Friday, December 4, 2015

Theodore Dalrymple Open Thread (sort-of)

There will be a better, lengthier post, later today. Until then, here are three passages from a Theodore Dalrymple book I am reading; The Wilder Shores of Marx. While it is far inferior to Life at the Bottom (which should be required reading for anyone studying poverty but it won't) it is certainly a good read and he displays a decent understanding of the why communism is so evil and why capitalism, for all its flaws, is so preferable:

"Apart from the massacres, deaths and famines for which communism was responsible, the worst thing about the system was the official lying: that is to say the lying in which everyone was forced to take part, by repetition, assent or failure to contradict. I came to the conclusion that the purpose of propaganda in communist countries was not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate and emasculate. In this sense, the less true it was, the less it corresponded in any way to reality, the better; the more it contradicted the experience of the persons to whom it was directed, the more docile, self-despising for their failure to protest, and impotent they became."

"Does it matter, though, that the everyday objects of life should be so profoundly unattractive? Does it matter that clothes should be of dirty colours, that shops should be as inviting as empty morgues? How many times have we heard of the meretriciousness of commercial culture, of the essential unimportance of having a choice of breakfast cereals in the morning, of the waste involved in elaborate packaging that is designed to sell unnecessary or worthless products? There is so much in our lives that is trivial, that inhibits us from considering what is truly important in our existence, that to be freed from the compulsion to possess goods ever remoter from our natural needs sometimes seems to us highly desirable. But there is a world of difference between voluntary renunciation of what is available and embittered resignation in the face of permanent shortage. And it is only by visiting countries that are relentlessly serious and puritanical (‘ We must live and work as under a siege’) that one appreciates – within a very short time – the vital importance of frivolity."

"The fons et origo of the appeal to intellectuals of socialism: snobbery. Left to themselves, people invariably display bad taste (a crime for which Lukacs, the Hungarian Marxist luminary who was also a murderer, thought they should be punished). Therefore, they must not be left to themselves. Philosopher kings – the Pham Van Dongs and Mary McCarthys – must teach the people what they ‘really’ want, and to reject what they merely think they want because they have been corrupted, deformed and alienated by advertising and other capitalist techniques. The ideal of socialists is thus not a society of perfect justice: it is a society where people do not put plaster ducks on their walls." LINK

And a short minute-and-a-half video by him on Rousseau and his impact on society: LINK

More to come tonight. Hopefully.

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