Category Archives: mediocrity

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.

The English Perón

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 22.09.02

Always on the lookout for new worlds to ruin

A merciless enemy of liberty

The British repeatedly elect, writes Dalrymple,

nonentities distinguished only for their ambition and relentless pursuit of office. Mediocrity and ambition often combine with vast self-regard.

An example is Tony Blair. In the US it is not appreciated

how ferocious and inveterate an enemy of freedom Mr Blair is. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about him is that he doesn’t know it: he thinks of himself as a guardian of freedom, perhaps the greatest such guardian.

It would be almost correct to call Blair

a fascist, were it not for the fact that he is unaware of it.

Blair’s emphasis on youth as the source of all wisdom and strength

is reminiscent of Mussolini.

His notion of the Third Way

has fascistic overtones, and reminds one of Juan Perón.

Blair is

always on the lookout, not for new worlds to conquer, but for new worlds to poke his nose into and to ruin, or ruin further.

In Britain once, most people

had an idea of virtue that was intensely focused on their individual conduct, irrespective of whether they were rich or poor. People did not believe that poverty excused very much. One of the destructive consequences of the spread of sociological modes of thought is that it has transferred the notion of virtue from individuals to social structures, and in so doing has made personal striving for virtue (as against happiness) not merely unnecessary but ridiculous and even bad, insofar as it diverted attention from the real task at hand, that of creating the perfect society: the society so perfect, as T.S. Eliot put it, that no one will have to be good. It is that kind of society in which Mr Blair believes.

Growing might of Hindustan and Cathay

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 22.16.44Public life in the corrupt and decaying societies of the West, writes Dalrymple,

is frivolous without gaiety, earnest without seriousness.

Western economies such as Britain’s

cannot compete with India and China in cost of labour, of course.

But the success of India and China is based not just on cheap labour but on

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 22.27.21a powerful combination of cheap labour and an educational system that is far more serious than Britain’s.

While the British

are so obsessed with supposed social justice that they are prepared to tolerate any degree of mediocrity, India and China foster talent in a very Darwinian fashion, in the hope and expectation that everyone will benefit in the long run.

Michel Houellebecq's Les Particules élémentaires (1998) in English translation

Michel Houellebecq‘s Les Particules élémentaires (1998) in English translation

The stage has been reached where there is practically

nothing that the British can do better than the Indians and Chinese [other than binge-drinking].

At the same time Westerners, and especially Western Europeans,

have destroyed all forms of social solidarity other than handouts from the state.

Westerners are left with

an atomised society in which no one feels he has any duty to anyone else. Widespread social, or rather antisocial, disturbances are the result.

Mass murderer in a mediocratic age

Anders Breivik, writes Dalrymple, was 'an ambitious mediocrity. In that regard, at least, he was representative of his age, which has passed from meritocracy, the social ascension of the able irrespective of social origin, to mediocracy, the social ascension of the ambitious irrespective of their ability'.

Anders Breivik, writes Dalrymple, was ‘an ambitious mediocrity. In that regard, at least, he was representative of his age, which has passed from meritocracy, the social ascension of the able irrespective of social origin, to mediocracy, the social ascension of the ambitious irrespective of their ability’.

Rise of the untalented ambitious

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 07.12.00The deadly combination, writes Dalrymple, is

lack of talent and ambition.

Just as talent has

little connection to character, it also has little connection to intelligence, beyond the basic cognitive abilities necessary for the talent to flourish.

The ability, willingness, and desire to hate

are keys to success for untalented persons because they lend to their conduct a ruthlessness that it might otherwise lack. In the minds of the untalented ambitious, their own ruthlessness becomes not a rather unpleasant human trait, occasionally but by no means often justified by the moral purpose that it serves, but rather a sign of their own purpose’s laudable seriousness.

The Western world

is filling up with the untalented ambitious.

Why do the mediocre triumph?

Because, having little or nothing else to do, they can devote themselves to intrigue, backstabbing, and jockeying for power. In my own little career, I have often seen the genuinely gifted and morally upright pushed aside or thwarted by schemers and apparatchiks who viewed their betters with a mixture of fear and hatred.

An apparatchik

may be defined as a person who doesn’t mind how long a meeting goes on unless he has another meeting to attend. He is interested in power for its own sake, divorced from purpose though he claims to want it for the good of humanity, but has very sensitive antennae for the power of others. When that power is strong, he retreats; when it shows a weakness, he pounces.

There are Hillary Clintons now

in all organisations, each according to his or her level. Some dictate the fate of nations and others decide on the most trivial of local matters, but their manner of proceeding is identical.

(2014)

Postcards from Gloucester

Harris did it to Dresden, modernist architects to Gloucester

Bomber Harris did it to the Florence of the Elbe, modernist architect-desecrators have done it, and are still doing it, to the great cathedral city by the Severn

The destruction of a once charming old city

A glorious cathedral now surrounded by a modernist slum

How cack-handed, philistine, bogus architects of the last 60-odd years have spat upon their ancestors for being so much better and more talented than they

Gloucester, writes Dalrymple,

has been destroyed.

The one or two old buildings that remain

serve only to emphasise the dispiriting slumminess of all that was built in the second half of the twentieth century. In a way, the survivals make everything worse by the starkness of the contrast.

The workhouse in 1961 prior to demolition

The workhouse in 1961 prior to demolition

The revenge of mediocrity upon talent and taste

The destruction of old Gloucester

was not the consequence of German bombing during the Second World War: Gloucester was little bombed. Indeed, the German bombing of Britain was much used by modernist architects and town planners as an excuse for doing what they wanted to do in any case: spit upon their ancestors for being so much better and more talented than they.

It was

the revenge of mediocrity upon talent and taste, and it continues to this day. After the war, much could have been rebuilt: but neither the people nor their governors cared enough for their aesthetic heritage to do so.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.21.55The modern hatred not of the injustice but of the achievements of the past

The architects and planners in Gloucester

made no distinction between a squalid slum tenement (which in the event they replaced by something just as bad, if bad in a different way) and a mediaeval priory or Georgian pump room. It was the latter, not the former, that they aimed at.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.22.10It wasn’t that they wanted to raise people up.

They wanted to level them down. They wanted to create the New Man, that is to say the type who could not judge aesthetically of his own surroundings and therefore could aspire aesthetically to nothing.

The aesthetic terror

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.23.48They succeeded.

I doubt that one person in a hundred in Gloucester notices just how terrible his city is.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.16.55

Irrecoverable

Tertiary education and guerrilla movements

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 11.39.47Dalrymple makes the point, obvious to all but members of corrupt populist Western élites, that education ≠ duration of education. He cites Latin American guerrilla movements, which

were caused by the expansion of tertiary education, not by peasant discontent. The graduates…found…that the only work available to them…was beneath their status as educated persons, a status that formerly would have entitled them to respect and an important position….Bitter disappointment and resentment were the consequence.

The equivalent in the West today is

the bureaucracy that administers politically correct regulations. In this way people who have gone to the considerable trouble of obtaining a tertiary education that is of value to them neither vocationally nor intellectually may avenge themselves upon an unjust world, though their anger can’t be assuaged, being the only thing that gives meaning to their lives.

Why the second-rate flourish

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 22.43.18The untalented ambitious triumph because

they can devote themselves to intrigue, backstabbing, and jockeying for power….I have often seen the gifted and morally upright pushed aside or thwarted by schemers and apparatchiks who viewed their betters with a mixture of fear and hatred.

An apparatchik is

a person who doesn’t mind how long a meeting goes on unless he has another meeting to attend. He is interested in power for its own sake, divorced from purpose.

This type of careerist mediocrity possesses

sensitive antennae for the power of others. When that power is strong, he retreats; when it shows a weakness, he pounces.

Tony Blair: a ferocious and inveterate enemy of freedom

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 04.16.50It might be argued, writes Dalrymple, that in a demotic age politicians must consent to indignities if they are to be elected.

If so, it is hardly surprising that we repeatedly elect nonentities distinguished only for their ambition and relentless pursuit of office. Unfortunately, mediocrity and ambition often combine with vast self-regard; and there is no better example of it than Blair.

(2007)