by Kung Fu Zu 6/22/14
Theodore Dalrymple, aka Anthony Daniels, is the most incisive social critic writing in the English language today. His writing style is elegant and witty. These soften, somewhat, the harshness of his message which is alarming.
Dalrymple is a medical doctor and psychiatrist who worked in several African countries and the Gilbert Islands before returning to the U.K. There he worked in the east end of London, inner city Birmingham, and at Winson Green Prison, coming into contact with the less salubrious orders of English society. With his unusual background, Dalrymple is able to view English culture from a broader perspective than either his patients or the “intellectuals” who he holds responsible for much of the corruption apparent in England, specifically, and the West, in general.
Life At The Bottom is a collection of about twenty essays written over the period from about 1990 to 2000 while Dalrymple worked in Birmingham. The book is written for an educated public, not for academics. But having seen thousands of patients over the years, Dalrymple’s observations must be given due credence since they are based on empirical observation, not theoretical suppositions.[pullquote]“there is said to be no correct grammar or spelling, so there is no higher or lower culture; difference itself is the only recognized distinction.” Daniels writes, “This is a view peddled by intellectuals eager to demonstrate to one another their broadmindedly democratic sentiment.”[/pullquote]
In his introduction, Dalrymple lays out the present state of affairs as regards the British “underclass”. They are not poor in the literal, old-fashioned sense as they have material wealth that “would have made a Roman emperor or absolute monarch gasp.” Neither are they oppressed politically. Yet for all that, Dalrymple notes they live in a “wretchedness that is peculiarly its own.” He goes so far to say that based on his experience having worked in various poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin American “that the mental, cultural, emotional, and spiritual impoverishment of the Western underclass is the greatest of any large group of people I have ever encountered anywhere.”—- Think of the enormity of that statement.
What is the cause of this misery? In Dalrymple’s view it is, “The climate of moral, cultural, and intellectual relativism – a relativism that began as a mere fashionable plaything for intellectuals – has been successfully communicated to those least able to resist its devastating practical effects.” He gives a wonderful example of this when he mentions Steven Pinker’s dubious claim regarding language, i.e. the idea that “there is no grammatically-correct form of language.” Such theories have filtered down into society and gone on to harm countless children in numerous ways. Dalrymple demonstrates the evil destructive logic of such theories. He points out that once such a theory is accepted by the teaching establishment, teachers will “feel absolved from the arduous task of correcting” pupils. The pupils themselves will learn of such theories and “resent correction as illegitimate and therefore humiliating.” And contrary to Pinker’s gimcrack idea that children “are destined to learn to speak it (their language) adequately for their needs, and that all forms of language are equally expressive”, Daniels has personally experienced the underclass’ inability to express themselves clearly, much to their disadvantage. “Me Tarzan you Jane” may have worked for Johnny Weissmuller, but given the realities of our world, where clarity of expression is such an advantage, one has to wonder if Pinker is a knave or a fool?
Intellectuals, like Pinker, have taken such ideas further and arrived at the conclusion, “there is said to be no correct grammar or spelling, so there is no higher or lower culture; difference itself is the only recognized distinction.” Daniels writes, “This is a view peddled by intellectuals eager to demonstrate to one another their broadmindedly democratic sentiment.” While I agree this is part of the reason, I believe it is also a view perpetrated on the plebs in order to keep them from getting above themselves. Hypocrisy and mendacity work together well for the haves both in academia and the political Left. Unfortunately, they have been able to infect all levels of society with this cultural relativism.
Unlike most social and political commentators of our time, Dalrymple is able and willing to call a spade a spade. He exposes the true reality of life in the underclass thus lays “bare the origin of that reality, which is the propagation of bad, trivial, and often insincere ideas. Much of the wretchedness of that reality is to be laid at the feet of the “intellectuals” who “considered the purity of their ideas to be more important than the actual consequences of their ideas. I know of no egoism more profound.” This statement holds true for all such egotistical theorists, including Libertarians.
Each piece in the book deals with a specific area in which nonsense, dishonesty, and stupidity have taken deep root in our society.
In the first article, he deals with the intellectual’s ability to deny the obvious “when reality is unpleasant and at variance with his preconceptions and when full acknowledgement of it would undermine the foundations of his intellectual worldview.” I find this particularly humorous given the pretentiousness displayed by intellectuals, such as Richard Dawkins, who advise us all to question everything and learn from our own experiences. Yet they are not able to admit the empirical evidence, which is on display everyday outside of the corridors of academia and the media. Do you think perhaps they are feather-bedding phonies?
Dalrymple recounts personal encounters with individuals from the publishing world and BBC as examples of such “intellectuals.” These people are intelligent, successful and well read, but completely out of touch with others not in their upper-middleclass bubble. They could not believe that the people and problems Dalrymple described in his articles really existed. Furthermore, they are able to rationalize away all doubt in a way, which would amaze even the little boy who found horse droppings in his Christmas stocking and thought Santa had left him a pony.
In another chapter he deals with the modern Englishman’s willingness to sacrifice personal freedom in exchange for security and denial of personal responsibility. He goes through various discussions he has had with “patients” in prison who spoke about themselves and their crimes as if they were bystanders. This attitude seems to be a combination of an increased passivity in their attitude toward life and a cynical realization that if one can use the excuse that “he couldn’t control himself”, then he is not really responsible for his crime. When Dalrymple confronts these “patients” with a few questions (the answers to which will debunk their claims that they couldn’t help themselves) it becomes clear they are simply coming up with excuses to shift responsibility.
Dalrymple asks why such attitudes should occur when “objectively speaking, freedom and opportunity for the individual have never been greater.” According to him, one of the main reasons is the “legions of social workers, therapists and helpers whose income and careers depend crucially on the supposed incapacity of large numbers of people to fend for themselves or behave reasonably. Without the supposed powerlessness of drug addicts, burglars, and others in the face of their own undesirable inclinations, there would be nothing for the professional redeemers to do. They have a vested interest in psychopathology, and their entire therapeutic world view of the patient as the passive, helpless victim of illness legitimizes the very behavior from which they are to redeem him. Indeed, the tangible advantages to the wrongdoer of appearing helpless are now so great that he needs but little encouragement to do so.” No wonder the Leviathan continues to grow.
In later chapters Dalrymple covers other pathologies such as attempted suicides, battered women who have several children from different fathers yet never learn the cause of their grief, the disdain for honestly earned wealth yet the acceptance of wealth from gambling and the tendency of the system to protect the criminal, not the victim.
If you are interested in uncovering the true consequences of the moral relativism which permeates our society, you could do no better than to read this and other books by Theodore Dalrymple. But get ready, because things are worse than you think. You will come away better informed and, hopefully, less inclined to let such corrupt dishonesty slide the next time you encounter it. Maybe you will even start fighting it. • (2206 views)