Category Archives: humbug

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.

Speaking power to truth

Political correctness is not a neurodegenerative disease, the doctor explains,

but it might as well be, so devastating is its effect on intellection. It appears to be infective, spreading from brain to brain. It is more like a form of chronic mass hysteria.

A little like our economic system, it must be forever expanding to survive.

The capitalist system, Dalrymple reminds us, must

stimulate new desires in consumers and make those desires as quickly as possible seem like needs, without the satisfaction of which life is rendered impossible.

Similarly, political correctness,

to extend its soft-totalitarian hold over the population, must discover new injustices to set right — by a mixture of censorship, language reform, and legal privileges for minorities. The meaning of life for the politically correct is political agitation.

Dalrymple points out that the greater the violation of common sense, the better.

It is like communist propaganda of old: the greater the disparity between the claims of that propaganda and the everyday experience of those at whom it is directed, the greater the humiliation suffered by the latter — especially when they were obliged to repeat it, thus destroying their ability to resist, even in the secret corners of their heart.

That is why the politically correct

insist that everyone use their language: unlike what the Press is supposed to do, the politically correct speak power to truth.

All that is necessary for humbug to triumph is for honest men to say nothing

The politically correct, Dalrymple notes,

never seem to become bored with their thoughts. This leads to a dilemma for those who oppose political correctness, for to be constantly arguing against bores is to become a bore oneself. On the other hand, not to argue against them is to let them win by default. To argue against rubbish is to immerse oneself in rubbish; not to argue against rubbish is to allow it to triumph.

Compassion is better as a retail than as a wholesale virtue

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 21.31.17No doubt, writes Dalrymple, there are exceptional people

who are able to feel compassion towards populations or categories of humans. But they are few. The more widely a person’s compassion is cast, the thinner it tends to be spread, until we begin to suspect that it is not compassion but a pose or an exhibition of virtue — humbug, at best an aspiration, at worst a career move.

State-subsidised bogus charity

State-subsidised bogus charity

The welfare state, Dalrymple points out,

  • protects people from the consequences of bad choices and fosters and encourages those choices, which follow the line of least resistance or favour instant gratification over longer-term desiderata
  • undermines the taking of individual responsibility, especially where the economic difference between taking it and not taking it tends to be small
  • favours the undeserving more than the deserving, in so far as the undeserving have a capacity or talent for generating more neediness than the deserving. (They also tend to be more vocal)
  • dissolves the notion of desert. There is no requirement that a beneficiary prove he deserves what he is legally entitled to. Where what is given is given as of right, not only will a recipient feel no gratitude, it must be given without compassion — without regard to any individual’s situation
Save the aid workers

Save the aid workers

The difference between public and private charity

is not that the former does not consider personal desert while the latter does; Christian charity does not require that recipients be guiltless of their predicament. It is the spirit in which the charity is given that is different. That is why large charities so closely resemble government departments: you cannot expect a bureaucracy to be charitable in spirit.

Dalrymple bashes bank bunkum

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 12.10.24

Unctuous cant

An advertisement for a big bank pretends that it is

working for the creation of a more equal world.

This

cannot possibly be the case and is, in effect, a lie. At least, one hopes it is a lie, for that is the most charitable interpretation of the slogan.

It is obvious, writes Dalrymple, that

the aim of a commercial bank cannot be a more equal world, if only because it has financial obligations to its shareholders that it does not have to the rest of humanity.

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Bank poppycock

The bank’s shareholders

have not invested to provide everyone in the world with paid dividends; and while they might hope that the bank’s activities are honest and contribute to the growth of the economy, this is not at all the same thing as equalising the world.

A world in which everyone were starving

might be a more equal world, indeed a perfectly equal one. Equality of misery is equality all right, but is not therefore either a just or desirable goal that the bank might pride itself on having brought about.

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Bank balderdash

What the bank really meant — if it meant anything at all — was that

it was working towards a richer, more prosperous world. But working for wealth does not have the same moral cachet as working for equality.

In short,

the bank was indulging in humbug; unctuously proclaiming ideals that it cannot, will never and ought not to have.

Humbug, Dalrymple points out, is

an insidious pollutant of the mind, which not only distorts but perverts. It clears the primrose path to earthly damnation.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 12.19.20

Bank baloney

A whining pretension to goodness

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 15.44.03

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.

Morals and art will deteriorate

Dalrymple tells an interviewer:

I suppose I am a bit of a Confucian in the matter of the rectification of language. And I am afraid that in the present climate, the connotation of words has often taken over in importance from their denotation. Thus, since irrational racial antagonism is a manifestation of prejudice, all prejudice comes to partake of the quality of irrational racial antagonism, and the right-thinking person thinks he has to overthrow prejudice as such. This is not realistic: no one has ever lived or could ever live as if this were the case. Hence we live in a state of humbug.

Extract from the Analects:

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.

The Society for the Suppression of Humbug

T.H. Jones, The Reign of Humbug (1825)

T.H. Jones, The Reign of Humbug (1825)

Dalrymple is honorary president of the newly formed organisation, which he conceived and which has won the backing of large numbers of right-thinking people. He notes, however, that despite the very best of intentions, the SSH‘s prospects do not appear especially bright in view of certain historical precedents he points to, for instance the

evident failure in the early 19th century of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, vice having prospered ever since.

Another movement spearheaded by Dalrymple, the SSRM (Society for the Suppression of Rock Music) has not, it must be said, had much success either.

The Western longing for victimhood (reader discretion advised)

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 23.24.25TRIGGER WARNING: the material that follows may cause upset or distress

Content alert: this doctor-writer’s observations about the human condition are known to cause trauma in the weak-minded

Supplementary trigger warning: the term trigger warning may itself be triggering to some victims

Dalrymple writes that

what is most interesting from the cultural point of view about the preposterous nonsense of trigger warnings for Victorian books is the obvious thirst or desire for victimisation that they express.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 23.27.41Victims

are the heroes of the politically correct; their victimhood confers unique moral authority upon them ex officio. And since many would like to be a unique moral authority, it follows that they would like to be a victim. The fact soon follows the wish, at least in their own estimation; and this, of course, provides much work and justifies much power for the self-proclaimed protectors of victims.

University teachers become

the curators of figurines of the finest porcelain, which only they are allowed to touch.

Bullshit makes you poor

Humbug impoverishes, and that is why the English psychiatrist-essayist Theodore Dalrymple, rigorous analyst of European social degradation, has no patience with the taboos and dogmas of progressismo.

Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, newly translated into Portuguese, is discussed in an article in the São Paulo news magazine Veja

Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, newly translated into Portuguese, is discussed in an article in the São Paulo news magazine Veja (many thanks to Rodney Eloy)