Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Wait Is Over - Theodore Dalrymple on the English Riots

I have posted earlier with comments on articles by British authors (Sir Max Hastings and Peter Hitchens) about the series of riots in English cities this past week.  They are both good, but the author I have been waiting for to weigh in on this topic, as I knew he would, is Theodore Dalrymple, writing here in the Wall Street Journal in “The Barbarians Inside Britain’s Gates”.  I find several reasons to seek out his opinion, beyond his excellent prose.

In an effort at full disclosure, Mr Dalrymple (a pen name) and I have some similarities other than agreement on issues.  He has spent significant periods of his life overseas (his primarily in Africa) and he has extensive experience in dealing with criminals and the mentally ill in prisons.  But whereas I am a mere corrections counselor, he is actually a psychiatrist (a profession he shares with another favourite of mine, political commentator Dr Charles Krauthammer).  He has been published frequently in the UK in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Spectator, and here in the US in City Journal.  He is also the author of the recent Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (a true case of not judging a book by its unfortunate cover), among others.

Dalrymple’s salient points within the article are:

If the authorities show neither the will nor the capacity to deal with such an easily solved problem—and willfully do all they can to worsen it—is it any wonder that they exhibit, in the face of more difficult problems, all the courage and determination of frightened rabbits?

The rioters in the news last week had a thwarted sense of entitlement that has been assiduously cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals, governments and bureaucrats.  "We're fed up with being broke," one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one's desires were a human right rather than something to be earned. . . .

The young unemployed Britons not only have the wrong attitude to work, for example regarding fixed hours as a form of oppression, but they are also dramatically badly educated.  Within six months of arrival in the country, the average young Pole speaks better, more cultivated English than they do. . . .

Furthermore, all the young rioters will have had long experience of the prodigious efforts of the British criminal justice system to confer impunity upon law breakers.  First the police are far too busy with their paperwork to catch the criminals; but if by some chance – hardly more than one in 20 – they do catch them, the courts oblige by inflicting ludicrously lenient sentences.
 Dalrymple gives us the example (“one among many”) of a violent habitual criminal, out on bail on one charge and on parole from another, who assaulted a man at the behest of his girl friend, and killed him.  The victim, ironically, was the wrong man, and the criminal lamented that he would have carried on to his girl friend’s target had he had the opportunity.  His sentence?  Not more than 30 months in prison.  Dalrymple concludes:
So several things need to be done, among them the reform and even dismantlement of the educational and social-security systems, the liberalization of the labor laws, and the much firmer repression of crime.

David Cameron is not the man for the job.  
Mr Cameron, of course, is the Prime Minister, and it is a telling fact that, among the three major political parties in the UK (those being Labour, the Liberal-Democrats, and the Conservative), Mr Cameron represents the Conservative Party.  Maggie Thatcher, unfortunately, is unavailable for comment, and one can only imagine what Sir Winston Churchill would say (the list, of course, can go on, and on . . .).  The previous articles I have cited, as well as others, have also held a Cassandra’s view of Mr Cameron’s prospects.

Oddly enough, despite my focus on this subject which has driven me to do extensive research on commentaries by way of the internet, I have found no reference to Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange.  As usual, search out the book (though Stanley Kubrick's screen adaptation is mordantly fascinating), particularly one with the final chapter.  It is particularly germane to the topic.

Britannia used to rule the waves; now she cannot rule her own streets.  She has a long way to struggle back.

Update:  If you like Spoilt Rotten, I am glad to pass along news that What's Wrong With Benevolence, the posthumously published work of Australian philosopher David Stove, is now available.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome and discussion is open and encouraged. I expect that there will be some occasional disagreement (heaven knows why) or welcome clarification and embellishment, and such are freely solicited.

Consider that all such comments are in the public domain and are expected to be polite, even while contentious. I will delete comments which are ad hominem, as well as those needlessly profane beyond the realm of sputtering incredulity in reaction to some inanity, unless attributed to a quote.

Links to other sources are fine so long as they further the argument or expand on the discussion. All such comments and links are the responsibility of the commenter, and the mere presence herein does not necessarily constitute my agreement.

I will also delete all comments that link to a commercial site.