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.
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.”
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.
Dalrymple expresses pride in having done the right thing, and engages in some light philosophizing, after damaging a neighbor’s car:
However, to have acted out of fear of capture would have been a dishonorable reason for doing the honorable thing. I am not sure that I believe in the Kantian categorical imperative—in fact, I am almost sure that I don’t—but in a case like this, the decent thing should be done for its own sake rather than from fear of doing the indecent one. Without a number of ad hoc exceptions, a purely consequentialist account of ethics is implausible—as is one that takes no account whatever of consequences.
Even book trade conferences are now political…
The subject is to be Men and Women in the Book Trade: Changing gender roles over 500 years. I suppose next year it will be Race in the Book Trade, and the year after that Homosexuals in the Book Trade. Do they – the ideological obsessives – never get tired of it? Ideology is an itch which only gets wor[s]e with scratching.
The reductio ad Hitlerum is a popular rhetorical technique for dismissing others’ arguments without much reason. In City Journal Dalrymple specifies some of the many problems stemming from its use:
The reductio ad Hitlerum is an argument from historical analogy, and analogy is, by definition, always inexact; otherwise, it would be repetition. As no less a person than Karl Marx put it, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”—that is, it does not, and cannot, repeat itself exactly. While analogical historical reasoning cannot be altogether eliminated, therefore, it must be used with judgment, discretion, discrimination, and care. History teaches neither nothing nor everything; and it is as dangerous to use it wrongly as to disregard it altogether.
After another visit to a secondhand bookshop Dalrymple soon finds himself fascinated by a new topic that previously evaded his interest: woodlice.
Dalrymple had this piece on the Finsbury Park Mosque attack published in the New York Daily News a couple of days ago (somewhat surprising given the paper’s leftist orientation):
I am no Muslim theologian, but Islamic extremists can hardly be blamed for concluding from their religious belief that neither western societies nor western governments are legitimate. Their position is not illogical, given its premises. God, not man, is sovereign; the Koran is the word of God; therefore all that is not derivable from the Koran, or is opposed to it, is evil in the sense of being against God’s sovereignty. Only God has the right to be obeyed, and if he says kill, then kill we must.
This is not a recipe for tolerance, to put it mildly…
Listening to politicians’ declarations after the latest Muslim terrorist attack in London, Dalrymple hears the same old thing:
May said on this occasion that “enough is enough”—meaning what, exactly? That a little terrorism is acceptable, as if the perpetrators were boisterous children finally being called to order after having been given leeway by the grown-ups?
Things will have to change, she said, without specifying which things. To specify would have been to invite criticism, opposition, opprobrium—and just before an election, no less. Best keep to clichés.