Category Archives: conceit

Society for the Suppression of Self-Esteem

Dalrymple has inaugurated the association because he perceives that

of the many possible human qualities, self-esteem is one of the most odious. It is much more closely related to conceit and self-importance than it is to self-respect or even self-confidence.

The doctor-writer has met many persons bursting with self-esteem who are

without discernible virtues.

Indeed, one of the sources of their bad character is self-esteem,

insofar as nothing could dent it, not even the hatred or contempt of everyone around them.

Litigation lawyers

Dalrymple writes that in his time he has known a number of folk of this kind

who have made an excellent living, not to say fabulous sums, from their legal exertions on behalf of humanity, and who struck me as among the most conceited people I have ever encountered.

The curse of self-esteem


Oh, happy, happy Caligula!

Self-love, writes Dalrymple,

used to be a vice, but nowadays it is the nearest thing to a virtue, as a supposed precondition of our own mental health (whatever that might be).

The theory is that self-love

is a precondition to success, happiness, and resilience, and should therefore be taught early and probably incessantly.

Some people think

the promotion of youthful self-satisfaction and conceit an excellent idea, the key to the little ones’ future happiness.

Dalrymple points out that criminals,

especially the vicious rather than the merely pathetic ones, have very high self-esteem. They are generally proud of how awful they have been and positively swagger with satisfaction at their own competence in the matter of causing misery to others. They too have ‘core beliefs’ about themselves, all of them highly flattering. They even think they are lovable as well as admirable.

The vice of self-congratulation


To give a child lessons in moral narcissism is a dismal thing to do

Dalrymple explains that he is

allergic to the use of children for the dissemination of political messages. I think it is a form of child abuse. Poor old Kant would turn in his grave.

Dalrymple notices a newspaper photo of a girl of about 8 holding up a banner at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with I am kind, smart and important on it. The words, he says, are

thoroughly odious.

We teach self-congratulation early, he notes,

and far from learning that self-praise is no praise, children are taught that self-praise is the highest form. The object is to prevent that most frightful and damaging of psychological conditions, lack of self-esteem. From being insufficiently puffed-up about oneself all kinds of dire consequences flow, from repeatedly choosing the wrong mate to failure to progress in one’s career.

But Dalrymple points out that self-esteem is

an unpleasant quality, akin to conceit. Some of the most unpleasant people I have known were full of it, and it is perfectly possible for people to behave like monsters and have a very high conception of themselves. Self-esteem is dangerous as a positive invitation to appalling behavior, insofar as it is not derived from any effort, achievement, or good conduct, but is self-awarded as an inalienable right.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-20-24-27Does anyone, he asks,

who is kind and clever hold up a banner to the effect that he is kind and clever? A person who went round proclaiming, ‘I am important, I am important’ would seem to us either pathetic, as if he were whistling in the wind of his insignificance, or, if he used his supposed importance to push his way to the front of a queue, say, in order to be served before everyone else, very unpleasant indeed.


On 30 March, 1933, Victor Klemperer noticed a children’s ball in a toyshop inscribed with a swastika


Dalrymple is allergic to the use of children for the dissemination of political messages


It is a form of child abuse. Kant would turn in his grave


Is the crisis faced by the Greeks their own fault?

Feeble-minded: Martin Wolf Wolf: feeble-minded

NO, says Martin Wolf. Stupid lenders lose money

This greatly overvalued (and very conceited) journalist writes about high finance. He can be read in the Financial Times, the Irish Times and other prints. He argues:

Nobody was forced to lend to Greece. Initially, private lenders were happy to lend to the Greek government on much the same terms as to the German government. Yet the nature of Greek politics, tellingly described in The 13th Labour of Hercules: Inside the Greek Crisis by Yannis Palaiologos, was no secret. Then, in 2010, it became clear the money would not be repaid. Rather than agree to the write-off that was needed, governments (and the International Monetary Fund) decided to bail out the private creditors by refinancing Greece. Thus began the game of ‘extend and pretend’. Stupid lenders lose money. That has always been the case. It is still the case today.

Dalrymple: incisive and gutsy Dalrymple: incisive

YES, says Theodore Dalrymple. Stupid borrowers lose assets

This greatly undervalued (and very self-effacing) essayist writes about the human condition. He can be read in City Journal, the Salisbury Review and other prints. He argues:

The lenders were foolish, or worse than foolish, relying as they did on Greece’s fraudulent membership of the common currency to forestall any possibility of default. But the Greeks, or rather the Greek government, can hardly be absolved of all blame for the situation. The latter borrowed huge sums of money to fund current consumption, having previously falsified its public accounts in order to meet the criteria to join the common currency. If nobody had to lend to Greece, Greece did not have to borrow, at least not like it did and for the purposes that it did. And if it is true that stupid lenders lose money, stupid borrowers lose their assets. If this is a tale of stupidity, it is of stupidity – or dishonesty – all round.

Dalrymple pricks the pompous

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 02.15.06Discussing ‘destructive reviews’, Dalrymple cites Macaulay’s verdict on Edward Nares’s three-volume 1828 work Memoirs of the Life and Administration of the Right Honourable William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Macaulay stated in his review:

Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is an agreeable recreation.

But Dalrymple shows that he himself is capable of producing a ‘destructive review’ that matches Macaulay in its wit:

Once I read a short work by a famous man who claimed to have written it in three days, no doubt to impress us with the fecundity of his genius. I said that I was surprised it took him that long.

This, incidentally, gave rise to anger:

He replied with the fury of the self-important eminent who regard criticism of others in much the same way as summer holidaymakers in the north of Scotland regard the attention of the midges, that is to say very, very annoying but not dangerous.

It is surprising how thin-skinned the eminent can be.