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While it's a confluence he'd likely be more than happy to forgo, it's entirely fitting that Theodore Dalrymple's latest collection of essays came out just as Britain was rocked by the bomb blasts of 7/07 and the realization that the perpetrators were British, educated, and middle class, not foreign, ignorant, and/or poor. Others are certain not to welcome the timing, for where Mr. Dalrymple's prior book, Life at the Bottom, had the comparatively easy task of explaining how liberal secular attitudes and intellectual trades had contributed to the creation of a permanent underclass, he here moves on to the more unpleasant task -- unpleasant for us* to realize how right he is, anyway -- of explaining how the same rot has spread to the great middle class and left a shambles of British culture in particular. Multiculturalism may have seemed rather silly to most of us all along, but when it seemed a fairly harmless silliness it was at least tolerable. But being brought face to face with the damage we've done to ourselves by not fighting it...that's a whole 'nother matter...

Mr. Dalrymple--who also writes under his own name, Anthony Daniels--is ridiculously prolific and a favorite of bloggers, so you may have read many of these essays, or, like me, may have missed a goodly few in the onslaught. Most (all?) of the pieces included here come from the excellent City Journal and while there's a mix of literary criticism and social analysis, the focus is very much on how our refusal to defend what is best in Western culture has led us to accept what is worst about not just our own culture but a whole host of others. Several of the most chilling essays concern Europe's inability to assimilate its immigrant populations, especially Muslims. But Mr. Dalrymple does not blame the "them", as would be all too easy, but confronts "us" with our failures. Here, by way of example, is a bit from What We Have to Lose, written shortly after 9/11:
Recently, I went to a soccer game in my city on behalf of a newspaper; the fans of the opposing teams had to be separated by hundreds of policemen, disposed in military fashion. The police allowed no contact whatever between the opposing factions, shepherding or corraling the visiting fans into their own area of the stadium with more security precautions than the most dangerous of criminals ever faces.

In the stadium, I sat next to a man, who appeared perfectly normal and decent, and his 11-year-old son, who seemed a well-behaved little boy. Suddenly, in the middle of the match, the father leaped up and, in unison with thousands of others, began to chant: "Who the f—k do you think you are? Who the f—k do you think you are?" while making, also in common with thousands of others, a threatening gesture in the direction of the opposing supporters that looked uncommonly like a fascist salute. Was this the example he wanted to set for his son? Apparently so. The frustrations of poverty could hardly explain his conduct: the cost of the tickets to the game could have fed a family more than adequately for a week.

After the game was over, I saw more clearly than ever that the thin blue line is no metaphor. Had it not been for the presence of the police (whose failures I have never hesitated to criticize), there would have been real violence and bloodshed, perhaps even death. The difference between an event that passed off peacefully and one that would end in mayhem, destruction, injury, and death was the presence of a relative handful of resolute men prepared to do their duty.

Despite the evidence of rising barbarism all around us, no betrayal is too trivial for the Quislings of civilization to consider worthwhile. Recently, at the airport, I noticed an advertisement for a firm of elegant and costly shirt- and tie-makers, headquartered in London's most expensive area. The model they chose to advertise their products was a shaven-headed, tattooed monster, with scars on his scalp from bar brawls—the human type that beats women, carries a knife, and throws punches at soccer games. The advertisement is not ironical, as academic cultural critics would pretend, but an abject capitulation to and flattery of the utmost coarseness and brutality. Savagery is all the rage.

If any good comes of the terrible events in New York, let it be this: that our intellectuals should realize that civilization is worth defending, and that the adversarial stance to tradition is not the beginning and end of wisdom and virtue. We have more to lose than they know.
It's so facile to express shock and horror at the barbarism of the terrorists who attack us and of the Islamicists we're fighting in the Middle East, but isn't it the barbarism in the very midst of our own culture that we should be doing something about?

Here though we arrive at a rather curious fact, for while Mr. Dalrymple quite openly recognizes -- see, for example, The evil that men do and Bad and bored in The Spectator -- that the solution to Europe's cultural problems lies in a resurgence of the Judeo-Christianity that was at the center of its lost culture, he is not himself religious and he announced last year that he is retiring to France, of all the godforsaken spots on Earth. America is in the midst of what some have called our Third Great Awakening and no one would gainsay the idea that religion and morality have resumed a central place in American politics and culture, but is Britain really in such dire straits that its best and brightest not only no longer believe in God but no longer believe in England? If it's the nature of things to come in three, one is downright frightened to imagine what the next volume of Mr. Dalrymple's essays will bring with it. In the meantime though, we'll surely keep reading him, compulsively. He's one of the very best social critics of our age.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

See also:

Theodore Dalrymple (2 books reviewed)
Politics
Theodore Dalrymple Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass By Theodore Dalrymple (Manhattan Institute)
    -ESSAY ARCHIVES: Theodore Dalrymple (City Journal)
    -ARCHIVES: theodore dalrymple (New Criterion)
    -ARCHIVES: "theodore dalrymple" (Find Articles)
    -ESSAY: A Neglected Genius (Theodore Dalrymple, Winter 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Reality Leaves Satire Behind (Theodore Dalrymple, Winter 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Frivolity of Evil (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Multiculturalism Starts Losing Its Luster (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: When Islam Breaks Down (Theodore Dalrymple, Spring 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Who Killed Childhood? (Theodore Dalrymple, Spring 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Case for Cannibalism: If everything is permissible between consenting adults, why not? (Theodore Dalrymple, January 2004, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Why Shakespeare Is For All Time (Theodore Dalrymple, Winter 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Sex and the Shakespeare Reader (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Multi-Culti Barbarian: Has multicultural indoctrination made us less sensitive to the mores of different societies? (Theodore Dalrymple, September 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Europe of Yesterday: The ghosts of the past still haunt the European Union. (Theodore Dalrymple, 6 August 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Real World: . . . without a TV screen (Theodore Dalrymple, 11 July 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: What’s Wrong with Twinkling Buttocks? (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Smearing Orwell: Elites now admit communism was bad—but fighting it prematurely was worse. (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: After Empire (Theodore Dalrymple, Spring 2003, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2002, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Starving Criminal (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2002, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Rage of Virginia Woolf (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2002, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Why Havana Had to Die (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2002, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Man Who Predicted the Race Riots (Theodore Dalrymple, Spring 2002, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Gillray’s Ungloomy Morality (Theodore Dalrymple, Winter 2002, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Dystopian Imagination (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: What We Have to Lose (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Who’s to Blame? (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: How—and How Not—to Love Mankind (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: The Uses of Corruption (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: A Lost Art (Theodore Dalrymple, Spring 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: How to Read a Society: (Theodore Dalrymple, Spring 2000, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Blame it on Bloomsbury: She is one of the most influential writers of the modern age. But, with her fatal mix of privilege and self-pity, Virginia Woolf inflicted lasting damage on western culture (Theodore Dalrymple, August 17, 2002, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY Arrested development (Theodore Dalrymple, June 2002, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Discovering LaRochefoucauld (Theodore Dalrymple, April 2001, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Walsall redux (Theodore Dalrymple, February 2001, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Gooseberries (Theodore Dalrymple, November 1999, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Therapy Culture by Frank Furedi (Theodore Dalrymple, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir, by Toni Bentley (Theodore Dalrymple, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community by Margo DeMello (Theodore Dalrymple, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance by Sally Satel & Christina Hoff Sommers (Theodore Dalrymple, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Dick Turpin: The Myth of the English Highwayman, by James Sharpe (Theodore Dalrymple, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Crossing, by Deirdre N. McCloskey (Theodore Dalrymple, New Criterion)
    -INTERVIEW: Our Culture, What's Left Of It (Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine.com)
    -Symposium: Through the Eyes of a Suicide Bomber (Jamie Glazov, August 12, 2005, FrontPageMagazine.com)
    -INTERVIEW: Citizen and Scholar of the World: An Interview with Dr. Theodore Dalrymple (Bernard Chapin, April 18, 2005, Enter Stage Right)
    -INTERVIEW: The Spectator in the Breast of Man: Self-regulation and the Decline of Civility (Peter Saunders, Winter 2002, Policy)
    -REVIEW: of Our Culture, What's Left of It (Stefan Beck, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Our Culture, What's Left of It (Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of Our Culture, What's Left of It (Andrew Martin, The Louisville Courier-Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Our Culture, What's Left of It (Edward J. Sozanski, Philadelphia Inquirer)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass By Theodore Dalrymple (Dutch Martin, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (John Derbyshire, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (David Pryce-Jones, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (Thomas Sowell, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (John Clark, Liberty)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (Teresa K. Weaver, Atlanta Journal Constitution)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (Arthur E. Foulkes, John Locke Foundation)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (Peter Heinegg, America)
    -REVIEW: of Life at the Bottom (Roger Donway, Objectivist Center)
    -REVIEW: of Life at Bottom (Noemie Emery, Philanthropy)
    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.


Book-related and General Links:
-ESSAY: The Life And Death Of England's Cities (Ed Driscoll, August 07, 2005)

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