I’m not sure there is any better indictment of the modern educational establishment than that Copenhagen University is offering a course on the music of Beyoncé, on which Dalrymple comments in The Salisbury Review:
Philosophical relativism, the denial that there is any objective basis for judgments of worth or value, has become almost an orthodoxy in humanities departments. And if there is no real difference between good and bad, why go to the trouble of studying the difficult when the easy is, by definition, just as good?
With Robert Mugabe out of power in Zimbabwe, Dalrymple has completed a three-part series of pieces on the country (where he once lived) at the Library of Law & Liberty:
Understanding the Rise of Zimbabwe
…in which he recounts his move to the country and the situation during the last days of white colonial rule.
…in which he describes the shift to Mugabe’s regime and the consequences thereof.
…which includes an interesting analysis of the mindset of the colonized, including Mugabe himself (e.g., admiring those that you hate):
As Mao is to the present government of China so, for a short time at least, Mugabe must be to the future government of Zimbabwe. But with the passage of time, the kind of psychological complex from which Mugabe suffered, and which explains if it does not excuse some of his behaviour, will, as the colonial past fades from living memory, no longer exert its baleful influence on anyone. Africa will be free at last both of colonialism and anti-colonialism. Then there will be no more His Excellency, Comrade…: just ordinary, corrupt authoritarian regimes, perhaps, and possibly a functioning democracy here and there. A great improvement.
In this City Journal essay Dalrymple looks at two authors of Shakespearean scholarship, with one of them claiming to have proven that the bard had no classical education and therefore could not have produced the famous plays with their classical allusions:
But also latent in the question is the incipient conflict between the romantic and classical views of life: that understanding of the world, genius, and wisdom is as much a matter of direct apprehension or instinct as it is of knowledge and learning. Not all the knowledge in existence could have produced Shakespeare, and while the work of most of the erudite is forgotten the moment they die, that of Shakespeare lives on forever. Though Farmer was a man of the Enlightenment, he was therefore also a forerunner of Romanticism. His little book, incidentally, serves to undermine, though not completely to refute, one of the arguments of the anti-Stratfordians (those who deny that Shakespeare, the boy from Stratford, is identical to Shakespeare, the author of the plays) before it became popular with luminaries such as Mark Twain and Sigmund Freud: that only someone with a deep knowledge of the classics could have written Shakespeare’s works, that only someone of high social class could have had such knowledge, and that therefore Shakespeare, the writer of the plays, could not have been Shakespeare, the boy from Stratford.
In The Salisbury Review Dalrymple recounts a recent speech at which leftist protesters surrounded the hall:
I spoke immediately before Katie Hopkins, who guarded by a close protection squad, was scheduled to appear (she was the last speaker of the day). The banging on the windows and chanting began just as I was ending.Two or three protestors wearing motor cycle helmets and masks broke into the hall with a crowbar and a member of the audience hit one of them over the head with the leg of a chair.Then the eggs started flying. One of the policemen looked as if he were about to be scrambled. Despite the assaults on the police no charges are contemplated
This piece in Taki’s Magazine is a list of some of the more colorful prison slang that Dalrymple experienced. I always find his writings on this topic tremendously funny, and in person he delivers these expressions and phrases fully in character with funny accents and a big smile.
…when I started working in prison I was sometimes called to attend a prisoner who had just been PP9’d. A PP9 was a large, squarish battery that was used (in respectable circles) to power transistor radios; but in prison it was sometimes put in a sock and swung round like the bola of an Argentinean gaucho, inflicting quite serious injury on the head of the person at whom it was aimed. Such batteries soon became technologically redundant, however, and the verb went out with them. No one is PP9’d these days. I suppose that is progress.
Dalrymple notes in City Journal that the downfall of Robert Mugabe does not necessarily portend improvement:
Zimbabwe’s next president will be Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as the Crocodile, the end of whose road the Chronicle was gleefully proclaiming only eight days ago, when he was expelled from the party with the unanimous agreement of ten regional committees.
Politics have never been an abstract inquiry into moral principles, of course; but rarely have its inner workings been more clearly exposed. The people of Harare are understandably celebrating in the streets after Mugabe’s downfall, but Mnangagwa is no better, and may possibly prove worse, than his predecessor.
Upon realizing that one enjoys killing flies:
“As flies to wanton boys/Are we to the gods,” wrote Shakespeare, but the child is father to the man and in some aspects the man does not fully grow up. That is why we have always to keep a hold of ourselves, and temper our inclinations by conscious thought and self-control. The fact is that the Kingdom of Cruelty is within you.
The publication of a book critical of Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) gives us another opportunity to enjoy Dalrymple’s insults of the totalitarian architect:
Like Hitler, Jeanneret wanted to be an artist, and, as with Hitler, the world would have been a better place if he had achieved his ambition. Had he been merely an artist, one could have avoided his productions if one so wished; but the buildings that he and his myriad acolytes have built unavoidably scour the retina of the viewer and cause a decline in the pleasure of his existence.
One of Jeanneret’s buildings can devastate a landscape or destroy an ancient townscape once and for all, with a finality that is quite without appeal; as for his city planning, it was of a childish inhumanity and rank amateurism that would have been mildly amusing had it remained purely theoretical and had no one taken it seriously.
Why it’s wrong to call terrorists cowardly:
The danger of using the word “cowardly” in so obviously mistaken a way is that it gives the impression that, if the attack were not cowardly, if to the contrary it were brave, it would not be as bad and indeed might even be worthy of admiration. And since to blow yourself up in a truck is conspicuously brave by comparison with what most of us would be prepared to do, it follows that these denunciations perversely invite us to consider terrorists acts as in some way admirable—which, I need hardly add, they are not.
In New English Review Dalrymple writes of the mistreatment of immigrant waiters:
I could imagine what it was like to be a waiter, but I could not imagine what it was like to be one of the fat, shaven-headed, tattooed monsters who behaved towards them in so vile a fashion….
…my sympathy and imagination, like everyone else’s, is limited. I can sympathise with waiters, servers in shops, washers-up, peasants, office cleaners, street-sweepers, dustmen, mortuary assistants, delivery men, taxi drivers, illegal immigrants, and a thousand others, but not with them. There I draw a line; and if, underlying all, they are miserable rather than evil, I can only say they are not nearly miserable enough or as miserable as they deserve.