Category Archives: balkanisation

Failure and feeble-mindedness of the Left

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-22-57-00Dalrymple writes that whenever the Left see

a foreign enemy of their own country whom they can usefully co-opt as an ally in their disputes with their own domestic enemies, they resort to nihilistic relativism and multiculturalism, thus explaining away the vileness of their new ally’s atrocities as being the expression of his sacrosanct cultural tradition.

The Left

has comprehensively lost the economic argument that was once its raison d’être, and is reduced to the work of cultural destruction and the balkanisation of society into little communities of ideological monomaniacs—the feminists, homosexual and animal liberationists, and so forth. The Left lost its soul when it lost the economic argument.

So complete has been the defeat of socialism

that anyone who now avowed a belief in the superior efficiency of state-run industry would be more a candidate for the lunatic asylum (supposing that any remained open) than for high political office.

All that the Left can nowadays propose is

social policy so destructive that it allegedly necessitates a vast state apparatus to repair the damage it does.

Of the domestic policy prescriptions of the Left,

multiculturalism is among the most destructive. It was once the honourable goal of the Left, at least in Britain, to spread higher culture to the working class, and to immigrants, so that every person capable by inclination and natural endowment of enjoying, participating in, or contributing to that higher culture would do so. More recently, however, the Left has devoted its energies to denying that there is any higher or lower, better or worse in cultural matters. Not coincidentally, this betrayal allows Leftist intellectuals to preen themselves on the broadness of their minds while they maintain their membership of a social élite. They rarely educate their own children as if their theoretical pronouncements were true.

With regard to the Vietnam War,

it was one thing to oppose it because you thought it was futile and ethically worse than not fighting it (not necessarily true, but at least an honest opinion); quite another because you thought that Uncle Ho was a good man who was leading his people to freedom and prosperity, something that you could believe only by employing all the human mind’s capacity for special pleading and self-deception.

Conservator of civilisation

Zweig in 1900

Zweig in 1900

The secondhand book dealer’s vital contribution

Dalrymple writes that in Buchmendel (1929), Stefan Zweig

indicates symbolically, and with great force, the destruction of cosmopolitan tolerance by the nationalist madness of the First World War in the fate of a single person.

Buchmendel

is a Jewish peddler of antiquarian books in Vienna. For many years before the outbreak of the war, he carried out his business in a Viennese café. Buchmendel lives for books; he has no other life. He is astonishingly learned, in the offbeat way of secondhand book dealers; every scholar in Vienna (the Vienna, recall, of Brahms, Freud, and Breuer, of Mahler and Klimt, of Schnitzler, Rilke, and Hofmannsthal) consults him on bibliographical matters.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.23Buchmendel is otherworldly.

His wants are few, his interest in money minimal. The café owner is happy to have as a customer a man consulted by so many eminent men, even though he consumes little and occupies a table all day. The café owner understands, as does everyone else, that Buchmendel is a contributor to, because he is a conservator of, civilisation, and being a civilised man himself, he is honored to welcome him.

But the war supervenes.

Buchmendel is arrested, because he has written to both London and Paris, asking why he has not received copies of bibliographical reviews. The military censors assume that this correspondence is a code for espionage: they can’t conceive that a man could concern himself with bibliography at such a time. The  authorities discover that Buchmendel, born in Russian Galicia, is not even an Austrian citizen. Interned in a camp for enemy aliens, he waits two years before the authorities realise that he is only what he seems, a book peddler.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.04On his release, Vienna has changed.

No longer the centre of an empire, it has become the impoverished capital of a monoglot rump state. Buchmendel’s café has changed hands; the new owner does not understand or welcome Buchmendel and ejects him. Buchmendel’s life has fallen apart, as has the civilisation to which he was a valuable contributor; now homeless, he soon dies of pneumonia.

Zweig makes it clear

that though Buchmendel was eccentric and his life one-dimensional, even stunted, he could offer his unique contribution to Viennese civilisation because no one cared about his nationality. His work and knowledge were vastly more important to his cosmopolitan customers than his membership in a collectivity.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.54No man was more sensitive than Zweig

to the destructive effects upon individual liberty of the demands of large or strident collectivities. He would have viewed with horror the cacophony of monomanias — sexual, racial, social, egalitarian — that marks the intellectual life of our societies, each monomaniac demanding legislative restriction on the freedom of others in the name of a supposed greater, collective good. His work was a prolonged (though muted and polite) protest at the balkanisation of our minds and sympathies.

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