Category Archives: Theodore Dalrymple

‘The white race is the cancer of human history’

Dalrymple comes across an article by Susan Sontag in the American quarterly Partisan Review. It reads in part:

Neither do I dare deride the turn toward the East (or more generally, to the wisdom of the nonwhite world) on the part of a tiny group of young people — however uninformed and jejune the adherence usually is. (But then nothing could be more ignorant than Fiedler’s insinuation that Oriental modes of thought are ‘feminine’ and ‘passive,’ which is the reason the demasculinised kids are drawn to them.) Why shouldn’t they look for wisdom elsewhere? If America is the culmination of Western white civilisation, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilisation. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far. It’s easier, much easier, to accuse the kids, to reproach them for being ‘non-participants in the past’ and ‘drop-outs from history.’ But it isn’t real history Fiedler is referring to with such solicitude. It’s just our history, which he claims is identical with ‘the tradition of the human,’ the tradition of ‘reason’ itself. Of course, it’s hard to assess life on this planet from a genuinely world-historical perspective; the effort induces vertigo and seems like an invitation to suicide. But from a world-historical perspective, that local history that some young people are repudiating (with their fondness for dirty words, their peyote, their macrobiotic rice, their Dadaist art, etc.) looks a good deal less pleasing and less self-evidently worthy of perpetuation. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilisation has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself. What the Mongol hordes threaten is far less frightening than the damage that western ‘Faustian’ man, with his idealism, his magnificent art, his sense of intellectual adventure, his world-devouring energies for conquest, has already done, and further threatens to do.

Dalrymple comments:

The question with assertions of this nature is whether they can ever correspond to any genuine feeling, or are but the manifestation of a straining after feeling. To me they have the authentic ring of humbug, which is the besetting sin of our age (which is not to say that it has existed or been prevalent in no other).

Hazlitt (‘On cant and hypocrisy’, London Weekly Review, 1828) tells us that

sincerity has to do with the connexion between our words and thoughts, and not between our belief and actions. The last constantly belie the strongest convictions and resolutions in the best of men; it is only the base and dishonest who give themselves credit with their tongue, for sentiments and opinions which in their hearts they disown.

To this, says Dalrymple,

he might have added feeling, for expressed feelings can be as divorced from true feelings as cant can be from true belief. The complexity of the human mind is such that we can easily disguise the divorce from ourselves and deny that it exists, the denial leading us to act as if the false were true.

Dalrymple does not believe that Sontag

thought or felt of herself as a cancerous cell, for such a sincere thought or feeling is really possible only to someone with a mental state akin to Cotard’s syndrome, the rare delusion that one is already (and deservedly) dead or putrefying: and people with Cotard’s syndrome do not write essays, not even for the Partisan Review.

He adds:

The grandiose moral exhibitionism of which the Sontag quotation is so notable an example serves another function in our moral economy: to divert the locus of our moral concern from the pettiness of our daily existences to the largest general problems facing the world.

It renders alien to us, he says, the Blakean thought (Jerusalem, f. 55, ll. 48–53, 60–6):

And many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow,
Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery;
It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal.
Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones;
And those who are in misery cannot remain so long,
If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.…
He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer;
For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organised Particulars,
And not in generalising Demonstrations of the Rational Power:
The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity.
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually,
On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!

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North Korea is at one of the unpleasant edges of human possibility

Dalrymple writes:

I think it was Jean Améry who said that once you have been tortured you remain tortured. I do not mean to claim any kind of equivalence in the experience, but once you have been to North Korea, you never forget it, either—as, for example, you might forget whether or not you have ever been to Stevenage or Welwyn Garden City.

In 1989, Dalrymple embedded himself in a delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students (run by the World Federation of Democratic Youth), which was then being held in Pyongyang. (He was neither a youth nor a student at the time.)

Ever since, he says,

I have been drawn to pictures of the Kim dynasty, whether of Kim the First, Second, or Third. There is a fascination to this horrible family that makes the Borgias seem like philanthropists. The Borgias certainly had better taste.

He adds:

You feel, as you look at pictures, that if only you stare long and hard enough at them, you will pluck out the heart of their mystery—an absurd notion, of course.

In his 1991 book The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World (also published as Utopias Elsewhere), Dalrymple observes closely some of his fellow delegates on that trip, commenting thus about a female cadre:

A young woman of clearly middle-class origin, who wore only black shapeless clothes and had owlish round spectacles, was shocked how people who called themselves caring could eat meat.

She was

a person of very definite opinions, including a rather poor one of the male sex in general: when she signed her name, she appended a cross to the ‘o’ it contained, to turn it into the biological symbol for female.

Dalrymple describes a couple of male delegates:

They were hard-faced communists, who dressed tough and cut their hair short so that their heads should appear as bony as possible. I overheard one of them describing a demonstration he had attended in England, in which there had also been a member of Amnesty International with a placard. ‘I went up to him and said, “I don’t believe in that bourgeois shit,” and he said, “Do you think political prisoners should be tortured and killed, then?” “Too fucking right, I do,” I said.’ The person to whom he related this charming little exchange laughed.

Dalrymple’s disgust cannot be disguised even in this propaganda film

What Dalrymple found frightening about the pair

was that their faces were contorted with hatred even as they laughed, and when they talked of killing political prisoners they meant it. They were members of a little communist groupuscule for whom Stalin was a god, not in spite of his crimes but because of them.

Dalrymple reports that the Scandinavian guests,

to my great admiration, unfurled two banners, one asking why Amnesty International was not permitted to investigate conditions in North Korea, and another expressing solidarity with the Chinese pro­-democracy students who had been massacred in Tiananmen Square. Later, when the Scandinavian marchers returned to the body of the stadium, scuffles broke out as security men tried to wrest the banners away. A few of the Scandinavians were punched and kicked.

When these scuffles broke out,

I overheard some of my fellow delegates, the hard-faced communists, express a willingness, indeed an anxiety, to join in – on the side of the North Koreans, ‘to beat the shit out of them.’

Discussing among themselves the Peking scene when the single student (since executed) stood in front of the column of tanks and held them up by moral force alone,

one of them remarked that if he had been the tank driver he would have driven ‘straight over the bastard and squashed him’. And his face showed that he meant what he said.

Dalrymple refuses to stand for the entry of the Eternal President and mouths a version of Luther’s Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir, Amen!

The foreigners, caught up in the atmosphere of hysterical self-abasement, stood up and applauded as if to save their lives. I am not by nature brave, or even unconventional, yet in the moment of Kim Il-sung’s entry I decided that I would not stand, not if everyone in the stadium should hurl abuse at me. I was so appalled by the sight and sound of 200,000 men and women worshipping a fellow mortal, abdicating their humanity, that I should rather have died than assent to this monstrous evil by standing (my mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany). There I sat; I could do no other. The terrible obedience of the crowd, uncoerced at least in the immediate sense, indicated the power of the régime, a power that seemed absolute and limitless, that had entered the very recesses of minds, that had eradicated any countervailing force.
Yet the power that was so strong Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 09.53.35
was brittle. It would only have taken 10,000 people not to have stood up for Kim Il-sung when he entered the stadium – the omission of one small act of obedience – and his power and mystique would have snapped like a twig, to remain broken and irrecoverable. My refusal to stand was a feeble, isolated gesture; but a tiny crystal thrown into a sea of saturated solution can cause an immense precipitate, and one day such a thing will happen in North Korea and everyone, wise after the event, will marvel that it didn’t happen sooner.

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Jean Améry

What’s wrong with this picture?

Answer: It is not staged, but real — it offers a rare glimpse of reality. How does Dalrymple know? He explains: ‘The side-rail of the bed in which the patient lies is in terrible condition. Its white enamel and blue paint are as chipped, and the metal underneath as rusted, as they would have been in, say, Mauritania or the Central African Republic. If it had been a proper North Korean mise-en-scène, the bed-rail would have been gleaming. The chipped enamel and paint, and the rust, give the game away.’

The proliferation of perverted sub-ideologies

A picture of hate: anti-hate-speech protester, Lewes literary festival, November 2017, in Dr (Mme) Dalrymple’s classic photograph

A million monomanias now

The totalitarian impulse, writes Dalrymple,

did not die with the Soviet Union.

Rather, it

fractured into many different monomanias.

The desire for ideology, he points out,

did not die with the failure of Marxism.

On the contrary,

the desire found its fulfillment in a variety of strange sub-ideologies. Future historians will surely find one of the strangest of these to be that of strident transsexualism.

Oxfam, criminal conspiracy

Dalrymple writes that for years he banged on that Oxfam was

a criminal organisation.

People, he says,

would roll their eyes.

He asks:

Are they rolling their eyes now?

Orgies with underage prostitutes in Haïti are, Dalrymple writes,

the least of it. The orgies are a market-driven stimulus for the Haïtian economy, if an extremely tasteless and immoral one. That is more than can be said for most of Oxfam’s activities.

Bogus charity’s extreme hypocrisy

Oxfam’s real aim, he points out,

is to provide employment to those who work for it. (Governments are of course the biggest donors to this corrupt scheme.)

Legalised fraud

Money donated to Oxfam ends up in the pockets of those who work for it, including the staff, numbering 888 at the last count, at the fake charity’s grandiloquent head office in London.

Dalrymple notes that

the hypocrisy of this legalised fraud is symbolic of very many modern activities.

Oxfam

is not the only criminal in this field, and may not be the worst. The field itself is criminal.

The Domino Theory

Dalrymple explains that according to the theory,

all the countries of Southeast Asia (and beyond) would fall to communism if one of them did so. It was therefore vital to prevent any of them from falling.

He asks:

Who can say what would have happened in Southeast Asia if the Americans had acted differently, according to some other geopolitical theory? It is not even possible definitively to decide whether the policy followed was a success or a failure. Even at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and untold destruction, to say nothing of the economic cost to America itself, it did not prevent the spread of communism in Indochina.

On the other hand, communism

spread no further, nor did it last indefinitely.

Whether its durance was longer or shorter because of the war

will remain forever a matter of speculation.

Dalrymple notes that the Domino Theory seemed to have held in Eastern Europe, though in reverse.

Brezhnev enunciated a doctrine of his own, namely that a country, once communist, could not return to capitalism.

This, Dalrymple points out, was

the Marxist equivalent of the Islamic doctrine that once Islamic, a country could not revert, which is one of the reasons why Spain, or al-Andalus, looms so large in the minds of fanatics.

But

it was obvious that once an Eastern European country had seceded from communism, the holdouts — Rumania and Albania — could not long survive.

The reasons are unprintable

Dalrymple writes that Kingsley Amis was ‘a man whom, for reasons neither interesting nor publishable, I did not much admire’.

Corbyn: cause for alarm

A damned fool — and dangerous

Dalrymple points out that the populist-Leftist leader of the opposition in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, is

an admirer of the Hugo Chávez school of solution to poverty and social problems.

Corbyn’s thought,

if such it can be called, is stuck in a primitive, almost pre-Bastiat stage.

This lifelong Castro devotee thinks that

expropriation and redistribution according to his view of what is right is the route to justice and prosperity. One might have hoped that the world had had sufficient experience of such notions to extinguish them from the human mind forever, but foolishness springs eternal.

In order to appeal

to the sentimentality of the electorate and to the xenophobic resentment of rich foreigners who can afford to speculate in London property, Corbyn is prepared to destroy his country’s reputation for probity and predictability in its laws of private property, a reputation that can be destroyed in a week but not restored in a decade, and which is vital to its prospects.

Corbyn

is dazzled by his virtuous vision, his mirage or hallucination of social justice.

There is, says Dalrymple,

no totalitarian as dangerous as he who does not realise he is one.

The moral and intellectual idiocy of Jeremy Corbyn

England faces another civil war

Dalrymple points out that the next British government might easily be formed by an admirer of Hugo Chávez, on the occasion of whose death Jeremy Corbyn stated: ‘Thanks Hugo for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world.’

Anyone who considers a man like Chávez worthy of admiration will not, says Dalrymple,

be alarmed—rather, the reverse—by any gulf in society that his ignorant economic policies will produce, a gulf far exceeding any within living memory.

Moreover,

his most fervent support comes from people so wedded to their own Original Virtue that they feel they are properly the arbiters of what may and may not be said and are therefore justified in resorting to violence to enforce their prohibitions.

Dalrymple warns:

One of the problems of this, apart from its sheer moral and intellectual idiocy, is that it will eventually call forth equal and opposite violence.

The fundamental error of Oxfam’s approach to poverty

Oxfam operates at an abysmally low moral level.

  • In Haïti, it appears to be given over to venery and the exploitation of frailty.
  • In England, its grandiloquent headquarters is bursting with overpaid, rent-seeking, ferociously avaricious staff.
  • Corruption at every level of the ‘charity’ mocks taxpayers, donors and volunteers.

But there is something else we need to bear in mind. Oxfam’s worldview is cock-eyed and harmful. Dalrymple writes:

Oxfam’s ideas of how poverty is to be overcome — by means of foreign aid — are deeply flawed. The organisation, supposedly focused on poverty, has contrived to overlook the greatest reduction in mass poverty in history, namely that which has occurred in India and China in the last 30 years, and to reflect upon how it was brought about. This reduction had nothing to do with foreign aid, or even concern for social justice.