Category Archives: transcendence

An eschatological philosophy in a post-religious world

Marxism, writes Dalrymple,

served more than one psychological purpose.

It gave those who adhered to it

the comforting feeling that they understood the inner or hidden workings of the world; that they were far superior in this understanding to those who did not adhere to it; and that they were participating in something far bigger than themselves. It gave them an illusion of transcendence.

Dalrymple points out that although many Marxists claimed that communist Russia’s downfall did not affect their faith in the truth of their secular religion,

Marxism as an intellectual system was deeply discredited by the now-undeniable failure of the Soviet Union to deliver on any of its utopian promises.

On the contrary, Marxism

provided the pretext for the murder, as well as causing the miserable living conditions, of many millions of people; and it was as implausible to deny the connection of these with Marxism as it is now to deny the connection of terrorism with Islam.

Dalrymple: I met a would-be suicide bomber

What, Dalrymple asked himself, in this man

who had not yet had the chance to put his thanatological daydream into practice could have produced as embittered a mentality—what experience of life, what thoughts, what doctrines? What fathomless depths of self-pity led him to the conclusion that only by killing himself and others could he give a noble and transcendent meaning to his existence?

Dalrymple writes that

no threat (at first sight) might deter someone who is prepared to extinguish himself to advance his cause, and who considers such self-annihilation while killing as many strangers as possible a duty, an honour, and a merit that will win ample rewards in the hereafter.

And Britain has an unknown number of such people in its midst, many of them homegrown.

Man and meaninglessness

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-27-27Lack of meaning is a serious problem in modern Man, says Dalrymple. This is so particularly in Europe.

Dalrymple asks us to consider the possible sources of meaning in people’s lives:

  • the struggle for existence. This no longer applies. It is impossible to starve in the West.
  • religion. In England, and certainly in France, it is nearly dead. England is a very irreligious country, and France is an anti-religious country. (The English are too lazy to be anti-religious; they’re just not religious.)
  • politics. Whatever you say about Marxism, it provided people with a transcendent purpose. They thought they were taking part in something bigger than themselves. They were. Unfortunately, it was something very bad.
  • Participating in or contributing to culture. There has been an almost deliberate cutting-off of people from any sense of continuation of a culture. It’s not as bad in France as in Britain.
  • patriotism. In Europe this is shunned. It is equated with the worst of excesses.

What is left? Advocates of the unitary European State try, says Dalrymple,

to make the European Project (as they call it — they never tell you what it actually is) a source of meaning, but it is no source of meaning.

Entrepreneurs of outrage

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 09.11.43Dalrymple points out that the obtuseness of outrage entrepreneurs is of course deliberate, motivated by their desire to ‘maintain their rage’. The will to outrage is very gratifying, he writes, and

precedes any object to which it might attach. Many people wait in ambush for something to feel angry about, pouncing on it with leopard-like joy (the leopard kills for pleasure and not only for food).

Outrage supposedly felt on behalf of others

  • Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 09.12.18has the appearance of selflessness, and everyone likes to feel that he is selfless
  • confers moral respectability on the desire to hate or despise something or somebody, a desire never far from the human heart
  • provides him who feels it the possibility of transcendent purpose, if he decides to work towards the elimination of the supposed cause of his outrage
  • Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 09.16.54may give him a reasonably lucrative career, if he becomes a professional campaigner or politician, for there is nothing like stirring up resentment for the creation of a political clientele.

The perfect cause, says Dalrymple, for those with free-floating outrage is anti-racism, because it puts them

automatically on the side of the angels without any need personally to sacrifice anything. You have only to accuse others of it to feel virtuous yourself. There is no defence against the accusation: the very attempt at a defence demonstrates the truth of it. It can be wielded against anybody who opposes your views. It reduces them to silence.

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 09.15.58

Mission civilisatrice

Léopoldville, 1928 Léopoldville, 1928

It ends with heads impaled on poles

In Conrad, writes Dalrymple, there is not just linguistic mastery but

a cognitive and a moral quality.

Art, entertainment, and moral purpose are indivisible.

Probity was perhaps the highest good, the moral quality Conrad admired most; for him, very distant goals diluted probity and finally dissolved it. The good that resulted from doing something with all one’s might had to be tangible or immediate, and not so far removed that it entailed or permitted the doing of evil in the name of the eventual good that it would supposedly produce.

Forced labour, Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company, Belgian Congo 1907 Forced labour, Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company, Belgian Congo 1907

The risks of distance are shown by the colonialists in Heart of Darkness.

Kurtz has grand plans for a mission civilisatrice in the depths of the primeval forest that end with decapitated heads impaled on poles.

Conrad allowed no transcendent meaning, purpose, or design to the universe:

There were no ultimate consolations for our earthly travails, except such as we can find for ourselves, and that are inevitably modest. Attempts to transgress those dimensions are intellectually absurd and practically disastrous.