, and all that is subtle and meritorious repels. To make of adolescence the state in which one wishes to remain is to wish upon the world the permanent triumph of the kitsch, the shallow and the gimcrack.

Accordingly, the adolescent sensibility

is one that prevails in much of the art world, where the most adolescent of goals, transgression, is still aimed at. Shock the parents, épater le bourgeois.

The problem is that

the parents have long since refused to grow up and the bourgeoisie has long since decamped to Bohemia. It is hardly surprising that so much artistic production now has all the freshness of last week’s bread, for few are so conformist as rebellious youth.

Hitch’s smug, adolescent exhibitionism

A spotty record, to put it most kindly

Self-satisfaction seeping from every pore: the slightly sickening forms of cheap dissent exhibited by Hitchens went down well with certain sections of the US public. Rather than following Brecht and making one of the people’s paradises, such as the GDR, his home, he preferred the capitalist hell that is America, where as it happens he lived very comfortably indeed

Christopher Hitchens, writes Dalrymple, fell prey to the illusion that the striking of trivial attitudes was generosity enough for a lifetime. He

commodified his dissent, albeit in a niche market (though niches in America are larger than entire markets elsewhere).

While his brother Peter has thoroughly repented, Christopher retained

an emotional sympathy for his former views. In others, he would no doubt espy in this intellectual dishonesty and historical distortion; in himself, he sees truth to his own generous principles.

His review of a reissue of Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky, for example,

presents Trotsky principally as a gifted journalist and sage — a little like Hitchens himself, in fact — the force of whose ideas, or phrases, made the unjustly powerful tremble everywhere.

Why Hitchens’s unusual delicacy over this moral monster? Because, says Dalrymple, he

Guaranteed gentle handling: Hitchens knew the pleasures and glories of ultra-low-risk Western protest

Guaranteed gentle handling: Hitchens knew the pleasures and glories of ultra-low-risk Western protest

was himself once a follower of Trotsky and does not want to admit that he was, by implication, a supporter of mass murder, the ruthless suppression of opponents and the kind of tyranny that made all previous tyrannies appear bumbling and amateurish.

It was not that Hitchens wanted

to bring about such a tyranny, let alone live under one (anyone who did would hardly decamp to the US). Rather, he fell prey to the adolescent illusion that the striking of attitudes is generosity enough.

Other people had only

Self-regarding to the end

Self-regarding to the end

walk-on parts

when Hitchens was striking attitudes, which was most of the time, and his hatred of religion

strikes me as adolescent. We most of us know by now that religious bigotry is a bad thing — though the record of hardline secularists in the 20th century is not exactly spotless — but only an adolescent sees in the religious history of mankind nothing but intolerance. Compulsory attendance at school chapel must have been a traumatic experience for Hitchens.

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Attire that connotes the plebeian but denotes anything but

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.35.33The mandarin and the masses

A smug, moneyed, adolescent, Leftist poseur

Motorbike, leather jacket, T-shirt, jeans connote proletarian mass but denote Marxist mandarin

Yanis Veroufakis, the Greek finance minister, has been described as the pop star of the left. This is, as Dalrymple points out,

hardly a term of approbation, rather the reverse.

He has a powerful motorcycle, and likes to dress in a leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans. He is going quite bald. Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.49.25His facial expression

is that of considerable self-satisfaction. He no doubt thinks of himself as deeply unconventional, but in a world of six billion people it is hard to escape convention, and in any case it is not a worthy object.

In fact

he is that most conventional of figures, the adolescent who cannot bear to be fully adult, who wants to be 18-20 forever. In a few years’ time we shall see the first 80-year old adolescents.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.51.21While Veroufakis’ clothes have proletarian connotations,

their denotation is anything but. You can see that his black leather jacket must have been very expensive indeed, and his motorbike is not the kind that students ride, but a top-of-the-range swank model [a Yamaha XJR1300].

Veroufakis married into money and a high standard of living, that of the upper 0.1 per cent of the population, and Dalrymple guesses that

he has no great vocation for giving up his privileges for the benefit of the people.

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Youth thinks itself wise as a drunk man thinks himself sober

Youth, writes Dalrymple, is self-important. Youth,

so often characterised as idealistic, is egotistical. It thinks that no one has thought about anything before it applies itself to the matter in hand and that, unlike previous generations, it can make the world anew. Youth imagines that the world is easily tractable, that rebellion in the name of humanity against all that exists is somehow nobler than mere acceptance and conformity, that noisy opposition is better than quiet service. The latter is regarded as selling out, when it is normal maturation.

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Adolescent geriatric

The problem is that while youth would once have had its day and grown up,

we live at a time of unprecedented nostalgia for youth and its narcissistic rebelliousness. As the population ages, so youth becomes ever more desirable. Perhaps the most visible symbol of this is the refusal of rock stars to admit that they are no longer 18, and to dress or comport themselves differently from how they did then. Another sign was Tony Blair’s commitment to youthfulness as the touchstone of virtue and wisdom.

We are about to enter, says Dalrymple,

the first age of the adolescent geriatric, or the geriatric adolescent.

Young, dumb and full of cum

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 02.52.23Dalrymple’s youthful weak-mindedness and folly

There were his thoughts about alopecia:

I remember thinking that baldness in men was a physical sign or consequence of having compromised in cowardly fashion with the demands of the world for the sake of peace, quiet and comfort.

Dalrymple regarded an ordinary career as anathema, also

morally reprehensible, treachery to the demands of Life. It did not occur to me that everything I valued in life depended upon the willingness of others to live the type of life I did not wish to lead.

He fancied himself a daredevil, persuading himself that cheap excursions into apparent danger had some higher purpose. These exploits naturally caused anxiety to his mother and father, but

I didn’t give them a moment’s thought: it was precisely from them and from what they wanted for me that I sought to escape.

Of course, in the end, like so many spoilt, conceited young middle-class people, he

was able to have my cake and eat it.