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.
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal carried “Terror and the Teddy Bear Society”, Dalrymple’s op-ed on Islamic terrorism and the Western response, which he calls “creative appeasement”:
Authorities make concessions even before, one suspects, there have been any demands for them…The Birmingham airport has set aside a room for wudu, the Muslim ablutions before prayer. No other religion is catered for in this fashion (nor should they be, in my opinion), so the impression is inevitably given that Islam is in some way favored or privileged. Again, it would be difficult to find out whether they received requests or demands for such a room or merely anticipated them; in either case, weakness is advertised.
This is surely a fundamental difference between left and right in our politics, with the former believing that this advertising of weakness discourages attacks. But…
From all this the terrorists surely draw a great deal of comfort. It gives them the impression of living in a weak society that will be easy to destroy, so that their acts are not in the least nihilistic or pointless, as is often claimed. They perceive ours as a candle-and-teddy-bear society (albeit mysteriously endowed with technological prowess): We kill, you light candles. The other day I passed a teddy-bear shop, that is to say a shop that sold nothing but teddy bears. I am sure that terrorism is good for business, but the teddy bears are more reassuring for the terrorists than for those who buy them to place on the site of the latest outrage.
As the slope of Dutch assisted suicide appears to indeed be getting slippery, Dalrymple addresses the arguments in favor of the practice, and finds them wanting:
…if one has a right to die by another’s hand, others must have a duty to kill one; otherwise the right is a dead letter, a mere phrase. It might be, for example, that a person who wished to die could not find someone willing to kill him. Would he then be able to complain to a court that his human rights had been violated, and would the court be able then to require someone to kill him? Could a professional body such as doctors be required, on pain of disciplinary action, to kill people who were in no sense ill but merely fed up? Or would we instead have to institute a new profession, that of thanatologists, whose job it would be to kill people in compliance with their wishes…
Apparently a Scottish comedian named Markus Meechan is in some absurd legal trouble for a video in which he jokingly attempted to train a pug to be a Nazi, but what Dalrymple finds most interesting is Meechan’s appearance.
What struck me most about Mr. Meechan, however, was that (according, at least, to the photographs that I saw of him) he had managed to make himself uglier than his girlfriend’s pug, which is again no mean achievement. No doubt he—Mr. Meechan, not the dog—was unfavored by nature (as so many of us indeed are), but it took some determination on his part to look quite as hideous as he manages to do. In this, however, he was only showing how deeply conventional was his mind, for such primitive self-mutilation as he indulges in has now become a mass phenomenon. If dandyism had been the fashion, he would no doubt have been a dandy; but unfortunately the fashion is now to make oneself look like a barbarian attacking the Roman legions on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. There is nothing as feeble as the human mind when it is in the grip of the desire to be fashionable.
A sign at a Paris bus stop recently implied a right, not just to health care, but to health itself….
The absurdity of this is obvious. If I discover tomorrow that I have a fatal tumor, my rights have not been denied me, any more than they were when I was born less handsome than I should like to have been. Even health care is not a right, though it is obviously desirable that everyone should have access to it…