Theodore Dalrymple; Have you packed your own suitcase?

No time or society, I imagine, is entirely without its ironies or contradictions. For example, we are horrified by the sexual abuse of children but all our social policy over the last fifty years has been to maximise it. We would, in practice, be far more horrified by attempts to reverse that policy than any amount of such abuse. We prefer to erect (and pay for) vast and ineffectual bureaucracies whose ostensible aim is to counteract the natural consequences of those policies.

I noticed another such irony or contradiction the other day at a British provincial airport. It was in that fifty-eighth circle of Hell that you have to go enter and pass through once you have passed through security, namely the array of duty-free or tax-reduced shops that sell luxury consumables, each shop with its own throbbing pop music, in an attempt to induce a state of trance in you and destroy your judgment, temptresses approaching you and asking whether you want to try the new fragrance by Gianfranco Tortellini or Marcantonio Tagliatelle.

As I was passing through this inferno, I noticed that there was marble screen with a notice with an arrow and which said Tobacco and Cigars this way. The screen led to a hidden passageway as if what were being sold at the end of it were dirty postcards (but pictures far more explicit than those on old-fashioned dirty postcards were on sale at every newsagent in the airport).

Is it not curious that the purchase and consumption of tobacco should be pushed into semi-clandestinity at the very time when pressure is mounting to make cannabis as freely available as (say) coffee? A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, no doubt, but it is odd that we accept new and blatant inconsistencies without noticing, let alone protesting them.

There are other inconsistencies to be observed in airport. It is fascinating to watch fully-veiled mothers leading their sons dressed in a baseball cap worn sideways, T-shorts, jeans and trainers through the labyrinth of consumerism. And then I listened to some girls, obviously on a trip from a rather superior school, discuss between themselves the vexed question of make-up.

‘I never wear it at school,’ said one. ‘In fact I never wear it.’

‘I don’t either,’ said another. ‘Except I sometimes have my eyelashes lengthened, like my dad does. He says you have to have it done every few months.’

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5 Comments on Theodore Dalrymple; Have you packed your own suitcase?

  1. This retrospective obsession in regard of “wrongs done” will prove to be something significant as a marker for how we`ve turned from future hopes to past obsessions.
    Nobody denies that evil was done-but a telling point now is that I hear no wish for football clubs to be closed, shut down or boycotted until the current crop of abuse claims are cleared up. But this was what was demanded of the churches-and the likes of Boston are now destroyed.
    Right or wrong? Well, that`s why we have laws and courts-here and the USA.
    But I think this-if the likes of Lineker, Sky and the BBC with all that sponsorship and fetishisation of “Sport” were not paid, not “important icons”and broadcasting the national weirdities of soccer-safe to say that different standards would be applied.

  2. “I sometimes have my eyelashes lengthened, like my dad does.”

    I don’t suspect you of lying TD – never that – but seriously: do you think you heard correctly – what with all that “throbbing pop music” adjacent to your ear drums? If so, and if that was my pa, I would (want to) hang myself.

  3. I have to object to this line about current policy maximising child abuse. How, exactly? Are you suggesting that there was no abuse of children in the care of priests, scout masters, “Christian” brothers etcetera before they were tempted by the license of Vatican II or suggestive advertising? Is it not a hundred times more likely that their institutional authority merely cloaked such abuses more effectively? And what of other forms of abuse? The quality of corporal punishment handed out by Wackford Squeers and his real life contemporaries is surely not the sign of a golden age; nor is the vicious retribution recorded, inter alia, by the likes of Roald Dahl or Ferdinand Mount and other dangerous reds and sloppy liberals. There is conservatism – valuing current goods such as the free market and the nation state and there is reaction – insisting that everything was much better before and that there is no such thing as progress, even in local and particular matters. I accuse you, in this statement, of slipping into wilfully ignorant reaction. Before making such broad brush statements about such sensitive matters again – and no, I’m not “shutting you up” by force or recourse to law or by leading some PC hue and cry; I’m engaging with what you say – I suggest you read, among other publications, Cornwell’s “Dark Box”. Abuse was fostered like mushrooms in a cellar by the complacency of various institutions, whilst prudish Society was too squeamish and cowardly to stop it.

    • ‘Are you suggesting that there was no abuse of children in the care of priests, scout masters, “Christian” brothers etcetera before they were tempted by the license of Vatican II or suggestive advertising’

      Nobody is suggesting that but it has doubtless been massively over-stated. DT is referring to the Marxist mass sexualisation of children through ‘sex education’, lewd TV shows, internet pornography and the administration of ‘preventative’ drugs at puberty to prepare young girls for the meat market.

    • The point Dalrymple is making – and I think the statistics bear it out – is that for every one abusive priest there are scores of abusive step-parents, step-siblings, live-in lovers, Uncle Harry coming round Friday night etc.
      It may also interest you to know that the beating recorded by Dahl is an almost complete fabrication. He says 1. it was done by Fisher; 2. it happened often; 3. it happened to him; and 4. he implies that it was for some childish naughtiness. Now, 1. Dahl was not there during Fisher’s headmastership; 2. the punishment book for the period when he was there has been checked and there is only ONE punishment answering this description; 3. it was inflicted on a senior boy; 4. who had been abusing (nature of abuse not specified) younger boys.