City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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Theodore Dalrymple
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I have not watched any of the events on television, and neither am I following any of the 'events' in the press. Just not interested I guess, not my cup of tea.
I have promised myself, however, to peruse the Wheaties cereal boxes on the supermarket shelves this fall; I understand that the American gold medal winners will be featured on the cereal boxes.
Did Jonas Salk or Alexander Fleming ever get a Wheaties cereal box in their honor? I don't think so.
Marketing in London should also be a source of disquietude: I have read that no one may allude to the Olympics in any context without paying the advertisers for the events. Even putting the date "2012" in a shop window will bring a heavy fine and removal of the sign.
Theo, you were far too kind.
I've been totally turned off to the Olympics when I learned that the standing order for condoms is 100,000. they only ordered 60,000 8 years ago and absolute chaos broke out!
I note that the Daily Telegraph went out of their way to show what seats were filled etc including a chart sport-by-sport.
There was a little more to the fall of the Roman Empire, Mr Cohen. Certainly the policy of "bread and circuses" was an important symptom of the underlying problems, but after all it was almost entirely limited to the city of Rome itself.

Many other things went wrong with the Roman Empire, not a few of them reminiscent of our own times. Instead of a brave, energetic army of citizen volunteers Rome came to rely on paid mercenaries - who would of course mutiny if not paid, or if any in way dissatisfied. Meanwhile the class of sturdy peasant farmers from which the volunteer army had been drawn was gradually destroyed by the emergence of immensely rich super-landlords (Crassus was an early example - see Robert Harris' book "Imperium" for a good pen portrait). The land was divided up by huge latifundia - vast farms very much like those the exponents of efficiency are pressing upon us, and the descendants of the Roman peasants became slaves of the rich - or very nearly.
Thanks for another incisive and accurate deflation, Dr Dalrymple. It's always a pleasure to read your essays, articles, and books - even when I disagree with you, I find that I am thereby driven to think about the point at issue and try to inform myself better.

In this case, you summed up my feelings better than I could have done myself.
During a brief recent vacation in the UK, we had the opportunity to examine the archeological remains of two Roman military camps. The Roman empire was very well organized, no other approached it for centuries before its creation or after its fall. It was not overthrown, but merely imploded because of its decadence when emperors ruled the mob by offering them a little bread and lots of circuses.

The modern Olympics, especially the opening and closing ceremonies, are our equivalent to the Roman circuses in which gladiators fought to death and slaves were eaten by wild beasts.

The emphasis on entertainment over substance thus displayed bode ill for our civilization.
Gee whiz

Grumpy the dwarf has escaped from Disney Studios, and is now posing as a writer for CJ!

Yes, the British Health system may be less than it promised to be, yes doctors may be greedy, BUT there is always time for FUN, and the opening ceremony was nothing if not fun. And whatever else their shortcomings - Brithish humour is one of the joys of this world.

I'm afraid this stuck in the mud trifle of an article has drawn heavily on the credit Dalrymple had built up in my mind..Pity.
The British NHS is one of the best in the world, I don't know where Dalrymple gets his information from about Europeans fleeing Britain to the continent for health care. I must say, at 87, our great NHS has kept me and millions of other elderly people alive in good health, may it long remain that way, in spite of Cameron's efforts to destroy it.
LEST WE FORGET, it was 'Mark Twain' who became enamored with the Russian Czar's son - Alexander III, who was met in Yalta.

Later 'Twain' moved far from being highly & initially enamoured with 'the plan' to return land to peasants by Czar Alexander II. His criticisms became strident then.

Account is found in "Innocents Abroad"!
FOR VIEWS BY A BRIT ex-pat living in the Western Mediterranean, see 'TimHedges.blogspot.com' - Full disclosure: I have occasionally had 'Comments' posted by its moderator. -30-
Quite right, Dr. Dalrymple.

You might also have mentioned the Soviet-style commandeering of the public streets, reserving whole lanes for the limousines of the Olympic hierarchy; the surrender of the Olympic park to the corporations which sponsored the games (official Olympic food: McDonald's. Official Olympic drink: Coca-Cola. Official Olympic disease: type 2 diabetes) to the point where the public, already suffering from high ticket, transport and accommodation charges, were searched on entry and their humble sandwiches confiscated.

My only surprise in the whole overblown gasbag of vanities was that neither Tony Blair nor Dominic Strauss-Kahn had a starring role.

Yes, the games (as athletic competitions) are fine. Do we need the sycophantic and totalitarian atmosphere they come surrounded by?
Glad you, Mr. Dalrymple, are not fooled by sport and spectacle. Many of those who focus on important matters sense there are too many consequential goings-on to be caught up in pageantry; pageantry that requires no great talent, just unselfish taxpayers. Let the athletes compete, but let us not spend too much energy on the spectacle. TD, many thanks for introducing me to Turgenev, La Rochefoucauld and Dr. Johnson, among others.
The army was engaged not only to provide security after a private company failed to perform as promised, but also to fill empty seats in the stadium and thus prevent the humiliation of showing too many empty spaces.

...which is pretty much what China did during the 2008 olympics. They had a large number of seat warmers whose job it was to keep the seats filled, not that there is anything wrong with that.