Category Archives: Essays

Gratitude and Grumbling

In his July essay in the New English Review, Theodore Dalrymple muses on the lack of gratitude in the modern world, including occasionally his own, as he observes the Paris neighborhood where he is staying.

Gratitude is not the first characteristic of the modern age, however much we may have to be grateful for. Indeed, I have myself made something of a literary career, such as it is, by grumbling. My carping criticisms have covered a wide range of deficiencies and faults, or perceived deficiencies and faults, of both the world and its inhabitants. The fact is that I enjoy complaining.

Virtue Gone Mad

Dalrymple laments on the decline in Christian belief in the Western world in his June essay in the New English Review, while highlighting the misapplication of traditional Christian virtues by the secular, anti-Christian, liberal intelligentsia.

While our societies might be post-Christian in the sense that the majority of the educated population would disavow any Christian belief, yet many of them try to be Christ-like in their thoughts and actions. ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’ said Christ; and they pride themselves on not being judgmental. ‘Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’ said St Paul; and they forgive those who commit the worst of crimes against third parties. ‘He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none,’ said Christ; and they advocate increased taxation and foreign aid as the acme of charity. ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,’ said Christ; and they love, bless and do good to Islamists.

Inventing European Identity

An open letter in the Guardian from “30 top intellectuals” hyperventilating over the growing anti-EU sentiment in Europe draws pointed critique from Theodore Dalrymple.

The letter began with a ringing suggestio falsi: “The idea of Europe is in peril.” What the authors meant was that the idea of the European Union is in danger. They implied, in effect, that Europe and the European Union were synonyms, which is clearly false. If a country ceases to be a member of the European Union, or has never been a part of it, it does not cease to be European, neither geographically nor culturally.

Dalrymple ends his Law & Liberty article with the following shot across the bow:

However, having read the open letter in the Guardian, with all its resort to suppressio veri and suggestio falsi, my main thought was that if these were top intellectuals, what must the rest be like?

Opioids in America: Signs and Symptoms of Malfeasance

Theodore Dalrymple reviews a recent book by the Guardian‘s Washington correspondent on the devastating American opioid crisis that has resulted in the deaths of 49,000 Americans in 2018 alone, and 350,000 deaths since 1999. Dalrymple agrees with the journalist that there is much blame to go around, but points out that the book absolves the drug addicts from any responsibility, pretending that these people completely lacked moral agency.

It seems very difficult for people to hold in their minds simultaneously that corporations, public authorities, and individuals can behave badly. The desire to absolve individuals of their responsibility stems from a reluctance to admit that victims play any part in their own downfall: Victims are either immaculate or they are not victims at all. To recognize this as a false dichotomy is to lack compassion, and we all want to be seen to be compassionate.

The Choice Between Bad and Worse

Theodore Dalrymple reflects on the Shining Path after reading a book about the Peruvian Maoist guerrilla movement that terrorized Peru in the 1980s and 1990s.

The good doctor makes some incisive observations as he recalls his visit to Peru during the height of the Shining Path’s bloody insurrection. On politics:

It was a perfect lesson in politics: that the choice is not usually between the good and the bad, but the bad and the worse, in this case the far, far worse.

On the spread of tertiary education:

Until I went to Ayacucho, I had naively supposed that the spread of tertiary education was always and everywhere a sign of social progress: the more, the better. For the first time, I began to see that this was not necessarily the case. There is no class more dangerous than the tertiary-educated with no prospects that they consider worthy of themselves.

Help Wanted: Save Civilization

Here is a piece in which Dalrymple pokes fun at not one but two articles, this one a job advertisement in the Guardian for a school seeking a Director of Social Pedagogy:

What person but a monster could possibly be against the practice of a holistic nurturing of relationship-centred well-being across the lifecourse, or is it the lifecourse practice of relationship-centred nurturing of holistic well-being? Of course, it comes with a salary and a pension, probably much larger than those of the poor teacher who teaches the little dears how to read and write and sit down when they’re told.

Paging Doctor Marx?

The editor of the Lancet has written a remarkable editorial which praises a Marxist view of medicine, and Dalrymple gladly takes him to task at the Library of Law and Liberty. For one thing, Dalrymple notes that Marxism fueled the murder of scores of millions of people around the world. Is this not “somewhat contrary to the public health that, according to the editor of the Lancet, ‘was the midwife of Marxism’”?

Read the full piece here

Parole is unfair and unworkable. Let’s abolish it

In practice, the system of parole is a sham, little more than a demand that offenders lie by expressing remorse. Programs to encourage criminals to change their ways have been proven repeatedly not to work. But even in theory, the idea of parole is a disgrace, says Dalrymple at the Spectator:

…the parole system is completely inimical to the rule of law. To grant or withhold liberty on the basis of speculations, inevitably inaccurate, about what people might or might not do in the future is to reinstitute what amounts to a star chamber.

A man is to be punished for what he has done beyond reasonable doubt, not for what some questionnaire or bogus calculation says he has a 70 per cent chance of doing at some time in the future.

Read it here

Adding Injury to Insult

On President Trump’s epithet toward the source countries of immigrants to America:

These days, by contrast, insults tend to be crude and vulgar. When Mr. Trump reputedly called certain countries by an epithet that I shall not repeat, he was only employing the type of language that, to my regret, is now in very common use even among intellectuals. We seem either to go in for the false delicacy of political correctness, speaking as if some words were as injurious law-hammers brought down on the skull, or employ the language of stevedores (if any such still exist) or of building workers to express our political ideas. One might have hoped for a happy medium, the possibility of frankness without crudity.

Mary Neal Lives On

Dalrymple discovers an early-20th Century writer whose complaints sound familiar:

Mary Neal was a very modern figure insofar as she confounded personal dissatisfactions with social ills. There were, of course, many social ills in her time, as there are in ours, but a little girl being made a fuss of by old men because she was pretty was not one of them. We ought always to try honestly to distinguish between our personal aversions and social ills, but we seldom do.