Category Archives: clichés

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.

 

Kahlil kitsch

Kahlil Gibran

Clichés, writes Dalrymple, are

the teddy-bears of the mind. They are pseudo-thoughts with comforting connotations of wisdom, generosity, goodness, kindness, benevolence, etc.

They appeal to

the kind of people who might think Kahlil Gibran’s vapourings profound.

The folly of von der Leyen

A mixture of cliché, slogan, and evasion

The president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is quoted as saying:

The last four years have taught us that simple answers don’t take us far. All that one heard was ‘Close the borders and migration will stop’ or ‘We must save everyone on the Mediterranean.’ We have seen that the phenomenon of migration has not stopped, and that there is a limit to the ability to integrate [the migrants]. Therefore a global approach is necessary. We must invest massively in Africa to reduce the pressure to migrate. At the same time we must fight organised crime so that we ensure that the Schengen agreement [which allows free movement of people between countries party to it] can function because we protect our external borders [i.e. the EU’s borders].

Dalrymple comments:

This evades almost all the difficult questions about immigration. With a superb indifference to practicalities, von der Leyen fails to tell us how either the push or the pull that drives migration is to be lessened, apart from ‘massive investment in Africa’.

Von der Leyen, he notes,

does not tell us who is going to bankroll this massive investment. Is it to be financed via the forced contributions of European taxpayers and be administered by European bureaucrats? The history of massive aid investment on the part of Europeans in Africa has not been happy.

Dalrymple asks:

If the massive investment is not to come from government, with its almost infallible ability to turn investment into liability, who is it to come from, and for what purposes?

The answer

must be the private or corporate sector. But why is it that the private or corporate sector, supposedly ever on the search for commercial opportunity, does not already make such investments? How is it to be persuaded to do so? Is the purpose of its investment to make a profit or to reduce migration?

Dalrymple observes that cliché has

entered the very fabric of von der Leyen’s mind. Surely it must have occurred to her that it is a little late in the day for investment, however massive, to halt the pressure that has led a third or more of sub-Saharan Africans—who will soon be three times more numerous than the Europeans—to want to migrate to Europe.

Besides, he says,

it is not the poorest of the poor of Africa who arrive clandestinely in Europe; it is those who can — or whose family can — pay the air fare, giving them the chance to overstay their visa, or pay people-traffickers (often several thousand dollars) to smuggle them in. Many migrants enter under family reunification schemes inscribed in European law.

A rising standard of living in the emigration centres of sub-Saharan Africa brought about by massive investment, were it to occur (which is far from certain), would

more probably increase than decrease the migratory pressure, in so far as more people would have the means to undertake the migration.

This thought

does not in the slightest inhibit von der Leyen from using the language of the imperative—a way of thinking that might result in the compulsion of reluctant countries to pursue a futile policy at great cost. Moreover, it is very difficult to see how any effective or selective migration policy could be carried out without a closure of borders.

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.

Humours of an election

Mid-morning. A few days before a general election. Dalrymple and a confederate are at his mansion in one of the prettier small towns — as yet unbesmirched by the socialist planners — of the English midlands. The pair have enjoyed a large traditional English breakfast including beefsteak, washed down with pints of Burgundy (from the well-stocked cellars of Dalrymple’s château near Alès), and are now sharing a very decent bottle of port. There is a knock at the heavy oak door. Dalrymple directs a liveried footman to open it. An opposition candidate, with her unpleasing 20-year-old son in tow, present themselves at the threshold. They have come to canvass the doctor’s vote.

CANDIDATE’S SON: (mutters something incoherent and derogatory about the incumbent Member of Parliament, who is standing for re-election.)

DALRYMPLE: The Member* came out very well in the expenses scandal — he didn’t claim a penny.

CANDIDATE’S SON (assuming that the word ‘rich’ is a moral accusation): That’s because he’s a rich man.

DALRYMPLE: Is that not an argument for having only rich men in parliament? Better a parliament of rich men than one of men who enter parliament to become rich.

[Exeunt, amour propre wounded, the candidate and her son.]

DALRYMPLE (turning to his confederate and chuckling): Poor young man! I was only teasing him a little, and getting him, still a student, to exercise his mind and escape for a moment from the clichés with which that capacious instrument has probably been filled from birth.

CONFEDERATE: An oafish youth, to be sure. But what in fact is your view on the matter, doctor?

DALRYMPLE: Rich men, provided they start their political careers in their 50s at the earliest, are the best suited for political life. They are more likely to accept the rôle of servitor of their nation than master of it.

Canvassing for Votes, Hogarth, Humours of an Election series (1755), Sir John Soane’s Museum

*Dalrymple’s home when he is in England is in Bridgnorth, and his representative in the Commons is Philip Dunne, Member of Parliament for the Ludlow constituency (covering the district of South Shropshire, and the district of Bridgnorth wards of Alveley, Bridgnorth Castle, Bridgnorth East, Bridgnorth Morfe, Bridgnorth West, Broseley East, Broseley West, Claverley, Ditton Priors, Glazeley, Harrington, Highley, Much Wenlock, Morville, Stottesdon, and Worfield). Dunne is one of the 50 ‘saints’ — MPs who minimised their (taxpayer-funded) expenditure. In Dunne’s case, his parliamentary expenses were minimised to zero.

We will fight them with bromides

Theresa May: ‘enough is enough’, like a silly schoolmistress

Dalrymple notes that after the London Bridge terror attack, the insipid British prime minister Theresa May

referred to the innocence of the victims, as though there were guilty victims lurking somewhere who deserved to be mowed down or have their throats cut.

In post-Diana Britain, Dalrymple points out,

no tragedy or wickedness occurs without the police and other officials saying (as did May on this occasion), ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families,’ when this is most unlikely to be true and is an unctuous platitude that brings no solace.

May said on this occasion that ‘enough is enough’.

Meaning what? That a little terrorism is acceptable, as if the perpetrators were boisterous children finally being called to order after having been given leeway by the grown-ups?

She said that things would have to change,

without specifying which things. To specify would have been to invite criticism, opposition, opprobrium—and just before an election, no less. Best keep to clichés.

The cultural triumph of psychobabble

Theresa May: the little ones shall experience distress no more

The British prime minister, Dalrymple reports, has

spotted an opportunity to demonstrate to her sentimental electorate how much she cares for even the least of them by announcing that she wants to put a mental health professional, i.e. form-filler, in every school.

There is, says Dalrymple, a new social contract:

I will listen to your shallow clichés about yourself if you will listen to mine.

Her

compassion by proxy, at taxpayers’ expense, is typical of the behaviour of modern politicians, who need to show their electorates that they are not the heartless or ruthless ambitious nonentities that they might otherwise appear to be. An uncritically sentimental population is a perfect flock to be fleeced in this way, sheep for the shearing.

May’s project, Dalrymple points out,

is also typical of the process of simultaneous work creation and work avoidance that marks the modern state, a process that turns it into a trough from which many may feed.