Where Dalrymple accumulates a list of the symptoms of political and cultural decline.
In late 2008, social critic Theodore Dalrymple published another round of essays called Not With a Bang but a Whimper.
Unfortunately, this anthology of essays is not his best…
Too broad, lacking the element that made his other anthologies great–seamless, unrelenting focus.
Dalrymple begins with six essays that sprawl across language, literature and guilt, exploring a limited history of ideas.
At first glance, these provocative, compelling essays seem unrelated. Not until he shakes free from his exploration does he hit his stride…and you realize what he was trying to do.
What became apparent to me as I read each essay after the first six was that Dalrymple was accumulating a list of the symptoms of political and cultural decline.
More importantly, the pathogen for these diseases can be traced back to the ideas intellectuals hustled throughout history. Not surprising coming from a former medical doctor and psychologist.
This is not his best work. Neither is it his second best. It’s a work for Dalrymple mavens. For unquenchable social savants. And those who simply nurture an odd, epicurean obsession with the sad human condition.
With that said, here are the summaries of each essay.
The Gift of Language
Pinker is silly to expect human language not to require special training to develop its highest possible power.
What Makes Dr. Johnson Great?
Lots of things. But most notably he could hold irreconcilable dilemmas in his head without collapsing into nihilism or irrationalism.
Truth vs. Theory
Shakespeare’s lack of formal university education allowed him to observe the world free of binding prejudices.
A Drinker of Infinity
Ibsen and His Discontents
Ibsen’s three famous plays and their meaning–self is the ultimate authority, boundaries must be broken and the majority is evil–made him a modern before the 20th Century.
The Specters Haunting Dresden
Germans, until recently, could not mourn their loss during WWII or explore their suffering since they were guilty by association.
What the New Atheists Don’t See
The new atheists seem to miss the point: The slippery slope of a meaningless, rationality-driven worldview that creates a sense of entitlement without gratitude.
The Marriage of Reason and Nightmare
Boredom, perversion and self-destruction are the result of a civilization steeped in material gain and meaninglessness.
The Road to Serfdom
Prized British values–independence, self-reliance, initiative and responsibility–are replaced by dependence, passivity, rebellion and unbridled tolerance with the growth of state actions like welfare.
How Not to Do It
Large numbers of people are corrupted since deprived of responsibility, respect and purpose. The culprit? Big government.
A Prophetic and Violent Masterpiece
Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange predicted the selfish, brutal and hedonistic drive of modern English youth.
It’s This Bad
England enjoys spending enormous energy on frivolous matters–avoiding hyper-discrimination–while overlooking serious matters–proper prosecution of habitual criminals.
Real Crime, Fake Justice
In his book A Land Fit for Criminals, a former probation officer exposes the fraud of the legal system in England that cherishes, protects and nurtures criminals but robs the citizen and victim of innocence, pride and safety.
Delusions of Honesty
Morally and financially corrupt, shallow and egotistical, Tony Blair is possibly Britain’s worst prime minister–in spite of his insistence otherwise.
The Terrorists Among Us
John Updike created an accurate, subtle and convincing view of young Islamic terrorists and their mindsets in his book The Terrorist.
Misogyny, social rejection, personal frustration, materialistic disdain, unbridled individualism, humiliation and the grotesque inflation of private problems all ensure fertile ground for the recruitment of martyrs for years to come in England.
Multiculturalism Starts Losing Its Luster
Ingratitude, secularzation and a pompous sense of entitlement emerge when the fundamental demands and responsibilities fall upon the state–and not the immigrant–to accommodate.
In the Asylum
A shortage of beds and hyper-intellectualism drove Foucault to promote the concept that the insane deserve the same rights as the sane.
A Murderess’s Tale
In our world of self-indulgence, how do you explain the sudden violence of a disturbed 16-year old murderer…and then her lapse into peace, decency and liberation inside a prison?
So, tell me: Do you disagree with Dalrymple’s argument? Anything you’d like to add? Dalrymple described England. And the problems he saw so great that Dalrymple fled England for France.
What about America? Concerned? Wanna flee?
I loook forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.