Beijing on the Seine

For City JournalTheodore Dalrymple writes: The French newspaper, Libération, which began as a Maoist publication, waxed indignant recently about Chinese police working alongside French cops in Paris. The article began by reminding readers about a 1974 film, The Chinese in Paris, in which Mao’s army occupied the city, and the army commander, Pou-Yen, set up his headquarters in the Galeries Lafayette. What, asks Libération, are these policemen, who in their paris-chinaown country act as enforcers of a totalitarian dictatorship, doing in the pays des droits de l’homme—“the country of the rights of man,” as the French, with more patriotism than historical accuracy, sometimes call their homeland?

[Check out Dalrymple’s book: “Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses” at Amazon.com]

About 1.5 million Chinese tourists visit Paris each year. The French government hopes to double or triple that number soon. For the moment, at least, most of the tourists pay with cash, which makes them inviting targets for robbers. About 120 bags are snatched daily at the pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, many—if not most—from Chinese. And the Louvre is only one place they visit. Read the rest of this entry »


Wicked, Wicked Heroin

heroin-wicked

Addiction is a matter of persistence, not fate

Theodore Dalrymple  writes:  For five centuries before the Enlightenment, animals were sometimes put on trial in Europe. Pigs were the most frequent defendants, followed by rats, but even insects were not immune. Edward Payson Evans’s classic The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, published in 1906, begins:

It is said that Bartholomew Chessenée, a distinguished French jurist of the sixteenth century (born at Issy-l’Evêque in 1480), made his reputation at the bar as counsel for some rats, which had been put on trial before the ecclesiastical court of Autun on the charge of feloniously having eaten up and wantonly destroyed the barley crop of that province.

But the prosecution of animals was rational compared with an article published on February 11 in the New York Times. At least animals are animate; and my dog had a lively sense of guilt.

“…of course, we are not told, though evidence suggests that the average heroin addict takes heroin intermittently rather than regularly for 18 months before becoming addicted…”

The American “newspaper of record,” however, apparently believes that inanimate substances have wills and even moral purposes of their own. Perhaps one day it will hold an auto-da-fe of the worst-offending substances.

[Order Theodore Dalrymple’s book “Our Culture, What’s Left Of It” from Amazon]

The article, by Deborah Sontag, told the story of a 21-year-old woman, Alysa Ivy, who died in the small town of Hudson, Wisconsin, from using heroin. In recent years, more and more people in America, mostly young and white, have been dying in this way—most recently, the acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Why? According to the Times, the cunning and charm of heroin is to blame.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Culture of Heroin Addiction

hoffman-dark

Over at NRO, reflecting on Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s deadly overdose, Kevin D. Williamson explores the shallow romanticism of opiate culture:

Glamour Junkies

… Every few years I read about how heroin is making a comeback or about how there’s a new surge of heroin addiction, but I am skeptical. Heroin never makes a comeback, because heroin never goes away…

“The belief that there exists some kind of deep and invisible connection between artistic creativity and addiction (or mental illness) is one of the most destructive and most stupid of our contemporary myths.”

hoff-narrow-drker...taking heroin is, at least in part, an act of cultural affiliation. Connoisseurs of the poppy will go on and on about Great Junkies in History — William S. Burroughs, Sid and Nancy, Billie Holiday — though all in all I’d say that heroin addicts are less tedious on the subject of heroin than potheads are on the subject of pot. They do seem to have a particular fascination with the jargon of heroin, as though every conversation is taking place in 1970…

[See also: 50 Bags of Heroin: More Details Emerge on Drug Death of Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman]

I always have a sneaking suspicioun that I could talk people out of deciding to become junkies if only I could get them to read a couple of good books composed with such literary skill as to illuminate the fact that Burroughs was a poseur and a hack. The belief that there exists some kind of deep and invisible connection between artistic creativity and addiction (or mental illness) is one of the most destructive and most stupid of our contemporary myths. I’d blame Thomas De Quincey, author of the 19th-century tell-all Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, if I thought anybody still read him.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tattoo Le Monde

" I regret nothing"

” I regret nothing”

The French succumb to the scourge of self-mutilation.

Theodore Dalrymple  writes:  France is three or four decades behind Britain in cultural degeneration but is making valiant efforts to catch up. One straw in the wind I noticed a few years ago was the arrival of a tattoo parlor in the small town near where I live when I am in France. This alarmed me. I had mistakenly thought that the French had too much taste to go in for this form of self-mutilation.

Since then, much slippery slope has been slid down. According to a recent article inLibération, 400 professional tattooists operated in France in 2003. Now, only ten years later, there are 4,000. I doubt that any other industry has grown nearly as fast, and many may have contracted as quickly. According to one of the newspaper’s informants, if the trend continues, tattooists may soon be as numerous in France as hairdressers.

Read the rest of this entry »


Police at my Door: What Should I Do?

Great item by Theodore Dalrymple, from wchildblog. First, a personal observation:

copsatdoor

I just had this conversation recently, about how few people are alert and informed about what their rights are, and can act accordingly (and respectfully). When confronted by a law enforcement official it’s easy to be intimidated. Easy to be misled. Or simply not confident enough to manage the encounter and be your own  best advocate.

police knock on door

I saw a YouTube video recently featuring a young, hyper-informed law student who’d been detained by a cop, simply for legally carrying a pistol (in a state where open carry is permitted) because a passerby spotted it and it made them uncomfortable. Then complained to the police about seeing a man walking down the sidewalk with a gun on his belt and thought the somebody better look into it.

A policeman (who clearly didn’t understand the law any better than the complaining citizen did) confronted the guy, detained him, and had him surrender the weapon. Not realizing his detainee was fully aware of his rights, and with no shortage of confidence. The cop was stubborn, and confused. The law student was agitated, impatient (but not rude or abusive) and had complete verbal control of the situation. Arguing, citing case law, refusing to cooperate, not even giving his name. (news to me, you’re not required to give your name just because a cop is curious, if you’re not under arrest, and you’re obeying the law. This law student flat-out refused to identify himself to the cop)  The whole incident captured on video. It’s brilliant. More on this in a moment… back to Theodore Dalrymple:

Theodore Dalrymple writes: Don’t be intimidated by police at your door. These rules will help protect your rights and improve your odds of avoiding a home search.

No Warrant, No Search!

The Supreme Court has ruled that the home is entitled to maximum search protection. Even if they have probable cause to believe something illegal is going on inside your home, the 4th Amendment requires police to get a signed search warrant from a judge to legally enter and search.

Clip from the DVD, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police

Read the rest of this entry »


Protecting Everyone From Themselves

Not so much to save lives as to forestall litigation

travelodge-bournemouth

I’ve encountered these hyper-saftey suicide-proof hotel windows! They suck! Oddly enough, the one place I can recall finding a hotel that didn’t have prison-like windows was in, of all places, Vancouver, Canada. I could walk right out on the balcony, like a free person, at my own risk. What luxury! It led me to speculate that Canadians are less litigation-crazy, and don’t have the compulsion to over-manage the safety of their guests. I’m glad to see someone address this, and use it as a basis to discuss what it represents. Check out Taki’s Magazine for Dalrymple‘s full essay. Here’s an excerpt:

Theodore Dalrymple writes:  Of recent years I have noticed something rather peculiar about hotels. Nowadays they treat their guests as if they were all potential suicides: that is to say, as if their first thought on arrival in their rooms was to jump out of the window. To protect against this mass suicidal mania of hotel guests, the hotels have installed windows that cannot be opened more than a few inches, which means that the rooms are stuffy and airless. Read the rest of this entry »


When Doctors Decide Your Disease Doesn’t Actually Exist

People come to like their diagnoses, or at least to feel that they have explanatory power for the dissatisfactions in their lives.

shutterstock_156147731

images courtesy shutterstock / wallybird

Theodore Dalrymple writes: Diseases that have no objective tests to distinguish them from normality have a tendency to spread like fungus: for example, it is years since I heard anyone say that he was unhappy rather than depressed, and it cannot be a coincidence that 10 percent of the populations of most western countries are now taking antidepressants. Yet the state of melancholia undoubtedly exists, as anyone who has seen a case will attest.

Likewise with autism. I remember an isolated, friendless and uncommunicative patient who tried to kill himself when his landlord could no longer tolerate the collection of light-bulbs that he had collected since childhood, was constantly enlarging, and that now threatened to fill the whole house. For the patient light-bulbs were the meaning of life. It was difficult to believe in such a case that there was not something biologically wrong with the patient, even if one could find it.

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine traces the convoluted history of the diagnosis of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The pediatricians Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger described the conditions in 1943 and 1944 respectively. Read the rest of this entry »


A Shooting in Nice Exposes France’s Crime Problem

 A jeweler kills an escaping robber in Nice, and ignites a debate about how to handle crime in France.

Theodore Dalrymple writes: “Revenge is a kind of wild justice,” said Francis Bacon, “which the more a man’s heart runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.” But what if that law, far from weeding it out, fertilizes and irrigates it by excessive leniency towards criminals?

If Asli had received a longer sentence, he would still be alive and Turk would not be under house arrest.

If Asli had received a longer sentence, he would still be alive and Turk would not be under house arrest.

In France the current minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, is determined to reduce the number of law-breakers sentenced to imprisonment, despite a recent steep rise in burglaries. By no means does all of the French public approve. Many want severe and unequivocal punishment of criminals, in the absence of which they approve—with varying degrees of reluctance or enthusiasm—of victims taking the law into their own hands.

This was illustrated to perfection recently in the case of Stéphan Turk in Nice. Just over a week ago, the jeweler, of Lebanese extraction, shot dead one of the two armed robbers who had threatened him with what looked like an automatic weapon. Mr. Turk pulled the trigger as they were making their escape, having relieved him of money and jewels. Mr. Turk was subsequently arrested and charged with voluntary homicide. Read the rest of this entry »


Types of Stereotypes

National Review Online

Not all are unreasonable

By  Theodore Dalrymple

The man who walks out of his house with a mind devoid of stereotypes is like the man who goes to the Antarctic without having inquired about the weather. But there is no such man: for even to know that the Antarctic exists is to know that it tends to be cold there. Our minds are necessarily full of stereotypes and we could not negotiate the world without them.

George Zimmerman is accused by his detractors of having acted upon a stereotype. He saw a young black man allegedly pursuing an erratic course in a gated community and he concluded that he was up to no good, that quite possibly or even probably he was a burglar on the prowl. If only he had kept another stereotype in his mind, things might not have turned out so disastrously: It was raining that evening and burglars do not like the rain. In fact, the principal cause of certain kinds of crime is clement weather, because the statistical association between such weather and those types of crime is the strongest known to me, stronger even than those between smoking and criminality (more than 90 percent of prisoners, at least in Britain, smoke), and between tattooing and criminality (an even higher percentage of white criminals are tattooed, except for those charged with fraud, embezzlement, etc.).

I first learned of the meteorological causes of crime on the walk that I took most afternoons for 15 years, between the hospital where I worked in the morning to the prison where I worked in the afternoon. It was about 600 yards, and on fine summer days up to six or seven cars parked on the way would have been broken into, the little shards of shattered glass sparkling, almost with the color of peridots, on the curbside. In winter, or in the rain, not a single car was ever broken into, and I was surprised that the police had not issued a warning to car owners to park their cars only in bad weather. Criminals may be tough, but they are not hardy.

Now, if George Zimmerman had realized this, it would have neutralized his alleged stereotype and the whole tragedy would not have occurred. He didn’t realize that it was unlikely (though not absolutely impossible) that the young man was on a criminal enterprise because he wasn’t hurrying to get out of the rain, as most true criminals would have done if they had been caught in it.

Read the rest of this entry »