Category Archives: innocence

Inside the befuddled mind of Sadiq Khan

Dalrymple notes that after one of the regular Islamist atrocities, public figures

always manage somehow to say something that is either pusillanimous or does not need saying.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, found words that, says Dalrymple,

contrived to combine banality with error.

  • He said that the attacks were deliberate, as if anyone might otherwise have thought them accidental, or performed in a fit of absence of mind.
  • He said that they were cowardly, which is the one thing that they were not. True, the people that the perpetrators attacked were defenceless, but the perpetrators could hardly have been under any illusion about their fate. Even with the prospect of 72 virgins as a reward, it must have taken courage to do what they did.

Courage, Dalrymple points out,

is not in itself a virtue: it becomes a virtue only in pursuit of a virtuous aim. A man who is evil need not thereby be a coward, and frequently in fact is not. A timidly evil man is probably preferable to a bravely evil one, unless his timidity leads him to superior cunning.

Khan said that the victims were innocents. Dalrymple asks:

In what sense were they innocents? It was unlikely that they, of all humanity, were born without Original Sin. It could only be that they were innocents by comparison with the guilty. But who, in the context of being mown down by a driver or attacked by men with long knives, are the guilty?

In other words, there exists in Khan’s mind

a group of people whom it would have been less heinous for the terrorists to kill, whom it would not have been cowardly for them to have killed.

Dear little chap

Finding himself in Madrid, Dalrymple ambles into the Prado, which is for him the most beautiful of the great art galleries. He comes across a painting by Bronzino, and observes that the productions of this portraitist of the Florentine élite are marked by

clear-sighted ruthlessness. They are slightly chilling.

Don Garzia de’ Medici, son of Cosimo I de’ Medici, is represented as holding in his right hand an orange flower, symbol of innocence. But no one would take him for an innocent.

Quite the contrary, one would take him for an incipient psychopath, the kind of person who later in his career would gladly have had those around him poisoned in order to secure his power, he being only the third son of his father. The infant, chubby from rich food, is dressed in a red silk tunic laced liberally with gold, of an adult style different only in size from an adult’s, and stares out defiantly, unblinkingly and already with no illusions about the world, upon the onlooker. His expression is nasty; it is that of an infant both petulant and calculating.

The picture

lacks tenderness of any kind. It is a portrait of a young Machiavellian who expects as his due, but also has to scheme, to get his way.

Dalrymple has seen many children aged three with the malign and calculating expression of Don Garzia de’ Medici.

I worked for years in a prison and used to see the prisoners’ infants coming to visit their father in the company of their mothers, and I saw on their faces the already-hardened look of Don Garzia. I have little doubt that a psychopathic environment brings forth psychopaths.

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Syphilis insontium

Screen Shot 2013-05-19 at 23.59.34Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 00.00.21Dalrymple leafs through Syphilis of the Innocent: A Study of the Social Effects of Syphilis on the Family and the Community, With 152 Illustrative Cases (Washington, United States Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board, 1922) by Harry C. Solomon, onetime chief of therapeutic research at Boston Psychopathic Hospital (later the Massachusetts Mental Health Center), and his wife Maida Herman Solomon.