We mentioned in an earlier post that the Belgian think tank Libera! awarded Dalrymple its Laudatio Prize of Liberty, which they award for “special merit in the fight for freedom”. The group has just posted the speeches from that event online.
There is a speech in Dutch by Kristof Van der Cruysse, the President of Libera!, here. Perhaps a Dutch-speaking reader could summarize it for us?
Dalrymple was introduced by Bart De Wever, the president of the largest political party in Belgium and the man who by rights should perhaps be Prime Minister of the country. De Wever considers Dalrymple his intellectual mentor, and several statements from his speech are worthy of note.
On the main lesson of Dalrymple’s work: “Social policies need to focus on the empowerment of people, if you really want to help them.”
On the essay (“Fans behaving badly are at the heart of selfish England”) that first got De Wever’s attention: “It cut straight to the heart of the social premises that founded the Purple government and therefore demonstrated to me that it was possible to translate a traditional liberal and moderate conservative discourse in a modern and socially relevant way. The publication of Life at the Bottom a year later strengthened that conviction and probably laid the foundation for my own modest attempts of being a columnist.”
On Dalrymple’s efforts fighting moral relativism: “I believe the significance of Theodore Dalrymple’s writings lie exactly in the exposure of this ideological masquerade. With every essay, another sham of political correctness is debunked. At the turn of the century, this was unheard of, maybe even unthinkable. Dr. Dalrymple was one of the first to voice an opposing opinion in a compulsive intellectual climate. He had obstacles to overcome and still is as much praised as lauded.”
De Wever’s speech is here.
Dalrymple’s Gustave de Molinari Lecture in acceptance of the award summarizes his criticisms of modern Western political thought, mostly by reference to Great Britain. I found these passages most interesting:
I have conducted little research that could be called scientific, and I am certainly not an academic. And I haven’t really even formulated a consistent philosophy or even tried to do so. And lack of theoretical rigour is an accusation often brought, perhaps justly, against British intellectual life and tradition, which is marked by an unformed empiricism. However, there are also certain advantages to such a tradition (which incidentally is now dying out, much to my own country’s detriment), one of the advantages being a refusal to view reality through the lens of an arcane and elaborate and much cherished theory…
Well, let me tell you what I regard as my most fundamental discovery (I mean it was a discovery for me, and not for anyone else in the rest of the world) that nevertheless quite a lot of people still find deeply shocking: that poor people, whether they be poor in the absolute or relative sense, are fully conscious human beings who are endowed with the capacity to think, to calculate, desire, make decisions and so forth, in the same way that more fortunately placed people do… [We] ought never to forget that those consequences [of being poor] are greatly affected and modified by the mentality of the poor, and that this mentality is itself affected not merely by material but more importantly by cultural circumstances, and above all by ideas.
Dalrymple’s speech is here.