Category Archives: envy

When liberal pœnology melts away like snow in spring

Dalrymple writes of the Lavinia Woodward case:

With the notable exception of the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins, no one appeared to think that leniency was justified in Lavinia Woodward’s case. And it was the leniency, not the erroneously assumed harshness towards others, that caused people’s outrage. In all the envy and hatred expressed, liberal penology melted away like snow in spring. Woodward’s parents owned a beautiful villa in Tuscany, where she spent much of her time; she owned Chanel bags at $1,300 a throw; even while on bail, she went shopping for designer clothes.

A student from Magdalen College tweeted: ‘I’m not exactly a prison advocate but . . . a sentence should be a sentence, regardless of how smart/well-off/well-educated you are.’ It is difficult not to see in this, despite its genuflection in the direction of liberal penology (obligatory, no doubt, for the purposes of keeping caste), a desire that Woodward should have been sent to prison. Apparently, many students feared her, and perhaps would have felt better protected from her had she been imprisoned.

Why should others, lower on the social scale, not feel likewise protected when those who are violent towards them are punished by imprisonment? Yet it is the relatively poor perpetrator, not the rich one, who is the main beneficiary, or at least recipient, of the British criminal-justice system’s leniency: precisely the opposite of what most commentary on the case of Woodward would have us believe.

The large obstacles facing Rees-Mogg

Dalrymple writes that

the only British politician of any substance, vision, or character is Jacob Rees-Mogg.

However, Dalrymple lists three handicaps from which the MP for North East Somerset suffers.

  • He is morally conservative in a country of libertines.
  • He made a fortune in a country in which most people hate others with more money than themselves.
  • He is unrepentantly upper-class in a country in which even the well-born now pretend to be proletarian.

A proponent of a clean break with the European Union, Rees-Mogg

might not be able to unite the Tories behind him, and even if he did, he would have to face down the civil service, which from the first has been resolutely anti-Brexit (there is an international solidarity of apparatchiks).

Populist hypocrisy

Dalrymple writes that

hatred of the rich, or even of the merely prosperous, is a common, if discreditable, emotion.

He notes that Pablo Iglesias Turrión, leader of Podemos, the Spanish left-populist party with the Barackian name,

has fallen foul of the very emotion upon which his movement depends and which he has done so much to foment.

Iglesias has bought a villa with a swimming pool in a well-to-do enclave not far from Madrid for $700,000, well beyond the means of most of the electorate to which he has appealed by excoriating the privileged or exploiting class that he calls la casta. Not long ago, he attacked the finance minister, saying, ‘One cannot direct the economic policy of a country from the terrace of a flat worth $700,000.’

Dalrymple comments that Podemos presents itself

as being against the whole economic system.

To maintain that the money made by Iglesias was made legally and honestly

is, in effect, to admit the legitimacy of the economic system, whatever its deformations—and, in turn, to admit that Podemos is founded on nothing but demagoguery and encouragement of a base emotion, envy.

Corbyn: cause for alarm

A damned fool — and dangerous

Dalrymple points out that the populist-Leftist leader of the opposition in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, is

an admirer of the Hugo Chávez school of solution to poverty and social problems.

Corbyn’s thought,

if such it can be called, is stuck in a primitive, almost pre-Bastiat stage.

This lifelong Castro devotee thinks that

expropriation and redistribution according to his view of what is right is the route to justice and prosperity. One might have hoped that the world had had sufficient experience of such notions to extinguish them from the human mind forever, but foolishness springs eternal.

In order to appeal

to the sentimentality of the electorate and to the xenophobic resentment of rich foreigners who can afford to speculate in London property, Corbyn is prepared to destroy his country’s reputation for probity and predictability in its laws of private property, a reputation that can be destroyed in a week but not restored in a decade, and which is vital to its prospects.

Corbyn

is dazzled by his virtuous vision, his mirage or hallucination of social justice.

There is, says Dalrymple,

no totalitarian as dangerous as he who does not realise he is one.

Oxfam is as economically illiterate as it is morally purblind

We know a little — and it is not very edifying — of Oxfam’s ethics. What of its economics? The ‘charity’ states in its propaganda that the eight richest men in the world own as much as the poorer half of the whole of humanity combined:

As growth benefits the richest, the rest of society – especially the poorest – suffers. The very design of our economies and the principles of our economics have taken us to this extreme, unsustainable and unjust point. 

Dalrymple examines this incitement to envy — incitement of the type also practised, of course, by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn — in the 2017 essay The Wealth Gap, animated and read for us here by Weg Zorn:

On Weg Zorn’s YouTube channel: Dalrymple’s exposition of how Oxfam’s propaganda is an incitement to envy

The socialist wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs.

  • It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.

Yet the socialist reality is

  • lies
  • enforced ignorance
  • characters formed in an atmosphere of suspicion
  • compromise with evil
  • toadying
  • self-abasement

Dalrymple once met a Marxist who told him that the level of dialectical debate in Moscow was so much higher, and so much wider in scope, than in Western Europe or North America. Dalrymple’s reply was:

If only you could fix your mind on something important, like selling cosmetics or life insurance.

He notes that communist ideas, or prejudices,

live on in those countries where Really Existing Socialism, as the dialecticians used so elegantly to put it, has never been experienced.

In Britain,

the Marxist hatred of profit subsists happily with a Jane Austen-like coyness about where one’s money actually comes from. In Jane Austen, Trade is ungentlemanly; in Marx, it is wicked; in British literary circles, it is both. Given the nature of the output of British literary circles, this wouldn’t matter very much, except for the fact that the attitude has filtered down into the rest of the intelligentsia, and is nearly universal in the public service.

Unlettered whizzkids earning a fortune in the City

particularly excite ire (and envy); I have had many arguments in the doctors’ common room about the necessary and constructive part banking and trade play in any modern economy, irrespective of the existence of dishonest bankers and traders.

But the attitude persists,

the disdainful — and essentially snobbish — attitude that unites them with Castro and Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Ulbricht, Lenin and Kim Il-sung. Any activity that is neither directly productive nor concerned with the welfare of ‘the people’ is parasitic.

The consequence of the philosophy

may be seen on the shelves of any communist supermarket or in any East European field piled with rotting potatoes.

A semi-literate Marxism is

the unchallengeable orthodoxy in British teacher-training colleges and colleges of further education. Here the politics of grievance are assiduously fostered, with ‘analyses’ of the exploitative nature of capitalist society, which causes the oppression of almost everyone except men in top hats. It is difficult to believe that something of this ideology is not communicated to children, and in my daily work I am often ‘accused’ by young patients of having a good job, as if personal activity had nothing to do with it and my privilege and their deprivation explained all.

Socialism continues to exert a strong influence in poor countries. Liberation theology, for example, is

Pravda with the word God thrown in.

There is a stifling orthodoxy among intellectuals about the origins of poverty. Poverty for them

is the dialectical opposite of wealth: we are poor because you are rich, and you are rich because we are poor. It is a destructive idea. Poverty is the result of exploitation and nothing else: the world is Marx’s Victorian England writ large. The global economy is a cake, and if Europe (the bourgeoisie) has a large slice, Africa (the proletariat) must have a small one. The immiseration of the workers in Marx is paralleled by the immiseration of continents, and has the same causes.

That poverty is the natural state of Man, and that

it is the ascent to wealth that needs explanation (Adam Smith asked the right question), never occurs to the embittered intellectuals.

Really Existing Socialism

The populist appeal to envy, spite, and resentment

Dalrymple reports that

Mr McDonnell, deputy leader of the Labour party, which for the time being is in opposition, recently objected to the presence of hereditary peers in the upper house, using the crude and vulgar language typical of populist politicians anxious to demonstrate their identity with the people or the masses.

It is strange, Dalrymple adds,

how rarely Leftists who are in favour of confiscatory economic policies are condemned as populist.

Jewelled prose disguising narcissistic rage

Dalrymple asks of Virginia Woolf:

Might the revelation by the war of the utter frivolity of her attitudinising have contributed to her decision to commit suicide? If the good life is a matter of judgment, the war proved that all her adult life she had none.

Yet he notes that had she survived to our time,

she would have had the satisfaction of observing that her cast of mind — shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, brutal — had triumphed among the élites of the Western world.

Envy

Oxfam so loves the poor, writes Dalrymple,

that it is safe to predict that it will never abolish itself no matter how rich humanity becomes.

There is no market, he says,

in which there is no rigging, either formal or informal, but I suspect that Oxfam’s preferred solution to an inevitable degree of rigging is complete rigging by philosopher-kings such as themselves.

The bogus charity’s propaganda, Dalrymple points out,

is an incitement to envy, one of the seven deadly sins.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-22-34-56

‘Invidia’, detail, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, c. 1450-1515, attr. Jheronimus Bosch

What do we care about a fucking piano?

A still from footage taken in Phnom Penh after its fall in April 1975. A grand piano also features in Dalrymple's Monrovia Mon Amour, in the chapter describing a visit to the Centennial Hall. Dalrymple writes: 'Lying on the ground…was a Steinway grand piano (the only one in the country…), its legs sawn off. The body of the piano, still gleaming black and in perfect condition, was in direct contact with the floor, while the three sawn legs were strewn about….A long-contemplated but long-frustrated revenge upon a whole alien civilization…. simmering rage and envy….Michel took photos of the stricken instrument….How long…before some post-modernist composer has a pianist not play the instrument but, in front of the audience, saw off its legs, to the craven applause of critics afraid to be thought stupid or reactionary?….We felt we had secured something of a scoop….We returned to the Olympic Hotel….There we found two…British photographers….I described to them…the destruction of the piano….’What do we care about a fucking piano?’ one of them said….I despaired then of my own country.'

A still from footage shot in Phnom Penh, April 1975. A piano also features in Dalrymple’s Monrovia Mon Amour, in a passage about a visit to the Centennial Hall. Dalrymple writes: ‘Lying on the ground was a Steinway grand piano (the only one in the country), its legs sawn off. The body of the piano, still gleaming black and in perfect condition, was in direct contact with the floor, while the three sawn legs were strewn about. A long-contemplated but long-frustrated revenge upon a whole alien civilisation… Simmering rage and envy. Michel took photos of the stricken instrument. How long before some post-modernist composer has a pianist not play the instrument but, in front of the audience, saw off its legs, to the craven applause of critics afraid to be thought stupid or reactionary? We felt we had secured something of a scoop. We returned to the Olympic Hotel. There we found two British photographers. I described to them…the destruction of the piano….’What do we care about a fucking piano?’ one of them said. I despaired then of my own country.’

Centennial Hall