Category Archives: mediocrity (ambitious)

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.

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The low intellectual level of people at the centre of power in Britain

Dalrymple writes that the title ‘director of communications in the administration of David Cameron’ is one that is

instinct with dishonesty. At least one knows what a second-hand car salesman does.

One holder of the office, a man called Craig Oliver, has written Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit. The book is, says Dalrymple,

one of the worst on any subject that I have read in a long time. It is a blow-by-boring-blow account of Mr Cameron’s referendum campaign, principally in the media of mass communication, to keep Britain in the European Union.

Dalrymple notes that

a very bad book may, in its own way, be highly instructive, as this one is. If mediocrity can ever be said to shine, then it shines from these pages.

Oliver,

though a journalist, has no literary ability whatsoever.

  • He writes entirely in clichés.
  • There is not a single arresting thought in over 400 pages.
  • Wit and even humour are entirely absent.
  • He seems unable to use a metaphor, almost always tired to begin with, without mixing it (‘We are likely to succumb on this if they get on their high horses and cry foul‘).
  • He has no powers of analysis.
  • He has no sense of history.

There is, Dalrymple concludes,

no plumbing his shallows.

Oliver was

at the centre of power for several years. Everyone around him, including the prime minister, comes off as just as uninteresting as he; though it has to be admitted that the author could make Talleyrand seem a bore.

The one outstanding quality that these mediocrities seem to share is

ambition. It is disconcerting for the citizen to be faced so starkly by the fact that ambitious mediocrity is now the main characteristic of those who rule him.

Dalrymple points to

the abysmally low cultural level of the British population, including of the most highly educated class, as this book amply demonstrates.