Category Archives: totalitarianism

The fanatically puritanical WikiLeaks Weltanschauung

It is scarcely worth arguing against such a childish view of life

We hardly needed WikiLeaks to tell us, writes Dalrymple,

that Nicolas Sarkozy is a vulgar man with authoritarian inclinations, or that Silvio Berlusconi is interested in sex. It isn’t even particularly reassuring to have our judgments confirmed for us by US diplomatic messages, for if they had said anything different we shouldn’t have believed them.

At first there is a

slight frisson of pleasure at the discomfiture of powerful people and those in authority , a pleasure akin to that of seeing a pompously dignified man slip on a banana skin.

Censor to the world

But when this wears off,

the significance of the greatest disclosure of official documents in history—without, that is, the military downfall of a great city—becomes apparent. It is not that revelations of secrets are always unwelcome or ethically unjustified. It is not a new insight that power is likely to be abused and can only be held in check by a countervailing power, often that of public exposure.

Totalitarianism

WikiLeaks, says Dalrymple,

goes far beyond the need to expose wrongdoing, or supposed wrongdoing: it is unwittingly doing the work of totalitarianism.

The idea behind WikiLeaks

is that life should be an open book, that everything that is said and done should be immediately revealed to everybody, that there should be no secret agreements, deeds, or conversations. In the view of WikiLeaks, no one and no organisation should have anything to hide.

The effect of WikiLeaks

is likely to be profound and the opposite of what it sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one.

The possibility of secrecy is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness

WikiLeaks

will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.

The dissolution of the distinction between the private and public spheres, Dalrymple points out, is

one of the aims of totalitarianism. Opening and reading other people’s e-mails is no different from opening and reading other people’s letters.

WikiLeaks plays a role

that requires an astonishing moral grandiosity and arrogance to have assumed. Even if some evils are exposed, or some necessary truths aired, the end does not justify the means.

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Architectural totalitarianism

Modernist architecture, writes Dalrymple,

is inherently totalitarian: it brooks no other, and indeed delights to overwhelm and humiliate what went before it by size and prepotency, or by garishness and the preposterousness which it takes for originality, and which turns every townscape into the architectural equivalent of a Mickey Finn.

Puritanical vigilance of the politically correct

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-22-19-01

Николай I

Dalrymple notes that in La Russie en 1839, the Marquis de Custine wrote that Nicholas I

was both eagle and insect: eagle because he soared over society, surveying it with a sharp raptor’s eye from above, and insect because he bored himself into every crack and crevice of society from below. Nothing was too large or too small for his attention.

Political correctness is rather like that, says Dalrymple.

For the politically correct, nothing is too large or too small to escape their puritanical attention. As a consequence, we suspect that we are living an authoritarian prelude to a totalitarian future.

The totalitarian impulse

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-20-56-23Dalrymple points out that Europe’s problems are associated with

intellectual error and dishonesty — combined with a totalitarian impulse to suppress discussion.

Many subjects cannot freely be broached, with the result that

the only way of expressing disagreement with the prevailing orthodoxies and pieties is by an inchoate and destructive rage.

Islam: global force for a new totalitarianism

Emblem of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Emblem of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Dalrymple wonders whether Islam is

an intrinsically totalitarian religion.

It is worth remembering, he says,

how few of us gave any attention to it as a serious political force only twenty years ago.

He suspects that

the downfall of the Soviet Union and the consequent destruction of the possibility of socialistic nationalism as a means for poor or desperate countries (poverty and desperation not being the same thing) to escape their predicament, stimulated the rise of Islam to the position of latest utopian pretender.

There had been Islamists before the downfall of the Soviet Union,

but they offered only one bogus solution among other bogus solutions. After the downfall, Islam had the field to itself, apart from liberal democracy, which is inherently messy and unsatisfying for the lazy and impatient.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 08.03.02Islamism, Dalrymple points out,

is a real threat, made far worse by the cowardly response to it by most western governments, including that of the United States.

Take the Danish cartoon crisis, which, Dalrymple notes, was highly

significant for our civilisation and way of life in the long run. There the British and American governments failed the test miserably; de facto, they gave aid and succour to the Islamists.

As for the neo-atheists, they are right to see the threat of theocracy in Islamism, but

in attacking all religion, they are like the French government which banned not only the wearing of the headscarf in schools, but the wearing of all religious insignia, despite the fact that wearing a Star of David or a crucifix has and had a completely different social signification from wearing a headscarf. In the name of non-discrimination, the French government failed to discriminate properly: and proper discrimination is practically the whole business of life. If there were large numbers of Christians or Jews who were in favour of establishing a theocracy in France, who had a recent record of terrorism, and who terrorised each other into the wearing of crucifixes and Stars of David, then the banning of those insignia would have been justified too.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 08.06.20The wearing of the headscarf should be permitted again

when Islam has become merely one personal confession among others, without the political significance that it has now.

In attacking all religion so indiscriminately, the atheist authors are

strengthening the hand of the Islamists. In arguing that for parents to bring up a child in any religious tradition, even the mildest of Anglicanism, is to abuse a child, with the corollary that the law should forbid it, they are giving ammunition to the Islamists, who will be able with justice to say to their fellow-religionists, ‘See, it is all or nothing. If you give the secularists an inch, they will take a mile. No compromise with secularism is possible, therefore; cleave unto us.’

To suggest

that all forms of religion are equal, that they are all murderous and dangerous, is not to serve the cause of freedom and tolerance. It is to play into the hands of the very people we should most detest; it is to hand them the rhetorical tools with which they can tell the gullible that our freedoms are not genuine and that our tolerance is a masquerade. It is to do what I should previously have thought was impossible, namely in this respect to put them in the right.

UK physicians are no different from auto assembly workers

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 07.55.09Junior doctors in England, writes Dalrymple,

and increasingly senior ones, are now shift workers.

This means

there is no continuity of care, or very little, in British hospitals.

There is, of course,

no better way to ensure that young doctors do not believe themselves to be members of a profession with a glorious tradition than to turn them into clock-watchers, and patients into parcels to be handed on to the next person once the music stops.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 07.28.57Doctors have become

production line workers, no different from people who work in car factories.

Doctors turned spin doctors

Young doctors in training are aware of

the importance of spin-doctoring, for they have prepared ‘personal statements’ to get into medical school. It is an exercise in unctuous insincerity.

A lifetime of this kind of thing

will warp any character, and render it simultaneously self-righteous, politically correct in expressed views, unprincipled and ruthlessly focused on personal advancement. People with such character will be easy to herd and control.

Why is the urge to herd and control so strong in the political class? Perhaps, says Dalrymple,

it is the result of an inner emptiness and lack of deeper culture.

The result is

a soft and creeping totalitarianism.

People ground to dust

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 15.59.25Dalrymple writes that in the broad, almost deserted boulevards of today’s Pyongyang as much as in the St Petersburg of 1839, a crowd, in the words of Astolphe de Custine,

would be a revolution.

Tyrannies

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 15.53.44demand immense efforts to bring forth trifles, one of the differences between the tsarist autocracy and the totalitarian dictatorship being the absence of aesthetic judgment and taste of the latter.

Dalrymple points out that the purpose of North Korean ceremonies

is to humiliate, to force people to acknowledge their enslavement with simulated joy. Spontaneity is not the only thing abolished; sincerity follows into the dustbin of history.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 15.52.21There was a time when Dalrymple regarded North Korea as

the ne plus ultra of contemporary political deformity. In those days, Islamism was hardly a speck on the horizon.

He should have known better, for as he says,

when it comes to the forms of self-evident stupidity and self-destruction, man’s inventiveness is infinite.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 15.54.32

 

What British fascism looks like

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 07.55.55Timeservers led by scoundrels

Dalrymple grew up believing

that it couldn’t happen here; that the intrinsic decency, good sense and ironical detachment of the British would have precluded Nazism or anything like it from taking root. Now I am not so sure.

Utter vileness

does not need a numerical majority to become predominant in a society. The Nazis never had an electoral majority in Germany, yet Germany offered very little resistance to their barbarism. Evil, unlike good, is multiform. We can invent our own totalitarian evil. We have prepared the ground very well.

Hedonistic egotism, fear and resentment

form the character of a large proportion of our population, and it is a character that is ripe for exploitation. They have made themselves natural slaves.

Dalrymple recently received a circular headed New ethnic categories that began with the words,

As you may know, we are required to monitor the ethnic origins of our staff.

Who, he asks,

was this ‘we’ of whom the circular spoke: no names, only ‘the human resources unit’ (Orwell could have done no better). No decent reason for this fascistic practice was given; the ‘we are required’ being the final and irrefutable argument. It is a fair bet that not a peep of protest was uttered in the office of the ‘human resources unit’ when this circular was sent round. Would anyone have mentioned the fact that the Dutch bureaucracy’s refusal to destroy census data on the religious affiliations of the Dutch population on the eve of the German occupation greatly aided the subsequent elimination of Dutch Jewry?

Septic isle

Every public service

has been weakened by the ethos of obeying centralised orders. Doctors, teachers, the police, social workers, prison officers, crown prosecutors, university dons have all been emasculated by the ‘need’ to obey orders that they know are fatuous at best, and positively destructive or wicked at worst.

The organised lying

not only blunts critical faculties and makes it impossible to distinguish true information from false, but morally compromises those who participate in the process. The more state employees conform to the rules laid down, the more helpless and degraded they become, which is the ultimate purpose of these rules.

The public,

gorged with bread and benumbed by circuses, is indifferent. I can’t help thinking of the murder of psychiatric patients and the mentally disabled in Nazi Germany. Neither the public nor the medical profession protested to any great extent (though, instructively, those few doctors who did protest were not punished for it). This terrible crime was made possible, though not inevitable, by an entire cultural context. We, too, are creating a cultural context in which great state crimes are possible.

It could happen here

When Dalrymple sees

the routine inhumanity with which my patients are treated by the state and its various bureaucracies, often in the name of obedience to rules, I think that anything is possible in this country.

When he sees

the mobs of drunken young people who pullulate in our city centres every weekend, awaiting their evil genius to organise them into some kind of pseudo-community, and think of our offices full of potential Eichmanns, I shudder.

British fascism

will no doubt be touchy-feely rather than a boot in the face – more Kafka than Hitler – but it will be ruthless nonetheless.

Islam has nothing to say to the modern world

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.25.23For the second time in living memory, writes Dalrymple,

we find ourselves obliged by historical circumstances to examine doctrinal philosophies that, from the abstract intellectual point of view, are not worth examining. They belong, rather, to the history of human folly and credulity: which is itself, of course, an inexhaustibly interesting and important subject.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.43.06The first was Marxism; the second Islamism. Which of us, Dalrymple asks,

would have guessed thirty years ago that an inflamed and inflammatory Islamic doctrine would soon replace Marxism as the greatest challenger to liberal democracy? The vacuum left by the collapse of one totalitarian doctrine is soon filled by another.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.44.55Dalrymple hopes that Islamism

will pass from the world stage as quickly as it arrived on it. In the meantime, however, it can cause a great deal of havoc, and will not disappear spontaneously, without opposition, much of which must be conducted on the intellectual plane.

Yet

Western intellectuals have failed to examine Islam and its founder in the same light as they would examine any other religious doctrine of comparable importance.

Dalrymple believes that all forms of Islam are

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.47.53very vulnerable in the modern world to rational criticism, which is why the Islamists are so ferocious in trying to suppress such criticism. They have instinctively understood that Islam itself, while strong, is exceedingly brittle, as communism once was. They understand that, at the present time in human history, it is all or nothing. They are thus more clear-sighted than moderate Moslems.

The problem with Islam may be rooted

Image (latterly effaced) of Mohammed on frieze, Birch Memorial Clocktower (1917), Ipoh, Perak

Image (latterly effaced) of Mohammed on frieze, Birch Memorial Clocktower (1917), Ipoh, Perak

in its doctrines, its history and its founder.

Mohammed

connived at armed robbery, mass murder and the abduction of women. Of course, autres temps, autres mœurs, and it may be that, on the whole, he sometimes behaved better than his peers.

He was

a political genius: he understood what motivated men, and he developed a system of belief and practice, of social pressure and ideological terror, that meant that Islamisation once established was irreversible, at least until the present day. Leonid Brezhnev’s doctrine was that a country, once communist, could not become non-communist; how puny, historically, was the communist achievement beside that of Islam!

Part of private quarters (1578) of Sultan Murad III

Part of private quarters (1578) of Sultan Murad III

Islamic civilisation has many attractive qualities . At least at its summit, the Ottoman civilisation was

exquisite, and in the decorative arts was Western Europe’s superior for centuries.

But the quality of a civilisation

does not establish the truth of the doctrines current in it, nor the suitability of those doctrines for living in the modern world.

Judged by the abysmal standards of fifteenth century Europe, Islam

looks quite tolerant; but judged from the modern, post-Enlightenment perspective, it looks primitive.

Its attitude towards polytheists and atheists is

doctrinally abominable.

Islam

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.46.00has nothing whatever to say to the modern world, and as yet has no doctrinal means of dealing constructively with the inevitable diversity of human religion and philosophy, beyond the violent imposition of uniformity or second-class citizenship.

Can Moslems of moderate temperament find some way of reconciling their faith with the exigencies of the modern world?

The problem is that this reconciliation cannot be a mere modus vivendi; it has to be intellectually coherent and satisfying to last. Personally, I am not optimistic. Islamism is a last gasp, not a renaissance, of the religion. But last gasps can last a surprisingly long time.

The weak and vacillating West

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 13.19.52

Evil: the threat

And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out….slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. (Qur’an, 2:191)

Dalrymple writes that Islam, which was

the basis of great civilisations in the past,

has emerged

as the next potential totalitarianism.

Weak: the West's response

Weak: the West’s response

Islam in the modern world may be

intellectually nugatory,

but a large proportion of humanity is Muslim and

an aggressive and violent minority has emerged within that population with apparently very widespread, if largely passive, approval.

The leadership of western countries has, of course, shown itself to be

very weak and vacillating in the face of this, or any other, challenge.

Showdown with the kuffār

Just as Marx says that

a showdown between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is inevitable, leading to the triumph of the former and the subsequent establishment of a classless society,

so the Islamists think that

a showdown between believers and infidels is inevitable, leading to the victory of Islam, which will eliminate all religious conflict.

A brittle edifice

Dalrymple notes, however, that behind all the Islamic bluster about

the certain possession of the unique, universal and divinely ordained truth for man

is an anxiety among Mohammedans

that the whole edifice of Islam, while strong, is brittle, which explains why free enquiry is so limited in Islamic countries. There is a subliminal awareness — and perhaps not always subliminal — that free philosophical and historical debate could quickly and fatally undermine the hold of Islam on various societies.