Category Archives: humanitarianism (chronic)

Lawyers’ employment scheme

Prison, English-style

Prison, English-style

The revolving door of the criminal justice system

Dalrymple says (from 0:45) that he disagrees with the idea that prison should be, as he puts it,

a kind of hospital for criminals. That means you are saying criminals are ill.

The purpose of prison should be

the reduction of crime in the population, and the protection of the rest of the population.

A little cannabis resin helps this British prisoner relax

A little cannabis resin helps this British prisoner relax

The humanitarian theory of punishment is

very cruel. It is compatible both with ridiculous leniency and with revolting cruelty. If your theory is that punishment should be effective, it places no limits on what you can do to people.

Dalrymple points to the error

in thinking that prisons are there to reform people. It’s very good if they do — I have no objection — but that is not their purpose.

Most criminals, Dalrymple explains,

  • stop being criminal at the age of 35 to 39. In a sense they reform themselves
  • have done between five and 20 times as much as they have ever been accused of doing
A pair of English convicts in high spirits during one of the occasional recreational riots

A pair of English convicts in high spirits during one of the occasional recreational riots

If you put these two things together, Dalrymple says,

it would be an argument for longer prison sentences rather than shorter ones. In the end this would reduce the number of prisoners rather than increase them, because often it’s a revolving door: they come out, they commit another crime. It’s a very good scheme of employment for lawyers.

Prisoners take control of a wing of a British prison

Prisoners take control of a wing of a British jail

HMP Birmingham

HMP Birmingham, site of a recent especially exuberant riot

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A convict lets off steam by smashing up the prison

The Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange

The Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange: if your theory is that punishment should be effective, it places no limits on what you can do to people

A whining pretension to goodness

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From Johnson’s 1755 dictionary

Dalrymple says his father

was always espousing great and grand principles expressive of his love for humanity, but had difficulty in expressing love for anyone in particular.

Dalrymple points out that cant, or humbug,

stands in the way of achieving an authentic relationship with the world. To be a humbug is to wear distorting lenses.

He confesses that

I am a humbug on occasion, and in my youth was a humbug practically all the time. Youth is the golden age of humbug — the expression of supposedly generous emotions that it has to a much lesser extent than claimed.

Dalrymple explains the difference between hypocrisy and cant.

  • Johnson

    Ibid.

    hypocrisy is, or can be, a social virtue. To express a sympathy or an interest that you do not in the slightest feel can be almost heroic when it is done for humane reasons, and is often socially necessary. Hypocrisy is to social life what oil is to axles

  • cant is always poisonous, among other reasons because it is designed to deceive not only others but ourselves. It doesn’t entirely succeed in this latter task because a still, small voice tells us that we are canting, to which our preferred solution is often to cant harder, like drowning out something we don’t want to hear by turning up the wireless. That is why there is so much shrillness: people are defending themselves against the horrible thought that they don’t really believe what they are saying

There is no subject, says Dalrymple, to which cant attaches more than humanity.

Who will admit that he doesn’t love humanity, that it wouldn’t matter to him in the slightest if half of it disappeared, that he can sit through the news of the worst disaster imaginable (provided far away) and eat his dinner with good appetite?

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José de Páez, Sacred Heart of Jesus with St Ignatius of Loyola and St Aloysius Gonzaga, Mexico, c. 1770

No,

in order to be a good person you have to pretend to be lacerated by awareness of suffering anywhere and show your wounds like Christ showing his heart in one of the Baroque Spanish colonial paintings.

But in fact

most people do not love humanity; misanthropy is far more widespread than love of humanity.

As soon as we are in the public arena,

we must start to mouth sentiments that are not ours in words that mean nothing. We start to cant. We must display the wounds we feel at the imperfections of the world. We must award ourselves, and pronounce, creditable motives that we know are not ours.

Commercial concerns

are in the canting game. They claim to be working to bring about greater equality, survival of rainforests, amelioration of climate change, participation of fat children in sport, and anything other than their true aim, which is mostly to sell products that are superfluous to people who don’t need them. (I accept that this is the necessary force that makes our economic world go round.)

We are now

chronically humanitarian.