Category Archives: criminals

Why we read and re-read the doctor-essayist

Dalrymple is identified by an acute English journalist (also a skilled and powerful debater), Peter Hitchens, as

one of the greatest men of our age [second item in Hitchens’s 6th August 2017 column in the UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday].

For decades, Hitchens reminds us, Dalrymple

worked in a major British jail, listening to the excuses and self-justifications of people who had done terrible things to others, and to themselves.

Refusing to follow fashion,

and genuinely concerned for these often very sad characters, he treated them as adults, urging them to take responsibility for their actions instead of offering excuses for them. Many, who had come to despise authority, were glad to be up against someone they could not easily fool.

Hitchens’s guess is that many of those Dalrymple treated

benefited greatly from his tough-minded approach. He didn’t fill them with pills or substitute one drug for another. His observations of the way heroin abusers feign terrible discomfort, after arriving in prison and being deprived of their drug, is both funny and a badly needed corrective to conventional wisdom.

All this, Hitchens notes, is to be found in the Dalrymple collection The Knife Went In (2017).

The title, a quotation from an actual murderer, is an example of the way such people refuse to admit they had any part in the crimes they commit. The knife somehow got there and went into the victim, by itself. It is a series of short, gripping real-life stories in which he recounts his experiences with our broken, lying penal system with its fake prison sentences and its ridiculous form-filling as a substitute for action.

The book is mainly about prisons and crime, but, says Hitchens,

it tells a deep truth about the sort of society we have become. It is one in which almost nobody is, or wants to be, responsible for anything.

Hitchens concludes:

A future historian, a century hence, will learn more about 21st-century Britain from this book than from any official document.

Advertisements

The curse of self-esteem

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-10-33-20

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.

Let armed robbery cease, but not yet

The thing is, says Dalrymple,

it increases insurance premiums at the usual margin of profit.

Indeed, he writes,

where would insurance companies be without crime?

Durkeim said criminals perform a valuable function in society, but

he did not mention their valuable services to the insurance industry.

Mendacity of the Guardian newspaper

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 09.03.09Dalrymple comes across an article on deportations in the London newspaper the Guardian. He explains that the article‘s

real point (exemplified by calling the migrants ‘undocumented’ rather than illegal) is rhetorical rather than informative: it wants to claim that the United States, or by extension any other country, including Britain, has no right to control who enters it to live there.

The article is accompanied by a photo of a man’s hand in a San Pedro Sula hospital. The man is waiting to be treated for a stab wound. There is a lot of blood. Only trouble is, the man turns out not to be a deportee from the US.

The photo was used only to raise the emotional temperature of the reader.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 09.05.45Dalrymple points out that since San Pedro Sula

is the city with the world’s highest annual murder rate, it is not difficult to take such photographs. Nor is it difficult to understand why anyone should wish to leave San Pedro Sula.

Dalrymple writes that in Birmingham in the English Midlands, where he used to work, there were

many migrants who had entered the country illegally. The officially accepted reasons for granting asylum—persecution because of race, religion, membership of a social group, or political opinion—didn’t by any means exhaust their reasons for leaving their countries, or even for justifiably fearing to return to them. Governments, alas, are not the only persecutors of people.

Irrespective of their reasons for immigrating illegally,

most of these people had had extremely hard, unenviable lives, and it was difficult not to sympathise with most of them as individuals.

However,

some were criminals pure and simple, seeking a more fertile field in which to sow and reap.