Category Archives: Theodore Dalrymple

The selfie, the tweet, the Facebook page made flesh

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 17.14.18Prince Harry holds up a mirror to modern egotism

Dalrymple writes that the Queen and Prince Harry provide a contrast

between one conception of life, one culture, and another.

In the Queen there is

  • self-restraint
  • a kind of existential modesty despite exalted position
  • full awareness that she owes her importance to an accident of birth
  • an iron sense of duty at whatever personal cost

In Prince Harry there is

  • personal whim
  • self-expression as an imperative, the ego being the object of almost religious devotion
  • the belief that he owes an accident of birth to his importance
  • a sense of entitlement

Dalrymple comments:

There isn’t much doubt as to which of these attitudes to life is in the ascendant, sociologically and philosophically. As Blake put it, ‘Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.’ To swallow down our emotions is now regarded as treason to the self, where it is not comical or a subject for derision; not to express oneself is to risk later psychological disaster.

Such is the power of modern culture

that a cosseted and highly unusual family is not immune from its influence.

There is

a desperate search for uniqueness among people who have a weak sense of self as distinguished from others. In an age of celebrity, not to be outstanding in some way is felt almost as a wound, certainly as an indication of failure.

The inflamed need for individuation

causes people to be reluctant to accept anything traditional, because the tradition did not originate with them and has no justification that they consider wholly rational. Life is all about choice: my choice. The extension of choice is why transgression is a good in itself.

Dalrymple adds that Prince Harry

is not being straightforward. He wants to destroy tradition and at the same time benefit from its continuation. He has no claim to the public’s attention except that he was born who he was in the very tradition that he wants to overthrow because he wants to be really, truly, just himself. I can well understand why a young man in his position does not want to play the part allotted him by fate; I wouldn’t have wanted such a part myself. But in order not to be a hypocrite, he should have gone off quietly into obscurity, without public subvention, to study butterflies or Sumerian epigraphy.

Europe cursed by welfarism

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 16.31.12It is not demography that makes demographic renewal necessary in Europe, it is social security

It is often said that Europe has need of demographic renewal, so low is its birth rate. Dalrymple points out that this argument is

false, or intended to disguise something very discreditable.

The rate of youth unemployment in European countries with a total population of more than 150m is 20-25%, meaning there is a considerable reserve army of labour.

It should surely be easier for a young Spaniard, Greek, or Frenchman to integrate into German society than for someone from the Middle East or Africa. But the young Europeans, especially those without qualifications, are not desperate for work because, thanks to state allocations, they can get by without, and would hardly be better off if they did move to where there is work.

Countries with full employment need to import labour,

but cannot do so from other countries in Europe because that labour would require much higher wages to give them an incentive to seek work, higher wages than their labour was worth. In these circumstances, migrants are a necessary source of cheap labour, irrespective of whatever other advantages or—more likely—disadvantages they might bring.

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 16.15.17

Youth unemployment in EU member states

Authoritarianism of so-called liberals

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 15.59.09Why beholdest thou the authoritarianism that is in thy brother’s polity, but considerest not the authoritarianism that is in thine own polity?

Dalrymple writes that those who accuse Hungary and Poland of authoritarianism are not necessarily friends of freedom of choice themselves, except in respect of which restaurant to go to tonight.

I’m bored with Mexican, why not Moroccan? This is not necessarily a perfect model for society, or at least for all societies, as a whole.

He notes that

it is a common human trait to accuse others of the faults that one has oneself. In the case of authoritarianism, the accusation is easy, because there can be no complex modern society without the exercise of authority by someone. The question is whether that authority is exercised with both moderation and some kind of check or balance. For the former, an inner sense of limitation is necessary, and many so-called liberals do not have it.

Another in a long line of autocratic German leaders

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 15.33.27Dalrymple observes that Angela Merkel’s sudden acceptance of a million migrants

was an authoritarian decision that made Viktor Orbán look a model democratic ruler. For when Merkel said, ‘We can do this,’ what she meant was, ‘You can do this,’ or rather, ‘You must do this,’ and all without the semblance of a consultation of the wishes of the German population in so serious a matter. She had nothing to lose herself but her polls, and she was near retirement anyway.

Her unilateral decision

must surely have deepened divisions in German society, between the better educated who were the least affected, and the worse educated who were the most affected by her decision. The former would be more concerned with feeling good about themselves—a specially urgent desire in Germany, for reasons I need not explain—than with the effect on those who would bear the brunt of the consequences of the decision. Voilà the rise of populism, that is to say of popular opinions that some people don’t like and think despicable.

Macron’s insidious policy of disease control

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 15.16.21Emmanuel Macron wants a Europe-wide approach to immigration. This, says Dalrymple,

does not recognise that what suits one country does not necessarily suit another. It also implies a supranational authority that has the power to implement such a policy, even against the wishes of a local population. He wants migrants arriving—illegally, of course—to be shared out among European countries according to a binding formula.

His proposal implies that the migrants

are not a benefit but a liability to the receiving country, which is why they have to be parcelled out as if they were the bearers of some contagious disease.

Wanting your gluten-free cake and eating it

img_2400Dalrymple describes the case of a man who

indulges in the public disclosure of deleterious information about his employer

while demanding

continued employment, using highly divisive legal protections as an instrument of coercion.

 

Dalrymple interviewed by Peter Whittle

On sluts

Sluts, Dalrymple points out,

will go with anybody.

A woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern. ‘I have noted often those dames which are so curious in their attire, to be very sluts in their houses’; ‘Women are all day a-dressing to pleasure other men abroad, and go like sluts at home.’

‘Nor was she a woman of any beauty, but a nasty slut’; ‘She’s ugly, she’s old, a slut, a scold’; ‘For sluts whose husbands died’; ‘She looked the part of a ragged, slatternly, dirty slut’; ‘I lived with him for nearly six months and acted the part of cook, slut, butler, page, footman and valet de chambre.’

A woman of low or loose character, a bold or impudent girl, a hussy, a jade. ‘Come forth, thou sloven! Come forth, thou slut’; ‘A peevish drunken flirt, a waspish choleric slut’; ‘These lords have a power of wealth indeed, yet, as I’ve heard say, they give it all to their sluts and their trulls’; ‘Does that bold-faced slut intend to take her warning, or does she not?’

A sure way to revive German nationalism

Oddly enough, the Germans don’t seem keen to furnish the bazooka

Impose redistributive loans on Berlin for Keynesian purposes!

Dalrymple observes that negative-yielding bonds, representing a quarter of debt issued, are

hardly a resounding vote of confidence in the future. They are like an umbrella to protect us from an approaching monsoon.

He points out that economic gloom

is growing in Europe, where growth remains low and youth unemployment in many countries is high.

Yet-lower interest rates, penalising savers,

will not revive EU countries’ economies. Having lost control of their currencies as a result of monetary union, these countries cannot apply a fiscal stimulus.

Lagarde thinks she has the answer

We hear calls, echoed recently by Christine Lagarde, for a large European budget that can apply a stimulus to various countries as necessary. Such a budget, Dalrymple explains,

is seen by some as an antidote to the growth of populist nationalism in Europe, supposedly the consequence of the continent’s economic woes. An editorial in the Guardian, daily bible of the bien-pensants of much of the English-speaking world, was headed: The nationalism that taps into people’s angst and dislocation can be effectively challenged with a bazooka of a eurozone budget. In other words, if only governments of countries in which populism—that is to say, the popularity of one’s opponents—spent enough money to revive their economies, the people would return to their senses and re-enter the social-democratic fold that has served Europe so well—even if it led to the present trouble.

Where will the firepower of the proposed bazooka come from?

There can be only one answer under the present dispensation: from Germany. Oddly enough, the Germans don’t seem keen to furnish the bazooka. They have had some recent experience of large-scale lending, and it was not altogether happy in its results, economic or political.

A genuinely closer political union (the supposed aim of the European Union, but which Europeans have repeatedly said they do not want) might impose redistributive loans on Germany for Keynesian purposes—other countries in the EU outvoting Berlin.

It’s not easy to imagine the Germans accepting this. There could hardly be a better way to revive German nationalism, one of the eventualities that is the target of the proposed bazooka to destroy.

The situation would be even more dangerous because Germany

has achieved its pre-eminent economic position, in part, by not allowing a commensurate increase in the standard of living of its people, who may not be pleased to play the role assigned them by the EU. Polls already suggest that this is so.

Brooklyn Mephisto

Dalrymple notes that Jeffrey Epstein’s taste for orgies was

only partially sexual in origin. A man in his situation could have paid for any amount of sex, of any kind, in private. What he really enjoyed was corrupting others—and not just others, but prominent and powerful others. He enjoyed playing Mephistopheles, apart from any sexual gratification he may have had on the way.

Dalrymple explains that Epstein

was born into a modest family and pursued no glorious academic career. He was of high intelligence and very ambitious. One might have thought that his achievement of riches (by whatever means accumulated) would have assuaged feelings of inferiority that he felt vis-à-vis those who had succeeded via family connection or the conventional academic route. But great success from humble beginnings does not always, or perhaps even generally, extinguish the flames of resentment, but rather fans them.

It is a relief and joy

to prove that the great ones whose ranks the parvenu has joined are no better than he, that underneath their polished exterior and their inherited or academic distinction is still a person of crude and basic appetites. To implicate them in his depravity gives him a certain power over them: the power of equal standing. Never again will they be able to consider themselves his superior. His apparent generosity towards them is the establishment of the relationship of a blackmailer to his victim.

Dalrymple argues that Epstein’s wish to bring people down to his level, the better to have some hold over them and feel at least their equal, was

an extreme manifestation of a commonplace egalitarian impulse to bring everyone down to one’s own level, if not lower. The pleasure we take in a debunking biography, irrespective of the greatness of the subject’s achievements, is a relatively harmless satisfaction of this impulse, though debunking can become an addiction to the point that we cease to admire any achievement. There is much greater pleasure in pulling people down than in raising them up, besides being something much easier to do. This is why egalitarians hate the privileged much more than they love the unprivileged.

That Epstein seemed to have been able with such ease to befriend and probably corrupt so many of an élite

will have the effect of casting further suspicion on the very notion of an élite. But ye have the élite always with you. There is an élite among anti-élitists.