Category Archives: violence

In Britain, abuse will be tolerated

Compared to the old days, writes Dalrymple, England

has managed the difficult trick of being both much richer and much nastier.

He remembers an Indian doctor in the hospital where he worked half a century ago,

whose exceptional sweetness of character inspired the instant affection of all who met him, telling me that he considered Britain the most civilised country.

No one, Dalrymple points out,

could make that mistake now, not for an instant, for even at the airport at which he arrived he will have noticed prominent written warnings to the British public that violence or abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated: meaning, of course, that in most instances it will be ignored.

From having been among the most self-controlled populations in the world, the British

have gone in half a century to being among the least self-controlled.

Dalrymple notes that the British population is also

the most spied-upon. Britain has almost as many closed-circuit television cameras installed as the rest of the world put together, but they seem to have hardly any effect on the general level of civility. Testifying quite often in court as an expert witness in murder trials, I am astonished to discover in the course of those trials just how much of British life now takes place on camera: every Briton, indeed, spends more time on screen than the most ubiquitous of film stars, whether he knows and approves of it or not.

At the same time,

menace and incompetence have become the twin characteristics of British officialdom.

Dalrymple reflects that societies fall apart when (among other causes)

their ruling élites, political and intellectual, lose faith in their own right or duty to prescribe standards. They become Hamlet-like: the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and they become persuaded that generosity of spirit and broad-mindedness are the only true virtues, even if they result in paralysis in the face of disorder, with all the accompanying miseries of those who suffer it.

Enfeebled England

Sinking further into moral squalor

Why is Britain so lacking in moral confidence? (In this, it is only the worst case of a malaise in the West.) Dalrymple points to the expansion of tertiary education, especially in non-technical subjects. He notes that large numbers of people

have been educated in injustice and grievance studies, which have had for their effect the dissolution of a sense of human beings as agents rather than victimised vectors of forces.

If murderers and other violent criminals behave in the way that they do,

it must be (sociology, psychology, and criminology teach) because of social forces beyond their control. Hence it is unjust to inflict punishment upon them. Punishment can only be justified where a man is a free agent and could have done otherwise; since he is never a free agent and could never have done otherwise, punishment is never justified. Millions now believe this.

Pusillanimity in the face of violent crime

Glamour of ultra-violence

Dalrymple writes that when, as a medical student, he emerged from the cinema having seen the 1971 film of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange (1962),

I was astonished and horrified to see a group of young men outside dressed up as droogs.

He explains that in England, the film’s detractors

wanted it banned, charging that it glamourised and thereby promoted violence.

Anthony Burgess: his A Clockwork Orange (1962) remains a novel of immense power. Linguistically inventive, socially prophetic, and philosophically profound, it comes very close to being a work of genius.

The young men dressed as droogs

seemed to confirm the charge, though of course it is one thing to imitate a form of dress and quite another to imitate behaviour.

Still,

even a merely sartorial identification with psychopathic violence shocked me, for it implied an imaginative sympathy with such violence; and seeing those young men outside the cinema was my first intimation that art, literature, and ideas might have profound—and not necessarily favourable—social consequences.

Dalrymple notes that Burgess came to dislike the novel

because he did not want to go down in literary history as the author of a book made famous, or notorious, by a film.

The fatuity and nastiness of Leon Trotsky

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-47-13Dalrymple examines Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution (1924), and finds it

stuffed full of exceptionally nasty sentiments and half-baked adolescent ideas, with violence seeping out of every figure of speech.

He cites its peroration:

It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. All the arts — literature, drama, painting, music and architecture — will lend this process beautiful form. More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonised, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-51-49This sort of thing, Dalrymple notes, is

deeply fatuous.

Compared with such tosh, he says,

Ella Wheeler Wilcox is Plato.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-55-27

The English then and now

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 09.00.33Once, writes Dalrymple, the qualities of the English population included

  • cool and ironic detachment from its own experience, that permitted it to face adversity with great good humour and modesty rather than by resort to histrionics
  • a polite restraint that was a precondition of depth of character. This restraint seemed to me heroic in an undemonstrative way; it was also the guarantor of an implicit subtlety

Today the chief characteristics of the English, Dalrymple points out, are

  • militant vulgarity
  • lack of restraint
  • arrogant loudness
  • ferocious and determined drunkenness
  • antisocial egotism
  • aggression and quick resort to violence
  • grossness of appetites
  • prideful ugliness of appearance
  • lack of finesse in any department of human existence

Doctrine that points the way to revenge

Imagine yourself, writes Dalrymple, a youth in Les Tarterêts or Les Musiciens,

  • intellectually alert but not well educated
  • believing yourself to be despised because of your origins by the larger society that you were born into
  • permanently condemned to unemployment by the system that contemptuously feeds and clothes you
  • surrounded by a contemptible nihilistic culture of despair, violence, and crime

Is it not possible, he says, that you would seek a doctrine that would

  • explain your predicament
  • justify your wrath
  • point the way towards your revenge
  • guarantee your salvation

Might you not

seek a ‘worthwhile’ direction for the energy, hatred, and violence seething within you, a direction that would enable you to do evil in the name of ultimate good?

Les Tarterêts

Les Tarterêts

Lust

Jheronimus Bosch, Tuin der lusten (detail), between 1490 and 1510. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Jheronimus Bosch, Tuin der lusten (detail). Between 1490 and 1510. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Lust is a nearly universal human experience, Dalrymple points out. What is new, he notes, is

the loss of awareness of its status as a cardinal sin and of the disastrous consequences likely to follow when it becomes the principal guide of action.

Some must live in a world

in which, thanks to state support, there is little other guide in this important area of life—or none more important.

The moral grandeur of Western leaders

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 08.07.27The honour of being governed by the likes of these

Thank heaven, writes Dalrymple, for our enlightened Western leaders, with their

profound — and profoundly humane — views

on the matter of, for instance, criminal justice.

They see things all so clearly.

Finding himself in the West Country, Dalrymple picks up a local paper, the Western Daily Press, and lights on the following report:

A Chard [near Yeovil] teenager has been jailed for his part in what a judge called ‘an horrendous attack’ on a vulnerable and defenceless man with autism. Daniel Rodrigues, 18, of Beckington Crescent, and two co-defendants subjected their victim to a ‘brutal’ attack after a bout of heavy drinking. A police officer who attended the blood-spattered scene in a flat said it was ‘like something out of a horror movie’, Taunton Crown Court was told. All three attackers had blood on them and at one time they were all hitting their 20-year-old victim, Robert Macdonald, at the same time.

Macdonald was struck over the head a number of times with an iron bar and was taken to hospital with multiple cuts to his forehead, face and scalp, said Fiona Elder, prosecuting. Forensic scientists found he had been hit while already bleeding. He needed surgery with a general anaesthetic and a blood transfusion. In a victim impact statement, he said the vision in one eye was affected, he had scars to his face and head and had to move away from Taunton because he felt so scared.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 08.08.51Rodrigues, the paper reports,

was jailed for 15 months for inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Dalrymple explains that in other words, Rodrigues will serve

at most 7½ months in prison (remission of 50% is an inalienable right) and quite possibly fewer, if he is granted early release.

Dalrymple asks:

If he gets 7½ months for a crime like his, which sentence must lesser criminals, such as mere burglars, get?

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 08.19.23Punishment, he says,

must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence; and surely anyone can see that to send a burglar to prison for (say) six weeks is utterly futile. It follows from this that to send Rodrigues to prison is itself totally pointless; Rodrigues ought to be released at once, to prevent the terrible absurdity, the mockery, of it all.

Primitive punishment impulse is overcome

Thank heaven, writes Dalrymple, that

we have a justice secretary who sees this all clearly. Really it is an honour for a population to be ruled by people of so deep an insight, so sincere a compassion and so uncompromising a realism. We may be proud of our state that it has at last overcome the primitive impulse to punish, incarcerate and incapacitate young men like Rodrigues, who so badly need help. Pity about Robert Macdonald, the victim of the attack, but the question we must surely all ask ourselves is, Did he have a triple lock on his front door? And if not, why not?

 

The human rights of drunken, violent youths

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.50.20An incident outside the Cirio

Belgian beer, Dalrymple points out, is

nectar.

In order to partake of some while enjoying the ambiance of the place, he and his wife pay a visit to the Cirio,

a fin de siècle establishment in the heart of Brussels.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.01.20As the Dalrymples emerge, greatly refreshed one imagines, from the bar, an inebriated student, who is celebrating the university’s special day,

throws a glass at us and other people nearby. It shatters on the ground in front of us.

A number of people could have been badly injured.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.06.04Policemen who happened to be in the vicinity

charge after the student, who sobers up at once in his flight into the crowd.

But Dalrymple makes this shocking statement:

I confess, though I am ashamed to admit it, that when I saw the police giving chase, my first thoughts were not of the student’s human rights.

 

A nasty drunk inclined to bullying and violence

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.29.58Also a snob and a social climber.

One critic said that no one who knew him ever liked him, although others have denied this. It is rare for anyone to be disliked by everyone.

Dalrymple on John O’Hara, who was

the son of a surgeon, Patrick O’Hara. The father wanted the son to follow in the profession, but he would have none of it, even rejecting his father’s offer of $10,000 if he would do so. O’Hara junior said that he wanted to be a writer; his father said that no good would come of it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.23.15 Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.21.30 Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 22.24.26