Category Archives: bullies

Bullies to the poor and toadies to the rich

Dalrymple writes that

the great figures of architectural modernism—great in the scope and degree of their baleful influence, not in æsthetic merit—were from the first totalitarian in spirit.

They were

toadies to the rich and bullies to the poor; and they were communists and fascists (not in the merely metaphorical sense, either).

He explains that by a mixture of

ardent self-promotion, bureaucratic scheming, and intellectual terrorism

these totalitarians

managed to gain virtual control of the world’s schools of architecture. (How, incidentally, were the world’s most beautiful cities and buildings erected without the aid of architectural schools?)

Bullying is fun

At least, writes Dalrymple, it is

for people of a certain kind of twisted personality or temperament. They feel that they increase in stature if they humiliate others: I look big because I make you look small.

Those who have been victims

often turn out to be bullies themselves once they have achieved power of some kind; it is as if they are avenging themselves on their past tormentors by humiliating the unfortunate people who have now come under their power. They forget their own humiliation by humiliating others.

In Britain, Dalrymple notes, there is

a strange attitude. On the one hand it has never been as prevalent as now; on the other, we are hypersensitive to it.

Many branches of the public service have ‘anti-bullying’ policies. They

state that an employee has been bullied if he thinks that he has. When he makes an official complaint, he does not have to prove than his feeling is justified, only that he has felt it. He is the final authority on that. Anyone who is ticked off for not doing something can claim to have been bullied. This makes people wary of ticking anyone off, even when he has failed to do his job properly.

The anti-bullying policy

concentrates power in the hands of senior management, for it is they who have to adjudicate. At the same time, senior management are immune from claims that it is bullying precisely because it so successfully subordinates the hierarchy below. So two great classes are set up: not the rich and the poor, or the clever and the stupid, but the bullied and the bullies, or those who can be persecuted and those who cannot.

There is, Dalrymple points out,

no perfect solution to the problem of bullying. Legal prohibitions cannot eradicate it, nor can any number of organisations or policies. It is more a matter of manners than of law, and we live in a very bullying and intimidating social atmosphere. (You have only to watch behaviour at bus stops to realise this.) Increasing numbers of people think that power is the most, or the only, important relationship worth having with other people; so their criterion of how to behave is what they can get away with.

Obituary: Theodore Dalrymple

Melaten-Friedhof cemetery, Cologne

Dalrymple supposes that a doctor

is growing middle-aged when he goes straight to the obituary columns of the British Medical Journal and the Lancet instead of to the scientific papers, and starts to recognise the names that appear there.

Dalrymple is

a devotee of medical obituaries, with their mixture of post-mortem piety and snide remarks. They have a language of their own.

He recalls the Lancet obituary of a recently deceased physician,

from whose passport photograph alone it was possible to deduce that he had been a mean-spirited, bullying, pedantic stuffed shirt.

By The Death Bed, 1893. Munch Museum, Oslo

The obituary read:

Though not immediately likeable, those who knew him well detected many sterling qualities.

Dalrymple, while describing himself as one of

the highly replaceable dregs of the profession,

has not given up hope of an obituary, for this reason: he has discovered that the BMJ‘s obituary pages carry this italicised note to authors: ‘Self-written obituaries are welcome.’ What, then, he asks, should he write of himself? Perhaps

Outwardly he often appeared compassionate towards his patients, but inwardly he was seething with irritation that they should have been so feckless, foolish, ignorant, fat, importuning, immature and unrealistic.

Or

Sometimes he wanted to have an affair with a patient, but he always resisted the temptation, unlike some other doctors he could name.