Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

IS man a product more of his genes than of his environment? Oceans of ink, and even some blood, have been spilt over this question. I have thought of a new solution to this age-old puzzle: it doesn't matter in the least, at any rate with regard to man's bad habits. They get passed on one way or another.

The new solution occurred to me as I looked at the man in the first bed in our ward last week. He was deeply unconscious after taking drugs that some call 'recreational', coma being a popular form of entertainment round here (I must admit that it often immeasurably improves a patient's character). The comatose man had a tattoo of a spider's web radiating from the tip of his nose.

As he was unable to answer any questions about himself, I called his doctor.

'I can't put a face to his name,' he said.

The man's girlfriend turned up later. She looked about as pure as the beaten slut: peroxided hair, a metal spike through her eyebrow, apple-green, genital-hugging Lycra shorts. She was indeed beaten regularly by the arachnophile, and often called the police, later dropping the charges in the name of love.

She brought - or perhaps dragged would be a better way of putting it - her two young bastards with her, the malignity of whose facial expressions were fearful to behold, considering they were but two and three years old. One wouldn't have had to be a witch in Macbeth to predict their future: abandonment by their father, followed by tattoos as multiple as their father's, and a life of crime. Genes or environment? …

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