Category Archives: courtesy

A cultured utopia

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 09.06.41It is difficult, says Dalrymple, to see

what the French wanted a mandate in Syria for, other than to maintain their prestige and be generally important.

France and Britain ratted on the Arabs and between them

carved out territories that had no real meaning for their inhabitants but whose borders held for 100 years, which is said by some to be at the root of the present troubles. I don’t really believe it: I doubt that the Middle East would have become some kind of sandy Scandinavia if it had been left to its own devices.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 08.48.18Joseph Kessel, in his 1926 book on Syria, argues that

the French made the mistake of changing their top administrators too often, so that by the time any of them began to grasp something about the country they made way for a replacement who knew nothing.

Dalrymple bought the 2014 Folio edition of En Syrie

because of the picture on its front, the photograph of a street in a still-Ottoman Damascus taken, I should imagine, about 1914, in the subtle shades of early colour postcards. It is a beautiful narrow street, leading (I think) to the Great Mosque in the distance.

Joseph Kessel

Joseph Kessel

It conveys

peace and a civilised existence. In the foreground a couple of men ride donkeys; in the middle distance are the only wheeled vehicles, a couple of calèches; the sun is overhead and the pedestrians cast long shadows, two of them walking with parasols. The architecture is pure Ottoman, with delicately-latticed mashrabiyas overhanging the unpaved road below. Life continues at a pleasingly slow pace.

The picture, says Dalrymple,

excites nostalgia for something that one has not even known and never existed; it provokes an almost dream-like state, a reverie of a life without politics and ideology, a cultured utopia, where there is an abundance of beauty and taste rather than of things, where people treat each other with ceremonial courtesy rather than in business-like fashion at best, and even the smallest and most ordinary of things are infused with a concern for aesthetics. A more fully human life.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 08.55.27Dalrymple says that in his peregrinations,

I occasionally came across somewhere in which I thought, or rather preferred in my ignorance to imagine, there was such a life. All those places have since descended into chaos and massacre, with millions fled or displaced and the vilest doctrines propagated.

Kessel, who among many other things wrote a novel about Himmler’s charlatan doctor, was, says Dalrymple, a kind of

André Malraux minus the self-advertisement and dishonesty.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.19.41

Utility of Arnold Schönberg

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 09.04.54

The old second-hand booksellers — the real pros now wiped out, of course, by the state-subsidised fake-charity shops — used to regard their customers, Dalrymple points out,

largely with contempt.

You knew you were in an ice-cream butcher’s if the seller was in any degree courteous. If he was curt, supercilious and rude, you knew the place was the real thing.

The owner of one bookshop Dalrymple used to visit

so hated his customers that he would sometimes play Schönberg very loudly to clear the shop of them. It was a very effective technique.

The Pensions Agency: a delightful surprise

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 17.40.48Dalrymple rings the Pensions Agency and is

(pleasantly) astonished by the staff’s courtesy and efficiency. There are no infuriating messages to listen to, no options to choose from; one speaks straight away to a human being, and a polite and intelligent one at that. How is it done? I think we should send a team of investigators.

Why so many Western tourists are detested the world over

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 07.46.11 After their act of desecration, four of the Mount Kinabalu cretins spent three days in a Malaysian prison and were fined $1,000 each. The people of northern Borneo, Dalrymple points out, ‘were not evangelising for their beliefs; on the contrary, they were welcoming strangers to come to their place that they regarded with reverence and awe. Common courtesy should have been enough to suggest to these people that they should not act in this fashion. This behaviour was gross in its offensiveness’

One of the effects of the silly, noxious Western ideology of multiculturalism, writes Dalrymple, is that it renders people utterly

uninterested in, or insensitive to, the ideas or feelings of people of cultures other than their own.

Anyone who has tried to understand another culture,

or even master literature in a foreign language, knows that it requires great effort and determination and not just an occasional tasting of a different cuisine. It is unlikely that anyone could master both Pali Buddhist scriptures and the ninth-century Arabic of Moslem philosophers.

The doctrinal, abstract commitment to respect other cultures

is not the same as the effort to understand just one of them.

Dalrymple draws attention to the detestable fashion among Westerners of photographing themselves naked at temples or other sites of cultural or religious significance (though not at mosques — these Westerners are stupid but not insane, so, like their intellectual leaders, they pick targets they think are soft). According to the Paris newspaper the Monde,

it is a kind of epidemic.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 08.30.49 They got off lightly

Dalrymple expresses his revulsion for the actions of Western tourists in Borneo and elsewhere. He singles out the British, saying:

The conduct abroad of tourists from my own country is notoriously disgusting and disrespectful of local mores.

He points to the connection between multiculturalism as received wisdom and the foul behaviour of these tourists.

The proletarianised bohemian intelligentsia

La gauche divine

La gauche divine

Imagining it has a divine spark (as opposed to what it thinks of as the bovine self-contentment of the bourgeois), the proletarianised bohemian intelligentsia

  • claims political allegiance with the proletariat
  • pretends to some of the tastes of the proletariat, for example that for association football
  • has a bohemian lifestyle and at the same time claims the economic advantages and privileges of a bourgeoisie

The proletarianised bohemian intelligentsia is the enemy, writes Dalrymple, of

thrift, honesty, reliability, respectability, solidity, respect for learning, willingness to postpone gratification and politeness.