Category Archives: uniformity

The opinion that dare not speak its name

Freedom is slavery

Diversity is uniformity

Tolerance is conformity

In today’s America, writes Dalrymple, you can have any opinion you like as long as it is a socially liberal one. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in the dustbin of history.

The view, for example, that homosexuals should not be permitted to conduct ceremonies that ape the institution of marriage

is now so outré, so utterly beyond the pale, that nobody is allowed to espouse it in public and keep his job.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live

If you enunciate such a view, you will be treated as if you had

pronounced himself in favour of lynching or slavery. No decent person can hold such an opinion.

The magazine Forbes judges that if you give voice to such thoughtcrime, you may be able to save your job, but only if you issue a recantation and an apology. Forbes thus, Dalrymple notes,

is the place at which billionaire capitalism meets the Maoist Cultural Revolution.

Deny for a second that legalisation of homosexual marriage is fully in the interests of natural justice, humanity and civilisation, and you will be, Forbes believes, ‘on the wrong side of history’. In other words, homosexual marriage

is not so much a legislative choice as an institution whose development was teleologically immanent in the whole of human history. It is what the Second World War was all about, though the soldiers who fought in it didn’t realise it.

Dustbin of history

Wanted: egalitarian-élitist with a good sense of humour

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 15.25.19Dalrymple enjoys Paul Hollander’s 2008 work The Only Superpower: Reflections on Strength, Weakness and Anti-Americanism, especially the analysis of the personal advertisements in the Review of Books of New York.

The personal adverts

suggest a degree of social isolation: substantial numbers of people are unable to find partners by the customary routes of work, friendship, community, and so forth.

The self-descriptions of the people who place the personal ads

are revealing of the tastes, worldview, and ideals of a sector of the population that is important well beyond its demographic size.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 16.04.23The ‘personals’

give a powerful impression not so much of hypocrisy as of lack of self-knowledge.

The ads’ authors

claim to be profoundly individual, yet there is an underlying uniformity and conventionality to everything that they say about themselves. Their desire to escape convention is deeply conventional.

Their opinions

are democratic, but their tastes are exclusive. Tuscany and good claret mean more to them than beach resorts and the Boston Red Sox.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 16.10.11They think of themselves as funny

and demand humour in others, but they succeed in conveying only earnestness and the impression of deadening solemnity. (Demanding that someone be funny is a bit like demanding that he be natural for the camera.)

Contented with,

and even complacent about, their position in the world, they somehow see themselves as enemies of the status quo. They are ideologically egalitarian, but psychologically élitist: Lord, make everyone equal, but not just yet.

With their memories of the 60s,

when to be young was very heaven, they still believe that an oppositional stance in pursuit of perfection is virtuous in itself—indeed, is the prime or sole content of virtue. And it is this belief that makes genuine moral reflection about the nature of various governments and policies impossible. It transforms merely personal discontents into matters of supposedly great general importance.

The collectivist rot in Britain

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 07.54.19An infantilised people

Its sense of irony, writes Dalrymple, once protected the British population

from infatuation with utopian dreams and unrealistic expectations.

But the English are sadly changed.

A sense of irony is the first victim of utopian dreams. The British tolerance of eccentricity has also evaporated; uniformity is what they want now, and are prepared informally to impose. They tolerate no deviation in taste or appearance from themselves.

The pressure to conform

to the canons of (lack of) popular taste has never been stronger. Those without interest in soccer hardly dare mention it in public. A dispiriting uniformity of character, deeply shallow, has settled over a land once richer in eccentrics than any other. No more Edward Lears for us: we prefer notoriety to oddity now.

The English are no longer sturdily independent as individuals, either. They now

feel no shame or even unease at accepting government handouts. (40% of them receive such handouts.)

Many Britons

see no difference between work and parasitism.

They are left with

very little of importance to decide for themselves, even in their private spheres.

The State

  • educates them (at least nominally)
  • provides for them in old age
  • frees them of the need to save money (doing so is in many cases made uneconomic)
  • treats them when they are ill
  • houses them if they cannot afford housing

Their choices

concern only sex and shopping.

No wonder, says Dalrymple, that the British

have changed in character, their sturdy independence replaced with passivity, querulousness, or even, at the lower reaches of society, a sullen resentment that not enough has been or is being done for them. For those at the bottom, such money as they receive is pocket money, reserved for the satisfaction of whims. They are infantilised. If they behave irresponsibly it is because both the rewards for behaving responsibly and the penalties for behaving irresponsibly have vanished.

Such people

come to live in a limbo in which there is nothing much to hope or strive for and nothing much to fear or lose. Private property and consumerism coexist with collectivism, and freedom for many people means little more than choice among goods. The free market, as Hayek did not foresee, has flourished alongside collectivism.