Category Archives: banality

Hulot’s high-sounding bilge

In the French legacy media, Dalrymple comes across an item titled Les 100 principes de Nicolas Hulot pour un nouveau monde by a man who was until recently ministre d’État, ministre de la Transition écologique et solidaire. (‘By their job titles shall ye know them,’ the doctor-writer remarks.)

Dalrymple notes

the banality of mind, or the cynicism, of a person who could have written and published such a manifesto,

and the lack of judgment of the Paris newspaper the Monde in publishing it.

Each principle is

a cliché, a truism, or a banal falsehood, expressed with a self-satisfaction that would have made Mr Pecksniff seem like a self-doubter.

Seth Pecksniff: ‘Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.’

The principles take up almost two pages under the rubric of Ideas, but

they are to ideas what stale cheese sandwiches are to haute cuisine.

Dalrymple feels pity, but also experiences nausea:

  • pity because if the thoughts corresponded to anything running through their author’s mind more than fleetingly, it must be agonising to be him;
  • nausea because of the saccharine nature of most of the sentiments expressed, which make those of Hallmark cards seem acerbic.

And hiding in the great mound of baloney are

quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously, lead to a totalitarian society. Inside every sentimentalist is a despot trying to get out. Hulot’s principles illustrate the proximity of sentimentality to the potential of great brutality: for it would probably require a civil war for some of his principles to be put into practice.

Here are the principles:

Le temps est venu, ensemble, de poser les premières pierres d’un nouveau monde.

Le temps est venu de transcender la peur en espoir.

Le temps est venu pour une nouvelle façon de penser.

Le temps est venu de la lucidité.

Le temps est venu de dresser un horizon commun.

Le temps est venu de ne plus sacrifier le futur au présent.

Le temps est venu de résister à la fatalité.

Le temps est venu de ne plus laisser l’avenir décider à notre place.

Le temps est venu de ne plus se mentir.

Le temps est venu de réanimer notre humanité.

Le temps est venu de la résilience.

hangeLe temps est venu de prendre soin et de réparer la planète.

Le temps est venu de traiter les racines des crises.

Le temps est venu d’appréhender l’ensemble des crises écologiques, climatiques, sociales, économiques et sanitaires comme une seule et même crise: une crise de l’excès.

Le temps est venu d’entendre la jeunesse et d’apprendre des anciens.

Le temps est venu d’entendre la jeunesse et d’apprendre des anciens.

Le temps est venu de créer du lien.

Le temps est venu de miser sur l’entraide.

Le temps est venu d’applaudir la vie.

Le temps est venu d’honorer la beauté du monde.

Le temps est venu de se rappeler que la vie ne tient qu’à un fil. 

Le temps est venu de nous réconcilier avec la nature.

Le temps est venu de respecter la diversité et l’intégrité du vivant.

Le temps est venu de laisser de l’espace au monde sauvage.

Le temps est venu de traiter les animaux en respectant leurs intérêts propres.

Le temps est venu de reconnaître l’humanité plurielle.

Le temps est venu de lier notre je au nous.

Le temps est venu d’écouter les peuples premiers.

Le temps est venu de cultiver la différence.

Le temps est venu d’acter notre communauté de destin avec la famille humaine et tous les êtres vivants. 

Le temps est venu de reconnaître notre vulnérabilité.

Le temps et venu d’apprendre de nos erreurs.

Le temps est venu de l’inventaire de nos faiblesses et de nos vertus. 

Le temps est venu de nous concilier avec les limites planétaires.

Le temps est venu de changer de paradigme. 

Le temps est venu d’opérer la mue d’un système périmé.

Le temps est venu de redéfinir les fins et les moyens.

Le temps est venu de redonner du sens au progrès.

Le temps est venu de l’indulgence et de l’exigence. 

Le temps est venu de s’émanciper des dogmes.

Le temps est venu de l’intelligence collective. 

Le temps est venu d’une mondialisation qui partage, qui coopère et qui donne aux plus faibles.

Le temps est venu de préférer le juste échange au libre-échange.

Le temps est venu de préférer le juste échange au libre-échange.

Le temps est venu de globaliser ce qui est vertueux et de dé globaliser ce qui est néfaste.

Le temps est venu de définir, préserver et protéger les biens communs. 

Le temps est venu de la solidarité universelle.

Le temps est venu de la transparence et de la responsabilité.

Le temps est venu d‘une économie qui préserve et redistribue à chacun.

Le temps est venu de mettre un terme à la dérégulation à la spéculation et à l’évasion fiscale.

Le temps est venu d’effacer la dette des pays pauvres.

Le temps est venu de s’émanciper des politiques partisanes. 

Le temps est venu de s’extraire des idéologies stériles.

Le temps est venu des démocraties inclusives.

Le temps est venu de s’inspirer des citoyens.

Le temps est venu d’appliquer le principe de précaution.

Le temps est venu de graver dans le droit les principes d’une politique écologique, sociale et civilisationnelle. 

Le temps est venu de faire mentir le déterminisme social.

Le temps est venu de combler les inégalités de destin.

Le temps est venu de l’égalité absolue entre les femmes et les hommes.

Le temps est venu de tendre la main aux humbles et aux invisibles.

Le temps est venu d’exprimer plus qu’une juste gratitude à celles et ceux, souvent étrangers, qui dans nos pays hier et aujourd’hui exécutent des tâches ingrates. 

Le temps est venu de valoriser prioritairement les métiers qui permettent la vie.

Le temps est venu du travail qui épanouit.

Le temps est venu de l’avènement de l’économie sociale et solidaire.

Le temps est venu de l’avènement de l’économie sociale et solidaire.

Le temps est venu d’exonérer les services publics de la loi du rendement.

Le temps est venu de relocaliser des pans entiers de l’économie.

Le temps est venu de la cohérence et de réorienter nos activités et nos investissements vers l’utile et non le nuisible.

Le temps est venu d’éduquer nos enfants à l’être, au civisme, au vivre ensemble et de leur apprendre à habiter la terre.

Le temps est venu de nous fixer des limites dans ce qui blesse et aucune dans ce qui soigne.

Le temps est venu de la sobriété.

Le temps est venu d’apprendre à vivre plus simplement.

Le temps est venu de nous réapproprier le bonheur.

Le temps est venu de nous libérer de nos addictions consuméristes.

Le temps est venu de ralentir.

Le temps est venu de voyager près de chez nous.

Le temps est venu de nous défaire de nos conditionnements mentaux individuels et collectifs.

Le temps est venu de nous fixer des limites dans ce qui blesse et aucune dans ce qui soigne.

Le temps est venu de faire naître des désirs simples.

Le temps est venu de distinguer l’essentiel du superflu. 

Le temps est venu d’arbitrer dans les possibles.

Le temps est venu de renoncer à ce qui compromet l’avenir. 

Le temps est venu de la créativité et de l’impact positif.

Le temps est venu de lier notre je au nous.

Le temps est venu de croire en l’autre.

Le temps est venu de revisiter nos préjugés. 

Le temps est venu du discernement.

Le temps est devenu d’admettre la complexité.

Le temps est venu de synchroniser science et conscience.

Le temps est venu de l’unité.

Le temps est venu de l’humilité.

Le temps est venu de la bienveillance.

Le temps est venu de traiter les animaux en respectant leurs intérêts propres.

Le temps est venu de l’empathie.

Le temps est venu de la dignité pour tous.

Le temps est venu de déclarer que le racisme est la pire des pollutions mentales. 

Le temps est venu de la modestie et de l’audace.

Le temps est venu de combler le vide entre nos mots et nos actes et d’agir en grand.

Le temps est venu où chacun doit faire sa part et être l’artisan du monde de demain.

Le temps est venu de l’engagement. 

Le temps est venu de croire qu’un autre monde est possible.

Le temps est venu d’un élan effréné pour ouvrir de nouvelles voies.

Le temps est venu sur cette matrice de choisir, encourager et accompagner nos dirigeants ou représentants.

Le temps est venu pour chacun de faire vivre ce manifeste.

Le temps est venu de créer un lobby des consciences.

 

Inside the befuddled mind of Sadiq Khan

Dalrymple notes that after one of the regular Islamist atrocities, public figures

always manage somehow to say something that is either pusillanimous or does not need saying.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, found words that, says Dalrymple,

contrived to combine banality with error.

  • He said that the attacks were deliberate, as if anyone might otherwise have thought them accidental, or performed in a fit of absence of mind.
  • He said that they were cowardly, which is the one thing that they were not. True, the people that the perpetrators attacked were defenceless, but the perpetrators could hardly have been under any illusion about their fate. Even with the prospect of 72 virgins as a reward, it must have taken courage to do what they did.

Courage, Dalrymple points out,

is not in itself a virtue: it becomes a virtue only in pursuit of a virtuous aim. A man who is evil need not thereby be a coward, and frequently in fact is not. A timidly evil man is probably preferable to a bravely evil one, unless his timidity leads him to superior cunning.

Khan said that the victims were innocents. Dalrymple asks:

In what sense were they innocents? It was unlikely that they, of all humanity, were born without Original Sin. It could only be that they were innocents by comparison with the guilty. But who, in the context of being mown down by a driver or attacked by men with long knives, are the guilty?

In other words, there exists in Khan’s mind

a group of people whom it would have been less heinous for the terrorists to kill, whom it would not have been cowardly for them to have killed.

A patient of Dalrymple’s

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 23.48.53

From fresco cycle, Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua. Giotto, c. 1305

She was, writes Dalrymple,

a working-class woman of dignified mien. Her brother died in a submarine sunk during the war, and her sister-in-law was killed in an air raid, leaving her the task of bringing up their orphaned child. Her husband had died comparatively young, and her first son had died of a heart attack at 42. (‘He had just finished a game of football, doctor, and was in the changing rooms. He fell on the floor, and his mates thought he had slipped, and they told him to stop messing about. He just looked up at them—smiled—and he was gone.’)

The bitterest blow

was the death of another son, killed in an accident in which a truck, carelessly driven, crushed his car. He was 50. She brought me his photo, her hand trembling slightly as she gave it to me. He was a businessman who had devoted his spare time to raising money for the Children’s Hospital. ‘It doesn’t seem right, somehow,’ she said, ‘that he should have gone before me.’ Did she still cry? ‘Yes, doctor, but only when I’m on my own. It’s not right, is it, to let anyone see you. After all, life has to go on.’

Could anyone, says Dalrymple,

have doubted either the depth of her feeling or of her character? Could any decent person fail to have been moved by the self-mastery she had achieved, the foundation of her strength?

Yet such fortitude

is the virtue that the acolytes of the hug-and-confess culture wish to extirpate from the British national character as obsolete, in favour of a banal, self-pitying, witless, and shallow emotional incontinence.

From Germany, hope for insomniacs

The federal foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Zzz zzz zzz… Verbal anæsthesia: the federal foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, delivers an address that is well-timed (coming shortly after the British voted to leave the European Union), and in duration no longer than about an hour-and-a-half, concerning the glories of the European Union. Zzz zzz zzz…

Zzz zzz zzz zzz…

Picking up a copy of the Paris daily the Monde, which he describes as the French equivalent of the Times of New York, though

still rather more interesting,

Dalrymple comes across an article by the Bundesminister des Auswärtigen, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. To read it, Dalrymple says,

is to enter a world of grey thought, evasive cliché, Soviet-style slogans, verbal anæsthesia. I think you could put almost anyone to sleep by reading it aloud to him.

Steinmeier’s remarks are intended to be

a stirring call to readers, like de Gaulle’s radio broadcast from London.

There are passages such as this:

We are committed to making Europe better. This is the direction taken by the proposals put forward by Jean-Marc Ayrault [the Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international] and myself. We have ideas on improved internal and external security, an active migration policy and a policy for growth and employment. We look forward to receiving lots of constructive ideas. A better, more flexible EU will respect differing views on the further progress of Europe and will allow for different speeds, without excluding anyone or leaving anyone behind. Instead of arguing about what the ultimate goal of European integration should be, we should work towards tangible results. It is only by working together that we will make progress. That is why it is so important for us to consult each other in the group of 27, to listen carefully to each other, and then take joint action.

Hergestellt in Detmold, Deutschland

Hergestellt in Detmold, Deutschland

Zzzz zzz zzz zzz… Dalrymple comments:

I do not know Mr Steinmeier and have no animus against him. He is probably a perfectly decent man, as politicians go. What intrigues me is whether his article corresponds to any thoughts that actually ran through his head. If they did, one can only pity him: how boring it must be to be Mr Steinmeier.

But Dalrymple does not want to be accused of selective quotation, so he closes his eyes and lets his finger alight at random on part of the article. Here is the passage:

We are looking back on an unprecedented 70 years of peace and stability. More than 25 years have passed since we brought an end to the division of our continent. The process of European unification is an unparalleled success story. At its core is an agreed political framework under which the member states come to Brussels to manage their relations and settle their conflicts — and do not head off to the battlefield. This agreement has lost none of its utility or significance. The European peace project must be passed on intact to the generations who will follow us.

Zzz zzz zzz zzz… Dalrymple says that to combine, in such a way,

soporific banality with cunning evasiveness takes, I suppose, talent of a kind, the kind of talent required to rule without appearing to want to do so. It is a dull talent, and one that I cannot much admire.

Apotheosis of the exhibitionist

Dalrymple endures a little of the output of the popular singer David Bownie so we don’t have to, and concludes that its principal characteristic is

banality.

The appeal of the lyrics, he says, is to people

whose idea of human suffering is the natural consequence of their own self-indulgence. And this is now a mass phænomenon. We live in societies in which an unprecedented proportion of the total of suffering is self-inflicted.

I love Martina, Mama and Papa

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 09.44.23Dalrymple visits the Musée Guimet to view an exhibition of Korean painting and decorative arts. He writes:

I came out knowing much more than when I went in. I was moved by what I had seen and was full of resolution to read up on the subject.

As he leaves, Dalrymple glances at the visitors’ book, which contains comments such as these:

  • Necessary to clean the glass cases to protect the works. Too many fingerprints. Thank you.
  • [A note pointing to the need to make changes to the lighting and disposition of exhibits, concluding with the remark:] Ophthalmologists and osteopaths will thank the museum for its co-operation.
  • Your restaurant rather resembles that of a clinic or a hospital.
  • I love Martina, Mama and Papa. [Enclosed in a heart shape.]

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 08.47.31

John Martin, 1852. Oil on canvas. Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Man, writes Dalrymple, is 
’the only species (as far as we know) that takes pleasure in contemplating its annihilation‘. Yet 
’the appetite for soothing banality is as great, and perhaps dialectically related to, the appetite for apocalyptic visions’.