Category Archives: self-satisfaction

Vulgarity of expression in the British cultural élite

Leafing through the cultural section of the Observer, which Dalrymple explains is

the Sunday newspaper of the intelligentsia (at least, that part of it that still reads a newspaper),

he comes across the following statement, by a playwright called Lucy Prebble, about her latest work:

It’s a risky, clumsy motherfucker, this play.

The accompanying picture is of the playwright,

dressed in a rather pretty and no doubt expensive flowered frock, smiling and looking exceedingly pleased with herself.

Dalrymple notes that

apart from the obviously bogus self-deprecation of the statement,

the use of the word motherfucker

is clearly intended as a signal of her liberation from supposedly bourgeois restraint and her desire to assert her membership in the linguistic underclass. We may assume that as a successful playwright she is capable of more expressive, less uninformatively vulgar ways of describing her doubts about the value of her play. Her choice of word is not to convey anything meaningful about her play, which it is clearly incapable of doing, but to establish her social and political virtue, that is to say her nonmembership of an élite that once upon a time would not have used such a word, and certainly would not have wished it to be published that it had used it.

Exceedingly pleased with herself: Lucy Prebble

Grim smug Leftist performing animal

Self-righteous guru: hell is being preached at eternally by this humourless puritan

Greta Thunberg, writes Dalrymple,

is to self-righteousness and self-satisfaction what Mozart was to music — a prodigy.

But unlike Mozart,

she is an unattractive child, the grimness of her humourless puritanism being inscribed on her face. She has added a vision of hell: being preached at by her for eternity.

Thunberg’s

awfulness (of which she is unaware) is not really her fault. Her transformation into a celebrity is the work of adults.

The exaggerated respect with which her pronouncements have been received

will be a matter of wonder to future generations. She has addressed not only crowds but parliaments, where she has been accorded a mixed status:

  • guru because she has uttered the tenets of a powerful doxa that so many thirst to believe
  • performing animal because she is so young to perform so unexpectedly well

Thunberg’s humourlessness

is a great asset in the modern world, for when earnestness is mistaken for seriousness and gaiety for frivolity, a sense of humour is not only unlikely to flourish, it is likely to be reprehended. Literal-mindedness has become so general a psychological phenomenon that jokes, most of which are directed against someone, are sure to be taken in their most literal meaning.

Humour has become dangerous. But Thunberg is safe; Dalrymple notes that

the very idea of a joke seems alien to her. I suspect that she is one of those persons who is puzzled when people laugh.

Hide a bushel under your light

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-17-20-51Dalrymple writes that there was a time in his life, many, many years ago, when

people were not expected to boast about their accomplishments: they were expected not to boast about their accomplishments. Self-praise was regarded as no praise: someone who praised himself was thought to be a bad character.

These days,

boasting and the expression of self-satisfaction are essential to getting on in life, to climbing a hierarchy. You have to recommend yourself, not wait to be recommended by others (which might never happen).

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-17-17-46Dalrymple reads an article in which an interviewee is asked to summarise his or her personality in three words.

This is a question that should not have been asked, that is almost obscene, being an invitation either to self-congratulation or to arch self-deprecation, the higher and slightly more acceptable form of self-congratulation. To adapt slightly the final sentence of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, whereof one ought not to speak, thereof one ought to be silent.

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The curse of self-esteem

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Oh, happy, happy Caligula!

Self-love, writes Dalrymple,

used to be a vice, but nowadays it is the nearest thing to a virtue, as a supposed precondition of our own mental health (whatever that might be).

The theory is that self-love

is a precondition to success, happiness, and resilience, and should therefore be taught early and probably incessantly.

Some people think

the promotion of youthful self-satisfaction and conceit an excellent idea, the key to the little ones’ future happiness.

Dalrymple points out that criminals,

especially the vicious rather than the merely pathetic ones, have very high self-esteem. They are generally proud of how awful they have been and positively swagger with satisfaction at their own competence in the matter of causing misery to others. They too have ‘core beliefs’ about themselves, all of them highly flattering. They even think they are lovable as well as admirable.

Hirsi Ali versus Islamism’s fellow travellers

Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 22.41.33Proselytiser for the European Enlightenment view of the world

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, says Dalrymple, is right to insist

that a profound change in the relations between the sexes is the key to Muslim integration into Western society.

For many young Muslim men in the West, Dalrymple points out,

a powerful appeal of Islam is the sanction that it gives to their domination of women. This domination provides them an ex officio source of self-satisfaction that discourages further effort, and simultaneously deprives their society of the talents of women. The natural result is material and intellectual failure by comparison with other religious groups; and disappointment leads to morbid hypersensitivity to criticism, insensate rage and the blaming of others.

Many in the West,

from a combination of fear and self-hatred, are unwilling to make the distinction between a respect for the right of people to practise a religion within the law, and an exaggerated respect for the religion itself. Hirsi Ali rightfully pours scorn on the fellow travellers of obscurantism.

Attire that connotes the plebeian but denotes anything but

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.35.33The mandarin and the masses

A smug, moneyed, adolescent, Leftist poseur

Motorbike, leather jacket, T-shirt, jeans connote proletarian mass but denote Marxist mandarin

Yanis Veroufakis, the Greek finance minister, has been described as the pop star of the left. This is, as Dalrymple points out,

hardly a term of approbation, rather the reverse.

He has a powerful motorcycle, and likes to dress in a leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans. He is going quite bald. Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.49.25His facial expression

is that of considerable self-satisfaction. He no doubt thinks of himself as deeply unconventional, but in a world of six billion people it is hard to escape convention, and in any case it is not a worthy object.

In fact

he is that most conventional of figures, the adolescent who cannot bear to be fully adult, who wants to be 18-20 forever. In a few years’ time we shall see the first 80-year old adolescents.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.51.21While Veroufakis’ clothes have proletarian connotations,

their denotation is anything but. You can see that his black leather jacket must have been very expensive indeed, and his motorbike is not the kind that students ride, but a top-of-the-range swank model [a Yamaha XJR1300].

Veroufakis married into money and a high standard of living, that of the upper 0.1 per cent of the population, and Dalrymple guesses that

he has no great vocation for giving up his privileges for the benefit of the people.

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