Category Archives: culture

Man and meaninglessness

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-27-27Lack of meaning is a serious problem in modern Man, says Dalrymple. This is so particularly in Europe.

Dalrymple asks us to consider the possible sources of meaning in people’s lives:

  • the struggle for existence. This no longer applies. It is impossible to starve in the West.
  • religion. In England, and certainly in France, it is nearly dead. England is a very irreligious country, and France is an anti-religious country. (The English are too lazy to be anti-religious; they’re just not religious.)
  • politics. Whatever you say about Marxism, it provided people with a transcendent purpose. They thought they were taking part in something bigger than themselves. They were. Unfortunately, it was something very bad.
  • Participating in or contributing to culture. There has been an almost deliberate cutting-off of people from any sense of continuation of a culture. It’s not as bad in France as in Britain.
  • patriotism. In Europe this is shunned. It is equated with the worst of excesses.

What is left? Advocates of the unitary European State try, says Dalrymple,

to make the European Project (as they call it — they never tell you what it actually is) a source of meaning, but it is no source of meaning.

Antipodean canard

Hospital, Bikenibeu

Hospital, Bikenibeu

One evening in the Gilberts, writes Dalrymple,

I was having a beer with an Australian as the sun was going down lilac and gold and crimson over the lagoon.

You know, it’s not true Australians are uncultured,’ he said. ‘Some of my friends are fucking cultured.

Tarawa atoll

Tarawa atoll

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 14.32.43Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 14.32.52

The fouling of Britain’s popular culture

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 08.00.31A large proportion of Britain’s population, writes Dalrymple,

has been left to the mercies of a popular culture whose main characteristic is the willing suspension of intelligence, and which does not merely fail to inculcate refinement, grace, elegance or the desire for improvement, but actively prevents them and causes them to be feared and despised. An inability and unwillingness to discriminate always leads, by default, to the overgrowth of the worst, from which the better can never recover.

England’s impoverishment is

as much of the spirit as economic: nowhere in the world (at least nowhere known to me, including very many poorer places) do you see such a concentration of people who have given up on themselves, or rather, who never had any self-respect to give up on.

Britons inhabit a purely materialist society

that is not even very good at materialism, for it does not promote even those mental and moral disciplines that promote material success.

Dilemma over mass migration to the West

Merton, a London suburb

Merton, a London suburb

Dalrymple writes that the change in the ethnic and cultural origins of the inhabitants of the Western world’s towns and cities

is so obvious that no one could possibly miss it. Some glory in the change, some detest it; it is difficult to be neutral, or even merely objective.

He says that on the subject of illegal immigrants to the West and the change

in the ethnic and cultural composition of our societies, I confess that my thoughts and feelings are inconsistent and contradictory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.00.52Economic migrants are often

brave and enterprising, and have no desire to sponge on the state, but rather to work and improve their lives.

In the West they find themselves

in a sea of strangeness, incomprehension, hostility, or indifference.

Western countries appear to

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.12.51need people to come to us from impoverished lands, and this is so despite the fact that we have a substantial fund of unemployed people. Why this should be I leave to labour economists; I suspect it has something to do with the rent-seeking behaviour of a large percentage of our population (including me).

Immigrants to the West are often people of

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.18.04warmth, kindness, humanity and mannerliness. These qualities induce a slight feeling of shame in belonging to a culture in which these qualities should seem exceptional rather than normal. It is we, not they, who are so often crude.

On the other hand, Dalrymple cannot

view with delight the disappearance of the culture in which I grew up, which is being absorbed into a minestrone of no particular savour. I do not want to see my society changed irreversibly by an uncontrolled influx of immigrants.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 08.56.33Knowing another culture is not

simply a matter of patronising a restaurant of its cuisine from time to time. It is the work of years if not of a lifetime. Consider that multiculturalism condemns us to be strangers to one another; and, while all cultures have their charms, they may not all be compatible in their conceptions.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.25.46Dalrymple points out that

most people who support mass immigration are personally less keen on taking the social consequences.

For instance, in France recently,

Désolé

Désolé

someone contacted more than 40 media personalities who publicly supported immigration and asked whether they could assist personally with lodging an immigrant. Though each was rich, none said he could do so for more than a day or two, each finding a good excuse.

Mosaics, kaleidoscopes, salad bowls

Pan with hamadryad, from Pompeii, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

No: Pan with hamadryad, from Pompeii. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Bring back the melting pot

Doctrinal multiculturalism furnishes, writes Dalrymple,

  • a portion of the intelligentsia with an opportunity to exhibit its virtue and generosity for all the world to see
  • cultural bureaucrats with a minor if lucrative source of employment

He points out that understanding another culture

is a Herculean labour.

What chance

No!

No

is there for people to understand, in any but the most superficial way, the hundreds of extremely diverse cultures from which immigrants come to our shores? To understand Amhara culture in any detail is the work of a lifetime for a highly intelligent person of American or European background who is determined and motivated to do so; for one person to understand Bengali, Somali, Yemeni and Vietnamese cultures as well is impossible.

No!

No

It follows

that is it for immigrants who do us the honour of coming to our country to understand us, not for us to understand them — which is impossible in any case. It is for them to make the mental, intellectual and cultural adjustments, not us.

In special circumstances,

it is well that certain people should try to learn something of the culture of immigrants. But it is humanity that should demand it, not bureaucratic multiculturalism.

Yes: Israel Zangwill's 1908 play

Yes: Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play

For instance, it was very necessary in Dalrymple’s work as a physician in an area with many immigrants that he should understand

the situation of Muslim girls brought up in Britain and forced into unwanted, indeed repellent, marriages to a first cousin in a village in Pakistan.

But

understanding and sympathy cannot be decreed.

The answer to the problems of the multi-ethnic, multilingual society remains

the melting pot.

British educational degeneracy and cultural debasement

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 22.39.52Observers ask, writes Dalrymple, why British productivity

has not risen of latter years, though the economy has ‘recovered’ in the sense that its output has increased. This can only mean that people are working longer hours or that more of them are working, or both.

Dalrymple does not find this puzzling.

I think you have only to walk down a British street — an average one, not one in a favoured area — to solve the puzzle. The abysmal educational and cultural level of the people by comparison with that of the people in such a street in any comparable country is striking and obvious.

Condemned to a world of violence, drugs and familial insecurity

Role model: rapper Vybz Kartel will not be eligible for parole for 35 years

Role model: rapper Vybz Kartel will not be eligible for parole for 35 years

The marked lack of stability in the households of Jamaicans is a cause of their poor achievement at school and elsewhere, Dalrymple writes. But a more important factor is the culture they have adopted for themselves, which is one of

perpetual spontaneity and immediate gratification, whose largely industrialised and passively consumed products are wholly worthless sub specie aeternitatis.

The young Jamaican males

may have been sold a bill of goods by an unscrupulous entertainment industry, purveying drivel to morons, but they have bought it with their eyes open. Seen from the outside, at least, this culture is one upon whose valuelessness no execration could be sufficiently heaped.

The theory and practice of oligarchical egalitarianism

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 11.48.42Dalrymple Q&A

You have spoken, doctor, of what you call the reversal of the direction of emulation. What do you mean?

Until quite recently, emulators emulated those higher in the social scale than themselves, which meant that there were more emulators than emulated. Now it is persons in or from a higher social class who emulate those in a lower social class.

How do those persons from a higher social class do this?

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 12.02.44They adopt the manner of speaking, dress and cultural tastes of those below them. Intellectuals affect vulgar expressions, and anyone with an avowed uninterest either in sport or in popular music is suspected at once of enmity towards the people.

What is the meaning of this change in the direction of cultural influence and aspiration?

It signifies the complete ideological victory of egalitarianism, from which few dare derogate.

Is not this all quite bogus?

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 12.28.29Of course. There is a vast difference between the pays idéologique and the pays réel. The desire for social and economic advance, to be at the top rather than at the bottom of the social scale, is as acute as ever. The scramble for position and prestige is ferocious.

The pretence must be kept up, must it not?

The desire to stand out from and above one’s fellows cannot be avowed, except perhaps in the context of sport.

Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Masks, Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Granted that the downward cultural aspiration of members of the corrupt élite is purely defensive, how do they maintain the fiction?

If they indulge in egalitarianism in the symbolic field, they hope that their economic inegalitarianism will go, if not unnoticed, at least less noticed. Once they are in private, they can drop their affected egalitarianism for public consumption and become what they are in reality, namely ferocious élitists.

Erzherzogin Maria Antonia am Spinett. Franz Xaver Wagenschön, c. 1769. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Erzherzogin Maria Antonia am Spinett. Franz Xaver Wagenschön, c. 1769. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

So the downward cultural aspiration, or apparent aspiration, is to the élitists vital.

It is the means by which the contradiction between the pays idéologique and the pays réel is reconciled, though only in appearance. And in a society in which what is virtual is as important as, if not more important than, what is real, an apparent reconciliation is as important as a real one.

Is there not a difficulty with this?

The problem is that what starts as affectation becomes habit which becomes character. In the end, the play-acting becomes real. If Marie Antoinette had played shepherdess for long and often enough, that is what eventually she would have been. The coarseness of popular culture triumphs — by degrees, to be sure — over all other forms.

What is the effect of the false egalitarianism on social mobility?

Snakes and ladders, late 19th century. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Snakes and ladders, India, late 19th century. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The fact that the higher echelons now ape the lower means that the lower have no need to aspire to anything in order to imagine themselves to be rising in the social scale, for there is nothing higher to emulate. The false egalitarianism serves to conserve the social structure as a fly is conserved in amber. Social mobility falls while culture becomes less refined.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 13.09.38

A disaster overseen by Thatcher

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 18.02.47

St Marylebone Grammar School, abolished in 1981 under the Thatcher government

Dalrymple looks at Margaret Thatcher’s continuation, when education secretary and when prime minister, of the policy of abolition of the grammar schools, which he calls

an educational, social and cultural disaster: educational because academic standards quickly fell; social because grammar schools were the most visible institutions of élitism based on ability rather than social exclusivity, whose closure helped turn a class into a caste society; and cultural because their closure symbolised a loss of faith in the idea of higher and lower cultures, the latter soon triumphing over and swamping the former. This loss of belief had deleterious economic and social or civilisational effects, not easily calculable by size but very serious in the long term.

The lure of fundamentalist Islam

Römische Ruine mit einem Propheten, 1751, Giovanni Panini. Graf Harrach’sche Familiensammlung, Schloss Rohrau (outside Vienna)

Römische Ruine mit einem Propheten, 1751, Giovanni Panini. Graf Harrach’sche Familiensammlung, Schloss Rohrau (outside Vienna)

Dalrymple points out that many immigrants to Europe are drawn to radical Mohammedanism because they see it as an antidote to Western degeneracy.

Those parts of Western culture they see are…the least attractive side: gross promiscuity, the idea that one’s whim is law. They do not understand anything of the better aspects….If we lack the confidence to pass our culture on to our children it is hardly surprising we do not have the confidence to pass it on to other people.