Category Archives: Discussions

Victims and Conquerors: Prostitutes or clients, who holds the power?

For the last few years, Dalrymple has been participating in various discussions at the Institute of Art and Ideas’ annual festival “How the Light Gets In”, held in Hay-on-Wye in late May and early June. One such discussion this year was a debate on the nature of the relationship between prostitute and client, in which Dalrymple disagreed with the very premise of the topic. “It implies that human relations are that of the conqueror or of the victim and that there aren’t many degrees in between, there no other dimensions and so on…”

I believe free registration is required on their website to view the video, and I’m not sure how that will affect the embedded video below, but give it a try. The link is here.

Dalrymple hits the airwaves in Australia

Ahead of his speaking tour of Australia, which begins tomorrow with an event in Brisbane, Dalrymple has been appearing on various television programs (telly programmes?) in the country, earning far more mass media coverage than he’s probably ever received in his native Britain, where he often feels as popular as a rattle snake in a lucky dip.

First was an appearance on the ABC program The Drum, where he gamely answered questions about contemporary Australian political issues.

Next was an interview by Tony Jones on ABC’s Lateline program where a cheery Dalrymple described his general view of the modern British bogan. Readers who have rarely seen him speak in public might be surprised by his demeanor here, but to many of us Tony Daniels is one merry bloke.

Readers “Rie” and “David R” brought our attention to this appearance on ABC’s Q&A program, where Dalrymple participates in a panel discussion that also includes feminist Germaine Greer. David R notes that Dalrymple and Greer even (crikey!) agree somewhat, although when Dalrymple attributes most modern domestic violence to extreme jealousy caused by the breakdown of traditional mores, Greer just about goes off like a frog in a sock.

And lastly, Rebecca Bynum, publisher of the New English Review and an all-around sheila, kindly posted this piece on Dalrymple by Adam Creighton from The Australian (hat tip to a dose of Theodore Dalrymple for posting the original, subscription required).

After Brisbane, the speaking tour continues with events on April 18 and 21 at the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne, respectively. Not exactly out in woopwoop!

Europe After the Reign

Thanks to commenter Kiljoy for bringing to our attention this discussion at the Institute of Art and Ideas in Hay-on-Wye. Dalrymple participated in a panel discussion on the future of European culture: As Europe loses economic power relative to the rest of the world, will it also lose its cultural influence?

Godfrey Barker argues that cultural power is not driven by money and that Europe retains its artistic and aesthetic influence even though its financial dominance has already waned. Charles Saumarez Smith says that, like it or not, culture is influenced by money and that this does not bode well for Europe. Dalrymple argues that Europe has already lost both its financial and cultural power and that this is so not because of its poor performance relative to the rest of world but “because of what we do to ourselves”.

Dangerous Dynasties and Blood Ties

A helpful reader (h/t Kiljoy) sent along this link to a video of a debate on meritocracy in which Dalrymple participated, addressing the questions: Does family matter? Is meritocracy realistic or desirable? and What is the future of the monarchy? The quality of the discussion is excellent, although there isn’t actually as much disagreement among the three participants as one might guess.

Visiting rites


Ever the cultural anthropologist, Dalrymple discovers a new source of clues about modern thought:


It seems to me that exhibition visitors’ books are a neglected source of information about contemporary culture and human psychology. There is a little French book on visitors’ comments at Auschwitz, but I know of no other. I became interested in visitors’ comments when I noticed what someone had written in the book at Freud’s house in Maresfield Gardens: ‘I am glad he was not my father.’

Dalrymple toured the Rijksmuseum branch at Schipol airport in Amsterdam, and he reproduces many of the comments in the visitors book there. They range from the charming…


Although I am 10 years old, I appreciate the museum and was attractive to it. Really I like it.

…to the bizarre.


Girl don’t play with my fine art! Ain’t gonna put no dance Club or nothin, but as museum? bid please! – Ya heard.

Read the whole piece here (h/t David)

Video of Intelligence Squared debate

The Intelligence Squared debate on drug legalization that we mentioned last week has taken place and may be viewed below. Your humble skeptical bloggers have not actually watched it and probably will not, given its extreme length and the fact that, according to this provocative and insightful description of it by participant Peter Hitchens, it includes “alleged comedian” Russell Brand behaving in the way that comes naturally to him, which is to say repugnantly.
In fact, your time is probably better spent reading Hitchens’ piece than watching the debate itself, as his theme is more universal and relevant, civility and decency being necessary precursors to productive debate.
A hat tip to commenter “WoarBoarBoar” for the link.

Theodore Dalrymple of the bayou

Rod Dreher, writer of Crunchy Cons and blogger at The American Conservative, writes of a doctor in Louisiana who has reached many of the same conclusions about his poor patients there as Dalrymple has in Great Britain:
He said that many of the patients he sees “are people who are poor because they just don’t want to work. They’ve never had a job and they never will have a job. They’re fine with that.”
He said that the general public has no idea how much money is wasted on medical fraud and abuse by members of the underclass, and on treating people who have no intention of being anything other than dependents on the state, and who will demand treatment “if they as much as stub their toe” because they don’t have to pay for it. He said that if the health care system here in Louisiana had the money it threw away on fraud by and unnecessary treatments for the poor, “we could build a brand-new hospital to replace Earl K. Long.”
He said that most people in society never have to spend any time in the world of the American underclass, so it’s easy to sentimentalize them. That can go both ways of course, and it can be easy to think of all the poor as brutish, etc. But Dr. Smith’s Dalrympian view is that our discussion of health care in this country, especially for the poor, is uninformed by a realistic understanding of the lives many of the poor lead, and the lack of moral scruple and sense of responsibility to themselves and to the wider community.
Dreher does not identify the doctor’s real name but says he hopes to get an on-the-record interview with him soon.
Read the whole post here.

Dalrymple debates sentimentality

A hat tip to reader Jackson for alerting us to this YouTube video of a debate between Dalrymple and Belgian politician Frank Vandenbroucke on sentimentality, personal responsibility and the welfare state. It is 45 minutes long and well-argued. Although Vandenbroucke does bizarrely assert that America’s 1990s welfare reform made the system “much more generous” to its recipients. It actually did the opposite, and famously so, placing time limits on benefits, resulting in some states in a drop in the welfare rolls of 90%. Of course, one could easily argue that the “tough love” in this approach actually was more generous to recipients – massive numbers of them immediately found work and became productive citizens for the first time – but somehow I doubt this is what he meant.

Underrated: Theodore Dalrymple


Britain’s Standpoint Magazine has a regular feature wherein they declare well-known intellectuals to be either overrated or underrated, and they have just turned their attentions to Dalrymple.

Jonathan Foreman is effusive in his praise, calling TD “one of Britain’s most incisive, courageous, knowledgeable and clear-eyed public intellectuals” and “arguably, our greatest living essayist”. His comments often echo those in 
our essay on Dalrymple’s importance: “He brings to his observations a wisdom gained from extensive travel, wide and deep reading, and having worked for long periods in places that most middle-class readers and commentators know only at second-hand.”

One of the aspects of Dalrymple’s life and work that we have tried to emphasize here, and that we thought was perhaps underappreciated by even his strongest admirers, was the almost absurd breadth of his experience — and indeed, the singular personality that lead him to seek out that experience. It is good to see others making the same discovery.

Since the riots, we have noticed that Dalrymple’s public profile has grown as commentators increasingly reference his work. Hopefully, he won’t be underrated much longer.

Is Dalrymple right about the EDL?

Dalrymple’s comments on David Cameron’s recent speech on multiculturalism included a characterization of the English Defence League as “thuggish and fascistic”. This sparked a discussion on the Gates of Vienna blog about whether Dalrymple’s view of the EDL is accurate and some speculation on why he holds that view.

Clint and I know very little about the EDL, so we can’t say whether Dalrymple is right or not. I did a little online research but not enough to form an opinion. No reasonable person could disagree with their Mission Statement, but I don’t know how well they live up to it.

So we wanted to get your opinion. What do you think? Is Dalrymple right or wrong about the EDL?