Author Archives: Clinton

One Step Into Modernity

Dalrymple predicts that the Saudi decision to allow women to drive will have far-reaching consequences for the kingdom:

Slowly, Saudi Arabia is being dragged into Western-style modernity. This might well upset the two-century-old balance between the clerical and relatively secular powers in the desert kingdom. Clerical power is like pregnancy: it is difficult to have only a little of it. Tocqueville said that the most dangerous moment for authoritarian regimes was not when they were at their most repressive but when they begin to reform.

Considering the preeminence of driving in Saudi youth culture, giving women license to drive could lead to major changes in how the sexes interact and court. How will the emirs keep their daughters penned in seclusion, once they have seen the dashboard lights?

Truth Is Not the Only Truth

In Psychology Today Dalrymple analyzes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138 to argue that deceit is sometimes necessary and even kind:

This sonnet raises the ethical problem of truth-telling in human life. The great philosopher Kant says we must never tell a lie in any circumstances, but Shakespeare—in this—was surely both the better philosopher and better psychologist than Kant. We all need to hold on to our illusions, sometimes at least, and we need them upheld. We cannot live entirely in truth.

‪H/t Andrew S.‬

Footage of Dalrymple in North Korea

Many of you may know of Dalrymple’s 1989 visit to North Korea as part of a communist British delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students, as recounted in his book The Wilder Shores of Marx.

Skeptical Doctor reader Yakimi has made a tremendous discovery, finding actual footage of Dalrymple in a YouTube video of the event. See Yakimi’s note – and the link to the video – in his message below:

Off-topic, but I have a discovery to share.

You may recall Theodore Dalrymple’s account of his journey in 1989 to the World Festival of Youth and Students held in North Korea. I was recently rereading that chapter of The Wilder Shores of Marx when I had the idea of seeing whether there existed any footage of him at the event. As luck would have it, YouTube is host to a two-hour film ( documenting the festival. Dalrymple mentioned that the British delegation wore a uniform of “stormtrooper brown”, so I revieiwed the footage keeping an eye out for them.

At 31:39, a figure wearing a brown shirt and strongly resembling Dalrymple as he appears on the book’s dust jacket can be seen, resting his chin on his fist. He appears again at 32:35, holding a camera.

I do believe that to be Dalrymple. What do you think?

(Sadly, the footage of Dalrymple telling the wrestler that he hates sports or that of him being forced to dance were not featured.)

What a great find! H/t Yakimi

Me in a Niqab

At least there’s one advantage of the niqab, says Dalrymple. They discourage selfies:

…the resort to selfies on every possible occasion might be interpreted as a mass outbreak of narcissism. The question is whether the narcissism was always there, waiting for its opportunity to be expressed, or whether the ease of taking selfies has itself stimulated the narcissism and called it into being…

Of Dotards and Dithyrambs

Dalrymple was not surprised by the North Korean regime’s use of the word dotard in referring to President Trump, because of this experience during his 1989 visit to the country:

I was emerging from the Great People’s Study House in Pyongyang, which, architecturally speaking, is a hybrid of pagoda and Fascist mausoleum. Stretched out before it was one of those vast empty spaces in which the regime holds its interminable Busby Berkeley cum Nuremberg rallies. As the Marquis de Custine said of the vast open spaces of St. Petersburg, in his great book Russia in 1839, a crowd (meaning a crowd that gathered there spontaneously, rather than under government direction) would be a revolution.

A single North Korean passed me in the square. “Do you speak English?” he asked…

Are There Brave Terrorists?

In City Journal Dalrymple again makes the point that it is wrong to refer to terrorist atrocities as cowardly and explains why he finds the issue important:

It would be impossible to estimate with certainty or exactitude the harm done by the misuse of words in these circumstances. But nevertheless there is an unpleasant corollary to May’s statement: if even part of what is wrong about leaving a bomb in Parson’s Green station is that it is a cowardly thing to do, then a terrorist attack that is more direct, and hence less cowardly, must be better, from a moral perspective. Are we to admire terrorists who stare their victims in the face, or put themselves directly in self-harm’s way?  Bravery in the promotion or defense of a bad cause does not make the cause better, or a heinous act any more praiseworthy.

The People Don’t Know What’s Best for Them

One explanation for the anti-democratic nature of the European Union, from a piece in the Library of Law and Liberty:

The debts of some countries in the so-called union are the credits of others, and while the former would like either to mutualise the debts, so that much of the burden of repaying them fell on those to whom the money was owed, or alternatively to inflate the debts away, the creditors would like no such thing. They do not want to pay twice, first as lender, then as debtor; nor would they like to see their hard-earned money melt into the worthless paper of hyper-inflated banknotes of value only to collectors a hundred years hence. These are differences difficult to reconcile; and in a democratic state, the debtors, being more numerous, would easily outvote the creditors. In present circumstances, then, the creditors could not tolerate a democratic state: Europe for them must remain an unrepresentative administrative entity, with no connection whatever to the will of the people.

The Price of Idiocy

Dalrymple greatly admires Simon Leys, but he can’t help but feel sorry for the writer Leys humiliated, even though she deserved it:

He continued his ferocious attack, though he made clear that his attack was not personal, it was against all the frivolous idiocies that had been written about Mao and Maoism by Western intellectuals. And it is certainly true that any Chinese who had lived and suffered through those terrible years would suffer a second time if he read the praise lavished on his tormentors by those who were so easily duped by the regime’s flattery machine. There is no doubt that Macchiocchi deserved what she got.

And yet…


Suit Your Selfie

On selfishness and the selfie, from Taki’s Magazine:

The selfie is an example of the new social contract brought about by the social media: You pretend to be interested in me if I pretend to be interested in you. Thus, I agree to look at your selfie at Machu Picchu if you agree to look at mine at Angkor Wat. And this, after all, is as it should be, because it is a long way to go to either of those if no one believes you have been. A classic book is a book that everyone wishes he had read; a wonder of the world is a place at which everyone wishes he had been photographed.

Freedom and Art

The juxtaposition of two London exhibitions – one of Russian and one of American art from the early 20th Century – yields interesting contrasts:

Some of the similarities and differences between Russian and American art of their respective periods were, to me, surprising—none more so than the realization that the Russian artistic endeavor was not only more vigorous but also more varied than the American, despite the state’s monopoly as a patron from nearly the outset of Lenin’s regime. The new state brooked no opposition or even criticism, but at first it did not meddle much with the forms of artistic expression (civil war, economic collapse, and famine will distract even aspiring totalitarian regimes from the arcane disputes of aesthetic theory). I was reminded of Fidel Castro’s famous, or infamous, dictum, that within the revolution, everything was permitted, while outside it, nothing was. The more a totalitarian regime consolidates, the greater its control and the narrower its definition of what lies within the revolution; and this is precisely what happened in the Soviet Union, so that by the end of the period covered, only a single style of artistic expression—socialist realism—was permitted.