Category Archives: freedom

Canting humbugs in their hundreds of thousands

Hard feelings in the East Indies

The sentencing of the Christian governor of Jakarta to two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy might, writes Dalrymple,

seem like a throwback to medieval intolerance,

but, he says,

it is more than that. It is a reminder that the suppression of the freedom of others is more fun than the exercise of freedom.

The Muslim masses who demanded the prosecution of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama

enjoyed their virtuous anger,

which is

among the pleasures that their religion does not deny them.

Islamic humbug

Dalrymple notes that although intellectually primitive, the condemnation and sentencing of Ahok, as he is known,

was in one respect modern. One of the judges said that punishment was justified because the governor had hurt the feelings of Muslims—which must have been as delicate as those of Western students who need safe spaces and teddy-bears to hug if they hear something that contradicts their preconceptions.

The desire not to have one’s feelings hurt

has been erected into a right increasingly enforceable at law. Not everyone’s feelings are treated with the solicitude that we show a nice fluffy colourful species of animal that is on the verge of extinction. But treating people’s feelings with this solicitude tends not only to preserve them but to cause them to flourish.

Dalrymple avers that

we have a duty to control our indignation, for most of the time it will be liberally admixed with humbug.

He does not expect his message to be heard in Jakarta,

to judge from the pictures of those hundreds of thousands of canting humbugs in the city’s streets.

The caesaropapists

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-19-13-36Dalrymple writes that in her speech on the basket of deplorables, Hillary Clinton divided people into

  1. the decent and correct, holding sterilised opinions on race, sex, identity and culture
  2. the deviant and incorrect, dwelling outside the limits of civilised society

La población se halla aquí dividida entre quienes tienen opiniones decentes, correctas, demostrablemente esterilizadas, sobre la raza, el sexo, la identidad nacional y el multiculturalismo, despojadas de todos los agentes contaminantes no autorizados, por un lado, y quienes, al desviarse del punto de vista correcto, se sitúan ellos mismos fuera de los límites aceptables de la sociedad civilizada, por otro.

Bill Clinton: the expression of virtuous opinions has the happy effect of liberating behaviourCorrect opinion, Dalrymple notes, is nine-tenths of virtue. Anyone with wrong opinions is morally wrong: worse than a thief, a delinquent or a drunk, and much worse than a womaniser. Virtue is not the exercise of a discipline but the expression of an opinion; this has the happy effect of liberating behaviour.

La mayoría de los intelectuales consideran ahora, además, que la opinión «correcta» son nueve décimas partes de virtud, por lo que cualquier persona que abrace las opiniones «erróneas» no está simplemente equivocada, sino que es moralmente mala: peor que, por ejemplo, un ladrón, un delincuente o un borracho, y mucho peor que un mujeriego. Actualmente la virtud no es el ejercicio de una disciplina, sino la expresión de una opinión: lo cual tiene, por supuesto, el feliz efecto de liberar la verdadera conducta.

For the caesaropapists, as Dalrymple calls them, words like racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic are wonderfully elastic. Such epithets have negative connotations, of course; as to their denotations, well, they denote anything that the powerful, or those aspiring to power, say they denote. The point is not just to exercise power but to entrench it, moulding minds and obviating resistance.

Palabras como racista, sexista, homófobo, xenófobo e islamófobo son maravillosamente elásticas desde el punto de vista del nuevo cesaropapista, que desea no sólo ejercer el poder temporal sino también afianzarlo, moldeando las mentes de las personas de tal modo que les resulte imposible cualquier oposición real. Epítetos como los referidos más arriba tienen ahora connotaciones morales irreductiblemente negativas, pero en cuanto a qué es lo que realmente denotan… bueno, denotan cualquier cosa que el poderoso, o el aspirante a poderoso, diga que denotan.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.' (Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, Mervyn Peake illustration)

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ (Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, Mervyn Peake illustration)

Dalrymple points out that in a world where representations of reality are more important than reality itself, control of the meanings of words is as important as, or more important than, control of parliaments.

En un mundo en el que las representaciones de la realidad son a menudo, o incluso habitualmente, más importantes que la realidad misma, el control de los significados de las palabras resulta tan importante como el control de los parlamentos, o anterior a este.

Take racism. It is, Dalrymple notes, no longer the doctrine that certain groups of people are inferior; it now means opposition to political prescriptions, often extraordinarily bureaucratic and job-multiplying, supposed to counteract racism. A racist is no longer a member of a gang that goes about lynching people, or an advocate of segregation in buses; it is someone who harbours doubts about, say, affirmative action, who apprehends that such a policy leads to falling standards, that it works against those who, having broken through, wonder if their success might not be due to racial condescension. A racist is also someone who denies that the differing levels of achievement of various groups is attributable entirely to injustice — of the kind that it is the duty of the State to correct.

La definición de palabras como racista es importante, porque a nadie, exceptuada una porción diminuta e insignificante de la población, le gusta que le llamen racista. Pero se trata de una acusación contra la que resulta cada vez más difícil defenderse. El racismo ya no significa la doctrina según la cual ciertos grupos de seres humanos físicamente identificables son biológica y moralmente inferiores y pueden, por tanto, ser tratados como tales. Es, más bien, la oposición a algún tipo de prescripción política, con frecuencia extraordinariamente burocrática y creadora de empleo, supuestamente con el propósito de contrarrestar el racismo, que es ahora más del corazón que de la verdadera conducta. El racista ya no es el integrante de una pandilla que se dedica al linchamiento o el defensor de la segregación en los autobuses, sino la persona que duda del acierto de la discriminación positiva porque no sólo conduce a un descenso de los estándares, sino que puede llegar a confundir a un negro que ha logrado abrirse camino y que no sabe si su éxito se debe a una suerte de condescendencia racial y no a su propio talento. Y se trata de una preocupación que ningún éxito ni logro pueden mitigar. Racista es también la persona que niega que las diferencias en el resultado alcanzado entre grupos humanos deben atribuirse entera y exclusivamente a una injusticia que es obligación del gobierno corregir y que asegura que esas diferencias en los resultados podrían haber surgido de otro modo.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-19-23-53Dalrymple cites homophobia. It is no longer a wish to outlaw homosexual behaviour; it now applies when, for instance, people raise questions about homosexual marriage, as if such doubts are based on nothing but the most savage hatred. To be homophobic is to be put in the category of a member of a gang that goes around looking for homosexuals to beat up. Even wanting to discuss the matter is ultramontane: to deny the rightness, the good sense, the humanity of homosexual marriage is like believing that the Earth is flat — with this difference, that while the latter is a harmless eccentricity, the former is a moral enormity.

Homofobia no es un deseo de perseguir activamente a los homosexuales declarando ilegal su comportamiento incluso en privado, o atacándoles o humillándoles dondequiera que se encuentren; es, entre otras cosas, cuestionar el acierto del matrimonio homosexual, o plantearle objeciones, como si tal cuestionamiento u objeciones no pudieran sustentarse en nada más racional que la animosidad y los prejuicios más primitivos. Así, a la persona que, por motivos intelectuales, se opone (aun en la privacidad de su propia mente) a que se reconozca el matrimonio entre dos hombres como algo idéntico al celebrado entre un hombre y una mujer, se la colocará en la misma categoría que al integrante de una pandilla que se dedica a ir por las calles en busca de homosexuales para atacarlos. En este sentido, incluso querer examinar el asunto se convirtió en un signo de reacción virulenta o ultramontana, una suerte de tierraplanismo moral. Negar el acierto, el buen sentido o la humanidad del matrimonio homosexual es como persistir en la idea de que la Tierra era plana. Aunque con esta diferencia: que mientras que esto último no es más que una simpática excentricidad, lo primero es una enormidad moral.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-19-31-44Few fret enough about the homosexual-marriage issue to risk the shame that dissent from orthodoxy would bring down on them if they protested, says Dalrymple. The issue has been decided by asymmetric warfare between a small number of monomaniacal activists, for whom the matter is of existential importance, and a large number of sceptics and opponents, for whom the matter is just one question among many, and not the most important.

A pocas personas les preocupa el asunto lo bastante como para arriesgarse a sufrir el oprobio moral que haría recaer sobre ellos la pública expresión de disentimiento de la nueva ortodoxia. La cuestión ha sido decidida por el equivalente de la guerra asimétrica entre, por un lado, un número reducido de defensores entusiastas y monomaníacos, para quienes el asunto revestía una importancia existencial, y, por otro, un gran número de escépticos y opositores, para quienes era y es únicamente una cuestión entre muchas otras, y no la más importante.

This de facto silencing of even the mildest sceptical voices is normally associated with totalitarian dictatorships, Dalrymple notes. The self-imposed restriction on expression of heterodox ideas in public soon becomes self-censorship of our ideas, because none of us likes being a coward. The aim is to deny that there has been any suppression of freedom of thought at all.

El silenciamiento de facto de aun el más suave escepticismo ejerce en las mentes el tipo de violencia que normalmente se asocia con las dictaduras totalitarias más que con las democracias liberales. La negativa autoimpuesta a expresar ideas heterodoxas en una compañía «decente» o en público se convierte enseguida en autocensura de las propias ideas, porque a nadie le gusta tenerse por un cobarde; lo que busca, por tanto, es negar antes de nada que se haya producido ningún tipo de supresión.

Thus, on the issue of homosexual marriage, we should not ask

  • how an idea that not so long ago would have seemed absurd, even unthinkable, cannot be questioned by anyone who wishes to be considered enlightened
  • why those who have worked systematically to weaken marriage as an institution, calling it oppressive and stifling of all the potential beauty of human relations, now suddenly exalt it
  • whether this enthusiasm is not, in fact, the means by which to weaken it further
  • what will be next in the boundary-pushing agenda of social engineering

No deben preguntar cómo es que una idea que tan solo pocos años antes habría parecido absurda, ridícula, impensable incluso, se ha convertido en una ortodoxia incuestionable por parte de una persona que desee ser considerada ilustrada; no deben preguntar por qué aquellos que han trabajado sistemáticamente para debilitar el matrimonio como institución, defendiendo que es opresivo e inhibitorio de toda la belleza potencial de las relaciones humanas, lo exaltan ahora de repente de forma entusiasta; no deben preguntarse si este entusiasmo no es, de hecho, el medio con el cual debilitarlo aún más; no deben preguntar si cualquier persona prudente habría de echar por tierra la imagen que tiene de un acuerdo tan antiguo como el matrimonio sin siquiera una mirada retrospectiva; no deben preguntar qué será lo siguiente en la agenda de ingeniería social para acabar con los límites heredados, a pesar de que es perfectamente evidente que la caravana de reformas (como sucedió, de hecho, muy pronto) seguiría adelante. Tampoco deben darse cuenta de que eslóganes como igualdad ante el matrimonio o, en Francia, mariage pour tous, son, bien mentiras, bien pagarés para nuevas «reformas», como el matrimonio incestuoso o la poligamia y la poliandria, ya que, al fin y al cabo, también pueden ser acuerdos realizados entre adultos que consienten en algo (pueden encontrarse adultos que consentirán en casi cualquier cosa, y un ejemplo que viene al caso es el del hombre que quería comerse a alguien y que se emparejó, con éxito desde el punto de vista de la satisfacción del deseo mutuo, con otro que quería ser comido): porque, tras haber negado que el significado del matrimonio es lisa y llanamente la unión de un hombre y una mujer, no existe defensa alguna contra el posterior desplazamiento de los límites.

To stay out of Hillary’s basket, we must suppress thought or, better still, not think. The more important the subject, the more imperative it is to ignore it. It is our duty, if we do not wish to be classed as deplorable, to rejoice in what we regret, to take pleasure in what we have lost, to see in what is strange nothing but the friendly, the compatible, the enriching.

Hay tantos temas sobre los que, a fin de evitar acabar en el cesto, hay que suprimir ahora todo pensamiento o, mejor aún, no pensar, que esta persona se siente oprimida. Cuanto más importante es el tema, más tiene que ignorarlo. Es nuestra obligación, por tanto, si no deseamos que nos clasifiquen como deplorables, alegrarnos de lo que lamentamos, obtener placer de nuestra propia pérdida, no ver en lo extraño más que lo amistoso, compatible y enriquecedor, y concebir en general el mundo sin más como un montón de restaurantes diferentes.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-19-36-30Dalrymple instances mass immigration. Are we concerned that too large an influx of people soaked in an alien culture will change our way of life? We must learn to curb this irrationality; we should remember that the way of life to which we are so attached is responsible for all the evils of the world, past, present and future. (This is the mirror image of the mission civilisatrice.)

¿Le preocupa que una llegada demasiado grande de personas empapadas de una cultura extraña cambie un modo de vida al que se siente apegado? Debe aprender a superar su apego: porque, históricamente considerado, el modo de vida al que se siente apegado es responsable de todos los males del mundo, pasados, presentes o futuros. (Esta es, seguramente, la imagen refleja de la mission civilisatrice, y resulta al menos halagadora para nuestro engreimiento.)

Thus, on the issue of Muslim immigration, we are not allowed to ask if it is wise to take in so many people whose faith and conduct

  • do not favour unrestricted intellectual inquiry
  • spring from an uninterrupted tradition of punishing critics, if not eliminating them
  • betray no conception of equality before the law

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-19-39-19On no account must we ask

  • if it is wise to take in so many people the influence of whose religion, in its most intransigent and evangelising form, looks like it is growing very rapidly
  • what we receive, over and above a wider choice of restaurants and certain talented individuals that can be found in all groups, in return for the grave danger posed by a small minority
  • what benefit these people bestow that is not on offer from other immigrants without the attendant danger

No debe siquiera pasársenos por la cabeza que quizá sea desaconsejable aceptar en nuestro seno a un número demasiado grande de personas cuya religión no favorece la indagación intelectual sin restricciones; que cuenta con una tradición ininterrumpida de castigar a los críticos, cuando no de eliminarlos; que no tiene concepción alguna de la igualdad ante la ley; y cuyo influjo en su forma más intransigente y evangelizadora parece ser hacerse más fuerte en la segunda generación. Nuestra autocensura debe producirse toda ella en nombre de una cualidad abstracta −la diversidad− que se da por supuesto que es buena incondicionalmente y sin reservas. ¿No debemos preguntar qué recibimos específicamente, además de restaurantes y de algunas personas de talento que pueden encontrarse en todos los grupos humanos, a cambio del peligro de plantean ahora una minoría de ellos, hay que admitir que muy pequeña? ¿Cuál es el beneficio que no pueda ser traído por otros grupos inmigrantes sin el peligro anejo?

To allow such thoughts to run through our heads even for a moment is to suffer the deplorable condition of Islamophobia. If we wonder whether Mohammedanism is compatible with intellectual freedom, it is a sign of a moral defect as well as of a psychopathology. We have an irrational fear, like that of spiders or of being locked in a room.

Dejar siquiera que estos pensamientos se te pasen por la cabeza durante un instante es padecer la deplorable condición de islamofobia: como si preguntarse si el islam fuera compatible con la libertad intelectual, especialmente en relación consigo mismo, fuera similar en su forma a un miedo irracional a las arañas o a estar encerrado en una habitación. Esta fobia, sin embargo, es tanto enfermedad como defecto moral (al contrario de la aracnofobia o de, por ejemplo, la adicción a las drogas, que es una pura enfermedad).

Mr Podsnap, from Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

Mr Podsnap, from Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

Political correctness, says Dalrymple, sows in the educated the fear of ostracism, of being an intellectual leper, of being locked up with the deplorables (to prevent the spread of the disease). And it infuriates the large numbers of people who neither subscribe to it nor benefit from it, and who feel that the energies devoted to trying to decide, for instance, which public toilets transsexuals should be allowed to use, is an insult to their own, much more pressing, problems.

Entre las clases educadas, la corrección política siembra el miedo al ostracismo social, a quedar relegados a un leprosario mental en el que se encierra a todos los deplorables para impedir que se propague su maligna enfermedad; pero enfurece a quienes ni la suscriben ni se benefician de ella, y a quienes sienten que la energía y el esfuerzo que se dedican a tratar de decidir qué baños públicos debería permitirse utilizar a los transexuales es un insulto a sus propios problemas, más acuciantes, pero desdeñados.

Moreover, writes Dalrymple, there is in political correctness an insufferable, oppressive, cloying pretension of superiority that needs a Dickens to satirise successfully.

En la corrección política hay una insufrible, agobiante, empalagosa pretensión de superioridad que sólo Dickens podría haber satirizado con éxito.

Disgusted of Bridgnorth

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-09-30-40Everywhere must be Streatham

The problem with freedom in Britain, writes Dalrymple, is that

once people exercise it, execrable taste becomes predominant and civilisation suffers.

Strolling outside the National Gallery, Dalrymple has to

run the gauntlet of the English at play. Not a single one dressed with self-respect. They chewed the gum with which the paving stones were mottled. Several had set up loudspeakers, down which they relayed their attempt at rock music. They obviously dreamed of celebrity, that ambition of the talentless. Most looked unwashed, raddled by drugs and malnutrition. What a cacophony, a descent into a circle of Hell!

Must, he asks,

freedom and equality mean that everywhere is reduced to the aesthetic level of Streatham? Is it fascist not to want to be aesthetically and auditorily disgusted everywhere?

A stalking horse for unfreedom

Dalrymple writes that the burkini affair

leaves me uneasy. There are two current demands in our societies: the right to mark ourselves out from others, and the right not to be discriminated against if we do so. These two rights are not logically incompatible, but if too strongly insisted upon simultaneously will destroy the cohesion of any society.

Moreover,

I cannot help but recall the words of Mr Erdoğan, well before he became as eminent and powerful as he has since become. Democracy is a train (or tram, in some citations) which is useful in getting you to where you want to go, and then you get off.

Could it be, asks Dalrymple,

that the demand for freedom is here a stalking horse for unfreedom, that a demand for freedom for oneself will end in a demand for the abrogation of the freedoms of others? This would not be unprecedented in recent history: the communists demanded full liberal-democratic freedoms in order later to be able to destroy them.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-21-46-31

Houellebecq’s protest against nihilism and cynicism

A salutary though uncomfortable writer

A salutary though uncomfortable writer

Michel Houellebecq, writes Dalrymple, draws our attention to our own weaknesses. His theme is

the emptiness of modern life in consumer society, an emptiness which he describes with an unparalleled acuteness. He puts his finger precisely on the sore points of our existence, or at least on those points that seem merely anæsthetised until someone like him presses on them.

In Houellebecq’s world, Dalrymple explains, people

  • buy without need
  • want without real desire
  • distract themselves without enjoyment

Their shallow personal relations reflect this.

No one is prepared to sacrifice his or her freedom, which is conceived of as the ability to seek the next distraction without let or hindrance from obligation to others. They are committed to nothing, and in such a world even art or cultural activity is distraction on a marginally higher plane – though it is a natural law in this kind of society that the planes grow ever more compressed.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 21.49.28For Houellebecq, the institution that best captures the nature of modern existence is the supermarket, in which

people wander between stacked shelves making choices without discrimination or any real consequences, to the sound of banal but inescapable music. This music is like the leprous distilment that Claudius pours into the ear of Hamlet père as he sleeps in his garden once of an afternoon. The shoppers in the supermarket are sleepwalking, or behaving as quasi-automata. Most of them don’t even have a list of what they need, or think they need. The drivelling music makes sure that they do not awake from their semi-slumber.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 22.00.34The whole of modern life is an existential supermarket,

in which everyone makes life choices as if the choices were between very similar products, between Bonne Maman jam, say, and the supermarket’s own brand (probably made by the same manufacturer), in the belief that if they make the wrong choice it can simply be righted tomorrow by another choice. Life is but a series of moments and people are elementary particles (the title of a book by Houellebecq).

One knows what Houellebecq means, says Dalrymple, who observes that

  • children are now adults and adults children
  • once-serious newspapers review cartoon strips with the same solemnity as works of scholarship
  • rock music is reviewed far more than any other, even though the average age of the population has risen and there are as many geriatrics as infants
  • relationships between human beings are analysed for their ingredients as if they were ready-made salad dressings

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 21.52.23If, says Dalrymple, you watch crowds shopping in any consumer society,

you cannot help but think that they represent the sated in search of the superfluous. I once spent an afternoon watching shoppers – mainly women – in Beverly Hills, who almost certainly had all the possessions anyone could reasonably desire, and who exuded a kind of bored dissatisfaction with everything that they no doubt mistook for sophistication. They had not that connoisseurship that is the only justification for searching for yet more possessions when one is already overloaded with them, for connoisseurship requires discipline and knowledge and not just the exercise of whim to ward off boredom.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 21.56.12The decline of the West into narcissistic consumerist nihilism

is, according to Houellebecq, not of recent date, if by recent date one means a decade or two. For example, the novel Plateforme begins with the narrator and protagonist in the flat of his recently dead father who was in his seventies when he died:

In the kitchen cupboards I found mainly Weight Watchers’ individual packet meals, tins of flavoured protein, and energy bars.

This disgusting diet was, of course, in pursuit of fitness and longevity, futile in the event, and a very undignified way of dealing with Man’s mortality.

Finding in another room his deceased father’s exercise and bodybuilding machine, the narrator says:

I rapidly saw in my mind’s eye a cretin in shorts – with a wrinkled face, in other respects very like mine – swelling his pectorals with a hopeless energy.

This, writes Dalrymple,

is a succinct and painfully exact delineation of a generation that refused to believe that it would ever age, which believed in nothing but sensual pleasure and laughed at religious consolation. In a few very painful lines, the author portrays the dénouement of such a life.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 22.05.25

Islam: global force for a new totalitarianism

Emblem of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Emblem of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Dalrymple wonders whether Islam is

an intrinsically totalitarian religion.

It is worth remembering, he says,

how few of us gave any attention to it as a serious political force only twenty years ago.

He suspects that

the downfall of the Soviet Union and the consequent destruction of the possibility of socialistic nationalism as a means for poor or desperate countries (poverty and desperation not being the same thing) to escape their predicament, stimulated the rise of Islam to the position of latest utopian pretender.

There had been Islamists before the downfall of the Soviet Union,

but they offered only one bogus solution among other bogus solutions. After the downfall, Islam had the field to itself, apart from liberal democracy, which is inherently messy and unsatisfying for the lazy and impatient.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 08.03.02Islamism, Dalrymple points out,

is a real threat, made far worse by the cowardly response to it by most western governments, including that of the United States.

Take the Danish cartoon crisis, which, Dalrymple notes, was highly

significant for our civilisation and way of life in the long run. There the British and American governments failed the test miserably; de facto, they gave aid and succour to the Islamists.

As for the neo-atheists, they are right to see the threat of theocracy in Islamism, but

in attacking all religion, they are like the French government which banned not only the wearing of the headscarf in schools, but the wearing of all religious insignia, despite the fact that wearing a Star of David or a crucifix has and had a completely different social signification from wearing a headscarf. In the name of non-discrimination, the French government failed to discriminate properly: and proper discrimination is practically the whole business of life. If there were large numbers of Christians or Jews who were in favour of establishing a theocracy in France, who had a recent record of terrorism, and who terrorised each other into the wearing of crucifixes and Stars of David, then the banning of those insignia would have been justified too.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 08.06.20The wearing of the headscarf should be permitted again

when Islam has become merely one personal confession among others, without the political significance that it has now.

In attacking all religion so indiscriminately, the atheist authors are

strengthening the hand of the Islamists. In arguing that for parents to bring up a child in any religious tradition, even the mildest of Anglicanism, is to abuse a child, with the corollary that the law should forbid it, they are giving ammunition to the Islamists, who will be able with justice to say to their fellow-religionists, ‘See, it is all or nothing. If you give the secularists an inch, they will take a mile. No compromise with secularism is possible, therefore; cleave unto us.’

To suggest

that all forms of religion are equal, that they are all murderous and dangerous, is not to serve the cause of freedom and tolerance. It is to play into the hands of the very people we should most detest; it is to hand them the rhetorical tools with which they can tell the gullible that our freedoms are not genuine and that our tolerance is a masquerade. It is to do what I should previously have thought was impossible, namely in this respect to put them in the right.

Why drug-takers are such crashing bores

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 06.46.55Dalrymple points out that drugs,

far from being expanders of consciousness, severely limit it. One of the characteristics of drug-takers is their intense and tedious self-absorption; their journeys into inner space are forays into inner vacuums. Drug-taking is a lazy man’s way of pursuing happiness and wisdom, and the shortcut turns out to be the deadest of dead ends.

Use of narcotics

has the effect of reducing men’s freedom by circumscribing the range of their interests. It impairs their ability to pursue more important human aims, such as raising a family and fulfilling civic obligations. Very often it impairs their ability to pursue gainful employment and promotes parasitism.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 06.50.28Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 06.48.54Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 06.49.45

American suburban ennui

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 07.34.56It was, writes Dalrymple, the

deadness that disturbed me.

The city had a centre,

but nobody lived there: after work everyone decamped to the suburbs, where they seemed to live in isolation from one another and where human relations, if they existed, were shallow and unrooted, as if everyone expected the neighbours to move away soon and so avoided deep attachments. The suburbs, quiet and spacious as they were, seemed to vitiate the purpose, or at least the pleasures, of living in a city, while not compensating for their loss by the pleasures of real country living. Even their comfort seemed suffocating, as if it were a kind of bribe, or an offer that no one could refuse, in return for living in the way that they did.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 07.42.15Dalrymple’s reaction

was purely conventional. I little thought that my complaint was that of hundreds or thousands of intellectuals before me. I was still a long way from my present realisation—it has taken many years and much voyaging to attain it—that every place is interesting.

Public transport

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 07.40.00existed only in a token way, and was useless if you couldn’t wait all day for it. To go anywhere, to do anything, a car was essential. Without one, you were like an anchorite in the Syrian desert. The suburbs were far too spread out for effective public transport without massive subsidies. This struck me as disastrous from the standpoint of quality of life. The car, supposedly a symbol of individual freedom, became an instrument of an informal servitude, adding two, three, or four hours to the workday: it added periods of isolation, frustration, irritation, and—frequently—rage. It is one thing to drive on the open road; another to be but one driver in a seemingly endless procession, thundering or crawling to and from work, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, spending a tenth of one’s waking life behind the wheel. The very sight of the traffic appalls me, and it would terrify me to have to participate in it. Perhaps such traffic is a quid pro quo for the great benefits of modern existence, and perhaps my horror of traffic is idiosyncratic, a personal taste, or merely snobbish; I have been fortunate in having been able to arrange my life so as largely to avoid it.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 07.44.27The possibility of living without a car has become for Dalrymple

a personal criterion of desirable city life. For this, a good public transport system is necessary; and that can exist only in a city with a dense enough population. Many have written about the problems of overcrowding, with psychologists performing experiments on rodents in cages to demonstrate the bad effects on conduct of lack of space; but the negative consequences of undercrowding in cities are less often emphasised.

Muslim men bent on evil

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 09.09.26Those who become terrorist murderers cannot, of course, be satisfied with what Western society offers them, for they are, Dalrymple points out,

in the grip of a utopian ideology.

So were many successful people in the West once attracted to communism,

another ideology that would have destroyed their own freedom.

The English Perón

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 22.09.02

Always on the lookout for new worlds to ruin

A merciless enemy of liberty

The British repeatedly elect, writes Dalrymple,

nonentities distinguished only for their ambition and relentless pursuit of office. Mediocrity and ambition often combine with vast self-regard.

An example is Tony Blair. In the US it is not appreciated

how ferocious and inveterate an enemy of freedom Mr Blair is. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about him is that he doesn’t know it: he thinks of himself as a guardian of freedom, perhaps the greatest such guardian.

It would be almost correct to call Blair

a fascist, were it not for the fact that he is unaware of it.

Blair’s emphasis on youth as the source of all wisdom and strength

is reminiscent of Mussolini.

His notion of the Third Way

has fascistic overtones, and reminds one of Juan Perón.

Blair is

always on the lookout, not for new worlds to conquer, but for new worlds to poke his nose into and to ruin, or ruin further.

In Britain once, most people

had an idea of virtue that was intensely focused on their individual conduct, irrespective of whether they were rich or poor. People did not believe that poverty excused very much. One of the destructive consequences of the spread of sociological modes of thought is that it has transferred the notion of virtue from individuals to social structures, and in so doing has made personal striving for virtue (as against happiness) not merely unnecessary but ridiculous and even bad, insofar as it diverted attention from the real task at hand, that of creating the perfect society: the society so perfect, as T.S. Eliot put it, that no one will have to be good. It is that kind of society in which Mr Blair believes.