In introducing his latest Pajamas Media column, tackling the above question, Dalrymple shares this bit from one of his many adventurous stays abroad (covered in more detail in his colorful and entertaining second book, which we’ve already attempted on several occasions to cajole our visitors into reading):
When I was in my early thirties, I several times visited an island in the Pacific called Nauru. From the medical point of view, it was of the utmost interest because fifty per cent of the population has Type II Diabetes and it therefore represented the epidemiological shape of things to come.
The Nauruans had become diabetic only recently, when they suddenly (and briefly, as it turned out) became the richest people per capita in the world, thanks to the phosphate rock in which their tiny island was covered. From a life of subsistence on fish and coconuts they went straight to being millionaires. They abandoned their traditional diet and started to eat, on average, 7000 calories per day. Not surprisingly they were enormously fat. They liked sweet drinks and consumed Fanta by the case-load. For those who liked alcohol as well there was Château Yquem. They were unique in the world in being both rich and having a short life expectancy.
The book includes an anecdote about the Nauruan who bought an expensive sports car, drove it until it ran out of gas, then set it on fire – and bought another one.