Theodore Dalrymple remarks on the fawning and ludicrous coverage of the fifth anniversary of the death of David Bowie by the farcical, liberal British media.
Once I wrote an article for a French cultural review in which I said that a rock concert appeared to me like a fascist rally of libertinism. The conformism with overtones of revolution, or at least of overturning established norms of behavior, seemed to me rather similar.
The February edition of New Criterion showcases our favorite doctor’s review of a new book on the invention of the alphabetical order.
The way in which we classify the things, people, and events in the world is very important, but there is no way that is correct for all purposes. One of my projects in retirement is to classify and catalogue my books, some thirty thousand of them, in time for my relict to sell them to a bookseller at a knock-down price merely to disembarrass herself and the house of them. How do I classify them? Alphabetical order plays a part, but only a part. Nobody else looking at the books would understand the way they are arranged. My classification, an autobiography of sorts, is unique and dies with me.
Over at The Epoch Times, the skeptical doctor surveys some of the Wuhan pandemic literature and in particular one pamphlet written by a typically ungrateful and carping member of the French professoriate.
But to speak of the degradation of our health is not only to exaggerate, but to talk the language of the spoilt brat who does not know his own good fortune by comparison with that of preceding generations. And spoilt brats without a sense of perspective are not necessarily the wisest of policy-makers.
In this week’s Takimag column, the good doctor is reminded again of his deceased friend from last week’s article on account of a recurring skin rash.
But no word of complaint was ever heard to emerge from the mouth of M…… D……. He bore his cross—which was soon to crush the life out of him—with patience and fortitude, and he remained far more interested in other subjects than in himself. At the time, this did not strike me as at all remarkable or heroic: It was just how he was. Nor do I think he would have much appreciated expressions of the admiration I now feel for him; he would have found them embarrassing, and he neither pitied himself nor wanted pity. And yet, looking back, I wish I could have let him know in what high regard he deserved to be held.
Dr. Dalrymple meditates on death, the Stoics, vigils, and tomb robbers in the February edition of New English Review.
If the Stoics had been right—that death is nothing to be feared—surely Mankind would have lost its fear of it by now, but I see no sign of this, perhaps rather the reverse; for as belief or confidence in an afterlife declines, it—Mankind— clings more than ever to the only life that it has, or believes that it has.
The dubious doctor points out yet another laughable British court sentence against a young criminal to show how the British criminal justice system has become just another ineffectual bureaucracy concerned mainly with the growth of its (and the state’s) power.
What accounts for this ridiculous charade that is both ineffectual and totalitarian in its implications? Part of the problem is in the bureaucracy’s need to appear to be doing something without actually doing anything. But there is something deeper: namely a concerted drive, going back decades, to find alternatives to prison at all costs—including the cost of high levels of violent crime, up by nearly a hundred times since 1950.
Our favorite doctor comments on the obnoxious tendency of politicians to constantly boast, as well as the unfortunate growing trend of embellishment to secure work by the ambitious job applicant competing against a rising tide of self-promotion.
The applicant is required to enumerate their acquirements and achievements, and since they know everyone else is required to do the same, there is a tendency to magnification; that is to say, to boastfulness. The fact you once helped an old lady across the road becomes — in an application — a burning concern for the welfare of the elderly in our society.
Reading the biography of a French anarchist gets the good doctor thinking about our own turbulent times in his The Epoch Times column.
It goes without saying that the justice with which the iconoclasts and vandals are obsessed is always of a very peculiar sort (it continues to surprise me how little protest there is against the very expression racial justice, than which few expressions could be more racist); but at any rate they are always judging the past, as they judge the present, against an impossible standard of perfection—perfection, that is, according to their own conception of that the world ought to be.
In his weekly Takimag column, Theodore Dalrymple recalls the death of an old friend many decades ago and his reaction to the tragic event.
The death of M…… D…… taught me the unfairness of existence, indeed the distinction between unfairness and injustice. People often don’t make the distinction, just as they don’t make the distinction between inequity and inequality. There is no cosmic force handing out rewards strictly according to merit. His death intimated to me the tragic nature of human existence. But there was more.
The skeptical doctor reviews a book on the lives of a select group of the French aristocracy prior to the devastating and bloody French Revolution.
Although they were men of the Enlightenment, and many of them espoused democratic ideas of human liberty (they were mostly enthusiasts of the American Revolution), they were so secure in their way of life, so certain of their privileges, that they could hardly conceive that this way of life and these privileges might not continue for ever, and were certain that they could sustain any amount of criticism. In a sense, they wanted their cake and to eat it too: that is to say, be counted as progressive while retaining their personal and class privileges.