Category Archives: anarchy

A satanic gynæcologist

Dalrymple points out that J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise (1975)

has several doctors as characters: a lecturer in physiology at a medical school, a psychiatrist, some neurosurgeons, and a gynæcologist.

The book

is typical of his dystopian genre. The high-rise of the title is one of four 40-storey blocks of flats built in the docklands area of London (as the novel was published in 1975, the location is an instance of Ballard’s prescience).

The residents of the new development, all of the professional classes,

start a war against each other of a class nature (the higher the floor you live on, the higher your social status).

Eventually there is anarchy.

Everything is vandalised, the services cease to work, rubbish accumulates everywhere, the walls are covered in graffiti, and the residents raid one another for food and eat each other’s pet dogs.

Dalrymple notes that almost every element of Ballard’s fictional horror is visible in less extreme form in the real world today.

Pangbourne, the gynæcologist,

is among the worst characters in the breakdown of order. Rich and successful, he lives on the highest floor, the 40th, and has led a raid with women acolytes to the lower floors, capturing an accountant and a meteorologist.

Dalrymple asks:

Which of us has never met a Pangbourne?

Looters at the ready

The threat of barbarism and mob rule

In conditions of anarchy, after, for instance, a hurricane,

a crude and violent order, based upon brute force and psychopathic ruthlessness, soon establishes itself, which regards philanthropy not as a friend but as an enemy and a threat.

While Dalrymple acknowledges that

all of us who were born with original sin (or whatever you want to call man’s fundamental natural flaws) are capable of savagery in the right circumstances,

he points out that by no means all of us

immediately lose our veneer of civilisation in conditions of adversity, however great. A veneer may be thin, but this makes it more, not less, precious, and its upkeep more, not less, important.

Looters, Dalrymple notes,

look bitter, angry, resentful, and vengeful as they go about what British burglars are inclined (in all seriousness) to call their ‘work’. The gangs are reported to have used racial taunts during their depredations. In all probability, the looters believe that, in removing as much as they can from stores, they are not so much stealing as performing acts of restitution or compensatory justice for wrongs received. They are not wronging the owners of the stores; on the contrary, the owners of the stores have wronged them over the years by restricting their access to the goods they covet and to which they believe they have a right. The hurricane has thus given them the opportunity to take justice into their own hands and settle old scores.

It is, he says,

a terrible indictment of all the efforts undertaken in recent years by government welfare programmes and institutions that practice affirmative action, such as universities, to ameliorate the condition of underclass blacks. It implies that the nihilistic alienation of the looters and gang members is as great as that to be found in Soweto at the height of the apartheid regime. Far from ameliorating the situation, then, the billions spent on welfare programmes, and the intellectual ingenuity expended on justifying the unjustifiable in the form of affirmative action, have resulted in a hatred that is bitter and widespread among those condescended to in this manner.