Theodore Dalrymple

Young Turks

Comparisons are odious, generalisations dangerous and stereotypes invidious, but without them conversation would be tedious and talk nothing but an endless regression of subordinate clauses, each qualifying what the previous one had asserted. It is cowardly and dishonest to refuse these means of arriving at truth, nor would we approach any nearer to truth were

Against vulgarity

Where once the British set out for new fields to conquer, they now set out for new cultural nadirs to reach. And it must be admitted that, in the latter search, they show considerable ingenuity as well as determination. In the field of popular vulgarity they are unmatched in the world. Just when you think

Scarborough unfair

If it is evidence of the decline of British civilisation that you are after, you cannot do better than go to Scarborough. It is precisely because the material traces of that civilisation are still so much in evidence there, albeit dolefully altered, that the impression is so strong and so painful. The town retains its

The Disneyfication of death

Why are children’s graves now littered with toys? Is a graveyard a public amenity or an arena of self-expression? An Essex council recently ordered grieving families to remove ‘decorations’ from the tombs of their dead children. ‘One councillor claimed that it looked like Poundland,’ said Anne Lee, who was asked to remove the wind chimes

Common people

When I returned recently from Paris, everyone asked about the strikes, the riots, the violence and the chaos. All I had seen was a queue at one petrol station and a notice of closure at another: otherwise, it was all oysters and Sancerre. My questioners were disappointed. It was as if the travails of France

Prison may not work for them, but it works for us

Crooks who are in prison are not burgling your house, says Theodore Dalrymple. They themselves understand that perfectly clearly: it is only sentimental mugs who don’t When Mr Clarke went recently to Leeds Prison, prior to announcing in a speech that prison wasn’t working and that therefore fewer people ought to be locked up, he

Global Warning | 24 January 2009

We should always try to see ourselves as others see us, but not when the others are French. They are so biased against us that they can see nothing clearly: their animus obscures their view and makes it worthless. This was proved to me yet again when I arrived in Paris recently. I always stay

Global Warning | 17 January 2009

My wife tells me, and so it must be right, that now that we are retired we must beware of the involution of our habits and interests. It is all too easy for old people to live the petty round, in which a visit to the grocer seems an expedition of some magnitude, and not

The unselfish gene

On Kindness, by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor Whenever I say to someone that I do not believe that there is a universal human right to healthcare, that person always asks whether, then, I want to see people dying in the street from treatable disease. I in turn ask that person whether he can think

Withdrawal from heroin is a trivial matter

We live in Keynesian times: the answer to the economic problems created by a mountain of debt frittered away on trifles is clearly a whole mountain range of debt frittered away on trifles. In the circumstances it is good to know that a judge has done his bit to stimulate the general improvidence — sorry,

Global Warning | 3 January 2009

Reading an account by the historian John Waller of the Dancing Plague in Alsace in 1518 recently, I could not help but notice the interesting but perhaps incomplete parallels with our own time. Economic conditions in Strasbourg were dire in 1518 when a woman called Frau Troffea started dancing in public and continued for days

Global Warning | 20 December 2008

To a hammer everything is a nail, and to a doctor everything is a symptom. I was recently in a supermarket in a handsome and as yet unspoilt town in the west of England where, as my wife observed (being French and therefore a close observer of the English in all their guises), every woman

Global warning | 29 November 2008

Because of the economic crisis, I was waiting at the bus station: £2.80 for a bus instead of £28 for a taxi home. I had 50 minutes to wait and was reading a book by Richard Yates. I was wondering why the literature of so optimistic a country as America was so deeply pessimistic (awareness

Global Warning | 22 November 2008

The other day, the 9.56 bus to the nearest train station was late and the people at the stop — of whom I was by far the youngest — began to grumble a little. Then, looming out of the mist, appeared the driver. The other day, the 9.56 bus to the nearest train station was

Global Warning | 15 November 2008

Anyone who doubts that, at least from the cultural point of view, the Soviet Union won the Cold War in Britain hands down should attend a conference organised for doctors about impending organisational changes in the National Health Service (and organisational changes are always impending in the NHS). There he will be convinced that every

Global Warning | 8 November 2008

Staying recently on the Herengracht in Amsterdam, I found myself trying to solve a psychological puzzle. How could anyone have thought for a moment, how could any mind have entertained even for an infinitesimal fraction of an instant, that 17th- and 18th-century Dutch domestic architecture — as elegant as any in the whole history of

Global Warning | 18 October 2008

All old Africa hands have a story of their narrow escape from charging elephants to tell. I have one myself, but I know from experience that such stories are usually more interesting to the teller than to the told. They are not quite as bad as big game hunting stories, however: they are the real

Global Warning | 17 September 2008

My one regret at having retired from the National Health Service is that I no longer receive official circulars. I used for a time to derive a small secondary income from publishing them; and such was their idiocy that very little commentary on my part was required. They spoke for themselves; it was money for

In defence of David Southall

One of life’s difficulties, I have found, is that it keeps throwing up questions to which there is no indubitably correct answer. This means that the exercise of judgment is perennially necessary: and there is hardly a moment’s respite from this burdensome imperative. Alas, where there is judgment there is error, or the possibility of

Global Warning | 30 August 2008

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