Category Archives: modesty

The English then and now

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 09.00.33Once, writes Dalrymple, the qualities of the English population included

  • cool and ironic detachment from its own experience, that permitted it to face adversity with great good humour and modesty rather than by resort to histrionics
  • a polite restraint that was a precondition of depth of character. This restraint seemed to me heroic in an undemonstrative way; it was also the guarantor of an implicit subtlety

Today the chief characteristics of the English, Dalrymple points out, are

  • militant vulgarity
  • lack of restraint
  • arrogant loudness
  • ferocious and determined drunkenness
  • antisocial egotism
  • aggression and quick resort to violence
  • grossness of appetites
  • prideful ugliness of appearance
  • lack of finesse in any department of human existence

Is the crisis faced by the Greeks their own fault?

Feeble-minded: Martin Wolf Wolf: feeble-minded

NO, says Martin Wolf. Stupid lenders lose money

This greatly overvalued (and very conceited) journalist writes about high finance. He can be read in the Financial Times, the Irish Times and other prints. He argues:

Nobody was forced to lend to Greece. Initially, private lenders were happy to lend to the Greek government on much the same terms as to the German government. Yet the nature of Greek politics, tellingly described in The 13th Labour of Hercules: Inside the Greek Crisis by Yannis Palaiologos, was no secret. Then, in 2010, it became clear the money would not be repaid. Rather than agree to the write-off that was needed, governments (and the International Monetary Fund) decided to bail out the private creditors by refinancing Greece. Thus began the game of ‘extend and pretend’. Stupid lenders lose money. That has always been the case. It is still the case today.

Dalrymple: incisive and gutsy Dalrymple: incisive

YES, says Theodore Dalrymple. Stupid borrowers lose assets

This greatly undervalued (and very self-effacing) essayist writes about the human condition. He can be read in City Journal, the Salisbury Review and other prints. He argues:

The lenders were foolish, or worse than foolish, relying as they did on Greece’s fraudulent membership of the common currency to forestall any possibility of default. But the Greeks, or rather the Greek government, can hardly be absolved of all blame for the situation. The latter borrowed huge sums of money to fund current consumption, having previously falsified its public accounts in order to meet the criteria to join the common currency. If nobody had to lend to Greece, Greece did not have to borrow, at least not like it did and for the purposes that it did. And if it is true that stupid lenders lose money, stupid borrowers lose their assets. If this is a tale of stupidity, it is of stupidity – or dishonesty – all round.

Asset inflation as the principal source of wealth corrodes character

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 00.05.06It not only undermines the traditional bourgeois virtues, writes Dalrymple. It

makes them ridiculous and even reverses them. Prudence becomes imprudence, thrift becomes improvidence, sobriety becomes meanspiritedness, modesty becomes lack of ambition, self-control becomes betrayal of the inner self, patience becomes lack of foresight, steadiness becomes inflexibility: all that was wisdom becomes foolishness. And circumstances force almost everyone to join in the dance….[It] is not an economic problem only, or even mainly, but one that afflicts the human soul.

(2009)

The condescension of a later age towards an earlier

Wisdom Conquers Ignorance, Bartholomeus Spranger and Aegidius Sadeler, unknown date. Elisha Whittelsey Collection

Wisdom Conquers Ignorance, Bartholomeus Spranger and Aegidius Sadeler, unknown date. Elisha Whittelsey Collection

This we must avoid, writes Dalrymple. We should also resist

the mockery that comes so easily to the lips or pens of those who take their current state of enlightenment, attributed by them to their own personal cleverness, as the acme of wisdom.

Even the most learned of us

yet knows nothing by comparison with all that might be known and by comparison with the great ocean of truth that forever lies all undiscovered before us.