Jamie Glazov of Front Page Magazine recently interviewed Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, the author of the fantastic collection of essays Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass. (One of these days, I’m going to read every word he’s published! I should start by ordering his new book, Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.) Even just the first question of the interview is fantastic:
FP: It’s hard to know where to start Dr. Dalrymple, as your essays evoke so many profound themes.
I guess we can begin with your observations on the root causes of many of our social ills. You discuss how in your practise as a doctor you have confronted a growing pathology in our culture within which there is an assumption that “one’s state of mind, or one’s mood, is or should be independent of the way one lives one’s life.” You connect this to people confusing unhappiness with depression. Can you talk a bit about this?
Dalrymple: I have noticed the disappearance of the word ‘unhappy’ from common usage, and its replacement by the word ‘depressed.’ While unhappiness is a state of mind that is clearly the result of the circumstances of one’s life, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by circumstances beyond one’s control, or a mixture of both, depression is an illness that is the doctor’s responsibility to cure. This is so, however one happens to be leading one’s life. And the doctor, enjoined to pass no judgement that could be interpreted as moral on his patients, has no option but to play along with this deception. The result is the gross over-prescription of medication, without any reduction in unhappiness.
As you put it, there is a complete disconnection between one’s state of mind and the way one lives. Moreover, one does not have a right to the pursuit of happiness, one has a right to happiness itself.
I decided, as a matter of experience, that these attitudes are very destructive and — not surprisingly — lead to a lot of misery about which a mere doctor can do nothing, at least without making judgements.
I also liked this observation about the degradation of totalitarian propaganda:
FP: You make the shrewd observation of how political correctness engenders evil because of “the violence that it does to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe, but must not question.” Can you talk about this a bit?
Dalrymple: Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
Totalitarianism forbids objective moral judgment by rendering it completely irrelevant to action, if not downright hazardous to life and limb. Multiculturalism regards it as a serious moral hazard, as a sure sign of serious immorality. In both cases, people must speak and act against obvious facts — and thus they subvert their own capacity to judge objectively.
All in all, Dalrymple is one of those rare writers who always has something interesting to say, even when I disagree.