Author Archives: Steve

No Ghost in the Machine

At City Journal, Dalrymple says the recent cyberattacks remind him of the short story “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster:

One normally associates Forster with the trembling of genteel emotions rather than with apocalyptic visions. But in this story, set at some unspecified time in the distant future, Forster brilliantly intuited certain modern developments in the life of our species…

Read it here

Once More With Feelings

Dalrymple’s reflections on his own emotions, in this piece at Taki’s Magazine, serve as a good summary of the social justice warrior phenomenon:

The desire not to have one’s feelings hurt has been erected into a right, a right increasingly enforceable at law. Of course, not everyone’s feelings are treated with the solicitude that we show to a nice fluffy colorful species of animal that is, regrettably, on the verge of extinction. But there is no doubt that treating people’s feelings with this solicitude tends not only to preserve them but to cause them to flourish and multiply. The more you are preserved from hurt feelings, the more of them you have.

But as I have already observed, hurt feelings are not as unpleasurable as the psychologically naive might suppose. All is not pain that shouts its name… The inflammation of feeling, in fact, is sometimes an end in itself, indulged in for the sheer pleasure of it, which is not, of course, to say that no outrage is ever genuine.

Read the rest here

Call Centres, the West’s version of North Korea

The removal of judgment and nuance is not just a feature of the modern public sector bureaucracy but also of the private. Look at those phone calls with customer support representatives, for example:

‘We need to ask you some security questions,’ said a young woman on the other end of the line.

‘Are you sure it’s not the other way around?’ I asked.

‘We need to ask you some security questions,’ repeated the young woman.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘We need to ask you some security questions.’

Dalrymple at Salisbury Review

The Deal of the Art

The government is not a good patron of the arts, says Dalrymple at Taki’s Magazine. For one thing, it doesn’t have the taste to pick good from bad. But that’s not to say it should never have a role — as a censor, for example:

[C]ensorship is a precondition of the greatest art, at least if history is anything to go by. I mean a negative censorship, in which there are things that you can’t say, rather than a positive censorship, in which there are things that you must say: The latter is deadly. Preferably also the censorship should be light-handed, capricious, and unpredictable: The perfect recipe for the production of art (though, as every cook knows, some recipes go wrong even when you stick to them) is absolute monarchy with incompetent censorship and religious belief.

He’s quick to say he wouldn’t actually advocate censorship today. Read it here.

Let’s just admit it: the French are simply better than us

France has its fair share of problems, certainly: ghettoes filled with unassimilated immigrants, a declining educational system, hideous modern architecture and more. But Dalrymple says that, all in all, its advantages over Britain are decisive. One example:

The attention to detail in shops is another painful contrast with Britain (for a Briton, that is). A florist in France gives the impression of being a specialist in flowers, not of someone who sells flowers faute de mieux or merely as a sideline. He or she wraps the blooms with an aesthetic consideration for the flowers themselves, with matching coloured tissue, for example. This raises the price, no doubt, but also the quality; and this constant concentration on detail raises the level of the florist’s, or his employee’s, practical intelligence. This is also true of the sale of fruit, fish, meat, cheese, bread, pâtisserie, etc. And all this adds to the enjoyment of life, though like any virtue it can go too far and become mere pettiness.

Dalrymple at The Spectator

Worst Architect Prize

The Guardian recently complained that refugees into Britain are disproportionately placed in the poorest areas. Perish the thought! (says Dalrymple):

…it is true that there are fewer jobs in poorer areas than in rich, but refugees are not allowed to take jobs in any case. And it seems to have escaped the Guardian’s notice that rent tends to be cheaper in poorer areas than in rich. Under the present rules, therefore, it would be outrageous for them to be located anywhere else but the poorest areas.

But Dalrymple can imagine another reason that so many are placed in Rotherham: the architecture is so hideous that perhaps it will encourage them to return home.

Dress to Regress

The slobbish attire of Mark Zuckerberg is a great annoyance, says Dalrymple, and indicates a worldview that easily extends to other aspects of life:

As there is slobbery in clothes, so there is slobbery in manners, which often masquerades as informality. My slight acquaintance, Alexander McCall Smith, created the delightful character of Mma Ramotswe, the only lady detective in Botswana, whose attractiveness for audiences of many millions around the world is surely connected to the ceremoniousness of the African life portrayed in the books in which she appears, a ceremoniousness that has been lost almost everywhere.

That ceremoniousness is sometimes thought to be not only a waste of time (and time is money) but, far worse from the intellectuals’ point of view, to be inauthentic as well, insofar as it involves forms of words that do not express real individual thoughts or feelings. And the authentic person is under the obligation to be always sincere. If I don’t actually care a jot how you are, I shouldn’t ask you; and if I do ask you, it should be because I really want to know how your varicose veins are getting on.

Dalrymple at Taki’s Magazine

How Do You Enforce Responsibility?

At the Library of Liberty and Law, Dalrymple argues that, contra the libertarian idea, it is not always possible to make people bear the full consequences of their actions.

Hard cases may make bad law but they make good journalism. We live in a society in which you have only to publicize a hard case for there to be demands for a change in the law, demands that are sometimes met, either immediately or in the long run. And since politics is not merely the easy art of being absolutely right in the abstract, but the far more difficult and arduous one of making things slightly better in practice, the argument that, as responsible beings who are agents, that is to say subjects and not objects, the consequences of our actions should be brought home to us, even unto the point of death (a principle with which we may agree, intellectually), is not likely to be much of a guide to practical politics.

On the other hand, he acknowledges the extent to which this truism is used as an excuse even in cases where properly locating responsibility is actually possible.

Read it here

Pity the Poor Monster

The killer of that policeman on the Champs-Elysées had a long history of violent crime, and the record of how leniently France treated him is almost comical. Why was he not in prison?

An article in Le Monde said that the case was bound to reignite debate on the “laxity” of the French criminal-justice system. It is symptomatic of the problem that the word laxity appeared as “laxity,” as though juridical negligence were a wild allegation, a figment of someone’s febrile imagination. But the case of Karim Cheurfi is far from an isolated one: indeed, such stories emerge regularly.

Dalrymple at City Journal

Immigration Follies

Writing at Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple says that, while it is perhaps impossible to obtain the necessary data to confirm, it appears that British immigration authorities prefer to admit immigrants or refugees that are lower-skilled and less likely to acculturate. If he is right, what could the reason be? Are bureaucrats and the intellgentsia who back them acting out of stupidity or of self-interest? Both are possibilities, he says, but they may also be driven by an illogical syllogism:

Action in pursuit of a national interest may be wrong or even evil.

Therefore, action against a national interest must, ex officio, be good.

Hence to act against the national interest is a simple rule of thumb to ensure that one is acting ethically.

Read the piece here