Category Archives: youth

Dalrymple’s first encounter with the Mohammedan world

It was, he writes,

as a callow youth half a century ago. I recognised at once that it was very different from the world I had known, but it never crossed my mind for an instant that it ought to be made similar to or identical with my world.

Nor did it occur to Dalrymple that at least some of the people that he met

thought that my world ought to be made similar to or identical with theirs simply because they believed themselves in possession of a universal religious truth.

As far as the young Dalrymple was concerned,

east was still east and west was still west, and never the twain would clash.

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The two endings of A Clockwork Orange

Getting wenches with child: Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale: Act 3, Scene 3

In the American version of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, Alex resumes his life as gang leader after his head injury undoes the influence of the Ludovico Method. He returns, Dalrymple notes,

to what he was before, once more able to listen to classical music (Beethoven’s Ninth) and fantasise violence without any conditioned nausea. An authentic psychopath rather than a conditioned, and therefore inauthentic, goody-goody. Authenticity and self-direction are thus made to be the highest goods, regardless of how they are expressed.

This,

at least in Britain, has become a prevailing orthodoxy among the young. If, as I have done, you ask the aggressive young drunks who congregate by the thousand in every British town or city on a Saturday night why they do so, or British soccer fans why they conduct themselves so menacingly, they will reply that they are expressing themselves, as if there were nothing further to be said on the matter.

Anthony Burgess

In the British version, Alex

begins to lose his taste for violence spontaneously, when he sees a happy, normal couple in a café, one of whom is a former associate. Thereafter, Alex begins to imagine a different life for himself and to fantasise a life that includes tenderness.

Burgess

obviously prefers a reformation that comes spontaneously from within, as it does in the last chapter, to one that comes from without, by application of the Ludovico Method.

The novelist also suggests

the somewhat comforting message, at odds with all that has gone before, that Alex’s violence is nothing new in the world and that the transformation of immature, violent, and solipsistic young men into mature, peaceful, and considerate older men will continue forever, as it has done in the past, because deep inside there is a well of goodness, man having been born with original virtue rather than original sin (this is the Pelagian heresy, to which Burgess admitted that he was attracted). This, surely, is partly right. Criminality, statistically speaking, is an activity of the young, and there were few prisoners in the prison in which I worked who had been incarcerated for a crime committed after age 35. There seems to be a biological dimension to common-or-garden wrongdoing.

But, says Dalrymple,

a quietistic message—cheerful insofar as it implies that violence among young men is but a passing phase of their life and that the current era is no worse in this respect than any past age, and pessimistic in the sense that a reduction of the overall level of violence is impossible—is greatly at odds with the socially prophetic aspect of A Clockwork Orange, which repeatedly warns that the coming new youth culture, shallow and worthless, will be unprecedentedly violent and antisocial. And of Britain, at least, Burgess was certainly right.

Different endings: the UK and US editions

The nation’s future

A snapshot of the social and cultural life of a portion of the youth of Great Britain

Attempting to clear up his study, Dalrymple comes across a document

which I must once have studied carefully though it left no trace in my mind.

It was

the dossier on a case of assault and criminal damage in which I had been asked to prepare a medical report on the perpetrator (mostly I prepared reports on murderers).

The reply of the accused reads in part:

We were having a drink, drinking bottles of beer, having a laugh, having a mixture of Jack Daniel’s and coke, Southern Comfort and lemonade and basically having shots in every round and drinking bottles of beer and that, having a laugh pulling birds, having a dance and that, having a chat, and, er, I had an argument with my ex-girlfriend who was working behind the bar. She told me to fuck off and said something to me, so I spat at her. One of the I think it was the bar manager that come out and grip me up. We were having a little scuffle and he threw me out. I was outside having an argument with the bouncers, that’s when John got dragged out by the bouncers and threw up the fence and that, so we were there for about twenty minutes and that, arguing with the bouncers. I said to John, I ain’t having this man, she got me threw out for nothing I said, the silly bitch. I said, fucking started an argument on me, so I said I’m going to go and smash her car up. So, er, we walked off and, er, I went round the back of the bar, where all of the cars are parked. I seen her car, I walked back and said to the two lads who were waiting, I said here, I’ve found the car. I’m gonna get a brick so I can smash her window. So I went over the road, picked up a brick, walked back to her car, smashed the window. I threw it at another window, it didn’t smash, so I picked it up again, threw it, it smashed the driver’s side window. I said to them two lads, carry on…

Dalrymple comments:

It was all the girl’s fault, of course. If she hadn’t offended him in the bar, he wouldn’t have behaved like this. This, more or less, is the argument offered by the defenders, or at least extenuators, of Muslim terrorists who attack those who offend them, and also by those who believe that taking offence at something someone has said justifies aggressive or violent reaction. Some people delight to take offence. It gives them licence (they think) to behave badly, which is what they always wanted to do anyway.

Error and even malice are the price of freedom

In the realm of intellectual freedom, writes Dalrymple,

it is not truth that sets you free, but error, or rather the permissibility of error.

The freedom to tell lies

is one of the most basic freedoms. There can be no freedom without it.

Dalrymple points out that at Western universities, young people

encounter a narrow, powerfully self-reinforcing view of the world.

The pressure to conform

adds to the natural self-righteousness of youth, which is often mistaken for idealism, and young people’s impulse to censor in the name of their irreproachable virtue is strengthened and entrenched.

The long-term prospects for freedom of speech, Dalrymple notes,

are not altogether rosy. Those who value it are less vehement in their defence of it than are the self-righteous in their assault on it.

The intolerable young

Dalrymple writes that he feels

a cleavage between my generation and that of young adults today.

He does not understand, and does not like, their

  • tastes
  • ambitions
  • enjoyments
  • sorrows
  • opinions
  • humour

Britain’s lumpenintelligentsia at play

The soul of modern British youth: half Jellyby, half Marie Antoinette

The Glastonbury Festival, writes Dalrymple,

is a mass gathering not of youthful idealists, but of moral and intellectual hybrids of Marie Antoinette and Mrs Jellyby.

The festival, Dalrymple explains, is

a large gathering of the British lumpenintelligentsia come to celebrate its appalling taste in music, in a place vaguely associated with druidism, the healing chakras of the earth, Hopi ear candles, that kind of thing: ideal for people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.

It often rains during the festival. Dalrymple comments:

Rain improves the behaviour of young British people: it discourages them from leaving their homes. (Rain is also almost the only prophylaxis nowadays in Britain against crime.)

This year at the festival, the lumpenintelligentsia

was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn. He enthused the massed ranks of youthful idealists by telling them that another world was possible. It was, for when they departed Glastonbury, they left behind them so much litter in this corner of rural England that it made a rubbish dump in Mexico City seem like Switzerland.

The Glastonbury mob contentedly wallowed in this rubbish

for days. Horrified by CO2 emissions and rising temperatures, they failed to notice what was about their very feet, and certainly did nothing about it. They slept contentedly among it, too exhausted by their idealism and labours of licentiousness to apply their minds to anything as lowly as the litter that they dropped, as cows defæcate in fields. It was for others to pick up their rubbish after them: that is what social justice required.

Dalrymple notes that among British youth,

mass concern for social justice and the fate of the planet is combined with indifference to immediate surroundings.

The lumpenintelligentsia also, Dalrymple points out,

plays at being prole, though never with the intention of remaining at the bottom rung of society for any length of time, let alone permanently (and certainly not economically).

British youth, says Dalrymple,

have gone further in self-proletarianisation than any other I know. In their imitation of the proles (which they think virtuous), they demonstrate how they really conceive of them: vulgar, dirty, coarse, and foulmouthed. Genuine proletarians are, or were, not at all like this—not en masse, not as the lumpenintelligentsia now is.

Though it operate from a minuscule base, the party can succeed

Coming across the above in Simon Leys’ 1996 essay ‘The Art of Reading Non-Existent Inscriptions Written in Invisible Ink on a Blank Page’, Dalrymple asks: ‘Does this passage call to mind anything in the current condition of Great Britain? Of course, analogies are never quite exact (which is why they are only analogies). Mr Corbyn is no Mao Tse-tung: he washes more regularly for one thing, and unlike Mao I doubt that he has the courage of his cruelty. It is going too far to call the British authorities brutal. Finally, I do not think that anyone who knew them would call British youth generous or idealistic. The mess left behind by British youth at Glastonbury after the festival should be enough to disillusion anyone on that score. And yet, all the same, the passage has a certain resonance. If we are not careful, we shall soon experience our own Great Leap Forward — into the abyss, of course, though more gently than the Chinese.’

Dalrymple: why I voted Leave

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-14-10-23Dalrymple explains in an interview (from 1:02) that in England, as in many other countries, there is a sense that

the political and intellectual élite has formed itself into a caste that is completely separate from the rest of the population.

Dalrymple voted Leave in the 2016 UK European Union membership referendum

for political reasons. The EU is a political project which will reinforce this tendency to have a small caste that is separate. You only have to go to Brussels or Strasbourg to see people who haven’t paid for their own lunch for 40 years, who’ve never seen anything except from the back of an official car. There’s no possible way of the EU being even minimally democratic, of having checks and balances.

Dalrymple points out that the founders of the EU

intended this from the very first. They knew better; they did not think the population should have any say. We can see this when referenda are held: the result is always against what the political élite wants — and the political élite takes no notice.

On the subject of the young English people who voted Remain, Dalrymple says that these youths

were of the part of the population that expects to benefit from our highly corporatist State. They expect to be, or will be, in the élite, which is why they are in favour of schemes that are in the interests of the élite.

Young middle-class British Remainers claim to be concerned about ‘the future’, but, says Dalrymple,

if you look at Greece, what future do young Greeks have? 50% of the young in Greece are unemployed. In Spain it’s 45%, in Italy 25%.

This does not worry young middle-class Britons.

It doesn’t worry them because they are not going to be among the 45% who are unemployed.

It does not worry them because they are

not of the youth-unemployment class.

A whining pretension to goodness

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 15.44.03

From Johnson’s 1755 dictionary

Dalrymple says his father

was always espousing great and grand principles expressive of his love for humanity, but had difficulty in expressing love for anyone in particular.

Dalrymple points out that cant, or humbug,

stands in the way of achieving an authentic relationship with the world. To be a humbug is to wear distorting lenses.

He confesses that

I am a humbug on occasion, and in my youth was a humbug practically all the time. Youth is the golden age of humbug — the expression of supposedly generous emotions that it has to a much lesser extent than claimed.

Dalrymple explains the difference between hypocrisy and cant.

  • Johnson

    Ibid.

    hypocrisy is, or can be, a social virtue. To express a sympathy or an interest that you do not in the slightest feel can be almost heroic when it is done for humane reasons, and is often socially necessary. Hypocrisy is to social life what oil is to axles

  • cant is always poisonous, among other reasons because it is designed to deceive not only others but ourselves. It doesn’t entirely succeed in this latter task because a still, small voice tells us that we are canting, to which our preferred solution is often to cant harder, like drowning out something we don’t want to hear by turning up the wireless. That is why there is so much shrillness: people are defending themselves against the horrible thought that they don’t really believe what they are saying

There is no subject, says Dalrymple, to which cant attaches more than humanity.

Who will admit that he doesn’t love humanity, that it wouldn’t matter to him in the slightest if half of it disappeared, that he can sit through the news of the worst disaster imaginable (provided far away) and eat his dinner with good appetite?

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 15.28.36

José de Páez, Sacred Heart of Jesus with St Ignatius of Loyola and St Aloysius Gonzaga, Mexico, c. 1770

No,

in order to be a good person you have to pretend to be lacerated by awareness of suffering anywhere and show your wounds like Christ showing his heart in one of the Baroque Spanish colonial paintings.

But in fact

most people do not love humanity; misanthropy is far more widespread than love of humanity.

As soon as we are in the public arena,

we must start to mouth sentiments that are not ours in words that mean nothing. We start to cant. We must display the wounds we feel at the imperfections of the world. We must award ourselves, and pronounce, creditable motives that we know are not ours.

Commercial concerns

are in the canting game. They claim to be working to bring about greater equality, survival of rainforests, amelioration of climate change, participation of fat children in sport, and anything other than their true aim, which is mostly to sell products that are superfluous to people who don’t need them. (I accept that this is the necessary force that makes our economic world go round.)

We are now

chronically humanitarian.

The world is rotten but I am not

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 23.39.11

The student prig’s moral grandiosity has a coercive quality, for he has liberated his inner totalitarian

Such, writes Dalrymple, is what the student prig, in his self-importance and complacency, wishes to communicate.

The student prig’s chief aim is to convey

the militant purity of his heart and soul. The world is rotten, he is saying—but I am not. I am pure. If the rottenness continues, it won’t be because of me.

Awareness of his virtue shines from the student prig’s face.

He glows with it, virtue for him consisting of the public expression of the correct sentiments. Virtue requires no discipline, no sacrifice other than of a little time and energy, instantly rewarded by the exhibition of his goodness.

The painlessness of virtue as the expression of correct sentiment is its chief attraction for the student prig.

Who would not wish to achieve goodness merely by means of a few gestures, verbal or otherwise? In that way, you can avoid genuine self-examination.

The student prig

feels a youthful impatience with the intractability of the world, hence a desire that its problems should be solved by symbolic means. This desire partakes of magical thinking: incantations will bend reality in the desired direction.

The student prig’s

moral grandiosity has a coercive quality. His virtue gives him the locus standi to dictate to others for the good of humanity. The expression he wears is that of someone who has liberated his inner totalitarian.

Well, much may be forgiven youth, says Dalrymple. But what is craven is

for older people in positions of responsibility to surrender to youth, even if the once in their lives that they were young happened to be in the 1960s.