April 19, 2005


Citizen and Scholar of the World: An Interview with Dr. Theodore Dalrymple (Bernard Chapin, April 9, 2005, Men's News Daily)

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple is one of the few writers who excels in practically every endeavor attempted and never descends into mediocrity, regardless of his subject matter. Along with being an established writer, he is also a psychiatrist. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor for City Journalwhere he generally writes a couple of essays per quarterly issue, one is entitled, “Oh, to be in England ”. Dr. Dalrymple is a frequent contributor to The New Criterion as well. He writes for a variety of publications including The Spectatorand the Daily Telegraph. Dr. Dalrymple has published numerous books such as Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass and Intelligent Person's Guide to Medicine. A new work, Our Culture, What's Left of It : The Mandarins and the Masses, is set to be released in May of 2005. [...]

BC: How difficult is it to be a conservative in England today? An entirely different set of beliefs are required than those in America. As a non-European, the extent with which the continent accepts socialism reliably baffles me.

TD: The main difficulty is in finding institutions worthy of preservation, or that have not been distorted out of all preservation. We do not have socialism, we have the corporate state, in which the distinction between the private and public is eroded. I think we are actually nearer to fascism than socialism. I could give quite a few examples.

BC: Yes, is it probable that the eventual outcome of the European Union be fascism? Is it not the greatest experience with bureaucracy ever attempted?

TD:I think the outcome could have resemblance to fascism, though it will be more touchy-feely than boot in the face. You will not be allowed to say certain things allegedly to spare other people's feelings, but in reality it will preserve the corporatist power structure intact. It will be more Kafka than Nineteen Eighty-Four. I also think that it all might end in civil war, though the political classes in each European country present it as the sovereign remedy to war. Ultimately, two things are driving the union: unfulfilled megalomania, and the personal greed of politicians, for whom it represents a giant pension fund.

BC: Your father was a Marxist. How did his political preferences affect you? Was your early exposure to communism a healthy inoculation against buying into the socialist idea?

TD: I think children often react against the ideas of their parents. Perhaps if I had children, which I don’t, they’d be Marxists. However, in my father’s case, I was aided by the clear disjunction between his protestations of concern for humanity as a whole, and his inability to treat anyone as an equal.

BC: Here’s a question everybody on this side of the pond would like to know, why are you choosing France for retirement exile? It certainly cannot be due to the tax rates.

TD: France is still in many ways a very pleasant country. Besides, my wife is French. France is twenty years behind Britain in social decomposition, and there is at least still a public commitment to intelligence and culture. The people are better mannered on the whole. The weather is better. I prefer Chirac to Blair: at least he knows he is an unprincipled unscrupulous ruthless villain, whereas Blair does not. I recognise that France is not paradise, but nowhere is. Finally, with regard to tax every Frenchman regards it as his patriotic duty to cheat the taxman. I will say no more.

France? They don't deserve him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2005 1:33 PM

Doesn't society depend on everyone pretending not to be an unprincipled unscrupulous ruthless villain, reason to the contrary?

Posted by: Mike Earl at April 19, 2005 2:15 PM

"I was aided by the clear disjunction between his protestations of concern for humanity as a whole, and his inability to treat anyone as an equal."

The left in a nutshell. Perfect.

Posted by: jeff at April 19, 2005 2:23 PM

Encomium for an atheist? Oh dear!

He is, though, a world-class curmudgeon in the tradition of Mencken, Bierce and ...

Posted by: ghostcat at April 19, 2005 6:22 PM

An Englishman who calls himself a conservative and moves to France. Woah! My head is throbing.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 19, 2005 9:47 PM

A conservative, atheist, English psychiatrist!

(Clearly not Freudian; probably Jungian. Seems to fit the personal responsibility paradigm of Jungian thinkers like Gerald May and Rick Warren.)

More things in heaven and earth, indeed.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 19, 2005 10:12 PM

This is an especially nice bit by him:

Don't set the people free: many poor souls need
institutions, but the ideologues and cost-cutters insist on giving them
autonomy (Theodore Dalrymple, 12/14/02, The Spectator)

If freedom entails responsibility, a fair proportion of mankind would prefer
servitude; for it is far, far better to receive three meals a day and be
told what to do than to take the consequences of one's own self-destructive
choices. It is, moreover, a truth universally unacknowledged that freedom
without understanding of what to do with it is a complete nightmare.

Such freedom is a nightmare, of course, not only for those who possess it,
but for everyone around them. A man who does not know what to do with his
freedom is like a box of fireworks into which a lighted match is thrown: he
goes off in all directions at once. And such, multiplied by several
millions, is modern society. The welfare state is - or has become - a giant
organisation to shelter people from the natural consequences of their own
disastrous choices, thus infantilising them and turning them into
semi-dependants, to the great joy of their power-mad rulers.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 11:09 PM

Doesn't he know that Omnis Gallia is gonna get delended?

Posted by: Brooks at April 19, 2005 11:10 PM

Wonderful quote, oj. Dalrymple is a gem. With enough sharp edges to scratch everybody.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 20, 2005 12:39 AM

We don't mind freeloaders.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2005 12:43 AM

It's not that we don't mind them, is it? We just want to help.

BTW: Kesey did more to dump the mentally ill on the streets than any other single voice.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 20, 2005 12:51 AM

So long as they conform themselves to Judeo-Christian standards it hardly matters that they can't understand why they do so.

No, our grandfather did more to dump them and the retarded on the street than even Kesey.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2005 12:58 AM

Say whaaat?

Posted by: ghostcat at April 20, 2005 1:00 AM

I thought this guy was mostly to blame.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 20, 2005 1:31 AM

My wife loves fruitcake.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 20, 2005 2:04 AM