Category Archives: individuality

Inside the mind of the amok-killer

In Winnenden, near Stuttgart, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer went on a shooting spree at a school and then a car showroom, killing 15. He had said before the atrocity:

I’m fed up. I’ve had enough of this meaningless life, which is always the same. Everyone ignores me, no one recognises my potential.

Dalrymple comments:

This reeks of resentful, narcissistic grandiosity, the result of an imperative to be an individual at a time when individuation is more difficult than ever.

Against this I raise my sword-spraycan

Heygate Estate, Walworth. Tim Tinker, 1974

Heygate Estate, Walworth, London. Tim Tinker, 1974

Enemies of Corbusian profanation do not hesitate to act

Whole acres, writes Dalrymple, of man-made surfaces are disfigured in Europe by graffiti,

in which some people, ever on the lookout for something counter-intuitive to say, claim to have found art. This is the tribute money pays to poverty without having to part with anything.

The need to assert (rather than express) oneself in some way, no matter how pointless, becomes imperative in a society in which

  • we are all called upon to be unique individuals
  • celebrity has an exaggerated importance in the mental economy of so many
  • employment is often precarious and is felt to be without dignity
  • powerlessness is obvious (powerlessness in a democracy is more humiliating than powerlessness in a tyranny)
Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London. Denys Lasdun, 1967–76

Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London. Denys Lasdun, 1967–76

Taggers tend to deface

ugly surfaces, often of inhuman size, in which modern urban spaces are so richly, or impoverishingly, supplied. It is true that tagging never improves those surfaces, but they are often in themselves of degrading hideousness.

The epidemiology of graffiti

suggests a subliminal aesthetic criticism. It is a commentary on the kind of building and concrete surface that the fascist modernist architect, Le Corbusier, extolled and desired, with the enthusiasm of a revivalist evangelical, to spread throughout the whole world. In a sense, taggers in England and France are endowed with taste.

Having said that, in Italy or Portugal,

18th-century buildings are not exempted from the attentions of bruised and inflamed young egos.

Ugliness, be thou my beauty

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 09.05.43The squalor and degradation that is Western popular culture

Two windows on the sordor:

  • obituaries of pop stars in the newspaper
  • a walk in the street

Pop stars, writes Dalrymple, fall into two groups:

  1. those who retire into the life of the squirearchy, the pleasures of whose kind of life they have done so much to destroy for others
  2. those who die young

There is nothing like the sordid for getting ahead

Romantics view self-destructive behaviour

as the sign of a great soul.

De Quincey wrote:

Pain driven to agony, or grief driven to frenzy, is essential to the ventilation of profound natures.

But, Dalrymple points out,

it is an elementary error of logic to suppose that, because profound natures ventilate agonised frenzy, those who ventilate agonised frenzy have profound natures.

Take punk. Its ‘ethic’ consists, explains Dalrymple, of

an utterly conformist non-conformity and an insensate individualism without individuality, allied to brutal and deliberate bad taste.

Self-harm

For instance,

to inflict a serious injury on yourself (which you then require others to repair for you, at their expense) in order to prove that you are genuinely committed to bad taste, ugliness, a rejection of everything that could possibly make life worth living, and to a celebration of ‘alienation, boredom and despair’ does not seem to me to be meritorious in any way. The alienation, boredom and despair are the consequence of a combination of laziness and impatient ambition, rather than the consequence of an ‘objective’ situation, and represent an impossible demand for achievement without concomitant effort.

Rage

Dalrymple says:

I feel a certain rage at the culture that we have created, and a certain guilt that I have not fought against it with all my heart and soul, to the best of my ability. It is a culture that can produce lines — and mean them, that is what is terrible — such as the following from one of Richey Edwards‘ songs (as Mozart took dictation from God, so he took dictation from the Zeitgeist):

I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.