Category Archives: pusillanimity

Inside the befuddled mind of Sadiq Khan

Dalrymple notes that after one of the regular Islamist atrocities, public figures

always manage somehow to say something that is either pusillanimous or does not need saying.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, found words that, says Dalrymple,

contrived to combine banality with error.

  • He said that the attacks were deliberate, as if anyone might otherwise have thought them accidental, or performed in a fit of absence of mind.
  • He said that they were cowardly, which is the one thing that they were not. True, the people that the perpetrators attacked were defenceless, but the perpetrators could hardly have been under any illusion about their fate. Even with the prospect of 72 virgins as a reward, it must have taken courage to do what they did.

Courage, Dalrymple points out,

is not in itself a virtue: it becomes a virtue only in pursuit of a virtuous aim. A man who is evil need not thereby be a coward, and frequently in fact is not. A timidly evil man is probably preferable to a bravely evil one, unless his timidity leads him to superior cunning.

Khan said that the victims were innocents. Dalrymple asks:

In what sense were they innocents? It was unlikely that they, of all humanity, were born without Original Sin. It could only be that they were innocents by comparison with the guilty. But who, in the context of being mown down by a driver or attacked by men with long knives, are the guilty?

In other words, there exists in Khan’s mind

a group of people whom it would have been less heinous for the terrorists to kill, whom it would not have been cowardly for them to have killed.

Don’t mention the Muslims!

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-02-55The religion we dare not name

Lying in bed late one night unable to sleep, Dalrymple resorts to a normally reliable curative: the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Two papers in particular quickly banish the insomnia,

  • one by Jeremy W. Coid, Kamaldeep Bhui, Deirdre MacManus, Constantinos Kallis, Paul Bebbington and Simone Ullrich headed Extremism, religion and psychiatric morbidity in a population-based sample of young men,
  • and one by Kamaldeep Bhui, Maria João Silva, Raluca A. Topciu and Edgar Jones on Pathways to sympathies for violent protest and terrorism.
Bognor Regis Chess Club in the great days

Bognor Regis Chess Club in the great days

Dalrymple writes that in addition to being quite unilluminating, the articles’ conclusions are

as dull as the annual accounts of a local chess club.

The authors

would make Armageddon sound boring.

They are also pusillanimous. We all know, Dalrymple notes,

what kind of terrorism and extremism the authors are thinking of, but the title of neither paper mentions it. We walk permanently on eggshells.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-33-38What religion are we talking about? The articles do not tell us. The whole subject

is dealt with in so opaque a fashion that it is difficult not to believe that the authors feared retribution—from the politically correct if not from terrorists themselves. They are like those puppies that, being curious, approach a danger, but then retreat, approach again, and retreat again.

Perhaps the authors wished to prevent readers from drawing the obvious conclusion, that

Enoch Powell had been right all along.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-36-55We should all like to know, says Dalrymple,

why some people become terrorists, other than for the most obvious reason: that to kill, maim, and destroy, supposedly for a good cause or some allegedly higher purpose, is a delight to a certain kind of person, worth even dying for. In addition, I doubt that there are many more self-important people than terrorists.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-46-45You might think that psychiatry and psychiatrists would be able to shed some light on the matter, but this, Dalrymple points out,

is a manifestation of a modern superstition, that human self-understanding has made great strides pari passu with technical advances such as brain scans and a knowledge of neurochemistry. In fact, we have not advanced beyond Pope’s description of Man as ‘the glory, jest and riddle of the world’.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-49-03screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-50-26

 

 

Triumph of the careerist dimwits

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 08.55.53The ambitious but ungifted advance relentlessly

Dalrymple attends a conference about some forthcoming changes to the NHS. One of the lectures is given by

a lady apparatchik whose grimacing attempts at smiles, and whose bodily writhing as she tortured the English language with neologisms, acronyms and platitudes in the service of evident untruth, made Gordon Brown’s bonhomie seem like a model of spontaneity.

At one point there is

a single guffaw of contemptuous laughter. It was an illuminating moment, a flash of lightning in a moonless night-time landscape. For a moment I felt almost sorry for the speaker: you could see the panic on her face, a fear lest 150 doctors turn on her and demand explanations in comprehensible language.

Alas,

doctors are far too well brought up and chivalrous. Or is it pusillanimous?

Flüchtlinge willkommen

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.48.04So, even now, say a few Germans. In Sweden they cried (until they brought in border checks),

Flyktingar välkomna.

Dalrymple turns to Max Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter (1953), written

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.48.47in the aftermath of the Second World War as an attempt to explain (and to warn) how a patent evil like Nazism can triumph in a civilised society.

The play’s protagonist, Dalrymple explains,

is a comfortable bourgeois living in a town that is beset by several mysterious acts of arson. He is visited at home by Schmitz, a hawker, who half-persuades, half-intimidates his way into an invitation to lodge in Biedermann’s attic, and who soon brings a second hawker, Eisenring, to stay in the house.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.34.08Gradually it becomes clear that Schmitz and Eisenring

are the ones setting the fires in the town, but Biedermann refuses to acknowledge it. His blindness arises from moral and physical cowardice, and from wishful thinking—the hope that what he sees does not really mean what it obviously means.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.49.23Schmitz and Eisenring bring barrels of gasoline into the house and Biedermann,

pusillanimous to the last, helps them make the fuses and gives them the matches with which they burn his house down.

The secret of the British economic problem

English cuisine

Emetic: English cuisine

A service economy without the service

The British no longer have the faintest idea how to prepare or serve food, either in establishments they are pleased to call restaurants or in their own homes. According to W. Somerset Maugham, the only solution when in England is to eat breakfast three times a day. But the English can no longer manage with minimal competence even to prepare a halfway-decent breakfast.

British eating houses, bar-grills, cafés and other places where dining (of a kind) goes on, from the humblest truck-stop to the most exalted, starred restaurant, are easily the worst in Europe. It is better, for example, to go to bed hungry than to risk an evening meal at, say, an English public house.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 09.59.02

Suburban Tudor

The Moon Under Water it isn’t

Dalrymple is reminded of this when, hungry one evening and with no other dining establishment in the vicinity, he enters a pub (which, like many from the 1920s and 1930s, is built rather pleasingly in the suburban Tudor style), and is greeted by

the flashing lights of fruit machines

and

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.45.20numerous large flat screens disposed in such a way that it was impossible to escape them. It was as if one had a duty to watch.

Drivelscreens

At least, he says, they

were all showing the same thing — a football match, football being a 24-hour activity.

Dalrymple dare not complain. British popular culture is

crude, unpleasant and inescapable; if you criticise it, you are taken for an enemy of the people.

The Codfather. Bon appétit!

The Codfather. Bon appétit!

The smell in the pub

was of stale beer and even staler fat in which standard British prolefood had been fried.

He peruses

the grubby menu, a triumph of quantity over quality. The fish dish was called The Codfather, size trumping taste. Everything came with chips, of the frozen variety.

Soupe à l'oignon

Soupe à l’oignon à l’anglaise

The table is

sticky and long unwiped.

Dalrymple orders soup. It is

packet soup which had not been properly dissolved, so that it had little balls in it that if bitten exploded into a kind of salty dust.

He orders steak, and asks for it to be rare. When it comes, it

would have been regarded as incinerated in any other country.

Fried mushrooms: at least their own weight in fat

Fried mushrooms: at least their own weight in fat

The fried mushrooms

contained at least their own weight in fat of some type.

The next morning

I woke with a strange and unpleasant taste in my mouth.

The meal

The flashing lights of fruit machines

The flashing lights of fruit machines

wasn’t even cheap.

This is the vital point. British food is not just atrocious — it is execrable value.

During the meal,

the man who had taken my order came over to my table.

Everything all right?‘ he asked.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 11.02.01‘Yes, very good,’ I replied.

Dalrymple concludes:

The slovenliness, the bad quality, my pusillanimity: voilà the secret of the British economic problem.

Popish unctuousness and cowardice

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 09.28.47Less a shepherd, more one of the sheep

Pope Francis’s speech to Congress, writes Dalrymple, resembled that of

a politician seeking re-election. It was like the work not of a man intent upon telling the truth, however painful or unpopular, but that of a committee of speech-writers who sifted every word for its effect, appealing to some without being too alienating of others. If Bill Clinton had been elected pope, he might have made the same speech, so perfect was its triangulation, so empty its high-sounding phrases.

Interviewed after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Francis let it be known that if someone insulted his mother he could expect a punch, making a physical gesture to illustrate his point.

This is not exactly the doctrine enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount; and one could not imagine John Paul II or Benedict XVI making so foolish or crude a mistake under the complacent impression that he was charming.

Francis’s

propensity to run after false gods, most of them fashionable in the constituency to which he evidently wants to appeal, no doubt accounts for his popularity. He is bien pensant; and where he does not yet feel able to alter doctrine in a liberal direction he is evasive and even cowardly, afraid to court distaste or opposition by clear expression of what he means.

Dalrymple asks to whom and at what these papal weasel words are directed:

It is my wish throughout my visit that the family be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! How worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and beauty of family life.

Dalrymple:

Who and what are calling fundamental relationships into question? Fundamental relationships do not call themselves into question: someone must do it in the name of some doctrine, some belief. The Pope’s resort to the passive mood is indicative of his moral cowardice in confronting the opponents of what the Church believes in. Those opponents he knows to be militant and aggressive, and to confront them openly would lead to his fall in the popularity polls.

Francis

evades the issue with vague and oily declamation. It is one thing to be peace-loving and conciliatory, another to surrender by means of avoidance of the issue.

Such avoidance was evident when Francis said:

We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.

Dalrymple:

This may be true in the abstract, but the wholesale persecution of religious minorities, and the perpetration of violent acts in a host of locations, is confined to Islamic extremism. It would have been better for the Pope not to have broached the subject than to have dealt with it in so pusillanimous a fashion.

The Pope’s secularist outlook is evident in his abolitionism:

I am convinced that this way is best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

Dalrymple:

There is nothing here about mercy, forgiveness, repentance, redemption or salvation. Rehabilitation is a purely secular concept, suggesting that the wickedness of crime is a form of illness, to be treated by the psychological equivalent of physiotherapy; sin, or even vice, doesn’t come into it.

Francis’s words

are indistinguishable from those of the European Court of Human Rights, when it ruled that it was a breach of fundamental rights that brutal repeat murderers should be sentenced to whole-life terms because such sentences exclude the possibility of their rehabilitation (even if, in practice, they would never be released). But while God may forgive Himmler – under certain conditions – surely Man cannot. The irreparable exists in the sublunary world.

At every point, Dalrymple points out, Francis

evaded specifics and resorted to unctuous generalities. No one ever courted unpopularity by denouncing injustice, but many risked much by being specific about what they considered, rightly or wrongly, unjust.

Francis

was against poverty in the way the preacher in the Coolidge anecdote was against sin. But while no secularist will speak up for poverty, the religious attitude has traditionally been more nuanced.

Francis spoke of the unjust structures that exist even in the developed world. This, says Dalrymple, is to

make a fetish of wealth.

Moreover, he was

exciting one of the seven deadly sins, envy.

Francis, Dalrymple concludes, prefers to court popularity while rocking no boats. He

plays to the gallery, wanting to be liked by everybody. There is nothing of timelessness in what he says but only of the temporal, the contingent, the fashionably platitudinous.

The characteristic deformation of the liberal conscience

'I have learned to be polite to the people who make these calls. I imagine that for them it is just a job like any other. Some of their contemporaries went into sales, others into the bank, yet others into insurance; they went into fraud (only a relative, not an absolute, distinction).'

‘I have learned to be polite to the people who make these calls. I imagine that for them it is just a job like any other. Some of their contemporaries went into sales, others into the bank, yet others into insurance; they went into fraud (only a relative, not an absolute, distinction).’

We are enjoined to put ourselves in other people’s shoes before judging them too harshly, but…

When (doubtless ill-paid) telephone fraudsters ring up from India, Dalrymple asks whether showing them politeness is humanity or pusillanimity. He writes:

We often think that to make excuses for others is kindness, to make excuses for ourselves dishonesty.

Therefore should we show a bit of kindness, a bit of consideration, to members of the telephone fraudster community?

After all, perhaps not. Dalrymple says:

To make excuses for others but not for ourselves easily becomes condescension or a sense of superiority moral and even existential. We are responsible for what we do, they are not. We act, they only react.