Category Archives: Theodore Dalrymple

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.

Any policy you want, so long as it is mine

The vision of the anointed

Dalrymple writes that Britain’s Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, might very well

emerge with the most Parliament members and go into coalition with the Scots nationalists, who would impose as a condition of their adhesion a second referendum on Scottish independence.

He points out that if the nationalists were to win such a referendum,

there would be no third.

As for Brexit, Swinson

has made it plain that she would respect the result of a second referendum only if it went in favour of remaining. There has probably never been a clearer expression of what Thomas Sowell calls ‘the vision of the anointed‘ — the supposition that one’s views are so beyond moral dispute that anyone with the temerity to dispute them must be a moral Neanderthal.

Dalrymple notes that Swinson’s statement, that she would do whatever it took to prevent Brexit, including ride roughshod over public opinion,

shows how Europeanised she is. She is young and probably representative of the educated persons of her class and generation, to say nothing of those yet younger. They apparently have no objection to authoritarian rule, provided it is their own.

All-you-can-eat Oriental buffet in Nîmes

Finding himself in the Occitanian city, Dalrymple pays a visit to the Ville active, i.e. the quarter that has been desecrated by modern French architects (whom the doctor-writer has described elsewhere as the worst in the world). He writes:

There is the Restaurant asiatique (note the absence of any reference to any particular part of Asia), a giant canteen in a warehouse atmosphere, where people who have summoned up the energy to drive to its car park eat as much of the food — mostly fried several days before — as they like or are able to.

Arguably the most vacuous large monument of them all

Britishers are the worst architects in the world today, and Dalrymple reports sadly that one of them, Ian Ritchie, creator of the grotesque Spire of Dublin, believes Notre Dame’s spire should be ‘a refracting, super-slender reflecting crystal to heaven’, a glass version of his Irish monument. God help the French.

The world’s worst architect

Dalrymple explains that among Norman Foster‘s creations is

the bulbous London skyscraper known without affection by Londoners as the Gherkin.

Foster is also the designer of

a new tower that resembles a Brobdingnagian spring onion stuck upside down in the ground.

Foster has said that the spire of Notre Dame should be ‘a work of art about light’. Dalrymple comments:

This papalistic pronouncement is typical of architectural newspeak that permits architects to do what they please, irrespective of context. A church spire is, or ought to be, a monument to the glory of God, not to that of an architect, and rebuilding Notre-Dame should not be taken as an opportunity to show off.

Thunberg’s face oozes sanctimony almost as a secretion

This Swedish girl is odious

Dalrymple writes:

When few lived long, old age was respected.

But

now that almost everyone seems to go on for ever and, thanks to a declining birthrate, youth is a rare commodity, it is the young who are looked up to and accorded the kind of reverence African tribes once accorded their elders.

This is why so much attention is paid to

that odious Swedish girl, who makes Mr Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend seem about as self-doubting as Hamlet, and whose face oozes sanctimony almost as a secretion.

Dalrymple counsels:

She needs to be sent to her room and told not to come down before breakfast.

Dalrymple notes that

the cult of youth is, at heart, a very sad one. It implies that the peak of life is reached early and thenceforward it is downhill all the way.

Youth: a narrative

Dalrymple writes that

contrary to what is frequently supposed (as if no one were capable of serious or sincere reflection on his own past, or had forgotten what it was to be young), youth is not idealistic but profoundly egotistical. Even where it is hedonistic, it is censorious – towards all those who are not hedonistic. Its hedonism is not that of spontaneous enjoyment but that of putting two fingers up to Mum and Dad.

Youth

  • never ceases to think of itself even as it is claiming to agitate for the betterment of the world.
  • wants to save the planet but forgets to pick up the litter when it leaves, as (for example) attendance at the Glastonbury Festival would soon convince anyone.
  • is an unavoidable condition that we all have to go through, as diseases such as measles and whooping cough once were. Dalrymple doubts that there will ever be an immunisation against it, and perhaps it is better that this is so (one of the explanations for the rise of allergic conditions is that children grow up in too clean an environment, with not enough immunological challenges).

Dalrymple affirms that

there is no reason to make adolescence our cynosure or youth the object of a cult.

A pitiful case of adolescent senescence

Immaturity held up as the highest good

In a café, Dalrymple watches a man in his early seventies making his way slowly and painfully to the latrines with the aid of a wheeled walker. Dalrymple writes:

This, of course, was reason enough to sympathise with him and, if I could have helped, I should have done so.

But what made the man a tragic figure

was not his physical handicap (of a type that many – perhaps most – of us will experience if we live long enough) but his insistence on dressing like an adolescent, in jeans, a flowered shirt, and basketball shoes, with a single, large gold earring and a Keith Richards coiffure c. 1970 except for its greyness.

Here was a man

who had not (as Mr Blair would no doubt have put it) moved on. He was caught in adolescence as flies were once caught in amber.

This was a tragedy

not only for him as an individual but, on the assumption that he was far from alone but rather representative of a trend, for society: for as everyone knows, having once been adolescent themselves, adolescence is a time of extreme bad taste and what might be called conformist rebellion, or rebellious conformity. It was a tragedy for him as an individual because it made him dream an impossible, worthless dream; and a tragedy for society because it made immaturity the highest good.

We can rebuild it — more beautiful than before

In central Paris, modern architecture is vandalism; in the suburbs, it is hell

Dalrymple writes that the French president’s speech about the Notre-Dame fire

contained a terrible threat: he said that the cathedral would be rebuilt to be even more beautiful than before.

And the French prime minister announced that a competition would be held to design ‘a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time’. This, says Dalrymple,

should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the efforts of modern architects in Paris, the effects of which can be seen all around the city.

The monumental public buildings constructed using techniques to meet the challenges of our time include

  • the Centre Pompidou
  • the Tour Montparnasse
  • the Opéra Bastille
  • the Musée du quai Branly
  • the new Philharmonie

Each one of these structures would, says Dalrymple,

gain at least an honorable mention in a competition for ugliest building in the world.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France, too, was largely rehoused using the techniques of our time, which

included failure to notice that the damp caused by a low water table and sun shining directly through walls of glass were not very good for 15th-century books.

Dalrymple notes that the post-Second-World-War vernacular, with its curtain walls and ribbon windows, is

universally depressing, a single one of its buildings being able to ruin the harmony of an entire street.

In view of

the narcissism of modern architects, particularly of the star variety, when called upon to make additions to older buildings,

a strict restoration of Notre-Dame would be safer.

There should be no competition, except among craftsmen and those who can suggest new ways to make old appearances.

Macron said that he wanted the cathedral restored within five years—in time for the opening of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Dalrymple comments:

It would be hard to think of a more kitsch idea in the Soviet tradition than this.

The Machiavellian genius of Theresa May

Dalrymple explains that he made a mistake in his assessment of Theresa May. He writes:

Like almost everyone else, I regarded her as a pygmy in courage and a giant in incompetence.

However,

it is time for a re-assessment.

After the European Union granted a further delay to Britain’s departure, Donald Tusk said that it was his secret dream to prevent Britain from leaving. It is, says Dalrymple,

pleasing to know that Mr Tusk’s secret dreams so entirely coincide with those of the British political class, including those of Mrs May. At last we have a basis for full and final agreement.

Dalrymple notes that

like the great majority of the British political class, Mrs May was always in favour of remaining in the Union. This class was so confident of its ability to persuade the population that it was right that it agreed with practically no demur to a referendum which would pronounce the winner as the side which obtained 50% plus one of the votes cast. Thus the matter of British membership, it thought, would be settled once and for all.

The problem for the political class was now

to find a method of overriding the result of the referendum without doing so in too blatant a fashion. And here, in Mrs May, it found a perfect leader.

May

could not just put forward her conviction that Britain should remain in the Union and say outright that she had no intention of carrying out the will of the majority. At that stage, such a disavowal of the result would have been politically impossible and might even have caused unrest.

Instead, she went through

a brilliantly elaborate charade of negotiating withdrawal, in such a way that the result would not be accepted by Parliament. Her agreement would be withdrawal without withdrawal, the worst of all possible outcomes, all complication and difficulty, and no benefit.

She knew that the EU,

having drafted this agreement unacceptable to Parliament, would not renegotiate it. Why should it, since it knew that Parliament had no intention of demanding a real and total withdrawal, since it did not want to withdraw? She also knew that Parliament would never agree to a withdrawal without an agreement with the Union, as Parliament has repeatedly made clear.

Thus, says Dalrymple, May has

brilliantly manœuvred the country into the following dilemma: it has a choice between her agreement and total withdrawal, neither of which is acceptable or ever likely to be accepted.

The only way to cut the Gordian knot

is to withdraw the application to leave; and the whole process has been so long-drawn-out, and so boring, that such a result would be welcome not only to the vast majority of those who voted to remain (though a few have been sufficiently appalled by the European leadership to have changed their mind), but to quite a number who voted to leave who imagined, as Mrs May once so cunningly put it (meaning quite the opposite), ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but who have discovered what perhaps they should have known all along, that when the people don’t like the government it is the people who have to change. The light of Brexit is not worth the candle of the deliberately-induced agonising uncertainties.

Britain

has thus fully joined the modern European tradition: the holding of a seeming consultation with the people only to ignore the results if the people get the answer wrong.

The appearances of democracy are preserved, but not the substance. May, says Dalrymple,

has proved brilliantly adept at preserving the appearance while eviscerating the substance.