Category Archives: sordor

Guilty of supreme sordor

The Ched Evans affair was, writes Dalrymple,

emblematic of a prevalent aspect of contemporary British culture. No one who has gone down the main street of a British town at midnight on Friday could really have been much surprised by the incident.

The case illustrates

the sub-Gomorrah nature of many contemporary British enjoyments, in which women participate as enthusiastically as men. Evans has acknowledged that his behaviour was bad, though (perhaps understandably) without recognition of how disgusting it was. But it would be implausible to say that the conduct of the alleged victim was on an altogether different and higher moral plane from his.

Sydney sordor

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 08.04.28Dalrymple writes that the murder scenes in City of Shadows, an exhibition at Sydney’s Justice & Police Museum, are

sordid in the extreme: blood spattered on the sheets of an unmade bed in a low boarding house, that kind of thing. They speak of sordid desperation rather than of cunning, let alone of struggles with conscience. I am afraid that the murders in the trials of whose perpetrators I have given evidence have all been of this kind, as the overwhelming majority of murders are and always have been.

Dalrymple does not think

anyone looking at these pictures, however unrepresentative of their time, would feel much nostalgia for the years in which they were taken. The scale of the raw poverty was unlike anything today.

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Ugliness, be thou my beauty

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 09.05.43The squalor and degradation that is Western popular culture

Two windows on the sordor:

  • obituaries of pop stars in the newspaper
  • a walk in the street

Pop stars, writes Dalrymple, fall into two groups:

  1. those who retire into the life of the squirearchy, the pleasures of whose kind of life they have done so much to destroy for others
  2. those who die young

There is nothing like the sordid for getting ahead

Romantics view self-destructive behaviour

as the sign of a great soul.

De Quincey wrote:

Pain driven to agony, or grief driven to frenzy, is essential to the ventilation of profound natures.

But, Dalrymple points out,

it is an elementary error of logic to suppose that, because profound natures ventilate agonised frenzy, those who ventilate agonised frenzy have profound natures.

Take punk. Its ‘ethic’ consists, explains Dalrymple, of

an utterly conformist non-conformity and an insensate individualism without individuality, allied to brutal and deliberate bad taste.

Self-harm

For instance,

to inflict a serious injury on yourself (which you then require others to repair for you, at their expense) in order to prove that you are genuinely committed to bad taste, ugliness, a rejection of everything that could possibly make life worth living, and to a celebration of ‘alienation, boredom and despair’ does not seem to me to be meritorious in any way. The alienation, boredom and despair are the consequence of a combination of laziness and impatient ambition, rather than the consequence of an ‘objective’ situation, and represent an impossible demand for achievement without concomitant effort.

Rage

Dalrymple says:

I feel a certain rage at the culture that we have created, and a certain guilt that I have not fought against it with all my heart and soul, to the best of my ability. It is a culture that can produce lines — and mean them, that is what is terrible — such as the following from one of Richey Edwards‘ songs (as Mozart took dictation from God, so he took dictation from the Zeitgeist):

I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.

Choked to death on his vomit

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.12.55Ha! That’ll teach him to have been raised so far above us (by our election)

Celebrity, writes Dalrymple,

is conferred on people almost, though not quite, at random: their talents are minor and their appearance pleasing, but they must not otherwise be remarkable or too far removed in their tastes and manner, at least in public, from those who give them fame.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.10.36The contract between celebrities and those who confer celebrity upon them

Celebrities must

allow their lives to be examined and reported on, truthfully or not, in all the media. They must agree to be in the public eye as an old-fashioned family doctor was always on duty for his patients.

Mrs Todgers

Mrs Todgers

How the cult of celebrity is a form of self-worship

The eyes that are cast upon the celebrities

are simultaneously adulatory and sadistic.

Those eyes remind Dalrymple of the eyes of Mrs Todgers in Martin Chuzzlewit:

Mrs Todgers meant by this that she must embrace them once more, which she accordingly did with great ardour.

Mrs Todgers and 'Kim'

Mrs Todgers and Kim

But

the house being full with the exception of one bed, which would now be occupied by Mr Pecksniff, she wanted time for consideration; and so much time too (for it was a knotty point how to dispose of them), that even when this second embrace was over, she stood for some moments gazing at the sisters, with affection beaming in one eye, and calculation shining out of the other. (from ch. 8)

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.15.23At a news-stand, Dalrymple leafs through some magazines

devoted to the pseudo-private-lives of celebrities of whom I have never heard.

He notes headings concerning the celebrity known as ‘Kim’:

KIM’S HUMILIATION

KIM DUMPED ON HER ANNIVERSARY

KIM’S BIG LIE

KIM’S WIG

STRESS MAKES KIM’S HAIR FALL OUT

Dalrymple comments that

the sadism is all too evident. How the celebrity-conferring and celebrity-worshipping public will have relished her suffering! It serves her right for having the fairy-tale life that we conferred on her, and that we should so like to have.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.33.50Accounts of alcoholism, or alleged alcoholism, are a

favourite way in which the magazines, on behalf of their readership, take their revenge on those upon whom celebrity has been conferred.

The onetime idol’s

descent into rehab should preferably be repeated, and the supposed battle lost in advance.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.53.06Once the celebrity has reached the alcoholic stage,

his function is to be a template for the readership’s inexhaustible Schadenfreude.

He must never recover, and the course of his life should be a downward spiral into utter sordor. A happy ending is when

he chokes to death on his own vomit at a comparatively early age. That’ll teach him to have been raised so far above the rest of us, even if it was only by our own election.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 09.52.23Celebrities are inhabitants

both of a fairy-tale world and our own rather sordid reality. We set them up and we pull them down, enjoying the pleasures both of hero-worship and of cruelty.

The cult of celebrity

is a form of self-worship, both because celebrities are not threateningly different from ourselves, and because we have the power of fame and ignominy over them.

Mrs Todgers and Mr Moddle

Mrs Todgers and Mr Moddle

A society in decomposition

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.07.37England has neither leaders nor followers but is composed only of egotists

The

intellectual torpor, moral cowardice, incompetence and careerist opportunism of the British political and intellectual class

A careerist, intellectually torpid, incompetent coward

A careerist, intellectually torpid, incompetent coward

is now very evident, writes Dalrymple. Despite everything that has happened in recent years, the corrupt mandarins continue to contrive

not to notice what has long been apparent to anyone who has taken a short walk with his eyes open down any frequented British street: that a considerable proportion of the country’s young population (a proportion that is declining) is ugly, aggressive, vicious, badly educated, uncouth and criminally inclined.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.08.41Lavish self-esteem

While British youth is utterly lacking in self-respect,

it is full of self-esteem: that is to say, it believes itself entitled to a high standard of living, and other things, without any effort on its own part.

Although youth unemployment in Britain is very high, that is to say about 20 per cent of those aged under 25,

the country has had to import young foreign labour for a long time, even for unskilled work in the service sector.

The British, idlest workers in Europe

No rational employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton

if he could have a young Pole; the young Pole is not only likely to have a good work ethic and refined manners, he is likely to be able to add up and — most humiliating of all — to speak better English than the Briton, at least if by that we mean the standard variety of the language. He may not be more fluent but his English will be more correct and his accent easier to understand.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.11.24Travesty of an educational system

After compulsory education,

or perhaps I should say intermittent attendance at school, up to the age of 16 costing $80,000 a head, about one-quarter of British children cannot read with facility or do simple arithmetic. It makes you proud to be a British taxpayer.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.15.37State-subsidised criminality

British youth

leads the Western world in almost all aspects of social pathology, from teenage pregnancy to drug taking, from drunkenness to violent criminality. There is no form of bad behaviour that our version of the welfare state has not sought out and subsidised.

British children

are radically unsocialised and deeply egotistical, viewing relations with other human beings in the same way as Lenin: Who whom, who does what to whom. By the time they grow up, they are destined not only for unemployment but unemployability.

Long bath in vomitus

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.17.38All the necessary electronic equipment is available for the prosecution of the main business of life, viz

entertainment by popular culture. And what a culture British popular culture is! Perhaps Amy Winehouse was its finest flower and its truest representative in her militant and ideological vulgarity, her stupid taste, her vile personal conduct and preposterous self-pity.

Sordor

Winehouse’s sordid life

was a long bath in vomitus, literal and metaphorical, for which the exercise of her very minor talent was no excuse or explanation. Yet not a peep of dissent from our intellectual class was heard after her near canonisation after her death, that class having long had the backbone of a mollusc.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.19.10Thugs in uniform

What of the police? They are

simultaneously bullying but ineffectual and incompetent, increasingly dressed in paraphernalia that makes them look more like the occupiers of Afghanistan than the force imagined by Robert Peel. The people who most fear our police are the innocent.

(2011)

In search of sordor

Nostalgie de la boue: The romantic appeal of filth, violence and vomit

Dalrymple writes that it is today not uncommon

for children from good homes to seek out a squalid existence rather than a decent one. I have had as patients more than one middle-class girl who ran away from a comfortably bourgeois present and a bright academic future in order to join crack-addled prostitutes.

Why?

Why would anyone run away from a rich and cultivated home…to seek out and allow pimps to ply her with heroin?

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 23.50.03The answer is that squalor

seems more exciting, authentic and real, especially to those who have known nothing but security. Some achieve squalor as some kind of guarantee of authenticity. They wear squalor as a badge of honour won against the odds in the battle against respectability. A respectable career is tame and boring, at least for those who seek excitement and strong sensation. A squalid life is seldom without crises and drama, which keep the adrenalin pumping and ennui at bay. Women who repeatedly have relationships with violent men may quickly reject a man who treats them decently.

Bohemianism of an especially sordid kind becomes a sign of moral election,

as once a scrubbed doorstep was a sign of working-class respectability. Leading a comfortable existence may seem like injustice, the perpetuation of unearned privilege or a betrayal of the poor. Although living in squalor will not assist the impoverished in the slightest, it shows that one’s heart is in the right place.

Piano legs bared — but we’re no better off

Piano legover

Gone forever, points out Dalrymple, are things like

  • the covering of piano legs in order to preserve the purity of the thoughts of men in the drawing room
  • unhealthy concealment
  • the application of cruel and cumbersome devices to children to prevent masturbation
  • prudish circumlocutions

The trouble is,

enlightened as we believe ourselves to be, a golden age of contentment has not dawned — far from it.