Has Richard Dawkins lost the Mandate of Heaven?

The Guardian makes intemperate remarks about Professor Richard Dawkins — and even uses “sloppy and demotic” language in the process:

This is not a call for political correctness, of course; like anyone else who enters the public arena, Professor Dawkins has no right to be protected from offensive remarks. Nevertheless, he is owed a certain minimal politeness, which the author of the article, or at least of the title of the article (not necessarily the same person, of course), has not paid him.

Dalrymple at the Salisbury Review

The Reeducation of Dinesh D’Souza

Conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was recently convicted for violations of American campaign finance laws, and part of his sentence included “therapeutic counseling”. Writing for City Journal, Dalrymple takes aim at such a sentence:

If crime is illness, no limit exists to the treatment that may be employed to cure it and nothing inhibits the use of ferocious remedies to root it out. As Lewis intuited, cruelty may then be disguised as benevolence, and there is no cruelty like that which believes it is doing good.

Read the full piece here

The Scottish Play

At City Journal, Dalrymple writes that although the Scottish Nationalists lost the vote, they gained in many important respects: more powers from London including debt guarantees that the Nationalists will be able to turn into political patronage and the general incitement of increased nationalist fervor on all sides.

If the English are excluded from Scottish affairs, why should the Scots have a say in English affairs? After all, Labour governments have often been completely dependent on the Scottish vote, which explains why the Labour Party was so opposed to independence. But if England were to have its own government, the distinct possibility arises of near-permanent political conflict between the English, Scottish, and British governments. England might eventually want to break free from the Scottish millstone.

Read the piece here

Wolves in Green Clothing

Dalrymple on a story from a recent edition of Liberation:

The article recounted the story of a man, an urban ecologist, who went to live his dream of natural, organic sheep-rearing in a mountainous area of the country. He imported a flock of sheep from New Zealand and hoped to produce wool by old-fashioned means. Among his motivations, he desired to ensure that farming in France was not entirely given over to agribusiness (peasant farmers are disappearing fast from the countryside).

But the wolves have destroyed his dream. They have decimated his flock, and the struggle against them has been unequal. This is not only because killing wolves is forbidden: in fact, to kill them would not be easy because they are seldom seen…

Read the rest at the Hilarious Pessimist

Imperial Do-Gooding

While visiting the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, Dalrymple notices a sign using the term “vision-impaired”. Judging from the context, surely they meant blind. So why not use that word?

Calling the blind vision-impaired requires no actual kindness or generosity toward the blind, no actual generosity; on the contrary, it is perfectly compatible with complete indifference towards them. The blind are a small minority in the world, while those who speak are the immense majority (apart from the speech-impaired, who are often hearing-impaired as well). To interfere in the lives of everyone, to make every person just a little afraid that if he uses normal words he commits an act of cruelty or worse, gives a sense of power and meaning to those who demand that we change the way we speak.

Read it here

Will we ever see a stained glass window to Tony Blair?

Dalrymple’s newest post at his Salisbury Review blog discusses something new to me: the Fabian stained glass window at the London School of Economics. Designed by George Bernard Shaw to consecrate the Fabian program, it’s as creepy and disturbing as you might expect (see it here). Even more so, it didn’t seem to bother Tony Blair or the media at all when it was reinstalled.

The window depicts the Fabians in mediaeval costume remaking the world. The early historian of the movement, E. R. Pease, squeezes some bellows in a forge, while Sidney Webb wields an enormous mallet to a red hot globe and Shaw helps him. The scene contains the Fabian’s coat of arms: a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

Underneath the reforging of the world by Shaw and Webb, early Fabians were depicted praying to a pile of books. Among them are Fabian Essays (edited and contributed to by Shaw) and several volumes of his own plays. Shaw’s works had become holy, at least in his own estimate.

Read the entire post here

The Inexhaustible Hamlet

Dalrymple writing about Shakespeare is always a double pleasure. He’s covered Macbeth, Measure for Measure and cited the sonnets, and now in his quarterly column for City Journal, he tackles Hamlet. After a summer filled with debate about the “relatability” of his work (thanks to American radio personality Ira Glass, who stirred controversy by tweeting “Shakespeare sucks”), Dalrymple reminds us that Shakespeare’s work touches on humanity’s deepest questions:

Hamlet the character and Hamlet the play elucidate the inevitable and insoluble paradoxes of human existence, the very heart of our mystery, which no technical sophistication will ever pluck out: a mystery that explains why puzzlement at our own situation is the permanent condition of mankind.

Read the piece here

Small Vices

Dalrymple has observed before that when most people are offended or hurt, it is typically by “small acts of disdain” rather than by larger social injustices. Now, at Taki’s Magazine, he writes sheepishly of a recent instance where the act of disdain was his:

Feeling distinctly uneasy over how I had behaved, and not able, therefore, to concentrate on my work, I went over to the young Polish woman during a short lull (I noticed that she was very busy and worked very hard, which made her good humor all the more meritorious) to apologize to her. It seemed important to me to do so, not that she might think the better of me—that hardly mattered, for in all likelihood we should never meet again—but that she should think the better of humanity. The customer being always right is a very good commercial slogan, but a very bad moral principle; and there is no better way of turning someone into a misanthrope, I suspect, than to confront him or her with spoilt and petulant people who complain bitterly over trivia, or over nothing much.

Read the rest here

When Is a Public Health Emergency Really an Emergency?

The governor of Massachussetts recently declared himself possessed of extraordinary powers due to a public health emergency. Dalrymple derides a New England Journal of Medicine article on the source of the supposed emergency: opioid overdoses…

Words such as “public health emergency” cannot be defined so narrowly that there is a clear and unequivocal dividing line between an emergency and a non-emergency. We cannot demand of words more accuracy than they can provide, which is why human judgment will always be necessary. In my opinion, however, the governor’s judgment was wrong in this case. If this was a public health emergency, then a great deal of what goes on is a public health emergency and we are on the slippery slope to a purely administrative state.

Needless to say, the authors did not mention the possibility that there was a categorical difference between a viral epidemic and an increase of deaths caused by irresponsible human conduct, whether of doctors or of patients.