Anthony Daniels (psychiatrist)

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Anthony Daniels

Anthony Daniels (born 11 October 1949) is an English writer and retired physician (prison doctor and psychiatrist) who frequently uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple.


  • Where fashion in clothes, bodily adornment, and music are concerned, it is the underclass that increasingly sets the pace. Never before has there been so much downward cultural aspiration.
    • Introduction, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass (2001), p. xiv. Google Books.
  • Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
  • Childhood in large parts of modern Britain, at any rate, has been replaced by premature adulthood, or rather adolescence. Children grow up very fast but not very far. That is why it is possible for 14 year olds now to establish friendships with 26 year olds - because they know by the age of 14 all they are ever going to know.
    • Frontpage Magazine interview (August 31, 2005).
  • Optimism is the parent of despair, while pessimism allows the mind to accustom itself to the inevitable disappointments of human existence by degrees, just as some drugs induce a state of tolerance. Pessimists, moreover, have the better sense of humour, for they have a livelier apprehension of pretension and absurdity. In a meritocracy, furthermore, those who fail must either indulge in elaborate mental contortions to disguise reality from themselves or sink into a deep melancholy.
    • British Medical Journal Views and Reviews: Desperate house calls (BMJ 2009;338:b212).
  • Multiculturalism as an official doctrine, complete with enforcing bureaucracies, undermines the rule of law because it seeks to divide people, formalise their cultural differences and enclose them in moral and intellectual ghettoes. As a result, as Bhiku Parekh puts it, ‘The idea of national culture makes little sense.’ But the rule of law requires a common cultural understanding, not merely the means of repression to enforce a legal code. Once that basic cultural understanding is lost, all that remains is repression, effective or ineffective as the case may be, and experienced by many as alien and unjust.
  • Compassionate fellow-feeling ... can soon become self-indulgent and lead to spiritual pride. It imparts an inner glow, like a shot of whiskey on a cold day, but like whisky it can prevent the clear-headedness which we need at least as much as we need warmth of heart.
    • Migration: Multiculturalism and its Metaphors (2016)
  • Nothing is easier - or more gratifying - than to apologise for what your ancestors, enemies or political opponents have done or omitted to do. We get the kudos for having apologised, they get the blame for what we apologise for.
    • Migration: Multiculturalism and its Metaphors (2016)
  • Humor, fearlessness, seriousness, and honesty: the qualities that are hated with an equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies that are contending for tenure in the humanities departments of our universities.
    • Migration: Multiculturalism and its Metaphors (2016)
  • When the Berlin Wall was dismantled I, like many other naive observers, supposed that the age of ideology was at an end. On the contrary, ideology proliferated, blossomed and balkanised; we underestimated people’s need, quasi-religious in nature, for an all-encompassing cause.
  • Just imagine what the pattern of taking meals I have described actually means. The child who is subjected to it learns that, in the matter of when and how and what to eat, his appetite and opportunity are the only things he has to consult. Meals for him are not social occasions but nasty, solitary, British and short (and, I might add, frequent). He does not learn that, for the sake of the convenience or wishes of others, he sometimes has to refrain from eating or even to eat when he is not fully hungry. He does not learn to wait till others are served, or to share what food is on the table. He does not learn how to converse. These are very elementary social requirements that he does not acquire.
    • "Society Is Broken". CIS Occasional Paper 146, June 2016. The Centre for Independent Studies Limited, Sydney, NSW. PDF
  • Education is not a shield against stupidity, much less against brutality. Indeed, one might almost define an intellectual as someone who can witness a massacre and see a principle.
  • With carefully nourished resentment, a man can go through his life blaming someone or something else for his failures. This enables him to be a failure and to feel morally superior to the world at the same time.
  • It is surely almost self-evident that the strongest political emotions are negative: for example, the rich are hated much more than the poor are loved.
  • The absurdity of modern ideological enthusiasms is evident, but while those who promote them make them the focus of their existence and the whole meaning of their lives, better-balanced people try to get on with their lives as normal. No one wants to spend his life arguing, let alone fighting, against sheer idiocy, and thus, sheer idiocy wins the day.
  • I am hesitant to write in a satirical vein because, as I and others have remarked, satire is prophecy. A number of current policies would have been regarded as satirical exaggeration only a few years ago. Who would have thought, say a decade ago, that a serious, or at any rate a prominent and powerful female politician (I refer here to the First Minister of Scotland), would argue that a man convicted of rape was actually, that is to say in reality, in fact, in every sense, a woman? Such propositions now elicit only irritation, not laughter; and irritation declines before long to resignation. Absurdity is first discussed, then adopted by a vanguard of intellectuals in search of a cause, and finally becomes an orthodoxy that it is socially unacceptable to question.

City Journal (1998 - 2008)


Daniels' City Journal essays have also been collected in three books: 1) Not With A Bang But A Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline; 2) Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses; and 3) Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass.

  • What is the point of restraint and circumspection, if such stream-of-consciousness vulgarity can win not merely wealth and fame but complete social acceptance?
  • There is no such thing, wrote Oscar Wilde, as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. Presumably, then, Mein Kampf would have been all right had it been better written.
  • When every benefit received is a right, there is no place for good manners, let alone for gratitude.
  • Henceforth there are to be no fixed or inviolable principles of law at all—only an endlessly changing legal response to the fashionable causes of the moment.
  • There is nothing an addict likes more, or that serves as better pretext for continuing his present way of life, than to place the weight of responsibility for his situation somewhere other than on his own decisions.
  • I have never understood the liberal assumption that if there were justice in the world, there would be fewer rather than more prisoners.
  • In the modern view, unbridled personal freedom is the only good to be pursued; any obstacle to it is a problem to be overcome.
  • Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies of an existence freed of human limitations.
    • All Sex, All the Time.
  • Having been issued the false prospectus of happiness through unlimited sex, modern man concludes, when he is not happy with his life, that his sex has not been unlimited enough. If welfare does not eliminate squalor, we need more welfare; if sex does not bring happiness, we need more sex.
    • All Sex, All the Time.
  • The intellectual's struggle to deny the obvious is never more desperate than when reality is unpleasant and at variance with his preconceptions and when full acknowledgment of it would undermine the foundations of his intellectual worldview.
  • Never has so much indifference masqueraded as so much compassion; never has there been such willful blindness. The once pragmatic English have become a nation of sleepwalkers.
    • Seeing Is Not Believing.
  • It seems that when an impending catastrophe will affect them personally, in their very flesh and blood, intellectuals start to think more clearly about the legal and institutional prerequisites of a free society.
  • Even [Marx], whose information about people came mainly from books, must have known that the Manifesto’s depiction of the relations between men and women was grossly distorted. His rage was therefore—as is so much modern rage—entirely synthetic, perhaps an attempt to assume a generosity of spirit, or love of mankind, that he knew he did not have but felt he ought to have
    • How—and How Not—to Love Mankind.
  • Where hopes are unrealistic, fears often become exaggerated; where dreams alone are blueprints, nightmares result.
  • Orwell's 1984 refers more directly to contemporary events than does Huxley's book: the narrative takes place in the near rather than the distant future and obviously sets its sights on Stalinism. When I traveled in the communist world before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I found that everyone I met who had read the book (clandestinely, of course) expressed immeasurable admiration for it and marveled that a man who had never set foot inside a communist country could not only describe the physical environment so well—the universal smell of cabbage, the grayness of the dilapidated buildings—but also its mental and moral atmosphere. It was almost as if the communist regimes had taken 1984 as a blueprint rather than as a warning.
  • I was in the enormous and almost deserted square in front of the Great People's Study House—all open spaces in Pyongyang remain deserted unless filled with parades of hundreds of thousands of human automata—when a young Korean slid surreptitiously up to me and asked, "Do you speak English?"
    An electric moment: for in North Korea, unsupervised contact between a Korean and a foreigner is utterly unthinkable, as unthinkable as shouting, "Down with Big Brother!"
    "Yes," I replied.
    "I am a student at the Foreign Languages Institute. Reading Dickens and Shakespeare is the greatest, the only pleasure of my life."
    It was the most searing communication I have ever received in my life. We parted immediately afterward and of course will never meet again. For him, Dickens and Shakespeare (which the regime permitted him to read with quite other ends in view) guaranteed the possibility not just of freedom but of truly human life itself.
  • Civilization is the sum total of all those activities that allow men to transcend mere biological existence and reach for a richer mental, aesthetic, material, and spiritual life.
  • Equality is the measure of all things, and bad behavior is less bad if everyone indulges in it.
  • Nationalism is fraught with dangers, of course, but so is the blind refusal to recognize that attachment to one’s own culture, traditions, and history is a creative, normal, and healthy part of human experience.
  • For the sake of democracy, vigorous, civilized debate must replace the law of silence that political correctness has imposed.
    • How PC Boosts Le Pen.
  • Henceforth, there is to be no testing oneself against the best, with the possibility, even the likelihood, of failure: instead, one is perpetually to immerse oneself in the tepid bath of self-esteem, mutual congratulation, and benevolence toward all.
  • The real and most pressing question raised by any social problem is: “How do I appear concerned and compassionate to all my friends, colleagues, and peers?”
  • It is better to be opposed by an enemy than to be adrift in meaninglessness, for the simulacrum of an enemy lends purpose to actions whose nihilism would otherwise be self-evident.
  • It is, of course, a common prejudice that censorship is bad for art and therefore always unjustified: though, if this were so, mankind would have little in the way of an artistic heritage and we should now be living in an artistic golden age.
  • It is only by having desire thwarted, and thereby learning to control it—in other words, by becoming civilized—that men become fully human.
  • When a population feels alienated from the legal system under which it lives, because that system fails to protect it from real dangers while lending succor and encouragement to every possible kind of wrongdoing, the population may well lose faith in the very idea of law. That is how civilization unravels.
  • To make up for its lack of a moral compass, the British public is prey to sudden gusts of kitschy sentimentality followed by vehement outrage, encouraged by the cheap and cynical sensationalism of its press. Spasms of self-righteousness are its substitute for the moral life.
  • In a democratic age, only the behavior of the authorities is subject to public criticism; that of the people themselves, never.
    • Who Killed Childhood?
  • In Britain, journalists often view comparisons with our society going back two, three, or seven centuries as more relevant than comparisons going back two, three, or seven decades. Drunkenness centuries ago is more illuminating than comparative sobriety 30 years ago. The distant past, selectively mined for evidence that justifies our current conduct, becomes more important than living memory.
  • For intellectuals, everyone’s mind is closed but their own.
  • Unilateral tolerance in a world of intolerance is like unilateral disarmament in a world of armed camps: it regards hope as a better basis for policy than reality.
  • The nearer emotional life approaches to hysteria, to continual outward show, the less genuine it becomes. Feeling becomes equated with vehemence of expression, so that insincerity becomes permanent.
  • Frivolity without gaiety and earnestness without seriousness—a most unattractive combination.
  • The refusal of free inquiry derives from an awareness of the fragility of the basis of religious faith; and since certainty is psychologically preferable to truth, the former often being willfully mistaken for the latter, anything that threatens certainty is anathematized with fury.
  • Experience rarely teaches its lessons directly but instead requires interpretation through the filter of preconceived theories, prejudices, and desires. Where these are invincible, facts are weak things.
  • If all our political and intellectual elite offers by way of a national culture is “pop music, gambling, fashionable clothes or television,” then we can neither mount a convincing intellectual defense against our enemies, nor hope to integrate intelligent, inquiring, and unfulfilled Muslim youths—young men principally, of course—to our way of life.
  • We are like creatures so dazzled with our own technological prowess that we no longer think it necessary to consider the obvious.
  • Mediocrity triumphs because it presents itself as democratic and because it is dull, and so for many does not seem worth struggling against.
  • When the cold war ended, I thought, as no doubt did many others, that the age of ideology was over. Again like many others, I underestimated man’s need for transcendence, which, in the absence of religion or high culture, he is most likely to find in a political or social cause.
  • The appeal of political correctness is that it attempts to change men’s souls by altering how they speak. If one sufficiently reforms language, certain thoughts become unthinkable, and the world moves in the approved direction.

New Criterion (2000 - 2005)

  • The tattoo has a profound meaning: the superficiality of modern man’s existence.
  • To deal with the problems of modern society, hard thought, confrontation with an often unpleasant reality, and moral courage are needed, for which a vague and self-congratulatory broadmindedness is no substitute.
  • Whereas fortitude was once regarded as a virtue, it has come to be regarded as a kind of reprehensible and deliberate obtuseness, to be utterly condemned as treason to the self (there is no fury like a non-judgmentalist scorned).

The Social Affairs Unit (2006 - 2008)

  • In the British public service nothing succeeds like failure: indeed, failure is success, if looked on in the right way, namely as something requiring yet further intervention in people's lives to amend.
    • Mr Brown's self-esteem issue - or, asks Theodore Dalrymple, does Gordon Brown really believe that he can solve the problems of the world.
  • Equality can only be measured by outcome: and this means the imposition of racial quotas. The job of the Senior Executive is therefore to be a senior racist.
    • Theodore Dalrymple finds a cure for the German malady of low blood pressure: read The Guardian's job advertisements.

CBC Ideas Interview (podcast) (September 25, 2006)



A wide-ranging interview (.mp3 file, 24.1 MB, 52 min. 34 sec.) by Paul Kennedy on the CBC Radio program Ideas audio Best of Ideas. podcast. Where noted, <times> shown are minutes and seconds from the beginning of the podcast.

  • Resentment is one of the few emotions that never lets you down, but it’s useless. In fact, it’s worse than useless, it’s harmful, and we all suffer from it at some time in our lives.
  • The main difference between working in an NHS hospital in Britain and a prison is that prison is much safer.
  • <14:06> ...Of course I made it quite clear to the women that I thought that the way that they had been abused was terrible and completely unjustifiable. However, I thought that it was very important that they should understand their own complicity in it; so that, for example, they understood that the way they chose men, and their refusal to see signs (which they were capable of seeing) resulted in their misery… <14:40> To give you a concrete example, I would say to them, ‘This man of yours, who’s very nasty to you, and drags you across the floor, and puts your head through the window, and sometimes even hangs you out of the window by your ankles: How long do you think it would take me to realise he was no good, as he came through the door? Would it take me a second, or half a second, or an eighth of a second, or would I not notice that there was anything wrong with him at all?’ And they’d say, ‘Oh, an eighth of a second, you’d know immediately.’ And I would say to them, ‘Well, if you know that I would know immediately, then you knew immediately as well.’ It’s a logical consequence, really. And they would accept that. ‘And yet, you chose to associate with him, knowing full well that he was no good; and I tell you this, because it’s very necessary you should understand your own part in the predicament you now find yourself in, because if you don’t understand it, or don’t think about it, you’re just going to repeat it.’ which is of course, a very, very common pattern.
    • Daniels on helping victims of abuse understand how they can help to break the cycle.
  • Over and over again, medical writers liken withdrawal [from heroin], at worst, to a dose of flu. … Let me ask the reader this: if you were given a choice between suffering a bout of flu in the above sense, or avoiding it by robbing someone in the street or breaking into a house and stealing its contents, which would you choose?
  • There is something deeply attractive, at least to quite a lot of people, about squalor, misery, and vice. They are regarded as more authentic, and certainly more exciting, than cleanliness, happiness, and virtue.
  • His greatest fear, or nightmare, is not to be thought hip or cool, and if to avoid that terrible fate it means that he has to glamorize evil--well, so be it.
  • If consequences are removed from enough actions, then the very concept of human agency evaporates, life itself becomes meaningless, and is thenceforth a vacuum in which people oscillate between boredom and oblivion.
  • There is nothing an official hates more than a person who makes up his own mind.
  • Wisdom and good governance require more than the consistent application of abstract principles.
  • The withdrawal symptoms from opiates are not severe and never dangerous, though of course they do exist. Insofar as they are genuinely feared, there has been a campaign of exaggeration about them for nearly 200 years.
  • People who are given opiates after operations — sometimes for days — do not become addicts in the sense that I’m talking about. Moreover, it’s been shown that heroin addicts have to make considerable efforts — in other words to be determined — to become addicts, and addicted; and on average it takes them about a year or so. In other words, heroin does not hook them, they hook heroin. And this, I think should suggest, is a typical example of the way that when we think about social problems, or the way many of us think about social problems, we ascribe agency not to agents but to inanimate objects and substances, and forces.
  • And the fact is that millions of opiates addicts having given up their habit without medical assistance.
  • Incidentally, many thousands of American servicemen addicted themselves to heroin in Vietnam, but two years after their repatriation their rate of addiction was no greater than that of draftees who were to go to Vietnam, but never did go because the war had ended.
  • Addicts, to this day, claim that they are they are the only people qualified to speak of the seriousness of withdrawal effects; as if only people with cerebral malaria or bowel cancer could speak of their seriousness.
  • I’m not actually against, for example, people going into rehabilitation, provided it is understood that this is not really a medical procedure. Often what happens is that people who are addicted to a substance — alcohol or opiates — have comprehensively messed up their lives, and since life is biography and not just a series of unconnected moments, it may be that they require some assistance in getting their lives together. But I don’t regard that as really a medical procedure.