Category Archives: mediocrities

Nullity made flesh

The British government’s instinct for making the wrong decision is, writes Dalrymple,

almost infallible.

For the moment, the prime minister is a mediocrity by the name of Theresa May, whom Dalrymple describes as

nullity made flesh.

How to get ahead in a state or corporate bureaucracy

The pseudo-poetic metaphors are about as inspirational as a cargo ship’s ballast

The vital quality, writes Dalrymple, is

the mastery of, and willingness to use, a certain kind of language that is opaque and almost meaningless to an outsider. The mastery requires dedication, and the willingness a lack of scruple. It demands a certain intelligence, but not high intelligence. Mediocrities do it best because others are impatient of it.

The language

is peculiar to itself, and makes a speech by the late Leonid Brezhnev seem like a soliloquy by Hamlet. Full of neologisms, its words have connotations but no definite meaning can be fixed to them. Vagueness is essential because only then can responsibility be denied when things go wrong. It is ugly and circumlocutory, but with occasional pseudo-poetic metaphors that are supposed to be inspirational but are as exciting as a cargo ship’s ballast.

This bureaucratese, says Dalrymple

is ever more widespread. It has left few corners of our world uninvaded. It is to be found almost everywhere. It is native to government, of course, but it is certainly not confined to government. Large companies employ it, as do educational institutions.

A question he has long pondered

is whether anyone, in the privacy of his mind, employs such language. I suspect that after a time those who employ it can use no other.

Machiavelli for modern mediocrities

Heep

How to get on in the West

From the outset, you must compromise your probity and demonstrate your willingness to play the game, at the cost of your integrity.

In the early stages, writes Dalrymple, you will need a ‘personal statement’ in your application for a job or university place. The tone must be one of

unctuous self-advertisement,

and you must put in much about your

passion for social justice and equality, and deep sense of social responsibility, which you will bring to whatever task you are told to perform.

Pecksniff

Tips and hints for today’s Pecksniffs and Uriah Heeps

You must assert that you have dreamt all your life of this post in, say,

the marketing department (selling the unnecessary to the insolvent) and why you, of all the 7bn people in the world, are the most suited to it.

Bear in mind that the purpose of ‘personal statements’ or ‘mission statements’ and their cognates, such as annual declarations of probity, is, says Dalrymple,

to make the world safe for overeducated mediocrities.

Learn the subtle black art

It does not matter if you tell lies in the ‘personal statement’, because nothing you say will be verified or refuted. It is, Dalrymple points out,

the physical utterance of correct sentiments that counts, not whether they correspond to any truth, inner or outer. They are a sign of willingness to conform, more or less to anything that may be required, and conformity is the highest value of mediocrities; it makes them feel comfortable and, more important, safe.

You must show

determination to climb some bureaucratic career ladder detached from any purpose except survival and, if possible, self-aggrandisement.

Ally your mediocrity to your overweening ambition

To climb such a ladder,

you have to be ruthless and submissive at the same time. You have to be prepared to stab people in the back in the scramble for advancement, while being prepared to suppress your personality by uttering other people’s clichés at the expense of your own thoughts. Unpreparedness to do this, either through lack of training or moral scruple, unfits you for a career in the organisation, any organisation. You have to learn to lie with clichés, and do so with a straight face.

Above all, recognise that

adherence to truth is of no importance.

For you and the other

ambitious mediocrities produced in ever-greater numbers by our educational system,

words must be

but levers to personal advancement and power.

Macron takes a drubbing from Dalrymple

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 09.04.48Dalrymple points out that Emmanuel Macron, France’s Ministre de l’Économie, de l’Industrie et du Numérique, is a

ruthless mediocrity.

The sentiments Macron expresses are, says Dalrymple,

orthodox for a member of the European Union’s ruling political class, and have been repeated ad nauseam. The tone of the minister is peremptory and his argumentation very weak.

MACRON: De quoi le référendum britannique est-il le nom? Pour moi, il traduit la volonté d’une Europe plus efficace, la fin d’une vision ultralibérale de l’Europe que les Britanniques eux-mêmes ont portée, la fin d’une Europe sans projet politique, tournée vers son seul marché domestique.

DALRYMPLE: This is misinterpretation on an astonishing, even an heroic, scale; only a man blinded by ideology or prejudice could entertain it for a moment. According to Macron, British discontent with the EU – which is less pronounced than in some other member countries – is due to insufficient political and bureaucratic interference in economic and social life. There has never been a demonstration, at least in the West, with ‘Less freedom, more official regulation!’ as its slogan. No one with the slightest contact with reality could describe any European polity as laissez-faire, let alone ultra-laissez-faire. Try starting a business or hiring a worker in France, and see how much you will be left to your own devices. Try going on to the street in England (that laissez-faire heaven or hell, according to Macron) and sell something to passers-by just as you choose. You will be stopped far quicker than if you go round shoplifting. Had Macron used the word corporatist he would have been nearer the truth: and to corporatism there is no easy answer, though regulatory obstacles to entry into a market encourage such corporatism. But Macron’s vision, his utopia, is entirely corporatist, with the state always having the upper hand.

MACRON: Si on laisse le «Brexit» ronger l’aventure européenne, vous aurez des débats comparables chez les Danois, les Néerlandais, les Polonais, les Hongrois. C’est d’ailleurs déjà le cas. Pour éviter le piège de la fragmentation économique, sécuritaire, identitaire de l’Europe, il faut revenir aux promesses originelles du projet européen.

DALRYMPLE: He speaks of l’aventure européenne as if a continent of hundreds of millions of inhabitants were engaged upon a mountaineering trip. If we allow Brexit to gnaw away at the European adventure, what then? Other countries, the majority of whose populations want to leave the Union, might also decide to leave, and that would be the end of his corporatist dream.

MACRON: Nous sommes en train de fermer la parenthèse d’une Europe sans projet politique. Il faut réinventer une Europe de la puissance qui se pense par rapport au reste du monde et définit ses règles de souveraineté. 

DALRYMPLE: Who this nous are does not bother Macron. In Colbertian fashion, nous are the political class who, unlike the mere people, know what is best. As for the project, what is it? Though the term le projet européen appears on innumerable occasions in the French Press, it is never spelt out what it is, nor do journalists ask those who use the term what they mean by it. La construction européenne is another such term: what is being constructed is never stated and no explanation is demanded. It is as if a builder built a house without a plan. In fact the plan is obvious. It is for a United States of Europe, minus most of the federalism.

MACRON: Cette tension est due à l’incomplétude de l’Europe; parce qu’au-delà de ces trois promesses, la solidarité est un objectif du projet européen: on n’a pas achevé la convergence de nos systèmes sociaux, de la régulation des flux migratoires ou encore de défense et de sécurité. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes bloqués par deux tabous: un tabou français, qui est le transfert de souveraineté, et un tabou allemand, celui des transferts financiers ou de solidarité. On ne peut pas avancer sans les faire sauter.

DALRYMPLE: In other words, the Greeks spend and the Germans pay, in return for the abasement of France which no Frenchman (quite rightly) wants. As a recipe for international understanding, and for the continuation of the peace that apologists for the Union claim is the only reason Portugal has not attacked Estonia, or Belgium Croatia, this seems unrealistic, to put it no stronger.

MACRON: L’Europe doit regarder le monde: le risque géopolitique n’a jamais été aussi grand, en Afrique et au Moyen-Orient. La meilleure réponse à cela, c’est l’Europe. Il y a, aujourd’hui, deux grands blocs – l’asiatique et l’américain – dont le risque est qu’ils se parlent en face-à-face en nous oubliant. Notre défi, ce ne sont pas nos petites guérillas, c’est de savoir comment l’Europe existe, défend sa vision, ses intérêts et se protège dans ce monde d’incertitude.

DALRYMPLE: Macron makes it quite clear that it is desire, and no doubt nostalgia, for power that is the motive — no European country, France included, is any longer by itself truly powerful on the world stage. As geopolitical theorising, this is drivel of Hitlerian proportions; but it is current in the class of which Macron is a fine example, used as a plea for ever more centralised control exercised by themselves. I would like to think that my fellow-citizens, in voting to leave the European Union, had in mind a rejection of Macron and his ilk. Many of them must have been aware of the bullying or menacing language of the European political class: Macron said the European Council must issue an ‘ultimatum’ to the British. It had the opposite effect of the one intended.

Web of the Cultural Revolution

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.45.15

(by Rowlandson)

The spider needs its prey to live

Dalrymple writes:

When a Nobel prize winner can be hounded from his university chair by the harridans of the internet (or any other self-constituted group of fanatics), the outlook for freedom of speech is not good. The West, having undergone its own Cultural Revolution, has taken up the baton of Maoist self-criticism.

What was Professor Sir Timothy Hunt’s wrongdoing? During a speech at a luncheon for women scientists, he remarked lightly, ironically,

Self-criticism

Self-criticism

Let me tell you about my trouble with girls…things happen when they are in the lab…You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.

Hunted down

Such is the modern thirst, writes Dalrymple,

for moral or political outrage, which is the tool of the mediocre to bring about their revenge upon the gifted, that words are now taken in the most literal sense and given thereby the worst possible interpretation. The mediocre wait to take offence as a spider awaits its prey in a web; the spider needs its prey to live, the mediocre their offendedness to feel a sense of purpose to their lives.

Struggle session

Struggle session

Red guards of the internet

Professor Hunt was forced to resign

by what in effect was a witch hunt, or a lynch mob.

Dalrymple points out that

science doesn’t need women, it needs scientists, just as art needs artists and literature needs writers; whether they are men or women is irrelevant. There is no female science any more than there was Jewish or bourgeois science, of late unhappy memory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.52.07Heresy

It is not truth

that is the aim, but power. That is the purpose of propaganda in totalitarian regimes: to force starving people to acquiesce to the proposition that they have never eaten so well.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.53.27It is

a totalitarian demand that a cell biologist, in order to be able to work at all, should subscribe to the current political orthodoxy, whether it be right or wrong. It is constitutive of these times in which diversity is claimed as the highest good that there should exist a demand that everyone should think alike or at least not utter heresies in public.

Orwellian

The aim, says Dalrymple, is that of Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

that certain things should not only be unsayable but unthinkable.

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