In last week’s Takimag column, the pessimistic doctor tries to view our decadent and degraded Western democracies through the eyes of a non-Westerner in light of two recent acts of debasement and mendacity.
Civilizations, it has often been said, do not collapse because of external enemies, but from internal decay. There is not a strict opposition between the two processes, however, for decay may make external enmity far more formidable than it might otherwise have been. And internal decay there certainly is.
In the October issue of New English Review, the good doctor is back to recount his brief bouts with insomnia, the dangers of barbiturate sleeping pills, encountering pure cocaine in an African hospital, and lying awake during sleepless nights listening to the varied sounds of his house.
The story reminds me, however, of one told by Boris Cyrilnuk, a French psychiatrist, at the beginning of one of his books. One day a child who had hitherto been mute asked his parents to pass the salt. They asked him why he spoke only now, and not previously. “Until now,” he said, “everything has been perfect.”
Our favorite doctor appeared on The Telegraph‘s Off Script podcast in August to discuss with host Steven Edginton how life in Britain has changed—mostly for the worse—over the past few decades. This leisurely one-hour interview can be enjoyed with a nice glass of wine on the terrace while watching the sultry summer days fade away.
Over at The Epoch Times, our world-weary doctor ruminates on the recent military coups in Niger and Gabon in light of his own travel experiences through the region back in the day.
A change of rulers is the joy of fools, goes the old Romanian folk saying, and I recalled it as I saw pictures of rejoicing crowds in the street after the recent military coups in the West African countries of Niger and Gabon.
If it’s Friday, it’s Dalrymple at Takimag. The skeptical doctor once again lambastes the British hospitality industry after staying at another subpar hotel with the standard mediocre native English staff.
It was clear that the only way that the hotel could improve was to be taken over by foreigners, staffed by foreigners, and possibly patronized by foreigners. And this is painful to say, because the staff of the hotel were (a) very pleasant and (b) doing their best. But this points to a profound cultural problem, at least for a service economy.
In the summer edition of City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple has penned a long and insightful essay on the many travails of (post)modern Britain after encountering a particularly pleasant and polite Polish receptionist working at a London hotel.
Worse still, the gracelessness of modern British culture is not merely spontaneous but has an ideological edge to it, such that many come to regard any refinement of speech or manners as artificial, a manifestation of social injustice. The more vulgar the conduct, therefore, the more authentic and politically virtuous; a downward spiral. A service economy with a labor force that thinks like this is a service economy without service.
In the September edition of New Criterion, the good doctor reflects on his recent visit to Porto, Portugal, and the cultural degradation he encounters around him. Another deep, classic Dalrymple travel essay.
What was so striking about the crowd in Porto—a crowd from all over Europe with a fair sprinkling of Americans—quite apart from the prevalence of self-mutilation by tattoo and piercing, was the complete absence of any sense of personal dignity. This is not the same as absence of ego, however; indeed, it is the very reverse.