City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Theodore Dalrymple
To Kill a Fly « Back to Story

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There seems to be a scantity of both logic and education. I sometimes wish I were the sort who could happily resort to hiding under the bed. I have had such mind torturing conversations with certain people that I could almost suspect there is some virus that has invaded the planet and that it affects those with a predisposed weakness to become infected with a wilful obtuseness that is proof against any logic. The sort of people who have a little quiver full of truisms, platitudes and trendy but meaningless phrases that they hurl at me willy -nilly when my attempts to reason with them threaten to breach their fortifications. They look at me with that poor-tortured dumb-animal expression as if I am causing them genuine mental pain.

I find myself wondering why I am having to explain to a police officer that there is a difference between a civil litigation and a criminal charge and that a municipal by-law does not have the same weight as a Provincial Statute and is not under his jurisdiction. He does not know what a statute is. Should he not know a little more of the law he supposedly enforces than I do?

He has had the benefit of more education than I have had; why then am I the one who is capable of rational thought. It seems that he is an armed and uniformed social worker. (Isn't that a terrifying thought!) When he tells me that my neighbour is not at fault for urinating off his illegal deck onto any unwary person on my lawn and that I am being unreasonable to expect him not to set our fence on fire and pour refuse on our my driveway and throw lit cigarettes at us etc. because it is the pressures of modern life that cause his actions. I ask if the neighbour has no choice then but is a helpless pawn and realize he doesn't know what a pawn is unless it is redeemed with cash. I ask if after a hard day dealing with people like me he (the police officer) goes home and sets fire to his neighbour's fence. He looks at me with disgust and replies that he would never do a thing like that! I ask if the difference might be that some people lack morality or feel a need to exercise control and does he think that modern life is more terrible than wars, financial collapse, epidemics and so on when very few people responded to those pressures with violence against fellow citizens. He is becoming very angry and he tells me that it is just a neighbour dispute anyway and not a real crime!

Two days later I receive a phone call from his Supervisor and that man takes me through the same tortuous illogic so at least it is plain now where it originates. The younger man is being mentored and taught how not to think - he didn't even have the wit to make up this drivel himself. I ask if he thinks I should behave the same way as my neighbour and he replies that if I do I will be charged and that I have no right to victimize my neighbour. I tell him I called the police department because as a citizen I am not allowed to enforce the law and since he seems unwilling to do the job I am in a quandary. I can see I shouldn't have used such 'big' word but it is too late now. He tells me that it is people like me who are the real problem and when I ask what he thinks I ought to do he says I should stop bothering the police because they are not going to risk injury by approaching people who might be armed. I tell him I am willing to go with him if it would be helpful. He hangs up .

Are these people, and there are so many now, playing a little game or are they genuinely unable to think clearly? If a degree in criminology , though not the height of intellectual achievement, is not sufficient to help a reasonably intelligent man learn to think then what would be helpful? Things come apart in their hands and they cannot seem to see why. Are they simply too lazy? Am I the problem?
But it seems that you are a fly-swatter. Er, but that was the point, right? Okay, now I get it... Good piece.
Surely we liberals are not in favour of euthanasia per se, but rather, in favour of a terminal patient's right to end their own life at a time of their choosing? Or does TD not see a difference?
Alas, shallowness (in the guise of "accessibility") is almost indispensable for popular recognition these days. If a thought is not shallow, the masses will not understand it; therefore it will be considered not worth while.
I just lost a good fraction of my respect for Dalrymple. That was an infantile complaint about a misread, albeit mediocre, epigraph to an article of marginal intellectual interest, if any. Way to be petty.
I saw a fly land on a liberal’s nose. Then I solved two annoying problems with a single punch!
Oh, listen to the liberals squeal as you punctured their bag of gas. You've obviously hit a sore spot, Doctor.

Please, give us more. The sputtering outrage from these loons is SO gratifying.

"I find it astonishing that such abject, shallow, sub-Tolstoyan nonsense should be given credence or considered worthy of quotation in any context whatsoever."

So why did you?
"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods: they kill us for their sport."
Theo: Are you high? Was there an argument somewhere in there?

Was the point of this piece to note that one should be careful in using slippery slope arguments? That animals have no souls and that our interaction with them can never rise to the level of the moral? That French structuralism and 20th-century psychology may be robust theories but have been shown wanting by later discourse?

Or was it that you like the word "liberal" about as much as the Russian leadership likes the word "democracy"? Disliking things is not the same things as refuting them. Or "refudiating" them, in conservativese.
This is by some distance the most feeble piece of writing I have seen appear below Dalrymple's by-line. In the past we could count on the author to make reasoned points. The above is merely deliberate misreading followed by abuse, and The City Journal should be ashamed to have published it.
Hahaha, another humorous article! Long after gadflies like Dalrymple are swatted aside by History, the name and work of Barthes will continue to be read.

My goodness, a conservative gadfly has landed on my laptop! I guess I gotta be a liberal now...
"Let us reason more accurately than the great French philosopher."

More accurately than many French philosophers. Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Foucault, Deleuze, ...

Most of them have taken the concept of "learning more and more about less and less" to the logical (illogical?) extreme.
Heine was correct. You are not.
The educateder some people get, the less useful they become. Navel-gaze long enough,and the world begins to look like a hairy crater. One of the great blessings in my life was not having read all the books I ignorantly acquired, the faddish ones that were later exposed as frauds (Coming of Age in Samoa, etc, etc.)At 84, I still look to expand my views, providing the scenery is not faux. It is getting increasingly harder to find truth in discourse. I still can't find a better read than Augustine's Confessions to keep the mind centered on eternal verities.
The educateder some people get, the less useful they become. Navel-gaze long enough,and the world begins to look like a hairy crater. One of the great blessings in my life was not having read all the books I ignorantly acquired, the faddish ones that were later exposed as frauds (Coming of Age in Samoa, etc, etc.)At 84, I still look to expand my views, providing the scenery is not faux. It is getting increasingly harder to find truth in discourse. I still can't find a better read than Augustine's Confessions to keep the mind centered on eternal verities.
The educateder some people get, the less useful they become. Navel-gaze long enough,and the world begins to look like a hairy crater. One of the great blessings in my life was not having read all the books I ignorantly acquired, the faddish ones that were later exposed as frauds (Coming of Age in Samoa, etc, etc.)At 84, I still look to expand my views, providing the scenery is not faux. It is getting increasingly harder to find truth in discourse. I still can't find a better read than Augustine's Confessions to keep the mind centered on eternal verities.
Wonderfully succinct! Thank-you!
Great insights, Mr. Dalrymple, I agree whole-heartedly. I wonder if your quote regarding burning of books is prompted by the Florida Pastor's planned event. I saw a sign at a neighborhood church that quoted the same man. I wrote a smidge on that head myself here http://orthodoxsojourn.blogspot.com/2010/09/are-all-book-fires-to-gateway-to-terror.html
Mr. Dalrymple is right about the notion that reverence for life is not necessarily a liberal quality. The rest seems a bit churlish.
This is rather strange. Try a little "Texas Common Sense"...if it needs killin' you kill it. End of problem. End of story.
Wonderful article...took me back to my grad school days when "deconstruction" was all the rage and we all pretended that Barthes was deep...long before we had gone to live in the real world (though our professors must never have entered the real world, since they still ooh and ahh over such tripe). Hence we are stuck with obama