Theodore Dalrymple

Global Warning | 30 August 2008

Theodore Dalrymple delivers a Global Warning

I think I should abandon the world: I am too easily irritated by it. I should follow the example of Xavier de Maistre, brother of the brilliantly reactionary philosopher, Joseph, and stick henceforth to my room. In his Voyage autour de ma chambre, de Maistre tells us that by describing his journey he is offering an infinite number of unhappy persons a perfect antidote to boredom, and that the pleasure of such a journey is proof also against the ceaseless envy of men. Moreover it is cheap, an advantage not to be sneezed at in time of rising prices.

No sooner do I leave my house than I meet, or at least pass, people who chew gum. This vile habit makes them look like vicious and ruthless but stupid ruminant carnivores, chewing endlessly on the gristle of a corpse.

Worse than their appearance, however, is their habit of leaving their gum to be trodden into the pavement. Every pavement in England is now mottled with flattened gum, and there are few more unpleasant sensations than that of incompletely dried-out gum sticking to one’s shoe. Intellectuals tend to despise Lee Kuan Yew, but on the great chewing-gum question, which is one of the greatest facing mankind, he was absolutely spot on.

Then there are young people with earphones in their ears and trances on their faces. I wouldn’t mind so much if I thought they were listening to anything worthwhile; but they are going deaf from bad taste. Their suffering will be merited, but it will be suffering nonetheless.

Every day I pass the Oxfam shop, the poster in whose front window never ceases to infuriate me: Thankyou, it says to passers-by, for being humankind. I hate the totalitarian language reform, of course, exemplified by the use of the word ‘humankind’; but I hate the implication that people are to be congratulated and thanked merely for existing even more.

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