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New book: Midnight Maxims

Theodore Dalrymple’s latest book for Mirabeau Press is his first book of maxims. Midnight Maxims is the result of Dalrymple’s recent sleepless nights in which he used those wee hours to write short statements of universal truths. Great writers throughout history, such as Francois de La Rochefoucauld, have used this form of writing, and Dalrymple has said in the past that he encourages young writers to focus on writing maxims because they clarify one’s thoughts. Many of Dalrymple’s essays already include these short and quotable lines (the ones here are all original).

There are 365 maxims here, one for each day of the year, but Dalrymple says these are not maxims of the daily inspirational type; rather, they focus on universal truths of human nature and, to some extent, contemporary society. I can imagine each one of these provoking a discussion.

Speaking for myself, this is already one of my favorite Dalrymple books. Although not intended as such, I think this book is a distillation of much (though certainly not all) of his thought and writing.

Midnight Maxims is available on various Amazon sites all around the world. US readers can go here and British readers here.

Why Afghan Women Have Been Abandoned: The Power of Belief

The skeptical doctor reacts to an unreasonable Le Monde editorial—with a typically ridiculous headline—about the advancement of the Taliban after the American troop withdrawal one month ago.

It is equally obvious that a cause can triumph without being good: it has only to inspire the belief that it is good and is worth fighting for. Indeed, a cause can be profoundly evil and triumph, at least in part through the strength of belief in it.

Will South Africa Fall?

In his Law & Liberty essay from last week, Theodore Dalrymple gives the reader a comprehensive modern history lesson on the unstable and turbulent Republic of South Africa.

The Afrikaner policy of positive discrimination was successful: it raised the status and economic power of Afrikanerdom. The Afrikaner nationalists understood that the liberalism of the Anglos was only relative and even hypocritical.

Poison Pen

In this week’s Takimag column, Dr. Dalrymple takes up the topic of the use and abuse of arsenic in real life and in literature since the 19th-century.

I suspect that nowadays people might be shocked by this irony and believe that it indicated a callousness on the part of the author, as if he really thought that poisoning was fun or funny. We are now terribly literal-minded, too much so for irony. If we are infinitely more technically sophisticated than our near ancestors, mentally we are much less so.

Obesity, Responsibility, and Freedom

Our favorite doctor examines the massively pressing problem of obesity, and the British government’s recent proposal to address this burgeoning issue, in his The Epoch Times column.

On the other hand, most people think, with varying degrees of reticence to express their thoughts in public, that obesity is the consequence of weakness of will. Greed is not illness but a sin, or at least a moral failure. We are fat because we give into temptation, that which Oscar Wilde said was the only thing that he could not resist.

Britney Spears and the Costs of Celebrity

Over at The Epoch Times, the dubious doctor reflects on the bizarre and vacuous modern celebrity phenomenon after hearing about someone formerly famous called Britney Spears.

Many people would rather be known for something outrageous than not be known at all: for them, a few minutes of fame or notoriety justify or validate an entire life. They are therefore more than willing to exhibit themselves to the world: they are eager to do so.

The Malignity of Bad Taste

Once again at The European Conservative, the critical doctor contemplates the decayed state of Western music after reading a book about the Bataclan terrorist attack written by one of the survivors.

The second explanation is that the Western artistic tradition (in practically all fields) is exhausted, modernism having been both a symptom and a cause of that exhaustion. The kind of performance given by the EODM is a substitute—or desperate search for—originality, the romantic cult of the latter having been reinforced by our cult of individualism.

Taxi Cab Reflections

Theodore Dalrymple makes his triumphant return to the relaunched The European Conservative with an essay on his observations during a taxi cab ride through the mess that modern-day Paris has become.

This brings me by natural progression to the current mayor of Paris, Ms. Anne Hidalgo, and her effect on the environment, which is incomparably worse than that of the demonstrators whose mess could at least be easily cleared up, albeit that it still signified a complete absence of civic sense or virtue.

Gone Viral

In this week’s Takimag column, the skeptical doctor comments on a Russian book that he recently picked up in France about a fictional plague set in Stalin’s USSR.

Many of us must have wondered whether the virus or the human response to it has done more harm (I leave aside the question of its origins). I think people probably have stronger opinions on this subject than perhaps are justified by the well-foundedness of their opinions. For every piece of evidence there seems to be a counter-piece of evidence. As so often, the best lack all conviction (even when, for political or practical reasons, they have to pretend to have it), while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

How the UK Succeeded with Vaccines

Dr. Dalrymple touts the success of the British Covid-19 vaccination program over at Law & Liberty. I am eagerly awaiting the deluge of reader responses to this essay, especially from our British readers.

The one undoubted human triumph of the pandemic so far is the development of vaccines in record time. The three main vaccines seem to be both safe and effective—unless, as believed by some, there is a giant conspiracy to deceive the people of the world.