In arguing that the supposedly enhanced cortisol resulting from fear of discrimination leads to physiological harm, the New England Journal of Medicine uses a hoax to support an already-flawed argument:
Let us overlook the post hoc, ergo propter hoc nature of this reasoning and accept it almost at face value. Clearly, what the authors are trying to establish are the deleterious physiological effects of fear of racial attack (given that chronically raised cortisol levels are bad for you). But the accusations were entirely false, made up and self-dramatizing or self-promoting on the part of the person who made them. They were wicked inventions, excusable only if a certain class of person (black female) were exempt from normal judgment, which would be a deeply condescending attitude to take toward black females or anyone else.
A bout with gout is a reminder of the usefulness of suffering:
I know that the gratitude will not last, because gratitude can never be a chronic emotion. I will forget the pain within the week and take my painless toe for granted again. But still the episode illustrates the point that suffering is necessary for the full appreciation of life. Without some experience of it, we could hardly be aware that we were enjoying anything; and it is why it is so difficult to imagine heaven, where suffering does not and could not exist. We can all imagine, vividly, a thousand hells, but a single heaven is quite beyond our imagination to conceive. That is why the iconography of hell is varied and fascinating, that of heaven dull and boring.
For years the Spectator magazine’s pre-Internet content was not available electronically, but we recently noticed that it now is. And so we are able to provide this link to the very first published item of Dalrymple’s career, A Bit of a Myth. (Though we should really say it’s the first published item of Anthony Daniels’s career, as he had not yet begun using the Dalrymple pseudonym). It adheres to the primary theme of his early writing: opposition to colonialism.
Former Spectator editor Charles Moore once said that Daniels was the only author he has ever chosen to publish on the basis of unsolicited articles, and this piece would seem to have been the unsolicited one that launched his writing career.
Be advised that the piece is poorly formatted and punctuated, seemingly the result of an automated mass upload process.
The absurd questionnaire Dalrymple was required to complete after his submission of a recent article to an American publication causes him, in the August edition of New English Review, to consider the motivations for and effects of such forms:
During my annual appraisal, itself a procedure of doubtful value, my appraiser asked me whether I had any concerns about my own probity. The appraiser was a colleague for whom I had some regard as a man, and he asked me this question only because it was prescribed for him to do so by the form about me that he had to fill.
‘I will answer the question if you answer two questions first,’ I said, and he asked me what they were.
‘The first is, “What kind of man would answer such a question?” and the second is, “What kind of man would ask it?”’
‘Oh, I know,’ he replied, ‘but just answer it to get it over with.’
Of course it was a formality; no dishonest person would reply, ‘Now that you come to ask, I am a little worried by my own dishonesty.’ But to comply with absurd formalities only because compliance is a condition of continued employment is to lose a little of one’s probity, as is to ask so absurd a question because it is required. Hume said that it is seldom that liberty is lost all at once, and the same might be said of probity. It is eroded rather than exploded: death by a thousand procedures.
After arguing that both sides in the abortion debate offer overly simple arguments, and going through what he considers the proper ones, Dalrymple writes:
So how do you frame a law that avoids the indisputable cruelties and hardships occasioned by total prohibition, while not acceding to the uncouth and ill-founded demands of the other side, and avoiding the bogus jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade? Arguments that rely solely on competing rights can result only in shouting matches; they have the psychological effect of limiting the moral imagination. On the other hand, the law must lay down with reasonable predictability and consistency what is permissible and what is not.
There is a limit to what the law can achieve if it is not to become, in effect, the absolute arbiter or dictator of our lives. Therefore, it is up to the population to exercise virtue…
We sometimes write that if you only read one Dalrymple piece this week, let it be this one. That is true of this piece in Taki’s Magazine on social media over-sharing and the related ideas it illuminates: The desire to publicize the details of one’s life (only the positive ones, of course). The “thirst for significance in a mass society”. The wish for the fulfillment of contradictory and mutually-exclusive desires, such as the wish to be judged and not judged, noticed and not noticed, simultaneously. A good read.
The demand for recognition and nonrecognition at the same time is surely one of the reasons for the outbreak of mass self-mutilation in the Western world in an age of celebrity. A person who treats his face and body like an ironmongery store can hardly desire or expect that you fail to notice it, but at the same time demands that you make no comment about it, draw no conclusions from it, express no aversion toward it, and treat him no differently because of it. You must accept him as he is, however he is, because he has an inalienable right to such acceptance. As a professional burglar once asked me, how could I expect him to give up burgling when he was a burglar and burglary was what he did?
In his latest contribution to New English Review Dalrymple devises a test to determine which distastes reveal everyone’s – note: everyone’s – inner authoritarian.
Read the piece here, take the test yourself, and submit your answers in the comments section.
In the course of explaining the principles involved, he offers this (to my mind accurate and insightful) description of the current ideological warfare that marks the present moment:
With the cacophony of opinion that now seems to envelop us every minute of the day, thanks to the media of mass communication, virtue has become the expression of the right ideas, which is to say of ideas that coincide with one’s own. In the beginning was the Word, but the word is now the beginning, the middle and the end. In a logocracy such as ours, he is best whose words are best; and those who say things that differ from our opinion not merely think differently, but are bad people. Those who merely behave badly are not bad, provided they believe the right things; while even the best, kindest or most considerate of personal conduct will not save the reputation of someone who expresses incorrect ideas.
We just received a nice email from Rebecca Bynum, publisher of New English Review, informing us that on August 1st she will release a book of short stories by Dalrymple. The Proper Procedure and Other Stories is 168 pages of 10 stories. Amazon link here.
This will be Dalrymple’s second work of fiction, after So Little Done, the first-person manifesto of a serial killer. No doubt many of us who admire his work have hoped to see more fiction from him, so this is an exciting development. He has often mentioned his deep admiration of Anton Chekhov, perhaps the master of the short story genre, and it will be interesting to see him follow in the footsteps of one of his great writer-heroes.
Dalrymple is quoted in the announcement thusly: “Some truth can be told only in the form of fiction. That is why I chose to write these stories.”
In the course of this piece in Taki’s Magazine on the wisdom of taxi drivers, Dalrymple reflects on why two African drivers in France told him they were returning to Africa….to be freer than they were in France:
But for most people, there is more to personal freedom than an ability to denounce the government without fear of retaliation, a lack of censorship, and a vote once every four or five years. Indeed, for most people most of the time these things are hardly of the first importance. Much more important to them is how self-directed they feel, and how much they may do as they choose in their daily lives. This may vary according to their position in society.
Dalrymple notes the massive exodus of French millionaires to London due to French tax policies, but warns of a potential reversal:
Corbyn’s policy is to increase government spending enormously, while balancing the budget: this can only mean much higher taxation, and given his social views, this in turn can only mean taxation on the rich and even the modestly prosperous, both of whom he regards as milch cows who will remain placidly in his field, waiting for him to milk them. But unless he exercises explicit power to keep them where they are (which he would not be above attempting, again, all in the name of social justice), they will flee, and take their capital with them. French exports of their rich will seem a mere trickle by comparison; and France, if Macron succeeds in his opportunism, will be a favored destination for ex-patriate Britons.