Category Archives: moral exhibitionism

Dean Swift turns in his grave

Michael Foot, Dalrymple explains, was the scion of an upper-middle-class English family who became a left-wing leader of the UK’s Labour party. He was a decent man, though naïve and misguided, and

unlike most of the politicians of today he was cultivated, being a literary scholar.

He published a study of a year in Swift’s life, called The Pen and the Sword (1957). After his death, his large collection of books by or about Swift was sold. Dalrymple intended to buy a few of the items that he could (barely) afford from the bookseller’s catalogue,

but the whole collection was suddenly bought by an American university library. It was worth more than the total wealth of all but a tiny minority of his countrymen, but Foot devoted his life to bringing about the economic conditions to ensure that no one would ever again be able to assemble such a collection.

In Dr Strangelove, I Presume (1999), Foot argues for total nuclear disarmament,

a cause long dear to his heart, or mind, or some combination of the two.

The first words of the author’s preface are:

Every day when I tried to complete this book with a proper review of the latest evidence, I was interrupted by new discoveries. One of the most moving and instructive was the letter printed opposite.

The letter printed opposite was an open one from ‘Naveena’, a 12-year-old schoolgirl, to the Indian prime minister. It starts:

I am writing on behalf of all children.

Michael Foot

Dalrymple finds this

grandiose, self-important, arrogant and presumptuous, in the manner of youth of a certain kind. It irritates me.

‘Naveena’ goes on to lecture, or hector, the prime minister:

I don’t think bombs protect anybody. You don’t get power by possessing arsenals.

These statements

are highly disputable. Naveena is no little boy crying out that the emperor is naked; she reveals nothing and speaks and writes in clichés that have been uttered hundreds of millions of times, daily and for years.

What is significant, says Dalrymple,

is that a man like Foot — who had spent a lifetime studying and appreciating Swift, of all people — should have claimed to be moved by such claptrap. I suspect that he was not so much moved by ‘Naveena’ as moved by the goodness of his payment of attention to her, and anxious to demonstrate it to the world. Therein lies a sickness of our time.

‘The white race is the cancer of human history’

Dalrymple comes across an article by Susan Sontag in the American quarterly Partisan Review. It reads in part:

Neither do I dare deride the turn toward the East (or more generally, to the wisdom of the nonwhite world) on the part of a tiny group of young people — however uninformed and jejune the adherence usually is. (But then nothing could be more ignorant than Fiedler’s insinuation that Oriental modes of thought are ‘feminine’ and ‘passive,’ which is the reason the demasculinised kids are drawn to them.) Why shouldn’t they look for wisdom elsewhere? If America is the culmination of Western white civilisation, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilisation. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far. It’s easier, much easier, to accuse the kids, to reproach them for being ‘non-participants in the past’ and ‘drop-outs from history.’ But it isn’t real history Fiedler is referring to with such solicitude. It’s just our history, which he claims is identical with ‘the tradition of the human,’ the tradition of ‘reason’ itself. Of course, it’s hard to assess life on this planet from a genuinely world-historical perspective; the effort induces vertigo and seems like an invitation to suicide. But from a world-historical perspective, that local history that some young people are repudiating (with their fondness for dirty words, their peyote, their macrobiotic rice, their Dadaist art, etc.) looks a good deal less pleasing and less self-evidently worthy of perpetuation. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilisation has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself. What the Mongol hordes threaten is far less frightening than the damage that western ‘Faustian’ man, with his idealism, his magnificent art, his sense of intellectual adventure, his world-devouring energies for conquest, has already done, and further threatens to do.

Dalrymple comments:

The question with assertions of this nature is whether they can ever correspond to any genuine feeling, or are but the manifestation of a straining after feeling. To me they have the authentic ring of humbug, which is the besetting sin of our age (which is not to say that it has existed or been prevalent in no other).

Hazlitt (‘On cant and hypocrisy’, London Weekly Review, 1828) tells us that

sincerity has to do with the connexion between our words and thoughts, and not between our belief and actions. The last constantly belie the strongest convictions and resolutions in the best of men; it is only the base and dishonest who give themselves credit with their tongue, for sentiments and opinions which in their hearts they disown.

To this, says Dalrymple,

he might have added feeling, for expressed feelings can be as divorced from true feelings as cant can be from true belief. The complexity of the human mind is such that we can easily disguise the divorce from ourselves and deny that it exists, the denial leading us to act as if the false were true.

Dalrymple does not believe that Sontag

thought or felt of herself as a cancerous cell, for such a sincere thought or feeling is really possible only to someone with a mental state akin to Cotard’s syndrome, the rare delusion that one is already (and deservedly) dead or putrefying: and people with Cotard’s syndrome do not write essays, not even for the Partisan Review.

He adds:

The grandiose moral exhibitionism of which the Sontag quotation is so notable an example serves another function in our moral economy: to divert the locus of our moral concern from the pettiness of our daily existences to the largest general problems facing the world.

It renders alien to us, he says, the Blakean thought (Jerusalem, f. 55, ll. 48–53, 60–6):

And many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow,
Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery;
It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal.
Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones;
And those who are in misery cannot remain so long,
If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.…
He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer;
For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organised Particulars,
And not in generalising Demonstrations of the Rational Power:
The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity.
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually,
On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!

British intellectuals loathe Britain

Self-hatred is neither attractive nor constructive. It is not only insincere but unjustified

The British, Dalrymple writes,

are fortunate enough to be the inheritors of a tradition as great as (though not necessarily greater than) any. Why reject it?

He writes from India, where he says

it is far easier to find genuine and knowledgeable admirers of British culture than it is among Britain’s own political class. This is the saddest commentary on the condition of England.

In Great Britain, says Dalrymple, you find

officially-sponsored indifference or hostility to anything which might be considered part of the European and British cultural and religious heritage.

This is combined with

a tender regard for any non-European and non-British cultural heritage.

For example,

no British minister would go to Brick Lane in East London and say it was horribly Bangladeshi; but a British minister had no compunction in complaining of an institution that it was horribly white.

English intellectuals, Dalrymple points out,

have long harboured a hatred of their country and its culture. The attitude has deeply infiltrated the political class, and has come to affect legislation.

Moral exhibitionism

But it is

insincere. Those who adopt it are not admirers of other cultures, for to admire other cultures it is necessary to study them. To know another culture is not a matter of slipping down once in a while to a restaurant that serves its cuisine: it is very hard work indeed, and the more different that culture is from one’s own, the harder the work it is.

When members of Britain’s political class express their adherence to multiculturalism,

they are not expressing their love of other cultures, they are expressing hatred of their own. It is this which explains the discrepancy in the way a Christian who derides Islam can expect to be treated by comparison with a Muslim who derides Christianity.

The hatred of that section of the political class for their country’s culture, traditions and past is insincere in another sense, Dalrymple notes.

By expressing that hatred, they imagine themselves to be exhibiting their moral superiority for all the world — and especially the intelligentsia — to see.

Rubbing their noses in diversity

Another factor in the political class’s hatred of their culture is that it is politically advantageous. Mass immigration,

with the concomitant ideological glorification of the multicultural society, has had as its purpose the production of a permanent change in the nature of the British population, which can be relied upon to vote for ever for the kind of politicians who brought it about. It is one thing to encourage immigration because your commerce is so strong that there is a labour shortage; quite another when neither of those conditions obtains. Britain’s commerce was never strong and there never was a labour shortage. The country imported people while there was still mass unemployment (disguised as sickness) to create a vote bank for those who brought this about.

How do I appear concerned and compassionate to my friends, colleagues, and peers?

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 23.03.21

More humanitarian than thou, not to mention a great deal richer

This, says Dalrymple, is for the pols, the polly-toynbees, the pundits and the pampered celebs of the West the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem.

The rules are:

  • Never give the appearance of blaming the victim of any social problem, or anyone whose life is poor or unenviable, by examining the bad choices he makes
  • Refrain always from looking at the reasons for those choices, since victims are victims and not responsible for their acts, unlike the small class of human beings who are not victims
  • Do not stare at a social problem for very long. Turn to abstractions, to structures over which the victim has no control

The rawness of reality must be avoided, says Dalrymple, so that

utopian schemes of social engineering can be spun.

The bien-pensants view people as

in the grip of forces that they cannot influence, let alone control—and therefore as not full members of the human race.

That people are reduced to automata suits the élite, for it

increases the importance of its providential role in society.

Pride

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Ed Vulliamy: superior intelligence, education and ethical sensitivity

Moral exhibitionism: the déformation professionelle of the intellectuals

Picking up the London newspaper the Guardian, Dalrymple lights on an article by a poseur called Ed Vulliamy on the subject of the monstrosity of the wish of his countrymen to leave the EU and the various abominations of Brexit Britain.

The article contains sentences such as the following:

On the slipstream of empire, I’ve always thought — to the point of treason — of my British passport as a ‘burden of shame’, as UB40 so eloquently put it — ‘a British subject, not proud of it’. Now, trying to cling on in ‘the Continent’, it is just a downright embarrassment — not only a badge of shame, but also, worse in a way, of pointless, bellicose imbecility.

Badge of bellicosity

Badge of bellicosity

Dalrymple makes two points:

  1. This is typical of the hyperbole that followed the result of the referendum, to the holding of which few people objected before the results were known. You can have elections and referenda, so long as the results are correct.
  2. Overweening pride runs through the passage. The man who wrote it is middle-aged: he has kept his ‘badge of shame’ for decades after he could, if he had felt shame about it, have got rid of it. His pride is to have a badge of shame, extravagantly exhibited, to demonstrate his moral superiority over people who wear the same badge who are not as intelligent, educated or morally sensitive. On me this has the same effect as the sound of a nail running down a blackboard.
screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-09-17-16

‘Superbia’, detail, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, c. 1450-1515, attr. Jheronimus Bosch

或曰:“以德报怨,何如?”子曰:“何以报德?以直报怨,以德报德。”

Emmanuel Jaffelin: criminals deserve a bit of gentillesse

The moral exhibitionist Emmanuel Jaffelin: criminals such as murderers and rapists have difficulty in their relations with society, and are crying out for a soupçon of understanding and gentillesse

The cult of insincerity

Confucian Analects (from chapter 14):

Someone asked, ‘What about the notion that we should requite injury with kindness?’

The Master said, ‘With what then will you requite kindness? Requite kindness with kindness: requite injury with justice.’

Dalrymple writes that many intellectuals who advocate soft criminal justice and holiday-camp jails

in their heart of hearts do not believe a word of what they say.

They are just moral exhibitionists, wishing to advertise their

generosity of spirit at other people’s expense.

It is

Personally sado-masochistic, the profoundly malign Michel Foucault 'tried — using an entirely bogus historiography — to demonstrate that humanitarian reform was actually nothing of the kind, but the replacement of one kind of raw power by another, more hidden and therefore dangerous and sadistic power'

Personally sado-masochistic, the profoundly malign Michel Foucault ‘tried — using an entirely bogus historiography — to demonstrate that humanitarian reform was actually nothing of the kind, but the replacement of one kind of raw power by another, more hidden and therefore dangerous and sadistic power’

one of the sicknesses of our age, this desire to appear more compassionate than thou.

It is especially common when approaching the matter of crime, and the effects of crime

both on individual victims and on society as a whole.

Dalrymple, who avers with Orwell that ‘restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men’, points out — because however self-evident, it needs to be pointed out, often and loudly — that crime

causes fear and alters the mentality and behaviour of almost everyone in the direction of mistrust, caution and loss of freedom.

The more perverted and morally cretinous of intellectuals view crime as

an arbitrary social construction, and a criminal as someone who merely has difficulty in his relations with society as some men have difficulties in their relations with their wives.

What of prisons? Should they be therapeutic institutions, salubrious ‘places of social reintegration’, day care centres where convicts are treated no differently from other people with difficulties of one sort or another — winos, schizophrenics and the like? Or should murderers, rapists, and torturers, for instance, be made to suffer a small degree of disgrace? Is abasement, where it is called for, a bad thing? Dalrymple writes:

A cane maintains this bush in an upright position

A cane maintains this bush in the upright position

The prospect of humiliation is one of the things that keeps us upright, as a cane keeps many a rosebush upright. We are social beings because we have a capacity to feel humiliated – or it might be the other way round. There could be no prospect of humiliation if there were no actual means by which we might be humiliated.

It is

condescending to suggest that criminals do not know what they are doing, and that what they need is some kind of help to know it.

It

Inscription at the Old Bailey, above the main entrance to the building opened in 1907. 'He shall keep the simple folk by their right: defend the children of the poor, and punish the wrong-doer.' From the Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 72

Inscription above the main entrance to the rebuilt Old Bailey (opened 1907): ‘He shall keep the simple folk by their right: defend the children of the poor, and punish the wrong-doer.’ From the Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 72

empties the world of moral meaning

to call crimes mistakes, minor follies, peccadilloes,

equivalent to putting the wrong postage on a letter or forgetting to put salt in the soup. Criminal justice is not group therapy.

The purpose of the criminal law, Dalrymple asserts,

is to protect the population from criminals, not to make criminals better people.

How enlightened we are!

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.06.13The eternal truths of multiculturalism

The policy of multiculturalism and mass immigration is one of

admitting large numbers of people, a proportion of whom at least may be, or become, the bearers of a deeply hostile and dangerous ideology.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.07.06What drives this policy is not

national interest, but moral vanity, exhibitionism, grandiosity and hubris. Aren’t we good people!

Moral exhibitionism

The fact of the 2011 Norway attacks does not mean that the policy of multiculturalism and mass immigration

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.10.30is wise, prudent or even moral. Events in Europe and elsewhere do not ineluctably lead to the conclusion that, for example, Sweden’s determination to take in more refugees from Syria is in that country’s long-term interest, or even conduces to the peace of the world.

Vote bank

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.14.08The 69 young people on the island of Utøya whom Anders Breivik killed

might well have been the future leaders of the party most militantly attached to multiculturalism, for among other reasons as a vote bank.

Multiculturalists triumphant

Breivik’s action made

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.17.58discussion of the whole question difficult to the point of impossibility. If you do not subscribe to the eternal truths of multiculturalism — discovered, it must be confessed, rather late in human history — you must be an apologist for Breivik.

It is a false dichotomy,

false in logic, though not necessarily in political psychology, and it is the latter which counts. What Breivik did, who preposterously believed himself to be some kind of Knight Templar, was immensely to strengthen the multiculturalists.

We are all guilty! All we are saying, is give Heinrich a chance

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Der treue Heinrich: by all accounts a polite, refined, softly spoken and considerate person, Heinrich Himmler suffered severe abdominal pains and fell in with the wrong crowd early in life. Let us be broad-minded and compassionate and give him a second chance, for as Dr Heinz Kiosk has pointed out (as chronicled by Michael Wharton), we are all guilty!

Ludicrous, isn’t it? The idea is insane. We were certainly right to deny the Reichsführer-SS a second chance, writes Dalrymple, and we should also deny a second chance to, for example, the man who, in a recent English case, drugged his girlfriend and, while she was drugged, gouged out her eyes.

If you cannot imagine, after the Holocaust, Pol Pot and Rwanda, a crime so terrible that people who commit it forfeit their right to live as free persons in society, then your imagination has been brutalised.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 19.58.52To say that a man who gouges out someone’s eyes should never be freed

is not the same as saying that he should be treated with cruelty inside prison (as, in strict justice, he would deserve to be treated, a proof that justice is not the only value that we hold dear). On the contrary, to say that he should have a second chance because everyone deserves a second chance is to say that there is nothing we find intolerable.

A society in which nothing was beyond the pale

would be extraordinarily vicious.

Does everyone deserve a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth chance?

Who is to pay for these chances? Generosity at the expense of others, financial or moral, is not generosity, it is moral exhibitionism.

Blameless brief-carnal-liaison co-ordinators

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 23.02.47That’s pimps to you and me.

A few years ago, prostitutes disappeared from medical journals; they returned as ‘sex workers’. Nor did they work in prostitution any more: they were employees in the ‘sex industry’. If prostitution really is a trade like any other, why should people who receive state benefits not be coerced into prostitution under threat of losing their benefits? The attempt to remake our moral universe by a change of terminology stands revealed as shallow moral exhibitionism: Look at me, see how unfettered by convention, how empathic towards the downtrodden, I am. I think for myself, unlike all those people of the past two millennia, and I don’t accept the burden of the so-called wisdom of the past.