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New book: Midnight Maxims

Theodore Dalrymple’s latest book for Mirabeau Press is his first book of maxims. Midnight Maxims is the result of Dalrymple’s recent sleepless nights in which he used those wee hours to write short statements of universal truths. Great writers throughout history, such as Francois de La Rochefoucauld, have used this form of writing, and Dalrymple has said in the past that he encourages young writers to focus on writing maxims because they clarify one’s thoughts. Many of Dalrymple’s essays already include these short and quotable lines (the ones here are all original).

There are 365 maxims here, one for each day of the year, but Dalrymple says these are not maxims of the daily inspirational type; rather, they focus on universal truths of human nature and, to some extent, contemporary society. I can imagine each one of these provoking a discussion.

Speaking for myself, this is already one of my favorite Dalrymple books. Although not intended as such, I think this book is a distillation of much (though certainly not all) of his thought and writing.

Midnight Maxims is available on various Amazon sites all around the world. US readers can go here and British readers here.

Menaces and Migrants

The good doctor admonishes the vulgar behavior of some of his countrymen when cavorting abroad and considers some unexpected social consequences of the pandemic in Saudi Arabia over at Takimag.

The British government’s repeated postponement of the liberation of its own population and its patent discouragement of travel, especially to the continent of Europe, because of the Covid-19 epidemic, will at least have one positive effect, namely that of raising slightly the cultural level of the resorts to which Britons flock annually as herds of wildebeest in their seasonal migrations.

The Degeneration of Public Administration

In the spring issue of City Journal, our critical doctor targets the ineffective, politically correct, ambitious mediocrities that tend to climb highest in the modern British state bureaucracies.

The degeneration of the public administration puzzles me because in all walks of life, from plumbers to electricians, locksmiths, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, surgeons, cardiologists, research scientists, and so forth, I meet capable, intelligent, honest, and talented people. The explanation of this strange divergence, I suspect, is ultimately in the way that the humanities, or inhumanities, are now taught in higher education.

The Progressive Uglification of Everything

In his Quadrant essay, our favorite doctor hits the nail on the head with a scathing critique of the degenerate and repellently ugly nature of much of modern art, as well as the progressive, cultural Marxist-inspired ideology underlying much of this vile uglification around us.

Needless to say, those short-listed for the prize have done more than their little bit for the progressive uglification of the world—one would expect no less. In a world of injustice, after all, beauty as once understood is socially-regressive and unjust, the privilege of the few.

Birdwatchers Must Be Made to Embrace Diversity and Inclusion

Theodore Dalrymple gets satirical with the topic of birdwatching in his The Epoch Times column.

It takes some determination to see in birdwatching not an innocent and harmless pastime (though I gather that birdwatchers can be highly competitive), but a manifestation of social injustice, that injustice being one of the reasons that there are, comparatively, so few black birdwatchers.

A Moment in the Ongoing Decay of the Social Contract

During his recent trip to Paris, our favorite doctor happens upon an “anti-fascist” rally attended by the usual assortment of disgruntled, aimless, black-clad leftist youth, as well as the notorious French riot police, dispatched to keep order among the would-be revolutionaries.

Still, however justified or effective the presence, it is not pleasant or reassuring to see such a force on the streets. It means that the social compact essential to a free society, namely that people will contain their political passion within certain bounds, is breaking down, not only in France but throughout the west. There are no prizes for guessing who is mostly responsible.

The ‘Wooden Language’ That Opens the Door to Complete Ruthlessness

Our dubious doctor receives an invitation to apply to Harvard Business School’s program on leadership that was clearly written using the meaningless, bland, long-winded language of the typical academic bureaucrat—or communist party apparatchik—that would have made Comrade Brezhnev blush.

But it would be a mistake to suppose that, just because the words and sentences uttered have no clear meaning, that they have no purpose. On the contrary, they have a very important purpose. The mastery of this kind of language is the managerial equivalent of freemasons’ ceremonies: it distinguishes the managers from the managed.

No Controlling Moral Authority

Over at City Journal, the skeptical doctor calls out the White House Press Secretary for her inadequate and evasive answer to a reporter’s straightforward question concerning the dismissal of members of the U.S. Fine Arts Commission.

This way of thinking is both a symptom and a cause of the absence of an unenforceable moral code that is held, if not universally, at least by a large proportion of the population. As Edmund Burke knew, where there is no inner restraint, there will have to be external restraint—in other words, the law, which will be permissive and repressive at the same time.

Grave Expression

In last week’s Takimag column, Dr. Dalrymple writes about the many famous and also less well-known people who are buried in the immense Parisian cemetery, Père Lachaise, near his apartment.

There is, in fact, a communist corner in the cemetery, where such luminaries of the French Communist Party as Maurice Thorez and Georges Marchais are buried, as well as communist or communist-sympathizing writers, not all of them by any means negligible. The fact that they are all buried together or in close proximity, these dogmatic materialists, so that they should be united in death, is powerfully suggestive of the quasi-religious appeal of communism. I am not religious myself but on the whole (and within limits) prefer the religious kind of religion to the secular kind.

Elites Choose Ugliness in Federal Architecture, No Matter What the People Prefer

In his The Epoch Times column, the dissenting doctor laments the predictable reversal of President Trump’s reasonable executive order mandating that new federal buildings be built in the classical architectural style. This is yet another triumph for post-modern tastelessness and nihilistic ugliness to appease the vastly inferior modernist architectural lobby.

It did not decree that all buildings in America should be built in this style, only new federal ones, a tiny proportion of the total: unlike the modernist architects of the past who wanted to dictate the style of architecture for the whole world, and to a surprising and horrifying extent succeeded, with devastating effects on the beauty of cities everywhere.

Heroism and Mythomania

In the June edition of New English Review, the skeptical doctor recounts two infamous fraudsters of recent memory and elaborates on their selfish motivations and devious modus operandi.

It is small wonder, then, that in a cultural climate such as this, some people are willing and able to claim the status of victim even when what they suffered is only one of the inevitable inconveniences of having been born human. It is as if were prayed not for the Lord to make us strong but to make us fragile. Psychological fragility, of course, is romantic in a way in which strength of mind is not: it is the moral equivalent of the blood that romantic poets coughed up prior to dying early.