Category Archives: arrogance

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.

We are so wise and nice that nothing bad can happen to us

The smug deluded Scandinavians

Behind the notion (always somewhat specious and now defunct) that Scandinavians have attained a higher level of civilised governance lies, writes Dalrymple,

not only complacency, but arrogance. ‘We are so wise and nice that what goes on in the rest of the world cannot affect us,’ they suppose. ‘Moreover, anyone who comes to live here must be so thankful for our generosity.’

This, Dalrymple points out, is a fantasy.

It requires a form of moral grandiosity to believe that you can live in such a fairytale, with a happy beginning, a happy middle, and a happy end, without ever having to think of such potentially nasty beasts as national interest and old enmity.

Placebo effect on the doctor

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 08.39.32Dalrymple relates that in Augy Hayter’s Fit to Be Tied,

a patient who has escaped from an asylum returns to his former office, where he was the boss, and advertises for an employee. A young man applies, but in the middle of his interview a doctor (described as having ‘the arrogance of insecurity’) and a nurse arrive to haul him back to the asylum.

The nurse returns

to the office to reassure the applicant, who asks, ‘Is it true he is being given shock treatment?’ The nurse replies that it is and it isn’t; he goes through the motions of having it, but the apparatus has been disabled so that no electricity goes through his brain. The doctor does not know this but is satisfied with the result.

The play, says Dalrymple,

seems to have been inspired by the commonly repeated story of the electroconvulsive therapy clinic in which the machine had broken down but nobody noticed: to which one can only say they cannot have been very observant.

England’s barbaric young people

Friday afternoon. Things get altogether livelier at nightfall

Friday afternoon. Things will have become altogether livelier by nightfall

The youth of Britain, writes Dalrymple, is

among the world’s most unpleasant and potentially violent.

Of course, not all young Britons

are unattractive in appearance and conduct — only a far higher proportion of them than of the young of any other nation. It requires but an overnight stay on a Friday or Saturday in any British city to prove it.

Visiting Russians, for example,

are appalled by what they witness.

The characteristics that are common to all classes of Britons are

  • arrogance
  • a sense of entitlement
  • an unwillingness to moderate behaviour for the convenience of others

The main difference between the classes is that

the rich can pay for what they feel entitled to, while the poor have to wheedle, cajole, swindle and steal it. But the inflamed sense of entitlement is the same.

Manie und Querulantenwahn

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 13.09.00A.L. Rowse, Dalrymple reminds us, was

irascible and arrogant.

He

accused practically everyone who had ever taken a different view of things from his own of being ‘third-rate’. He almost alone was first-rate.

Rowse dismissed one reviewer thus:

He had never written a book himself and so was possessed with envy of those who can and do. This was all too boringly recognisable – one can smell it a mile off.

Something else can be smelt a mile off, says Dalrymple, namely

paranoia querulans.

The Islamists’ cyclopean view of life

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Luckily, says Dalrymple, Western countries

are not given to lasting expressions of unanimity, the deliberate preservation of our peaceful divisions being what the struggle with Muslim fundamentalism is all about.

Dalrymple writes that the Muslim fundamentalists,

like other would-be dictators, have a cyclopean view of life, and believe that everyone else is blind. Their stupidity is matched only by their arrogance.

However,

it does not follow that our governments’ policies should be incoherent and vacillating.

François Hollande, who had not previously

seemed à la hauteur of his position, appearing more like the deputy head of a lycée in Limoges than a head of state,

promised that French nationality would be withdrawn from convicted terrorists with dual nationality, French and other, even if they were born in France. The problem is that

there is always the possibility of a miscarriage of justice.

Dalrymple says of Muslim terrorism:

I do not pretend to have the answer to the problem. I suspect that it will require long attrition rather than a final showdown. I am optimistic about the long run because of the extreme intellectual weakness of Islam in the modern world (far greater than that of Marxism, which at least produced some interesting historians), but pessimistic about the short.

A chilling epigraph

Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 07.58.21It is contained, Dalrymple writes, in Jürgen Thorwald’s The Dismissal: The Last Days of Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1960). It is by Josef Naas, director of the Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, and reads:

In the coming struggle of the proletariat, in the clash between socialism and capitalism, millions will lose their lives. In the face of this fact it is a trivial matter whether Sauerbruch kills a few dozen people on his operating table. We need the name of Sauerbruch.

Sauerbruch, Dalrymple explains, was

a brilliant but arrogant surgeon who began to dement and did not realise his powers were declining. He persisted in operating, though he started to kill patients. He did this with the complaisance of the authorities because, after the war, the East Germans were pleased, for reasons of propaganda, that he continued to work in Berlin.

The English then and now

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 09.00.33Once, writes Dalrymple, the qualities of the English population included

  • cool and ironic detachment from its own experience, that permitted it to face adversity with great good humour and modesty rather than by resort to histrionics
  • a polite restraint that was a precondition of depth of character. This restraint seemed to me heroic in an undemonstrative way; it was also the guarantor of an implicit subtlety

Today the chief characteristics of the English, Dalrymple points out, are

  • militant vulgarity
  • lack of restraint
  • arrogant loudness
  • ferocious and determined drunkenness
  • antisocial egotism
  • aggression and quick resort to violence
  • grossness of appetites
  • prideful ugliness of appearance
  • lack of finesse in any department of human existence

Ghettoised Sweden

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 09.06.25Dalrymple points out that last year, Sweden took in 100,000 migrants and this year it is estimated that it will have taken in 190,000, equivalent to 3 per cent of the population. He says:

If this rate were to continue for very long, Sweden would be irreversibly changed for ever.

On the London Guardian newspaper’s website, Dalrymple comes across a video about the Sverigedemokraterna or Sweden Democrats, a political party opposed to mass immigration. Dalrymple writes:

The Guardian journalist interviewed young members and made them appear arrogant and unattractive. Whether this was the result of editing or a true representation of them, or both, I cannot say. She herself appeared intolerably smug and self-righteous, arrogant in a different way. She asked the young Swedes what was wrong with vibrant multicultural societies such as Britain and France.

Even from the video,

what was shown, no doubt unintentionally, was that Sweden was not multicultural, it was ghettoised, with practically no contact whatever between the refugees and natives.

The Swedes, says Dalrymple,

throw social security to the refugees as zookeepers throw meat to the lions.

One of the questions of the Guardian journalist to the young Swedes was

Why do you dress so smartly?

The question was asked, says Dalrymple,

in an accusatory tone, as if dressing smartly was yet another of their bad qualities, a derogation of their duty to appear casually or scruffily dressed like almost everyone else in modern society.

For the person who asked it,

any kind of formality in dress was symbolic of élitist or exclusivist political sympathies, whereas casual dress, the prevailing any-old-howism of the majority of the population, was symbolic of democratic and egalitarian sympathies, a demonstration of solidarity with the poor of the world. Whether poor people in Africa actually benefit from rich people dressing in expensively-torn jeans and T-shirts is not important: as with presents, it is the thought that counts.

There is another way of looking at it, Dalrymple says.

To dress well is a sign of respect for other people and society, to dress scruffily is a sign of disrespect for them, a sign of the purest egoism. Perhaps it is even possible to express élitism and respect at the same time.

We are so wise and nice

Dalrymple on complacency and even arrogance in the fairytale country

Therefore what goes on in the rest of the world cannot affect us: Dalrymple on complacency, arrogance and the little fairytale country