Category Archives: exhibition of goodness

Needed: soft hearts, hard heads

Blaise Pascal

In an age of exhibitionism, writes Dalrymple,

a soft head often passes for a good heart.

He says that fuzzy thought, or the substitution of supposedly generous ideas for real reflection,

is to be combatted not by equal and opposite sloganeering, but by rational argument. It is not only liberty the preservation of which imposes the duty of eternal vigilance: the preservation of reason imposes it as well.

How do I appear concerned and compassionate to my friends, colleagues, and peers?

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More humanitarian than thou, not to mention a great deal richer

This, says Dalrymple, is for the pols, the polly-toynbees, the pundits and the pampered celebs of the West the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem.

The rules are:

  • Never give the appearance of blaming the victim of any social problem, or anyone whose life is poor or unenviable, by examining the bad choices he makes
  • Refrain always from looking at the reasons for those choices, since victims are victims and not responsible for their acts, unlike the small class of human beings who are not victims
  • Do not stare at a social problem for very long. Turn to abstractions, to structures over which the victim has no control

The rawness of reality must be avoided, says Dalrymple, so that

utopian schemes of social engineering can be spun.

The bien-pensants view people as

in the grip of forces that they cannot influence, let alone control—and therefore as not full members of the human race.

That people are reduced to automata suits the élite, for it

increases the importance of its providential role in society.

The world is rotten but I am not

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The student prig’s moral grandiosity has a coercive quality, for he has liberated his inner totalitarian

Such, writes Dalrymple, is what the student prig, in his self-importance and complacency, wishes to communicate.

The student prig’s chief aim is to convey

the militant purity of his heart and soul. The world is rotten, he is saying—but I am not. I am pure. If the rottenness continues, it won’t be because of me.

Awareness of his virtue shines from the student prig’s face.

He glows with it, virtue for him consisting of the public expression of the correct sentiments. Virtue requires no discipline, no sacrifice other than of a little time and energy, instantly rewarded by the exhibition of his goodness.

The painlessness of virtue as the expression of correct sentiment is its chief attraction for the student prig.

Who would not wish to achieve goodness merely by means of a few gestures, verbal or otherwise? In that way, you can avoid genuine self-examination.

The student prig

feels a youthful impatience with the intractability of the world, hence a desire that its problems should be solved by symbolic means. This desire partakes of magical thinking: incantations will bend reality in the desired direction.

The student prig’s

moral grandiosity has a coercive quality. His virtue gives him the locus standi to dictate to others for the good of humanity. The expression he wears is that of someone who has liberated his inner totalitarian.

Well, much may be forgiven youth, says Dalrymple. But what is craven is

for older people in positions of responsibility to surrender to youth, even if the once in their lives that they were young happened to be in the 1960s.