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.
Forced to watch the BBC news, Dalrymple notices a story on two homeless mothers (unmarried, naturally) and their children, who complain of the living conditions in a homeless shelter:
[W]hat struck me most was that the interviewer did not think to ask (or, if he did, it was rigorously edited out) how the situation in which they found themselves had arisen in the first place. It is possible, though unlikely, that the two young women had contributed absolutely nothing to their own misfortunes by, for example, making unwise decisions. It is possible, though unlikely, that they had no relatives in a position to help them, and that for them the state was the only conceivable source of social solidarity and support. But in any case, these matters did not arise; to have asked such questions would have been to blame the victims.
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.
Solve the problem, or just continue to complain about it? According to Dalrymple at Taki’s Magazine, finding a solution to life’s problems is often not as satisfying as we might suppose:
…the fact is that there is something profoundly comforting and enjoyable about complaint. It can continue indefinitely, whereas a solution occurs but once and destroys the problem forever. Once one has—as I have—reached a certain age, one does not like change, and solution to a problem means change. And change confronts one with one’s mortality.
Read it here
Arguing for leniency toward criminals, especially those who have confessed and expressed remorse, would seem to serve the cause of compassion. But what if the crimes are as depraved as those of Myra Hindley’s?
What does it mean for someone to say, “I now realize that kidnapping and torturing to death small children is wrong, and I deeply regret having done it”? She was comparatively young at the time of the commission of her acts, no doubt, but she knew perfectly well that they were wrong: their very wrongness, in fact, is what made them attractive to her. And how long after the commission of the acts does the realization of their wrongfulness and the regret at having done them have to be before they are deemed relevant to the question of the length or severity of punishment? Suppose they come instantaneously. Do we therefore say, “Well, that’s all right then, so long as you realize that what you did is wrong and regret having done it, we shall not punish you at all”—because to do so would be pure vengefulness?
Dalrymple at the Library of Law and Liberty
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.