Category Archives: barbarism

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.

Eviscerator of the idiocy of the age

If fame were the reward of merit alone, writes Dalrymple, Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans)

would have been one of the most famous men. Not that he would have greatly enjoyed such fame: his probity and attachment to higher values was too great for that. He combined in his person qualities that are rarely so closely associated: erudition and scholarship, taste, intellectual honesty, wit, literary gifts. I admired Leys more than any other contemporary writer.

Leys was a connoisseur of Chinese culture

and viewed its barbarous destruction with horror; he abominated Maoism at least two decades before it became obligatory for right-thinking persons to do so.

The Cultural Revolution, Dalrymple notes,

was not a very funny subject, since it was one of the greatest episodes of vandalism in history and caused the death of a million people; but Leys wrote so as to make you laugh. He was contemptuous of Western Mao-fanciers.

Dalrymple explains that

Leys’ guiding star was cultivation (in a broad sense) and his bête noires barbarism, stupidity and humbug. There was no better sniffer-out of humbug, the besetting sin of intellectuals.

Leys, Dalrymple points out,

could eviscerate the idiocy of an age in a few lines.

For example:

If one thinks of the great teachers of humanity — the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus — one is struck by a curious paradox: today, not a single one of them would be able to obtain even the most modest teaching post in one of our universities.

What British fascism looks like

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 07.55.55Timeservers led by scoundrels

Dalrymple grew up believing

that it couldn’t happen here; that the intrinsic decency, good sense and ironical detachment of the British would have precluded Nazism or anything like it from taking root. Now I am not so sure.

Utter vileness

does not need a numerical majority to become predominant in a society. The Nazis never had an electoral majority in Germany, yet Germany offered very little resistance to their barbarism. Evil, unlike good, is multiform. We can invent our own totalitarian evil. We have prepared the ground very well.

Hedonistic egotism, fear and resentment

form the character of a large proportion of our population, and it is a character that is ripe for exploitation. They have made themselves natural slaves.

Dalrymple recently received a circular headed New ethnic categories that began with the words,

As you may know, we are required to monitor the ethnic origins of our staff.

Who, he asks,

was this ‘we’ of whom the circular spoke: no names, only ‘the human resources unit’ (Orwell could have done no better). No decent reason for this fascistic practice was given; the ‘we are required’ being the final and irrefutable argument. It is a fair bet that not a peep of protest was uttered in the office of the ‘human resources unit’ when this circular was sent round. Would anyone have mentioned the fact that the Dutch bureaucracy’s refusal to destroy census data on the religious affiliations of the Dutch population on the eve of the German occupation greatly aided the subsequent elimination of Dutch Jewry?

Septic isle

Every public service

has been weakened by the ethos of obeying centralised orders. Doctors, teachers, the police, social workers, prison officers, crown prosecutors, university dons have all been emasculated by the ‘need’ to obey orders that they know are fatuous at best, and positively destructive or wicked at worst.

The organised lying

not only blunts critical faculties and makes it impossible to distinguish true information from false, but morally compromises those who participate in the process. The more state employees conform to the rules laid down, the more helpless and degraded they become, which is the ultimate purpose of these rules.

The public,

gorged with bread and benumbed by circuses, is indifferent. I can’t help thinking of the murder of psychiatric patients and the mentally disabled in Nazi Germany. Neither the public nor the medical profession protested to any great extent (though, instructively, those few doctors who did protest were not punished for it). This terrible crime was made possible, though not inevitable, by an entire cultural context. We, too, are creating a cultural context in which great state crimes are possible.

It could happen here

When Dalrymple sees

the routine inhumanity with which my patients are treated by the state and its various bureaucracies, often in the name of obedience to rules, I think that anything is possible in this country.

When he sees

the mobs of drunken young people who pullulate in our city centres every weekend, awaiting their evil genius to organise them into some kind of pseudo-community, and think of our offices full of potential Eichmanns, I shudder.

British fascism

will no doubt be touchy-feely rather than a boot in the face – more Kafka than Hitler – but it will be ruthless nonetheless.

The Savonarola of atheism

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 07.15.38Richard Dawkins, the atheist proselytizer, has tweeted that the destruction of the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra by the desert-tribal warriors known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant demonstrates the doleful

power of religion.

Dalrymple points out that it seems to have escaped the notice of Dawkins, whom he describes as a Savonarola of atheism,

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 06.45.12that temples are generally built in the first place from a religious impulse, and that Palmyra had survived for two millennia in a region to which religion was by no means entirely unknown.

Dalrymple notes that

Satellite image confirming the destruction of the Temple of Baal (dedicated 32 A.D.)

Satellite image confirming the destruction of the Temple of Baal (dedicated 32 A.D.)

such destructiveness is not confined to the fanatically religious. The greatest outburst of cultural vandalism in recent history was probably Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which had nothing cultural or revolutionary about it—nor anything religious.

Of course, it is always gratifying for Dawkins

to contemplate the stupidity or barbarism of others.

Actually the destruction of Palmyra ought to warn Dawkins to turn his gaze inward and consider himself. And what he will discover when he does so is less than reassuring.

Triumph of the antinomians

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.05.15Dalrymple writes in the preface to Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses that in much of the world, the miseries of poverty

are no longer those of raw physical deprivation but those induced by comparison with the vast numbers of prosperous people by whom the relatively poor are surrounded and whose comparative wealth the poor feel as a wound, a reproach, and an injustice.

Ronnie Kaufman's photo on a jacket by Jen Huppert Design

Photo by Ronnie Kaufman on a jacket by Jen Huppert Design for the Ivan R. Dee (Chicago) 2005 edition

In the 20th century,

the hope of progress has not proved altogether illusory,

but

neither has the fear of retrogression proved unjustified.

The First World War

destroyed facile optimism that progress towards heaven on earth was inevitable or even possible.

Then came communism and Nazism, which between them

destroyed scores of millions of lives in a fashion that only a few short decades before would have appeared inconceivable.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.47.50Many of the disasters of the 20th century

could be characterised as revolts against civilisation itself: the Cultural Revolution, or the Khmers Rouges.

Only recently, in Rwanda,

ordinary people were transformed into pitiless murderers by demagogic appeals over the radio. They achieved a rate of slaughter with their machetes never equalled even by the Nazis.

In the circumstances,

one might have supposed that a principal preoccupation of intellectuals would be the maintenance of the boundaries that separate civilisation from barbarism.

One would be wrong.

Some have embraced barbarism; others have remained unaware that boundaries do not maintain themselves and are in need of maintenance and sometimes vigorous defence.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.54.10The prestige intellectuals confer upon antinomianism

soon communicates itself to nonintellectuals. What is good for the bohemian sooner or later becomes good for the unskilled worker, the unemployed, the welfare recipient — the very people most in need of boundaries to make their lives tolerable or allow them hope of improvement. The result is moral, spiritual, and emotional squalor, engendering fleeting pleasures and prolonged suffering.

Civilisation

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.55.17needs conservation as much as it needs change, and immoderate criticism, or criticism from the standpoint of utopian first principles, is capable of doing much — indeed devastating — harm. No man is so brilliant that he can work everything out for himself, so that the wisdom of the ages has nothing useful to tell him. To imagine otherwise is to indulge in the most egotistical of hubris.

The disastrous notions of the underclass about how to live

derive from the unrealistic, self-indulgent, and often fatuous ideas of social critics.

 

England, foul England

Discobolus, copy of fifth-century Greek original, Water Gardens, Hemel Hempstead. It was in private ownership and stood at Amersfoot Hall, Potten End, until acquired by the development corporation in 1960

Discobolus, copy of fifth-century Greek original. Water Gardens, Hemel Hempstead. The statue was in the possession of a private collector and stood at Amersfoot Hall, Potten End, until acquired at auction by the town’s development corporation in 1960

The British townscape has been coarsened to a degree unequalled in Europe

Dalrymple writes that the destruction of Britain’s urban patrimony,

and its replacement by modernist multi-story parking garages and office buildings, represent a lowering of every Briton’s quality of life.

The unremitting tastelessness of British modernity

Britain’s townscape,

once civilised and gracious, has fallen prey to an ideological pincer movement:

  1. The rawest and shortest-sighted commercial interests demanded and won freedom to do whatever they wished with the inherited townscape, in the cheapest and most profitable way, so that harmonious assemblages of buildings centuries old suffered the most philistine and incongruous redevelopment that ruined them beyond hope of restoration.
  2. Birmingham

    Birmingham

    Radical reformers fanatically hated the architectural symbols of the past, merely because they were symbols of the past, whose despised élitist culture supposedly rested solely on exploitation, racism, slavery, and so forth. The official architect and town planner of the city in which I live wanted to pull down every single local building that dated from before the second half of the twentieth century, including entire Georgian streets and many masterpieces of the Victorian gothic revival. Fortunately, he retired when perhaps a tenth of the old buildings remained, the rest having been replaced by Le Corbusian leviathans so horrible and inhuman that many are scheduled for demolition less than 30 years after their erection. The Georgian spa city of Bath offers an even more startling example: in the 1950s, the city council wanted to raze it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 09.23.10The utter destruction of the aesthetic quality of British life

The British are

barbarians camped out in the relics of an older and superior civilisation to whose beauties they are oblivious.

Irredeemable ugliness

Britain’s city centres are the site of

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 09.26.02

Civic Centre, Plymouth

depressingly uniform chain stores without character or individuality, plate-glassed emporia hacked into the ground floors of historic buildings without regard to the original architecture.

This has deep social and economic consequences.

Where all is ugliness and indifference to aesthetic considerations, it is easy for behaviour to become ugly and crude and for collective municipal pride to evaporate. It seems not to matter how people conduct themselves: there is nothing to spoil. Attention to detail attenuates in an environment of generalised ugliness. What is the point of wiping a table, if the world around it is hideous?

The Church of England (Bolshevik)

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 07.56.41Aesthetic vandalism

There is hardly a beautiful church in the country, writes Dalrymple,

whose interior the Church of England has not wrecked by its pursuit of false gods. If ever a Bolshevik government were to come to power it would find its work of turning churches into museums of religion and atheism half-done.

Come into the cathedral, children. We've cleared away all that boring religious stuff to make it more relevant to you

Suffer the little yobs to come into the cathedral: we’ve cleared away all that boring religious stuff to make it more relevant to them

Visual desecration

In Winchester cathedral, for example, you will find

  • many dreadful modern artworks
  • stacks of steel chairs and other things one expects to find in a furniture warehouse
  • many brightly-coloured notices
  • a large cardboard cutout of a dinosaur
  • a prominent notice warning people to watch their step at the entrance to a side-chapel

The desecration is

indicative of a loss of confidence, of faith. There is nothing dedicated to the glory of God because there is no God.

I don't care what you say; those side-chapels are lethal

I don’t care what you say, those side-chapels are lethal

Authors of the barbarism

Among the many notices is one

informing visitors who is in the cathedral hierarchy, just as hospitals put up notices with photos of the most important people in the hospital (Director of Strategic Planning, Director of Diversity, Director of Quality Assurance, etc.)

Who is it exactly who presides over this aesthetic barbarism?

The aesthetic barbarism is presided over by the bishop, Dr Spacely-Trellis

Thus we may know who presides over

this mess, this aesthetic barbarism.

It is, of course, of a piece with what has been done to Winchester as a whole by the stupid, barbaric city council

in concert with the crudest commercial interests.

Zweig’s descent from bliss to torment

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.25.31The main themes of the writings of Stefan Zweig are, Dalrymple explains,

  • the part that passion plays in human life. The need for control and the need for expression are in constant tension; any attempt to resolve the contradictions of our existence by dogmatic reference to a simple doctrine (and, compared with life, all doctrines are simple) will end in monomania and barbarism.
  • the destruction of civilisation by political dogma, exemplified by the wars that destroyed Zweig’s world and led him to suicide.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.27.32Having grown up in a world

where it was possible to live happily as so free an agent, Zweig found himself plunged into a world where it became impossible, where men had to organize to resist evil so that any freedom at all might be enjoyed.

In such a world,

Zweig’s refusal to commit to any collective institution or endeavour appeared feeble and parasitic.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.28.44Early in life,

by cultivating the acquaintance of prostitutes, pimps, and others on the margins of society, he learned about the lower depths, from whose ugly reality his status as a child of the haute bourgeoisie had sheltered him.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.31.29War

smashed the old world that Zweig so esteemed.

He saw the storm clouds gathering over his native Austria earlier than many. But other German exiles criticized him for being insufficiently vociferous in denouncing the Nazis.

Hitler in Vienna

The messenger of misery comes to Vienna

It is true that he joined no anti-Nazi groups and hardly raised his voice against the Nazi horror. As a free man, he did not want the Nazis to be able to dictate his mode of expression—even if it were in opposition to them. The insufficiency of this fastidiousness at such a conjuncture needs little emphasis.

But Zweig felt

that strident denunciation would grant the Nazis a victory of sorts. And—like many intellectuals who overestimate the importance that the intellect plays in history and in life—Zweig viewed the Nazis as beneath contempt. Their doctrine and world outlook being so obviously ridiculous and morally odious, why waste time refuting them?

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.39.37The nearest he came to denouncing the Nazis

was in one of his brilliant historical studies, published in 1936: The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin.

Of course, it was not so easy to dismiss the Nazis.

The contempt of a fastidious aesthete would not defeat them: far sterner measures were necessary. But Zweig, born in the pre-ideological age, did not want to live in a world where the only alternative to one ideology was what he thought would be a counter-ideology.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 22.54.57Dalrymple doubts that the modern world would have pleased Zweig.

The shrillness of our ideological debates, the emotional shallowness, the vulgarity of our culture, would have appalled him.

To read Zweig

is to learn what, through stupidity and evil, we progressively lost in the twentieth century.

Britons who hate and repudiate civilisation

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 13.58.15British incivility has a militant or ideological edge

Increasingly, writes Dalrymple, the English

are a people who know neither inner nor outer restraint. They turn to aggression, if not to violence, the moment they are thwarted, even in trifles.

And with an increasingly corrupt police force and judiciary, those who are neither aggressive nor violent

are by no means sure that the law will take their side in the event of a fracas.

Surveys have shown that half of the population wants to leave the country,

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 13.57.29to flee the other half.

The British are not only violent. They are filthy.

The British are by far the dirtiest people in the Western world, a sign of their unsocial mindset.

The paralysis of the public administration

induces a state of despair in the more civilised half of the population. Practically no behaviour is beyond the pale for the British state.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 14.17.03The freedom to behave badly

is almost the only freedom valued by, or left to, young Britons.

Is it any surprise that so many are desperate to emigrate? The people who want to flee Britain

The flight from barbarism The flight from barbarism

are not economic migrants. It is not high taxes that they object to (many want to move to France, where taxes are not low), but barbarism.

The emigrants

are cultural refugees in search of a more civilised homeland, where fewer people are uncouth or militantly vulgar.

Postcards from Cheltenham

'Civilisations are not destroyed from without; they collapse from within. That collapse may be in slow motion, it may take decades, but it is collapse nonetheless. Cheltenham is as good a place as any to witness, if you really want to do so, barbarians inhabiting graceful ruins'

‘Civilisations are not destroyed from without; they collapse from within. That collapse may be in slow motion, it may take decades, but it is collapse nonetheless. Cheltenham is as good a place as any to witness, if you really want to do so, barbarians inhabiting graceful ruins.’

'Devoid of talent, ideas, or taste, but too arrogant to learn from past ages or to accommodate what he built to what was already there, the architect had only prepotency as the means by which to distinguish himself, as the bully has fear, and of that he made the maximum use. It was enough: once this single building had been erected, nothing mattered any more, for nothing anyone could do as an individual would be more destructive or aesthetically offensive'

‘Devoid of talent, ideas, or taste, but too arrogant to learn from past ages or to accommodate what he built to what was already there, the architect had only prepotency as the means by which to distinguish himself, as the bully has fear, and of that he made the maximum use. It was enough: once this single building had been erected, nothing mattered any more, for nothing anyone could do as an individual would be more destructive or aesthetically offensive.’

'An insurance company, no doubt having successfully bribed the local council for permission to do so, erected a gray concrete tower designed by an architect who, if there had been any justice in the world, would have had his eyes put out so that he never built anything as ugly again'

‘An insurance company, no doubt having successfully bribed the local council for permission to do so, erected a grey concrete tower designed by an architect who, if there had been any justice in the world, would have had his eyes put out so that he never built anything as ugly again.’

'There is no better vantage point to see the destruction of a civilisation by barbarian architects than Imperial Square in Cheltenham. This was, until the 1960s or early 1970s, a most elegant urban space, completely harmonious, a call to refinement'

‘There is no better vantage point to see the destruction of a civilisation by barbarian architects than Imperial Square in Cheltenham. This was, until the 1960s or early 1970s, a most elegant urban space, completely harmonious, a call to refinement.’

‘Why are the British now barbarians living in the ruins of a former civilization of which they are either wilfully ignorant or which they actively detest? Perhaps it is, at least in part, an effect of the architecture that for the last sixty years has been imposed upon them'

‘Why are the British now barbarians living in the ruins of a former civilisation of which they are either wilfully ignorant or which they actively detest? Perhaps it is, at least in part, an effect of the architecture that for the last sixty years has been imposed upon them.’

Eagle Tower (offices of Eagle Star insurance company), Cheltenham. 1968, Stone Thomas & Partners

Eagle Tower (offices of Eagle Star insurance company). 1968, Stone Thomas & Partners.