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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Generalist, conservative, acerbic grouching, 25 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Kindle Edition)
17% of the way through and have to release my own rant. About to have a baby, and like the author somewhat prone to over-criticism of others, I am all too aware of the current cult of self-congratulation that surrounds childrearing. I hoped to find in this text a thoughtful critique that would help me outline where sentimentality stands apart from caring about and acting on a mindful, enjoyable, inclusive model for family life.

Instead I find the reading ridiculous in its conservatism, lack of balance and frank bitchiness, increasingly pushing me to defend whatever vagaries the author so patently despises under this oddly chosen blanket of "sentimentality". I agree with Dalrymple that (western?) humankind's emphasis on happiness is the start and end of our big fat suffering. This is a complex matter and begs the question as to what alternatives really exist in the consciousness of humans and other species. Fair enough, Dalrymple isn't here to talk about that. But s/he gets me incensed immediately by overestimating the human intellect with the sole purpose of denigrating it. "Sentimentality" becomes a contemptful and miserably inadequate method of delivering a rant, to people who like reading rants, about our various social failures and enormous philosophical crises. How about targeting the real mindset many people are born with and into - our inability to find or ask about purpose in life? Our general indifference to others? Loss of community? It is a grumpy lie that sentimentality and indulgence and the belief in love underpins these things.

I don't think Dalrymple really believes that illiteracy and violence is rooted solely in our perceived right to happiness - I think he struggled for a marketable wrapper and arrived wrong-footedly at sentimentalism. Where I think he goes wildly wrong is to link whatever this moral failure is to an erosion of reason and intellect, where plenty of philosophers continue argue against reason as an organising principle of life. This is where I believe he overestimates what people are capable of and reduces our failings to matters of rational choice in a blameful and entirely non-productive way. This guy thinks in black and white and he's pretty outrageous with it - arguing that the great poets are not great thinkers, that education is either romantic or didactic, that romanticism is sentimentalism.

Other irksome qualities of the text so far:
Cherry picked statistics
Chanting, oppressive tone
Unexplained comparisons with other countries
Attacks on individuals, such as educationists

I will continue reading as perhaps it is my own one-dimensional views that are shaping the text up for me like this. So far, I think Dalrymple should have taken a leaf out of his own order-obsessed manual for life and written with a more careful handle on his personal prejudices.
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Location: londonuk

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