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June 25, 2005

Two brilliant books by Theodore Dalrymple

Our Culture, What’s Left of It - 1566636434
Life at the Bottom – 1566635055

For those unfamiliar with this gentleman he is a physician who has worked all over the world, and whose most recent “post” is as a psychiatrist within the British prison system. In his late 50’s, he has had myriad thought provoking experiences, and shares these with the reader. Each book is a collection of essays which he writes for The Spectator, a weekly publication in Britain. He also writes for several American publications.

A combination of George Orwell and Edmund Burke, his commentary is penetrating, sometimes almost savage, though presented in scholarly fashion, vivid and illuminating. His prose is well composed, succinct and riveting. He deals with everything from literature and racial conflict to sex, drugs and societal responsibility—or lack thereof, keeping things always in historical perspective. No one does it better. What he says is often alarming, but the way he says it is masterful.

He explains, better than anything I have ever read, the cultural reasons why Africa is a basket case, which is particularly cogent now that Blair and Bush have decided to fix it. Having been in Rhodesia before Mugabe and Rwanda before the massacres he gives insight into why: insight I have never heard discussed, let alone so knowledgably--even compassionately.

It is impossible to adequately relate the compelling interest generated and the wealth of information shared in the writings of this lucid man, whose intellect must be phenomenal . . . even as he destroys the “intellectuals.”

A solitary quote will suffice. Commenting on the Cultural Revolution in China, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, along with the massacres in Rwanda he scathingly notes:

“One might have supposed, in the circumstances, that a principal preoccupation of intellectuals, who after all are supposed to see farther and think more deeply than ordinary men and women, would be the maintenance of the boundaries that separate civilization from barbarism, since those boundaries have so often proved so flimsy in the past hundred years. One would be wrong to suppose any such thing, however. Some have knowingly embraced barbarism; others have remained unaware that boundaries do not maintain themselves and are in need of maintenance and sometimes vigorous defense.”

Wow!! No one can accuse this man of beating around the bush, which is exactly why he is so easy to read. As in a well constructed novel his prose is “page-turning,” but nothing he says is fiction, which is the usually the startling part. His assessment of the devolution of civilization in Britain, and by implication the rest of the West, is damning as well as frightening.

Shakespeare takes on a whole new life when you read his ruminations on the subject of literature, and his essay on the devastating cultural impact of the writings of Virginia Wolff and D.H. Lawrence is alone worth the “price of admission.” Likewise he dis-assembles so-called “modern art” to my satisfaction, but far better than I ever could. I simply loved Trash, Violence and Versace: But is it Art.

His discussion on legalizing drugs completely changed my opinion on this issue. He’s against it, and for reasons with which it is impossible to disagree.

He dissects and displays dystopian Cuba, and Castro, like no one else, and explains it carefully and informatively in his chapter on Why Havana Had to Die.

To his undying credit, in his essay titled The Frivolity of Evil, he hammers the welfare state as the “necessary, though not sufficient, condition . . . which makes [all] this possible.” He observes that not so long ago most of the devilish and destructive conduct we see in the underclass was far less widespread than it is now, and at a time when there was much less prosperity. He thus separates for all to see, squalor from poverty.

And I could go on, but won’t. Please read these books. They are seminal, and necessary to an understanding of where the West is going, led by the Europeans.

Posted by respeto at June 25, 2005 4:26 PM