Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media blogs an Ed West piece that seems to validate some of Dalrymple’s arguments about the direction of English society. The apparent validation comes from comedian John Cleese, a Lib Dem supporter who recently said, “There were disadvantages to the old culture, it was a bit stuffy and it was more sexist and more racist. But it was an educated and middle-class culture. Now it’s a yob culture. The values are so strange.” Cleese explains his decision to move from London to Bath thusly: “London is no longer an English city, which is why I love Bath….it feels like the England that I grew up in.”
But what did he expect? (Cleese of course. Dalrymple saw this coming ages ago.) …Monty Python was a weekly assault on the values of post-war England. And England’s societal bedrock of wisdom and knowledge proved in retrospect, to be surprisingly fragile…Of course, you shouldn’t be all that surprised if change for its own sake doesn’t go quite as planned.
Dalrymple has been featured on the website of PovertyCure, an international, Judeo-Christian-based organizational network that calls for rethinking the battle against poverty. There is a brief bio, quotes from some of his essays and books, a printed interview and a brief video of him. Worth a look. I particularly like this statement:
“We’ve got everything exactly the wrong way around really. We give them money for doing nothing and prevent them from selling anything to us.”
Many of you probably know that Denis Dutton passed away two days ago. Dutton founded the spectacular website Arts and Letters Daily, wrote the much-lauded book The Art Instinct, and edited the journal Philosophy and Literature, where he provided common-sense intellectuals with much mirth by launching the Bad Writing Contest. He also once wrote: “The brutal, penetrating honesty of his thinking and the vividness of his prose make Dalrymple the Orwell of our time.”
…to know him was immediately to form a strong and lasting affection for him. Dutton had a profound and beneficial effect on political and cultural debate in the entire English-speaking world.
…A man, however, is not to be measured wholly by the quality of his achievements. I wish only that I were able to turn as fine a compliment of Denis Dutton as Doctor Johnson turned of Sir Joshua Reynolds: that he was the most invulnerable man that he knew, for if he should quarrel with him, he should find the most difficulty how to abuse him. Denis Dutton was of that ilk.
If you like Dalrymple’s work, you might be interested to hear what was his own favorite book of 2010. In the Globe and Mail, he participates in a symposium on this topic, and offers the following:
It’s Mao’s Great Famine (Bloomsbury), by Frank Dikotter. As subject matter for books, historical events that cause 45 million deaths tend to put others rather in the shade. Mao’s Great Leap Forward was such an event. Dikotter weaves together the high politics and individual suffering of these terrible years. Mao emerges as every bit the equal of Lenin and Hitler in his indifference to the deaths of millions. A party that claims apostolic succession to Mao has much to fear from the study of history.
In City Journal, both satire and prophecy on the rioting of French students.
[The crowd] was racially very mixed, at least if the photographs published in the newspapers were anything to go by (which, of course, they might not be). Furthermore, again for the first time, members of the female gender participated fully and—according to reports—just as violently as the males.
There’s progress for you, and on two fronts—race and gender—simultaneously!…Now all that’s needed is that the transsexuals should join in.
Someone somewhere is making these arguments in all seriousness.
“Sharing a copy of The Spectator w some hoodie-wearing yoofs on the bus. After some discussion, we all agree that Theodore Dalrymple is evil.”
Note the moral authority the adult writer ascribes to some slovenly-dressed kids and the pathetic attempt to garner “street credibility” by deliberately misspelling the word “youth” in slum fashion (exactly the “downward cultural aspiration” of which Dalrymple has written).
Hind’s retweet drew a sharp rebuke in the Telegraph from Katharine Birbalsingh, the teacher sacked last month for criticizing the British educational system at the Conservative Party conference. Calling Hind a friend, she pointed out that Dalrymple “spent many years working with the poorest of the poor as a psychiatrist in British prisons” (though in fact this greatly understates his decades of workamong the poor, inAfrica, England and elsewhere). She added, “Theodore Dalrymple helped the poor every day of his working life, but I’m not sure whether my friend can say the same for himself. Does working for big publishing houses and attending champagne parties equal working in the squalor of British prisons day in, day out?”.
(Birbalsingh did not name Hind directly, but it is clear that she was referring to him. She tweeted on November 8th that “Dan says Theodore Dalrymple is evil and it has made me so angry I have written a blog”. Hind is the only Dan she was following on Twitter. Other publicly-available communication between the two on this matter explicitly confirms this.)
Here is a sure sign that Dalrymple is making some headway. You don’t get this kind of reaction from the libs at the Guardian if they think they can ignore you. They even drew up a little illustration. Crace’s satire doesn’t have the ring of truth — it veers between “accurate but not disparaging” and “disparaging but not accurate” — but I still enjoyed it. Am I being too sentimental if I give him an A for effort?
As of this writing it has attracted 242 responses—and what responses they are! There are a handful of dispassionate comments, admiring or critical as the case may be, but the vast majority are wildly, hysterically vituperative.
There follows a list of reader comments proving the accuracy of this statement, and a discussion of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy:
No doubt much of what we do, we do from motives of self-interest. But we might also do things for the sake of flag and country; for the love of a good woman; for the love of God; to discover a new country; to benefit a friend; to harm an enemy; to make a fortune; to spend a fortune.
Ed West of the Telegraph apparently attended last night’s interview of Dalrymple by British MEP Daniel Hannan (organized by Monday Books), and today he writes:
Theodore Dalrymple is the William Hogarth of our age, capturing, more than any other writer, this era of intellectual cowardice and state-created poverty.
West asks why “as an intellectual he is easily ignored by the intelligentsia” and “he’s never been asked by the BBC to talk about his experiences as a prison doctor”, and suggests: “probably because he would not recommend what they wanted to hear – ‘more resources’.”
…just as the adjective “Hogarthian” conjures up images of gin-soaked hags and foundlings dying in the gutter, I’ve heard “Dalrymplean” used to describe both the squalor of the modern criminal classes, and the attitude – the endless excuses which criminals, having had any concept of responsibility taken away from them by the welfare system, give to excuse their wrongdoings.
…just as the Tate in 2007 held a Hogarth exhibition, which showed us the squalor of Georgian London, maybe art galleries in centuries to come will put on Dalrymple exhibitions, with examples of his work besides a realistic model of a 21st century council estate destroyed by the benefits system.
I encourage those of our readers who attended last night’s event to chime in with comments. We intend to post an audio recording of the interview soon.
Update: Also see Daniel Hannan’s comments here, where he says:
It’s striking that many of those who are the most relentlessly upbeat about the perfectibility of man – those who, in T S Eliot’s phrase, “dream of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good” – are in person sour and humourless. Theodore Dalrymple, by contrast, is gloomy in theory, but sunny in practice.