The Eyesores That Unite Us

While shopping in Istanbul, Dalrymple sorts through the tacky tourist souvenirs and has a sudden idea: We should build a National Museum of Kitsch. An example of one of its pieces:

The object that inspired my idea was an alarm clock in the form of a pink plastic mosque with gold-colored decorations on sale for three Euros on a street-stand. Its alarm was in the form of a muezzin’s call, and if it went on for long enough, if the sleeper failed to wake and to turn it off, the verses that the muezzin recited changed and his tone grew more urgent. I thought I detected a note of moral disapproval entering his call.

There were four colors of mosques to choose from: apple green, baby blue, lemon yellow, and shocking pink. It was the latter that I chose because it was the worst, if judgments of good and bad could be said to apply to this particular genre of object. A real collector, I suppose, would have bought all four.

I have seen this alarm clock and can confirm its kitschiness. Read the whole amusing piece here.

Rationalizing Discrimination

Dalrymples writes at The Library of Law and Liberty on the sticky philosophical issues involved in racial discrimination. Analyzing the case of Washington DC taxi drivers refusing service to young black male passengers, Dalrymple shows that it is unjust for such passengers to be refused service but also unjust to force taxi drivers to bear the additional risk of picking them up (assuming the statistics that show that such passengers commit violence and skip out on fares more frequently are accurate). How do you negotiate such competing injustices? There is no easy answer.

…it is a matter of judgment at what point such discrimination becomes morally reprehensible. The avoidance of a trivial risk, either because the thing avoided is itself trivial (let us say the risk of a smaller tip) or because it is statistically negligible, would certainly render such discrimination reprehensible, for then injustices would be committed for no good reason. But the precise point at which a risk is trivial is not discernible by science and depends on the point of view of the person running it. As the eminent British physician, Sir George Pickering, once put it, a minor operation is an operation performed on someone else.

Read the full piece here

Has Richard Dawkins lost the Mandate of Heaven?

The Guardian makes intemperate remarks about Professor Richard Dawkins — and even uses “sloppy and demotic” language in the process:

This is not a call for political correctness, of course; like anyone else who enters the public arena, Professor Dawkins has no right to be protected from offensive remarks. Nevertheless, he is owed a certain minimal politeness, which the author of the article, or at least of the title of the article (not necessarily the same person, of course), has not paid him.

Dalrymple at the Salisbury Review

The Reeducation of Dinesh D’Souza

Conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was recently convicted for violations of American campaign finance laws, and part of his sentence included “therapeutic counseling”. Writing for City Journal, Dalrymple takes aim at such a sentence:

If crime is illness, no limit exists to the treatment that may be employed to cure it and nothing inhibits the use of ferocious remedies to root it out. As Lewis intuited, cruelty may then be disguised as benevolence, and there is no cruelty like that which believes it is doing good.

Read the full piece here

The Scottish Play

At City Journal, Dalrymple writes that although the Scottish Nationalists lost the vote, they gained in many important respects: more powers from London including debt guarantees that the Nationalists will be able to turn into political patronage and the general incitement of increased nationalist fervor on all sides.

If the English are excluded from Scottish affairs, why should the Scots have a say in English affairs? After all, Labour governments have often been completely dependent on the Scottish vote, which explains why the Labour Party was so opposed to independence. But if England were to have its own government, the distinct possibility arises of near-permanent political conflict between the English, Scottish, and British governments. England might eventually want to break free from the Scottish millstone.

Read the piece here

Wolves in Green Clothing

Dalrymple on a story from a recent edition of Liberation:

The article recounted the story of a man, an urban ecologist, who went to live his dream of natural, organic sheep-rearing in a mountainous area of the country. He imported a flock of sheep from New Zealand and hoped to produce wool by old-fashioned means. Among his motivations, he desired to ensure that farming in France was not entirely given over to agribusiness (peasant farmers are disappearing fast from the countryside).

But the wolves have destroyed his dream. They have decimated his flock, and the struggle against them has been unequal. This is not only because killing wolves is forbidden: in fact, to kill them would not be easy because they are seldom seen…

Read the rest at the Hilarious Pessimist

Imperial Do-Gooding

While visiting the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, Dalrymple notices a sign using the term “vision-impaired”. Judging from the context, surely they meant blind. So why not use that word?

Calling the blind vision-impaired requires no actual kindness or generosity toward the blind, no actual generosity; on the contrary, it is perfectly compatible with complete indifference towards them. The blind are a small minority in the world, while those who speak are the immense majority (apart from the speech-impaired, who are often hearing-impaired as well). To interfere in the lives of everyone, to make every person just a little afraid that if he uses normal words he commits an act of cruelty or worse, gives a sense of power and meaning to those who demand that we change the way we speak.

Read it here

Will we ever see a stained glass window to Tony Blair?

Dalrymple’s newest post at his Salisbury Review blog discusses something new to me: the Fabian stained glass window at the London School of Economics. Designed by George Bernard Shaw to consecrate the Fabian program, it’s as creepy and disturbing as you might expect (see it here). Even more so, it didn’t seem to bother Tony Blair or the media at all when it was reinstalled.

The window depicts the Fabians in mediaeval costume remaking the world. The early historian of the movement, E. R. Pease, squeezes some bellows in a forge, while Sidney Webb wields an enormous mallet to a red hot globe and Shaw helps him. The scene contains the Fabian’s coat of arms: a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

Underneath the reforging of the world by Shaw and Webb, early Fabians were depicted praying to a pile of books. Among them are Fabian Essays (edited and contributed to by Shaw) and several volumes of his own plays. Shaw’s works had become holy, at least in his own estimate.

Read the entire post here

The Inexhaustible Hamlet

Dalrymple writing about Shakespeare is always a double pleasure. He’s covered Macbeth, Measure for Measure and cited the sonnets, and now in his quarterly column for City Journal, he tackles Hamlet. After a summer filled with debate about the “relatability” of his work (thanks to American radio personality Ira Glass, who stirred controversy by tweeting “Shakespeare sucks”), Dalrymple reminds us that Shakespeare’s work touches on humanity’s deepest questions:

Hamlet the character and Hamlet the play elucidate the inevitable and insoluble paradoxes of human existence, the very heart of our mystery, which no technical sophistication will ever pluck out: a mystery that explains why puzzlement at our own situation is the permanent condition of mankind.

Read the piece here