Theodore Dalrymple: ‘I am inclined to think ill of people…’

In a just world I would have grabbed him by the collar, forced him to the ground, and made him lick it up, but if I had done that I should probably still be in prison. Instead, I said (my pusillanimity being the association of Nottingham with my dream), “What would your mother say if she heard you?”

Probably “Well done.” The chances were good that she was a slut or a slattern with three children by nineteen different men, the state now being father, financially speaking, to the child. So my words were about as effective as a NATO bombing campaign. You know immediately when you have said something ridiculous: your words extinguish themselves as you utter them, as if spoken through cotton wool.

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