Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dangling the Latest Phylacteries

Theodore Dalrymple, the nom de plume of British physician now living in France, is always amusing and insightful. Here's a recent example:
Quite often these days I receive emails asking me to consider the environment before I print them. They are quite right of course: my study is already horribly littered even without print-outs of more emails.

But this, I suspect, is not at all what they mean: they mean the Environment with a capital E, in the Mother Earth, Gaia, or Pachamama sense of the word, a sense that always makes me feel slightly queasy, as Wagnerian opera does. If people really care about the environment, why don’t they campaign against rock music in public places, a vastly greater threat to civilization than a mere rise in global temperature and sea levels could ever be.

Now that you’ve got me going on the subject of contemporary sanctimony, how about this for a provocation? I received today an email from a very large and successful form of lawyers asking me for my opinion in a medico-legal case. Appended to the email (after the obligatory bit about the environment, the whales, the dolphins, and the worms) was the following nauseating statement:
Out partnership is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its own policies and procedures. This applies to the firm’s dealings with employees, clients and other third parties.
. . . Let us remind ourselves that a statement such as the one attached to the lawyers’ email did not get there spontaneously; someone, and quite possibly some committee, had to write it and decree that it should be appended to all the emails that the company sent. Indeed it probably took many sessions over breakfast or lunch to hammer it out.

What, actually, does it mean? Does it mean, for example, that the lady who cleans the offices at night after the partners have gone home, will henceforth be paid the same as the partners, that is to say hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year, because of their commitment to equality? Good luck for her if so, but I suspect not. Does it mean, either, that when someone applies for a job the firm will take no notice whatever of the person’s past record of achievement and ability, and will not discriminate in favor of an applicant with superior ability? Again, I suspect not; I would certainly hope not if I were a client of the firm’s.
The rest of the short piece is here.


Doughlas Remy said...

Amusing? Insightful?

Dalrymple sounds a bit like Quentin Crisp doing Lord Monckton. He’ll say anything rather than nothing.

Rock music in public places is “a vastly greater threat to civilization than a mere rise in global temperature and sea levels could ever be...” Yep, that pure Crisp, whom Dalrymple must have studied very carefully before writing this piece.

Of course none of it makes any sense. It’s just fluff. It doesn’t even merit serious rebuttal. He would only reply, “But you have no sense of [British] humah!” “How perfectly nauseating!”

Dalrymple knows perfectly well what the anti-discrimination statement is all about, but rather than discuss it intelligently, he decides to ridicule and dismiss it. Okay, okay, but why are you passing this on to us, Gil? Dalrymple sounds like he’s “in his cups,” so let him sleep it off.

John said...


Having had more than a little experience with nauseatingly insincere blowhards with law degrees, I share Dalrymple's disdain for the sanctimonious(nice reference to the phylacteries, by the way)"Esq." email . Like most such "look at how evolved and caring I am" declarations-mostly seen on bumper stickers-it is not only so amorphous as to be laughable but, more important, it demands nothing from the authors by way of actual conduct or proof.(aren't lawyers all about evidence) So in that same spirit,I declare that henceforth I believe that all human beings are entitled to become whatever they truly yearn to be, and to have a good dental plan besides, and that I will not knowingly and/or without good reason act, interact, counteract or react with, to or against anyone who does not hold these truths to be self-evident.

Of course, real conversion usually manifests itself through conduct and is most often not declared by the converted party-and most assuredly not via an emai! But, one would not expect a group of lawyers to get such a concept. Of course, it would be unfair to suggest that only lawyers are prone to such unctuous stupidity. Why, one would probably even find such silliness professed by members of, say, the Northwest FreeThought Coalition.