Category Archives: folly

J.K. Galbraith: either a naïf or a knave

A blackguard — or a bloody fool

Anyone visiting China, writes Dalrymple, especially during the Cultural Revolution,

who took official declarations at face value

was

at best naïve and at worst a knave.

Dalrymple notes that when it comes to communist China,

a whole genre, a whole library, of books of so-called eyewitness testimony is utterly worthless. The economist J.K. Galbraith wrote one of them.

Galbraith was one of the countless Western authors who

visited China without experiencing it.

Bilge

Tripe

Drivel

Colonic irrigation courtesy of the taxpayer

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.21.48The Department of Health’s tie-up with the Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health is, writes Dalrymple,

an invincible alliance between bullying bureaucracy and social snobbery, between administrative cynicism and ignorant folly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.18.40Providing homœopathy on the NHS

is part of the persistent attempt by the government further to debase and demoralise the medical profession. The point is not to raise the status of alternative medicine, as Prince Charles has no doubt been gulled into believing, but to lower the status of orthodox medicine.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.23.46This is because

doctors are trusted by the population, while politicians most certainly are not: therefore they, the doctors, represent a danger to the politicians. The people who will pay the price for the wicked folly of the Department of Health will be the British people, who will come to be treated by a professional body of uninterested timeservers while their rulers seek first-rate medical treatment elsewhere — that is to say abroad.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.31.08Dalrymple has no objection to irrational whims involving

  • colonic irrigation
  • healing crystals
  • chakras in the earth
  • hopi candles

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.20.03But he sees no reason why he or any other taxpayer should fork out for them.

No doubt the Department of Health will present its position on alternative medicine

as being broad-minded and socially inclusive. There is another way of looking at it: the Department of Health is embezzling taxpayer’s funds for partially hidden, political purposes.

Charles II touches a patient for tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

Charles II touches a patient for tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

By all means

let the Prince of Wales spread propaganda for his brand of hocus-pocus. Let him touch people for the King’s Evil, if he and they so wish — the revival of the ceremony might add to the gaiety of the nation. But medicine is too serious a matter to be left to amateurs such as the Department of Health.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.26.10Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.24.31Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.19.33

Islam has nothing to say to the modern world

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.25.23For the second time in living memory, writes Dalrymple,

we find ourselves obliged by historical circumstances to examine doctrinal philosophies that, from the abstract intellectual point of view, are not worth examining. They belong, rather, to the history of human folly and credulity: which is itself, of course, an inexhaustibly interesting and important subject.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.43.06The first was Marxism; the second Islamism. Which of us, Dalrymple asks,

would have guessed thirty years ago that an inflamed and inflammatory Islamic doctrine would soon replace Marxism as the greatest challenger to liberal democracy? The vacuum left by the collapse of one totalitarian doctrine is soon filled by another.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.44.55Dalrymple hopes that Islamism

will pass from the world stage as quickly as it arrived on it. In the meantime, however, it can cause a great deal of havoc, and will not disappear spontaneously, without opposition, much of which must be conducted on the intellectual plane.

Yet

Western intellectuals have failed to examine Islam and its founder in the same light as they would examine any other religious doctrine of comparable importance.

Dalrymple believes that all forms of Islam are

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.47.53very vulnerable in the modern world to rational criticism, which is why the Islamists are so ferocious in trying to suppress such criticism. They have instinctively understood that Islam itself, while strong, is exceedingly brittle, as communism once was. They understand that, at the present time in human history, it is all or nothing. They are thus more clear-sighted than moderate Moslems.

The problem with Islam may be rooted

Image (latterly effaced) of Mohammed on frieze, Birch Memorial Clocktower (1917), Ipoh, Perak

Image (latterly effaced) of Mohammed on frieze, Birch Memorial Clocktower (1917), Ipoh, Perak

in its doctrines, its history and its founder.

Mohammed

connived at armed robbery, mass murder and the abduction of women. Of course, autres temps, autres mœurs, and it may be that, on the whole, he sometimes behaved better than his peers.

He was

a political genius: he understood what motivated men, and he developed a system of belief and practice, of social pressure and ideological terror, that meant that Islamisation once established was irreversible, at least until the present day. Leonid Brezhnev’s doctrine was that a country, once communist, could not become non-communist; how puny, historically, was the communist achievement beside that of Islam!

Part of private quarters (1578) of Sultan Murad III

Part of private quarters (1578) of Sultan Murad III

Islamic civilisation has many attractive qualities . At least at its summit, the Ottoman civilisation was

exquisite, and in the decorative arts was Western Europe’s superior for centuries.

But the quality of a civilisation

does not establish the truth of the doctrines current in it, nor the suitability of those doctrines for living in the modern world.

Judged by the abysmal standards of fifteenth century Europe, Islam

looks quite tolerant; but judged from the modern, post-Enlightenment perspective, it looks primitive.

Its attitude towards polytheists and atheists is

doctrinally abominable.

Islam

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.46.00has nothing whatever to say to the modern world, and as yet has no doctrinal means of dealing constructively with the inevitable diversity of human religion and philosophy, beyond the violent imposition of uniformity or second-class citizenship.

Can Moslems of moderate temperament find some way of reconciling their faith with the exigencies of the modern world?

The problem is that this reconciliation cannot be a mere modus vivendi; it has to be intellectually coherent and satisfying to last. Personally, I am not optimistic. Islamism is a last gasp, not a renaissance, of the religion. But last gasps can last a surprisingly long time.

Backbone of a mollusc and morals of a jackal

His face is so moistly smooth and characterless that it looks as though it would disappear leaving a trail of slime if caught in the rain

His face is so moistly smooth and characterless that it looks as though it would disappear leaving a trail of slime if caught in the rain

Cameron is not the man for the job

In the Greece of the North Sea, writes Dalrymple,

several things need to be done, among them the reform and even dismantlement of the educational and social-security systems, the liberalisation of the labour laws, and the much firmer repression of crime. David Cameron is not the man for the job.

Cameron, says Dalrymple,

is Focus Group Man made flesh. This is not altogether surprising since his only known employment, other than politician, was in public relations. He appears not to know what to think until he has consulted a variety of gauges of public opinion, and then he announces his own opinion as if from deep conviction.

Blancmange-like, he

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 07.24.15

Moulds himself to any shape going

moulds himself to any shape going.

Raised on public relations,

Cameron cannot think back further than yesterday’s focus group or ahead further than tomorrow’s opinion poll. Strategy is alien to him.

He made a commitment to further Scottish devolution,

thus conjuring constitutional problems from thin air. He was panicked into doing so by a single Gallup poll, whose authors must be very proud that a single poll of theirs affected a significant power so profoundly.

This was a typically Cameronian act of foolishness and incompetence. Moreover, the promise

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 07.25.38

Acted like a tin-pot dictator

was not Cameron’s to make: he acted more like a tin-pot dictator proposing a change to the constitution to allow himself a seventh term than a democratic politician.

Then came his pledge to protect the funding of the NHS,

because he knows through focus groups, opinion polls, etc., that the British people worship the NHS as the Israelites once worshipped the golden calf.

Cameron

cannot see a bad idea without embracing it with what he imagines is vote-getting fervour.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 07.27.10Nothing for Cameron

is a matter of principle, only of advantage, and short-term advantage at that, his sole discernible goal being that of maintaining himself in power.

What of his physiognomy?

His face is so moistly smooth and characterless that it looks as though it would disappear leaving a trail of slime if caught in the rain.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 07.35.41

Backbone

Morals

Morals

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 14.46.33Dalrymple explains (from 37:05) that a book was recently sent to him through the post by its publishers

in the hope that I would make some reference to it or even review it.

In 360 pages, the book

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 14.40.02sought to prove, with an immense machinery of academic references, that human beings, on the whole, are happier if they have some face-to-face and person-to-person contact.

Dalrymple’s comment:

Imagine someone going to Shakespeare and earnestly explaining to him the content of this book.

‘Well, William. Did you know that human beings need one another to be happy? I bet you didn’t, because, poor chap, you lived in the 16th century.’

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 14.31.50I don’t think the Bard would have been bemused, because nothing human bemused him, but he might have been amused.

Two lines of his might have run through his head: Lord, what fools these mortals be!* and O brave new world, That has such people in’t!

*A Midsummer Nights Dream, Act 3, scene 2, 110–115; †The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1, 181–184

Het groote tafereel der dwaasheid

Detail of the frontispiece illustration of an edition of the 1720 Pieter Langendijk farce Arlequin Actionist

Detail of the frontispiece illustration of an edition of the 1720 Pieter Langendijk farce Arlequin Actionist

Prudence is foolishness and foolishness prudence

Speculation, writes Dalrymple,

is necessary for all who do not want to end up impoverished, and there can be no such thing as enough, even for those who are not greedy by nature, for money is no longer a store of value. More, more, more is necessary, if you want to keep what little you already have.

Taxpayers in the West

have had a long schooling in low expectations from their taxes: they may pay 40 per cent (80 per cent within living memory) of their income above a certain level in taxes, as well as taxes on everything that they buy or do.

However,

they would not be so foolish as to conclude that therefore their children will be properly educated by the state, or that they will be well looked-after when they are ill.

It does not surprise taxpayers that the state bureaucracy (local and national)

will do anything rather than reduce payments to its staff and hangers-on.

Dalrymple’s diagnosis: fiat money is at the root of this disease. The conjuring of currency out of nothing by the central banks

has accustomed governments to the idea that they can go on borrowing and spending money forever without ever having to pay it back. This alters their attitude to deficit spending, which is not as the occasion requires (as Keynes envisaged), but permanent, the way we live now. And it alters the whole character of the citizenry.

Foot a fool? Perhaps. But he was erudite and cultivated

Michael Foot, Dalrymple explains, was not just a naïf, not just a potentially highly dangerous fool (there are claims, some of them mildly credible, that he was a — probably unwitting — Soviet agent); he was also a literary scholar and a person of decency.