Category Archives: poor, the

Grisly heartlessness of Eric Hobsbawm

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Companion of Honour

In his videolettera to Antonio Gramsci, Eric Hobsbawm CH says in part:

Anche se sei morto da più di settant’anni, sei vivo per tutti coloro che vogliono un mondo dove i poveri hanno la possibilità di diventare dei veri esseri umani.

Dalrymple comments:

These words to me are chilling, all the more so when you realise that they were uttered by a man who, towards the end of his very long life, said that if the deaths of the 20m people who died in the Soviet Union (it was probably many more) had brought about true socialism, then they would have been worth it.

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Please address all videoletters to A. Gramsci, c/o The Protestant Cemetery, Rome

Dalrymple has spent much of his life

among the poor or relatively poor. I can honestly say that it never occurred to me for a single moment that any one of them was not a true human being. Indeed, if they were not true human beings, their poverty would be nothing to worry about. I neither romanticised them as the fount of all goodness and wisdom nor saw them as mere objects.

Hobsbawm’s remark,

supposedly so generous but in fact utterly heartless, was of a piece with Mao’s chilling remark about the Chinese people being a blank sheet of paper on which the most beautiful characters (ideographs) could be written. For people like Mao and Hobsbawm, it is for other people not to be truly human, never themselves.

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A colourful character

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Western moral and intellectual imperialism

Dalrymple draws attention to a cartoon (pictured below) by Bill Leak in the Australian newspaper, a satirical comment on the deliberations of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Leak rightly implies, says Dalrymple, that

climate change is principally the concern of the spoiled political class of rich nations, and efforts to reduce worldwide carbon emissions from energy consumption will not benefit the desperately poor. Quite the reverse: they will inhibit the breakneck industrial growth that has lifted, and is lifting, so many millions out of abject poverty in countries that not long ago were deeply impoverished.

There is even the suspicion

that rich nations want to inhibit the breakneck industrial growth not so much to save the planet as to preserve their position relative to poor nations.

The cartoon is

a variation on the old English proverb that fine words butter no parsnips; but it could also plausibly be interpreted as a protest against dishonest Western moral and intellectual imperialism.

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