Category Archives: rich, the

Those classless societies, Australia and the USA

Dalrymple is taken to lunch in a grand club by some very rich men. They give him

the benefit of their opinion on Britain’s rigid class system. They appear not to notice that they are being served by a flurry of obsequious men, whose grovelling is certainly the equal of any that I have seen anywhere.

Since Dalrymple’s hosts are

intelligent and cultivated, I conclude that they must feel uneasy about the notion of class, perhaps even guilty at being themselves so obviously members of an upper class, and quite a rarefied one.

The embarrassment of Dalrymple’s interlocutors stems, he explains, from

a common confusion between a class society and a closed one. They are not the same thing. A classless society would be the most closed of all, because in it there could be no social mobility, upward or downward. Everyone would stay where he was because there would be nowhere else to go.

The joy of spite

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 15.37.08The outrage that greeted the Mossack Fonseca revelations partakes, writes Dalrymple,

more of joyous spite and hatred of the rich than of any real desire to improve the world, the latter being a much weaker emotion than the former. If the rich could be deprived of their wealth, even if no one else benefited thereby, I think many people would want it.

Even if the money hidden offshore were paid in taxation,

it does not follow that public services such as schools would improve proportionately. After all, it cannot be for lack of expenditure that a significant proportion of British children are semi-literate after 11 years of compulsory attendance at school. Every country has its bottomless pits.

As for Vladimir Putin’s illicit fortune,

anyone who supposes that, were the Russian state to recover it, the Russian people would benefit…well, they are not very well versed in Russian history.

How to join the 1%

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 12.33.35Theodore Dalrymple answers your questions

Should we wish to be of the 1%?

Wealth as such is not a very elevated aim in life.

What about you, Doctor?

I have never made it my principal aim or goal.

To have a sufficiency, though, is both necessary and gratifying, is it not?

A degree of prosperity is at least some evidence of worldly success — an imprimatur as it were, to which I have never been quite as indifferent as perhaps I ought to have been.

Do you feel wealthy?

Not enough to feel that a new car would not be an unwise extravagance if it were unnecessary.

What do you look for when buying a car?

My main desideratum is that it should start first time in the depths of winter. For many years I owned cars that could not be relied upon to do so.

How did you get into the 1%?

My wife and I lived well below our income for more than 20 years and invested the rest under the guidance of an adviser.

What criteria did you apply in selecting this adviser?

I had no real evidence of his superior financial wisdom, other than that I liked him.

Does such wisdom exist?

I am not convinced that it does.

How would you rate your own judgment in financial matters?

Let me admit that if I had had the misfortune to meet Mr Madoff before his scheme was exposed, I should have trusted him implicitly. He had such a trustworthy face.

What is your pattern of consumption and mode of life?

It does not differ conspicuously from those of many of my peers, except in so far as I have no television and buy many more books than most.

What do you fear?

To be poor — and to end up in the hands of the State, whose charity is simultaneously patronising and heartless, rule-ridden and capricious.

 

Mass-produced muck

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Splendidly titled

To an infantilised people, it has a strong appeal

Dalrymple detests soft drinks and

the plastic bottles in which they come; to see people carry them around with them as if they were dolls infuriates me.

These drinks, he points out,

don’t relieve thirst, they create it: a perfect recipe from an unscrupulous commercial point of view.

Dalrymple is delighted to read in a paper in the British Medical Journal

that those who drink these disgusting concoctions are more likely than others to develop type 2 diabetes. Such diabetes is not only the wages of sin—gluttony—but of something that affects our everyday lives even worse, namely mass bad taste.

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Abominably written

The peoples of the US and Britain,

having no proper culinary tradition, are childishly attracted to mass-produced muck. Only in such countries could you sell industrially prepared doughnuts with blue icing; people eat with their eyes, not with their mouths.

In what kind of culinary culture, Dalrymple asks, could a product advertise itself as a Whopper? A crude and childish one, he answers. More self-control in food consumption is needed than ever before,

just as self-control has been derided as an oppressive or even ridiculous notion.

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Only for the US and UK markets

Dalrymple comes across a book called Fat Chance (2013), which, though

abominably written,

comes,

persuasively enough, to the conclusion that John Yudkin came to in the neglected, splendidly titled Pure, White and Deadly (1972).

Dalrymple notes that the author of the 2013 book, Robert Lustig, blames

the food companies and farming subsidies for the epidemic of type 2 diabetes (they are, of course, guilty as charged), but never the people. This is because it is regarded as proper to blame only the rich for anything and never ‘ordinary’ people, including the fat, though where the sins of the rich come from then becomes a little mysterious unless it is assumed that they are a caste biologically apart from the rest of humanity.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 08.21.09As for those who swear by organic carrots and the like, this is only because

in Anglo-Saxon countries, meals tend to be regarded as medical procedures. If it were proved that industrial doughnuts with blue icing were the very thing for health, queues of joggers would form to obtain them.

Dalrymple urges that it be made a criminal offence to take a child to a fast-food restaurant.

If someone were to tell me that children love those restaurants, I should reply, ‘But that is precisely why it should be a criminal offence.’

The vulgarity of Mukesh Ambani

ambaniOne of the functions of the rich, says Dalrymple, is to ‘preserve and increase the beauty of the world’.

Yet many wealthy people, he points out, are ‘tactless, offensive, vulgar, and tasteless’. They very often ‘have no better taste than the poor’.

Take the business mogul Mukesh Ambani and the 27-floor structure he calls home. Known as Antilia, it is a version of Xanadu, though a thousand times uglier than the mansion in the Welles film. Dalrymple writes:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 09.01.44When Mr. Ambani built his domestic skyscraper in Bombay I was appalled not by the expenditure (though I had walked through the slums of that city) but by the aesthetic worthlessness of what he had built. To spend a billion dollars on a house and to detract, slightly, from the beauty of the world is, in a way, an achievement.

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Which is worse, France or Britain?

(That is to say, if you are an ordinary Jean or Joe rather than one of the international rich, who pay no taxes.)

It is a matter of the Johnsonian distinction between a louse and a flea. They share the quality of being irredeemably socialist, corporatist has-beens. Dalrymple, who lives in both countries, reminds us of their deep, often common, shortcomings.