SPP: We are hoping you can give our listeners a look into your background and your general beliefs for those that aren’t familiar with your works.
Anthony Daniels: Well I’m a doctor and for quite a number of years I worked in the third world and then I worked in a relatively poor part of England in a General Hospital and also in a prison. I suppose a lot of my interest has been in the nature of poverty and the cause of poverty. I’ve been, again a kind of economist in which sees poverty just as an economic problem.
SPP: I know when I wrote you specifically I was speaking of your book “Our Culture: What’s Left of It”.
Anthony Daniels: Right.
SPP: You talked about how you chose to work with poor people and prison inmates because you had a fascination with evil and you wanted to understand its causes. Where do you think that fascination or that idea came from?
Anthony Daniels: Well I think evil is always a very interesting subject. I mean virtually everyone is interested in it. I don’t think anybody could say that they find evil boring. I suppose it might come partly from the fact that my mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany, and also in my travels I saw a lot of civil wars, but at any rate it enforced my interest in what it is that leads people to do that makes terrible evil. When I returned to England what I discovered is that without any external compulsion quite large numbers of people are willing and want to behave evilly.
SPP: Is it fair to conclude that you believe that man is not inherently good?
Anthony Daniels: Yes I don’t think that man is inherently and necessarily evil either I think he has the capacity both good and evil, but I certainly don’t believe that left without society, left without any structure in life man would be good. I don’t believe in man as an innocent.
SPP: Do you think that your work with criminals and things like that has made you skeptical or do you think that it’s inherent everywhere that people can be good or evil?
Anthony Daniels: My mother used to accuse me of having a kind of distorted view because I worked in prison for so long and therefore tended to see, shall we say not the best people in society, of course to a policemen almost everyone is a lawbreaker. Actually I saw as much evil outside prison than inside prison. I became very much aware I think that I’m just this some kind of conventional structure against evil and people will commit evil.
SPP: Can you talk a little bit about your experiences while working in the prison?
Anthony Daniels: I worked as a security guard in the prison and also as a general doctor I was on duty one night in maybe three or four for about 15 years one weekend and then every three or four for 15 years. So I saw an awful lot in that I spent more time in prison probably than the average murder by the time I finished. But I found it’s very interesting, of course a very interesting experience. There were things that were very encouraging really the vast majority of prisoners were actually able to think about what they had done. If they were actually confronted with it I’m not saying it would change and seems to be criminal but they were not a completely different population from the rest of the population. I was surprised in a way that they were able to think about the world in moral terms.
SPP: If they weren’t irrational people did you find what caused them to commit some of the most unimaginable crimes?
Anthony Daniels: Well of course most prisoners haven’t committed unimaginable crimes I mean most criminals have committed unpleasant crimes. To have your house burglarized is a very unpleasant thing, but they were not unimaginable crimes. One of the things in England of course is that the punishment of criminals was so lax that the question really is not why there was so many burglars but why there was so few of them. Because it’s in many people’s economic interest to commit burglary and I suppose in a way that proves that man is not inherently evil.
To give you some statistics the fact is that an average burglar in Britain will do one day in person for every burglary that he commits. One day and it must be in the capacity of every burglar to steal more in a burglary than he could earn in a day.
SPP: I’ve never thought about crimes in an economic sense.
Anthony Daniels: Well in this sense crime actually does pay and therefore the question is why it makes it evil now with the way the high crime rate that we have in Britain. Even now most people do not commit crimes of this kind.
Anthony Daniels: And indeed it’s a relatively small proportion of the population that does commit crime what we find is that there is a refusal to incapacitate that small proportion of people. The reason for that I think is it is the way by which the middle class make sure that the cost of crime remain strictly where they arise, namely among the poor. Because one has to remember that not only do criminals mainly come from the relatively poor section of society, but so do their victims.
Since the class of victims is always many, many times larger than the class of perpetrators, the cost of each perpetrator to commit too many crimes, it follows that failure to incapacitate the perpetrators makes many victims and most of their victims are poor. So in other words, imprisonment of people like burglars is not something imposed on the poor it is a benefit received by the poor.
SPP: Oh okay. Could you talk about the time you spent in the very poor Sub-Saharan African cities and whatnot. Anthony Daniels: Yes.
SPP: Why did you choose to go there and what was it that you were looking for?
Anthony Daniels: I went to the Sub-Saharan Africa, well I had a wondrous, I mean I was very interested to just travel like many people like to travel and that was one thing. My first time in Africa was in what is now Zimbabwe it was in Indonesia a kind of dying colonialism and I was interested to see that colonialism before it died. Of course I had to stay for the exotic, but one of the things that I learned in Africa is that poverty, for example, does not necessarily entail violence and it doesn’t entail weakness. In fact for example, Tanzania the country where I spent three years was one of the first countries in the world, it probably still is, but the people were exquisitely delight. They were very well mannered so that the idea that bad manners and so forth comes directly from poverty is false.
SPP: I’m sure in your studies in your works, in those areas; you’ve witnessed those unimaginable crimes that I mentioned earlier, such as mass murders and things like that. Do you think that that is because of the lawless or the lack of government? I know that you are critical towards government in say Britain for the way that it handles its lower class, but in the same token they’re able to minimize or completely do away with these extremely horrible acts.
Anthony Daniels: Well it’s a difficult question because it is perfectly true that we don’t have mass murders in our society anywhere at the moment. Although it’s not that long ago that’s in Europe we did have the world’s possible mass murders. I don’t think they’re ever all that far from mass murder exactly having told that we are completely immune from the temptation.
For example if you take Rwanda which are religious, the idea that mass murderers aren’t necessarily monsters who are completely different from ourselves is not true, if you read [15:16] books where he actually interviews people who went around macheting people on a large scale. What is compunctioning is how normal they are. But within their small sphere people in our countries do a great deal of evil. They only don’t do it on a huge scale because there are still restraints, but actually it’s difficult to measure evil. How do you measure evil?
If you take, for example, a man I met in prison who threw acid in the face of his girlfriend because he was jealous. All right that’s not mass murder but it’s pretty evil and you don’t feel that that man would have all that much compunction about committing even worse crimes if he were able. So I find it difficult to answer your question.
SPP: I wanted to talk about what you said about the people, those who would go around macheting and everything, or actually not that abnormal. Do you think that it’s not abnormal to them because they live in such a kind of closed off society that they just are doing what they feel is relative to where they live instead of relative to the entire world and how we would view those things?
Anthony Daniels: Well you could explain their behavior. The question is how far an explanation is exultation I mean a lot of these people active from social pressure. There was also a fear of people in Rwanda, for example the Hutu people often forget what happened in Burundi. One of the problems of Rwanda and Burundi is that they’re near image societies so that where the Hutu were in control and masacrating the Tutsi.
In Rwanda it was the other way around than Burundi. People forget that in Burundi in 1972 about 200,000 Hutu, all of the Hutus who had been to secondary school were massacred by the Tutsi. So this creates kind of a permanent state of and paranoia about what’s going to happen to you if the other side gets into control. Once that kind of logic is setup you can see how people might react but still want to explore where the astonishment, where people could suddenly start attacking their own neighbors whom they’ve known for a long time.
With machetes kill them and then take their goods and celebrate actually these massacres by having feast. And yet you can’t say that these people are highly abnormal because when you interview them afterwards they are normal and there are too many of them to be abnormal. So if the circumstances this is why we have to pay attention to circumstances so closely, this potentially could be released anywhere. I don’t think you could just say “Well this is Central Africa therefore it has no application to us.”
SPP: Do you think that western civilization is allowing the lower class or the unmotivated, or even the criminals however you want to define them, to prosper due to our shift towards kind of libertarianism and equality? Do you think we should go more towards survival of the fittest and let them, I mean if you will, die out because they don’t have the means to survive?
Anthony Daniels: Well I don’t think I would quite put it like that. I don’t like the idea of who huge groups of people dying out, presumably I suppose of starvation or something like that.
Anthony Daniels: I think what has happened is that the morale of quite a large section of western society, and not just in Britain, Britain is particularly bad, but it isn’t confined to Britain has been undermined by a combination of economic factors that demand for unskilled labor. For example, have gone in part of course because of social security, social security makes unskilled labor very expensive because it makes it more expensive to employ than the value it can add. So the whole system continues.
But at the same time there has been an undermining of the idea that there should be a structure in life, which is ever stated poor people, when I say poor people I mean relatively poor people. There are no absolutely poor people in western society anymore. So that’s just to give you a very simple example. In the hospital in which I worked you never found a young person who had any kind of relation with his or her father, practically never. When I say father I mean biological father.
In Britain now children are more likely to have a television in their bedroom than they are to have a father living in their home and 36% of British children never eat a meal at a table with any other member of their family, never. I think you will find America there are areas of the country in which something similar is going on.
SPP: Absolutely. Yeah I wouldn’t doubt it.
Anthony Daniels: So this seems to me I think, and just from the point of view of common sense, this is dreadful. It happened for a variety of reasons that have been fiscal encouragement of it, but there’s also been ideological encouragements of it the idea that she doesn’t really matter how families are constituted. That might of course be so in the outer reaches of society where people have large amounts of money and where they can compensate in some way. The fact is money does compensate for a lot of things, although incidentally families are most stable in the outer reaches.
So while on the one hand intellectuals have been preaching the loosening, if you’d like, of family structures actually they really haven’t been practicing as much themselves as with people who know in the social spectrum, where the effects of have been absolutely devastating.
SPP: I wanted to touch a little bit on the aspect of television real quick. I’d read that you don’t own a TV set and haven’t owned one for over 30 years and I wanted to see if you truly think that television is really eroding our society, especially in America.
Anthony Daniels: Well, I suppose it would sound a bit ridiculous to say but to answer in the affirmative, if I have a television I think its 40 years now.
SPP: Oh wow!
Anthony Daniels: I didn’t miss it in months if you haven’t had it for so long of course it never even occurs to you to watch it. It doesn’t occur to you as a possibility if not part of your life, which means that in my case I’m a bit off because people world famous are completely unrecognizable. I mean as a friend of mine said “A celebrity is someone I’ve never heard of.” I do think the effect is pretty dreadful on the whole, especially again in the lower regions of ostracizing and what you see, actually what you find this is a correlation, and of course correlation doesn’t prove causation. The fact is that the worst off and the more desperate the situation of a group of people would be more hours they spend watching television.
Now if there is a positive relationship people might say “Oh that’s because they’re desperate”, but they watch television but it’s not very likely that television improves watching a lot of television, improves their chances, improves their morale, improve their determination to better themselves.
SPP: I want to switch gears a little bit. I read that you’re an atheist and you became an atheist at age 14 in response to a moment in a school assembly.
Anthony Daniels: Well actually it was earlier than 14 I was about nine.
SPP: Oh okay.
Anthony Daniels: We had to pray in school assembly and we were told of course that we had to shut our eyes and if we opened our eyes God would leave. I won’t go into the theology of all that but I don’t think it’s probably very orthodox. But anyway that’s what we were told. Of course I wanted to see God leaving. I thought if I could suddenly open my eyes maybe I would capture him leaving. Instead of seeing God leaving what I saw was the head master with his beady eye sort of [24:49] the children. And I came to the conclusion that he was a terrible hypocrite, and therefore God didn’t exist, he didn’t really believe that God existed. He was telling us a lot of things that he himself did not believe. All this is not very high-powered philosophy but that’s how people form their beliefs.
SPP: Then I also wanted to ask you a lot of people reason why mankind is here, what we’re doing on earth they do it through belief and religion where sometimes I think they create problems or circumstances so that they have to give themselves meaning.
Anthony Daniels: Yeah.
SPP: If you don’t have the religious beliefs and you also don’t have the inherent belief that man is good, which it’s a nice feeling although it might not be true, where do you find your joy? Where do you find meaning? I guess it’s a pretty grand question but I just wanted to see your thoughts on that?
Anthony Daniels: Well I’m certainly not, although I’m not religious myself, I’m certainly not antireligious. I wouldn’t want to live in a theocracy so I’m actually quite pro religious and I’m no longer interested in trying to argue with people out of their beliefs. For myself I suppose my work is what gets me that feeling that my life just is not just one damn thing after another.
Anthony Daniels: But I recognize that for a lot people their work will not provide them with that kind of content and meaning. One of the things I think that Marxism did, of course they’re anti Marxist, but one of the things Marxism did was to give people a feeling of transcending they were part of march of history and therefore there was more to their lives than their day-to- day flocks. And of course there was Marxism that’s gone if you don’t have religion, but also of course at the lower end of the social spectrum don’t actually have any fear of hunger. If you had only fear of hunger then survival itself is not a transcending purpose because you can’t do anything other than survive really.
I mean I once asked that audience what would you have to do to starve to death in Holland assuming that you do not go on hunger strikes. How could you starve in Holland? The fact is you couldn’t. And so for people who don’t have any religious beliefs, don’t have any real cultural interest, they don’t have any deep political beliefs of sort of Marxist kind they don’t have any content in them, and therefore they feel their lives with sensation. Just to go back to your question I suppose I find my meaning in writing.
SPP: Do you think there’s anything wrong with filling your life with sensation because I do, I like that idea. I mean I personally think you’re right?
Anthony Daniels: I’m not an authentic, I do go into sensation myself and I’m a person who has enjoyed danger in my life almost [28:11]. I don’t much do it now but I’ve put myself in extremely dangerous positions and I love to be in dangerous positions. So I’m not against sensation in itself. I mean it’s true that when I put myself in dangerous situations because for some other purposes as well.
So I’m not against sensation in itself but when this is the whole of your life it becomes insufficient and then there become the kind of arms race logic of it. Sensation has to be more and more sensational. One of the things and one of the causes I think, I can’t prove it, definitely one of the causes of social pathology where people opt in obviously self destructive causes and put up with the most terrible violence or inflict the most terrible violence is that at least makes their life interesting in some way. If you don’t have any religious belief, we don’t have any cultural interest then that’s almost the only way you can get interest in your life if you don’t get interested in work. So you indulge in social pathology and you have crisis so you live in kind of a perpetual soap opera of your own life, at least it keeps boredom away.
SPP: Right. I read that you’d interviewed over 10,000 people who have attempted suicide.
Anthony Daniels: Yes.
SPP: I was wondering if you had seen any similarities and thought processes or common themes that kind of were glaring that you could share with us.
Anthony Daniels: Well there were various strands, of course in 10,000 people you can see more than one strand, and there were many kinds of strands, fairly large proportion of the gestures were made as emotional blackmail. They were trying to get someone else to behave in a certain way in respondent to the threat to repeat the overdose.
Anthony Daniels: It was usually an overdose is usually taking too many tablets. I mean there were kinds but there were interesting subgroups. For example, in England it used to be the case that many more women than men took overdoses, but that has changed and now more men than women are taking overdoses. What I discovered was that many of the men, I mean many of the young people than an old person takes an overdose the old person usually intends to die, unlike the younger people. With the young men you often found, that in fact the majority of the cases they were violent in their relations with women. There were three things that made them take an overdose. The first was that they might want to establish a psychiatric condition if there were going to be court case because of their violence, but that wasn’t very common. They also wants to present themselves to the person whom they’ve been violent either remorseful or has suffering themselves. This of course often works and they also do in order to persuade themselves or something along with themselves so that they’re violence wasn’t really them. It wasn’t something that they wanted to do it came from outside and this was a kind of plea for help. But actually when look at violence what you found was that the violence in a certain way was rational and it had a certain end which was to control women. But of course eventually women would not put up with it. So they would then take an overdose to present themselves either [32:29] or remorseful once they’re there.
SPP: Oh okay.
Anthony Daniels: The woman would then come back.
SPP: If you would like please tell our listeners – I already mentioned your book “Our Culture What’s Left of It”, which was amazing and I recommend it to everyone we’ll post that on our Web site. If you would like to tell them about any other books you have out there or a Web site that you would like to lead them to.
Anthony Daniels: There’s a book that I wrote called “Romancing Opium”. In terms of books it’s about our misconception of particularly heroin addiction, but actually addictions of all kind in which I claim that it is not principally a medical problem.
SPP: Absolutely. We’ll provide a link to that one as well. So again thank you so much for your time and we really appreciate what you had to say.
Anthony Daniels: Thank you very much. Thank you.