Category Archives: snobbery

Hauteur and haughtiness at the Guardian

Leafing through a copy of the London newspaper the Guardian, Dalrymple comes across the following sentence written by a woman called Bunting:

When a girl at 17 decides to go ahead and have a baby, there is no tragedy of lost opportunity other than the local checkout till waiting for her low-paid labour.

Dalrymple comments:

This sentence breathes snobbery and disdain for those who actually do such work; it assumes, moreover, that once a supermarket checkout cashier, always a supermarket checkout cashier, a fate worse than death. That there might actually be people for whom such work is suitable, and potentially not odious, does not occur to the writer.

What makes the work odious, Dalrymple points out,

is not the work itself, but those who communicate their disdain of it.

Thus snobbery, of the kind expressed by the Guardian,

makes the import of labour necessary.

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How a certain celebrated journalist conducted himself

The acclaimed journalist — a theoretical egalitarian outraged (in print) by injustice — was dismissive of his social inferiors

Dalrymple hears a story from an eyewitness

about the behaviour of a late journalist, undoubtedly of very great talent, that lowered him in my estimate far more than any intellectual disagreements I might have had with him had ever done.

The renowned journalist

was, I learnt from this eyewitness, rude and condescending to, and dismissive of, his social inferiors, especially those who performed services for him.

Dalrymple comments:

Of all human qualities, this seems to me to be one of the most disagreeable, and to reflect worst on a person’s character. As the eyewitness to this behaviour had no axe to grind, and might rather have been expected to evince admiration for this journalist, I believed what she told me.

He asks:

What difference did this knowledge of his character make to my judgment of his work? His wit was just as witty, his facts as accurate or inaccurate, his deductions from them just as valid or invalid, as they had been before.

Yet

it coloured everything, for the man had been a theoretical egalitarian, outraged, in print, by the injustices, inequities and inequalities of the world.

If the lionised journalist’s disdain for subordinates were habitual rather than occasional (and Dalrymple’s eyewitness, who met him on several occasions, suggested that it was habitual), then

his professions of egalitarianism were insincere.

The socialist wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs.

  • It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.

Yet the socialist reality is

  • lies
  • enforced ignorance
  • characters formed in an atmosphere of suspicion
  • compromise with evil
  • toadying
  • self-abasement

Dalrymple once met a Marxist who told him that the level of dialectical debate in Moscow was so much higher, and so much wider in scope, than in Western Europe or North America. Dalrymple’s reply was:

If only you could fix your mind on something important, like selling cosmetics or life insurance.

He notes that communist ideas, or prejudices,

live on in those countries where Really Existing Socialism, as the dialecticians used so elegantly to put it, has never been experienced.

In Britain,

the Marxist hatred of profit subsists happily with a Jane Austen-like coyness about where one’s money actually comes from. In Jane Austen, Trade is ungentlemanly; in Marx, it is wicked; in British literary circles, it is both. Given the nature of the output of British literary circles, this wouldn’t matter very much, except for the fact that the attitude has filtered down into the rest of the intelligentsia, and is nearly universal in the public service.

Unlettered whizzkids earning a fortune in the City

particularly excite ire (and envy); I have had many arguments in the doctors’ common room about the necessary and constructive part banking and trade play in any modern economy, irrespective of the existence of dishonest bankers and traders.

But the attitude persists,

the disdainful — and essentially snobbish — attitude that unites them with Castro and Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Ulbricht, Lenin and Kim Il-sung. Any activity that is neither directly productive nor concerned with the welfare of ‘the people’ is parasitic.

The consequence of the philosophy

may be seen on the shelves of any communist supermarket or in any East European field piled with rotting potatoes.

A semi-literate Marxism is

the unchallengeable orthodoxy in British teacher-training colleges and colleges of further education. Here the politics of grievance are assiduously fostered, with ‘analyses’ of the exploitative nature of capitalist society, which causes the oppression of almost everyone except men in top hats. It is difficult to believe that something of this ideology is not communicated to children, and in my daily work I am often ‘accused’ by young patients of having a good job, as if personal activity had nothing to do with it and my privilege and their deprivation explained all.

Socialism continues to exert a strong influence in poor countries. Liberation theology, for example, is

Pravda with the word God thrown in.

There is a stifling orthodoxy among intellectuals about the origins of poverty. Poverty for them

is the dialectical opposite of wealth: we are poor because you are rich, and you are rich because we are poor. It is a destructive idea. Poverty is the result of exploitation and nothing else: the world is Marx’s Victorian England writ large. The global economy is a cake, and if Europe (the bourgeoisie) has a large slice, Africa (the proletariat) must have a small one. The immiseration of the workers in Marx is paralleled by the immiseration of continents, and has the same causes.

That poverty is the natural state of Man, and that

it is the ascent to wealth that needs explanation (Adam Smith asked the right question), never occurs to the embittered intellectuals.

Really Existing Socialism

Jewelled prose disguising narcissistic rage

Dalrymple asks of Virginia Woolf:

Might the revelation by the war of the utter frivolity of her attitudinising have contributed to her decision to commit suicide? If the good life is a matter of judgment, the war proved that all her adult life she had none.

Yet he notes that had she survived to our time,

she would have had the satisfaction of observing that her cast of mind — shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, brutal — had triumphed among the élites of the Western world.

How to make a man go berserk

It is, writes Dalrymple,

the small acts of personal disdain rather than the large but abstract and distant injustices that infuriate people and drive them to violence.

No better way exists

of enraging someone than to express obvious contempt for him, especially for something over which he has little control.

This is one of the reasons manners are so important:

the mannerly may disdain, but not show it.

Snobbery

breeds a resentment that causes people to seek revenge even at great personal cost to themselves. It renders men insensate.

Colonic irrigation courtesy of the taxpayer

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.21.48The Department of Health’s tie-up with the Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health is, writes Dalrymple,

an invincible alliance between bullying bureaucracy and social snobbery, between administrative cynicism and ignorant folly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.18.40Providing homœopathy on the NHS

is part of the persistent attempt by the government further to debase and demoralise the medical profession. The point is not to raise the status of alternative medicine, as Prince Charles has no doubt been gulled into believing, but to lower the status of orthodox medicine.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.23.46This is because

doctors are trusted by the population, while politicians most certainly are not: therefore they, the doctors, represent a danger to the politicians. The people who will pay the price for the wicked folly of the Department of Health will be the British people, who will come to be treated by a professional body of uninterested timeservers while their rulers seek first-rate medical treatment elsewhere — that is to say abroad.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.31.08Dalrymple has no objection to irrational whims involving

  • colonic irrigation
  • healing crystals
  • chakras in the earth
  • hopi candles

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.20.03But he sees no reason why he or any other taxpayer should fork out for them.

No doubt the Department of Health will present its position on alternative medicine

as being broad-minded and socially inclusive. There is another way of looking at it: the Department of Health is embezzling taxpayer’s funds for partially hidden, political purposes.

Charles II touches a patient for tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

Charles II touches a patient for tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

By all means

let the Prince of Wales spread propaganda for his brand of hocus-pocus. Let him touch people for the King’s Evil, if he and they so wish — the revival of the ceremony might add to the gaiety of the nation. But medicine is too serious a matter to be left to amateurs such as the Department of Health.

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Why the West has to import labour

Despicable work, according to the UK newspaper the Guardian

Despicable work, according to the UK newspaper the Guardian

People, especially young people, in the better-off countries of Western Europe very often have completely the wrong attitude to work, if they work. The result, writes Dalrymple, is that,

despite mass unemployment, we have to import labour

in order that certain kinds of work be done. In Ireland, for example, Dalrymple says that

an old lady of my acquaintance needed 24-hour attendance, and this was provided by a Filipina, even at a time when there was 15% unemployment in Ireland.

An important factor is the

system of social security and unemployment benefits. The economic difference between doing this type of work and not working is not great enough to entice any native to do it.

There is also a

psychological, cultural or even religious difference. The change in the title of the senior nurse in a hospital ward from sister to ward manager is indicative of a change in sensibility, from a residually religious notion of serving others to a technocratic one. In the popular imagination, the distinction between service and servitude has been more or less eliminated.

Dalrymple cites a sentence written by a columnist in the London newspaper the Guardian:

So when a girl at 17 decides to go ahead and have a baby, there is no tragedy of lost opportunity other than the local checkout till waiting for her low-paid labour.

Such a sentence, Dalrymple notes,

breathes snobbery and disdain for those who do such work; it assumes that once a checkout cashier, always a checkout cashier, a fate worse than death. That there might be people for whom such work is suitable and potentially not odious does not occur to the writer. What makes the work odious is not the work but those who communicate their disdain of it. Snobbery thus makes the import of labour necessary.

Take hotels. In Britain, Dalrymple points out,

all good hotels employ exclusively foreign labour. If you want to go to a really bad large hotel in Britain, find one in which the staff are British. It is guaranteed to be ill-kept, with slovenly service, not very clean, with atrocious food, grubby staff, inattention to detail. Even a foreign telephonist is likely to be better, and to speak better English, than an English telephonist. If you want a good or even only a decent hotel, you must find one in which all the staff are foreign. This is so whatever the unemployment rate, high or low.

Dalrymple says he asks people to imagine that they are employers who seek an employee to perform work that is not skilled but requires such characteristics as punctuality, politeness, willingness to oblige.

The imagined employer has two applicants about whom he knows only two things: their age (shall we say 24) and their nationality. One is British and one is Polish. Which of the applicants does the imagined employer choose? Not a single person to whom I have put this question has hesitated for a moment: he chooses the Pole.

Our need for migrants

has a cultural, not an economic root.

But of course,

this does not mean that we need all the migrants we are likely to get from wherever we get them.

American suburban ennui

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 07.34.56It was, writes Dalrymple, the

deadness that disturbed me.

The city had a centre,

but nobody lived there: after work everyone decamped to the suburbs, where they seemed to live in isolation from one another and where human relations, if they existed, were shallow and unrooted, as if everyone expected the neighbours to move away soon and so avoided deep attachments. The suburbs, quiet and spacious as they were, seemed to vitiate the purpose, or at least the pleasures, of living in a city, while not compensating for their loss by the pleasures of real country living. Even their comfort seemed suffocating, as if it were a kind of bribe, or an offer that no one could refuse, in return for living in the way that they did.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 07.42.15Dalrymple’s reaction

was purely conventional. I little thought that my complaint was that of hundreds or thousands of intellectuals before me. I was still a long way from my present realisation—it has taken many years and much voyaging to attain it—that every place is interesting.

Public transport

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 07.40.00existed only in a token way, and was useless if you couldn’t wait all day for it. To go anywhere, to do anything, a car was essential. Without one, you were like an anchorite in the Syrian desert. The suburbs were far too spread out for effective public transport without massive subsidies. This struck me as disastrous from the standpoint of quality of life. The car, supposedly a symbol of individual freedom, became an instrument of an informal servitude, adding two, three, or four hours to the workday: it added periods of isolation, frustration, irritation, and—frequently—rage. It is one thing to drive on the open road; another to be but one driver in a seemingly endless procession, thundering or crawling to and from work, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, spending a tenth of one’s waking life behind the wheel. The very sight of the traffic appalls me, and it would terrify me to have to participate in it. Perhaps such traffic is a quid pro quo for the great benefits of modern existence, and perhaps my horror of traffic is idiosyncratic, a personal taste, or merely snobbish; I have been fortunate in having been able to arrange my life so as largely to avoid it.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 07.44.27The possibility of living without a car has become for Dalrymple

a personal criterion of desirable city life. For this, a good public transport system is necessary; and that can exist only in a city with a dense enough population. Many have written about the problems of overcrowding, with psychologists performing experiments on rodents in cages to demonstrate the bad effects on conduct of lack of space; but the negative consequences of undercrowding in cities are less often emphasised.

Integrity in art

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 09.10.30L.S. Lowry, Dalrymple explains,

ploughed his own artistic field for years, decades, before he achieved recognition: and when such recognition came, it did not change his simple mode of life. He had a day job until his retirement at the age of sixty-five of a most unromantic and unartistic kind: he worked as a rent-collector for a property company in the days when tenants of tiny workers’ houses paid their rent weekly and in cash. He painted between collecting rents.

Lowry saw

in the bleak townscapes of the Industrial Revolution, and in the inhabitants of those townscapes, a subject worthy of artistic representation, as nobody had before: finding a beauty in them without in the least prettifying them, or without resort to sentimentality.

The Tate Gallery had a fine collection of Lowry’s work, but

for long refused to display any of it, mainly from a kind of snobbery. Lowry was utterly a provincial, he was allied to and influenced by no current of modern art, theoretical or practical, and (in the end) he was widely loved by people who otherwise had no artistic tastes. He was original in an original way. For a certain kind of aesthete, for whom the main attraction of the appreciation of beauty is to mark him off from the philistines, Lowry was all wrong.

Even worse,

Lowry did not care what anyone thought: he did what inner necessity dictated.

Ancoats Hospital Outpatients' Hall, 1952. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Ancoats Hospital Outpatients’ Hall, 1952. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

 

A nasty drunk inclined to bullying and violence

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.29.58Also a snob and a social climber.

One critic said that no one who knew him ever liked him, although others have denied this. It is rare for anyone to be disliked by everyone.

Dalrymple on John O’Hara, who was

the son of a surgeon, Patrick O’Hara. The father wanted the son to follow in the profession, but he would have none of it, even rejecting his father’s offer of $10,000 if he would do so. O’Hara junior said that he wanted to be a writer; his father said that no good would come of it.

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