Category Archives: vulgarity

The language of stevedores

Insults these days, writes Dalrymple,

tend to be crude and vulgar. Ours is not an age of subtlety, however technically sophisticated it may be. We prefer the elephantine to the feline.

When Donald Trump

reputedly called certain countries by an epithet that I shall not repeat, he was only employing the type of language that, to my regret, is now in very common use even among intellectuals.

Dalrymple says that

we seem either to go in for the false delicacy of political correctness, speaking as if some words were as injurious law-hammers brought down on the skull, or employ the language of stevedores or of building workers.

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The brutish Donald Trump

It is, writes Dalrymple,

true that Haiti is in many respects a terrible place, which is why so many people want to leave it. Yet it pained me to hear of it spoken of in such terms, because there is so much more to it than the vulgar epithet suggests. The history of Haiti is a moving one, the people valiant and their culture of enormous interest. I have been only twice, but it exerts a hold on the imagination that can never be released. The tragedy and glory of the country are mixed, and symbolise the tragedy and glory of human life.

If Dalrymple were a Haitian who had fled Haiti in search of a better and much easier life, he

should nevertheless not have been pleased to hear it spoken of in this dismissive way, indeed I would have been hurt by it. I do not presume to know how familiar Mr Trump is with Haitian history, culture, and so forth, although I have my suspicions; and of course he has principally to consider the interests of the United States and Americans, not those of Haiti and Haitians. But what he said was not witty or wise, it was hurtful and insulting. I cannot see the giving of offence by the mere employment of crude and vulgar language as anything but a vice, and it is difficult to say whether it is worse if the person employing it knows or does not know what he is doing. If he knows, he cannot care; and if he does not know, he is a something of a brute.

Coarseness and vulgarity of thought and of language

‘It sets upon a pedestal promiscuous and adulterous intercourse’: Mervyn Griffith-Jones

Dalrymple writes that in R v Penguin Books Ltd, the prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones,

seemed not to have noticed that society had changed since his upper-class youth.

Griffith-Jones

opened the case with such pomposity that he became a figure of fun ever afterwards,

and is remembered only for what he said in his opening remarks to the jury:

It does tend…to induce lustful thoughts. It sets upon a pedestal promiscuous and adulterous intercourse. It commends…sensuality almost as a virtue. It encourages…coarseness and vulgarity of thought and of language…It must tend to deprave…One of the ways in which you can test this book, and test it from the most liberal outlook, is to ask yourselves the question, when you have read it through, would you approve of your young sons, young daughters—because girls can read as well as boys—reading this book? Is it a book you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book you would even wish your wife and servants to read?

The court erupted in laughter, Dalrymple reminds us, and

later, after the not guilty verdict, in a debate in the House of Lords on an unsuccessful motion to strengthen the law of obscenity, one of the noble Lords was reported to have replied to the question of whether he would mind if his daughter read Lady Chatterley’s Lover that he wouldn’t mind in the least, but he would mind very much if his gamekeeper read it.

Dalrymple lands in England

Disembarking after the Channel crossing, Dalrymple notices that large numbers of young Englishwomen

have facial expressions simultaneously ovine and lupine, and bare their pudgy midriffs, with a tattooed lizard or butterfly for individuality.

They are, he says,

fried food and alcoholic Friday nights made flesh.

British vulgarity, he observes,

enters the fabric of life and seems to omit no detail.

Dalrymple walks into a small supermarket, where a spotty youth addresses him as ‘mate’. Dalrymple demands that the youth not address him thus. The cur returns

a look of sullen malevolence.

On the train, an 11-year-old girl, in tight pink leggings, keeps her feet and shoes securely on the seat next to her, under the gaze of her mother, who is tattooed, pierced in the nose and lower lip, and eating crisps. The girl’s six-year-old brother has already had his ear pierced, and wears a diamante stud in it. Dalrymple comments:

It is never too early for the English to teach their offspring vulgarity.

Vulgarity, says Dalrymple,

has its place as a counterweight to pretension, of course.

But

as a ruling national characteristic it is charmless, stupid and without virtue.

He suspects that it is connected with

the equality that we feel it necessary to pretend is our ruling political passion. Since economic equality is no longer deemed desirable, the only other equality possible is that of cultural mores; and since it is much easier to level down than up (which, after all, was once the Labour party’s aim), the middle classes can best express their political virtue by embracing and promoting the vulgarity that they assume — wrongly — was the only cultural characteristic of the proletariat.

The problem with adopting such a pose

is that if you keep it up long enough it ceases to be merely a pose. It is what you are: in the case of the English, vulgar.

The English: ugliest people in the world

Something that strikes Dalrymple every time he returns from France, where he lives much of the time, to the country of his birth is

the extreme vulgarity of the English by comparison with the French.

It is as if the English had

adopted vulgarity as a totalitarian ideology, a communism of culture rather than of the economy.

The vulgarity is

insolent, militant and triumphant. It will brook no competition and tolerate no dissent. It exercises a subliminal terror to discourage any protest. It is the ruling characteristic of England, of the prosperous as of the poor.

At the airport,

you can always tell a flight bound for England by the number of grossly fat and hideously apparelled passengers waiting to board. No man can be blamed for being ill-favoured by nature; but every man can be blamed for making the worst of himself, as the English do as a matter of principle.

Britishers are

the ugliest people in the world — but this has nothing to do with biology. Their facial expressions, their gait, their speech, their laughter, their gestures are crude. The mothers of no other nation known to me address their children in tones so lacking in tenderness and so expressive of shrewish irritability and exasperation, with voices shrill, penetrating and impossible to ignore (except, of course, for their children, who will very soon sound like them).

Britishers’ abysmal cultural and educational level

Dalrymple points in a speech (from 6:11) to Great Britain’s

obviously low general level of education, which you can see just by walking in the street.

It is very glaring from the moment he arrives in England (he lives much of the time in France). There is

a determined, ideological quality to the evident low cultural and educational level.

One finds in Britain

  • deliberate crudity, vulgarity and stupidity
  • lack of refinement of any kind
  • inability or unwillingness to learn even so simple a matter as how to address strangers with reasonable civility (all the more devastating in an economy that is highly dependent on the provision of services)

For this reason, Dalrymple explains, England will, whatever its level of unemployment,

continue to have to import labour if it wants to have simple services that work with tolerable efficiency. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you go to a large hotel with only a British staff. It’s amusing in a way.

England will continue to have to import labour if it wants to have simple services that work with tolerable efficiency

 

Indispensable faculty in those who would produce great art

Joyce’s Ulysses on one of the shelves of the personal library of Theodore Dalrymple, Ardèche, 2017

Dalrymple points out that self-censorship

does not at the moment enjoy a very happy reputation. It is associated in our minds with an avoidance—a cowardly or dishonest avoidance—of difficult or dangerous subjects: the intellectual nullity of contemporary Islam, for example, or the nature of transsexualism.

However, he argues that the faculty of self-censorship is

indispensable in those who would produce great art.

It is the sense

not merely of what should be left out, but of what should not be said.

Without self-censorship, we enter

an arms race of vulgar sensationalism.

El Greco, El expolio, 1577-79, sacristy of Toledo Cathedral

Disgusting title for a vulgar supplement of a dopey newspaper

Deeply repugnant: Dalrymple writes that How To Spend It, a glossy supplement of the Financial Times newspaper, ‘suggests what most readers are really interested in and what their tastes actually are, or what the editors and advertisers think that most readers are really interested in and what their tastes actually are. Since newspapers are hardly read any longer by anyone under 40, the supposed interests and tastes are those of an ageing, educated, wealthy, liberal-leaning minority’. The supplement is ‘devoted mostly, though not quite entirely, to fashion, a subject of about the same interest to me as the Costa Rican traffic regulations’, with ‘pictures of terminally-pouting, bored-looking, anorexic models’ and of ‘geriatric adolescents—or is it adolescent geriatrics?’

The populist appeal to envy, spite, and resentment

Dalrymple reports that

Mr McDonnell, deputy leader of the Labour party, which for the time being is in opposition, recently objected to the presence of hereditary peers in the upper house, using the crude and vulgar language typical of populist politicians anxious to demonstrate their identity with the people or the masses.

It is strange, Dalrymple adds,

how rarely Leftists who are in favour of confiscatory economic policies are condemned as populist.

Corbyn panders to the instincts of the mob

Britain, writes Dalrymple

is on a knife edge, and anti-rich demagoguery is on the upsurge.

Jeremy Corbyn

has suggested requisitioning property by fiat for reasons of social justice. Following the disastrous fire in Grenfell Tower, Corbyn proposed seizing the houses of wealthy foreigners (mostly Arabs and Russians).

Dalrymple points out that Corbyn’s policy

is to increase government spending enormously, while balancing the budget: this can only mean much higher taxation, and given his social views, this in turn can only mean taxation on the rich and even the modestly prosperous, both of whom he regards as milch cows. But unless he exercises explicit power to keep them where they are (which he would not be above attempting), they will flee, and take their capital. French exports of their rich will seem a trickle by comparison.

In Britain, says Dalrymple,

the degradation of the population has gone much further than in France. British culture, which has become one of crude and vulgar self-indulgence, is inimical to rapid improvement; and now, in addition, there has been a recrudescence of the notion that wealth derives from redistribution rather than from creation.