Category Archives: hubris

The cards Putin holds

One form of hubris, says Dalrymple,

is the belief that the need for vigilance has been abolished because everyone now has the same worldview as ourselves, that the end of history has come, and we are it.

Vladimir Putin, Dalrymple notes, has these things on his side:

  • military power
  • his increasing control of the media and over public opinion in Russia
  • the appeal of his policy to nationalist passion (which, apart from ethnic hatred, is probably the strongest political passion)
  • the weakness of his European opponents

The hope of a dilemma-free world is naïve where it is not power-hungry

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-19-05-57The problem, says Dalrymple, with a nationalised health system’s

incontinent sharing of risk

is that

it deprives people of one possible motive for behaving responsibly. They believe, not without reason, that someone will always pick up the pieces for them at no cost to themselves. Irresponsibility thrives where there is no penalty for it.

He points out, however, that the problem with individualised insurance is that

it may place intolerable or unsustainable burdens on people through no fault of their own.

In short,

incontinent sharing of risk is unjust: too little sharing of risk is inhumane. Since both justice and humanity are desirable qualities, but not always compatible, now one, now the other, will be the more important; but the tension between them will remain.

Dalrymple writes:

That ethical decisions sometimes cannot be made that are indisputably correct, that entail no injustice or no inhumanity, is difficult for rationalists and utilitarians to accept. They want every division to be without remainder. They want a formula that will decide every question beyond reasonable doubt. They want a universal measure of suffering, so that the worth (in units of suffering averted) of every medical procedure can be known and compared. There is a cognitive hubris at play, according to which information will resolve all our dilemmas; and if our dilemmas have not been answered, it is only because we do not have enough information.

As for the doctor,

he cannot be so limitlessly compassionate as to deny patients’ responsibility where it exists, nor should he deny his patients his compassion by blaming them even when they are to blame.

Triumph of the antinomians

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.05.15Dalrymple writes in the preface to Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses that in much of the world, the miseries of poverty

are no longer those of raw physical deprivation but those induced by comparison with the vast numbers of prosperous people by whom the relatively poor are surrounded and whose comparative wealth the poor feel as a wound, a reproach, and an injustice.

Ronnie Kaufman's photo on a jacket by Jen Huppert Design

Photo by Ronnie Kaufman on a jacket by Jen Huppert Design for the Ivan R. Dee (Chicago) 2005 edition

In the 20th century,

the hope of progress has not proved altogether illusory,

but

neither has the fear of retrogression proved unjustified.

The First World War

destroyed facile optimism that progress towards heaven on earth was inevitable or even possible.

Then came communism and Nazism, which between them

destroyed scores of millions of lives in a fashion that only a few short decades before would have appeared inconceivable.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.47.50Many of the disasters of the 20th century

could be characterised as revolts against civilisation itself: the Cultural Revolution, or the Khmers Rouges.

Only recently, in Rwanda,

ordinary people were transformed into pitiless murderers by demagogic appeals over the radio. They achieved a rate of slaughter with their machetes never equalled even by the Nazis.

In the circumstances,

one might have supposed that a principal preoccupation of intellectuals would be the maintenance of the boundaries that separate civilisation from barbarism.

One would be wrong.

Some have embraced barbarism; others have remained unaware that boundaries do not maintain themselves and are in need of maintenance and sometimes vigorous defence.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.54.10The prestige intellectuals confer upon antinomianism

soon communicates itself to nonintellectuals. What is good for the bohemian sooner or later becomes good for the unskilled worker, the unemployed, the welfare recipient — the very people most in need of boundaries to make their lives tolerable or allow them hope of improvement. The result is moral, spiritual, and emotional squalor, engendering fleeting pleasures and prolonged suffering.

Civilisation

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.55.17needs conservation as much as it needs change, and immoderate criticism, or criticism from the standpoint of utopian first principles, is capable of doing much — indeed devastating — harm. No man is so brilliant that he can work everything out for himself, so that the wisdom of the ages has nothing useful to tell him. To imagine otherwise is to indulge in the most egotistical of hubris.

The disastrous notions of the underclass about how to live

derive from the unrealistic, self-indulgent, and often fatuous ideas of social critics.

 

How enlightened we are!

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.06.13The eternal truths of multiculturalism

The policy of multiculturalism and mass immigration is one of

admitting large numbers of people, a proportion of whom at least may be, or become, the bearers of a deeply hostile and dangerous ideology.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.07.06What drives this policy is not

national interest, but moral vanity, exhibitionism, grandiosity and hubris. Aren’t we good people!

Moral exhibitionism

The fact of the 2011 Norway attacks does not mean that the policy of multiculturalism and mass immigration

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.10.30is wise, prudent or even moral. Events in Europe and elsewhere do not ineluctably lead to the conclusion that, for example, Sweden’s determination to take in more refugees from Syria is in that country’s long-term interest, or even conduces to the peace of the world.

Vote bank

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.14.08The 69 young people on the island of Utøya whom Anders Breivik killed

might well have been the future leaders of the party most militantly attached to multiculturalism, for among other reasons as a vote bank.

Multiculturalists triumphant

Breivik’s action made

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.17.58discussion of the whole question difficult to the point of impossibility. If you do not subscribe to the eternal truths of multiculturalism — discovered, it must be confessed, rather late in human history — you must be an apologist for Breivik.

It is a false dichotomy,

false in logic, though not necessarily in political psychology, and it is the latter which counts. What Breivik did, who preposterously believed himself to be some kind of Knight Templar, was immensely to strengthen the multiculturalists.

The economics and politics of Venezuela

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 22.14.00Few countries, writes Dalrymple, are so impervious to experience as Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proved oil reserves (source: US Energy Information Administration, 2013 ranking).
This gift of God has been turned into a curse; for whenever the price of oil goes up, the government distributes largesse by means of subsidy to the populace (though not, of course, without considerable defalcation or malversation on its own part).
Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 22.16.52Whenever the price of oil goes down,
the subsidies have to be withdrawn, either by means of price rises or general shortage. Either method results in discontent, conflict and a political crisis; and then scapegoats have to be found by whoever is in power. The Venezuelan pendulum swings between hubris and paranoia.

Western Europeans couldn’t care less about Ukraine

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 20.22.16The only thing that concerns them, says Dalrymple, is that the situation

doesn’t drive tens of millions of Ukrainians westward. Those few who have followed developments in Ukraine over the last few years have probably lost all faith in the possibility of a minimally honest and upright government there. Who wants to risk anything for one group of corrupt oligarchs rather than another?

Western European electorates

are prepared to make no sacrifices to meet such threats, least of all in economic circumstances that are already precarious. For most electorates in Europe, Ukraine is, like Czechoslovakia in 1938, a faraway country of which they know nothing; what they want, and will judge their governments by, is prosperity at home. And only more immediate threats will arouse their national passions sufficiently to resign them to the slightest economic hardship.

One of the forms of hubris, Dalrymple writes, is

the belief that the need for vigilance has been abolished because everyone now has the same worldview as ourselves, that the end of history has come, and we are it.