In The New Vichy Syndrome, Theodore Dalrymple traces this malaise back to the great conflicts of the last century and their devastating effects upon the European psyche. From issues of religion, class, colonialism, and nationalism, Europeans hold a “miserablist” view of their history, one that alternates between indifference and outright contempt of the past. Today’s Europeans no longer believe in anything but personal economic security, an increased standard of living, shorter working hours, and long vacations in exotic locales.
The result, Dalrymple asserts, is an unwillingness to preserve European achievements and the dismantling of western culture by Europeans themselves. As vapid hedonism and aggressive Islamism fill this cultural void, Europeans have no one else to blame for their plight.
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About the Author
Theodore Dalrymple is a former psychiatrist and prison doctor. He writes a column for The Spectator of London, contributes frequently to the Daily Telegraph, and is a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. He lives in France.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
European history is described as an embarrassment to Europeans, and when defended, creates the risk that the defender will be accused of favoring colonialism, slavery, military adventures against third world peoples and world-wide wars which killed millions. Dalrymple believes that intellectuals are responsible for this abandonment of all that's good in order to demonstrate deserved shame for the crimes of the past. The author warns that the US is under the same risk from its intellectual class, and must win what he calls the "cultural war." His arguements for that effort were persuasive to this reader.
In a very short time, I have become a follower of Dr.’s Dalrymple work. I have bought most of his books and I have not been disappointed.
My favourite grumpy old man holds forth once more. As usual with Dalrymple's publications the book's title doesn't give an accurate idea of its contents, but at least the cover is inoffensive this time.I'm neither as old and experienced nor conservative as TD, but I enjoy his writing as a refreshing change of point of view, and often find much to agree with. Dalrymple presents us with insights derived from experience and research, but whilst the numerous anecdotes used to back up his observations make for an interesting and engaging read, an over reliance on these stories inevitably weakens his thesis as they are susceptible to affirmation bias. Dalrymple walks the line between well read intellectual and pompous old fool but sometimes strays over - describing a gang of Asian youths encountered in a Birmingham street "several of them were tattooed, though their skins were singularly ill adapted to this savage and stupid form of adornment or self-mutilation. Some of them had gold inlays in their front teeth, that infallible sign of gangster dentistry. They walked with the vulpine lope of young men who imagine that to be feared is to be respected. One of them had an apparatus that purveyed rap music compulsorily to passers-by" [p. 28].In this volume I notice more of a rant and less balanced argument than other works, and sometimes sweeping statements are made. Compare these two points made in the same chapter (p. 148-9):"After the Second World War, the Germans put all their formidable intelligence, industriousness and organisational ability that they had previously employed in the search for world conquest and on the commission of genocide into creating both the workshop of the world and a social-democratic state in which the citizens would feel and be forever secure. There seemed nothing in between the two: it was total war or total peace." and two paragraphs later:"So important is the standard of living to [Europeans] that they see children not as the inheritors of what they themselves inherited, as essential to the meaning of life, but as obstructions to the enjoyment of life, as a drain on resources, an obstacle to next year's holiday in Bali or wherever it might be, a commitment that forecloses on certain possibilities, a hurdle in the way of the exercise of choice". Whilst the former is a gross generalisation and over-simplification of a nation's experience the latter is an astute observation well made - or is it just my own bias picking out the points I agree with?Those quotes come from the final chapter entitled "The Consequences" which doesn't quite serve as a conclusion - new points are raised at the very end, and the observational net is widened to include America which had hitherto barely been mentioned. It makes for rather an abrupt ending and gives the impression of having been rushed. Overall there are some good individual observations but a more solid summary and drawing together the various threads of argument pursued in the book would have made this a more satisfying reading experience.
The book title seems far too aggressive for the book¿s content. There are some complaints inside of an all too negative view of Europe¿s past, a bit of a put down of the EU, and a plea for a bit more Conservatism ¿ but certainly no serious attempt at branding Europe¿s intellectuals in large as traitors. Cultivated fellow: three theatre pieces quoted at length demonstrates a shift in attitude towards the first world war a few years after it, and he obviously reads the newspapers as well. A good entertaining read in my mind, I¿ll give it 4 stars, but not as angry pamphlet or work on political theory.