At Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple writes again about a man who is clearly one of his greatest influences, Dr. Johnson. If you know enough about both men, it is difficult to read this without having the same thoughts about Dalrymple:
He had a peculiar gift for saying things that were both startling and obvious. As he himself put it, we have more often to be reminded than informed. Although his prose style would no doubt strike many people (if they read it) as too formal—we prefer expletives and the demotic now—he says things that are strikingly apposite a quarter of a millennium after he wrote them. On practically every page of his essays, of which he wrote several hundred, scratched out with quill pen rather than merely tapped on keyboard onto a screen, you find things that are as true and pointed today as they were when he wrote them. I doubt that much of what we write will stand the same test in a further quarter millennium; but then it is the illusion of every age that it is having the last word.
Read the piece here
Should we be surprised that when the Glastonbury music festival recently ended, the attendees left behind a sea of trash and filth? Isn’t it overwhelmingly likely that these attendees are the same Western youth who loudly proclaim their concern for the environment and their outrage at its supposed despoilation?
Dalrymple notes their resemblance to the Dickens character Mrs. Jellyby, who expressed concern for people and events far away while ignoring the problems around her, and to Marie Antoinette, who played the part of shepherdess and proletarian:
Incidentally, in their imitation of the proles (which they think virtuous), they demonstrate how they really conceive of them: vulgar, dirty, coarse, and foulmouthed. Genuine proletarians are, or at least once were, not at all like this—not en masse, not as the lumpenintelligentsia now is.
An absurd ruling by the European Court of Justice: a pharmaceutical company’s vaccine against Hepatitis B was ruled to have caused a man’s multiple sclerosis, even though there is zero scientific evidence of a causal link between the two. The only evidence presented at the trial was that the man’s onset of MS occurred immediately after he took his third dose of the vaccine, a clear case of a “post hoc” fallacy, one of the most simple and obvious logical fallacies one can make. Dalrymple notes an additional problem:
Under European law, a manufacturer is liable for the harms that his product does to individuals, irrespective of any fault on his part (and assuming normal use of his product by the person harmed). It is not required that he could or should have known that his product might result in the harm. This means, of course, that he can never, quite literally, be careful enough: whatever care he takes, he may still be liable. And this fundamental injustice inherently favours large companies over small, for while the former can bear the costs of litigation, the latter cannot. Size is the only defence.
Read it here
Re-reading Simon Leys, Dalrymple encounters a passage about China that might as well have been written about modern Britain, with some qualifications:
In a period of social and economic disintegration, it suffices for a tiny handful of men – less than 0.1 per cent of the population – to launch eloquent appeals to arouse popular indignation against brutal and corrupt authorities, to mobilise the generosity and idealism of youth, to rally the support of thousands of students, and finally to present a miniscule communist movement as the incarnation of the will of the entire nation.
With what result is now only too well-known.
As recent elections in the US and France show, modern politics in the Western world is filled alternately with apathy and rage, says Dalrymple at the Library of Law and Liberty:
It is hardly surprising, in the circumstances, that our elections are at most media events rather than important events in the life of citizens. Even those who bring themselves to cast a ballot will more than likely claim to be voting against someone rather than voting for the person who garnered their vote.
And yet at the same time, people who deliver themselves of the opinion that nothing changes, that our system is in a state of total paralysis, can hardly bear to be in the same room with someone of opposing political loyalties. They become murderously angry if they happen to find themselves in the company of someone ideologically uncongenial.
In other words, the battle is fought out on a purely symbolic level. Politics, far from being a practical art, has now become a theoretical matter, and we are all theorists now.
At Salisbury Review, Dalrymple writes on the recent statement by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to the effect that the Grenfell Tower tragedy was in essence an act of murder committed by politicians. Not only was McDonnell wrong, says Dalrymple, he wasn’t even trying to be right:
…Mr McDonnell was not aiming at truth in his statement, but at a kind of incitement: an incitement to a gratifying sense of moral outrage among his audience that would assist his accession to power. He was appealing to an uncritical mob mentality, and it appears that at Glastonbury, where he spoke, he found one.
Read it here
Grenfell Tower, the London skyscraper that recently burned in a fire that killed dozens of people, was a public-sector housing project managed by an essentially public-sector firm that had a history of ignoring its residents’ pleas for fire prevention. So what does Jeremy Corbin blame for the tragedy? Too little government, naturally.
Corbyn says that he is very angry at what happened, which he links to what is known as fiscal austerity—that is, when government spends only 108 percent of tax revenue, instead of the much higher percentage that he favors. He skated over the part played by the public sector in the tragedy…
At the Library of Law and Liberty, Dalrymple summarizes two recent books on the presence of Islam in Switzerland: Radicalism in Swiss Mosques: Islamisation, Cultural Jihad and Endless Concessions by Mireille Vallette and Switzerland at the Moment of Brexit: Inquiry into a Strange and Truly Unique Country by Jean-Pierre Richardot.
The contrast between these works—the first evincing alarmism and the second complacency—raises questions of political philosophy about which argument could be endless…
The difference between them might be summarized this way: Monsieur Richardot rejoices more over 99 good Muslim citizens than he worries over one fundamentalist, while Madame Vallette worries more over one fundamentalist than she rejoices over 99 good Muslim citizens. Which of them is right, if an answer to such a question can be deemed correct?
After the terrorist attack at her concert in Manchester, pop singer Ariana Grande and her fellow performers have had themselves tattooed with an image of a bee, a symbol of the city. Dalrymple doesn’t see the sense of such a tribute:
In a short time… the tattooed bee will no more conjure up Manchester than a tattooed palm tree would conjure up Antarctica. It will be just another instance, though a minor one, of the inexplicable epidemic of self-abuse that has overtaken the Western world in the past two or three decades. And when Ariana and her sidekicks tire of their compassion, sympathy, etc., they can always have the tattoo removed, for the techniques of removal have improved in tandem with those of putting them on: an example, no doubt, of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called capitalism’s creative destruction, though tattooing itself is more like an instance of its destructive creation.
Read it here
The recent British election revealed the utter incompetence of Theresa May. But worse than that…
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the election was the recrudescence of the politics of envy and resentment. This is not to say that there are no genuine or severe problems in the country: the stagnation of productivity, the precariousness of income, the deficiencies in public services, the low cultural and educational level of much of the population, the inadequacy of the housing stock, and so forth. But the only solution ever heard to these problems, which are evident the moment you leave a prosperous area whose residents are likely to vote Conservative, is more government expenditure. Even the Conservatives went in for this, though more mildly than Labour.
Dalrymple at City Journal