We sometimes write that if you only read one Dalrymple piece this week, let it be this one. That is true of this piece in Taki’s Magazine on social media over-sharing and the related ideas it illuminates: The desire to publicize the details of one’s life (only the positive ones, of course). The “thirst for significance in a mass society”. The wish for the fulfillment of contradictory and mutually-exclusive desires, such as the wish to be judged and not judged, noticed and not noticed, simultaneously. A good read.
The demand for recognition and nonrecognition at the same time is surely one of the reasons for the outbreak of mass self-mutilation in the Western world in an age of celebrity. A person who treats his face and body like an ironmongery store can hardly desire or expect that you fail to notice it, but at the same time demands that you make no comment about it, draw no conclusions from it, express no aversion toward it, and treat him no differently because of it. You must accept him as he is, however he is, because he has an inalienable right to such acceptance. As a professional burglar once asked me, how could I expect him to give up burgling when he was a burglar and burglary was what he did?
In his latest contribution to New English Review Dalrymple devises a test to determine which distastes reveal everyone’s – note: everyone’s – inner authoritarian.
Read the piece here, take the test yourself, and submit your answers in the comments section.
In the course of explaining the principles involved, he offers this (to my mind accurate and insightful) description of the current ideological warfare that marks the present moment:
With the cacophony of opinion that now seems to envelop us every minute of the day, thanks to the media of mass communication, virtue has become the expression of the right ideas, which is to say of ideas that coincide with one’s own. In the beginning was the Word, but the word is now the beginning, the middle and the end. In a logocracy such as ours, he is best whose words are best; and those who say things that differ from our opinion not merely think differently, but are bad people. Those who merely behave badly are not bad, provided they believe the right things; while even the best, kindest or most considerate of personal conduct will not save the reputation of someone who expresses incorrect ideas.
Should we be surprised that when the Glastonbury music festival recently ended, the attendees left behind a sea of trash and filth? Isn’t it overwhelmingly likely that these attendees are the same Western youth who loudly proclaim their concern for the environment and their outrage at its supposed despoilation?
Dalrymple notes their resemblance to the Dickens character Mrs. Jellyby, who expressed concern for people and events far away while ignoring the problems around her, and to Marie Antoinette, who played the part of shepherdess and proletarian:
Incidentally, 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 at least once were, not at all like this—not en masse, not as the lumpenintelligentsia now is.
An absurd ruling by the European Court of Justice: a pharmaceutical company’s vaccine against Hepatitis B was ruled to have caused a man’s multiple sclerosis, even though there is zero scientific evidence of a causal link between the two. The only evidence presented at the trial was that the man’s onset of MS occurred immediately after he took his third dose of the vaccine, a clear case of a “post hoc” fallacy, one of the most simple and obvious logical fallacies one can make. Dalrymple notes an additional problem:
Under European law, a manufacturer is liable for the harms that his product does to individuals, irrespective of any fault on his part (and assuming normal use of his product by the person harmed). It is not required that he could or should have known that his product might result in the harm. This means, of course, that he can never, quite literally, be careful enough: whatever care he takes, he may still be liable. And this fundamental injustice inherently favours large companies over small, for while the former can bear the costs of litigation, the latter cannot. Size is the only defence.
Read it here
We just received a nice email from Rebecca Bynum, publisher of New English Review, informing us that on August 1st she will release a book of short stories by Dalrymple. The Proper Procedure and Other Stories is 168 pages of 10 stories. Amazon link here.
This will be Dalrymple’s second work of fiction, after So Little Done, the first-person manifesto of a serial killer. No doubt many of us who admire his work have hoped to see more fiction from him, so this is an exciting development. He has often mentioned his deep admiration of Anton Chekhov, perhaps the master of the short story genre, and it will be interesting to see him follow in the footsteps of one of his great writer-heroes.
Dalrymple is quoted in the announcement thusly: “Some truth can be told only in the form of fiction. That is why I chose to write these stories.”
Re-reading Simon Leys, Dalrymple encounters a passage about China that might as well have been written about modern Britain, with some qualifications:
In a period of social and economic disintegration, it suffices for a tiny handful of men – less than 0.1 per cent of the population – to launch eloquent appeals to arouse popular indignation against brutal and corrupt authorities, to mobilise the generosity and idealism of youth, to rally the support of thousands of students, and finally to present a miniscule communist movement as the incarnation of the will of the entire nation.
With what result is now only too well-known.
As recent elections in the US and France show, modern politics in the Western world is filled alternately with apathy and rage, says Dalrymple at the Library of Law and Liberty:
It is hardly surprising, in the circumstances, that our elections are at most media events rather than important events in the life of citizens. Even those who bring themselves to cast a ballot will more than likely claim to be voting against someone rather than voting for the person who garnered their vote.
And yet at the same time, people who deliver themselves of the opinion that nothing changes, that our system is in a state of total paralysis, can hardly bear to be in the same room with someone of opposing political loyalties. They become murderously angry if they happen to find themselves in the company of someone ideologically uncongenial.
In other words, the battle is fought out on a purely symbolic level. Politics, far from being a practical art, has now become a theoretical matter, and we are all theorists now.
At Salisbury Review, Dalrymple writes on the recent statement by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to the effect that the Grenfell Tower tragedy was in essence an act of murder committed by politicians. Not only was McDonnell wrong, says Dalrymple, he wasn’t even trying to be right:
…Mr McDonnell was not aiming at truth in his statement, but at a kind of incitement: an incitement to a gratifying sense of moral outrage among his audience that would assist his accession to power. He was appealing to an uncritical mob mentality, and it appears that at Glastonbury, where he spoke, he found one.
Read it here
In the course of this piece in Taki’s Magazine on the wisdom of taxi drivers, Dalrymple reflects on why two African drivers in France told him they were returning to Africa….to be freer than they were in France:
But for most people, there is more to personal freedom than an ability to denounce the government without fear of retaliation, a lack of censorship, and a vote once every four or five years. Indeed, for most people most of the time these things are hardly of the first importance. Much more important to them is how self-directed they feel, and how much they may do as they choose in their daily lives. This may vary according to their position in society.
Dalrymple notes the massive exodus of French millionaires to London due to French tax policies, but warns of a potential reversal:
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 who will remain placidly in his field, waiting for him to milk them. But unless he exercises explicit power to keep them where they are (which he would not be above attempting, again, all in the name of social justice), they will flee, and take their capital with them. French exports of their rich will seem a mere trickle by comparison; and France, if Macron succeeds in his opportunism, will be a favored destination for ex-patriate Britons.