Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

Judge not that ye be not judgmental, for in making a judgment you commit the worst, indeed the only, possible sin in an age of tolerance. This, perhaps, is the modern equivalent of the paradox of the Cretan liar: that we judge negatively only those who judge negatively.

It follows from moral relativism that we live in the best of all possible worlds, since every custom is equally good and each way of life equally 'valid'. There is no Archimedean moral point from which to condemn anything; only celebration of difference is permissible. Self-congratulation is the greatest, the only, virtue.

Let us therefore praise the child-rearing practices of my patient last week who had half-starved her baby and beaten it severely while under the influence of crack cocaine. The baby having been, as she put it, 'took off me', she went straight to the pills and swallowed a handful.

I asked as delicately as I could, with apology in my intonation, about the father of the baby.

'No,' she said firmly.

I was a little puzzled.

'No,' I repeated. 'What do you mean, no?'

'He don't have nothing to do with it.'

What is this 'it' of which she spoke? Whatever 'it' referred to changed rapidly.

'It was a one-night stand.' She paused. 'I've known him for ten years, it just happened, until then he'd been a kind of friend. He's a registered psychopath.'

I couldn't help but recall a patient in the prison who had introduced himself to me by saying, Tm one of Her Majesty's psychopaths.' You might forgive a man a lot for uttering a phrase like that - if, of course, you could make a judgment about him in the first place. …

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