A recurrent meme running through recent posts of several of my fellow AnCaps (shonk comments here, mock does the same here and here) suggests that we've all independently taken to reading Ted Dalrymple at about the same time. Perhaps there's something in the water.
I should mention that I've been following Dalrymple -- a retired British physician who has made a named for himself on this side of the Pond mostly on the strength of his contributions to the Manhattan Institute's City Journal -- for a number of years now, and at first, I did not think kindly of him at all. My impression has improved over time, but there remain a number of habits in his writings -- which consist largely of anecdotal accounts of the failures of multi-culturalism and the welfare state, culled from his experiences working with Britain's underclass -- that never fail to irk me.
A gifted writer with an innate ear for evocative prose, Dalrymple's essays nonetheless tend to follow a pre-ordained formula. In part one, he offers a character sketch, or a number of related character sketches, about welfare-class patients, their numerous self-destructive habits, and their steadfast refusal to accept any sort of personal responsibility for the ails that have befallen them. In part two, he generalizes these stories as indicative of broader trends in society at-large, although usually without any supporting data. In part three, he offers his univeral diagnosis of the problem -- pervasive liberal permissiveness, albeit stated in a strawman form that few liberals would recognize as their own actual beliefs -- but tends to offer little in the way of prescriptions for treating it.
Invariably, Dalrymple sees trouble arising from the breakdown of customs that have generally served Western society well, and on this point, I'm broadly sympathetic, although his particularly British priggishness leads him to focus on a number of developments -- openly homosexual relationships, the popularity of tatoos among the middle class, the permeation of street slang into common language -- that don't tend to trouble me nearly so much as they do him. At other times, he hints that the solution lies in government sanction of various sorts of deviant behavior, though he leaves the details of such sanctions quite vague. If he were pressed to expound on the matter, I doubt his policy prescriptions would look much like any I would endorse.
Nonetheless, at times, he can be absolutely brilliant, and he's perhaps never been better than in his analysis of features of Islam that remain fundamentally incompatible with Western ethos, a subject on which he has been asked to comment frequently in the days since the 7/7 London transit bombings. In a recent panel discussion for Front Page, Dalrymple offers a critique of what could be called the "culinary model of multi-culturalism":
bombings may have caused at long last people to examine their fatuous
multiculturalist pieties, which I believe are fundamentally derived
from the restaurant model: today we eat Hungarian, tomorrow Mexican,
the day after Lebanese, and so forth. Clearly, this is possible and
very enjoyable, but there are more important and deeper things in life
than a variety of cuisines.
Perhaps people will begin to see that some values are simply not compatible with others, and will now be prepared to stand up for those that we believe in. Certainly I hope people will start to examine the abominable abuse of women that, if not universal, is very widespread in the Moslem population, and that is a large part - I believe - of the attraction of Islam to increasingly and essentially secularised men. (Interestingly, a recent article in Le Monde about French converts to Islam gave the statistic that 83 per cent were men -and I suspect that the 17 per cent of women were in response to love affairs, though I don't know this to be the case. This is eloquent testimony.)
Let us hope the recent events have taught the Prime Minister the folly - no, the sheer wickedness - of this.
I think Shonk hits the nail squarely:
I was saying to my brother just the other day that it is possible to have a successful multiethnic and even multicultural society, but what cannot work is a multi-ethical society. Clearly everyone is not going to agree on all moral values, but there has to be one basic ethical standard in society. Without that the conflicts will be interminable and insuperable, and perhaps worse than that the tacit sanctioning of moral wrongs.
ADDENDUM: My eyes are due for a check-up. The Selling Waves posts were from Curt, not (Original Flavor) Shonk.