Category Archives: Essays

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.

Swimming Always Against the Tide

The legendary English conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton, died yesterday and Theodore Dalrymple remembers this great and courageous man at City Journal. Requiescat in pace, Sir Roger.

In his last and moving article in The Spectator, indeed in the last paragraph he published in his lifetime, he stressed the importance of gratitude for what one has been fortunate enough to inherit. Take nothing for granted, preserve what is worth preserving, understand the fragility of things, remember debts to the past as well as to the future, take delight in the world. Such was the lasting message of this exceptionally gifted man.

Fight or Flight

When what appears to be the latest fake news story turns out to be true, Theodore Dalrymple’s Takimag column is there yet again to shine a light on the absurd era we live in. Next item on the culturally-destructive, tradition-shattering, politically correct hit list: banning the use of the term “Ladies and gentlemen.”

Freedom of opinion is a very good thing, but so is freedom from opinion—since a very high proportion of opinions, especially among publicly funded academic intellectuals, do not even rise to the value of drunken barroom talk. Oh for a world free from opinion!—or at least freer from opinion.

Alas, the social media have provided an echo chamber for cranks, monomaniacs, extremists, psychotics, enthusiasts of every stripe, the unheard whose prior muteness was their greatest virtue and highest quality, the echo chamber being the whole world.

Effectively Legalizing Murder

A recent shocking French court decision acquitting a vicious killer is dissected by Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal.

In 2017, Kabili Traoré, a Muslim of Malian origin, who had no previous psychiatric history but a long criminal record, with 22 convictions—including for robbery, attempted robbery, drug-dealing, and possession of illegal arms—climbed over the balcony of the flat of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman age 66, tortured her, and then threw her over the balcony to her death. Traoré appeared to be in a state of religious excitation, for he was heard to shout “Allahu Akbar” and “I have killed Shaitan” (Satan). There is no doubt that he was psychotic at the time, or that his psychotic state was precipitated by his use of cannabis.

Labour’s Undemocratic Resistance

Further reflection from the good doctor at City Journal on the fallout from the British elections and the obnoxious tendency of recent leftist (election) losers to refuse to accept the will of the majority.

What’s worrying about him and his ilk is not only their dangerous policies but their apparent disdain for, and nonacceptance of, election results as the way in which governments are formed. For a parliamentary democracy to work, it needs an opposition that accepts that it has lost and must wait until next time to try to win, and that acts, in fact, as an opposition—not as a resistance.

No Final Victories

Theodore Dalrymple shares more of his thoughts on last month’s resounding British election defeat of Comrade Corbyn over at City Journal.

The results of last month’s British election, which I learned while on a visit to Hungary, came to me, and to many of my friends, as a great relief. The defeat of Jeremy Corbyn, whose economic ideas could produce a shortage of salt water in the Pacific, was incomparably more important to us than the question of Brexit, a minor distraction by comparison.

All Washed Up

Our favorite doctor describes his visit to Southsea, England in the January edition of New Criterion.

My spirits were lifted again by such blithe unawareness of change, such indifference to money and commercial advantage. The survival of his enterprise (if such it could be called), and others like it, was to me evidence of the survival of freedom, albeit tenuous and threatened. Here were people who lived as they wished, doing no harm and giving pleasure to at least a few others.

A Matter of Respect

In this week’s Takimag column, the good doctor muses on nature and Man’s perspective to the environment around him.

At heart, both the excessive respect and disrespect for Nature are the products of sentimentality, a sentimentality that leads to a failure to make proper distinctions. Both the excessively respectful and the disrespectful suppose that Nature has intentions toward us, good or evil as the case may be. Excessive respect supposes that Nature is so benevolent that nothing in it can harm Man, provided only that he is worshipful toward it; disrespect supposes that Man knows best and can perfect not only himself but the universe.