Category Archives: shame

My hand shakes; I want to interrupt, to shout

Zeven Hoofdzonden (detail), attr. Jheronimus Bosch, c. 1485 or after. Museo del Prado

Zeven Hoofdzonden (detail), attr. Jheronimus Bosch, c. 1485 or after. Museo del Prado

Dogmatism, writes Dalrymple,

is the reaction of those who want to know best but suspect that the metaphysical foundations of their supposed knowledge are shaky. Ambiguity disturbs them: how can there be rational criticism founded on argument and evidence, when at the same time there is no disputing taste? The solution to the tension is to stand behind a stockade of indubitable truth.

The search for certainty

is much more important than the search for truth. I know a man, an eminent writer, who has changed his opinion many times in his long life, often by 180°, but never admits to having done so. He has held every successive opinion with angry intransigence. Challenges by people of another opinion make him turn red with rage: they do not merely differ from him in opinion, they are attacking him personally. It is not true that bigotry is the exclusive province of the ignorant and stupid; there is the clever and well-informed variety, the more dangerous because the less easily recognised.

Dalrymple does not exclude himself.

When someone expresses an opinion that is very different from my own, I often feel a mounting tension, though the subject may be one that, if I am honest with myself, is of little importance or consequence to me. Certainly it cannot harm me that someone thinks differently from me about it; yet my heart begins to beat wildly, and I am sure that my blood pressure has risen. I feel an excitation, I tell myself to keep calm but I don’t succeed; my hand shakes; I want to interrupt, to shout. I am not defending truth, but my opinion. Generally I succeed in controlling myself, but occasionally I do not, especially when my interlocutor is young. I immediately feel ashamed of myself afterwards; I even feel ashamed that, at my age, I am still so little capable of detachment.

Dilemma over mass migration to the West

Merton, a London suburb

Merton, a London suburb

Dalrymple writes that the change in the ethnic and cultural origins of the inhabitants of the Western world’s towns and cities

is so obvious that no one could possibly miss it. Some glory in the change, some detest it; it is difficult to be neutral, or even merely objective.

He says that on the subject of illegal immigrants to the West and the change

in the ethnic and cultural composition of our societies, I confess that my thoughts and feelings are inconsistent and contradictory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.00.52Economic migrants are often

brave and enterprising, and have no desire to sponge on the state, but rather to work and improve their lives.

In the West they find themselves

in a sea of strangeness, incomprehension, hostility, or indifference.

Western countries appear to

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.12.51need people to come to us from impoverished lands, and this is so despite the fact that we have a substantial fund of unemployed people. Why this should be I leave to labour economists; I suspect it has something to do with the rent-seeking behaviour of a large percentage of our population (including me).

Immigrants to the West are often people of

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.18.04warmth, kindness, humanity and mannerliness. These qualities induce a slight feeling of shame in belonging to a culture in which these qualities should seem exceptional rather than normal. It is we, not they, who are so often crude.

On the other hand, Dalrymple cannot

view with delight the disappearance of the culture in which I grew up, which is being absorbed into a minestrone of no particular savour. I do not want to see my society changed irreversibly by an uncontrolled influx of immigrants.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 08.56.33Knowing another culture is not

simply a matter of patronising a restaurant of its cuisine from time to time. It is the work of years if not of a lifetime. Consider that multiculturalism condemns us to be strangers to one another; and, while all cultures have their charms, they may not all be compatible in their conceptions.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 09.25.46Dalrymple points out that

most people who support mass immigration are personally less keen on taking the social consequences.

For instance, in France recently,

Désolé

Désolé

someone contacted more than 40 media personalities who publicly supported immigration and asked whether they could assist personally with lodging an immigrant. Though each was rich, none said he could do so for more than a day or two, each finding a good excuse.

Potty-training in reverse

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 07.40.22The emotional incontinence of the British

Dalrymple notes in the English

  • lack of dignity
  • absence of self-respect
  • shamelessness of public conduct
  • militant slovenliness

Almost the entire population of Britain

looks as though it has let itself go: and considers itself right to have done so.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 07.46.46The change has been wrought

by a gestalt switch in attitude to the public expression of emotion. Where once emotional restraint and self-control were admired, now it is emotional incontinence that the British aim for. It is as if they had undergone potty-training in reverse.

The English have been persuaded that emotions

are like pus in an abscess. If they are not released — by screaming and shouting, hugging and crying, wailing and raging, and the more publicly the better — they will turn inwards and cause emotional septicæmia. The person who controls himself is not only a figure of fun, but a traitor to his own best interests.

It is no surprise, then, that the British are

despised around the world.

The communist world of yesterday

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 23.19.29Και τώρα τι θα γένουμε χωρίς βαρβάρους.
Οι άνθρωποι αυτοί ήσαν μια κάποια λύσις.

Nostalgia has its own laws

Dalrymple is nostalgic for

something that I detested at the time and detest still, namely communism as it was practised in Eastern Europe. I sometimes wished it was still there so that I could experience the thrill of crossing the Iron Curtain.

Berlin Friedrichstraße station

Friedrichstraße

Self-indulgence

He recognises that this is

an entirely self-indulgent wish, for it pits my enjoyment of a relatively fleeting sensation against the prolonged suffering of millions of people.

Communists

were a kind of solution for us; the world they created was something near, bordering and threatening us, that was worse, far worse, than anything that we had, no matter what our dissatisfactions with what we had might have been.

BucharestNakedness

This was

snatched from us by communism’s unexpected collapse. We were left with our dissatisfactions naked and unadorned, without the consolation for them that the existence of communism not very far away offered us. The communists simplified the world for us.

Dalrymple misses the atmosphere of the communist days:

the dim lights, the unanimated streets, the absence of traffic, the smell of bad, adulterated fuel that polluted the air, the hushed voices, the echoing footfall, the grey dilapidation, the feeling of satisfaction if one found anything to eat, above all the frisson of fear that one was being watched and followed.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 00.12.46Prurience

For a young man

such as I – with an easy escape route, of course, for I do not pretend that my experience had anything to do, or bore any comparison with, that of the people actually living in those countries – the idea that I might be considered dangerous enough to be watched or followed was flattering, for in my own country I was of no account whatsoever.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 00.15.38Salacity

Then,

on the very brief occasions when one made human contact with someone in those benighted, oppressed lands, that were like flashes of lightning that illuminated for a second a black landscape, one sensed a person with an intensity of experience much deeper than one’s own, a person who lived on a philosophical plane, whose life had been stripped down to the essential: and whom, with foolish romanticism, one almost envied.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 00.21.16What did Dalrymple have

to set against their problems: an unhappy childhood, uncertainty about my career? Mere trifles by comparison with the peine forte et dure that was life in the Peoples’ Republics.

His enjoyment behind the Iron Curtain

was salacious, prurient and self-indulgent, with just enough of a grain of philosophy thrown in to assure myself that I had a higher purpose in thus enjoying myself.

Therefore Dalrymple does not claim for his nostalgia

any superior sensibility, much less a proper role in political thought or philosophy. In fact, I am rather ashamed of it, that I am capable of looking back on what was a terrible period for millions with something like affection.

 

The state of sexual enlightenment

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 18.42.04Gone, writes Dalrymple,

are the days of unhealthy concealment, of absurd Victorian taboos that led to the application of cruel and cumbersome devices to children to prevent masturbation, to prudish circumlocutions about sexual matters, to the covering of piano legs to preserve the purity of the thoughts of men in the drawing room. We are at ease with our sexuality.

For the first time in history

we can enjoy sexual relations without any of the unnecessary social and psychological accretions of the past that so complicated and diminished life. No more guilt, shame, jealousy, anxiety, frustration, hypocrisy, and confusion. Free at last!

But

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 18.49.28

George Grosz, Circe, 1927

 

Humbling of Huhne

A society, writes Dalrymple

in which disgrace is capable of being felt might be better than one in which it is not.