In this week’s Takimag, the dubious doctor discusses the modern tendency of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement after reading of the removal of a Damian Hirst “masterpiece” from a German museum.
This is not to decry the ordinary, quite the reverse: We need the ordinary quite as much as we need the extraordinary. The problem is that, if you start boasting about yourself, you come to believe your own boasts, and when you find, as inevitably you will, that the world fails to treat you as if your boasts were justified, you begin to feel resentful. This is surely one of the reasons why there is so much anger in society, even when, judged by the standards of all previously existing societies, people are extremely fortunate.
Over at Australia’s Quadrant, our disbelieving doctor writes about the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, the general softness of most modern Westerners, and the beneficial impact of cold showers on moderating green radicalism.
I suspect that sympathy for Ukraine and Ukrainians is rather typical of our emotional lives nowadays: our emotions are both intense and superficial and are like gusts of wind rushing through a cornfield. This is not to say that they are unimportant or insignificant, for they affect public policy, usually in a deleterious way.
Over at The Epoch Times, the prudent doctor has a warning for all of us as he exposes another example of the would-be revolutionary left eating one of its own.
This is authentically disgusting, but it has the merit of reminding us that totalitarianism did not land on earth like an asteroid but had its origins in the human heart, and that no society can be immune from the temptations of totalitarianism once and for all. Totalitarianism has its pleasures, chief of which is doing harm to others, albeit that today’s denouncer tends to become tomorrow’s denounced.
Over at Law & Liberty, Theodore Dalrymple explores some of the many moral and social problems that arise from living in an inflationary economic environment.
But even less catastrophic levels of inflation have profound psychological, or perhaps I should say characterological, consequences. For one thing, inflation destroys the very idea of enough, because no one can have any confidence that a monetary income that at present is adequate will not be whittled down to very little in a matter of a few years.
Our reactionary doctor comes across a “till hostess” at a French supermarket and ponders the critical role played by cashiers during the height of the pandemic, the concept of creative destruction, and the kind of dietary advice he would be dishing out if he had to man a cash register.
Deliberate and programmed changes in terminology, and in the designations of workers, are interesting in themselves and seem to occur with ever-increasing frequency. One has to keep up with them, of course, for fear of being regarded as a reactionary. What was not merely acceptable but compulsory yesterday becomes taboo today, and use of a taboo word establishes one as being not merely behind the times, but a bad person.
Over at Law & Liberty, the skeptical doctor finds some reason for optimism when reviewing the candidates for the leadership of the British Conservative Party.
The second lesson of the ascent of ethnic minorities within the Conservative Party is that it has been almost noiseless. There has been comparatively little ideological song and dance about it, and it has therefore assumed a more spontaneous character than such diversity has done with its opponents (where it is in any case much less pronounced).
In the August edition of New English Review, our favorite doctor professes his admiration for toads and ponders the mystery of human life.
Nowadays when I find a toad, I am inclined to pick it up and place it on an outside table where I can contemplate it more closely. The toad, it seems to me, always has a melancholy rather than a terrified air, like someone who expects nothing good to come of this life. There is also something a bit self-important about him, like a banker lamenting the economic state of the world over a digestif and cigar after a copious dinner of the kind that will eventually kill him. The toad is a sad creature, perhaps aware that no one really likes it.
In his weekly Takimag column, the good doctor recounts an impromptu visit by two friendly dogs, while also explaining why most of us are better off not following current events too closely.
As usual, the solution is a happy medium, between indifference to public affairs and overconcern with them. You should never reach the stage at which, because you are so worried about public affairs, you cannot derive immediate pleasure from (say) two charming dogs who come uninvited to tea, but neither should you suppose that the availability of such pleasures (and there are many) means that you can safely disregard public affairs and leave them entirely to others to worry about.
Over at City Journal, Dr. Dalrymple questions the efficacy of antidepressants after reading a recent article that examined the scientific evidence supporting the serotonin hypothesis of depression.
All unhappiness became depression: indeed, the words unhappy and unhappiness almost disappeared from Western man’s lexicon. The bodily norm was bliss and deviation from it was illness. The solution was medication.
Theodore Dalrymple takes on the modern obsession with transparency in politics over at The Epoch Times.
Its corollary is that we are ruled by a pack of people who are only seekers after office, who don’t believe what they say, and use words only to advance their own careers. Any principle that they claim to espouse is but a cynical smokescreen or an instrument for their own petty ambition: Everything for them is but a means to the end, the end being their political ascent for its own sake. Presentation is all, substance nothing.