Category Archives: degradation

Even if Corbyn loses, millions will have voted for this

Labour’s frightening manifesto

Reading it, Dalrymple realises

how close Britain might be to a catastrophe that would make the Brexit episode seem of minor importance.

If Labour wins,

the party will inaugurate a quasi-totalitarian government. Chávez-admirer Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy, John McDonnell, is an admirer of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, whom he has described as the greatest influence on his worldview.

Labour, Dalrymple notes,

lives in a world in which, when you increase taxes, your tax receipts rise in exact proportion to the percentage increase: the taxed do not change their behaviour.

If Labour were elected and tried to put its proposals into practice, there would be

  • capital flight
  • capital controls
  • loss of confidence
  • complete absence of investment
  • forced investment (requiring ever higher taxes)
  • government control over the economy to pay for it
  • emigration of anyone who can earn a living elsewhere

The ensuing chaos and degradation

would swiftly exceed anything previously seen in the UK. The prospect of a military coup, with the support of a large part of the population, would not be far-fetched; nor, if in the meantime the government had managed to suborn or dissolve the armed forces, would be a slide into Venezuelan conditions, in the name of social justice.

Everywhere degeneration

We are barbarians camped out in the ruins of an older, superior civilisation that we don’t understand.

Britain’s moral collapse encompasses all classes

England’s degradation, writes Dalrymple, is not confined to an underclass of five or 10 per cent of the population, the mirror image of a small and highly educated élite. Far from it.

The underclass, Dalrymple points out,

is extensive and not readily distinguishable from the rest of the population.

Moreover,

the pauperisation of the minds and spirit of our people extends well beyond the confines of any such underclass.

Mental contortions needed to live in East Germany

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 08.35.23In the German Democratic Republic you required, writes Dalrymple, a mixture of

  • belief
  • cynicism
  • indifference
  • calculation
  • Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 08.38.36compromise
  • wilful ignorance
  • opportunism
  • bravery
  • effrontery

and the many shades and interactions between them.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 08.42.01The GDR régime’s

moral reprehensibility and degradation were obvious both from the outside and in retrospect: but from within and at the time, matters were often more equivocal.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 08.44.40

The English were constipated: now they’re incontinent

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 21.17.05Dalrymple explains that his account of Britain as a declining, broken society is

ironic in the sense that I don’t think there was a golden age in which society was whole.

But

we have to look at the problems we have. Every age looks at the problems it has, and what I’ve found in England is a refusal to face the problems: they’re just too uncomfortable.

Dalrymple says it is, to a degree, a

puzzle

as to why Britain has become more degraded than all other comparable countries. But he points to

a gestalt switch: what was regarded as good is regarded as bad, and vice-versa. Emotional constipation, once a characteristic of the British, has become emotional incontinence. People regard it as a good thing to express themselves, irrespective of whether they’ve anything to express.

For reasons of hormonal disaffection, young people are disposed to throw themselves into ideological causes. They are susceptible to ideological rot, as they are to criminality,

which is a young man’s game.

With regard to English anti-social life, Dalrymple says:

If you go to entertainment areas, there is always an element of threat in Britain.

He recounts an experience he had in Manchester, where he was staying at an hotel.

There was laughing and screaming outside at 1.30 in the morning. When I went out the next morning, I found that someone had been nearly murdered — he was in hospital, in a coma. You can’t tell the difference in England between people enjoying themselves and someone being murdered.

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.

Against this I raise my sword-spraycan

Heygate Estate, Walworth. Tim Tinker, 1974

Heygate Estate, Walworth, London. Tim Tinker, 1974

Enemies of Corbusian profanation do not hesitate to act

Whole acres, writes Dalrymple, of man-made surfaces are disfigured in Europe by graffiti,

in which some people, ever on the lookout for something counter-intuitive to say, claim to have found art. This is the tribute money pays to poverty without having to part with anything.

The need to assert (rather than express) oneself in some way, no matter how pointless, becomes imperative in a society in which

  • we are all called upon to be unique individuals
  • celebrity has an exaggerated importance in the mental economy of so many
  • employment is often precarious and is felt to be without dignity
  • powerlessness is obvious (powerlessness in a democracy is more humiliating than powerlessness in a tyranny)
Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London. Denys Lasdun, 1967–76

Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London. Denys Lasdun, 1967–76

Taggers tend to deface

ugly surfaces, often of inhuman size, in which modern urban spaces are so richly, or impoverishingly, supplied. It is true that tagging never improves those surfaces, but they are often in themselves of degrading hideousness.

The epidemiology of graffiti

suggests a subliminal aesthetic criticism. It is a commentary on the kind of building and concrete surface that the fascist modernist architect, Le Corbusier, extolled and desired, with the enthusiasm of a revivalist evangelical, to spread throughout the whole world. In a sense, taggers in England and France are endowed with taste.

Having said that, in Italy or Portugal,

18th-century buildings are not exempted from the attentions of bruised and inflamed young egos.

Ugliness, be thou my beauty

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 09.05.43The squalor and degradation that is Western popular culture

Two windows on the sordor:

  • obituaries of pop stars in the newspaper
  • a walk in the street

Pop stars, writes Dalrymple, fall into two groups:

  1. those who retire into the life of the squirearchy, the pleasures of whose kind of life they have done so much to destroy for others
  2. those who die young

There is nothing like the sordid for getting ahead

Romantics view self-destructive behaviour

as the sign of a great soul.

De Quincey wrote:

Pain driven to agony, or grief driven to frenzy, is essential to the ventilation of profound natures.

But, Dalrymple points out,

it is an elementary error of logic to suppose that, because profound natures ventilate agonised frenzy, those who ventilate agonised frenzy have profound natures.

Take punk. Its ‘ethic’ consists, explains Dalrymple, of

an utterly conformist non-conformity and an insensate individualism without individuality, allied to brutal and deliberate bad taste.

Self-harm

For instance,

to inflict a serious injury on yourself (which you then require others to repair for you, at their expense) in order to prove that you are genuinely committed to bad taste, ugliness, a rejection of everything that could possibly make life worth living, and to a celebration of ‘alienation, boredom and despair’ does not seem to me to be meritorious in any way. The alienation, boredom and despair are the consequence of a combination of laziness and impatient ambition, rather than the consequence of an ‘objective’ situation, and represent an impossible demand for achievement without concomitant effort.

Rage

Dalrymple says:

I feel a certain rage at the culture that we have created, and a certain guilt that I have not fought against it with all my heart and soul, to the best of my ability. It is a culture that can produce lines — and mean them, that is what is terrible — such as the following from one of Richey Edwards‘ songs (as Mozart took dictation from God, so he took dictation from the Zeitgeist):

I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.

Being a revolutionary in the south of France

Dutch edition, titled Rode liefde: een Oost-Duitse familiegeschiedenis

Dutch edition, under the title Rode liefde: een Oost-Duitse familiegeschiedenis

Dalrymple writes that the German Democratic Republic’s

moral reprehensibility and degradation

were obvious

both from the outside and in retrospect.

But

from within and at the time, matters were often more equivocal.

Perhaps the hardest words, Dalrymple points out, in Maxim Leo’s Haltet euer Herz bereit: Eine ostdeutsche Familiengeschichte (2011) are reserved for those in the West who admired the GDR. In 1987, Leo’s maternal grandfather,

The always impeccably tailored Jean-Baptiste Doumeng, who made a fortune flogging subsidised surplus produce to the people's democracies, owned a stable of thoroughbred horses, a Learjet and a 1,500-acre working farm in the south of France. His favourite Paris restaurant was Maxim's

Hero of socialist self-enrichment: the always impeccably tailored Jean-Baptiste Doumeng, who made a fortune flogging subsidised surplus to the people’s democracies, possessed among many other things a stable of thoroughbred horses, a Learjet and a 1,500-acre working farm in the south of France. His favourite Paris restaurant was Maxim’s

taking advantage of his political position, took the author on a trip to France, an enormous privilege. They visited political allies in France, mainly rich intellectuals. Having lunch in the luxurious villa in the south of France of one of those intellectuals, Leo wonders

how you can sit in a villa like that and rave about the GDR.

He then says,

I reflect that it’s a very pleasant business, being a revolutionary in the south of France.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 00.41.24Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 00.37.09

You should be able to do what the fuck you like

The philosophy of life inculcated in Sid Vicious by his mother.

Though quite without talent, Vicious had  ‘the courage of his degradation’.

Though quite without talent, Vicious had ‘the courage of his degradation’