Category Archives: Essays

Le Corbusier: Liar, Cheat, Thief, and Plagiarist

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.

Failing to Understand the Terrorists

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.

The Evaporation of Exteriors

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.

The Predictability of Predictions

We missed this piece from last month in New English Review, on the differences between projection, prediction and prophecy:

We love projections, however, because they always lead to immoderate (if only imaginary) results. The human mind loves the dramatic and the sensational and abhors the banal and the ordinary. La Rochefoucauld said that there is in the misfortune of our friends something not entirely displeasing; he might justly have added that there is in the contemplation of future catastrophe something extremely pleasing. No one ever gained notice by pointing out that a deleterious trend was now at an end, and that the rapid growth of a particular problem was over; but many a person has enjoyed his quarter of an hour of fame by projecting exponential growth of something or other to the point of the abyss.

The Way of Che

That way being, of course, fraudulence:

On catching glimpses in the past of American television evangelists, it was always a cause of wonderment to me that anyone could look at or listen to them without immediately perceiving their fraudulence. This fraudulence was so obvious that it was like a physical characteristic, such as height or weight or color of hair, or alternatively like an emanation, such as body odor (incidentally, pictures of Guevara always suggest, to me at any rate, that he smelled). How could people fail to perceive it? Obviously, many did not, for the evangelists were very successful—financially, that is, the only criterion that counted for them.

Euthanasia in the Netherlands: A Case Study

On the website of the Library of Law and Liberty Dalrymple parses the arguments for and against assisted suicide:

There are many subjects on which decent people may disagree and some subjects on which a person may not entirely agree with himself, in so far as he can see both sides of an argument at the same time (assuming there to be only two sides, when often there are more).

One such subject is that of assisted suicide and euthanasia. I can easily conceive of circumstances in which I should want it for myself, and circumstances in which it would be the kindest thing for others. And yet, at the same time, I can see the objections to it.

Evening all! Actually not at all.

Questioning the police and crime commissioner at a recent town meeting:

The editor of the local newspaper, the Journal (which my neighbour calls the Gerbil), piped up, ‘How many of the culprits have you actually caught?’

This question the commissioner dismissed with contempt as if it were a low blow in boxing. Surely anyone with the slightest brain could see that it is far easier to identify the victims than the culprits, and that therefore it was a far more efficient use of police time (in very short supply) to attend to the former rather than to the latter? It did not seem to have occurred to the commissioner – a Conservative, by the way – that most victims of crime would be more reassured by the arrest and punishment of the culprit than by counselling carried out by men or women in stab-proof vests.

The Matter of the Meat

A book about slaughterhouses raises questions about eating meat:

On the matter of animals and meat I am, as amateur psychologists would put it, conflicted, veering between the ruthless and the sentimental. In my heart, I believe that I ought to be a vegetarian, though I continue to enjoy eating meat. A couple of months ago, for example, I had the best veal chop of my life, furnished by our excellent and amiable butcher. But even while enjoying it, I knew that my enjoyment was bought at the cost of avoidable suffering.

The Politics of Resentment and Debt

There is one group missing when we go designating those who use the resentment of populism to their advantage: the left. For example, their attempt to cap credit card interest rates, on the basis that borrowers know not what they do:

If there is any lack of understanding, I believe that it is an induced, or artificial, one in a situation where there is little motive to understand and every motive to misunderstand. Such people as indebt themselves on credit cards apply their intelligence (which is not lacking) in other ways and to other matters. Indeed, to indebt yourself when you know that, ultimately, you face no very severe consequence for doing so, other than intermittent anxiety, could be interpreted itself as a form of intelligence or rational calculation.

A Tourist at Muharram

Observing the ‪Muslim processions ‬of the first day of the Islamic ‪m‬onth of Muharram, in the Persian Gulf:

…perhaps my greatest surprise of the evening was when my friends showed me videos afterward of a Sunni comedian satirically mocking the Shia. He was dressed as an ayatollah who spoke pious idiocies, slapping himself on his chest in histrionic gestures of mourning, rendering ridiculous those of the Shia who do likewise in all seriousness, and all accompanied by raucous studio laughter. As far as I am aware, this intentionally insulting video, which if made and shown in the West would have resulted in howls of outrage (and not only from the Shia) and demands for prosecution under hate-crime laws, resulted in no threats or violence; only, perhaps, in a reinforcement of the age-old and reciprocated antagonism of the Shia toward the Sunni.