Category Archives: sympathy

Tumours innocent and malign

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.17.55Browsing in one of the few second-hand bookshops that remain (after bogus charities such as Save the Children and Oxfam robbed them of their livelihoods), Dalrymple picks up an edition of Sir John Bland-Sutton’s 1893 work. Dalrymple notes

the dramatic nature, or grossness of the pathology, of the cases illustrated

and

the recognisability of the people who suffered.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.22.46As artistic artefacts,

the illustrations, though of the ugliest possible phenomena, are beautiful, and of skilful draughtsmanship.

There is in the book

no attempt to conceal the personal identity of the afflicted, and in some cases they are named. Yet the impression given is neither of disrespect nor of prurience, but of sympathy.

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Man’s best friend

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 08.14.31In The Leper of Aosta (1811), Xavier de Maistre demonstrates, writes Dalrymple,

understanding of the intense and loving relationship that the lonely and disabled develop with their dogs.

In the story, presented largely in the form of a dialogue, the leper tells a sympathetic soldier (with whom he refuses all contact for the soldier’s sake):

Stranger, when sorrow or discouragement attack you, think of the hermit of Aosta. You will not then have visited in vain.

Dalrymple comments:

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 08.12.19Ah, if only the thought of those who are worse off than ourselves could truly console us as it should!

He notes the similarities between Maistre’s story and Turgenev’s Mumu (1854).

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 08.13.57Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 08.14.55

Mosaics, kaleidoscopes, salad bowls

Pan with hamadryad, from Pompeii, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

No: Pan with hamadryad, from Pompeii. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Bring back the melting pot

Doctrinal multiculturalism furnishes, writes Dalrymple,

  • a portion of the intelligentsia with an opportunity to exhibit its virtue and generosity for all the world to see
  • cultural bureaucrats with a minor if lucrative source of employment

He points out that understanding another culture

is a Herculean labour.

What chance

No!

No

is there for people to understand, in any but the most superficial way, the hundreds of extremely diverse cultures from which immigrants come to our shores? To understand Amhara culture in any detail is the work of a lifetime for a highly intelligent person of American or European background who is determined and motivated to do so; for one person to understand Bengali, Somali, Yemeni and Vietnamese cultures as well is impossible.

No!

No

It follows

that is it for immigrants who do us the honour of coming to our country to understand us, not for us to understand them — which is impossible in any case. It is for them to make the mental, intellectual and cultural adjustments, not us.

In special circumstances,

it is well that certain people should try to learn something of the culture of immigrants. But it is humanity that should demand it, not bureaucratic multiculturalism.

Yes: Israel Zangwill's 1908 play

Yes: Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play

For instance, it was very necessary in Dalrymple’s work as a physician in an area with many immigrants that he should understand

the situation of Muslim girls brought up in Britain and forced into unwanted, indeed repellent, marriages to a first cousin in a village in Pakistan.

But

understanding and sympathy cannot be decreed.

The answer to the problems of the multi-ethnic, multilingual society remains

the melting pot.