Dalrymple not his real name attacks the subject methodically.
Politics & Social Sciences Spoilt Rotten The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
In one chapter, in workmanlike fashion the author defines sentimentality, lists arguments that have been made to defend it and then refutes these points one by one. Although I believe that at times Dalrymple a psychiatrist who has had a long career dealing with the British underclass underestimates the intellectual sophistication of his fellow man, this book is far from a bout against a man made of straw.
I know of no other writer who has explored the meaning and the role of these emotive public utterances and highlighted some of the more distasteful implications. When we see a family member or spouse or friend of a murder victim interviewed on the TV news or making a statement in court, listing the many admired and positive qualities of the victim in order to impress upon everyone the full scope of the loss, we cannot avoid reading the flip-side of this message — that the murder of a person who lacked the achievement, the likeability or the social connection of this victim would be less of a crime and less of a tragedy.
The section of this book which I found to be the most powerful depiction of the evils of sentimentality in public life was also my biggest disappointment.
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Dalrymple examined the phenomenon in which people in the public eye are judged by the public and elements of the media to be cold or even a murderer because they have failed to make expected emotional displays in public in response to a tragedy. Lindy Chamberlain claimed that a dingo took her baby but she did not cry in public over it, so many concluded that she was the villain, not an unidentified dingo, in the absence of a body that could settle the mystery.
Lindy was convicted of murder and sentenced to life, a truly horrible injustice for her and her family, and was later exonerated of all charges. When young Madeleine McCann disappeared her mother did not make the expected emotional display, so many accused her of murder.
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The case remains unresolved to a degree due to a lack of a body, leaving open an opportunity for accusations that the survivor Lees was the murderer. When Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident, the media and the public judged that the response of the royal family did not meet the expected standards of public displays of grief, and inevitably conspiracy theories in which the royals were behind her death grew and prospered.
Things had gotten to the point where some Aussies were making jokes that Gillard must have been behind the floods, due to her clearly guilty demeanour. He discussed all of the true cases above except for Gillard and the floods, but he failed to make comment on a very important common characteristic of all of those judged unjustly.
These stoic public figures are all women. The author wanted to write a book about sentimentality, but I think he has inadvertently written a book about sexism and sentimentality. I can only conclude that he has a great big blind spot when it comes to sexism, and that is not an attractive trait. This is a wide-ranging book and I was pleasantly surprised to find a discussion of a subject that has become a special interest of mine in the last few months — deceptive autobiographies and their authors.
Perhaps if Dalrymple had taken a good look at the autobiographical literature about autism and Asperger syndrome he could have enlarged his discussion. Dalrymple has been accused of being many things, including a misanthrope.
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The cult of sentimentality lies at the root of all this, he argues. Human beings are inherently good - so goes the philosophy - rendering discipline "unnecessary and bad".
If someone eventually turns to crime, the sentimentalist believes, he must be the victim of "an environment that has let him down". Likewise, children are regarded by sentimentalists, as not merely innocent and good but, claims Dalrymple, of being the possessors of an "intelligent curiosity, natural talent, vivid imagination, desire to learn and an ability to find things out for themselves".
Spoilt Rotten : The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality: Theodore Dalrymple: diapewrosupho.tk
This romanticised notion has, he believes, produced generations of British children who cannot adequately read, write, or do simple calculations - and this despite a palpable "increase in expenditure" per capita on pupils' education. Intellectuals, with their woolly tendentious thinking, are partly responsible - the betes-noir of those in society who value common sense, allied to the virtues of discipline and restraint. Intellectuals, in Dalrymple's estimation, fail to recognise the plain truth that "Great Britain … is now sinking, in a … swamp of sentimentality whose aesthetic, intellectual and moral correlates are dishonesty, vulgarity and barbarity".
One of the outcomes is that a "childish and uncontrolled emotionality" has become "a growing feature of our national life and character".
Book Review: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
Nowhere, claims the doctor, is this more evident than in respect to the "Cult of Feeling", which peaked with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and surged once more in the tragic aftermath of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Sentimentality demanded a show of gratuitous public grief, and visible shock. Those who failed to wallow sufficiently namely the Queen, who did not "properly" mourn in public, and Kate McCann, who failed to shed tears on television , were deemed by the arbiters of sentiment, to rightly deserve denigration.
Dalrymple tackles sentimentality on every front. He is frequently witty, always punchy and sometimes rapier-like, as he analyses the "bunk" of his opponents to within an inch of its cant.
Furthermore, as a scourge of fecklessness, he reminds you of Jeremy Kyle, but has little time for Oprah Winfrey "America's television queen of emotional incontinence". Sentimentality, as he defines it, is "the expression of emotion without an acknowledgement that judgement should enter into how we should react to what we see and hear … it is therefore childish …and reductive of our humanity.
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