Category Archives: students

Dear man held out hope of humanistic totalitarianism

Dalrymple finds that a century after the great October putsch, it is interesting to return to what was written 50 rather than 100 years afterwards, so he digs out Ironies of History. He notes that at the time of publication (1966) of Isaac Deutscher’s collection of essays,

the Soviet Union seemed as permanent a feature of the modern world as, say, global warming.

Deutscher had entered his phase as superstar of the New Left, on account of

  • his three-volume biography of his hero Trotsky, which offered willing dupes the hope of a humanistic totalitarianism
  • his opposition to the Vietnam War, during which he formed a tactical alliance with draft-avoiding students, the offspring of what, in other circumstances, he would no doubt have called the petty-bourgeois and kulak class

Such books as Deutscher’s Ironies, Dalrymple points out,

have gone the way of antimacassars and whalebone corsets.

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How the German intellectuals adored Hitler!

Carl Schmitt (right)

Dalrymple writes:

The penetrating clear-sightedness and benevolence towards humanity that intellectuals often claim for themselves by comparison with the benightedness of the rest of the population is at least sometimes—and maybe often or always—self-serving and mythical. The fact that the most educated part of a modern society supports such-and-such a policy is no evidence that it is right.

It was harder, he points out,

for non-German intellectuals to admire Hitler than Stalin because of the nature of Hitler’s ideas: claiming the inherent and ineradicable superiority of one’s own race and nation in everything from time immemorial is not the best way to attract foreign adherents.

Martin Heidegger

Nevertheless,

many German intellectuals, notoriously Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, rallied to Hitler, and few actively opposed him.

How far their support was motivated by fear or opportunism is impossible to say, but

years of study and intellection did not protect them from gross misjudgment.

Even before Hitler attained power,

support for him was greater among university students and the professoriat than in the nation as a whole.

 

Canting humbugs in their hundreds of thousands

Hard feelings in the East Indies

The sentencing of the Christian governor of Jakarta to two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy might, writes Dalrymple,

seem like a throwback to medieval intolerance,

but, he says,

it is more than that. It is a reminder that the suppression of the freedom of others is more fun than the exercise of freedom.

The Muslim masses who demanded the prosecution of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama

enjoyed their virtuous anger,

which is

among the pleasures that their religion does not deny them.

Islamic humbug

Dalrymple notes that although intellectually primitive, the condemnation and sentencing of Ahok, as he is known,

was in one respect modern. One of the judges said that punishment was justified because the governor had hurt the feelings of Muslims—which must have been as delicate as those of Western students who need safe spaces and teddy-bears to hug if they hear something that contradicts their preconceptions.

The desire not to have one’s feelings hurt

has been erected into a right increasingly enforceable at law. Not everyone’s feelings are treated with the solicitude that we show a nice fluffy colourful species of animal that is on the verge of extinction. But treating people’s feelings with this solicitude tends not only to preserve them but to cause them to flourish.

Dalrymple avers that

we have a duty to control our indignation, for most of the time it will be liberally admixed with humbug.

He does not expect his message to be heard in Jakarta,

to judge from the pictures of those hundreds of thousands of canting humbugs in the city’s streets.

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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Suicide: a petty-bourgeois deviation

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 23.13.27Recalling his student days, Dalrymple writes that he

shared a house with a Marxist-Leninist.

This youth, Dalrymple remembers, believed that suicide represented

the failure to accept the total sufficiency in life of Marxism-Leninism.

The world is rotten but I am not

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 23.39.11

The student prig’s moral grandiosity has a coercive quality, for he has liberated his inner totalitarian

Such, writes Dalrymple, is what the student prig, in his self-importance and complacency, wishes to communicate.

The student prig’s chief aim is to convey

the militant purity of his heart and soul. The world is rotten, he is saying—but I am not. I am pure. If the rottenness continues, it won’t be because of me.

Awareness of his virtue shines from the student prig’s face.

He glows with it, virtue for him consisting of the public expression of the correct sentiments. Virtue requires no discipline, no sacrifice other than of a little time and energy, instantly rewarded by the exhibition of his goodness.

The painlessness of virtue as the expression of correct sentiment is its chief attraction for the student prig.

Who would not wish to achieve goodness merely by means of a few gestures, verbal or otherwise? In that way, you can avoid genuine self-examination.

The student prig

feels a youthful impatience with the intractability of the world, hence a desire that its problems should be solved by symbolic means. This desire partakes of magical thinking: incantations will bend reality in the desired direction.

The student prig’s

moral grandiosity has a coercive quality. His virtue gives him the locus standi to dictate to others for the good of humanity. The expression he wears is that of someone who has liberated his inner totalitarian.

Well, much may be forgiven youth, says Dalrymple. But what is craven is

for older people in positions of responsibility to surrender to youth, even if the once in their lives that they were young happened to be in the 1960s.

The human rights of drunken, violent youths

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.50.20An incident outside the Cirio

Belgian beer, Dalrymple points out, is

nectar.

In order to partake of some while enjoying the ambiance of the place, he and his wife pay a visit to the Cirio,

a fin de siècle establishment in the heart of Brussels.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.01.20As the Dalrymples emerge, greatly refreshed one imagines, from the bar, an inebriated student, who is celebrating the university’s special day,

throws a glass at us and other people nearby. It shatters on the ground in front of us.

A number of people could have been badly injured.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.06.04Policemen who happened to be in the vicinity

charge after the student, who sobers up at once in his flight into the crowd.

But Dalrymple makes this shocking statement:

I confess, though I am ashamed to admit it, that when I saw the police giving chase, my first thoughts were not of the student’s human rights.