What is C-3PO doing in this blog? I put his picture here because the actor who played the robot in all the Star Wars films was named Anthony Daniels, but he is not to be confused with the writer Anthony Daniels. I guess the confusion was so much for the latter that he now goes by the name Theodore Dalrymple.
By now, I have read quite a few books about Guatemala, my next trip destination, and he is the first writer who checked his beliefs at the door. At first glance, I thought his sympathies lay with the hounds, in this case the dictators/army generals who were responsible for some two hundred thousand deaths in the period of the Civil War, roughly 1960-1996. But then I saw that he was giving equal ink to both sides of the war and making cogent arguments that showed he was a good listener. He spent several days in Nicaragua talking to Sandinistas and Sandinista sympathizers. As both a travel writer and a physician, he even spent a couple weeks serving as a doctor on an isolated coffee finca that could be reached only by airplane.
At one point in Sweet Waist of America: Journeys Around Guatemala, Daniels (or Dalrymple) writes:
In fact, Guatemala is not a country for those who want the world to be neatly divisible into good and evil. Perhaps such countries do not exist. But to restore my confidence in my ability to recognize evil when I encountered it, I sought an interview with General Benedicto Lucas García. I had tried to contact his brother, General Romeo Lucas García [the worst of the recent Guatemalan dictators], but he was never at home….
He also interviewed General Efrain Ríos Montt, who was one of the worst recent rulers and who is now an evangelical preacher. Naturally, he did not fess up to having authorized any massacres.
Around this time, I started getting interested in Daniels/Dalrymple. On Wikipedia, there was an interesting summary of the recurring themes in his writing. These include:
- The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries – criminality,domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families – is the nihilistic, decadent and/or self-destructive behaviour of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behaviour, and the medicalisation of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behaviour, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently.
- Poverty does not explain aggressive, criminal and self-destructive behaviour. In an African slum you will find among the very poor, living in dreadful circumstances, dignity and decency in abundance, which are painfully lacking in an average English suburb, although its inhabitants are much wealthier.
- An attitude characterised by gratefulness and having obligations towards others has been replaced – with awful consequences – by an awareness of “rights” and a sense of entitlement, without responsibilities. This leads to resentment as the rights become violated by parents, authorities, bureaucracies and others in general.
- One of the things that make Islam attractive to young westernised Muslim men is the opportunity it gives them to dominate women.
- Technocratic or bureaucratic solutions to the problems of mankind produce disasters in cases where the nature of man is the root cause of those problems.
- It is a myth, when going “cold turkey” from an opiate such as heroin, that the withdrawal symptoms are virtually unbearable; they are in fact hardly worse than flu. [Remember, Daniels is a physician.]
- Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.
- Sentimentality, which is becoming entrenched in British society, is “the progenitor, the godparent, the midwife of brutality.”
- High culture and refined aesthetic tastes are worth defending, and despite the protestations of non-judgmentalists who say all expression is equal, they are superior to popular culture.
- The ideology of the Welfare State is used to diminish personal responsibility. Erosion of personal responsibility makes people dependent on institutions and favours the existence of a threatening and vulnerable underclass.
- Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience.
- Multiculturalism and cultural relativism are at odds with common sense. [I don’t altogether agree with this one.]
- The decline of civilised behaviour – self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life.
- The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.
Now this is a largely conservative set of beliefs that do not coincide with mine, but I like the man’s even-handedness, especially in his Guatemala book. The man makes me think, and it helps me to understand in some way the Trumpf revolution of 2016.