Category Archives: forms (official)

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.

Why it is practically a duty to lie to authorities

Irrespective, writes Dalrymple, of

the paperless world to which digitisation was supposed to give rise (though it does not seem that there is any less paper than there used to be), it has not reduced bureaucracy. The ease with which information may be gathered, or asked for, has brought inefficiencies and irritations of its own.

Any organisation, governmental or private,

may easily demand to know more about us than we wish to reveal. Our only defence against this prepotent intrusion is lying, which in the great majority of cases will go undetected and be without consequence.

Please identify your sexual orientation

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 18.56.41

A much better, fuller list

The hospital trust in which he works sends Dalrymple (from 51:02) a form to fill out

asking for my sexual orientation, so that I could continue to be paid.

Listed on the form, Dalrymple explains, are a mere

six orientations.

Dalrymple sends the form back with the comment:

Your imagination is too restricted for me to be able to answer this question.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 18.42.18

Example of a form with a similarly limited number of orientations but with a bit more imagination