Life in Paris appears to be well on its way back to normal when it comes to the terraces of the cafés—for those under 65 at least—as the good doctor reports in his City Journal column.
But it is the terraces of the cafés that have really come alive. Looking at them, you would never know that anything untoward had ever happened. They practice no social-distancing measures, not even the pretense of them. The only noticeable difference is in the demographics of the customers: hardly a person over age 65 among them.
Over at Law & Liberty, the doubtful doctor raises an interesting issue when it comes to the standard liberal response to crime and how that response appears to be different when the criminal in question is not a member of one of the unofficially protected victim groups.
The curious thing, however, is that no one, not even the most ardent of penological liberals, is arguing that Chauvin was the victim of his circumstances (his upbringing in a violent, racist household or society, for instance) and therefore that he was not fully responsible for what he did. Nor is anyone arguing that punishment in his case would not work and that what he needs is some kind of therapy. They do not doubt for an instant that he should be severely punished, probably more severely than he actually will be punished.
Theodore Dalrymple writes about the petit bourgeois in his weekly Takimag column and provides his Parisian barber as a shining example of this often derided stratum of society.
Most men, said Thoreau, lead lives of quiet desperation, but I am not sure that we are entitled to conclude that those who do not complain about or revolt against the difficulties of their existence are necessarily desperate. Be that as it may, I do not think that those of more exalted, elevated, or fortunate social position are entitled to look down on the petit bourgeois, upon whose devotion to duty or business so much of their own comfort depends. They, the petit bourgeois, are the salt, not the scum, of the earth, and the intellectuals’ lack of sympathy for them says more about the intellectuals that it does about the petit bourgeois.
Our favorite skeptical doctor cogently summarizes our era as the apex of orthodox, conformist, politically correct virtue signalling, which would have been difficult to imagine in our so-called free Western societies even a decade ago.
Holding the right opinions has never, at least in my lifetime, been as important as it is now—if, that is, you want a reputation as a good person. No doubt there has always been a tendency for people to conform their ideas to those of their group in order to be considered sound, decent, or good people, but the pressure to conform to the latest orthodoxy has increased, is still increasing—and ought to be reduced. Actual good conduct, which requires some effort, restraint, and even self-sacrifice, has correspondingly become less important in earning a reputation for goodness. Holding a placard, chanting a slogan, expressing an opinion, is enough.
The good doctor expounds on the increasingly deliberate and fraudulent misuse of words as exercises in power in his latest Law & Liberty essay.
Changes in usage and semantics, when imposed, are usually exercises in power. These days, pressure for their adoption, like censorship, comes not from government but from pressure groups, small but well-organised and determined. Resistance in small things to monomania not being worth the effort among the better balance, the changes first go by default and then become habitual.
Over at City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple castigates the dangerously irresponsible parents who think it wise to bring their children to political demonstrations.
What kind of parent uses his child as an instrument to promote a political message and teaches him (at age five!) to make a political gesture that has, at the very least, connotations of intransigence, if not of outright violence? And what fathomless sentimentality—the reverse of the coin of brutality—allows someone to believe that the participation of a child in a political demonstration adds to, rather than detracts, from the power of its message?
In last week’s Takimag column, our skeptical doctor lays out some rarely discussed American crime statistics while calling into question the sincerity of the non-looting mob—also called “protestors” by more forgiving souls.
Let us, rather, take those who demonstrated peacefully within the law; surely they were acting in bad faith while preening themselves on their own moral grandeur? They demand “justice” but pronounce guilt before it has been established by a court of law. They have over and over again proved themselves indifferent to killings by the thousands, simply because they were of no political value to them. Their indifference to facts that they must know, at least in outline, is a symptom, I would suggest, of a guilty conscience. They want at all costs to preserve their Manichaean world outlook—we good, they bad—rather than face ambiguous, disconcerting, and intractable reality. Of course, we all have this desire or tendency, but it is one that we should seek to control rather than indulge.
In the June edition of New English Review, the good doctor relates the rise and fall of the former head of the Lebanese National Bank, Riad Salamé.
Riad Salamé had only done in a relatively acute way what governments and bankers in many countries in the west had been doing chronically and in a slightly different way for decades. To recognise the crooked foolishness of what the Lebanese banker had been doing would be to recognise their own crooked foolishness.
Theodore Dalrymple reviews at length Charles Murray’s new book Human Diversity over at Law & Liberty.
If we are to overcome many of our political and social impasses, it will be by something akin to a religious revival (or, more properly, a philosophical revolution) among the intellectual upper classes that takes full cognizance of the genetic differences to be found in the human race. Such recognition of difference would temper the desire to offer false and utopian remedies that, when they fail as they inevitably do, can only increase bitterness and resentment.
Over at The Critic, our skeptical doctor calls a spade a spade when it comes to the phony, self-righteous anger of demonstrators in London protesting a police killing in Middlesbrough—I mean, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
By this token, the demonstrator’s silence on the Chinese occupation of Tibet, or on the war in the eastern Congo, was complicity with horrors far greater in extent than the death of George Floyd. But silence is not even approval, let alone complicity, and to imply that everyone must express equal outrage about what one is outraged about oneself is self-righteousness carried to the level of megalomania.