The Provocation of Fragility

Over at The Epoch Times, the good doctor observes some ridiculous new notices in the London Underground warning of the grave offense that is staring of a sexual nature—however that may be interpreted.

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the whole notice is its appeal to anonymous denunciation, again whose main purpose is to create an atmosphere of fear, vulnerability, and mistrust in the public, the very atmosphere that totalitarian regimes love and create. What the authorities want, consciously or subconsciously, is a population whose individual members fear to look at one another and therefore fear to converse, for such a population can’t oppose whatever is imposed upon it. Complete atomization, though without individuality, is what’s being aimed for.

Squaring the Circle

In this week’s Takimag, the dissenting doctor revisits the usual problems with the British criminal justice system after hearing of the life imprisonment sentence handed down to a man found guilty of bludgeoning an elderly man to death.

Perhaps I am an excessively vengeful person, but if Sable Thomas had killed someone near to me, I would have derived some satisfaction, been assuaged somewhat, if he had been sent to prison for the rest of his life without possibility of release except on his deathbed. But it wouldn’t be “closure.”

The Wisdom of Long White Beards

In the May edition of New Criterion, the skeptical doctor is tasked with reviewing a book by Dominic Green about the rise of modern spirituality, which began in the 19th century.

Thus Green is no Whig historian recounting Man’s smooth and constant ascent to a present realistic appreciation of his place in the universe. Rather, he is an ironist, demonstrating what we ought by now to know in any case, though we need to be constantly reminded of it, namely that ideas do not have to be good, or even clear, to have profound effects on human history. For me, life is too short for Emerson, but that does not mean that he was not a very important figure in his day.

The Life of Democracy’s Interpreter

In Law & Liberty this week, Theodore Dalrymple reviews a rather well-written biography of that famous French observer of the American republican project, Alexis de Tocqueville.

One cannot but remember the famous line in The Third Man, that while despotism in Florence had produced Michelangelo, five hundred years of democracy in Switzerland had produced the cuckoo clock. Tocqueville was famously alive to the drawbacks of the democratic spirit, for example its tendency to pander to foolish or ungenerous passions, to promote conformity, to bring to the fore ambitious mediocrities, and so forth.

Over Sharing

In his weekly Takimag column, the critical doctor recounts an annoying train ride through his native England during which his fellow passengers did not manage to keep their mouths shut for more than a few minutes.

During the whole journey, there was not more than five minutes of silence. It was as if the passengers I have described were members of a relay team, who had to take up a baton passed on to them by the others. Above all, no silence, which has the distressing effect of forcing people to attend to their own thoughts! They might even have supposed, these passengers, that they were performing a public service by rendering concentration impossible; for if concentration comes, can distress be far behind?

Which Came First: Twitter or the Troll?

Over at Law & Liberty, Dr. Dalrymple dives into the old topic of violence on television before transitioning to the general low intellectual level of much of the Internet’s comment sections.

If habit becomes character, the ease with which such exchanges can now take place will not improve the character of at least some of the population. Before the advent of the internet and social media, no one would ever have gone to the trouble of writing down such comments on paper and then have posted them somewhere. And even if they did, I suspect that no one would even have given any thought to them. If I am right, the opportunity creates the supply.

‘But They All Do It’

Over at The Epoch Times, our astute doctor explains to us the latest French political scandal, this time involving the right-wing French Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen.

The accusation against Le Pen could conceivably backfire, so patently is it timed to influence the election, but I still think that Macron will win. Furthermore, I think any other result would be extremely dangerous, even catastrophic, for France, which is not to avow any admiration whatsoever for Macron. Most elections, not only in France, are a choice between la peste et le choléra, the plague and cholera.

Everyone’s an Expert

In this week’s Takimag, the good doctor questions the wisdom of relying on so-called experts when it comes to many topics, but especially that of economics.

We would like to wish our readers around the world a Happy Easter.

I do not want to cast doubt on the idea of expertise in some kind of know-nothing way. But there is no more important task for the citizen than the recognition of true expertise, as well as the recognition of its limits.

Samuel Johnson’s ‘Rasselas’: An Introduction

Theodore Dalrymple has completed his first online course ever for Ralston College on Samuel Johnson’s only novel Rasselas. There is an option to gain free, but limited access to the course, as well as purchasing the course for a one-time payment of $49. A class with our skeptical doctor as the professor. What could be better?

In this six-week course, Dalrymple will facilitate an encounter with Samuel Johnson, a towering figure of English literature. The course contains the full text and an original audiobook production of The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, which depicts its hero’s “choice of life.”

The novel will show you that human life, far from being perfect—or even perfectible—inevitably contains a large measure of dissatisfaction. Johnson teaches us that the best way forward is not to ignore this fact and embrace the false hope of utopianism, but rather to accept that life involves many trade-offs. The art of life, for Johnson, is largely about making such compromises.