This review of the Netflix series The Crown briefly reverses the view toward the viewers themselves…
…what human beings set up as the dream of perfection they want also to pull down to their own level. We exalt only to humiliate; pedestals are erected to be stood on by feet of clay. Our gods and goddesses live on an Olympus in which sordid intrigue flourishes, ambition overcomes principle, and unhappiness is as much the lot of the gods as it is of lesser beings.
…and offers an important corrective to the image of the royal family that prevails, at least among us rebel colonists west of the Atlantic:
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, who has reigned since 1953 as Elizabeth II, was thrust into the role of heir to the throne at the age of 10, and that of monarch at age 26, all without choice, consultation, or personal inclination. She was reared to be a function incarnate. Her wishes counted for nothing, except in the most trivial matters. Supremely unfree, bound to obey dictates of the government that acted in her name, Elizabeth was nonetheless grovelled to as if she were the most fearsome dictator.
Imbued with an iron sense of duty by an adored father who died at a comparatively early age,…she was obliged repeatedly to make emollient speeches and appear always to be deeply interested in the dullest of dignitaries. The highest standard of living in the world was probably insufficient recompense for the sacrifice—that of herself as an individual human being—that she had to make.
In Salisbury Review Dalrymple expands on his recent conversation about college students with a taxi driver:
I asked him what the town was like, whether – for example – it was quiet.
‘When the students are away,’ he said.
‘And when they’re here?’
‘Are they nice, the students?’
‘They’re evil bastards.’
‘They can’t all be like that,’ I said.
‘About seventy per cent of them.’
In Taki’s Magazine Dalrymple comments on Meryl Streep’s recent imposition of her political opinions on the rest of us. He mentions his irritation at the attention given to actors’ opinions and the adolescent nature of President-elect Trump’s reply, and then points out a superior source of commentary: taxi drivers…
I was once in Singapore trying to catch a taxi. You cannot just hail a taxi on the street in Singapore, you have to go to a taxi stand. This I did, but still no taxi would stop for me. The taxis swept past me as if I did not exist. Then someone came and hailed a taxi about two feet to my right. A taxi stopped immediately and took him. Was this some kind of discrimination, in the politically correct sense of the word? No: When I stood two feet to the right of where I had been standing, a taxi stopped for me immediately.
I told the driver of my experience and he, Chinese without a great deal of English, replied, “Singapore velly, velly law.”
Have you read anything in the Financial Times, or any other serious newspaper, that so succinctly and accurately sums up a country or society?
Take another example, more recent. I was in an English university town where I took a taxi from the station to the university. We fell to talking, the driver and I, and to keep our conversation going I asked him whether the students were nice.
“No,” he said, “they’re evil bastards.”
This judgment was so spontaneous, so deeply felt, and so obviously the fruit of what sociologists call lived experience, that it could only have been true.
One can only marvel at the simultaneous failures of Britain’s National Health Service, and its popularity:
The excuse that demand has escalated is, in fact, in contradiction to one of the now-forgotten founding justifications of the NHS back in 1948: namely that universal healthcare paid for from general taxation, and free at the point of use, would so improve the health of the population that its cost would soon fall rapidly….
Oddly enough, however, and unnoticed by the population or by the NHS’s ideological praise-singers, the NHS had no egalitarian effect, rather the opposite. The difference between the health of the top economic decile of the population and that of the bottom decile, which had been more or less steady for decades, began to widen immediately. Curiously enough, this widening accelerated precisely at a time when most money was spent on the system. The difference in the standard mortality rate of the richest and poorest is now almost double what it was when the NHS began.
Dalrymple observes in City Journal that the recent conviction of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on grounds of incitement to discrimination – “in other words, not even discrimination itself” – was wildly illogical, probably made Wilders more popular rather than less, and was itself applied discriminatorially:
The Guardian article, oddly enough, was accompanied by a photograph of some Muslim protesters in Amsterdam holding up banners in favor of sharia law….“Sharia for the Netherlands,” said one banner. “Islam will dominate the world, freedom can go to hell,” said another.
Anyone who advocates sharia can plausibly be said to incite discrimination….Were, then, these protesters charged with incitement to discrimination?….I think it is a fair supposition, however, that no action was taken against them.
The law against incitement to discrimination is therefore implemented in a discriminatory way, something that those even marginally susceptible to Wilders’s rhetoric won’t fail to notice, though the readers of the Guardian probably will.
Dalrymple sees, in those who light candles after a terrorist attack, the very modern claim to be “spiritual but not religious”, as well as simple weakness:
The reason (I surmise) that so many people claim to be spiritual rather than religious is that being spiritual imposes no discipline upon them, at least none that they do not choose themselves. Being religious, on the other hand, implies an obligation to observe rules and rituals that may interfere awkwardly with daily life….
It would be difficult to prove it, but I imagine that all those candles are an encouragement to the very kind of people who commit the massacres that are the occasion for the exhibition. We cut their throats, or drive trucks into them; they light candles…They are mistaken, the terrorists; but they are not clever or deep thinkers…
So if you want more terrorist attacks, light a candle.
A news service recently accused Katie Hopkins of a series of “mistruths”:
The mistruths referred to in the headline were false allegations rather than, say, factual errors concerning the number of legs centipedes may have or the climatic conditions in Porto Alegre. Why not say so, then? Why use [this] ugly, imprecise and evasive neologism?
We should not allow ourselves to misstep our way to mistruth, for that way lies misprobity, miswisdom and mishappiness.
A recent study in The British Journal of Psychiatry attempted to correlate depression, religion and terrorism, but Dalrymple found therein only boredom, redundancy and a certain terseness toward seemingly obvious conclusions, driven by – you guessed it – political correctness:
…do we really need an immense amount of research and statistical apparatus to tells us that “religion…may determine targets of violence following radicalization”? Would we have believed them if they had found to the contrary that “religion…cannot determine targets of violence following radicalization”? By the way, which religion are we talking about?
The whole subject is dealt with in so opaque a fashion that it is difficult not to believe that the authors feared retribution—from the politically correct if not from terrorists themselves. They are like those puppies that, being curious, approach a danger, but then retreat, approach again, and retreat again.
An NHS suggestion of delaying treatment for smokers and the overweight causes Dalrymple to comment on the impossibility – and the undesirability – of perfect justice:
That ethical decisions sometimes cannot be made that are indisputably correct, that entail no injustice or no inhumanity, is difficult for rationalists and utilitarians to accept. They want every division to be without remainder, as it were. They want a formula that will decide every question beyond reasonable doubt. They want a universal measure of suffering, so that the precise worth (in units of suffering averted) of every medical procedure can be known and compared…
There is a kind of cognitive hubris at play, according to which information alone will resolve all our dilemmas; and if our dilemmas have not been answered, it is only because we do not have enough information yet. The hope or expectation of a dilemma-free world is naïve, where it is not power-hungry.
In Taki’s Magazine Dalrymple expresses his shock at seeing his first post-election photo of a much older-looking Hillary Clinton:
I was surprised by my own feeling of sympathy for her, I who had previously detested her (quite without admiring Mr. Trump—very far from it) for her ruthless self-righteousness and self-righteous ruthlessness, with one eye always fixed on high moral principle and the other on the main chance, the latter always seeming to triumph over the former.
My sympathy did not, of course, go very deep or last very long. He who lives by ambition dies by ambition. If you make the achievement of power the meaning of your life and you are thwarted in it, some kind of collapse is only to be expected.