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Sentimentalizing Serial Murder « Back to Story
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I am interested in the true crime and did consider buying this book. However, a brief look at an online seller and book review put me off and Mr Dalrymple's critique has confirmed my original view. All very self-indulgent and in need of severe editing. Further, Rosemary West has never asked for forgiveness nor expressed sorrow. Until she does, how can she be forgiven?
I have met Marian Partington, and I have just finished reading her book. Your presentation of her views is a travesty. You accuse her of being "patently dishonest" - an accusation that should never be made without evidence that what someone has said does not match up with the facts, evidence that you do not provide here - yet what you say or imply about her is at best only partially correct and at worst a dreadful distortion of the truth. I do not for one moment suppose that what I write here will make any difference to 'Theodore Dalrymple', but I will post a comment anyway in the hope that anyone who stumbles upon this website without having read Marian's book, and with an open mind, can be persuaded not to trust this account but instead will go and take a look for themselves.
There are so many distortions in this piece that it is impossible to tackle them all. I shall address those that seem most important either to the writer or in my opinion.
1. Dalrymple charges Partington with "blindness to the sheer moral enormity of the crime". If you read the book you will find that over and over again she in fact *stresses* the moral enormity of the crime, repeating many times the catalogue of violence that the Wests perpetrated on her beloved sister and emphasising how opposite their degradation was to Lucy's moral integrity. Here is a typical quote: "It is medieval hell. It smacks of concentration camps and nuclear bombs... she [Lucy] was abducted from her own direction in life and debased into a physical object to be treated as mere flesh and bones for the gratification of some other human beings whose quest was the opposite of hers. They didn't know the beauty of her soul. They stole her, gagged her, tied her up, toyed with her, raped her, tortured her, and at some unknown time, killed her or allowed her slowly to die. They caused her unimaginable physical and emotional suffering." (p.21) (Partington also names all the other girls and young women killed by the Wests and asserts their right to life.)
2. Dalrymple gives the impression, through a question about what Partington's views "imply" and through contrasting her with Winifred Young who believed that her brother needed to be locked up, that Partington thinks Rosemary West should be released from prison. Not once in her book does Partington express this view or say anything at all to suggest she might hold it. Nothing else I have read by or about her suggests this either.
3. Dalrymple asks: "Does she suppose that everyone else who suffered because of the Wests’ sadism should follow her example, or, if they do not, that they are her moral inferiors?" and then states "Moral grandiosity hardly comes grander." Clearly he is attributing the answer "yes" to Partington, but once again there is no evidence whatsoever for this in her book. Marian does not speak of anybody as her moral inferior, and I suspect anyone of good faith who met her would find it very hard to imagine that she would do so. Her book is not about what *others* should do, it is about what she has found it necessary and life-giving to do in response to the terrible suffering inflicted on her sister, her family, and herself. Dalrymple's suggestion that "Partington ignorantly supposes [vengefulness] is the only alternative to forgiveness" is totally misguided; Partington does not make general claims for the whole of humanity, she simply tells her *own* story of how she wanted to save herself from the vengefulness she recognised in *herself*. It is unfair of Dalrymple to accuse Partington of "self-centredness" and "self-absorption" and then to suggest when it suits him that she is *not* talking only about herself.
4. Dalrymple claims "In the process [of Partington's struggle], she ropes in as many different kinds of mysticism as she can". Many of the commentators take this as gospel and infer from it that Marian is some kind of wishy-washy New Ager with no moral compass. In fact, she is a deeply committed Quaker and Buddhist. Dalrymple is neither, which is presumably why he cannot understand that these two religious traditions are *not* fundamentally incompatible; in fact, in practice (which is what both traditions emphasise as being much more important than beliefs about what is essentially unknowable), they are similar in several ways. Quakerism, though historically rooted in Christianity, is not a credal religion and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain is happy to welcome as members people who also identify as Buddhists (or other faiths/denominations). This may be hard to comprehend or appreciate by people who do not belong to these traditions, but it is a pity when incomprehension prevents recognition of commitment where it exists. If Marian Partington really does want spiritual "pot pourri" she surely could do better than to choose to commit a huge ammount of time to the similar practices of two religions which both emphasise compassion and disciplined living. (N.B. The line about "the healing chakras of the earth that happen to cross her garden" is from Dalrymple's imagination, like the "joss sticks" and "wind chimes", not from Partington's book.)
5. In some ways, Partington's and Young's cases are similar. Young suffered because her brother tried to poison her; Partington because of the disappearance of her dear sister, and then the discovery of what had happened to Lucy. Young forgave her brother (on her own behalf, not on behalf of others), Partington made a vow to try and forgive West (on her own behalf, not on behalf of others). Dalrymple suggests that because the Wests harmed others, Partington has no locus standi from which to forgive, and that "the Wests’ infliction of violence on 11 other victims, apart from her [Partington's] sister, reduces the significance of her forgiveness, even if she had the right to bestow it." He does not suggest the same is true for Young, despite the fact that George Young also harmed others, apart from his sister. This is extraordinarily illogical thinking. The only way it could make sense is if he is inferring that Partington is forgiving Rosemary West for more than Young is forgiving her brother. Yet again, there is no evidence for this.
6. Another example of illogical thinking is Dalrymple's claim that the view that "nothing is unforgivable... is to turn forgiveness into a kind of inalienable human right of the wrongdoer". This is a huge inductive leap which he provides no explanation of, or justification for. Partington certainly makes no claim that forgiveness is a right.
7. The last two points above stem, I think, from the fact that Dalrymple has actually misunderstood the whole thrust of the book. It is not about "forgiveness" per se, which Dalrymple claims Partington extols over and over. It is about the ultimately life-giving struggle not to allow the heinous acts of others to damage one's own humanity. The sections of her book have verbs as titles because "this quest is a continuing, fluctuating process that cannot be ticked off with the static completion of nouns" (pp.2-3). Partington has made clear elsewhere (see BBC News story "Marian Partington's bid to forgive Fred and Rose West", 14 May 2012) that "I don't ever say I've forgiven Rose and Fred, I say that what happened was I realised that making a very strong commitment to moving in a direction of becoming forgiving or to finding compassion for the Wests was the beginning of the journey. As soon as I made that resolve I had a sense... that would mean my life wasn't corrupted by bitterness, hatred and revenge." The whole thrust of the book is about a process of overcoming incredible suffering and ensuring that Partington did not allow her suffering to damage her other relationships, especially with her loved ones. If we could all learn to do that, imagine what a better place the world would be, and how much happier we would be! In the same BBC interview Partington says "I didn't write to her [West] to say I forgave her, I wrote to her because... I realised it was important she knew I didn't feel hostile towards her, that I felt genuinely well-wishing." The fact that West does not want (yet?) to hear these sentiments detracts nothing at all from Partington's achievement in overcoming her "murderous rage".
8. I've saved my **most important point** for last. Dalrymple asks "So what?" and claims Partington makes no mention at all of "the public significance of her forgiveness" (I would suggest instead, "of her journey from rage to compassion"). If it wasn't for the fact that he includes a quote from when Partington was visiting a prison, I would assume that he had simply not read to the end of the book. One whole section - one whole maain section out of four - deals with the public significance of Partington's courageous, heart-rending journey and answers that question "So what?" in an extraordinary and inspiring way. The fruit of Partington's struggle, entirely unmentioned by Dalrymple, is that she is now involved in leading workshops and courses in prisons that make inmates aware of the effects of their crimes on victims, and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and commit themselves to change. As an example, as a direct result of meeting Partington and hearing her story, one prisoner contacted police to confess to more burglaries, went with them to his house to identify items there that he had stolen (that could not otherwise have been identified as such), and then pointed out to them the houses he had burgled so that the goods could be returned. He did this at a personal cost to himself because he understood, because of Partington, that it was the right thing to do. Whatever your beliefs about whether crimes can or should be forgiven, I find it hard to believe that anyone could hear such a story and not see something good in the work of the person who has caused that to happen. Partington's work is a direct result of what she suffered as the sister of Lucy Partington and of writing about it; that is why she was invited into prisons. Because she had done the work of moving from rage to compassion she was able to accept the invitation and talk to prisoners in such a way that they can be moved by her story and respond with humanity and a recognition of the suffering they have caused, which many of them have been in denial about.
There is nothing "cloudy" about Marian Partington's "benevolence". She has faced "hard-edged truth" with unflinching moral courage, determined not to be corrupted by, but instead to bring something good out of, the effects on her of the terrible actions of the Wests, actions which she deplores with all her mind, heart and soul. This she has done.
"By their fruits you shall know them."
Mis Lit originated in the U.S. Although I am convinced that the good doctor will find a way to pin that one on us too.
And it's killing fiction.
By the by, the structure of Partington's book was based on a fourteenth century literary sub genre. No mention of that in the article.
The difference between the two books also reflects at least two changes in the publishing industry over a 40 year period.
Firstly, publishers produce many more new titles each year than they did 40 years ago. I expect there are at least 10 times more titles relating to Fred West than to Graham Young. The average quality of new titles has fallen correspondingly.
Secondly, a new genre has arisen (at least in the UK), known in the book trade as "Misery Lit", and described in book shops as "Tragic Life Stories" or something similar. There is an endless appetite for new titles in this genre, rather as there is for romantic fiction or detective stories. If Partington's book is more about herself than about her unfortunate sister and her murderers, then it seems to fall into this genre.
It isn't only the writers that have changed: it's the readers, and what they want to read. The book trade is happy to oblige.
Interesting how the good doctor sees even this through the prism of social class.
Why might this be?
Mr. Dalrymple's analysis of two different approaches to the problem of forgiveness made me realize the reason why stories about people "forgiving" evil deeds so often make me reflexively queasy and outraged. It's spurious to claim the right to confer forgiveness while completely unmoored from the tenets of Christianity, with it accompanying virtues of humility, clarity and honesty.
It is illuminating and awful to consider how Marion Partington's narcissim is exactly how we commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the "National Sept. 11 Memorial" at the WTC.
The memorial is dedicated to, as per the words of its architect Michael Arad: "the absence in our lives caused by these deaths."
It's about us. Any artifacts of the WTC that we all remember the attacks by like the iconic steel remnants or the damaged Koenig Sphere have been banned from the memorial. Because they would disturb the "artistic integrity" of the design."
Arad told me once that returning any of those authentic artifacts so that people might know what happened here and confronting that when they visited the site would be "didactic" - it would tell us what to think.
Though he rushed downtown and fled the collapsing towers with this wife, the inspriation for his memorial was an experience he had in Washington Sq Park on a later night. Strangers gathered around the fountain, some holding candles. No one spoke. For the first time, Arad has said, he, an Israeli immigrant (of all things) felt like a New Yorker.
Another inspiration is the photo of field he saw from somewhere in NJ.
His design is intended to provide a "private moment of silence" which we amy use as we like - with no interference with things like reminders of the attacks and the meaning of "those deaths."
People's responses to the memorial reflect its design: they speak of its beauty and calming influence and serenity it provides. No one speaks of how it reminds them of their duty by the terror that struck and the innocents taken.
The memorial was praised by intellectuals and artists for its narcissism and ambiguity.
Restoring what the public had already embraced as commemorating 9/11, the steel remnants, the Sphere, the crushed fire trucks, the FDNY, the flag; all of that was immediatly ruled out by the elites responisble the design. As guache and tasteless.
What we have is Partington's memorial; what we lost was Young's.
Blackgriffin December 31, 2012 at 8:24 PM
'That's a broad stroke with which to paint several generations. I grew up in the sixties and I definitely prefer Young's viewpoint over Partington's. Partington sounds like she has her own mental problems going on, probably some kind of personality disorder like narcissism or histrionic disorder.'
You don't say?
Her sister is kidnapped, tortured and murdered and you're criticising her for having 'mental problems'? That is, in itself, a bit mental.
Why on earth did this Dalrymple chap ever think of becoming a psychiatrist? Oh yes, because his mean old daddy made him.
I am struck by Partington's equating a feeling of "murderous" rage with actual murder, and her conclusion that, because she felt very angry for a time, she is capable of murder. I am not sure if she's capable of murder or not, but I think there's a big difference between feeling angry and actually committing murder -- in one case, your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases, and you become agitated. In the other case, another person dies.
It's also interesting she assumes that actual murderers felt something similar to her emotions when they killed. I don't know if they did or didn't -- who knows what they felt?
There is this belief that to feel something is the same as to actually do it, that feelings are as important as actions. Partington felt angry for a time, but she didn't kill anyone and wouldn't. She probably never will. I am thinking she is actually very different from Rosemary West.
Looking for common ground might be a nice thing some of the time, but is it really even helpful here? Partington is assuming West is like her, but what if she isn't? If you, for some reason, developed some strong urge to help Rosemary West, you probably would not be successful if you pretended she was Ms. Partington and gave her what Ms. Partington would need.
I think that Ms. Young is maybe more genuinely compassionate, in that she wants what is best for her brother, which is for him to be locked up.
Of course, Ms. Young spent years and years getting to know her brother (as much as anyone could), while Ms. Partington knows nothing about Rosemary West. So, I guess that whatever these two call forgiveness are two separate things. Young can relate to and forgive an actual person, while Partington can only work on her own anger and grief.
In 2000,coming home from work one night I was attacked,stabbed and left for dead,and frankly I was damned lucky to survive it.
Do I forgive my attackers?
No way,they tried to kill me and it was just dumb luck they failed,I would happily watch them hang but even though that wont happen I dont stress about it,they tried,they failed and I`m still here enjoying my life.
But I take comfort from the knowledge that one day these 2 "tough guys" will pull their knives on the wrong man.
'The most notorious murderer whom I ever met during my time as a prison doctor was Frederick West. '
Chances are that Frederick West was the only murderer the good doctor encountered during his 'time as a prison doctor'. Dalrymple/Daniels worked at Winson Green Prison, a Category C Prison in the British Midlands. Fred West was on remand there.
Perhaps Marian Partington would be less forgiving if she had seen Frederick West testify in a court of law.
Unfortunately, due to the incompetence of the prison staff, West hanged himself in his cell and thus did not make it to trial.
Still, c'est la vie, huh?
....And someone else claiming to battle squishy liberal moral relativism was Anders Breivik, terrorist, white supremacist, and mass killer of children.
Also, the classic "enabler" personality who can't express righteous anger is more likely to have been raised by a sadistic abusive authoritarian than a New Ager. And an abusive sadistic personality would interpret their lack of anger as proof that they are guilty of .... something ...that deserves to be punished.
Thank you for this review. I am in agreement. There is something sickening in the New Age stuff like "Thou Must Not Judge but Thou Must Forgive." There is so much in this review of the 2 books - especially, over and over again, it reveals the madness of the 60s onward moral mawkishness.
According to aggression theory, one likely source of Dr. Dalrymple's anger would be envy.
bon temps jolie
"In logic the term ["force"] is used where an argument is pressed and compelled in text without presentation of supporting evidence or application of the normal rules for induction".
Never heard of a not well supported inductive argument being described as "forced" in Logic.
Do you have a link or a reference to this description of unsupported inductive arguments as "forced"?
"Dalrymple seeks to compel belief".
No more forcefully than the majority of opinion pieces i have across in my life. No way i would describe his as forceful arguing.
"For example he asserts repeatedly that he has knowledge of the internal mental states of other individuals".
He asserts not that he has knowledge of the mental states, but what these states consist in: he is not saying "I know Marian feels so and so", but, rather, "Marian feels so and so" - he would be just a show-off if he had been doing the former, and he doesn't strike me as one, hence my insistence on this distinction.
But i think that all of us do think of ourselves as sometimes capable of discerning the mental states of others.
You, for example, thought that "Marian Partington appears to have suffered something of a breakdown from what happened".
You didn't sound forceful to me when you said it. And neither did Mr Darlymple.
"Such forceful personalities are rather better as doers than as analysts".
Well, my sample is small, considering that this is the second article of his that i have ever read, but i saw nothing that would lead me to conclude that he is in all probability a forceful personality.
If you try to answer the question "what makes you think he is a forceful personality?", i am pretty sure you will provide reasons epistemically very similar to the ones that Mr Darlymple would provide if asked to back-up his knowledge of Marian's mental states.
And i would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he was a professional psychiatrist.
I too was a prison physician, (I'm a radiologist,so not the same type of interactions as yours.) I spent two years at a prison called Pelican Bay in California. Corcoran got the famous prisoners and Pelican Bay got the dangerous ones. The average prisoner at Pelican Bay killed 2.6 people, 2000 prisoners, 1500 in the SHU...
I found the majority of the prisoners to be honest, direct and cooperative. I found the majority of the prisoners relatives to be manipulative and dangerous. I found the guards to be honest and trustworthy. The entire facility was depressing and cold. I thought most of the prisoners had an above average IQ. About 25% of the prisoners were mentaly ill, half of those had low IQ's and were potential tools that could be manipulated by other prisoners.
Murder seemed to be a job skill that the prisoners had acquired and could be listed on a resume. Other than a willingness to be tattooed in strange places with strange symbolism, no-one seemed to romanticize these murders. Violent deaths within the prison were common.
I witnessed a series of violent events and most were characterized by explosive onset and brief duration. Sometimes it would take 10-15 minutes to evaluate the extent of injuries that took less than 30 seconds to inflict. Death could occur in the first 5 seconds of a successful attack.
An incidental but common injury was a spiral fracture of the proximal phallanx of finger, usually the index finger. This occurred during the one hour of commual time in the prison yard, but more often in the "dog runs" allocated to the prisoners in the SHU.
Shawn makes a superb point below (above?), that human-to-human forgiveness IS a right, when accompanied by repentance. Winifred stood "ready to forgive" her monstrous brother, while Marian flooded her sister's unrepentant murderer with useless, syrupy forgiveness. Matthew 18:15-17 is helpful standing immediately before the forgiveness pericope mentioned by Shawn. If a fellow church member sins against you, and you confront him about it, and he repents, then all is well. But the passage prescribes several levels of intervention for the unrepentant sinner for whom forgiveness cannot yet be an option. Forgiveness without coordinate repentance is like wanting fried chicken with no poultry being slaughtered. It's a nice idea, and certainly less messy, but an impossibility.
Re: dionissis mitropoulos
Bon temps jolie said: "Dr. Dalrymple forces his social moralizing on us".
How exactly did he "force" his "social moralizing" on us? ... Where did "force" come into play into his article?
----- Well, "force" has 9 definitions as a verb in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. In logic the term is used where an argument is pressed and compelled in text without presentation of supporting evidence or application of the normal rules for induction.
Dalrymple seeks to compel belief. For example he asserts repeatedly that he has knowledge of the internal mental states of other individuals. Such forceful personalities are rather better as doers than as analysts.
Re: Llarry's comment:
"After one of the American school shootings in the early 2000s, a big banner was put up at the school with the name of the shooter: "____________, we forgive you." It went up about an hour after the shootings. That still burns me... etc."
This is exactly what the Polish people did when they threw off the Communist dictatorship. They marched past the State's secret police building a million strong and repeated over and over: "We forgive you."
This is the very soul of Catholicism. And of God's Grace.
to take two random misery me memoirs and use them to define entire epochs is plain old dumb in my opinion
Serial murder is an American obsession. It's a Hollywood obsession, is it not?
"She [Partington] does not consider the possibility that incontinent forgiveness, deemed good in itself regardless of the act to be forgiven or the attitude of the person to be forgiven, means that no human behavior is beyond the pale, that nothing is unforgivable. This is to turn forgiveness into a kind of inalienable human right of the wrongdoer (a profoundly un-Christian view, incidentally)."
I think a clarification on this point is due. The implication here is evidently that Christianity posits (a) existence of unforgivable human behaviour and (b) no human is entitled to forgiveness. I would agree to point (b), that humans are not outright entitled to Divine forgiveness, rather, such forgiveness is conditional upon repentance and acceptance of Christ. Point (a) though is contestable. Any human behaviour is Divinely forgivable provided point (b) is satisfied; e.g., Jeffrey Dahmer's conversion in prison as controversially testified by Roy Ratcliff in his "Dark Journey Deep Grace: Jeffrey Dahmer's Story of Faith". Although this is regarding the Divine Grace, we are compelled to follow suit as detailed in Matthew 18:23-34, where the servant fails to forgive others as the Master forgave him. The pattern of Divine Grace extends to inter-human forgiveness being conditional upon repentance and without limitation or dependency on the offense. (Nowhere is this suggested to be a simple affair, notably!) This clarification may be minor but holds profound implications for the very nature of the Divine. The Lord's Grace extends infinitely over the entire spectrum of sinful human behaviour with one singular exception: rejection of Christ and therefore rejection of Forgiveness, for "every sin and blasphemy can be forgivenâ€”except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven" Mat 12:31 (NLT).
Not that new. Read Twain's satire of Victorian sentimentalizing of murderers:
Thank you for the article, Theodore.
Have you read this article or are you familiar with this story?
Thank you for the article, Theodore.
Have you read this article or are you familiar with this story?
Some American states, including mine, practice capital punishment. When newspapers report executions, notice that they frequently state the name of the condemned but not the names of his victim(s). The report usually reads something along the lines of "was convicted in the killing of a (name city) woman in 2001" somewhere in the fifth or sixth paragraph. As far as the reportes are concerned, murderers have identities and murder victims do not. Have you ever read a newspaper report of an execution which states the name of the victim but not the murderer?
As a Christian distressed by the secularism and moral emptiness and shallowness of Europe, I pray that the stage is being set for the next Great Awakening like we had in the nineteenth century here I'm the US. God's truth is always God's truth, is it not, and this new-agey nonsense can't pretend to fill and satisfy souls forever. I pray that the Holy Spirit will soon get to work on these people raised I'm such spiritually rotted times.
I enjoyed this clear, but troubling article. What is troubling me is the suspicion that we, as people, are losing the capacity to make reasoned moral judgements. Perhaps Mr Dalrymple is correct, and the cultural changes we have allowed have confused these issues so much that clarity is no longer possible.
Several years ago, I sat in an audience where an eminent lawyer discussed the sad case of a man who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and who had been jailed for deliberately lighting a bush fire which had burned out of control and destroyed many homes and killed a dozen people. The audience (of mental health professionals from a few different disciplines) seemed universally disgusted that this man had been jailed at all.
I spoke to my neighbour (a forensic psychologist) and commented about the families of the deceased perhaps wanting justice. My neighbour hissed "It's not about them!" The sympathy was all with the offender, no consideration beyond that was decent.
All the basic secular and impotent remedies. When will the godless recognize the earmarks of satanic influence and power in this world?
And, even less likely, discover the Remedy against it?
That's a broad stroke with which to paint several generations. I grew up in the sixties and I definitely prefer Young's viewpoint over Partington's. Partington sounds like she has her own mental problems going on, probably some kind of personality disorder like narcissism or histrionic disorder.
Dalrymple differentiates the two authors broadly by which grew up in a pre-1960's and which in a post 1960's moral environment. The cut being made on the social climate of upbringing rather than the chronological.
Reading the comments here clearly shows this divide in operation, there are Marians and there are Winifreds.
After one of the American school shootings in the early 2000s, a big banner was put up at the school with the name of the shooter: "____________, we forgive you." It went up about an hour after the shootings.
That still burns me. The sheer abnormality of the reaction and the preening smugness and self-aggrandizement it implied have haunted me for years. I saw it as an awful turning point in our culture.
When a soul is at stake, and an eternity in Hell the irrevocable consequence, forgiveness is a magnificent gift. One such story is that of Alessandro Serenelli who murdered St. Maria Goretti. You can read the story here: http://www.mariagoretti.org/alessandrobio.htm
It stands as a stark contrast to the far more secular sentiments which are dealt with by secular, Relativist PROTEST-ant perceptions, rather than the Catholic perspective.
Bon temps jolie said:
"Dr. Dalrymple forces his social moralizing on us".
How exactly did he "force" his "social moralizing" on us?
He expressed his attitudes on a person's ethical outlook with regards to forgiveness.
Expressing our views on someone's views is morally acceptable, the media are full of it.
Where did force come into play into his article?
First, for Frederick West the poisoner, "suffering from Aspergerâ€™s syndrome" in the text reflects a typical mistake in the professions. This individual was far more likely withdrawn and antisocial as part of an organic disorder in the schizotypal spectrum. Those are the people of waking nightmares, exaggerated hatreds, and suicide. Apparently he was never tested for adult development of more severe aberrations -- the obsession with poisons at the top of the list, the suicide being a very common end for these individuals.
For example, did he hear the "irrestible" voices of schizophrenia?
And second, Marian Partington appears to have suffered something of a breakdown from what happened. She tries this, that, and whatever. Histrionic, sure, but who are we to tell her how to grieve? If her book is badly thought out and clumsily written, then it will be valuable as a counter-example to how to go about resolving grief.
She loved her sister. Allowing that Marian was the more broken, the less capable as a writer, then it still seems odd to nail her as bearing "the spiritual sickness of our times." My God, that's overreaching.
Dr. Dalrymple forces his social moralizing on us. An excellent counter-example to proper uses of inductive logic, by the way.
Thank you for this. It is an especially poignant illustration of that "transcendental self-attention" that Christopher Lasch examined in "The Culture of Narcissism." Theodore Dalrymple is right to remind us that pseudo-self-awareness is our culture's particular species of decadence.
"Homeopathy is a profession for idiots and scam artists".
Actually, not. Some of them do cure. And i am speaking from personal experience, as someone who has been treated by a non idiot/scam artist.
There isn't yet a scientific theory to explain how homeopathy cures patients, but in scientific theorizing it is the phenomena that take precedence: theories are constructed to explain them.
The lack of an explanatory theory does not disqualify the phenomena (i.e. the cured patients cured by homeopathy). It merely calls for the advent of one.
But this article of Mr Dalrymple is too great, too insightful on contemporary moral attitudes to deserve our animadversions on homeopathy - we are diverting the discussion.
I suggest we refrain from it.
To the comment mentioned the phrase "Judeo-Christian": this is often an oxymoron, for many concepts in Christianity, aside from the Trinity, are the antithesis of Jewish law.
In particular the obsession with "forgiveness" is backward, apart from being absurd. For if Tom hits Jane, what does it mean that Jack forgives Tom?!
In the case of murder or even accidental death, in Jewish law it is incumbent - not a choice - upon the relative of the victim to avenge the death, whether through the courts or even ex-judicially.
Once it was mentioned that Marian Partington was a homeopath, none of the rest surprised me. Homeopathy is a profession for idiots and scam artists. It is hard to say which is worse, a homeopath who genuinely believes they are helping or one who is knowingly running a scam.
"Moral grandiosity hardly comes grander. Her forgiveness is like the grin of the Cheshire Cat, subsisting without anchorage to, or expression of, anything, except ego."
Post-modern ethical smugness, with a lustre of Zen - a Judith Butler a la oriental?
May i wager she is pro-Palestinian, too?
Great article Mr Dalrymple.
PS.More on the moral narcissism of our times:
It is interesting to compare these questions of forgiveness with the actions of the Old Order Amish community in Nickel Mines, Penn. a few years ago, when a deranged man murdered a number of their children before being shot by police. ( more here this intensely religious community was critized for forgiveness in the absence of remorse, but their faith insists that the killer was to face a far more fearsome judgement than anything they could provide. Instead, their outreach was to the innocent; the families of the victims, and of the killer. It was not the more modern approach where someone elses crimes are merely a useful tool for one's own spiritual growth. But, then, the Amish actually belive in God, rather than themselves.
Excellent insight, brilliantly written.
Thank you a million times for publishing Theodore Dalrymple. He is a beacon of lucidity and moral clarity in an ever more relativizing world.
I LOVE City Journal!
Several commenters have already objected to Dr. Dalrymple referencing Graham Young's apparent Asperger's Syndrome.
I believe these objections are not reasonable. Dr. Dalrymple nowhere says Mr. Young's (possible) Aspergers caused him to commit his crimes or that those with Aspergers are necessarily psychopaths. The Aspergers comment was strictly about his over-focus on a specific topic, in his case poisons.
Surely those who object to stereotyping of Aspergers will not claim that somehow those with Aspergers are inherently immune to psychopathy or evil.
IOW, Aspergers may (or may not) explain Mr. YOung's interest in poisons. It does not, and Mr. Dalrymple does not say it does, do anything about why he chose to use the expertise he obtained through this interest to kill people.
The loss of its moral compass by the West in dealing with criminal actions parallels the adoption of what Thomas Szasz referred to as "the medical model" when dealing with aberrant social behavior. Determinism implicit in such a view obviates free will, a premise necessary for implementing social justice. The above brilliant article illuminates what is, perhaps, its most sinister broad social effect, the loss of personal moral convictions. Combine that with fear and guilt instilled by authoritarian pseudo collectivist governments and homo sapiens rejects rationality, his unique biological feature. In most people a common sense separates right from wrong and, if given free rein, would see criminals hung by the neck rather than given fancy sounding pseudo-scientific diagnoses.
Another gratuitous and irresponsible reference to Aspergers Syndrome in the context of a serial killer from a man who should know better. Shame on you.
The late 1960s was also the era of deinstitutionalizing in America, which emptied the mental hospitals and filled the streets with psychotic individuals who are now called "homeless."
Perhaps, might not the occupation chosen by someone reveal a lot about the person and the fact that Partington was a homeopath and therapist of alternative medicine (most of it is hocus pocus; evidence of its efficacy mainly anecdotal but today with a more scientific approach to its practices, it is gaining credibility) made her susceptible to adopt a variety of religious/spiritual beliefs when the need arose, or change them at the drop of the hat? The saying attributed to GK Chesterton "when a man stops believing in God he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything" could be applied to a moral relativist for whom absolute moral values are simply anathema. No need for an external moral compass or anchor as any self-searching involving self-absorption will do. As one brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition and taught the Ten Commandments nothing puts me off more than, a lack of gumption. I don't subscribe to lex talionis but the latter-day sentimental, lax and "forgiving" outlook on crime (spawned in the zeitgeist of the Swinging Sixties) is responsible for crime being rampant, though saying this is old hat. I only recently took to task a psychologist being interviewed on a Talk Radio program for stating, without any hint of gravitas in his voice at all, that all that is required for the two DJs involved in the prank which resulted in the suicide of a conscientious nurse of King Edward VII Hospital in London, is a mere "apology".
I'd be most interested to read Dr Dalrymple's take on asperger's syndrome
A most interesting and lucid comparison. Sadly, though, I don't share your optimism.
I am sure that Thedore Dalyrymple is an experienced psychiatrist, and he probably has many knowledge about many mental illnesses, but i am 100% sure that he is wrong with his assumption about the aspergers of Graham. I am autistic myself, and know not also the inside perspective of this condition but also the prejudices. I just would please Dr. Dylrymple to overthink his statement, and judge if his experience in this special condition is high enough to risk the discrimination of this group of people.
Theodore Dalyrymple is an experienced psychiatrist and prison doctor, having practiced for about 30 years in five countries. If anyone is competent to understand these conditions, Dalyrymple is.
This article is brilliant and incisive in its analysis of the two authors, their divergent approaches and perspectives and the cultures that bred these difference.
With a superficial glance, one might think that Dalrymple is being almost cold-blooded in his attitude toward Partington and her so-called insights regarding forgiveness. In fact, he has reached down to the depth of the issue, exposing the unabashed narcissism of this eager child of the 60's, today's culture being the bastard offspring of this era.
Partington's unctious embrace of various spiritualities is a typical New Age, counterfeit potpourri of the great religions and their spiritualities. As a deception, New Age always seems to avoid the paths of these great religious systems, purposefully ignoring their practices and demands for self-forgetful discipline. New Age is the religion of the self-indulgent, the self-serving and the self- aggrandizing.
Sadly, the 60's and New Age, in contradiction to all assertions in their defense, have in fact reduced the human experience to doggerel and, through spokespersons such as Partington, trivialized the profound tragedies suffered by victims like her sister and of the holocaust. I can feel a desperate anguish about the individual Gypsy (Rom), Jew or Cambodian who suffered great enormities, but who am I to forgive Hitler or Pol Pot, and how dare I?
Thank you for seeing clearly.
I am certain you don't have much experience and knowledge about asperger syndrome, so please don't mention it here and do any post-diagnosis. Most psychologists can't differentiate between narcisstic personality disorder, schizophrenics and autistic people. However, autistic are very different to the former ones. So please stop talking the untruth and discriminate people who already suffer enough.