Category Archives: moral grandiosity

The fanatically puritanical WikiLeaks Weltanschauung

It is scarcely worth arguing against such a childish view of life

We hardly needed WikiLeaks to tell us, writes Dalrymple,

that Nicolas Sarkozy is a vulgar man with authoritarian inclinations, or that Silvio Berlusconi is interested in sex. It isn’t even particularly reassuring to have our judgments confirmed for us by US diplomatic messages, for if they had said anything different we shouldn’t have believed them.

At first there is a

slight frisson of pleasure at the discomfiture of powerful people and those in authority , a pleasure akin to that of seeing a pompously dignified man slip on a banana skin.

Censor to the world

But when this wears off,

the significance of the greatest disclosure of official documents in history—without, that is, the military downfall of a great city—becomes apparent. It is not that revelations of secrets are always unwelcome or ethically unjustified. It is not a new insight that power is likely to be abused and can only be held in check by a countervailing power, often that of public exposure.

Totalitarianism

WikiLeaks, says Dalrymple,

goes far beyond the need to expose wrongdoing, or supposed wrongdoing: it is unwittingly doing the work of totalitarianism.

The idea behind WikiLeaks

is that life should be an open book, that everything that is said and done should be immediately revealed to everybody, that there should be no secret agreements, deeds, or conversations. In the view of WikiLeaks, no one and no organisation should have anything to hide.

The effect of WikiLeaks

is likely to be profound and the opposite of what it sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one.

The possibility of secrecy is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness

WikiLeaks

will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.

The dissolution of the distinction between the private and public spheres, Dalrymple points out, is

one of the aims of totalitarianism. Opening and reading other people’s e-mails is no different from opening and reading other people’s letters.

WikiLeaks plays a role

that requires an astonishing moral grandiosity and arrogance to have assumed. Even if some evils are exposed, or some necessary truths aired, the end does not justify the means.

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Blair: dishonesty and dishonour

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Lack of character plus moral grandiosity, a lethal combination

The grandiose are found out by reality, and left squirming

Tony Blair, writes Dalrymple, exhibits

the most frivolous earnestness. He is given to gushes of cheap moral enthusiasm — cheap, that is, for him, not for others who have to pay for it.

Blair has been

exposed as the frog in Æsop’s fable that puffs and puffs himself up in an attempt to prove himself as big as the cow, until he explodes. But we cannot blame him entirely. He is one of us, the new Britons. The least we can do is to put some teddy-bears by the railings outside his home to help him come to terms with his humiliation.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.50.34Britain, Dalrymple reminds us, is

of very slight account, with a population increasingly unable to distinguish the trivial from the important and the virtual from the real. It has over several decades undergone profound social and psychological changes, of which Blair is both a symptom and an accelerating cause.

When moral grandiosity meets lack of character,

no good can result. Grandiosity and lack of character are two sides of the same coin. When someone believes that he is born with Original Virtue, he comes to believe that all his opinions, all his ends and all his actions are pure, moral and right. He is able to change from moment to moment, and to act in a completely unscrupulous manner. He may act in contradictory ways and change his opinions to their very opposites, but the purity of motive remains when everything else has disappeared.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 09.19.39Such a person

can have no honour, for honour implies a loyalty to a fixed standard, even or especially when it is not in that person’s immediate or instrumental interest to uphold it.

The lack of character

derives also from the elevation of sensibility over sense and of personal opinion over personal probity. Purity of sentiment and opinion become the whole of virtue, and the louder one expresses it the better the person is; morality is not a discipline and an abjuration but an opportunity to shine in front of one’s peers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.23.23Needless to say,

purity of sentiment and opinion are not incompatible with our old and trusted friend, the thirst for power, a combination which naturally enough results in a bullying sentimentality and a self-righteous lack of scruple.

The desire to be

both policeman and lady almoner, General Patton and Gandhi, Rambo and Elizabeth Fry, is not conducive to clear thinking or clear policy.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.28.26Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.20.38

Beastly intrusions on the Nordic fairytale

Behind the notion (always somewhat specious and now utterly defunct) that Scandinavians have attained a higher level of civilised governance lies, writes Dalrymple,

not only complacency, but arrogance. “We are so wise and nice that what goes on in the rest of the world cannot affect us,” they suppose. “Moreover, anyone who comes to live here must be so thankful for our generosity.”

This, Dalrymple points out, is a fantasy.

It requires a form of moral grandiosity to believe that you can live in such a fairytale, with a happy beginning, a happy middle, and a happy end, without ever having to think of such potentially nasty beasts as national interest and old enmity.

The quintessential apparatchik

Punchy: Paul Hunt

Paul Podsnap-Hunt: keeping on the right side of the rules of correctness

What is the secret of being a successful, well-paid administrator-at-large in the global health and aid-and-development apparat, with all the opportunities that this affords for international travel, for avoiding dull routine, for feeling very good indeed about oneself, and for transnational or nether-world approbation?

The secret, Dalrymple explains, is to follow the recommendation of Paul Hunt, the former Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to give him his full title. Hunt makes it a point in his speech and writing to be

as punchy as I can be within the rules, both spoken and unspoken.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.13.47At the same time Hunt believes that, as a human rights lawyer, he must

expand the traditional boundaries

of his

calling,

more or less to include everything. There is, says Dalrymple,

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.16.09a kind of grandiosity about this that produces in me a similar effect as that my teachers used to produce when they had a piece of defective chalk that squeaked on the blackboard. Here is a man so perfect, so moral, so well-intentioned, so benevolent towards humanity, that he feels he has the right—no, the duty, the calling—to lay down the world’s agenda.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.27.47

Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, primer virrey de la Nueva España (1535-50) y del Perú (1550-52)

Hunt finds that he gains an appreciation of his worth as a humanitarian UN leader of considerable ability and far-sightedness when he hears that

some country or other has passed a law because of his

intervention,

and he feels as if he has achieved something, as if all laws in the world were obeyed and achieved their end.

Alas,

Obedezco pero no cumplo.

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Paul Hunt: grandeur

Coiffure of a globa; healthcare visionary

Coiffure of a global healthcare visionary

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.

The appeal of Islam

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Richard Dart, a Muslim convert, plotted to attack soldiers

Hormonally disaffected young Western men are drawn to it

With the USSR’s downfall, Dalrymple writes, Marxism lost most of its allure for these youths,

leaving them bereft of significance and purpose. Except for one group among them, they now had only a potpourri of causes (sexism, racism, the environment, etc.), none of which quite met the need or filled the gap. The group excepted, of course, was the Muslims. Islam was waiting in the wings with a ready-made ideology. Nature hates a vacuum, especially in young men’s heads, which are all too easily filled with quarter-baked ideas.

Youth, after all,

is the age not of idealism but of self-importance, uncertainty masked by certitude and moral grandiosity untouched by experience of life — or, of course, the age of total insouciance. It is not surprising that ideology makes young men dangerous, for it is in the nature of ideology to answer all the difficult questions of human existence while giving believers the illusion of special understanding and destiny not available to others.

Islamist humanitarianism

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 02.23.10‘He wanted to help all these people,’ explained the mother of Nicolas Bons, a Muslim convert.

So he blew himself up in an ‘enemy village’ — most helpful.

Dalrymple’s comment:

Never was feeble ratiocination so completely mixed with moral grandiosity.