Category Archives: Kafka, Franz

Your own business is not your own business

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 09.22.59In order to be able to process some detail of his financial affairs, Dalrymple finds himself having to deal with one of the sprawling, impersonal, inefficient and unresponsive banking bureaucracies, one of those that

has repeatedly been forced to admit that it has engaged on huge-scale dishonesty that has cost it billions in fines and reparations (though I am not quite sure how much faith as to their sincerity or justification I should place in such admissions).

The bank demands — using in its communications always the passive voice — that Dalrymple, a mere writer (rather than, say, a trader specialising in interbank lending rates), ‘confirm the source of funds which have been deposited’ in his account.

Gogol for the absurdity, Kafka for the menace, Orwell for the lies

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Mistrust, fear, emasculation, and compliance with untruth in the professions and universities. Modern Western propaganda and the political-ideological correctitude that infects, among many other fields, the medical profession is not, Dalrymple writes, intended to persuade, much less to inform, ‘but to humiliate’. The less true it is, the better, for ‘by not only forbidding contradiction to its claims but demanding assent to them, the human being’s sense of independence and worthiness is destroyed from within….The more preposterous the claims and the more obvious the defects in reasoning, the more effective….This process of human destruction…is far advanced in Britain and…in the rest of the Western world’. To understand what is going on, he says, ‘it is necessary, and probably sufficient, to read three authors: Gogol for the pervasive absurdity, Kafka for the pervasive fear and menace, and Orwell for the pervasive lies’

 

Metamorphosis

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 01.43.07From Viscount Stansgate to Tony Benn (via the pupal stage of Anthony Wedgwood-Benn)

Benn, writes Dalrymple, was an early avatar of the rejection of the traditions of British high culture, this rejection being considered by the weak-minded to be a meritorious political act, a sign of solidarity with those whom history had oppressed and exploited.

He was obliged to forgo his hereditary peerage to continue to sit in the House of Commons, but the plebeian contraction of his family name was his own invention.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 10.02.10Left-wing in everything but his finances

Benn sent his children in well-publicised fashion to the local state school, omitting to mention the extensive private tutoring they received.

In this way Benn came up with the perfect solution to the moral dilemma facing every Left-leaning parent of the upper and middle classes (the Jeremy Cardhouse incarnation Michael Gove, for instance, or Harriet Harman):

The moral high ground of having self-denyingly rejected private education, while simultaneously having avoided the disastrously low educational standards in the state system that have left at least a quarter of the British population virtually illiterate.

It’s unfair

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 01.43.07We spoilt brats would moan, ‘It’s unfair!’ The rejoinder of our schoolteachers — and possibly even of our parents, if we had good ones — was: ‘Life is unfair.’

Dalrymple points out that unfairness is

built into the nature of existence itself [and] is something that we have to learn to accept if we are to have tolerable sublunary lives. I’m not sure I’ve learned to do it myself.