Underrated


From Jonathan Foreman:

Regular readers of Theodore Dalrymple will not have been surprised by the looting that spread through London and then to other English cities in early August. Indeed, one of the fascinating and appalling aspects of these disturbances, beyond the gleeful contempt for the law shown by the looters, and the complacency of the police who allowed them to rampage, were the familiar explanations offered by the offenders for their behaviour.

In interviews with reporters they sounded exactly like the amoral underclass interlocutors who have peopled Dalrymple’s writing for two decades. In the aftermath, the media was full of anguished discussion about what had brought Britain to this grim pass. Many of the talking-heads seemed shocked to discover that thousands of young people neither respect nor fear the authorities. It baffled them that, despite the material wealth of our society, a disturbing portion of “our” youth are vicious, selfish, greedy and callous to a degree that would shock the genuinely deprived inhabitants of South Asian slums or Mexican barrios.

If this bafflement was evidence of a dismaying ignorance and capacity for self-deception on the part of the political and media class, it also revealed the degree to which one of Britain’s most incisive, courageous, knowledgeable and clear-eyed public intellectuals has been ignored by or excluded from the dominant discourse. Theodore Dalrymple is that Cassandra, as well as, arguably, our greatest living essayist.

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