The pursuit of unhappiness

This is an astonishing piece:  an analysis, based on one man’s experience, of the moral environment out which crawl all the social evils present (and apparently growing) in Britain, from torture to the casting out of children by mothers who wish to appease their boyfriends.  The author is Theodore Dalrymple.  I don’t know him, but from the article it appears he is a physician working among would-be suicides in the prisons and hospitals of an unnamed British city.  The title is “The Frivolity of Evil,” which is about the only thing about the article I don’t like.  (I don’t see how evil, any more than virtue, can ever be banal or frivolous.)

We need more from Dalrymple, whoever he is.  If the spreading pathologies he portrays are true, Britain needs his undogmatic moral clarity even more.  Anything I write here will only detract from his compelling story.  Still, I can’t resist observing that the article illustrates the truth of Jefferson’s proposition equating happiness with virtue.  The patients described by Dalrymple live in a reverse-Jeffersonian world:  by perpetuating evil, they endure miseries few of us would dream of.

Read this article. (Via Arts & Letters Daily.)

UPDATE:  Theodore Dalrymple, I have learned, is a contributing editor of CITY JOURNAL.  The JOURNAL seems to spread far beyond its mission statement, which claims to focus on urban affairs; Dalrymple’s other articles have the same acid-bath power as the one above.


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