Category Archives: nihilism

Forerunner of the revolution

The medical student Bazarov, writes Dalrymple, is

the young nihilist in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. A forerunner of the revolutionary class in Russia, if not of the revolution itself, he accepts nothing, questions everything, and believes with religious intensity in the ability of the natural sciences to answer all questions.

He falls in love,

and begins to glimpse the inadequacy of his pain-in-the-neck philosophy.

Dalrymple says that as a student,

I was a little like Bazarov and thought I was God’s gift to philosophy, until it dawned on me that I had never had an original thought in my life and, what was more, that I was never going to have one.

Nihilistic alienation in America

The folly of welfarism and affirmative action

Dalrymple ventures to indict

all the efforts undertaken in recent years by government welfare programmes and institutions that practice affirmative action, such as universities, to ameliorate the condition of underclass blacks.

He points out that,

far from ameliorating the situation, the billions spent on welfare programmes, and the intellectual ingenuity expended on justifying the unjustifiable in the form of affirmative action, have resulted in a hatred that is bitter and widespread among those condescended to in this manner.

Looters at the ready

The threat of barbarism and mob rule

In conditions of anarchy, after, for instance, a hurricane,

a crude and violent order, based upon brute force and psychopathic ruthlessness, soon establishes itself, which regards philanthropy not as a friend but as an enemy and a threat.

While Dalrymple acknowledges that

all of us who were born with original sin (or whatever you want to call man’s fundamental natural flaws) are capable of savagery in the right circumstances,

he points out that by no means all of us

immediately lose our veneer of civilisation in conditions of adversity, however great. A veneer may be thin, but this makes it more, not less, precious, and its upkeep more, not less, important.

Looters, Dalrymple notes,

look bitter, angry, resentful, and vengeful as they go about what British burglars are inclined (in all seriousness) to call their ‘work’. The gangs are reported to have used racial taunts during their depredations. In all probability, the looters believe that, in removing as much as they can from stores, they are not so much stealing as performing acts of restitution or compensatory justice for wrongs received. They are not wronging the owners of the stores; on the contrary, the owners of the stores have wronged them over the years by restricting their access to the goods they covet and to which they believe they have a right. The hurricane has thus given them the opportunity to take justice into their own hands and settle old scores.

It is, he says,

a terrible indictment of all the efforts undertaken in recent years by government welfare programmes and institutions that practice affirmative action, such as universities, to ameliorate the condition of underclass blacks. It implies that the nihilistic alienation of the looters and gang members is as great as that to be found in Soweto at the height of the apartheid regime. Far from ameliorating the situation, then, the billions spent on welfare programmes, and the intellectual ingenuity expended on justifying the unjustifiable in the form of affirmative action, have resulted in a hatred that is bitter and widespread among those condescended to in this manner.

Failure and feeble-mindedness of the Left

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-22-57-00Dalrymple writes that whenever the Left see

a foreign enemy of their own country whom they can usefully co-opt as an ally in their disputes with their own domestic enemies, they resort to nihilistic relativism and multiculturalism, thus explaining away the vileness of their new ally’s atrocities as being the expression of his sacrosanct cultural tradition.

The Left

has comprehensively lost the economic argument that was once its raison d’être, and is reduced to the work of cultural destruction and the balkanisation of society into little communities of ideological monomaniacs—the feminists, homosexual and animal liberationists, and so forth. The Left lost its soul when it lost the economic argument.

So complete has been the defeat of socialism

that anyone who now avowed a belief in the superior efficiency of state-run industry would be more a candidate for the lunatic asylum (supposing that any remained open) than for high political office.

All that the Left can nowadays propose is

social policy so destructive that it allegedly necessitates a vast state apparatus to repair the damage it does.

Of the domestic policy prescriptions of the Left,

multiculturalism is among the most destructive. It was once the honourable goal of the Left, at least in Britain, to spread higher culture to the working class, and to immigrants, so that every person capable by inclination and natural endowment of enjoying, participating in, or contributing to that higher culture would do so. More recently, however, the Left has devoted its energies to denying that there is any higher or lower, better or worse in cultural matters. Not coincidentally, this betrayal allows Leftist intellectuals to preen themselves on the broadness of their minds while they maintain their membership of a social élite. They rarely educate their own children as if their theoretical pronouncements were true.

With regard to the Vietnam War,

it was one thing to oppose it because you thought it was futile and ethically worse than not fighting it (not necessarily true, but at least an honest opinion); quite another because you thought that Uncle Ho was a good man who was leading his people to freedom and prosperity, something that you could believe only by employing all the human mind’s capacity for special pleading and self-deception.

Houellebecq’s protest against nihilism and cynicism

A salutary though uncomfortable writer

A salutary though uncomfortable writer

Michel Houellebecq, writes Dalrymple, draws our attention to our own weaknesses. His theme is

the emptiness of modern life in consumer society, an emptiness which he describes with an unparalleled acuteness. He puts his finger precisely on the sore points of our existence, or at least on those points that seem merely anæsthetised until someone like him presses on them.

In Houellebecq’s world, Dalrymple explains, people

  • buy without need
  • want without real desire
  • distract themselves without enjoyment

Their shallow personal relations reflect this.

No one is prepared to sacrifice his or her freedom, which is conceived of as the ability to seek the next distraction without let or hindrance from obligation to others. They are committed to nothing, and in such a world even art or cultural activity is distraction on a marginally higher plane – though it is a natural law in this kind of society that the planes grow ever more compressed.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 21.49.28For Houellebecq, the institution that best captures the nature of modern existence is the supermarket, in which

people wander between stacked shelves making choices without discrimination or any real consequences, to the sound of banal but inescapable music. This music is like the leprous distilment that Claudius pours into the ear of Hamlet père as he sleeps in his garden once of an afternoon. The shoppers in the supermarket are sleepwalking, or behaving as quasi-automata. Most of them don’t even have a list of what they need, or think they need. The drivelling music makes sure that they do not awake from their semi-slumber.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 22.00.34The whole of modern life is an existential supermarket,

in which everyone makes life choices as if the choices were between very similar products, between Bonne Maman jam, say, and the supermarket’s own brand (probably made by the same manufacturer), in the belief that if they make the wrong choice it can simply be righted tomorrow by another choice. Life is but a series of moments and people are elementary particles (the title of a book by Houellebecq).

One knows what Houellebecq means, says Dalrymple, who observes that

  • children are now adults and adults children
  • once-serious newspapers review cartoon strips with the same solemnity as works of scholarship
  • rock music is reviewed far more than any other, even though the average age of the population has risen and there are as many geriatrics as infants
  • relationships between human beings are analysed for their ingredients as if they were ready-made salad dressings

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 21.52.23If, says Dalrymple, you watch crowds shopping in any consumer society,

you cannot help but think that they represent the sated in search of the superfluous. I once spent an afternoon watching shoppers – mainly women – in Beverly Hills, who almost certainly had all the possessions anyone could reasonably desire, and who exuded a kind of bored dissatisfaction with everything that they no doubt mistook for sophistication. They had not that connoisseurship that is the only justification for searching for yet more possessions when one is already overloaded with them, for connoisseurship requires discipline and knowledge and not just the exercise of whim to ward off boredom.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 21.56.12The decline of the West into narcissistic consumerist nihilism

is, according to Houellebecq, not of recent date, if by recent date one means a decade or two. For example, the novel Plateforme begins with the narrator and protagonist in the flat of his recently dead father who was in his seventies when he died:

In the kitchen cupboards I found mainly Weight Watchers’ individual packet meals, tins of flavoured protein, and energy bars.

This disgusting diet was, of course, in pursuit of fitness and longevity, futile in the event, and a very undignified way of dealing with Man’s mortality.

Finding in another room his deceased father’s exercise and bodybuilding machine, the narrator says:

I rapidly saw in my mind’s eye a cretin in shorts – with a wrinkled face, in other respects very like mine – swelling his pectorals with a hopeless energy.

This, writes Dalrymple,

is a succinct and painfully exact delineation of a generation that refused to believe that it would ever age, which believed in nothing but sensual pleasure and laughed at religious consolation. In a few very painful lines, the author portrays the dénouement of such a life.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 22.05.25

Oh fuck! Entering Stoke-on-Trent

Dalrymple says that on arriving in what he calls this

dreadful place

he always exclaims inwardly,

Oh fuck!

He writes:

You know at once that nothing can save it; it induces immediately a kind of despairing nihilism even in the most optimistic of souls. Any means to leave Stoke-on-Trent might seem justified.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 20.54.44 Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 20.47.56 Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 20.48.33 Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 20.51.02 Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 20.52.14 Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 20.53.31screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-39-38 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-38-26 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-36-19 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-34-39 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-36-45 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-40-32 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-41-17 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-38-11 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-36-02 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-38-48 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-37-27screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-37-55screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-44-41screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-49-30

Doctrine that points the way to revenge

Imagine yourself, writes Dalrymple, a youth in Les Tarterêts or Les Musiciens,

  • intellectually alert but not well educated
  • believing yourself to be despised because of your origins by the larger society that you were born into
  • permanently condemned to unemployment by the system that contemptuously feeds and clothes you
  • surrounded by a contemptible nihilistic culture of despair, violence, and crime

Is it not possible, he says, that you would seek a doctrine that would

  • explain your predicament
  • justify your wrath
  • point the way towards your revenge
  • guarantee your salvation

Might you not

seek a ‘worthwhile’ direction for the energy, hatred, and violence seething within you, a direction that would enable you to do evil in the name of ultimate good?

Les Tarterêts

Les Tarterêts

Permanent temptation of ageing doctors

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 08.36.06Dalrymple on the dangers of therapeutic nihilism. He suggests that

perhaps there ought to be a Nobel Prize for failure, that is to say for the brightest idea that failed.

Me, an eyesore? You’ll just have to fuckin’ well put up with it

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 01.45.59Modern scruffiness, says Dalrymple,

is a manifestation of egotism.

He writes of some clothes shops he comes across in Amsterdam:

Outside one of the shops was a large plasma screen showing models wearing the kind of clothes to be had within. They were precisely the insolently ragged clothes that the great majority of people in the street were wearing anyway….The models, in their T-shirts, baseball caps, sneakers, and so forth, as uniform as any army, walked with the kind of vulpine lope that one associates with the less law-abiding young males of the American ghettoes.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 01.42.32More striking

was the expression on their faces, which were cachectic in the case of the women, androgynous in the case of men: a fixed, determined, humourless stare that indicated a hatred of the world and all that was in it, including their fellow beings. The models’ faces were vacantly earnest, as if they wished for annihilation of everything around them.

This, says Dalrymple, is the first age

in which people do not dress to please others, but dress to displease others, to make sure that everyone knows that I’m not going to make any effort just for you. And this, no doubt, is because I am as good as anyone in the world, bar none.

Nihilističkom, dekadentnom i samodestruktivnom ponašanju

The cause of Western misery: nihilistic, decadent and self-destructive behavior of people who do not know how to live. As Dalrymple has pointed out often, poverty does not explain this behaviour; in African slums there is greater decorum and dignity than is to be found anywhere in Europe, in any class but especially in the corrupt upper-middle class.

The situation is more keenly perceived in Croatia than in the country of Dalrymple’s birth. This should not surprise us.