by Theodore Dalrymple (October 2009)
I once had a patient who had had the words ‘Fuck off’ tattooed on his forehead in mirror writing. When I asked him for the reason for this, he said that it was to wake him up in the morning when he looked at himself in the glass. It never failed, he said.
Newspapers perform more or less the same function for me. There is always something in them to irritate me profoundly, and there is nothing quite like irritation to get the juices circulating and the mind working. Oddly enough, only the print version of a newspaper, not the online one, has this tonic effect upon me; perhaps this is a conditioned response. I am like one of Pavlov’s dogs, who salivated at the sound of a bell. I have only to hold a newspaper in my hand to feel a pleasant frisson of outrage coming on. more>>>
Dalrymple has something to say.
Leftists simply call him names. As if that is an art and an accomplishment of it's own. Indeed, the supreme accomplishment.
Too bad it seems that's what works.
"with the woemen you can lecture them, show them movies, have tons of written material...but they follow their heart.... often I have heard,,, But I love him and he loves me.... Until you show them the line up of all the other woemen who he loves as well and makes sure he spaces out his visit time with...Female Lawyers,,,well I won't even go there..."
Dude, if you have to be jealous of the womanizing of men in prison. . . Do they really have multiple girlfriends, among prison staff? Does the average prisoner even see a female more often than once a week, let alone talk to her?
As far as your use of the word 'coup' is concerned. . . I read the whole thing (and part where the word 'coup' is introduced twice) and I still have no idea what the meaning of the word is. Just saying.
"As Walter points out...the Myth of the Noble Savage was just that. A myth".
It was a creation. Why be so abstract. . . ? Whites are evil - constrained by original sin, you could say. Non-whites their moral superiors. Of course morality was just the start. . .
I often feel like I'm smarter than most people. When I read this I felt dumb, or a lot dumber than Mr Dalrymple.
It was a pleasure to read. It was a great pleasure to read.
"Like Pavlov's dogs, I know when I read Theodore Dalrymple that he will eventually get around to attacking the left. The whole point actually. Yawn."
...Whereas "the whole point" of the European academy is to attack the Right, usually in the leaden jargon of the modern ideologue. And only a churl would yawn at Dalrymple's lovely prose...
What's done cannot be undone: Prevention is the only cure. Yet some two centuries' experience argues that criminality is not a disease amenable to therapy of whatever form, but an infectious sociopathology conflating private delinquency with public violation of statutory norms.
In this sense, individual criminals are not analogous to bacilli or virus particles, "epidemes" to be contained or quarantined, sequestered from society pending qualitative rehabilitation. Collectivisms from National to International Socialists all understand that "criminal classes" as defined must either be exterminated or co-opted, commissioned to prey upon "enemies of the people" as enforcers obeying Higher Law. Arbitrary liability is every tyrant's stock-in-trade.
The classic case occurred when Chinese Communists under Mao T'se-tung took over Canton c. 1948. Since the Opium Wars, British colonial administrators had tried by every means to root out addicts, rehabilitate an entire sub-population to productive purposes.
In 1950 --so goes the tale-- the Governor of Hong Kong congratulated Maoist cadres are on their success in eliminating all trace of opium addiction in Canton: "However did you accomplish such reform?" Mao's baneful satrap smilingly replied, "We herded them together, and we shot them all."
If penetentiaries are not the answer, what's the question?
It's both obvious and amazing that you have missed much of the point of both Foucault's work and the authors argument (at least as you quote it in your response).
But you did give us exactly what you promised, an angry rant dressed as an argument.
My only remaining confusion, is why you got angry in the first place? Or why when you make appeals to empirical knowledge (I suppose in an effort to take an intellectual higher ground) you failed to see the obvious way in which your personal experiences have tinted your read of the author and of Foucault.
When will people start reading Foucault and stop just reading what others say about him? It's fairly odd. Oh well, Hitler used to chew on a carpet and Nietzsche was anti-God... what other good ones can we spread? :-)
Great Job! :-)
Criminal justice never brings justice for the victim of a crime. We have strayed too far from dealing with justice for the victim and for society and spend too much money, time and talk on the criminal.
Many people have had terrible childhoods and yet do not commit crime. Many people are poor and yet do not commit a crime. I am for the death penalty for all murderers and pedophiles. It is a matter of economics. We have a limited amount of money. Why spend it keeping murderers and pedophiles alive in prison when we could house the homeless, provide medicine to the poor and spend it on education etc.?
I do not care about a murderer's or a pedophiles re-entry into society. There should be no re-entry for them.
richard Goldwater MD
Prisons might serve to protect the population if every prisoner were incarcerated for life, or executed. The question is in what state to released prisoners re-enter the world? Whatever strategy reduces recidivism maximally is the right strategy. There is no evidence that punishment improves behavior or socialization. Most criminals have had punishing childhoods. There must be a better way.
As a lawyer in Europe i think you miss an interesting point in your article. The general purpose of criminal law is very different between the US and most european countries. In the US the focus in criminal law is mainly on punishment and vengeance while in Europe the main "goal" of imprisonment is the rehabilitation and resocialization of the prisoner. Thats why a life long imprisonment is unconstitutional in my country for example. Everyone who wants to argue about that should check the different relapse rates first.
Is there a link to the article "written by a teacher of philosophy at a lycee." I could not find where you mentioned the name of the " teacher of philosophy at a lycee."
Having worked in corrections I know that the fundamental mission of corrections is protection of society - in the short term and the long term. Short term protection of society occurs via incarceration - the individual is locked up and we are safe from him/her. However, the vast majority of inmates are released back into society to become our neighbors. Therefore, long term protection of society occurs when incarceration has made a prosocial difference and the individual released no longer poses a threat. If those incarcerated are unchanged or made worse by incarceration, corrections has failed us and society in general, and we in particular, are not safe. Not making the efforts, that would potentially protect us in the long term, is a dereliction of our duty to the society we serve.
I know I'm asking for too much, but a translation to the original article that the author refers to would be interesting. It seems to me like the author pastes a paragraph and then claims it means "this and that" but I don't actually see that information or clues to this interpretation in the referrered paragraph.
Furthermore, there is basically just one constructive comment free of sarcasm, which is what the author recommends prison personnel to treat prisoners like.
Other than that, the comments about the construction materials used in prisons, and the lack in his own article of what he criticizes (no empirical evidence) undermine his argument and turn the whole tone of the article into an arrogant smirk.
Personally I think criticizing with imagination works better to get people on board your own opinion. It would have been interesting to read an exercize of imagination (like a couple of comments here do) on what could actually happen if there were no prisons, or in which scenarios this could actually become a reality and what the consequences could be. I mean would it really be all the nice, hard working people victims of the evil criminals? Or would there be some kind of interesting integration. How would the world change? There are several criminals living outside prisons. Some conducting crimes from within prisons, and many inocent people inside prisons.
I can't speak for Europeans, but I can confidently describe what would follow the emptying the prisons in the U.S.:
1. Unprecedented gun sales.
2. The elimination of large numbers of criminals.
A breath of fresh air.
Robert of Ottawa
Thank you for this article. You have crystalized for me the "falacy of the continuum":
Because black and white are merely points on the grey continuum, then there is no black and white.
Like Pavlov's dogs, I know when I read Theodore Dalrymple that he will eventually get around to attacking the left. The whole point actually. Yawn.
I am french and acctually I can say that your article describe pretty well one problem in the world of the french "Thinkers". It is its deep lack of realism...abolition of prison is preposterous, ok, we agree. I don't need to explain why, you have raised enough objections in the article.
But looking carfully at your article,one can see that there is some ideas that are not making sense either. You critisize Foucault paradoxal thinking but not tell us in what way it is paradoxal, then you claim that Dominique Vasseur is using the same ideas as him...and do not explain. Your sound overjoyed by saying Faucault was sado-masochistic, as if it was enough to dicredit his thoughts. Who is lacking cartesian spirit?
You might be good for you to reread "Surveiller et punir" again and see that Foucault's argumentation is as bogus as yours. That is, not really bogus, just incomplete.
Dalrymple sets up so many straw men, seems hard to believe that he ever doctored real people, never mind incarcerated ones. Perhaps, it was a needed dehumanization which allowed him to become a part of the institualized brutality of a penal system that is still at the social development level of "an eye for an eye."
There is a bit of self-revealing irony when Dalrymple likens himself to a palovian dog--certainly he is reactionary. The unfortunate thing is that the good doctor has become a cartoonish and somewhat churlish mean old man who because he has "seen it all" and can string a few words together into coherent sentences, styles himself a great social philosopher.
The argument swirls in gusts of non-sequiturs leavened with a strong prejudice against Foucault and apparently anything French. The tail-chasing dog however exhausts himself and seemingly lies down in a puddle of his own making, with a whimper about humanity and the hypocrisy of intellectuals.
Oh, dear doctor, heal thyself.
After 24.6 years of working in a large County Jail system with an average daily inmate population of over 5000 inmates I have personally booked, interviewed, and processed over 250,000 criminals into the system...Male and Female... As I promoted up through the system my contact with the inmates lessened but I began to deal more with the problems of maintaining them in custody as will as keeping an accurate paper trail...
Even with the advent of computers, believe me, one does not want to delete the paper trail and those who call for it's demise haven't got much going for them and have not been ever caught in a beaucratic maze..
I was a Manager but if I was not interviewing prospective employees or dealing with a number of human employee issues, I was resolving Inmate problems, on a daily basis.. I don't even want to talk about irresponsible Lawyers, Judges and Court Clerical Staff nor the screw ups of the world the Probabtion Department.....
I appeared in Court on a regular basis fixing the beaucratic screw ups of Civil Servants who could care less about the accuracy of their work. I also grew to find Unions extremely distasteful more distasteful than having to work with some of the most criminally insane and lowest morales of any group of people walking this earth..I have more respect for a common street Prostittute than an Demoncrat Poltician or Union Leader...But on with the guts of this tribute to the criminal mind....
Basically Criminals are Lazy people. They want all that the world can offer, but do not want to work very hard for those offerings..They spend hours upon hours developing criminal plans and enterprises that if they had put the same amount of time into School and work, they would have been very successful.. .
The average criminal thinks they are above average in Intelligence because they get postive feedback from their criminal actitivies and are not the least bit bothered by the fact they may get their name and photograph in the Newspaper and as they print media finally reaches their demise because they ignore the interests of the hard, working, taxpayer,,the Electoronic Media... They are proud of it in fact! They can count "Coup"! .
There is even the counting of "Coup" in Prisons and County Jails by "Conning" an employee, Guard or another Inmate to doing something for them that is against the rules or for their own personal benefit..... Woemen are the biggest and sweetest target for them... They love Female, Guards, Kitchen Staff, Nurses, Psychologtists, Teachers, and Visitors. They prey on and work the woemens vanity and emotions like a blood sucking leech, which they closely resemeble... I have terminated nearly six times the number of female employees for being "conned" than men.. and with the woemen you can lecture them, show them movies, have tons of written material...but they follow their heart.... often I have heard,,, But I love him and he loves me.... Until you show them the line up of all the other woemen who he loves as well and makes sure he spaces out his visit time with...Female Lawyers,,,well I won't even go there...Let's just say it is a well known fact...
So after all these years of watching all the Liberals and bleeding hearts out there, and the Church Pastors trying to rehabilitate these people all I can say is they have made it worse.... Again they all as a group have provided nothing but POSTIVE REINFORCEMENT for the Criminals behavior with all the attention and affection these do gooders bestow on these people....
Think of them as a child....how do you change a childs inappropriate behavior?? Spanking used to be a reinforcement tool parents used for centures until the mindless Liberals took over..Now we have millions of spoiled brats and bullies.....
How about time out? Oh that works too, it is a negative reinforcement...But again we have the Liberals who worry about the childs socialization ego being brusied...So we have more inappropriate behavior and children talking back to their parents and threatening their own parents with CHild Protective Services.... So again the Liberals have ruined the family structure.....
SO what works.. Negative Reinforcement has always been successful and a deterent...
You cannot reward these people, or allow them to Count Coup which soeciety and the Liberals, the Courts, and Lawyers and Probation Departments are doing now and it is a big failure...
But it is a big benefit of all of those above, because it provides them with jobs and an LARGE Incomes!
If criminals choose not to follow socieity's rules then you have to provide a Negative reinsforcement in some shape or form to modifty the behavior... That is very simple....
So why isn't it being done.... To whose benefit is the Criminal Justice System being organized to benefit? There is the problem.......So the Criminals are able to COUNT COUP ON THE ENTIRE SYSTEM... While Civil Servants, Lawyers, Judges and Beaucrats and Unions benefit!
Meanwhile, the common ordinary Housewife and hard working Husband and their children live in terror of becoming victims of the system....instead of the Criminals be in terror of the system..... A big thank you to all the Demoncrat Liberals out there who have spent the last 30 years creating this nightmare....Thank you!
Has our professor made any attempt to discover what the rate of suicide among the unimprisoned might be?
The violent, the drunk and addicted, those engaged in the extra-legal economy are at great risk for criminal violence and self-harm wherever they happen to be.
The prison suicide rate may be lower than that of the same individuals housed in the outside world?
It's always risky to comment on a position second hand, but his arguement has some strange twists.
He credits abolition of the death penalty for the increase in prison population. What is that mechanism? Certainly not enough of the population were being killed off, even in the 'old days' to come close to offset this growth. So it's not a direct result. The only other interpretation seems to be that the existence of the death penalty caused more people to stay out of behavior that put them in prison. Is that what he is actually trying to say (somehow I doubt it)?
I agree (speaking from US) that there are FAR too many people in prison, but this is significantly because far to many private behaviors are illegal.
As Walter points out...the Myth of the Noble Savage was just that. A myth. Constructed to provide 'proof' for a theory;both have been consigned to the rubbish bin.
Dr. Dominique Vasseur is a very tired and unoriginal person. Rousseau came up with this nonsense back in the Eighteenth Century, and it was not even original then.