Category Archives: consumerist materialism

Dalrymple at the supermarket

The doctor-writer enters, and is immediately highly irritated. There is

horrible compulsory music, pumped in like poison gas; one feels as if one were an experimental laboratory rat trapped in a cage, manipulated by psychologists trying to determine precisely what kind of music makes people buy more of what they don’t need.

Then there are

fatuously jolly announcements, informing customers of the good news that there is a reduction this week in the price of nougat.

Supermarkets, Dalrymple points out,

destroy the small commerce of towns, which is essential to their social life.

They have

severed the population from an awareness of the seasonal rhythms of nature, at least where food is concerned, until they scarcely exist for us. Everything is available all the time, imported from the far ends of the earth.

Speaking power to truth

Political correctness is not a neurodegenerative disease, the doctor explains,

but it might as well be, so devastating is its effect on intellection. It appears to be infective, spreading from brain to brain. It is more like a form of chronic mass hysteria.

A little like our economic system, it must be forever expanding to survive.

The capitalist system, Dalrymple reminds us, must

stimulate new desires in consumers and make those desires as quickly as possible seem like needs, without the satisfaction of which life is rendered impossible.

Similarly, political correctness,

to extend its soft-totalitarian hold over the population, must discover new injustices to set right — by a mixture of censorship, language reform, and legal privileges for minorities. The meaning of life for the politically correct is political agitation.

Dalrymple points out that the greater the violation of common sense, the better.

It is like communist propaganda of old: the greater the disparity between the claims of that propaganda and the everyday experience of those at whom it is directed, the greater the humiliation suffered by the latter — especially when they were obliged to repeat it, thus destroying their ability to resist, even in the secret corners of their heart.

That is why the politically correct

insist that everyone use their language: unlike what the Press is supposed to do, the politically correct speak power to truth.

All that is necessary for humbug to triumph is for honest men to say nothing

The politically correct, Dalrymple notes,

never seem to become bored with their thoughts. This leads to a dilemma for those who oppose political correctness, for to be constantly arguing against bores is to become a bore oneself. On the other hand, not to argue against them is to let them win by default. To argue against rubbish is to immerse oneself in rubbish; not to argue against rubbish is to allow it to triumph.

Dalrymple’s twin laws of political economy

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 08.54.52The existential problem of indebtedness

To restate the Dalrympian laws of public and private finance, they are:

Memories are short and lessons are never learned.


Sufficient unto the day is the credit thereof.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 08.23.03Dalrymple writes that

a profound change in culture and character has taken place in my lifetime. People not very much older than myself prided themselves that, poor as they were, at least they were not in debt; not to be indebted was for them a matter of pride and self-respect. What they could not buy outright, they were content to do without. Whether or not this was a good thing for the economy as a whole I cannot say; but I think it was good for the character. It encouraged self-control and also a probity that is now uncommon.


Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 09.15.54are under political pressure to indebt themselves

while ordinary people

are under some other type of pressure or compulsion that is internal to them and resistible but not resisted. They judge themselves and others by their modes and quantities of consumption, which give meaning to life in the absence of any other meaning. Spending, whether or not they can afford it, is affirmation that their life has a purpose.


is an existential problem. Spendthrifts hope, if they give any thought to the matter at all, that the economics will take care of themselves. Sufficient unto the day is the credit thereof. At least until the next credit crunch.



Existential predicament of the modern middle classes

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 23.47.14Man’s absurdity, pretensions and nastiness

Crash (1973), Dalrymple writes, is a

visionary reductio ad absurdum of what J.G. Ballard sees as the lack of meaning in modern material abundance.

In the novel, erotic and violent sensationalism

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 23.51.32replace transcendent purpose: the book’s characters speed to the sites of car accidents to seek sexual congress with the dying bodies and torn metal.

Ballard’s method

is Swift’s, though with a less general target.

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 23.45.42Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 23.46.11


‘A man is killed; a phone is advertised’

It is all one to us, writes Dalrymple.

It is all one to us, says Dalrymple.