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Theodore Dalrymple: The Frivolity of Evil
City Journal ^ | Autumn 2004 | Theodore Dalrymple

Posted on 11/08/2004 11:45:36 AM PST by quidnunc

When prisoners are released from prison, they often say that they have paid their debt to society. This is absurd, of course: crime is not a matter of double-entry bookkeeping. You cannot pay a debt by having caused even greater expense, nor can you pay in advance for a bank robbery by offering to serve a prison sentence before you commit it. Perhaps, metaphorically speaking, the slate is wiped clean once a prisoner is released from prison, but the debt is not paid off.

It would be just as absurd for me to say, on my imminent retirement after 14 years of my hospital and prison work, that I have paid my debt to society. I had the choice to do something more pleasing if I had wished, and I was paid, if not munificently, at least adequately. I chose the disagreeable neighborhood in which I practiced because, medically speaking, the poor are more interesting, at least to me, than the rich: their pathology is more florid, their need for attention greater. Their dilemmas, if cruder, seem to me more compelling, nearer to the fundamentals of human existence. No doubt I also felt my services would be more valuable there: in other words, that I had some kind of duty to perform. Perhaps for that reason, like the prisoner on his release, I feel I have paid my debt to society. Certainly, the work has taken a toll on me, and it is time to do something else. Someone else can do battle with the metastasizing social pathology of Great Britain, while I lead a life aesthetically more pleasing to me.

My work has caused me to become perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with the problem of evil. Why do people commit evil? What conditions allow it to flourish? …

-snip-

(Excerpt) Read more at city-journal.org ...


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: anthonydaniels; dalrymple; theodoredalrymple

1 posted on 11/08/2004 11:45:37 AM PST by quidnunc
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To: quidnunc

What a truly excellent analysis of the situation. Enormously disturbing, but extremely accurate.


2 posted on 11/08/2004 12:01:06 PM PST by livius
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To: quidnunc

Theodore is also a frequent writer of National Review magazine and I would give him the highest recommendation in anything he writes, especially about the prison environment. He had a particularly eye-opening and horrifying article in National Review on prison rape. Anyone thinking about committing any crime should read his article.


3 posted on 11/08/2004 12:04:25 PM PST by smiley (Watch out Dems! I'm a William F. Buckley Conservative!!)
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To: quidnunc
Original sin is the speech of sin and still the same today. Sin, as a living creature that is a speech, because it can create nothing, and is the only speech fallen man (the learning of that speech through the serpent was the fall, empowered now by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...) has or knows, must fight as if the universe were closed and had limited resources. It fights through the human heart for limited emotional resources against every other heart. Arbitrary, unpredicatable timing, but predictible what it will do and how far it will go to expand. Living things are not machines that do everything in perfect intervals. Sin is always sudden because it is alive.

But then so is genuine new birth in Jesus Christ by the Word of God. And permament.

4 posted on 11/08/2004 12:11:07 PM PST by telder1
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To: smiley

He also writes for UK Spectator (spectator.co.uk). Any link to NR article (or approx. date)? Did a quick search on FR and saw nothing. Thanks


5 posted on 11/08/2004 12:12:53 PM PST by 1066AD
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To: quidnunc

Wow! What an excellent essay! The author is so on target that it actually hurts. Thanks for posting.


6 posted on 11/08/2004 12:13:10 PM PST by Gingersnap
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To: quidnunc

Great article. Thanks for posting.


7 posted on 11/08/2004 12:13:46 PM PST by Huntress
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To: telder1
I have no clue as to what you said in your post #4. Do you?
8 posted on 11/08/2004 12:13:50 PM PST by Graybeard58
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To: telder1

Go away. Grow a brain. Use it. Come back.


9 posted on 11/08/2004 12:16:46 PM PST by Kiss Me Hardy
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To: smiley

Dr. Dalrymple also published a book called "Life at the Bottom" a year or two ago. It is a fascinating but depressing analysis of the British underclass.


10 posted on 11/08/2004 12:16:55 PM PST by Huntress
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To: quidnunc

bttttttt


11 posted on 11/08/2004 12:17:49 PM PST by dennisw (G_D - against Amelek for all generations.)
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To: Kiss Me Hardy
Go away. Grow a brain. Use it. Come back.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to see that. I was begining to wonder about my sanity. Maybe everybody else got it but me.

12 posted on 11/08/2004 12:20:24 PM PST by Graybeard58
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To: quidnunc

stellar as always from him


13 posted on 11/08/2004 12:20:38 PM PST by dennisw (G_D - against Amelek for all generations.)
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To: 1066AD

I think if you go to NRO (National Review Online) you might be able to do a search. This article came out about 1-2 years ago...always a good read with him.


14 posted on 11/08/2004 12:20:52 PM PST by smiley (Watch out Dems! I'm a William F. Buckley Conservative!!)
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To: quidnunc
fzob

great article

15 posted on 11/08/2004 12:24:41 PM PST by Popman (Democrat Party Political Values are Condescension, Hypocrisy, Bigotry)
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To: quidnunc

what a truly great article. really scary, though. does it describe the blue better than the red states? I think it does.


16 posted on 11/08/2004 12:27:15 PM PST by beebuster2000 (waiting waiting waiting)
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To: quidnunc
Brilliant stuff. Dalrymple is, I believe, retiring to the south of France after a storied medical and journalistic career. I wish he'd have come here; he'd be welcome.

...for in any case it is the function of the state to ameliorate by redistributive taxation the material effects of individual irresponsibility...

That really is the key to understanding why redistribution of wealth in the pursuit of "social justice" can doom a society. It does not only reward failure, it rewards self-destruction and the destruction of everything around you.

17 posted on 11/08/2004 12:32:11 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: quidnunc

Great article. So true. It's tough to find articles so pointed in calling a spade a spade. Could we get him to write about the societal problems in the US? I've got a sister who got PG by two different men two different times, lost custody of the oldest, is now living on disability, her child gets medicare and she votes based on whose programs will give her the most. And get this--she has a degree from one of the elite universities in the north. HMMMM...Choices without consequences, so it seems, but when it all gets added up at the end...unhappy, oh, 'scuse me, depression.


18 posted on 11/08/2004 12:40:26 PM PST by yldstrk (My heros have always been cowboys-Reagan and Bush)
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To: telder1

With Heaven as my witness, I have NO idea what you are trying to say.

Would you care to revise your statement?


19 posted on 11/08/2004 12:45:23 PM PST by Choose Ye This Day (The Hubris of the DUmb: "It's our dawn, and the freepers' sunset." ........BWAHAHAHAHA!!!)
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To: Fzob

bump


20 posted on 11/08/2004 12:47:13 PM PST by Popman (Democrat Party Political Values are Condescension, Hypocrisy, Bigotry)
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To: Tax-chick

later


21 posted on 11/08/2004 3:44:37 PM PST by Tax-chick (First we had all the money, then we got all the votes, now we have all the fun!)
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To: quidnunc

b


22 posted on 11/08/2004 4:50:57 PM PST by MoralSense
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To: Salvation; NYer; Siobhan; Mr. Silverback; cpforlife.org; cornelis; Maeve
Returning the favor to a few inveterate pro-lifers and defenders of the Family.

The article's worth a read all the way through. Implicit is a defense of the Father and a primacy of the Child at the heart of that Self-Giving which has become an exercise in Self-Gratification.

I'm also struck by his noting the uselessness of "managing" or fixing depression as a syndrome without addressing the fact one has brought one's unhappiness upon themselves. Something the Prozac Nation should take to heart.

Particularly grim, IMHO, is his portrait of the "empowered women" who know the state will hedge the bet they'll Choose Correctly and, if not, serve as Provider, Security and guarantor of continued Sexual License and other "rights" without obligations. I am not a fan of women's suffrage and believe the natural charity and overly optimistic outlook of women has been capitalized upon to their own disadvantage. I cannot imagine anyone's pretending for a moment that the state of women today -- even and especially the Successful ones who "have it all" and for whom every minute of every day is a decision to borrow from Peter to pay Paul or vice verse -- is somehow better than once it was when they had a choice to be fulltime Mothers to and educators of their children.

Lagniappe ... an old thread which may take a refresh or two to pull up: Willing Slaves of the Welfare State (C.S. Lewis)

23 posted on 11/08/2004 6:08:50 PM PST by Askel5 ( Cooperatio voluntaria ad suicidium est legi morali contraria. )
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To: quidnunc

outstanding, thanks for the post.


24 posted on 11/08/2004 6:09:43 PM PST by Askel5 ( Cooperatio voluntaria ad suicidium est legi morali contraria. )
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To: quidnunc
Dalrymple is always a joy to read.

Dennis Prager interviewed him on his show earlier this year when he was promoting his book Life at the Bottom: The worldview of the Underclass

Dalrymple is not his real name but his pen name.

25 posted on 11/08/2004 6:57:01 PM PST by happygrl
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To: quidnunc

Thanks for posting this.


26 posted on 11/08/2004 10:33:46 PM PST by cornelis (The world is good, says William James.)
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To: telder1

I'm very confused. I hope it's not permament.


27 posted on 11/08/2004 10:39:24 PM PST by T. Buzzard Trueblood ("He's gone. He's so gone." Nancy Pelosi on George W. Bush, circa May 2004)
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To: quidnunc

Another benefit of FR has been an introduction to Dalrymple's work -- he is now by far my favorite columnist.


28 posted on 11/08/2004 10:48:39 PM PST by IStillBelieve (G.W. Bush '04: Biggest popular-vote victory in history, and first popular-vote majority in 16 years!)
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To: quidnunc

Now that was an opus! Not from FR of course but working with the British underclass. Godspeed Theo wherever you may be.


29 posted on 11/08/2004 11:52:44 PM PST by xp38
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To: 2nd amendment mama; A2J; Agitate; Alouette; Annie03; aposiopetic; Askel5; attagirl; axel f; ...

ProLife Ping!

If anyone wants on or off my ProLife Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.

30 posted on 11/09/2004 6:01:03 AM PST by Mr. Silverback (President Bush got 51 percent of the vote, a figure higher than that of any Democrat in 40 years.)
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To: xp38

Evil is so often tawdry. We want it to be like Hanibal Lecteur, a demon bigger than life to haunt our nightmares, but more often it's more like the loser down the street who beats up his wife to make up for his own feelings of worthlessness. And this is how it snags us. In the little compromises we make. In choosing to do this instead of that...then later, after a whole series of decisions, we turn back and see what's happened, and we are amazed.

Lord have mercy on us all.


31 posted on 11/09/2004 6:36:06 AM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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read later


32 posted on 11/09/2004 9:28:07 AM PST by Annie03
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To: Askel5

Many thanks for the ping. Excellent.


33 posted on 11/09/2004 9:31:01 AM PST by Siobhan (Pray without ceasing.)
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To: DallasMike

I want you to do me a favor and read this article ... particularly the part where he talks about Depression vs. Unhappiness.

It's well worth the read.


34 posted on 11/09/2004 5:52:03 PM PST by Askel5 ( Cooperatio voluntaria ad suicidium est legi morali contraria. )
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To: Knitting A Conundrum
Evil is so often tawdry. We want it to be like Hanibal Lecteur, a demon bigger than life to haunt our nightmares, but more often it's more like the loser down the street who beats up his wife to make up for his own feelings of worthlessness. And this is how it snags us. In the little compromises we make. In choosing to do this instead of that...then later, after a whole series of decisions, we turn back and see what's happened, and we are amazed.

Hear hear ...

I know folks often attribute the sentiment of "all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" as indicative of how little it generally takes to combat evil and stop it in its tracks.

But on a personal level each of us naturally falls into the deadliest of sins absent real effort to be good. It's being good that's the tough part, the triumph. Being evil is easy. Too easy.

Very difficult -- almost impossible for particularly slothful and disorganized folks like myself -- to form Good Habits. I have scads of bad ones I'd love to break, however.

Cheers, Conundrum. I enjoy your posts.

35 posted on 11/09/2004 5:55:53 PM PST by Askel5 ( Cooperatio voluntaria ad suicidium est legi morali contraria. )
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To: quidnunc
Voice-in-the-wilderness BUMP
36 posted on 11/16/2004 2:35:48 PM PST by Constitutionalist Conservative (Have you visited http://blog.c-pol.com?)
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