Category Archives: Pecksniff, Seth

Hulot’s high-sounding bilge

In the French legacy media, Dalrymple comes across an item titled Les 100 principes de Nicolas Hulot pour un nouveau monde by a man who was until recently ministre d’État, ministre de la Transition écologique et solidaire. (‘By their job titles shall ye know them,’ the doctor-writer remarks.)

Dalrymple notes

the banality of mind, or the cynicism, of a person who could have written and published such a manifesto,

and the lack of judgment of the Paris newspaper the Monde in publishing it.

Each principle is

a cliché, a truism, or a banal falsehood, expressed with a self-satisfaction that would have made Mr Pecksniff seem like a self-doubter.

Seth Pecksniff: ‘Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.’

The principles take up almost two pages under the rubric of Ideas, but

they are to ideas what stale cheese sandwiches are to haute cuisine.

Dalrymple feels pity, but also experiences nausea:

  • pity because if the thoughts corresponded to anything running through their author’s mind more than fleetingly, it must be agonising to be him;
  • nausea because of the saccharine nature of most of the sentiments expressed, which make those of Hallmark cards seem acerbic.

And hiding in the great mound of baloney are

quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously, lead to a totalitarian society. Inside every sentimentalist is a despot trying to get out. Hulot’s principles illustrate the proximity of sentimentality to the potential of great brutality: for it would probably require a civil war for some of his principles to be put into practice.

Here are the principles:

Le temps est venu, ensemble, de poser les premières pierres d’un nouveau monde.

Le temps est venu de transcender la peur en espoir.

Le temps est venu pour une nouvelle façon de penser.

Le temps est venu de la lucidité.

Le temps est venu de dresser un horizon commun.

Le temps est venu de ne plus sacrifier le futur au présent.

Le temps est venu de résister à la fatalité.

Le temps est venu de ne plus laisser l’avenir décider à notre place.

Le temps est venu de ne plus se mentir.

Le temps est venu de réanimer notre humanité.

Le temps est venu de la résilience.

hangeLe temps est venu de prendre soin et de réparer la planète.

Le temps est venu de traiter les racines des crises.

Le temps est venu d’appréhender l’ensemble des crises écologiques, climatiques, sociales, économiques et sanitaires comme une seule et même crise: une crise de l’excès.

Le temps est venu d’entendre la jeunesse et d’apprendre des anciens.

Le temps est venu d’entendre la jeunesse et d’apprendre des anciens.

Le temps est venu de créer du lien.

Le temps est venu de miser sur l’entraide.

Le temps est venu d’applaudir la vie.

Le temps est venu d’honorer la beauté du monde.

Le temps est venu de se rappeler que la vie ne tient qu’à un fil. 

Le temps est venu de nous réconcilier avec la nature.

Le temps est venu de respecter la diversité et l’intégrité du vivant.

Le temps est venu de laisser de l’espace au monde sauvage.

Le temps est venu de traiter les animaux en respectant leurs intérêts propres.

Le temps est venu de reconnaître l’humanité plurielle.

Le temps est venu de lier notre je au nous.

Le temps est venu d’écouter les peuples premiers.

Le temps est venu de cultiver la différence.

Le temps est venu d’acter notre communauté de destin avec la famille humaine et tous les êtres vivants. 

Le temps est venu de reconnaître notre vulnérabilité.

Le temps et venu d’apprendre de nos erreurs.

Le temps est venu de l’inventaire de nos faiblesses et de nos vertus. 

Le temps est venu de nous concilier avec les limites planétaires.

Le temps est venu de changer de paradigme. 

Le temps est venu d’opérer la mue d’un système périmé.

Le temps est venu de redéfinir les fins et les moyens.

Le temps est venu de redonner du sens au progrès.

Le temps est venu de l’indulgence et de l’exigence. 

Le temps est venu de s’émanciper des dogmes.

Le temps est venu de l’intelligence collective. 

Le temps est venu d’une mondialisation qui partage, qui coopère et qui donne aux plus faibles.

Le temps est venu de préférer le juste échange au libre-échange.

Le temps est venu de préférer le juste échange au libre-échange.

Le temps est venu de globaliser ce qui est vertueux et de dé globaliser ce qui est néfaste.

Le temps est venu de définir, préserver et protéger les biens communs. 

Le temps est venu de la solidarité universelle.

Le temps est venu de la transparence et de la responsabilité.

Le temps est venu d‘une économie qui préserve et redistribue à chacun.

Le temps est venu de mettre un terme à la dérégulation à la spéculation et à l’évasion fiscale.

Le temps est venu d’effacer la dette des pays pauvres.

Le temps est venu de s’émanciper des politiques partisanes. 

Le temps est venu de s’extraire des idéologies stériles.

Le temps est venu des démocraties inclusives.

Le temps est venu de s’inspirer des citoyens.

Le temps est venu d’appliquer le principe de précaution.

Le temps est venu de graver dans le droit les principes d’une politique écologique, sociale et civilisationnelle. 

Le temps est venu de faire mentir le déterminisme social.

Le temps est venu de combler les inégalités de destin.

Le temps est venu de l’égalité absolue entre les femmes et les hommes.

Le temps est venu de tendre la main aux humbles et aux invisibles.

Le temps est venu d’exprimer plus qu’une juste gratitude à celles et ceux, souvent étrangers, qui dans nos pays hier et aujourd’hui exécutent des tâches ingrates. 

Le temps est venu de valoriser prioritairement les métiers qui permettent la vie.

Le temps est venu du travail qui épanouit.

Le temps est venu de l’avènement de l’économie sociale et solidaire.

Le temps est venu de l’avènement de l’économie sociale et solidaire.

Le temps est venu d’exonérer les services publics de la loi du rendement.

Le temps est venu de relocaliser des pans entiers de l’économie.

Le temps est venu de la cohérence et de réorienter nos activités et nos investissements vers l’utile et non le nuisible.

Le temps est venu d’éduquer nos enfants à l’être, au civisme, au vivre ensemble et de leur apprendre à habiter la terre.

Le temps est venu de nous fixer des limites dans ce qui blesse et aucune dans ce qui soigne.

Le temps est venu de la sobriété.

Le temps est venu d’apprendre à vivre plus simplement.

Le temps est venu de nous réapproprier le bonheur.

Le temps est venu de nous libérer de nos addictions consuméristes.

Le temps est venu de ralentir.

Le temps est venu de voyager près de chez nous.

Le temps est venu de nous défaire de nos conditionnements mentaux individuels et collectifs.

Le temps est venu de nous fixer des limites dans ce qui blesse et aucune dans ce qui soigne.

Le temps est venu de faire naître des désirs simples.

Le temps est venu de distinguer l’essentiel du superflu. 

Le temps est venu d’arbitrer dans les possibles.

Le temps est venu de renoncer à ce qui compromet l’avenir. 

Le temps est venu de la créativité et de l’impact positif.

Le temps est venu de lier notre je au nous.

Le temps est venu de croire en l’autre.

Le temps est venu de revisiter nos préjugés. 

Le temps est venu du discernement.

Le temps est devenu d’admettre la complexité.

Le temps est venu de synchroniser science et conscience.

Le temps est venu de l’unité.

Le temps est venu de l’humilité.

Le temps est venu de la bienveillance.

Le temps est venu de traiter les animaux en respectant leurs intérêts propres.

Le temps est venu de l’empathie.

Le temps est venu de la dignité pour tous.

Le temps est venu de déclarer que le racisme est la pire des pollutions mentales. 

Le temps est venu de la modestie et de l’audace.

Le temps est venu de combler le vide entre nos mots et nos actes et d’agir en grand.

Le temps est venu où chacun doit faire sa part et être l’artisan du monde de demain.

Le temps est venu de l’engagement. 

Le temps est venu de croire qu’un autre monde est possible.

Le temps est venu d’un élan effréné pour ouvrir de nouvelles voies.

Le temps est venu sur cette matrice de choisir, encourager et accompagner nos dirigeants ou représentants.

Le temps est venu pour chacun de faire vivre ce manifeste.

Le temps est venu de créer un lobby des consciences.


Oxfam’s malversation of funds

The bogus charity Oxfam, writes Dalrymple,

is a Pecksniffian organisation, given to auto-beatification,

so much so that

when I pass the Oxfam shop in my small town, with its unctuous slogan Thank you for being humankind in the window, it is with difficulty that I resist the urge to throw a brick through it.

Like many large self-righteous British charities, Oxfraud

has long been a villainous organisation — and the sexual exploits (or should I say exploitations?) of its workers in Haïti and elsewhere are the least of it. In the moral sense, though not the legal, it has for many years been guilty of fraud, of misleading the public.

Dalrymple first realised this some years ago when

I found a used-book dealer of my long acquaintance poring in his shop over Oxfam’s annual accounts.

‘Look at this,’ he said, but I saw nothing until he pointed it out to me.

Oxfam, in common with many other charities in Britain,

runs thrift shops in practically every British town. Such shops are more numerous even than Indian restaurants: they allow people to give away unwanted belongings in the belief that they are furthering a good cause. My acquaintance pointed out that, despite receiving their goods free of charge, paying practically nothing for their labour (which is voluntary), and paying much reduced local taxes, Oxfam shops make a profit on turnover of a mere 17%, much less than his own, despite his incomparably greater expenses.

Dalrymple asks:

How was such a thing possible, by what miracle of disorganisation (or malversation of funds)? Until then, I had carelessly assumed that the great majority of any money that I gave to a large charity went to serve its ostensible end.

Machiavelli for modern mediocrities


How to get on in the West

From the outset, you must compromise your probity and demonstrate your willingness to play the game, at the cost of your integrity.

In the early stages, writes Dalrymple, you will need a ‘personal statement’ in your application for a job or university place. The tone must be one of

unctuous self-advertisement,

and you must put in much about your

passion for social justice and equality, and deep sense of social responsibility, which you will bring to whatever task you are told to perform.


Tips and hints for today’s Pecksniffs and Uriah Heeps

You must assert that you have dreamt all your life of this post in, say,

the marketing department (selling the unnecessary to the insolvent) and why you, of all the 7bn people in the world, are the most suited to it.

Bear in mind that the purpose of ‘personal statements’ or ‘mission statements’ and their cognates, such as annual declarations of probity, is, says Dalrymple,

to make the world safe for overeducated mediocrities.

Learn the subtle black art

It does not matter if you tell lies in the ‘personal statement’, because nothing you say will be verified or refuted. It is, Dalrymple points out,

the physical utterance of correct sentiments that counts, not whether they correspond to any truth, inner or outer. They are a sign of willingness to conform, more or less to anything that may be required, and conformity is the highest value of mediocrities; it makes them feel comfortable and, more important, safe.

You must show

determination to climb some bureaucratic career ladder detached from any purpose except survival and, if possible, self-aggrandisement.

Ally your mediocrity to your overweening ambition

To climb such a ladder,

you have to be ruthless and submissive at the same time. You have to be prepared to stab people in the back in the scramble for advancement, while being prepared to suppress your personality by uttering other people’s clichés at the expense of your own thoughts. Unpreparedness to do this, either through lack of training or moral scruple, unfits you for a career in the organisation, any organisation. You have to learn to lie with clichés, and do so with a straight face.

Above all, recognise that

adherence to truth is of no importance.

For you and the other

ambitious mediocrities produced in ever-greater numbers by our educational system,

words must be

but levers to personal advancement and power.

The odour of sanctimony

Dalrymple on the Pecksniffy, teddy-ursine, oleaginous, psychobabbling, odious pronouncements of Airbnb

Dalrymple on the Pecksniffy, teddy-ursine, oleaginous, psychobabbling, odious pronouncements of Airbnb

Bathtime at the Pecksniff Hotel

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 22.29.39Ne sutor ultra crepidam

Entering his hotel room, Dalrymple finds an

unctuous, mendacious, and mildly hectoring and even bullying notice on the towels in the bathroom.

It reads:

You care, we care, we all care about our environment and carbon footprint. Please take care and only have towels washed when needed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 22.51.56Yet it was necessary only

to step outside the hotel to prove that ‘we’ do not all care about the environment. Many of us drop litter; many of us tread our chewing gum into the ground; many of us make unnecessary noise; many of us render the world slightly more ugly than it need be by our careless appearance in public. Many, indeed most, of us consume vastly more than we need. Many of us take unnecessary journeys because we cannot think of anything else to do. Many of us would not even be able to define our carbon footprint, let alone care about it.

Seth Pecksniff, shield of virtue

Seth Pecksniff, shield of virtue

The very word ‘care’

now has a Pecksniffian ring to it, thanks to its use in this kind of canting message. ‘Let us be moral,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Let us contemplate existence.’

The notion that ‘we’ of the hotel chain

do and ought to care more about the environment than, say, about reducing the chain’s laundry bill and thereby increasing its margin of profit (a perfectly respectable and reasonable thing for ‘us’ of the chain to do) is absurd and to me repellent.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 23.31.26

A worthwhile movement

We despise

the Victorians for their habit of dishonest moralising,

but ours

is an age of ultracrepidarian hypocrisy in which everyone claims to care deeply for everything except that which concerns him most.

Choked to death on his vomit

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.12.55Ha! That’ll teach him to have been raised so far above us (by our election)

Celebrity, writes Dalrymple,

is conferred on people almost, though not quite, at random: their talents are minor and their appearance pleasing, but they must not otherwise be remarkable or too far removed in their tastes and manner, at least in public, from those who give them fame.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.10.36The contract between celebrities and those who confer celebrity upon them

Celebrities must

allow their lives to be examined and reported on, truthfully or not, in all the media. They must agree to be in the public eye as an old-fashioned family doctor was always on duty for his patients.

Mrs Todgers

Mrs Todgers

How the cult of celebrity is a form of self-worship

The eyes that are cast upon the celebrities

are simultaneously adulatory and sadistic.

Those eyes remind Dalrymple of the eyes of Mrs Todgers in Martin Chuzzlewit:

Mrs Todgers meant by this that she must embrace them once more, which she accordingly did with great ardour.

Mrs Todgers and 'Kim'

Mrs Todgers and Kim


the house being full with the exception of one bed, which would now be occupied by Mr Pecksniff, she wanted time for consideration; and so much time too (for it was a knotty point how to dispose of them), that even when this second embrace was over, she stood for some moments gazing at the sisters, with affection beaming in one eye, and calculation shining out of the other. (from ch. 8)

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.15.23At a news-stand, Dalrymple leafs through some magazines

devoted to the pseudo-private-lives of celebrities of whom I have never heard.

He notes headings concerning the celebrity known as ‘Kim’:






Dalrymple comments that

the sadism is all too evident. How the celebrity-conferring and celebrity-worshipping public will have relished her suffering! It serves her right for having the fairy-tale life that we conferred on her, and that we should so like to have.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.33.50Accounts of alcoholism, or alleged alcoholism, are a

favourite way in which the magazines, on behalf of their readership, take their revenge on those upon whom celebrity has been conferred.

The onetime idol’s

descent into rehab should preferably be repeated, and the supposed battle lost in advance.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.53.06Once the celebrity has reached the alcoholic stage,

his function is to be a template for the readership’s inexhaustible Schadenfreude.

He must never recover, and the course of his life should be a downward spiral into utter sordor. A happy ending is when

he chokes to death on his own vomit at a comparatively early age. That’ll teach him to have been raised so far above the rest of us, even if it was only by our own election.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.52.23Celebrities are inhabitants

both of a fairy-tale world and our own rather sordid reality. We set them up and we pull them down, enjoying the pleasures both of hero-worship and of cruelty.

The cult of celebrity

is a form of self-worship, both because celebrities are not threateningly different from ourselves, and because we have the power of fame and ignominy over them.

Mrs Todgers and Mr Moddle

Mrs Todgers and Mr Moddle

Let’s be moral

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 14.26.34These words, writes Dalrymple, ought to be inscribed over the entrance to the premises of that Pecksniffian journal, the Lancet.

The editor of the Lancet is a Pecksniffian bore

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 01.44.05It must be a terrible thing, writes Dalrymple,

to have such boring thoughts, not occasionally but repeatedly, if not constantly, and feel obliged to express them.


The health service mess

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 08.50.52Dalrymple lists the failings of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust:

  • the ravening ambition of bureaucratic mediocrities
  • institutionally perverted incentives that reward those who do worst
  • the creation of a nomenklatura at the head of an apparat staffed by bullied, intimidated, fearful but unscrupulous apparatchiks
  • an inability or unwillingness to speak or write in plain English
  • intellectual dishonesty with compulsory lying on a vast scale
  • the proliferation of procedural objectives and bureaucratic tasks unrelated to reality or to the welfare of patients
  • a revolting tendency to Pecksniffian self-congratulation and self-righteousness

He calls the NHS

that vast charitable organisation for the outdoor relief of second-rate bureaucrats.

He points to the slick insidiousness of Tony Blair, who made Labour, once the party of the working class, the party of the nomenklatura. There was also Margaret Thatcher,

with her crude sub-Marxist view of the professions as exploitative monopolists. She thought the methods and disciplines of the marketplace, imposed by ‘scientific’ management but in the absence of anything resembling a market, would eliminate chronic inefficiency. This was stupid. It called into being a managerial class, cunning and unscrupulous.

Facts are free, comment is sacred

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 23.03.50Dalrymple points to a news report in the Guardian on the court appearance of Oscar Pistorius. The report is full of pity and understanding for Pistorius, and one sentence stands out:

[Pistorius] remained inconsolable and silent…a lonely man in a crowded room.

The Guardian, says Dalrymple, accords Pistorius

considerably more sympathy than would have been the case if he were, shall we say, a tattooed member of the National Front with a Staffordshire bull terrier who was in more or less the same position.