Category Archives: earnestness

Grim smug Leftist performing animal

Self-righteous guru: hell is being preached at eternally by this humourless puritan

Greta Thunberg, writes Dalrymple,

is to self-righteousness and self-satisfaction what Mozart was to music — a prodigy.

But unlike Mozart,

she is an unattractive child, the grimness of her humourless puritanism being inscribed on her face. She has added a vision of hell: being preached at by her for eternity.

Thunberg’s

awfulness (of which she is unaware) is not really her fault. Her transformation into a celebrity is the work of adults.

The exaggerated respect with which her pronouncements have been received

will be a matter of wonder to future generations. She has addressed not only crowds but parliaments, where she has been accorded a mixed status:

  • guru because she has uttered the tenets of a powerful doxa that so many thirst to believe
  • performing animal because she is so young to perform so unexpectedly well

Thunberg’s humourlessness

is a great asset in the modern world, for when earnestness is mistaken for seriousness and gaiety for frivolity, a sense of humour is not only unlikely to flourish, it is likely to be reprehended. Literal-mindedness has become so general a psychological phenomenon that jokes, most of which are directed against someone, are sure to be taken in their most literal meaning.

Humour has become dangerous. But Thunberg is safe; Dalrymple notes that

the very idea of a joke seems alien to her. I suspect that she is one of those persons who is puzzled when people laugh.

British social policy defined

An idiocy wrapped in a lunacy wrapped in an absurdity, to produce misery and squalor

Dalrymple writes:

A tax on knowledge is a terrible thing, but a tax on ignorance, prejudice, evasion and half-truth is worse. That is what every British household with a television must pay, for the privilege of having the earnest but frivolous lucubrations of the BBC purveyed to it, whether it wants them or not.

This poll tax — or licence fee, as it is known — is the equivalent of nearly $200 per household a year, and is thus worth evading. Unfortunately, it costs nearly three times as much to catch evaders as the licence fees would have raised if paid. One proposal is to halve the licence fee for single mothers. Dalrymple comments:

In other words, we should subsidise a subsidy, in the name of a universal right to misinformation and trashy entertainment (and at the same time confer yet another incentive for single parenthood).

Blair: dishonesty and dishonour

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.52.04

Lack of character plus moral grandiosity, a lethal combination

The grandiose are found out by reality, and left squirming

Tony Blair, writes Dalrymple, exhibits

the most frivolous earnestness. He is given to gushes of cheap moral enthusiasm — cheap, that is, for him, not for others who have to pay for it.

Blair has been

exposed as the frog in Æsop’s fable that puffs and puffs himself up in an attempt to prove himself as big as the cow, until he explodes. But we cannot blame him entirely. He is one of us, the new Britons. The least we can do is to put some teddy-bears by the railings outside his home to help him come to terms with his humiliation.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.50.34Britain, Dalrymple reminds us, is

of very slight account, with a population increasingly unable to distinguish the trivial from the important and the virtual from the real. It has over several decades undergone profound social and psychological changes, of which Blair is both a symptom and an accelerating cause.

When moral grandiosity meets lack of character,

no good can result. Grandiosity and lack of character are two sides of the same coin. When someone believes that he is born with Original Virtue, he comes to believe that all his opinions, all his ends and all his actions are pure, moral and right. He is able to change from moment to moment, and to act in a completely unscrupulous manner. He may act in contradictory ways and change his opinions to their very opposites, but the purity of motive remains when everything else has disappeared.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.19.39Such a person

can have no honour, for honour implies a loyalty to a fixed standard, even or especially when it is not in that person’s immediate or instrumental interest to uphold it.

The lack of character

derives also from the elevation of sensibility over sense and of personal opinion over personal probity. Purity of sentiment and opinion become the whole of virtue, and the louder one expresses it the better the person is; morality is not a discipline and an abjuration but an opportunity to shine in front of one’s peers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.23.23Needless to say,

purity of sentiment and opinion are not incompatible with our old and trusted friend, the thirst for power, a combination which naturally enough results in a bullying sentimentality and a self-righteous lack of scruple.

The desire to be

both policeman and lady almoner, General Patton and Gandhi, Rambo and Elizabeth Fry, is not conducive to clear thinking or clear policy.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.28.26Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.20.38

How to beat insomnia on those long flights

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

In the pages of the Financial Times, writes Dalrymple,

one seeks in vain an item of interest, let alone of illumination.

Dalrymple sometimes attempts to read the FT

to help me get to sleep when it is handed out free on planes.

He very occasionally buys it and walks through

Outstanding vulgarity

Outstanding vulgarity

my small town in England with it under my arm in order to give the appearance to my fellow townsmen of material substance.

The FT

is earnest rather than serious. The only frivolity it permits itself is its glossy supplement, How to Spend It (a title of outstanding vulgarity), which consists mainly of advising financiers on how to dispose of their surplus millions—that is to say their misappropriations of shareholders’ funds—on expensive trifles.

We the disfranchised

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 08.36.47Dalrymple points out that in almost every Western democracy, many voters apprehend that

the political class (including its bureaucratic allies) has become more like a caste—a self-enclosed and self-perpetuating group of people that arrogates privileges to itself, through the enjoyment of which it insulates itself from the rest of the population, whose interests it has therefore no reason to share or understand.

The division between the political class and everyone else

is much greater than any factional divisions within the political class. Though we vote, we are disfranchised.

The main candidates in most Western elections fill decent, right-thinking people with ennui. They all

look the same: smooth-faced and without any discernible trace of individual character. None make jokes. They are earnest without being serious. I can’t bear to look at, let alone listen to, any of them.

How the New York Times combines frivolity with the utmost dullness and earnestness

But do not expect the truth

Expect the world: in other words, expect telescopic philanthropy but do not expect good writing or reliable, truthful reporting

Do not expect elegance from the New York Times, writes Dalrymple. Moreover, its front page

resembles a particularly verbose Victorian tombstone.

Dalrymple cites some ‘sloppy and inelegant’ drivel emitted by one of the Times‘s representatively mediocre writers. Dalrymple makes us look at it in order to highlight the absence of genuine style and wit — and the looseness of language and thought — in that hubristic journal.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 08.11.07But I say to Dalrymple that at least the drivel was all apparently the writer’s own, and in this respect the Times has advanced. For this is far from always being so, as the case of one of its celebrated reporters most embarrassingly demonstrated. We can never be sure that the reports, quotes, ‘news’ relayed by the Times are not fabrications.