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October 08, 2012

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Sam

The Department Store Number 1 was so extraordinary that I had to talk to someone about it. But the young communist from Glasgow to whom I described it simply exclaimed: 'So what! Plenty of people go to Harrods without buying anything, just to look.'

That bit fits in with your last post -'taking care not to notice certain things'.

David

“…taking care not to notice certain things.”

Bingo.

sackcloth and ashes

'But the most sombre reflection occasioned by Department Store Number 1 is that concerning the nature of the power that can command thousands of citizens to take part in a huge and deceitful performance, not once but day after day, without any of the performers ever indicating by even the faintest sign that he is aware of its deceitfulness, though it is impossible that he should not be aware of it. One might almost ascribe a macabre and sadistic sense of humour to the power, insofar as the performance it commands bears the maximum dissimilarity to the real experience and conditions of life of the performers. It is as if the director of a leper colony commanded the enactment of a beauty contest - something one might expect to see in, say, a psychologically depraved surrealist film. But this is no joke, and the humiliation it visits upon the people who take part in it, far from being a drawback, is an essential benefit to the power; for slaves who must participate in their own enslavement by signalling to others the happiness of their condition are so humiliated that they are unlikely to rebel'.

Welcome to Nortk Korea, where every year is 1984.

When the DPRK finally falls - as one day it will - I suspect that even those of us who share Dalrymple's views will be stunned at the extent of the regime's inhumanity towards its own people.

David

“…without any of the performers ever indicating by even the faintest sign that he is aware of its deceitfulness, though it is impossible that he should not be aware of it.”

I’d say that’s a defining feature of Marxism and its variants when given enough rope. The mismatch of theory and reality is absurd. And so the cultivation of dishonesty is essential, among proponents and victims. North Korea is just a vivid example of the end point: a psychotic pantomime.

CIngram

In freer countries, something similar in kind, though of course vastly different in scale, is achieved by the imposition of paperwork. By forcing us to jump through pointless hoops, wait in endless lines, fill in forms whose only function is to create work for civil servants, separate out our rubbish, accept incompetence, laziness or bad manners on the part of bureaucrats with equanimity, or be sent to the back of the queue to start again, governments remind us that they are the ones with the power, and we, our time, our will, our decisions, our well-being and prosperity, our very humanity, do not matter.

Jonathan
David

Jonathan,

I see one of the wannabe eco-fascists, Ms Lierre Keith, calls for “direct action,” “sabotage” and “direct attacks on infrastructure.” Gosh, she must be so radical and daring. Hear her roar. Though oddly enough, when the favour is returned and the “direct action” is aimed back at her... then she whines like the little bitch she is.

[ Added: ]

For all the militant bluster, Ms Keith and her colleagues are much more comfortable with euphemisms, by which I mean outright dishonesty and the inversion of reality. And so, for instance, they refer to themselves as victimised, oppressed and “having to deal with direct attacks from government and law enforcement,” by which they mean being arrested after committing crimes. It’s the moral universe of an over-indulged, obnoxious 13-year-old. But such ‘radical’ movements do tend to attract unhappy personalities. And so you find lots of people who like ‘radical’ posturing because it gives them a license to be aggravating, thuggish and destructive. The supposed ‘cause’ may be entirely beside the point; it’s often just a vehicle for the psychodrama. As with Lierre Keith, who went from radical vegan and fan of “militant action” to radical meat-eater and fan of “militant action.” Spot the constant.

Sam Duncan

I wonder if that young Communist from Glasgow was one of the old Communists hanging around a stall in Buchanan Street (sometimes called “Scotland's Bond Street”) on Saturday afternoon, in the midst of hordes of Glaswegians frantically buying and selling all manner of goods. In a recession.

Had his trip to North Korea come to mind, he might also have mused on the fact that he was able to do so without any interest from the authorites. Or most of The People, come to that.

Cingram: Good point.

Stuck-Record

Have a look at Guy Delisle's graphic novel about North Korea. It's rather wonderful on the absurdity Dalrymple points out. Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pyongyang-Journey-North-Guy-Delisle/dp/0224079905/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2

David

Stuck-Record,

There’s a copy somewhere on my bookshelves and yes, it’s worth a read. In fact, I’m pretty sure I reviewed it for the Observer.

Henry

"whines like the little bitch she is"

Um. It's a good thing for the world that you're still passionate and writing about it. But really this?

David

Henry,

Epithets are like Chatsworth House black cherry cheesecakes. I allow myself one occasionally.

[ Added: ]

And besides, even setting aside Ms Keith’s totalitarian and annihilationist fantasies, we’re talking about someone who feels entitled to harass and assault other people, to vandalise their property, and who exhorts others to do the same - and who then splutters in outrage when the favour is returned in even the smallest way.

Bitch scarcely covers the contempt she deserves.

Stuck-Record

There are a great many arguments as to how many people the Earth can support if the eco-fascists listed above get their way.

The hunter-gatherer estimates I've seen vary from global pop of 1-100,000,000.
The agararian (no fossil fuels or fertilisers) max out at the 2-3 billion mark, but they ignore the lives of back-breaking misery and monotony the true 99% of the population would endure (also not counting that unless you're prepared for the vast increase in animal cruelty the population has to drop a couple of billion off that total).

But I don't think the eco-loons have done their maths.

There's probably a few hundred thousand of them dotted around the world, with maybe 10-50 million 'supporters'. When the rest of us (the other 7 billion) find out that they want to kill between 4-6 billion of us, I don't fancy their chances much.

Fred

Reference Harrods:

Harrods never paid anyone in socks to "just to look" in their shop

Henry

"Bitch scarcely covers the contempt she deserves"

Contempt she deserves?

We recapped recently here on the wisdom of not losing one's rag when arguing with those who don't want to understand. I'd add that what we say says as much about us as the people and ideas we're talking about.

I did try hard to not sound sanctimonious there - I just failed.

Strict adherence to honesty forces me to admit that the words "morons" and "halfwits" have echoed round the house when I've been reading CiF comments.

David

Henry,

“Contempt she deserves?”

Taken at their own words, Ms Keith and her colleagues would quite like to see people killed and to control the lives of others. Say, by having executed those they deem “associated” with environmental accidents. Apparently they don’t mind being called terrorists. For instance, they seem to like the idea of cutting power lines, thereby leaving tens of thousands of people without light and heat, as this would somehow encourage “class consciousness.” (Elderly people in remote locations would presumably embrace eco-socialism as the feeling left their limbs.)

Ms Keith and her associates have decided that “economic turmoil” and “global economic collapse” would be good for us. And oh yes, they want to “uphold human rights” by keeping a downsized population poor and compliant. Reliving the Stone Age is the medicine we need. Does any of this madness sound familiar? (Of course it’s possible they’re just blustering and merely like the idea of killing, coercion and mass immiseration - enough to publish reams of literature about it and devise endless euphemisms for sadism and tyranny.)

Either way, I’m pretty sure it’s okay to hold such people in contempt. One doesn’t have to be angry about it – just mindful of who they are and where their “caring” goes.

Tom

Henry,

"We recapped recently here on the wisdom of not losing one's rag when arguing with those who don't want to understand."

David,

"One doesn’t have to be angry about it – just mindful of who they are and where their “caring” goes."

Actually, I think we should get angry and occasionally lose our rag, mindfully of course, when dealing with charming specimens of humanity like Ms. Keith. One of the reasons I think we are currently sliding ever faster down a slippery slope is due to the fact that we, being civilized, want to give the Ms. Keith's of the world a fair hearing instead of the derision they rightly deserve.

She preaches mob violence against those who fail to live up to her vision of humanity, to hell with her.

watcher

I would hate to try and sell cash registers to the Norks. I bet the drawers of the ones they have got are seized up through lack of use.

In fact, if the Norks ever show on their state telly, "Are You Being Served" there would numerous activities going on they simply couldn't fathom. Not least would be the sound of a cash register bell.

Jonathan

David,
Ah, that's who she is. I remember the incident, but not the name. The thing that struck me about this bunch is that they don't use especially euphemistic language. They're quite explicit about the fact that they think the majority of humans, and all the trappings of civilisation, must be got rid of. They're just not explicit about the methods to be used.
Henry,
It's very unusual for our genial host to use insulting language about anyone, but I think " Whiny Bitch" is pretty mild for someone proposing the near extermination of the Human race.

David

Jonathan,

You do have to marvel at people who believe – or claim to believe – that it’s a desirable and righteous thing to sabotage power grids, thereby leaving huge numbers of people to shiver in the dark - and if they’re sufficiently old or frail, to become ill and possibly die. As I said, it’s possible Ms Keith and co may not be quite so deranged; it may be (mostly) bluster. They may just be poseurs, albeit poseurs with an edgy homicidal twist. Though pretending to have a taste for such things isn’t exactly a yardstick of mental health either.

And this is a problem common to many ‘radical’ movements and the personalities they tend to attract. It’s hard to disentangle outright sociopathy from obnoxious pretension. (Remember Amanda Marcotte and co and their competitive callousness?) It’s perhaps worth noting that egalitarian ‘radicals’ tend to be acutely status conscious, which is why it’s possible to encounter ‘activists’ who loudly announce their contempt for bourgeois social hierarchies while endlessly manoeuvring to elevate their status within their own in-group. And a common way to achieve that elevated status is to become ever more extreme and devise new excuses for some exciting vandalism.

Jonathan

David,
" It’s hard to disentangle outright sociopathy from obnoxious pretension."
Indeed it is. Enviro-sentimentalists like these, who've probably never spent a day without electricity or broadband access, never gone without food for more than a few hours or worked on a farm remind me somewhat of this bunch:
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/hitleryouth/hj-beginnings.htm
And that worked out well.

Kevin Baker

I left this comment at the link, but it's appropriate here as well. In the early 60's, the "Longshoreman Philosopher" Eric Hoffer (author of True Believer) said in an interview:

"I have no grievance against intellectuals. All that I know about them is what I read in history books and what I've observed in our time. I'm convinced that the intellectuals as a type, as a group, are more corrupted by power than any other human type. It's disconcerting to realize that businessmen, generals, soldiers, men of action are less corrupted by power than intellectuals.

"In my new book I elaborate on this and I offer an explanation why. You take a conventional man of action, and he's satisfied if you obey, eh? But not the intellectual. He doesn't want you just to obey. He wants you to get down on your knees and praise the one who makes you love what you hate and hate what you love. In other words, whenever the intellectuals are in power, there's soul-raping going on."

Daniels/Dalrymple describe in that piece a perfect example of such soul-raping.

Jacob

devise new excuses for some exciting vandalism

Funny how it usually boils down to that.

David

Jacob,

“Funny how it usually boils down to that.”

Remarkably often, yes. And that’s the thing. When so-called ‘anti-capitalists’ spend an evening smashing the windows of a coffee shop, bank or supermarket, do they seriously imagine society will be transformed as a result – and transformed for the better? Is keying expensive cars the path to utopia? Is that a credible belief, even for idiots? Or is it more likely that they enjoy the thrill of vandalism - of degrading the environment that others have to live in, then running from the police? Stripped of its pretensions, it doesn’t sound quite so noble or heroic but I don’t doubt that it’s exciting and gratifies certain urges.

David Gillies

One really has to wonder if people such as Keith have ever sat down and thought - really thought - what the process of getting to their so-called utopia would look like. It is conceivable, just, that a world with fewer people in it living with a lower level of resource utilisation would be better than the one we have now (although I think the idea is preposterous, it is not a priori impossible.) But we would have to go from here, where we are, to there. There is no jumping over the path from A to B. Students of Marxism had a phrase for Soviet Communism in the Brezhnev Era: real existing socialism. What we have now in the developed West is real existing post-industrialism. A valid question to ask anyone proposing a (say) 1/3 reduction of the human population is how this is to be engineered. The answer will almost invariably reveal them to be a monster or a moron. The most benign seems to be to allow global affluence to rise to the point where everyone is as fertile as Italians or Japanese. One feels that this hands-off approach would not appeal to those who could look at Dalrymple's account of the North Korean pantomime and wish for the power to direct people in such a coercive fashion.

pst314

Henry, think of it not negatively as losing one's rag but positively as contributing to the development of a culture in which leftists are subject to universal contempt and intolerance. :-)

pst314

"One really has to wonder if people such as Keith have ever sat down and thought - really thought - what the process of getting to their so-called utopia would look like."

I think most of them have. But just as the commies could approve of political murder because they never thought it would happen to them, so our eco-freaks can approve of mass poverty because they think they will be among the privileged elite who will continue to have access to luxuries, vacation travel, the best medical care, etc.

rxc

I traveled thru E. Germany in the mid 70s, from Bavaria up to Berlin, by car. Crossing the border was an extraordinarily enlightening experience. There was a bridge over a river that needed to be crossed, and on the south side (W. Germany), there were three temporary wooden huts in the median, manned by Americans, British, and French soldiers. There were big signs announcing "You are now leaving the western zone". You did not have to stop at the huts at all, but they were there if you wanted to talk to someone or leave your name.

The boundary was about mid-way across the bridge, and there were large signs at the border that announced that the speed limit was now 5 km/hr. There was a large control tower in the median, with a very visible, heavy machine gun poking out of it at the oncoming traffic. It was clear that you DID NOT want to exceed the speed limit.

As you peered over the edge of the bridge, on the south side there was green grass and trees and cows, down to the water line. On the north side, the river bank was completely barren, with lines of tank traps, barbed wire, walls, and guard towers at least 200 meters deep, all along the river bank as far as could be seen. It looked like we were driving into a prison camp.

Once you crossed the bridge, there was a complicated procedure with a sequence of long lines where you presented your passports, they were taken away, you moved forward and waited, and eventually you entered a line where your passport was returned to you. The entire process took about an hour.

This same process and image was present in Berlin, when we crossed from W Berlin into the eastern zone. And there, we found some spectacular new socialist buildings that had replaced the rubble of the Kaiser's palace in the center, but also we found entire blocks of the town that looked like the war had just ended. They were filled with what looked like rubble from bombing and shelling, and most of the buildings of that were of pre-war construction but were still standing, showed pockmarks from shrapnel. These included even the most important museum in E. Berlin. This was 30 years after the war ended. The only building in W. Berlin that looked like this at that time was the memorial church on the K'Dam that was left in ruins as a memorial to the insanity.

In March 1989, I had the opportunity to visit Moscow, during the week before the first elections were held. I did a bit of work there for an international organization, but had the opportunity to walk around and try to shop. As a foodie, I tried to find some food markets, but everywhere I went, the food for sale was quite low quality and depressing. The process for purchasing anything was exhausting. The giant GUM department store on Red Square was essentially a Potemkin Village of retail, with nothing worth buying at all. I was constantly pestered by citizens(KGB provocateurs?) who wanted to buy my camera equipment (I refused all offers). It was a grey city filled with grey people. I eventually found a nice woven straw basket somewhere as a gift for my wife.

These two trips taught me what life under a progressive totalitarian government was like. I want no part of it.

dicentra

It looked like we were driving into a prison camp.

Because you WERE.

Orson Scott Card wrote a short story about some people who had built a machine that dissolved all metal down to powder, so all trace of industrialization and machinery could be eradicated from the face of the earth. Large enough portions of society had been gripped by eco-nihilism that they were able to go around rejoicing in the freedom from unnatural devices that their machine brought. (Yes, they eventually had to turn the machine on itself.)

Meanwhile, along the coast, people began to build wooden ships with elaborate rigging, to build wind and water mills, essentially to start the industrial revolution all over again.

As if human beings would sit still and live in primitive filth when they had the means to do otherwise.

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