Category Archives: genocide

On fuckery

Roger Hallam

Crudity will set you free

Dalrymple writes:

Secular holiness is an unpleasant trait, and it is always a pleasure to see the unfrocking of a secular bishop.

Roger Hallam is the founder of his evangelical church, the Extinction Rebellion. In an interview with the Hamburg newspaper the Zeit, Hallam declared that genocides were

like, a normal event. [Das ist ein fast normales Ereignis is the Zeit‘s translation.]

The Belgians, for instance,

went to the Congo in the late 19th century and decimated [sic] it. [Die Belgier kamen im späten 19. Jahrhundert in den Kongo und haben ihn dezimiert.]

In this context, the Holocaust was

just another fuckery in human history. [Nur ein weiterer Scheiß in der Menschheitsgeschichte is the Zeit‘s elegant rendering.]

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Dalrymple comments:

Hallam might appear to have joined the camp of the anti-Semites such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, who called the Holocaust a detail of history, but he was not claiming that the Holocaust did not happen or that it was not serious; he was saying that it was not unique and that we should not continue to say it was unique. There has long been debate as to whether the Holocaust is typologically comparable to, for example, the Armenian genocide or the mass killings in Cambodia. No doubt something can be said on both sides of the question; I do not think anything important turns on it. The Rwandan genocide would be neither better nor worse than it was, whether it were the same as, similar to or distinct from the Holocaust.

What is appalling about Hallam’s words, Dalrymple avers,

is their crudity. The vulgarity of his expression was matched by the imprecision of his thought. The word fuckery is extremely lazy, especially when used by someone with pretensions to seriousness. It is a bit like seeing the Himalayas and saying ‘Very nice.’ A cup of tea and Bach’s St Matthew Passion are also very nice.

Nice.

It is hardly to be expected, Dalrymple says,

that a man using such a term to describe the wilful murder of millions of people with a view to exterminating their kind would be a very clear thinker.

A fucked-up educational system

But it is indicative of a

a reduction in basic educational standards. People have always written tosh, but after many years of compulsory education of the entire population, one might have hoped for a better mastery of language and grasp of what constitutes an argument.

Dalrymple says that to be reduced to using the word fuckery in the face of a catastrophe in history of any scale is symptomatic of

  • debasement of language
  • limitation of vocabulary
  • stunted imagination
  • impoverishment of thought or inability to think

The degradation of public discourse in the West

is evident, and one is tempted to say planned and deliberate. It is as if the educated classes had been trying for years to demonstrate their sympathetic identification with the lower orders by adopting what they supposed, wrongly, were their vulgar habits of speech.

Linguistic Luddism

Take Tribes, by the highly praised playwright Nina Raine, in which she depicts life in an upper-middle-class household for the benefit of an upper-middle-class audience. Opening the script at random, to page 28, Dalrymple finds the following expressions within the space of 15 lines:

  • ‘I want my fucking pen back.’
  • ‘You thieving little shit!’
  • ‘Fuck you!’
  • My arse!

Dalrymple comments that such language, more or less constant throughout the play, is the reverse of expressive except in the most primitive sense, but the intelligentsia would probably consider that to draw attention to the fact is

  • absurd
  • retrograde
  • censorious
  • sanctimonious
  • trying to turn the clock back
  • narrow-minded
  • bigoted
  • linguistic Luddism
  • inhibited

He concludes:

On this view, refinement will constrain or imprison you. But, then, we should not be surprised by a man who cannot tell the difference between genocide and pollution.

Scheiße for brains

Dalrymple schools a brute and a barbarian

Debate on the propaganda campaign to persuade people that the brutalist strain was a glorious episode in architectural history

Detail of Balfron Tower (Ernő Goldfinger, 1965-67)

DALRYMPLE: It has the ring of guilty people who protest their innocence too much, who know that they have been complicit in many crimes but hope that by noisy protestation they can drown out their conscience and befuddle the judgment of others. The architects who practised brutalism were brutes. No invading barbarians could have done more damage to towns and cities. Of course, there is no accounting for taste. As James Curl pointed out in debate with an apologist for brutalism, if you do not apprehend the horrors of brutalism at once, there is little that anyone can say. It is like trying to persuade someone that genocide is wrong who does not apprehend it at once. The great mass of the population rightly detests brutalism.

BRUTE: The newly-gained attractivity is growing by the day. In troubled times where societal divides are stronger than ever around the globe and in a world where instantaneous rhymes with tenuous, brutalism offers a grounded style. It’s a simple, massive and timeless base upon which one can feel safe, it’s reassuring.

DALRYMPLE: The idea that brute concrete could create any kind of security other than unease or fear is laughable. When defenders of brutalism illustrate their articles with supposed masterpieces, it is hardly a coincidence that they do so with pictures of buildings devoid of human beings. A human being would be as out of place in such a picture, and a fortiori in such a building, as he would be in a textbook of Euclidean geometry, and would be as welcome as a termite in a wooden floor. For such apologists for brutalism, architecture is a matter of the application of an abstract principle alone, and they see the results through the lenses of their abstraction, which they cherish as others cherish their pet.

BARBARIAN: Unrefined concrete was an honest expression of intentions, while plain forms and exposed structures were similarly sincere.

Le Corbusier: evil

DALRYMPLE: This is like saying that the Gulag was an honest expression of Stalin’s intentions. Sincerity of intentions is not a virtue irrespective of what those intentions are, and those of the inspirer and founder of brutalism were evil, as the slightest acquaintance with his writings will convince anyone of minimal decency.

BARBARIAN: Beyond their architectural function, brutalist buildings serve other uses. Skateboarders, graffiti artists and parkour practitioners have all used Brutalism’s concrete surfaces in innovative ways.

DALRYMPLE: To regard the urban fabric as properly an extended playground is to infantilise the population. Extension of graffiti artists’ canvas to large public buildings is a surrender to vandalism. No one would say of a wall, ‘And in addition it would make an excellent place for a firing squad.’

BARBARIAN: Brutalism evokes an era of optimism and belief in the permanence of public institutions—government as well as public housing, educational and health facilities. While demolishing Brutalist buildings often proves politically popular, they are typically replaced by private development.

DALRYMPLE: Many brutalist buildings, especially those devoted to public housing, have been demolished within a few decades at most because they have been so hated, not to mention dysfunctional and impossible to maintain. They evoke not permanence but the wish that they be pulled down as soon as they are erected. If many survive, it is because they are too expensive to pull down and reconstruct. Private development as architecture can be good or bad, but whether it is one or the other does not depend upon its being private. Much private development is as hideous as anything the government has managed, but that is because architects are terrible and patrons have no taste.

The only good anti-communist is a mute anti-communist

There has never a good time to be anti-communist

Dalrymple writes that those who early warned of the dangers of bolshevism

were regarded as lacking in compassion for the suffering of the masses under tsarism, as well as lacking the necessary imagination to build a better world.

Then came the phase of

denial of the crimes of communism, when to base one’s anti-communism on such phenomena as organised famine and the murder of millions was regarded as the malicious acceptance of ideologically-inspired lies and calumnies.

Unforgivable bad taste

When finally the catastrophic failure of communism could no longer be disguised, and all the supposed lies were acknowledged to have been true, to be anti-communist

became tasteless in a different way: it was harping on pointlessly about what everyone had always known to be the case.

Dalrymple points out that to be right at the wrong time

is far worse than having been wrong for decades on end. In the estimation of many intellectuals, to be right at the wrong time is the worst possible faux pas.

What happened in Rumania was not genocide

Rumania under Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, writes Dalrymple, was

a Balkan North Korea, spared somewhat by its corruption, inefficiency and disorganisation.

Dalrymple is ashamed to say that when he heard that the couple had been tried and shot,

my heart leapt with joy. It took a little while for a reaction to set in. Their trial was perfunctory, to say the least, and grossly unfair. No one should be taken out into a courtyard and shot like stray dogs, least of all by people who, until only a few days before, would have fawned upon the condemned and obeyed their every order. As is so often the way with very bad people, the Ceaușescus achieved some slight dignity in the face of death. My initial reaction taught me that I was not immune from the evil of political passion.

The charge of genocide against the Ceaușescus did, however, appal Dalrymple straight away.

They were quite bad enough without having to accuse them of the most abominable of crimes. Rumanian behaviour in Trans-Dniestr and Odessa during the war had been incomparably worse than anything done by the Ceaușescu régime. True, the Ceaușescus were guilty of genocide in the narrowly juridical sense that they sold practically all Rumania’s remaining Jews to Israel and the Saxons to Germany, in the latter case ending a six-century-old cultural tradition: but the juridical sense makes no moral sense, because selling people for money, not even into slavery, is a far cry from exterminating them. One might as well draw no distinction between robbery and murder.

Dalrymple points out that the murder of the Ceaușescus

was more like getting rid of the evidence than an act of justice. Ceaușescu was the kind of man whose greatest intellectual asset was probably a filing-cabinet memory for all that his associates had done. A real trial in which he had been allowed a defence would have been a festival of tu quoque pronounced against his accusers.

It is the achievement of totalitarian régimes such as that of the Ceaușescus that

no one emerges both alive and innocent, which is one of the reasons why the effects of such régimes last at least a generation or two.

It would take three generations to overcome the legacy, the Rumanian historian Andre Pippidi told Dalrymple in Bucharest three months after the overthrow.

There was no genocide in Australia

It is true, writes Dalrymple, that

the fate of the Aboriginal population had been in many respects an awful one, and no doubt very bad things had been done by settlers, but there was a tragic dimension to the encounter which required no genocidal intent to produce its results.

Perhaps those who talk of Australian genocide do not mean the attempt to kill an entire race of people, such as occurred in Rwanda, but

something more along the lines of the effective destruction of a culture or extinction of a way of life by, for example, removal of children from their parents and bringing them up in a completely different culture, speaking a different language.

Even on this rather loose definition of genocide,

you would have to demonstrate that all the children of a certain group had been severed from their parents, not with the intention of protecting them from harms, but with that of extinguishing the language and culture into which they were born. I doubt that this could be done.

Such a use of the word genocide debases it,

and this (for me) is not without importance: for when you have used up the word genocide in describing a much lesser event, what word do you use when genocide, in the sense of the deliberate physical extinction of a whole ethnic group, occurs? The emotional force or charge of the word genocide will have been dissipated by its overuse, and familiarity breeds indifference.

Friend of would-be génocidaires

Dalrymple writes that Jeremy Corbyn’s

failure to condemn anti-Semitism in his party

and his

penchant for consorting in friendly fashion with extremist anti-Zionists of genocidal instincts

are cause for anxiety among British Jews to an extent not known since the time of Mosley.

No one can say for certain whether the man’s anti-Semitism is

a sincerely held prejudice or a matter of electoral calculation. (There are more than 10 times as many Muslims in Britain as Jews, and it makes electoral sense to appeal more to Muslims.)

Schubert can help murderers unwind

Dalrymple observes that Anthony Burgess, in his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, demonstrated that he had foreseen many aspects of the youth culture to come — to take one of many examples,

the importance that industrialised pop music would play in it.

Dalrymple notes, however, that Burgess

did not suggest that high culture was necessarily ennobling in itself.

The character Alex,

much superior in intelligence to his followers, is a devotee of classical music, listening to which, however, increases his urge to commit violence. No doubt Burgess had in mind those Nazis who could listen with emotion to Schubert lieder after a hard day’s genocide.

An idealist of evil

Adolf Eichmann, writes Dalrymple, was no

sleep-walking little man, no post office clerk of extermination.

He points out that

far from being a faceless bureaucrat, a mere pen-pusher who somehow, as if by accident, wandered into the organisation of genocide, Eichmann was an ardent and committed Nazi who knew what he was doing and regretted only that he had been unable to do more and finish the job.

The unlucky country for intellectuals

Unforgivable historian

The unforgiven: Keith Windschuttle

If you are unhappy in Australia, writes Dalrymple,

you have to consider the possibility that the problem lies with you rather than with the conditions that surround you.

This

is a disagreeable thing, particularly for an intelligentsia, which is deprived by it of a providential role for itself. What does an intelligentsia do when a country is already as satisfactory in its political arrangements and social institutions as any country has ever been? Intelligentsias do not like the kind of small problems that day to day existence inevitably throws up, such as termites in the woodwork: they like to get their intellectual teeth into weightier, meatier problems.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 09.05.36What could be a weightier problem

than a prosperous, fortunate country that was founded upon genocide? Clearly, if it was so founded, an intelligentsia is urgently needed to help it emerge from the dark moral labyrinth in which it exists, hitherto blindly. For only an intelligentsia is sufficiently used to thinking in abstractions to be qualified to act as guide to the nation.

Yet Australia

has not cherished its intellectuals. It has not accorded them the respect to which they think they are naturally entitled. Indeed, until a couple of decades ago it was common practice for Australian intellectuals to flee their country and live elsewhere, so strong was the anti-intellectual atmosphere of their county. Australia was not a lucky country as far as intellectuals were concerned. Intellectuals in Australia are not taken as seriously by the public as they take themselves. Besides, there are now more of them, and competition for attention is therefore greater.

Some members of the philosophy faculty of the University of Woolloomooloo

Michael Baldwin, left, and the Bruces, philosophy faculty, Woolloomooloo University

Then Keith Windschuttle published The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, which destroyed the idea that there had been a genocide of Tasmanian aborigines carried out by the early European settlers of the island. The debate that followed publication proved that Windschuttle was right.

This was quite unforgivable of him.

There is nothing much more attention-grabbing

than the claim that your current happiness and good fortune is founded on a pile of bones. With a bit of luck, this claim will even turn people neurotic and increase the need for therapists. It is hardly surprising, then, that when someone came along and challenged the version of history on which intellectuals’ newfound importance in society was to be based, they threw their dolly out of the pram, as the prison wardens in the prison in which I worked used to put it to describe the actions of a prisoner who had lost his temper. The dispute was not just a matter of the interpretation of the contents of old newspapers in Hobart libraries: it went to the very heart of the intelligentsia’s self-conception as society’s conscience and natural leaders.