Het eenzame hart: curlygirl24

Dalrymple schrijft:

De Britse krant de Guardian, ongeveer vergelijkbaar met de Volkskrant, heeft een website voor mensen die een partner zoeken. Die mensen krijgen de gelegenheid zichzelf te beschrijven om zich voor anderen aantrekkelijk te maken. Hoewel zo’n beschrijving niet helemaal waar hoeft te zijn – zo zegt iedereen een goed gevoel voor humor te hebben – geven deze zelfportretjes ons toch enig inzicht in wat mensen denken dat anderen aantrekkelijk vinden.

Onlangs las ik zo’n zelfportretje van een vrouw van 30 die als nom d’internet had gekozen voor ‘curlygirl24’. Laat ik hieraan toevoegen dat de Guardian voornamelijk wordt gelezen door mensen die tot de 5 procent hoogstopgeleiden van de bevolking horen. Inderdaad hebben alle gebruikers van de datingwebsite een beroep in de artistieke, intellectuele of wetenschappelijke sfeer, althans dat beweren ze.

Dit had curlygirl24 over zichzelf te melden, en bedenk dat ze hier probeert aantrekkelijk te zijn voor anderen: ‘Ze zeggen wel over mij dat ik een paradox ben: ik heb de emotionele vaagheid die je als meisje nu eenmaal hebt, naast het vermogen om heel veel te drinken zonder om te vallen en daarbij mijn vrienden en willekeurige onbekenden in de zeik te nemen.’

Anders gezegd: ze veronderstelt dat een man zich tot haar aangetrokken zal voelen door haar vermogen of bereidheid om wildvreemde mensen grof te bejegenen. Dat is toch een interessant commentaar op de cultuur waarin zij denkt te leven. In dezelfde beschrijving van zichzelf zegt ze dat ze financieel journalist is, toch geen betrekking voor iemand zonder opleiding. Curlygirl24 behoort dus tot de intellectuele elite. Wat voor cultuur kun je verwachten van een elite die bewust prat gaat op het in dronken toestand beledigen van onbekenden?

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The BBC is the real villain of football’s commercialisation

Dalrymple notes that the British state broadcaster, which is funded by a poll tax, pays hundreds of millions of pounds a year for its right to televise association football matches. He asks:

What on earth is a public body doing, funnelling huge sums from taxpayers’ pockets into organisations that could perfectly well stand commercially on their own two feet, and that require no public subsidy to survive and prosper?

He points out that the BBC

acts to drive up the very price of the rights it seeks, in order to provide a service that could perfectly well be provided without it.

He likens the state broadcasting poll tax, or ‘licence fee’, to foreign aid. It is, he says,

the means by which the poor in a rich country subsidise the rich in a rich country.

Fatuity can go no further

Twenty thousand cretins

Many decent people, writes Dalrymple, are

viscerally disgusted by the vast salaries paid to star footballers.

What also appalls is

the general culture of which football is now so large a part. (Such British newspapers as the Times and the Guardian devote more space to football than to all foreign affairs.)

There is

the sheer idiocy and bad taste of 20,000 morons who are prepared to shell out good money for shirts with Neymar’s name printed on it, and who find Neymar himself so fascinating — though it is unlikely that he is exceptional in anything other than his ability to kick a football — that they are prepared to spend their spare time reading about him.

The problem of slim-ism in the theatrical profession

Dalrymple points out that a high proportion of the population are very corpulent,

and quite a number are grossly obese.

Yet

how often do you see plays written by the fat, acted by the fat, directed by the fat, and of interest to the fat? There is no intrinsic connection between being slim and literary or acting ability. There is abundant evidence of widespread prejudice against the fat, and it is surely time that this was overcome.

Dalrymple’s view is that at least 10% of playwrights, actors, and directors ought to suffer from type 2 diabetes.

The NHS must cease to be our state religion

Holy cow! Common sense about Britain’s health service

Among the myths about the UK’s National Health Service, Dalrymple notes,

is that, before it started, there was no decent healthcare to speak of. This is false. The health of the population improved at the same rate before the NHS as after it. Horror stories could be told about healthcare before the NHS, of course, but they are not lacking afterwards either.

There is no more reason to worship the NHS, he writes, than to worship

the Inland Revenue or the Department of Fisheries and Agriculture. It is not the product of some Immaculate Conception. It is not heresy to doubt its perfection. It has its advantages and its disadvantages, and at the moment its disadvantages are becoming more obvious.

The slogan ‘Save our NHS’ is therefore completely wrong.

It asks the wrong question, and if you ask the wrong ­question you will get the wrong answer. You might as well say ‘Save our old ­typewriters’. It is not a question of saving anything — it is a question of improving our healthcare, preferably so that it is not always struggling at the bottom of the European league, as it has been now for several decades.

It is time we stopped treating the NHS as a golden calf

Dalrymple points out that

no system is perfect and people ­grumble everywhere. But the NHS makes paupers of us all, in that we must accept what we are given. Often what we are given is good, but often it is not. We need to look honestly at all other healthcare systems. The Singaporean one combines high quality with low cost while still serving all of the population, and the Germans ­combine statutory health insurance with private funding. We shall have to stop pretending that we can run a service that is both ­universal — covering ­everything medical that can ­possibly be done — and is also free at the point of use. If we insist on such a system, the only thing that will be universal will be our continued second-rateness.

The first absolutely necessary step, Dalrymple says,

is to stop worshipping the NHS as if it were a god. If we do not stop thinking of it as the envy of the world, we shall never be able to change it for something better, because no government will dare even to try.

Brain tumour? You’re better off in Zagreb

Dalrymple notes that survival after several diseases — ­various cancers, heart attacks and strokes — is lower in Britain than in most western European countries. Germany spends almost twice as much per head on cancer treatment as the UK. And if you have brain cancer in the UK, your chance of surviving five years is 26.3%, while in Croatia it is 42.2%.

He points out that by international comparison, the performance of the National Health Service

is mediocre at best. It has a dreadful reputation in the rest of western Europe, and I have never heard a ­European say he would like to be in England if he fell ill. On the ­contrary, most Europeans I know fear to meet the NHS in their hour of need.

Among Dalrymple’s friends,

some have been ­wonderfully well cared for, but ­others have been treated abominably. Even in so-called centres of excellence, there has been carelessness and ­incompetence even in things that would cost nothing to put right.

He notes that the NHS

often inflicts humiliation and suffering on people, which happens much less ­frequently or is even unknown in other ­countries.

Hospitals

are much less run-down abroad, on average, than they are in Britain, and allow for more privacy. We have 2.7 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, compared to an EU average of 5.2, and the number of CT scanners is a third of what ­neighbouring nations enjoy.

Bungling, gutless May

Does a country get the leaders that it deserves? asks Dalrymple.

If so, what does the present political disarray say about Britain? Or is it that the conditions of modern democracy guarantee the ascension of ambitious mediocrities, leaders without powers of leadership?

From the first in the Brexit negotiations, Dalrymple writes,

Theresa May, the prime minister, who had already proved her weakness and incompetence at the Home Office, showed the vision of a Chamberlain.

He points out that it it should have been obvious to her that

it was essential, in fact a matter of life and death, for the European Union to make Brexit a disaster for Britain because, were it not, then that would be a disaster for the European Union.

A prosperous Britain outside the European Union

would have destroyed the EU’s raison d’être, which was already strongly under attack. Emmanuel Macron even said that if France had held a referendum at the same time that Britain did, the result would have been a bigger majority for leaving than in Britain.

Brexit

was thus an opportunity for European politicians to demonstrate that, however unsatisfactory the Union might be, life would be worse without it.

May’s problem

was that the party she headed was itself divided on Brexit. It was here that leadership was most required and most lacking. Her weak idea was to try to satisfy both wings of her party by compromise, which predictably pleased neither. Now she pleases practically no one, but clings to power—or office, in any case—like a shipwrecked sailor clutching a raft.

Dalrymple notes that

the dangers facing the country as a result of this débâcle are enormous.

The large obstacles facing Rees-Mogg

Dalrymple writes that

the only British politician of any substance, vision, or character is Jacob Rees-Mogg.

However, Dalrymple lists three handicaps from which the MP for North East Somerset suffers.

  • He is morally conservative in a country of libertines.
  • He made a fortune in a country in which most people hate others with more money than themselves.
  • He is unrepentantly upper-class in a country in which even the well-born now pretend to be proletarian.

A proponent of a clean break with the European Union, Rees-Mogg

might not be able to unite the Tories behind him, and even if he did, he would have to face down the civil service, which from the first has been resolutely anti-Brexit (there is an international solidarity of apparatchiks).

The dread Corbyn

Britain faces, writes Dalrymple,

a danger more hazardous than any form of Brexit: a government headed by Jeremy Corbyn.

If an election were held tomorrow,

this admirer of Hugo Chávez and Hamas, and fellow-traveller of terrorists, whose political ideas remain those of a student radical c. 1970, would be elected. Perhaps he would not last long, but it would not take him long to do damage irreparable in half a lifetime, if not longer.

Top soccer players’ pharaonic salaries

The pay of leading professional association footballers causes a variety of reactions, writes Dalrymple. The large salaries turn the soccer players into celebrities. Their appearance anywhere

launches a thousand cameras, and their doings, such as crashing Ferraris into a tree half an hour after they have bought them, is an inexhaustible source of gossip in celebrity magazines.

But, Dalrymple says,

almost everyone who reflects on such things is made uneasy by their salaries — to say nothing of their non-salary incomes from endorsements and advertising. What do their incomes, earning more in a week that ten teachers in a year, tell us about our society’s scale of values?

Even the most laissez-faire liberals

sometimes feel uneasy at such colossal rewards for an activity which, while entertaining and exciting, is not, or at least ought not to be, an important part of the world’s work. Very few people are immune from the feeling that something is out of kilter.

Since, Dalrymple adds,

the whole world is now run on the oldest and most durable of political philosophies, namely that of bread and circuses, the latter are flourishing.