Category Archives: sociology

The superstitions that beget terror

Dalrymple says of the 2019 London Bridge stabbing:

If it had been an episode in a novel by a social satirist, it would have been dismissed as too crude or absurd.

He writes that public discussion in the wake of the outrage reveals three superstitions that, thanks to the activities of criminologists, sociologists, psychologists, and others, are deeply ingrained in the public mind:

  1. Terrorists are ill and are both in need of and susceptible to ‘rehabilitation’, as if there existed some kind of moral physiotherapy that would strengthen their moral fibre, or a psychological vaccine that would immunise them against terrorist inclinations.
  2. Once terrorists have undergone these technical processes or treatments, it can be known for certain that the treatments have worked, and that some means exists to assess whether the terrorists still harbour violent desires and intentions.
  3. There exists a way of monitoring terrorists after their release that will prevent them from carrying out attacks, should they somehow slip through the net.

Usman Khan

These notions are, of course, false,

though they have provided much lucrative employment for the tertiary-educated and have contributed greatly to Britain’s deterioration from a comparatively well-ordered society to a society with one of the West’s highest rates of serious crime.

Their broad public acceptance

is evident in the remarks of Jeremy Corbyn, who, after the attack, said that terrorists should undergo rehabilitation rather than serve full prison sentences.

The father of the slain young criminologist said that he would not want his son’s death to be ‘used as a pretext for more draconian sentences’. Dalrymple comments:

Decadence can go little further.

Postcards from Loughborough

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-11-17-43Evil studies and parties here

Arriving in Loughborough, in Leicestershire in the English Midlands, Dalrymple takes a taxi from the station to the far side of the university. He asks the taxi-driver what the students are like. The taxi-driver says:

They’re evil bastards.

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-11-19-34Dalrymple is taken aback by this forthrightness, even though as he points out (by way of understatement),

I cannot be accused of being dewy-eyed about humanity.

Dalrymple describes the taxi-driver’s judgment as

spontaneous, deeply felt, and obviously the fruit of what sociologists call lived experience.

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-11-10-35

The Loughborough Taxi Association rank

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The dictatorship of libertinism

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 17.34.55The life’s work of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, who has died aged 70, was, writes Dalrymple,

a phænomenon of sociological and social-psychological significance, at least in the Western world.

Lemmy was to the end a rebellious adolescent, emerging as

a senile rebel who could never bear to leave his adolescence behind, proud of his degeneracy unto death. In this, he was an authentic representative of modern psychological development: a short period of precocity followed by a long one of arrested development.

Lemmy is quoted as saying:

I founded the filthiest rock group in the world.

There is in these words, says Dalrymple,

an undoubted tone of self-congratulation. He had done something not just filthy, but superlatively filthy, and therefore, according to his own inverted scale of values, outstandingly meritorious.

Lemmy once said:

If one day we come to live near you, that will be the end of your lawn.

In other words,

ugliness will be my beauty, and furthermore I will impose it on you.

Interviewed once in a place where smoking was prohibited, Lemmy is quoted as saying:

I’ll need another reason not to smoke than that it’s forbidden.

Thus

he was the sole authority as to when, where, and whether to smoke. Others counted for nothing.

When, writes Dalrymple,

one acts a part for long enough, it ceases to be a mere act and one becomes what one pretends to be. The result of careers such as Mr Kilmister’s is to encourage a culture or subculture, almost unique in my experience, lacking all beauty, value, virtue, charm, or refinement. Its apotheosis would be the dictatorship of libertinism in which personal whim would play the part of the supposed word of God.

The case of Vester Lee Flanagan

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 11.07.59Dalrymple identifies three principal features: bitter paranoia, craving for celebrity, and self-righteous anger.

1. The paranoid stance

The belief, writes Dalrymple, is that

the world is so constituted as to do one down.

This has

sour compensations, chief among which is that it explains in advance all our possible failures. We fail, but never deserve to do so. We are absolved from even trying to succeed, since the forces arrayed against us are too strong; bitterness therefore increases in proportion to the alleged, or self-described, meritocracy of a society.

The advance of sociology

has given us a menu of impersonal forces from which to choose to explain away our failings and discontents. It is co-opted to become the omnium gatherum of self-exculpation.

There is grandiosity,

in so far as the paranoid person believes that much that goes on around him is directed at himself.

There have always been people of paranoid disposition, Dalrymple points out, and he cites the Azande of the Sudan, who used to believe that no one died except by the witchcraft of enemies,

Azande sorcerer

Azande sorcerer

so that it is hardly surprising that they developed a wary attitude to their neighbours and the people around them.

Where there is a cultural emphasis on racism,

an increased number of people, with a relatively high propensity as individuals to paranoia, will interpret the world in its light.

2. The apparent desire for fame

Flanagan appears to have felt an inner compulsion to be famous. Dalrymple comments:

Provided the fame sought is for valuable achievement which is a precondition of becoming famous, the desire is constructive and perhaps even necessary. But where fame is desired for its own sake, detached from any worthwhile achievement, it is malignant and loosens or dissolves moral restraint on behaviour.

Worthwhile achievement is as difficult as ever, but

self-publicity is increasingly commonplace and fame the desire of more and more people who would once have been contented with obscurity. Those with an extreme desire for fame — unaccompanied by any particular qualification for it — resort to ever more bizarre behaviour in order to reach it.

3. The claimed sense of moral outrage

Dalrymple writes that we do not think of anger as a sin any longer

but as the sign of a generous heart, at least when felt and expressed on behalf of others. To live your life without anger is to be complacent and self-satisfied. Since the state of the world gives plenty of scope for those seeking an occasion for anger, we may be angry on behalf of others all the time. The greater our anger, the greater our generosity of spirit. Since our anger is noble and generous, when we act out of such anger, we suppose that we are acting generously.

Anger

makes us love injustice, provided that it is we who are committing it. An atmosphere of rage is concomitantly one of self-righteous cruelty.

The English Perón

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 22.09.02

Always on the lookout for new worlds to ruin

A merciless enemy of liberty

The British repeatedly elect, writes Dalrymple,

nonentities distinguished only for their ambition and relentless pursuit of office. Mediocrity and ambition often combine with vast self-regard.

An example is Tony Blair. In the US it is not appreciated

how ferocious and inveterate an enemy of freedom Mr Blair is. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about him is that he doesn’t know it: he thinks of himself as a guardian of freedom, perhaps the greatest such guardian.

It would be almost correct to call Blair

a fascist, were it not for the fact that he is unaware of it.

Blair’s emphasis on youth as the source of all wisdom and strength

is reminiscent of Mussolini.

His notion of the Third Way

has fascistic overtones, and reminds one of Juan Perón.

Blair is

always on the lookout, not for new worlds to conquer, but for new worlds to poke his nose into and to ruin, or ruin further.

In Britain once, most people

had an idea of virtue that was intensely focused on their individual conduct, irrespective of whether they were rich or poor. People did not believe that poverty excused very much. One of the destructive consequences of the spread of sociological modes of thought is that it has transferred the notion of virtue from individuals to social structures, and in so doing has made personal striving for virtue (as against happiness) not merely unnecessary but ridiculous and even bad, insofar as it diverted attention from the real task at hand, that of creating the perfect society: the society so perfect, as T.S. Eliot put it, that no one will have to be good. It is that kind of society in which Mr Blair believes.

Notes from underground

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 13.23.08On an escalator on the Metro, Dalrymple witnessed this scene:

A young man in international slum-costume and face as malign as the late Mark Duggan’s…used a spray gun to scrawl his initials in bright red on the handrail. Scores of people saw him do it….He returned the other way to repeat his action on another handrail.

Dalrymple was saddened.

The ease with which the stupid and criminal insolence of one young man was able to defeat the civilised conduct of the vast majority of citizens present was…dispiriting.

Duggan: malign

Duggan: malign

And just because the young man was cretinous

doesn’t mean he wasn’t cunning, or wouldn’t be able to draw the correct lesson that he could act with…impunity.

Dalrymple dared not do anything to stop the French Duggan. Nor did anyone else. Why? Dalrymple points to these factors:

  • He and others were ‘busy with their own lives’
  • He and others were afraid of the French Duggan, ‘that he might carry a knife or a gun’
  • He and others were ‘by no means confident that if they had intervened…it would be the young man and not they who would be charged with an offence’
  • Certain witnesses — admittedly a very few, the silliest among them — might have ‘so read, marked and inwardly digested the exculpatory sociology of our time that they saw in his graffito not an act of moral depravity but a cry for help’