Author Archives: David Seri

A Desperate Search for Uniqueness

Prince Harry is the main topic of derision in Theodore Dalrymple’s weekly Takimag column.

Of course, Prince Harry is not being quite straightforward. He wants to destroy tradition and at the same time benefit from its continuation. He has no claim to the public’s attention except that he was born who he was in the very tradition that he wants to overthrow because he wants to be really, truly, just himself. I can well understand why a young man in his position does not want to play the part allotted to him by fate; I wouldn’t have wanted such a part myself. But in order not to be a hypocrite, he should have gone off quietly into obscurity, without public subvention, there to study butterflies or Sumerian epigraphy, or whatever took his fancy.

He has rendered a service, however, by holding up a mirror to our modern egotism. He is, so to say, the selfie, the tweet, and the Facebook page made flesh.

A British Slum Doctor Tackles Poverty

The good doctor is interviewed over the phone by Andrew Heaton on his show Something’s Off with Andrew Heaton in April 2019. The discussion mainly focuses on topics raised in Theodore Dalrymple’s classic book, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. The interview begins around the six-minute mark and lasts almost 50 minutes.

Identity as Ideology

Another book review from Theodore Dalrymple appears in the February edition of First Things. The book reviewed is one written by a misguided young French Marxist who went off to fight with the communist Kurdish outfit, the PKK, against the Islamic State in Syria.

But the need for a transcendent purpose, for an ideology that gives meaning to life, remained. If anything, the numbers of people needing it increased. But because of the demise of the Soviet Union, ideology became fragmented—Balkanized and privatized, as it were. Most people in need of ideology made their identity—sexual, national, religious, racial—the premise of an ideology. Restitution for present or past injustices suffered by their group became all-important, and by bearing in mind Gibbon’s famous dictum that human history is nothing but the record of the crimes and follies of mankind, they readily defined themselves by past injustices suffered by people like them, even if they had suffered nothing themselves. There is nothing like rage to disguise from oneself an existential void. 

Inequality and the French Pension Strikers

Another column from the good doctor on the ongoing social unrest in France has been published, this time at Law & Liberty.

I do not, however, think that so large a proportion of the French public supports the strikers because it is unaware of the underlying realities of the situation. I think they support the strikers because of a general dissatisfaction with life, when anything that discomfits those in authority is welcomed, even if it is even more inconvenient for themselves. Many people, after all, do try to solve their problems or make themselves feel better, by banging their head on the wall. 

France Fractured

Theodore Dalrymple reviews in First Things Jerome Fourquet’s best-selling book, The French Archipelago, that details the development of modern French society, which in many ways parallels that of the good doctor’s native country, England.

In both countries, the inefficacy of their criminal justice systems leads to a sense of insecurity. Both countries suffer from the deterioration of their public education systems. The decline of Catholicism in France is paralleled by the decline of both Anglicanism and non-conformist Protestantism in Britain, and the sudden appearance of a religion new to both countries, Islam, gives rise to parallel undercurrents of anxiety. Moral boundaries in both countries have melted away like snow in spring, leaving behind a rampant individualism. In both countries, deindustrialization has produced a demoralized white ­sub-proletariat.

Incidentally, this is our first link to First Things and the good doctor has written six other articles for this publication, which will be posted on The Skeptical Doctor in the coming month. Please note that there is a limit of three articles per month that can be read without a subscription. It is interesting that Theodore Dalrymple, whose atheism is well-known, is writing in a journal published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, which was founded in 1989 “to confront the ideology of secularism, which insists that the public square must be “naked,” and that faith has no place in shaping the public conversation or in shaping public policy.”

On Whose Authority

In his weekly Takimag column, Theodore Dalrymple highlights the many contradictions in the pro-EU, left-liberal camp when it comes to dealing with the migration question, the governing conservative parties in Hungary and Poland, the social welfare state model, and European youth unemployment.

Nor are those who accuse Hungary and Poland of authoritarianism necessarily friends of freedom of choice themselves, except in respect of which restaurant to go to tonight. I’m bored with Mexican, why not Moroccan? This is not necessarily a perfect model for society, or at least for all societies, as a whole. And in fact there does seem such a political phenomenon as liberal authoritarianism.

President Macron of France, for example, wants a Europe-wide approach to immigration. This does not recognize that what suits one country does not necessarily suit another. It also implies a supranational authority that has the power, legal and de facto, to implement such a policy, even against the wishes of a local population. He wants migrants arriving—illegally, of course—to be shared out among European countries according to a binding formula.

Individual Responsibility and Social Justice — Café Filosófico Interview

Below is a Theodore Dalrymple interview with Eduardo Wolf of Café Filosófico in Brazil from September 2018 that was not previously posted on The Skeptical Doctor. There are portions of the program that are in Portuguese only, but the good doctor does speak (in English) for close to half the total time. It is a pleasure to see that the writing and ideas of Theodore Dalrymple are having some impact in the largest country in South America.