Category Archives: Man

Bile flowed through Lenin’s veins

Lenin’s prose oozes murder

If, writes Dalrymple, Lenin

was not yet a dictator when he started writing—it was 20 years before he became one—his style was from the first perfectly suited to that of a totalitarian panjandrum for whom debate was treason or worse. To the very slight extent that his prose is readable at all, it is because of the hatred, scorn, and contempt that it breathes from first to last. No one who has read Lenin’s prose will find it at all surprising that one of his favourite literary genres once he achieved power was the death warrant.

Yet

underneath his adamantine exterior there beat a heart of the purest utopian mush. Once the cleansing sea of blood that he spilt had receded, a fairytale world would emerge in which Man would become truly Man (as against what he had been before) and live thenceforth in perfect harmony. How anybody older than 14—let alone someone as intelligent as Lenin—could have believed such a thing is a mystery.

On the myopia of the learned

Intellectuals, writes Dalrymple, often

fail to see what is before their noses.

Their object

is to obscure the obvious and to make complex the simple, so that they are then needed to lead humanity away from its ignorance and stupidity.

With the inexorable rise of tertiary education, we have more intellectuals than ever before,

yet final enlightenment seems as elusive as ever. Man remains a problem-creating animal.

Wild animal

Man

Dalrymple recalls a story told by Vera Hegi in Les Captifs du Zoo (1942), which he summarises as follows:

One day a man gave an elephant in the zoo three bread rolls, into the last of which, from malignity, he insinuated a razor-blade. The elephant managed to remove the razor-blade with its trunk.

Well, Dalrymple has a story of his own. He writes:

In the prison in which I worked as a doctor, a man repeatedly tried to cut himself, sometimes dangerously. He was under the constant watch of two guards.

However,

a prisoner slipped him a razor-blade embedded in a potato.

The prisoner managed to extract the razor-blade from the potato, and with the razor-blade,

he cut his throat.

Yes, says Dalrymple,

Man is definitely different from other animals.

Let the heavens fall, so long as my ideas remain pure

Knowing that Man remains Man, writes Dalrymple,

absolves me of the responsibility of trying to bring about a better species, which seems to be the favorite occupation and ambition of so many of our intellectuals. I am better advised to confine my efforts to behaving myself with tolerable decency, which in my case is a perpetual struggle.

He cites a passage in Johnson’s essay on charity (Idler, No. 4, May 6, 1758):

We must snatch the present moment, and employ it well, without too much solicitude for the future, and content ourselves with reflecting that our part is performed. He that waits for an opportunity to do much at once, may breathe out his life in idle wishes, and regret, in the last hour, his useless intentions, and barren zeal.

Dalrymple comments:

Is not barren zeal a description of the favourite state of mind of so many of us? Theoretical zealotry, which never has the opportunity to test its ideas against reality, and knows it never will, can keep a certain type of mind satisfied for years, decades, even a lifetime.

He points out that such zealotry is, of course, very far from harmless.

It finds some few who are willing to act upon it, with what results the history of the 20th century (as well as many other centuries) attests.

Some people

prefer the syllogisms of their ideas to the complexities of reality. They are to the world what obsessional housewives are to a house, and they turn a morbid psychological state into a historical catastrophe.

Man and meaninglessness

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-27-27Lack of meaning is a serious problem in modern Man, says Dalrymple. This is so particularly in Europe.

Dalrymple asks us to consider the possible sources of meaning in people’s lives:

  • the struggle for existence. This no longer applies. It is impossible to starve in the West.
  • religion. In England, and certainly in France, it is nearly dead. England is a very irreligious country, and France is an anti-religious country. (The English are too lazy to be anti-religious; they’re just not religious.)
  • politics. Whatever you say about Marxism, it provided people with a transcendent purpose. They thought they were taking part in something bigger than themselves. They were. Unfortunately, it was something very bad.
  • Participating in or contributing to culture. There has been an almost deliberate cutting-off of people from any sense of continuation of a culture. It’s not as bad in France as in Britain.
  • patriotism. In Europe this is shunned. It is equated with the worst of excesses.

What is left? Advocates of the unitary European State try, says Dalrymple,

to make the European Project (as they call it — they never tell you what it actually is) a source of meaning, but it is no source of meaning.

Theodore is priceless

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 06.54.18

New York: Horace Liveright, 1928

Faithful friend of the Soviet Union

Strolling in Amsterdam, Dalrymple finds that

there are some excellent second-hand bookshops.

At one of them he picks up

an irresistible book entitled Dreiser Looks At Russia. It ends with the unintentionally hilarious words:

Sleep well, Ilitch, father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force. How fortunate, you, its chosen if martyred instrument. How fortunate indeed.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 07.25.11

Theodore Dreiser: ‘a friend of the Soviet Union because he is a friend of Man, a champion of the democratic masses everywhere’

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 07.52.08

Our Ilitch: ‘only the humanity of his spirit, enveloping aura-wise, could have evoked in those underprivileged millions the necessary faith in, if not an understanding of, his immense wisdom and human charity’

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 07.05.56

Sleep well, Ilitch

Sleep of the righteous: Ilitch in his mausoleum

Charitable and wise

Ilitch the charitable and wise

'Chosen if martyred instrument of the world-altering force. How fortunate are the Russian masses!'

Ilitch the chosen one, the martyr

'Father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force'

Radiant Ilitch: ‘father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force’

‘Lenin, his Russia, the humanithy and justice which at last, and fully, he introduced into its government and statecraft, will succeed. The social illustration which he provided and which his associates and followers have since carried to its present great power and beauty will never be lost on future generations'

Power and beauty: ‘his Russia, the humanity and justice which at last, and fully, he introduced into its government and statecraft, will succeed. The social illustration which he provided and which his associates and followers have since carried to its present great power and beauty will never be lost on future generations’

The Russian masses, Dreiser wrote, ‘are determined never again to be enslaved. I do not doubt the outcome. Lenin, his Soviet empire, will triumph’

Ilitch triumphant: ‘the Russian masses are determined never again to be enslaved. I do not doubt the outcome. His Soviet empire will triumph’

When he was in Russia in 1927-28 in Russia Dreiser saw 'peasants and mechanics, women and men, kneeling here and there in worship, if not prayer, before Ilitch's candle-lighted bust, or standing uncovered with bowed heads before it, feeling him to be, as I assumed (and truly enough in my judgment), their saviour'

Ilitch the saviour: ‘I saw peasants and mechanics, women and men, kneeling here and there in worship, if not prayer, before his candle-lighted bust, or standing uncovered with bowed heads before it, feeling him to be, as I assumed (and truly enough in my judgment), their saviour’

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 08.47.31

John Martin, 1852. Oil on canvas. Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Man, writes Dalrymple, is 
’the only species (as far as we know) that takes pleasure in contemplating its annihilation‘. Yet 
’the appetite for soothing banality is as great, and perhaps dialectically related to, the appetite for apocalyptic visions’.

Tourette syndrome

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.17.24Dalrymple visits Éveux, outside Lyons. He views the Sainte-Marie de La Tourette priory (Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis, 1953-60). It is, he says, very simply

hideous.

It is a building that

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.18.29might just as well serve as the torture facility of an all-powerful secret police.

For totalitarian architects like Le Corbusier, writes Dalrymple, Man is nothing more than

a machine for inhabiting a unité d’habitation. Everything is to be standardised, from space itself to teacups, with no individuality allowed or possible.

For Le Corbusier, who was no architect but who like all successful fascists grew to master propaganda and self-promotion, life was

a technical problem to be solved by a single correct solution. Concrete, right-angles, highways, steel, glass.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.21.16Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.27.23Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.28.15

 

Brutal institutionalised sentimentality

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 09.12.52Dalrymple points out that

sentimentality and hardness of heart are two sides of the same coin.

Ersatz feeling and indifference

Dalrymple explains how when sentimentality

Hollywoodian ersatz feeling elevated over appreciation of reality, masking utter indifference

Hollywoodian ersatz feeling elevated over appreciation of reality, masking utter indifference

is made the basis of policy, its denial of reality and its elevation of ersatz feeling over appreciation of reality leads straight to bureaucratic indifference.

The ideology of assistance allocated by need irrespective of desert

This orthodoxy, writes Dalrymple, is a sentimental one that

empties life of meaning and is a pretext for hard-heartedness of pharaonic proportions.

The elimination of desert as a criterion of allocation of resources

Ani's heart weighed against a feather: judgment of the dead in the presence of Osiris, papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani. From Thebes, 19th Dynasty, c. 1275 BC

Ani’s heart weighed against a feather: judgment of the dead in the presence of Osiris, papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani. From Thebes, 19th Dynasty, c. 1275 BC. British Museum

destroys both compassion and empathy. Need can be measured by checklist, but the assessment of desert cannot. It requires judgment, moral and practical.

The demand for no compassion at all

To regard everyone as equally in need of compassion

is the same as regarding no one as in need of compassion, for it is not humanly possible to sympathise equally with the unfortunate and the villainous. The demand for equal compassion is the demand for no compassion.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 09.54.50At the heart of the sentimental doctrine lies

hardness of heart, as well as lack of realism.

Dehumanisation

The sentimental

dehumanise the objects of their supposed compassion by denying them agency or full membership of the human race.

Baroque age of self-harm

We live in

Leonardo da Vinci, Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, c. 1490. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Leonardo da Vinci, Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, c. 1490. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

the baroque or rococo age of self-infliction. One of the reasons for the growth of self-infliction is the failure to recognize its existence even as a possibility.

In the outlook that refuses in the name of compassion to make a judgment,

the villainous are victims of upbringing, social injustice, neurochemistry. Self-infliction cannot exist.

But Man is

not only a political animal, he is a judging animal. To pretend to make no judgments is to make a judgment, and one with bad consequences.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 10.07.11