Wanderlust: Theodore Dalrymple

Dalrymple sometimes gives interviews and speaks publicly

Wanderlust: Theodore Dalrymple

Postby Gavin » 25 Sep 2017, 16:48

Hey everyone, I thought I would mention this video which came to my attention recently. It is a surprisingly intimate portrait of TD at his home in France. He seems to have accepted or invited a "philosopher" by the name of Alicja Gescinska (Polish-Flemish) to stay with him for a day or so and she asks him a number of questions, most of which, to be honest, I found quite naive. She is, however, polite with TD and his wife, even if she does repeatedly ask slightly wince-inducing questions and then follow them up invariably with phrases such as "And why do you think that is?". Perhaps she believes in the Freudian or Socratic methods. It doesn't appear that Ms Gescinska has read much - if any - of TD's work and she doesn't have much to say for herself by way of conversation except remarks such as the above, but the documentary is nonetheless quite unusual as TD profiles go, I think, and quite interesting.

In the programme, TD uses many of his usual examples and is his usual jovial and self-effacing self (despite being a self-professed pessimist!). One highlight is that we get to see his colossal library, which has to be stored in its own building. His house there in France is very nice, and isolated, and really quite large, I thought. It seems to be in a lovely spot - as he says, it is virtually impossible to obtain silence in modern society. I strongly share his desire for this - so often Sartre's "Hell is other people" comes to mind, though admittedly not in the context Sartre meant.

It all seems very idyllic, but one thing I must say is this programme manages to cast the entire visit in an very, and completely unnecessarily, bleak and melancholy light, I thought. Granted, the weather during the visit is rather rainy, but via long, lingering, still images and sad, minimalist piano music and so on, the producers just managed, it seemed to me, to set an almost despairing tone for the whole thing, whereas this need not have been the case at all. TD was just chatting, often joking, and you can just imagine if different music and a different filming style had been chosen the slant would have accordingly been completely and utterly different. Perhaps that's just the style of this programme.

In keeping with this melancholy style, Gescinska asks naively at one point if TD is kept awake at night with worry. He says no, of course not, but she keeps pushing this point until he has to ask her if she has this problem, which she does. Of course, many people are attracted to psychology and philosophy because they want to solve their own problems. Gescinska also pries shamelessly into TD's personal decisions and whether, for example, he regrets not having children. I was quite taken aback by this. Maybe he actually does regret it, but there's not much he can say, what with his wife there and it being impossible now anyway. He makes some negative remarks about how children can go off the rails, but I'm sure he does not actually believe this is sufficient reason not to have them.

Since Gescinska generally asks TD quite basic questions (all regular readers will be familiar with his answers) I think there are many missed opportunities to tap his considerable intellect and knowledge and get into some meaty contemporary topics, but as I say, this programme is still a very interesting insight, being so unusually intimate.

I think TD is a kind, and incredibly well read and profound individual, as well as being genial, honest and modest. In terms of "criticism" (for none of us are perfect!) I note that he is somewhat "rootless", as I think Charlie from the forum has observed to me in the past. Perhaps this has not been entirely for the best for him. Also these days I am increasingly of the feeling that while TD is a brilliant analyst and describer of the maladies of the West, he is perhaps not very dynamic in describing how they might be and should be remedied. It's a big "ask", for sure, but times have changed now since we started this forum, things are hotting up, PC getting out of control, factions seem to be developing, the odds getting higher and action is increasingly coming off the screen and out into the real world.

It's a balance: to be utopian is perhaps unrealistic but at the same time surely a noble aim, whereas to be merely providing a diagnosis without a prescription may be to be providing only half of what we need. Nonetheless, TD's contributions in terms of diagnosis thus far have been enormous, I'd love to talk to him again some time and, frankly, the more people who read him the better. I think he comes across as charming in this video and I would be interested in what others think about the whole programme too.

Post-script: I see the first episode of this series featured Roger Scruton - it might well be worth watching that one as well.
Gavin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 3430
Joined: 27 Jul 2011, 18:13
Location: Once Great Britain

Re: Wanderlust: Theodore Dalrymple

Postby Jonathan » 28 Sep 2017, 18:21

Great find, Gavin. Watched it last night, but didn't have time to comment.

I found myself in perfect agreement with most of your comments. "Surprisingly intimate", is exactly right. I recall reading a line some months ago in one of Dalrymple's comments, in which he mentioned cooperating with TV people, and being pleasantly surprised. Until then, all his comments on people who work in Television had been uniformly negative. I suppose he must have been referring to this Alicja Gescinska.

I agree with your comments on the tone. It worked quite well, as a polished piece of television, but as you said, it must have been a producer's choice, not one which was forced upon him by the material.

Missed opportunities. Sigh. If I were his guest, I would also have asked very different questions. But to be fair, these are not questions Dalrymple would have been likely to answer frankly in front of a television camera. In his writings he often expounds on the importance of a distinction between the public and private spheres. I expect that he would have evaded any of those questions, as he evaded the one about not having children - as if the difficulties in raising children were the primary point to reflect upon, in a biographical interview.

I'm not so sure "Rootless" is quite right, though. It is true he traveled a lot in his youth. He's not doing so now, nor has he done much recently. He did travel to communist countries for his "Utopias Elsewhere", and he also did a tour in Australia recently (I believe), but this seems more like a pale imitation of the adventures of his youth - or publicity gigs for his books. His mind seems firmly focused on England. He isn't constantly reinventing himself. True, he lives in France, but I suspect part of the reason he manages so well in France is that he lives so far out of the way. I suspect there are strong underlying motives for living in France - as if moving to live where your wife wants to live is so unusual an event as to require a strong explanation. His articles often mention the delicate condition of his wife's elderly mother - surely his wife would want to remain close to her.

As for children - Dalrymple mentioned in one article a spontaneous abortion which his wife suffered. This suggests that they were hoping for children at some point. Quite unrelatedly, I don't recall him ever mentioning anything about how he met his wife, or how he courted her, or any circumstances about their marriage. A curious omission, though of course it may signify nothing at all.


"Wanderlust". Dalrymple describes his youthful escapades as Wanderlust. I've occasionally pondered what drove him to travel so far. The Gilbert Islands are pretty much as far away from England as you can get. Wandering about Africa? Latin America? Was he an adrenaline junkie in his youth? I'm having trouble imagining that. Whatever possessed him?

I hope no-one will mind if I pour out my thoughts.

Dalrymple says he had an unhappy childhood. In many of his articles he reflects upon his parents. His recollections of his father are almost all negative; of his mother, almost all positive. His father was an ideological Marxist. Dalrymple seems to have walked some steps upon that path in his youth. He I recall him mentioning that there was a time in which he preferred to argue about marxist dialectics than study the basics of his chosen profession. Why did he choose to study medicine? I don't think he ever addresses the question. Perhaps he drifted into it for lack of anything better to do, or perhaps he was goaded into it by his parents (or just by one of them).

The fact that he was studying marxism as a youth suggests that as a youth he admired his father. Evidently, that changed at some point. But when? I imagine Dalrymple finishing his studies in Britain at the age of twenty-something. He does not seem to have been a brilliantly successful student of medicine. Psychiatry, I'm sure most people agree, is less demanding than neurosurgery. Perhaps his accomplishments were a disappointment to his father (Dalrymple often mentions that his father would never give a compliment without wrapping it in criticism - perhaps this was a first-hand observation). I suspect his far-flung travels were driven more by a desire to get away from his childhood, from his family, and from his father. Perhaps his anger melted away under the warmth of doing good deeds to strangers in distant lands. At some point he seems to have discovered he had a keen eye for understanding the human mind, and a rare gift for writing about it. He made himself into something new, which he had not been when he left England.

Of course, there are other details of his childhood which might better support a simpler "wanderlust" theory - such as hitchiking around Scotland at sixteen years of age.

Perhaps you were thinking about politically-oriented questions, rather than biographical ones. Of course, these are pressing issues nowadays. But I cannot help thinking that Dalrymple deserves to find a Boswell for himself.

Remedies. He does avoid suggesting solutions or policies, doesn't he? He's not a visionary, to lead people into warm, sunlit uplands which only he can see. He's too modest and self-effacing, I suppose, too aware of the fallibility of man, and of the unexpected consequences hiding behind every decision. He promotes a philosophy, not a policy. A good philosophy, of respect for tradition and limits on power, coupled with an aversion to utopian dreams. But no concrete steps from him, no ten-point plan to save the nation. Yeats' words come to mind.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Jonathan
 
Posts: 407
Joined: 03 Aug 2011, 05:14
Location: Israel

Re: Wanderlust: Theodore Dalrymple

Postby Gavin » 30 Sep 2017, 17:12

Hi Jonathan,

Yes, I watched the documentary late at night and commented the next morning, too.

these are not questions Dalrymple would have been likely to answer frankly in front of a television camera


True. Yes, I would have asked him probably the most controversial questions, because they're the ones that seem most important and the ones where I would really like to know his take. It would be a bit unfair, though, I mean for example asking for someone to out themselves as a race realist with all the attendant risks.

I would for example have asked him questions such as:

  • Why had black people not yet even invented the wheel when European explorers first discovered them?
  • Is Mohammed a good role model as the "perfect man"?
  • How come there is not a single example of an African society or even city that is flourishing, and indeed when communities in the west become majority African they seem to become worse?
  • Why are the most successful African countries (albeit not very successful) those that were previously touched by European colonisation? (Corollary: Why was South Africa much safer and more prosperous under white rule than it is today?)
  • Do you think known high rates of inbreeding have something to do with the disproportionate criminality and lack of achievement of Muslims?
  • Do you think there is a sub-set of ethnocentric Jews who are disproportionately undermining the integrity of western nations through peddling trash/porn media and encouraging mass immigration - thereby not only degrading the host countries but also potentially, in the long run, endangering both themselves and other Jews? Time and again we manage to identify the figures behind the most harmful decisions of our time and sadly they are Jewish (Barbara Roche - Tony Blair's Immigration Minister who said she was "more comfortable" in a multicultural society so the rest of us have just had to put up with it, pornographers, BBC Creative Directors, comedians etc. etc.). A pattern develops - it's a worry and should really be for Jews who do not approve of this and are well integrated, too.
  • Do you think homosexuality should be promoted and "celebrated" as being just as normal as heterosexuality, or simply accepted as an anomaly?
  • Do you think most women will be happy putting their careers before motherhood or have they been deceived? (This of course is leading to the decline of European peoples in their own homelands.)
  • Should we abolish child benefit? All benefits?
  • Have you read Douglas Murray's The Strange Death of Europe? If so, what did you think of it?
  • It is known that when civilisations begin to decline, they become decadent, lose faith in their own values and allow in large numbers of "other" who are more primitive but ascendant invaders (q.v. Roman Empire). Are we in that stage now? If so will it lead to war, and is occasional war, or at least difficulty, necessary in order to prevent such decay?
  • Do you think we are now seeing a replay of the 1920s/30s with communities beginning to polarise into communist/fascist divisions?
  • Would a Corbyn government hasten the economic and social collapse of the UK?
  • Why do all companies and governments claim to value "diversity" when it only ever seems to bring strife?

Many more like this, too. But as I say, these get right to the heart of matters and ask him to be more frank and honest than he would probably like to be and than it might be safe to be. I can appreciate all this is probably better for private conversation, but I would still not have asked as anodyne questions as she did!

Dalrymple mentioned in one article a spontaneous abortion which his wife suffered.


I didn't know about this - a miscarriage, then. How sad. I did think the woman's question about this was most insensitive. As for how he met his wife, I believe she was a doctor, perhaps a GP in England. I guess he became acquainted with her somehow through work. It would be hard for TD to meet his equal - they seem to have quite an amusing relationship that works well.

Your theory that TD wished to escape an unhappy childhood by travelling seems credible to me - although of course he probably also just had an enquiring mind. He probably felt a bit rootless at least in the sense that he was not really English - his family had only just arrived here. He is an example of someone having integrated exceedingly well though, and what excellent diction he has.

Why did he choose to study medicine?


I think I remember him writing that it's something his father wanted him to do and he just went along with it.

Interesting other observations you make too, and yes, I suppose he does need a Boswell!

Thanks for replying to my post, Jonathan.
Gavin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 3430
Joined: 27 Jul 2011, 18:13
Location: Once Great Britain

Re: Wanderlust: Theodore Dalrymple

Postby Jonathan » 01 Oct 2017, 18:01

One other thought on the question of why Dalrymple generally does not suggest solutions.

His first books (Life at the Bottom and Our Culture, what's Left of it) contain many examples of his conversations with patients. They generally follow the same pattern: Dalrymple identifies the root of the problem (usually because he's seen it a hundred times before) and tries to lead the patient to understand how he has been deceiving himself. There's the thief who believes he steals because of a bad childhood, the teenager who's in love with a man who will abuse her, the wife who does everything for her husband because she believes him to be helpless - while at the same time she knows he has a job in which he's in charge of half a dozen people. And the nurses in his hospital, who keep hooking up with violent men, explaining that they had no way of knowing they would turn out to be violent - while at the same time admitting that Dalrymple would have identified it right away, and they can list the reasons he would have given.

In other words, he helps them to see the problem, and leaves them to find their own cure. Probably he thinks that they are more likely to see it through to the end if they choose it themselves, rather than have it imposed from without. But the point is, he is using exactly the same technique on Western society as a whole.


That's quite a list of questions! Quite pertinent, which says something about this day and age. I dare say, though, that it might be possible to predict some of his answers with a considerable degree of confidence, simply based on his past writings.



* Why had black people not yet even invented the wheel when European explorers first discovered them?
* How come there is not a single example of an African society or even city that is flourishing, and indeed when communities in the west become majority African they seem to become worse?
* Why are the most successful African countries (albeit not very successful) those that were previously touched by European colonisation? (Corollary: Why was South Africa much safer and more prosperous under white rule than it is today?)


I would expect his answer to follow the outline of his discussion of Rhodesia. Africa is dominated by clan-based cultures; this means lots of mutual support within the clan, and uncontrolled predation outside the clan. This culture is inimical to the rule of law. The touch of the British Empire had both good and evil effects, the evil ones receiving a hundred times more attention than the good ones. He has often discussed the policies - and resulting girth - of the first generation of African tyrants. That said, the continent of Africa does contain some impressive ancient ruins (Ethiopia, Egypt) which suggests that 'twas not always thus in Africa.

* Do you think known high rates of inbreeding have something to do with the disproportionate criminality and lack of achievement of Muslims?

I think he say that anyone who observed first-hand the decline of English manners over the last fifty years, with the consequent increase in criminality (quite apart from that caused by immigration) should not be over-hasty in ascribing genetic factors to bad behavior.


* Why do all companies and governments claim to value "diversity' when it only ever seems to bring strife?
* Do you think homosexuality should be promoted and "celebrated" as just as being just as normal as heterosexuality, or simply accepted as an anomaly?


These questions would probably beget a comparison with propaganda in communist countries, and a mention of a recurring theme of his: that the purpose of such propaganda is not to inform, or convince, but to humiliate, and destroy the self-respect of those who are forced to repeat obvious lies.


* Have you read Douglas Murray's The Strange Death of Europe? If so, what did you think of it?

* It is known that when civilisations begin to decline, they become decadent, lose faith in their own values and allow in large numbers of "other" who are more primitive but ascendant invaders (q.v. Roman Empire). Are we in that stage now? If so will it lead to war, and is occasional war, or at least difficulty, necessary in order to prevent such decay?

* Do you think we are now seeing a replay of the 1920s/30s with communities beginning to polarise into communist/fascist divisions?



For these questions, I would just sit quietly beside you and try to make a mental note of everything he said. As for the ones I have not listed, I think I would be more likely to find myself expressing my own opinion, rather than correctly gauging his. In all likelihood, I would find myself repeating what I have said elsewhere, to nobody's benefit.

As for how he met his wife, I believe she was a doctor, perhaps a GP in England. I guess he became acquainted with her somehow through work.

That was my guess, as well.


...and what excellent diction he has.


That's good to know! All English accents sound equally sophisticated to my uncultured ears :)

I think I remember him writing that it's something his father wanted him to do and he just went along with it.


I had forgotten that.



Incidentally, I recently finished The Strange Death of Europe - I found it a useful recap of the events of the last decade or so, putting a bit of order to the jumble of facts in my head. I've got Tommy Robinson and McLoughlin's 'Mohammed's Koran' waiting for me on my shelf. I noticed that the publisher is listed as 'Peter McLoughlin' - this suggests that he was unable to find a regular publisher for this manuscript, and had to publish it himself. Unless, of course, his family has been in the publishing business for three generations, and I failed to find them online :)
Jonathan
 
Posts: 407
Joined: 03 Aug 2011, 05:14
Location: Israel

Re: Wanderlust: Theodore Dalrymple

Postby Andy JS » 07 Oct 2017, 19:12

The video is fascinating. I've never searched for an interview with TD at his home because I assumed it was the sort of thing he probably wouldn't take part in. Unfortunately the video seems to have been designated as "private" in the last few days and is no longer viewable. I was just about to watch it a second time.
Andy JS
 
Posts: 79
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:43


Return to Media appearances

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron

User Menu

Login Form

This site costs £100 per year to run and makes no money.

If you would like to make a small contribution to help pay for the web hosting, you can do so here.

Who is online

In total there are 2 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 2 guests (based on users active over the past 5 minutes)
Most users ever online was 175 on 12 Jan 2015, 18:23

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests
Copyright © Western Defence. All Rights Reserved.