Category Archives: Essays

Repenters and Resenters

The radical green fanatics of the latest chapter of the climate change alarmism movement (the dubiously named Extinction Rebellion) are the starting point of Theodore Dalrymple’s weekly Takimag column. The incident described in the article of angry commuters in England attacking the green zealots who were preventing a train departure can be viewed here.

Man is the only creature, as far as we know, that enjoys the contemplation of its own disappearance from the face of the earth. We find the prospect of our annihilation by disease, famine, war, asteroid, or climate change deeply satisfying. We feel, somehow, that we deserve it and that the world would be a better planet without us.

Everyone a Law Unto Himself

The absurd and ludicrous Cambridgeshire, England court decision acquitting a Green Party parliamentary candidate of obvious vandalism is assailed by Theodore Dalrymple in a City Journal article.

The socially destructive effect of this judgment, if it were to be generalized, hardly needs emphasis. The judgment made honestly held belief, however absurd, a defense against what would otherwise be a criminal act, and it therefore made everyone a law unto himself. It is difficult to see how daubing council offices with paint could have any practical effect, other than an additional cleaning bill for the council.

Sentenced to Death

After reading two books on the Death Row in Texas, the death penalty is the interesting topic of Theodore Dalrymple’s November New English Review essay.

The quasi-medical way in which executions were carried out—the anaesthetic from whose bourn no traveller returns—appals me (they disinfect the condemned man’s skin before inserting the cannula though which the fatal chemicals are to flow, another instance of the operation of the bureaucratic mind). I am far from sure also about the presence of witnesses from what I suppose I must call both sides, as at a wedding—although it is not clear at an execution who is the bride and who is the groom.

The Brutalist Strain

The insincere propagandists for the talentless school of modernist brutalist architecture are on the receiving end of a scathing Takimag column by the good doctor. Theodore Dalrymple unleashes a withering attack on the progressive purveyors of architectural ugliness and brutalism.

Recently, it seems to me, there has been a concerted effort, amounting almost to a propaganda campaign, to persuade people that the brutalist strain in architecture was and is a glorious episode in architectural history. This campaign has the ring of guilty people who protest their innocence too much, who know that they have been complicit in many crimes but hope that by noisy protestation they can drown out their own conscience and befuddle the judgment of others.

Assigning Blame in the Opioid Crisis

Theodore Dalrymple comments on the recent Oklahoma court-imposed fine of over $500 million on Johnson and Johnson for the company’s involvement in the American opioid epidemic over at Law and Liberty.

I do not, as I said, hold a brief for any drug company. But the action against such a company, and it alone (apart from against a grossly corrupt doctor or two), suggests scapegoating more than it suggests justice. It does not seem like scapegoating only because the company is an impersonal entity, and no individual suffers by it, at least for the moment, except infinitesimally. But the contributory negligence of many different parties—including, dare I say it, patients—was, in aggregate, very considerable.

The Soft Hand of the Law

In October’s last Takimag column, Theodore Dalrymple showcases yet again the excessive leniency of the farcical British criminal justice system after the horrific stabbing of Peter Duncan at the hands of a 17-year-old criminal with seventeen previous convictions.

The question not unnaturally arises as to why British society should have become so enfeebled, so lacking in moral confidence. In this, it is probably only the worst case of a general malaise in the Western world. My provisional answer would be the expansion of tertiary education, especially in nontechnical subjects. Huge numbers of people have now been educated in injustice and grievance studies of one kind or another, which have had for their effect the dissolution of a sense of human beings as agents rather than mere victimized vectors of forces. 

What Seventy Years Have Wrought

The autumn edition of City Journal features a thought-provoking Theodore Dalrymple essay reviewing three novels published in the year of his birth, 1949. These novels illustrate how far the decline of English society and culture has progressed since then. Incidentally, happy birthday to the good doctor and best wishes on celebrating 70 years. Cheers.

In an effort to assess what has changed, for better or worse, and what, if anything, has remained unchanged, I thought it would be interesting to consider three English novels published in the year of my birth. I am aware that this is not a scientific procedure: I chose the novels simply because they had long rested unread on my shelves and were the first ones published in 1949 that I came across.

Norman Stone (1941-2019)

In The European Conservative, the good doctor remembers the life of the well-known and highly regarded Scottish historian, Norman Stone, who passed away this summer. Requiescat in pace.

I was among Norman Stone’s admirers. You could not be in his company for very long without realising that you were in the presence of a deeply erudite man whose fund of historical anecdote was seemingly inexhaustible, always apposite to whatever happened to be under discussion, and brought forth for its own intrinsic interest and relevance, never merely to display how learned he was or to make you feel ignorant. To be at his feet where history was concerned was not so much a humiliation because one knew so little, comparatively speaking, as to be at a delightful and never-ending feast. Moreover, if you happened to know something that he didn’t, he was delighted to learn it.

We Are All Parasites

The dismissal of the bizarre shyster WeWork CEO, Adam Neumann, is the topic of Theodore Dalrymple’s latest Takimag column.

The most successful gurus are not straightforward crooks, at least not to begin with. If they deceive, they are also to a large extent self-deceived. However, with repetition and success comes more straightforward skulduggery, swindling, misappropriation of funds, sexual predation, and so forth, all because they now believe themselves to have been granted impunity, as with a diplomatic passport.

Deniable Dishonesty

Theodore Dalrymple calls out Senator Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren in City Journal on her recent obnoxious wisecrack about traditional marriage—such as the one that she has been involved in since circa A.D. 1980.

The upper-middle classes pretending to despise marriage are no more sincere than was Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess, though they do more harm by their pretense than Marie Antoinette ever did, for no one was ever encouraged to become a shepherdess by her playacting. It is otherwise with the upper-middle class’s playacting.