Sir Philip Green sans Knighthood?

Explaining that a spiv is “a person who dresses nattily, lives well even in hard times for others, and makes his living by disreputable means”, Dalrymple argues at Salisbury Review that spivvery is endemic to modern Britain:

You have only to read the Financial Times’ Saturday supplement, How to Spend It, to understand how much of our economy is in essence a spiv economy. The supplement is aimed not at people with more money than sense, but at a group of people far, far worse: people with more money than taste, for whom Sir Philip Green (if he still is Sir Philip) is a leader of fashion.

Adding Insult Without Injury

At Taki’s Magazine, Dalrymple addresses a phenomenon we’ve seen clearly in the States with our ongoing presidential campaign: the false choice between political correctness and offensiveness, as if the only possible response to propaganda were vulgarity.

There is, in fact, a worldwide dialectic at present (as perhaps there always was) between humbug on the one hand and offensiveness on the other. I am not sure which is worse. When it comes to an election between the two, are you to prefer Pecksniff to Abhorson or Abhorson to Pecksniff? One averts one’s mind from the choice, even though one must choose.

Read it here

Checking In With Liam

Apparently there are still people out there who care about the rock band Oasis and Liam Gallagher, so Gallagher was interviewed in the Sunday Times. In Taki’s Magazine Dalrymple offers this anecdote about his attendance at an Oasis concert in a journalistic role:

I asked the publicity staff for the Gallaghers whether they did not think it odd that they should hand out earplugs to reduce the volume of a musical act, which surely was something above all to be heard; but this was a world in which, while superficial defiance or insolence was de rigueur, irony was evidently in short supply.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out Gallagher is still the rude, self-centered jerk he has long been known as. But of most concern to Dalrymple is the following:

But by far the most depressing aspect of the interview is that The Sunday Times is directed at the upper 5 or 10 percent of the British population, by both education and income. Whether the editors have estimated the cultural interests of the readership correctly, I do not know; but if they have, the end of civilization, at least in Britain, is nigh.

Mrs May, empty words before capitulation

Some thoughts in the Salisbury Review on Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference:

One method of deciding whether or not an utterance is a cliché is to enquire whether anyone would assent to its negation. For example, Mrs May intoned in her speech that she wanted a Britain in which everyone played by the same rules with every appearance of belief that she was actually saying something; but would anyone declare that he wanted a Britain in which people played by different rules, as in a return to a feudal state?

Or again, when she said that she wanted a Britain in which everyone had the opportunity to be everything they (sic) could be, would anyone say that, to the contrary, that he wanted a Britain in which only a small handful of people had the opportunity be all they (sic) could be, and the rest could go to the devil?

A Night at the Opera

After watching a new production of Bellini’s Norma, Dalrymple muses on modern opera:

It often seems to me that the first qualification for producers of operas these days is proneness to severe lapses of taste, a kind of epilepsy of the judgment, or even a complete absence of aesthetic common sense. Orgies, if not actually a compulsory element of any production, are at least very frequent, however inappropriate they may be to the story or production as a whole. It is as if the plots of operas are not sufficiently melodramatic without the addition of a little light pornography.

Read the rest at Taki’s Magazine

Nota Bene, Part II

Dalrymple explains in New English Review that he tried to keep a notebook of the little lies he encountered daily. One day this entailed simply copying the list of ingredients from the “Naturally Fresh” salad dressing served by various airlines:

Water, soybean oil, tarragon vinegar, olive oil, multidextride, salt, dehydrated onion, sugar, mono- and diglycerides, spices, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated red and green bell pepper, nonfat dry milk, xantham, guar (food fiber), lemon juice powder.

To which, having copied it down, I appended the note:

This year’s harvest of multidextride has been exceptionally good.

What’s in a Word?

Dalrymple writes at Salisbury Review on the beauty of finding the right word:

The morning after my arrival I was trying, without much success, to find main entrance [sic] and to go from thence to the room in which the conference I had come to address was being held. I came to a cross-road of two identical corridors and looked around me, trying to find some clue as to which direction to take. I must have looked bemused, for a guest was just about to enter his room, saw I was uncertain which way to go, and said, ‘Quite.’

What admirable concision! How much that one, beautifully-chosen word expressed!

When Mediocrity Strikes

Joseph Stiglitz is a celebrated economist, a Nobel Prize winner in fact. You would expect his public pronouncements to evince deep reflection and logical consistency on economic matters. Nope. It reminds Dalrymple of an interview he conducted with South African communist Joe Slovo years ago:

I had expected him to be able to fend off my question with ease by means of some sophisticated rationalization, the exposure of whose untruth and bad faith would have taken more time than I had at my disposal. But no, he was just not very clever.

Dalrymple at Taki’s Magazine

Corbyn’s Labour Party; Freedom of Opinion not welcome here

When it comes to politics, the internet and social media have created “not a Socratic dialogue but an outpouring of bile”, says Dalrymple at Salisbury Review…

This is a powerful reminder (and, as Doctor Johnson said, we need more often to be reminded than informed) that hatred is often the reverse side of the coin of humanitarian sentiment. Those who claim to wish humanity well often in practice wish their neighbour ill.

Read the rest here

An Introduction to the Real Psychiatry by Dr M S Rao

Note: When Dalrymple’s long-running BMJ column ended in 2012, he had a backlog of about 60 unpublished pieces, and he kindly gave them to us to post here at Skeptical Doctor. We are posting them on Wednesdays to coincide with the schedule of his old BMJ column. We hope you enjoy them.

Boastfulness is not a pleasant characteristic, but it is an increasingly necessary one for getting on in the world. Not only must one not hide one’s light under a bushel, but one must pretend, and make others believe, that one’s penny candle is actually a laser of such penetration that it will illuminate the far side of the universe. Gone are the days when a world expert on a subject would claim to know a little about it; nowadays even an eighteen year-old applicant for medical school is expected to produce a list of achievements filling several pages.

The other day, though, I came across a case of boastfulness disarming in its innocence. It was in a book called An Introduction to the Real Psychiatry: The Science that Studies and Corrects the Malfunctioning of the Fine Human Brain, by Dr M S Rao, published in Jaipur in 1971. Among the author’s previous books were From Utter Weakness and Impotence to the Supreme Sexual Power, 5th revised edition, 1969, 224 pages.

Dr Rao has nothing but contempt for other psychiatric texts:

It is remarkable how, in spite [of the lack of agreed facts or principles in psychiatry], the books on psychiatry are regarded as science books, simply because they have a rich get-up, are voluminous, made of superior paper with high-class printing, more especially because they are highly priced like other medical books, and because they are taught in medical colleges and their authors have many high medical degrees after their names.

Religion is no better. Sometimes he sounds like the Richard Dawkins of his day. Not only did Darwin for him pluck out the heart of the human mystery, but belief in God is a “silly childish belief” that leads to sexual frustration and thus to mental malfunctioning.

Luckily, Dr Rao has come to put us all right. Having quoted Pope’s famous epitaph to Sir Isaac Newton:

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said Let Newton be, and all was light!

Dr Rao continues:

Mother Nature got busy in creating a new brain which was destined to illuminate schizophrenia, etc., etc.; and I was then ushered into the world, rather silently… Mother Nature urged me to show up, and I was declared the topmost student of my class in my state, getting by far the highest marks and winning the highest merit scholarship…

Mother Nature was not yet finished with Dr Rao:

Mother Nature later on seemed to say in my ears, “The brain (cerebrum) constructed by me is a purely mechanical brain. It is as prone to work in a wrong way as in the right way… and the wrong ways are innumerable, and the humanity has been using this brain mainly in the wrong ways… ever since I gave this brain to humanity, some 10,000 generations ago, – simply because I forgot to enclose the operating instructions with this mechanism I constructed (as is now usually done by the thoughtful engineers who construct various sorts of machines – they tell people in a leaflet how to operate their particular machine).

Fortunately, Dr Rao has discovered the operating instructions of the human brain, and:

…thus I could make Newton’s genius flourish far far more fruitfully if that unfortunate and psychologically ignorant boy could somehow come in contact with me…

For some reason, this boastfulness is endearing (perhaps because it is so eccentric) rather than off-putting, unlike our own which is merely crude and grasping.