New year, new language

The economy is at best stagnant, but at least the English language is moving full speed ahead. ‘Only cross with green figure,’ say new pedestrian-crossing signs in Lincolnshire, consigning the familar green man to oblivion. ‘It’s seen a little bit like it’s sexist,’ explains a Boston borough councillor, proudly displaying the command of English style we’ve come to expect from public officials.

It is sexist, more than a little bit — there’s absolutely no doubt about it. In fact we’ve known for a long time that the word ‘man’, along with the corresponding personal pronoun, is deeply offensive no matter how it’s used. True, old codgers are obstinately clinging to such foul obscenities as ‘chairman’, not realising how much more mellifluous, not to mention progressive, Mr Chair sounds to anyone with a modicum of sensitivity. Said codgers even dare object to sentences like ‘Every one of ManU players knows their role.’ Yes, as the team features only men (their today’s performance notwithstanding), claim the insensitive pedants, we wouldn’t offend too many people by following ‘one’ with ‘his’. Just goes to show how behind the times they are: never mind grammar, it’s the principle that counts.

Quite right too. My only quibble — and I know I have to watch my step here — is the word ‘figure’ as a replacement for the ‘m’ word. There’s nothing wrong with it, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve grown so fond of ‘person’ that I’ll be sorry to see it go. But this nitpicking in no way casts aspersion on the noble effort to bring our language in line with our innermost feelings.

In that spirit I suggest that Boston council hasn’t gone far enough. That the ‘m’ word, meaning a human person-figure of the masculine sex — pardon me, gender — needs to bite the dust goes without saying. What I propose is that the ghastly combination of letters should be banned — and I do mean banned, act of Parliament and all — altogether, even if the letters don’t add up to anything seen as remotely sexist or chauvinist in Boston. Better safe than sorry, I say.

This kind of figurepulation (or figuregling, if you’d rather) of the language may take some time for some figures to get used to. But give us a year or two, a few court cases, and this change will be not only figuredatory but cordially welcomed by all, from London to Figurechester. Before long the use of the letter combination I no longer can bring myself to spell out will be regarded as bad figureners. Perhaps in time a style figureual could be issued advising on how to incorporate this verbal figureure into everyday language. That way we’ll all concentrate on things that are really important in life, rather than such incidentals as economic meltdown, or patients dying of hospital-acquired MRSI, or criminals mugging old figures in the street.

Happy New Year and big thanks to every figure and wofigure who reads this blog. God willing, I’ll continue my reactionary musings in 2012. Always provided I give Boston a wide berth.



Crime and (community) punishment

That convicts spared gaol attack 50 people a day may be news. But it’s nothing new. Nor is it surprising: a country that’s too timid to punish criminals properly is encouraging crime. And a country where Ken ‘Kenneth’ Clarke is Justice Secretary is positively begging for it.

Ken ‘Kenneth’, mostly reflecting the bias of those who live in low-crime areas, believes in community punishment even more fervently than he believes in the EU. He dislikes prisons much more than he dislikes criminals. We can’t afford any more prisons, he claims. And even if we could, we shouldn’t have them because prison doesn’t work.

Now, since my wife doesn’t approve of swearing, I’m not going to tell you what I think of Clarke’s moral and intellectual qualities. Moreover, in the spirit of this Christmas season, I’ll consider his arguments as if they were worthy of consideration. It’s not all about displaying seasonal generosity – it’s also knowing that many of our MPs share Clarke’s views. I realised this a few months ago when attending a debate on the issue, with an MP and even a minister repeating the same mindless mantra: prison doesn’t work. Why? Because there’s no evidence it makes people better.

That’s true. But then neither do supermarkets, restaurants, stadiums, railway stations – and yet we have them all, secure in the knowledge that improving people isn’t their function. Neither is it the function of prisons. But this obvious fact is somehow doubted precisely by the people who are paid to know better.

Prison works in many ways. Some will see it as simple retributive justice, as Kant did. Others will emphasise its deterrent value. Still others will feel that prison, in addition to its obvious utility in isolating criminals from their potential victims, has a great symbolic value. It asserts the moral superiority of good over evil, thereby restoring the social serenity upset by the wicked deed. It also communicates to all and sundry that society has convictions — and the courage of its convictions. These are things that prison and, in the absence of the death penalty, only prison does successfully.

What it demonstrably neither can nor is designed to achieve is the elimination of evil and the moral regeneration of mankind. This is a task, often an impossible one, for the church, not for the state. The only lives that can and should be improved by punishment are those of the good people outside prisons, not those of the bad people inside. And that happens to be the whole idea.

People considerably cleverer than Ken Clarke have always known this. For example, Luther divided the world into the religious and secular realms and argued that the Sermon on the Mount only applied to the spiritual one. In the physical world, the balance between faith and duty to the community imposes compromises. Thus a judge, as a servant of the public, should follow his secular obligations to sentence a criminal to prison, if such a verdict is appropriate. But, as a servant of God, he ought to mourn the criminal’s fate and pray for his soul. Justice in the secular world has to function according to the Old, not New, Testament. Turning the other cheek saves people’s souls. ‘An eye for an eye’ saves their lives and property.

Those who don’t think prison works should tell that to the wife of a murder victim. Or to a pensioner robbed of his life’s savings. Or to a woman raped and beaten within an inch of her life. No doubt they’ll all agree. Moreover, tell it to New Yorkers who saw their city transformed from a crime-infested hellhole into a reasonably civilised place by Mayor Giuliani’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’. The policy was simple: Giuliani had a lot of prisons built and filled to the brim. The crime rate instantly dropped to a manageable level, if not quite zero. Next problem.

As to the state not being able to afford prisons, this argument is even more spurious. The state has only a few legitimate functions, and primary among them is protecting its citizens from attacks by both foreign enemies and domestic criminals. It’s for this purpose that the state was instituted in the first place. It’s the only purpose that must be achieved regardless of cost. So predictably our army and law enforcement are the only public services that are indeed suffering savage cuts – politicians see them as soft targets.

The state might have come into being to provide for internal and external security – our spivocratic state serves a different purpose: the self-perpetuation of the spivocrats. Where will the money come from? they bleat, shifting the argument from philosophy to arithmetic. I have an idea: why not dip into the £10-billion foreign-aid budget, which is enjoying nice little increases while we supposedly can’t afford hospital beds, never mind prisons?

We’re already spending more on foreign aid than either Germany or France, and most of the money goes to economies capable of cranking out space rockets and nuclear bombs. Surely, Messrs Clarke and Cameron, you could spare a few billion to protect us from vicious thugs? After all, community punishment was supposed to mean punishment in the community. Not of it.





The best hospital is no hospital, says the NHS

The suggestion that the NHS in general and hospital care in particular could be better wouldn’t fly in the face of empirical evidence. Deadly hospital-acquired infections are at an all-time high. Waiting lists are crippling, in many instances literally. Men and women are made to share the same crowded wards, something that didn’t even happen in the Soviet Union. When already in hospital, patients, often writhing in pain, have to wait days before being seen by a specialist (spoken from personal, nearly fatal, experience at one of London’s newest and best NHS hospitals). In short, Britain is the only first-world country with third-world medical care.

There’s clearly a problem there, and the bright sparks in the NHS have come up with a solution to make King Solomon proud. The best way for a patient to protect himself from an NHS hospital is to stay out. No hospital, no problem.

‘The old hospital-based system has to develop into a more preventative, community-based system,’ says Steve Fields of NHS Future Forum. The word is ‘preventive’, not ‘preventative’, but let’s not get pedantic about the odd extra syllable. People in or around government services must be paid per syllable, which explains their style, straight out of Mrs Malaprop’s School of English as First Language. They’ve developed their own vocabularies and their own logic, but in this case the latter is unassailable. Especially if patients aren’t bleeding too fast.

‘It’s much better for a good number of patients to be cared for in their homes,’ according to Mike Farrar, head of the NHS Confederation. How good a number? Well, one in four actually. In fact, too many misguided people have come to think of ‘hospitals being a place of default.’ But that’s exactly what they are, Mr Farrar. A patient goes to a GP, who prescribes something. If the medicine doesn’t work, the GP will refer the patient to a specialist, who (after an inevitable wait of a few weeks) will try a few tricks of his own. Those failing, the patient may go into hospital — as precisely ‘a place of default’. It’s hard to believe that, in an ideal world where publicly financed hospitals don’t routinely use MRSI as a deadly weapon, one in four patients would be better treated at home, where neither the facilities nor the personnel available can possibly match those even at an NHS hospital.

‘If we release the costs of these beds… — then that’s the right thing to do,’ opines Mike Farrar. But the costs of hospital beds have been ‘released’ for years, with the funds shifted into burgeoning administrative staffs. One example: a Birmingham hospital recently reduced its number of beds while hiring, at the cost of £100,000 a year, a Director of Diversity, who immediately proceeded to issue illiterate memoranda on the importance of being sensitive to cultural differences. The tendency of replacing frontline medical services with PC buffoons hints at the real purpose behind the NHS or any other gigantic socialist project. This has less to do with its declared aim than with expanding the government’s control of peoples’ lives. One senses that those directly in charge of that function, all those optimisers of facilitation and facilitators of optimisation, look at doctors, nurses and beds as irritating hindrances. Those irrelevancies get in the way of the real work.

To be fair, the government is trying to change the balance by taking some money from the Peter of admin to pay the Paul of medicine. The overall NHS budget is growing of course, God forbid it should be otherwise, crisis or no crisis, meltdown or no meltdown. But the rate of growth has slowed down to something like 0.5% a year after inflation, which is enough for the worshippers of the NHS God to scream about savage cuts. Their problem is that the government, under pressure from its own backbenchers and voters (remember them?), seems to be acting contrary to what the NHS is really all about. With money going into frontline services, there may not be enough left to pay for all those bureaucratic freeloaders with their targets and memoranda.

What matters about socialised medicine is the adjective, not the noun. Hence the proposed changes, clearly designed to get the runaway train back on track. Makes one wonder why no other Western European country, most of them even more socialist than we are, has totally nationalised medicine.




The destructive myth of equality

To the American founding fathers the ‘truth that all men are created equal’ was ‘self-evident’. It’d better be, for it certainly can’t be proved.

True equality can only exist in heaven; in earth, the belief that all men are created equal is wishful thinking. For men are created unequal in strength, intelligence, character – well, in everything. Earthly inequality is thus a natural order of things, and it can only be distorted by unnatural means. Even then it won’t disappear; it’ll be replaced by a worse type of inequality or else camouflaged by demagoguery.

For example, most egalitarians acknowledge that equality of result is a pie in the sky. However, they insist that equality of opportunity is a laudable and achievable goal. In fact, it’s the other way around. Equality of result can indeed be achieved by levelling downwards (the only direction in which it’s ever possible to level). It’s possible to confiscate all property and pay citizens barely enough to keep them alive. It’s possible to create dumbed-down schools that’ll make everyone equally ignorant. It’s possible to provide equal healthcare for all that has little to do with either caring or health. What’s absolutely impossible is to guarantee equality of opportunity. A child with two parents will have better opportunities in life than a child raised by one parent. A child growing up surrounded by books will have a greater opportunity to develop intellectually than his coeval growing up surrounded by crushed beer cans. The son of two tennis pros will have a greater opportunity to learn the game than the son of two accountants.

An important thing to remember about egalitarianism is that levelling downwards isn’t just the only possible direction but, for its champions, the only desirable one. To Burke ‘compulsory equalisations,’ could only mean ‘equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary.’ To modern egalitarians they are the shining beacon. But any true equality is anathema to them, and it’s amusing to watch them pretend it’s not, against both empirical evidence and common sense.

Progressive income taxation highlights this by setting up a conflict between two pieties. On the one hand, redistributive taxes strike a blow for ‘equality’ as they push high earners down to a lower level. On the other hand, they are a flagrant violation of the principle of equality under the law.

Obviously, someone who makes twice as much as someone else must pay twice as much tax in absolute terms. But making him pay three or four times the proportion of his income makes all believers in justice cry havoc and let slip… well, they have no one to let slip. Their cause isn’t supported by anyone, save for a few eccentrics.

But for egalitarians the choice is clear: they are prepared to sacrifice justice, fairness and even utility (flat tax rates would make the economy healthier) at the altar of ‘equality’. The results of such urges are best shown by the example of the USA: 50% of all Americans pay no income tax; over 50% of all taxes are paid by the wealthiest 3% of households; 90% are paid by the wealthiest 10%. In Western Europe the situation is even worse. Thus in any reasonable sense, when applied to this levelling run riot, the word ‘equality’ is a misnomer.

Yet it’d be wrong to say that equality is a pipe dream. In fact, every country in the world has achieved it, if only in small enclaves. There people’s clothes, food, lodgings and indeed rights aren’t merely equal but identical. Their medical care and education are free, and things like TV sets and sports facilities are equally available to all. These perfectly egalitarian places are called gaols, and indeed prison is the epitome of egalitarian aspirations, the ideal towards which they strive.

This is an illustration of an immutable truth: the relationship between freedom and equality can only be inverse. The more of one, the less of the other. Total tyranny is a precondition for total equality (that is, below the level of the tyrant, who stands above the equal masses the same way the unequal prison warder stands above the equal inmates). What’s more, egalitarians know this, as they are aware of the dubious provenance of their animadversions. They know that any other than a half-hearted attempt to equalise people will only succeed in impoverishing them. In that event the modern megalomaniac state would renege on the only real (as opposed to virtual) promise on which its legitimacy rests: prosperity.

People’s minds, normally numbed to accept make-believe as real, will wake up with a jolt when the physical trappings of their lives are threatened. They may have been brainwashed to sing hosannas to equality, but the songs will turn to screams of rage the moment people are made to move out of their suburban houses into communal hellholes. That would be an inevitable result of attempting equality for real. For it’s extreme inequality that’s the end of a lifelong ‘pursuit of happiness’ canonised in America and everywhere else. It couldn’t be otherwise: The road to economic growth has to be infinitely long, but our earthly lives aren’t. Different people will stop at different points along the way.

Striving for equality – other than before God and the law – is thus a structural defect of our society. Let’s pray it won’t bring it down. Let’s fear it may.

And speaking of Christmas messages…

…wasn’t the Queen’s speech inspiring? One tiny quibble: Her Majesty said that members of the Commonwealth family retain their ‘individualism’. Surely she meant ‘individuality’? What for the Queen was probably a slip of the tongue, God bless her, is for society a slip in standards. Individualism isn’t the same as individuality — more often it’s its denial. For example, tattooing ACAB on one’s knuckles, or even a flower on one’s ankle, betokens an individualism overblown at the expense of individuality. Let’s hear it for semantics.

Rowan Williams wins on points

‘Dr Williams is right’ aren’t words that cross my mind regularly, if ever. Practising the art of English understatement, something to which I’m privy only vicariously, I can safely say I haven’t always been Dr Williams’s most devoted fan. The Archbishop consistently gravitates towards the modernising agenda within the Anglican church, which I regard as a shortcut to atheism. And when he ventures outside his immediate expertise, he tends to express views somewhat to the left of the Guardian‘s editorial policy, which I regard as harebrained as it is destructive.

But comparing his Christmas message with the Archbishop of Westminster’s, I have to hand it to Dr Williams: the points he made are more telling. Vincent Nichols expressed episcopal sympathy for the 50 Palestinian families losing their land to Israeli ‘expropriation’. It would have been more in keeping with his mission to mention hundreds of Christians losing their lives to Muslim terrorism. The bomb murdering 35 worshippers in Nigeria provided an awful postscriptum to the Archbishop’s PC platitudes (something to which he is increasingly given — comes with the territory, one supposes).

By contrast, Dr Williams said, ‘Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop… or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost… in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.’ Appalled by the parallel between smelly rioters and aftershaved City chaps , the Tory party, in the person of Gary Streeter, responded immediately: ‘The Archbishop of Cantenbury is on safer grounds when he sticks to moral and spiritual issues.’ The implication is that finance never overlaps with such issues, which these days is doubtless true. But this truth is toxic, and the Archbishop was absolutely right to point this out.

Dr Williams’s form in this area suggests that he has not just specific but general misgivings about ‘capitalism’. Whenever I hear this word mentioned, I always think it would be worth a try. Under no circumstances can an economy in which the government spends nearly 50% of GDP (closer to 75% in the outer areas of the UK) be termed capitalist. But whatever the economy is, when it’s ripped off its ethical underpinnings, it’ll be cast adrift into the sea of virtuality. Nor can an economy be morally self-regulating: to expect this would be to deny the imperfect nature of man. For the suits not to join the anoraks in the devil’s work of atomising society, the morality governing business has to come from outside, from an authority so much higher than man that we all fall under its umbrella. Whatever you believe personally, you have to recognise that, given our history and constitution, such a unifying authority can only come from Christianity.

When financiers and businessmen claim they are driven by their own conscience, what they really mean is that their morality is elastic enough to allow opportunism under all circumstances. When they feel responsible only to their own or secular rules, they indeed create a virtual world  — one where banks don’t hesitate to accumulate bad debts 100 times their total capitalisation; where High-Frequency Traders can dispose of their total holdings in hours, which frantic trading creates share prices bearing no relation to any underlying value; where the combined value of the world’s outstanding derivatives equals 15 times the world’s GDP combined (this bomb is yet to go off); where financial institutions create surrogate money in the form of default swaps and other mechanisms; where personal indebtedness has replaced personal income throughout the West. When the unifying reality of our civilisation falls by the wayside, we indeed sink into a virtual world — in which we live on virtual money.

Remove God as the unifying principle, and money acquires sole redemptive value. The sociologist Max Weber pointed this out back in 1904: ‘Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life,’ He forgot to mention that, when this is the case, real money will eventually be replaced by its virtual caricature. 

Remove reality from life in general and money in particular, and society is indeed reduced to atoms, spinning every which way and occasionally smashing into one another. The anoraks at St Paul’s join the suits from further east in their common assault, and the Archbishop stays entirely within his realm when pointing this out. There’s nothing wrong with capitalism, provided its entrepreneurial freedom is exercised within a moral discipline. But, though godless capitalism is more attractive and less cannibalistic than godless communism, it’s ultimately just as destructive.

For once, Archbishop Williams has done his job. Yet again, Archbishop Nichols hasn’t. Will there be a rematch?






Christmas isn’t just for Christians

According to the PC consensus, non-Christians have nothing to celebrate tomorrow. Moreover, they are expected, indeed encouraged, to feel insulted whenever the word Christmas is mentioned. For atheists, agnostics, deists, Muslims and exponents of assorted eastern creeds, the birth of Christ is just any old bank holiday, whereas for Jews it’s time for thousands of Happy Hanukkah cards. One wonders if Hanukkah would be celebrated with as much pomp if it fell on any other month. After all, one doesn’t see too many Happy Purim or Merry Sukkoth cards for sale.

What one does see all over the place is Happy Holidays! replacing Happy Christmas! as the greeting of choice. ‘Thou shalt not offend’ trumps all other commandments, although no one in his right mind could possibly be offended. Even the supposedly pious Tony ‘Anthony’ Blair, whose religious faith matches his political principles in courageous fortitude, expunged the offensive allusion to Yuletide from his Chri… sorry, holiday cards. The fashion started in America and, as most perversions of the same provenance, took a few years to reach our shores. But now it’s firmly entrenched.

Yet while tomorrow Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the rest of the West should join them in celebrating the birth of our civilisation, the greatest the world has ever seen — or will ever see. For every Western achievement we recognise as such can be traced back to that humble birth.

Our music, towering over anything produced by any other culture, has direct church antecedents — and few other. So does our painting. So, largely, does our architecture. Translations of the Scripture, most emphatically including our own Tyndale and King James Bibles, had a formative effect on every Western language and therefore literature. The church was the sole source of education, and the principal influence on government, for many critical centuries of Western history. Our most important laws are derived from scriptural injunctions, as are our binding moral principles.

This much is widely known and commented upon. What receives less attention is the unique contribution Christianity made to Western science, the foundation of our material wealth. Can you name a single great scientist ever emerging from a non-Christian country? I know I can’t, not offhand. However, I can name many ignorant atheist fanatics who claim that Christianity somehow hindered scientific progress (Richard Dawkins, ring your office). What utter nonsense!

No religion is just worship; they all excrete and wrap around themselves a cocoon of intellectual premises that are more or less conducive to various pursuits. Judaeo-Christianity made scientific exploration possible for reasons unique to it. Unlike the Greeks who had a multitude of gods, each responsible for its own realm, Judaeo-Christianity teaches that God, and therefore the world, is one. That means that scientific and mathematical laws apply universally, and unity can be inferred from variety. Christianity also teaches that the material world was created by a rational God. It is therefore rationally constructed and rationally knowable, a realisation that never existed in either the classical or Eastern world. And finally, that event 2011 years ago established the sanctity of the material world, not just of the spirit. Uniting in his person God and man, the physical and the metaphysical, heaven and earth, Christ not only encouraged us to know and subdue the earth (that was done in Genesis), but he also made this possible.

You may or may not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. However,  those who lovingly nurtured our civilisation to splendour believed just that, and it was in his name that they toiled. Let’s say a word of thanks to those giants — and above all to their inspiration.

Happy Christmas to all, believers or not.





It’s not firecrackers that are going off in the Middle East

Democracy seekers in Syria have just murdered 30 more people with car bombs. Christians and Jews are being abused and killed, with their churches and synagogues torched, and their freedom of worship denied all over the Middle East — including Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, all traditionally tolerant lands (by the standards of the region). Bombs are going off in Iraq and Lybia, while Iran is building somewhat bigger bombs, ignoring threats from the Americans. The newly Islamised Turkey is engaged in verbal war against France, while threatening a real war against the Kurds.

All in eight-years’ work — congratulations to the neocons and other framers of foreign policy in the USA, along with their acolytes in other Nato countries. These consequences of their monumental obtuseness and Trotskyist bellicosity may have been unintended, but they were hardly unforseeable. They were indeed forseen not just by many commentators but also by their readers endowed with common sense and a basic knowledge of facts. The dire consequences may even have been forseen by the culprits themselves, but their ideology got the better of them.

Now is a good time, chaps, to think of your souls or, in the absence of such, just to think — in as dispassionate a manner as you can. Hard-boiled hearts, half-baked minds and flambée emotions aren’t good premises from which to contemplate serious matters, especially those involving multiple deaths and, potentially, a global conflict. Better still, look for a different line of work. May I suggest grave-digging in the Middle East? Plenty of business there already, and more to be had soon.

Consider this possibility while you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, or — more likely — simply raid shopping malls with nary a religious thought crossing your underdeveloped minds. Happy Christmas (please, not ‘holidays’) and a thoughtful New Year to you.




Fairness, and why it’s grossly unfair

Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, has a thought-provoking article in today’s Times. These are some of the thoughts it provoked in me.

First the good news: unlike so many other top clergymen, what Bishop Richard says about our financial troubles is mostly right: the nature of the present crisis isn’t just economic but primarily moral. I admit to a personal interest in this subject. In fact, in the spirit of unbridled capitalism divorced from any moral substance, I’d like to commend to your attention my book on this very theme (The Crisis Behind Our Crisis, SMP 2011). The Bishop correctly says that, at a time of crisis, society will never emerge unscathed and whole in the absence of a moral and spiritual adhesive, which, in the West, can only come from Christianity. He’s also right in predicting that things will get worse, and massive social unrest is likely to follow. In order to survive the coming period of austerity, ‘we shall have to relearn… the story of the birth of the infant king in a poor family.’ Again he’s absolutely right, and this is a rousing pastoral message, especially considering whose birthday we’re about to celebrate.

Now the bad news: like so many other top clergymen, Bishop Richard has yielded to the sin of equating Christian values with ‘fair distribution of awards’, which is to say economic egalitarianism. And it is ‘the Occupy protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral…[who] show how impossible it is to live as if finance and ethics are unconnected.’ This, for me, destroys the otherwise powerful call to arms. What those protesters show is something else altogether.

Fairness implies just desserts, payment in proportion to the value of one’s work. Hence if ‘awards’ were indeed distributed fairly, those Occupy protesters would starve. According to St Paul, a source Bishop Richard probably regards as unimpeachable, ‘this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.’ It’s not fairness that those cathedral befoulers demand, but gross unfairness: taking a lot out without putting anything in. Sensing that this bonanza will soon have to be curtailed for lack of funds, they pitch their smelly tents as a way of blackmailing the state, all too eager to be blackmailed.

When a beggar asks for a coin, we give it to him not out of fairness but out of mercy. But when a strapping youngster fraudulently collects his ‘sickie’, he’s on the receiving end of neither fairness nor mercy. He is a subject in a giant social experiment that’s ruining us all — not just financially but morally as well. Jesus talked about ‘a labourer worthy of his hire’, not a freeloader, malingering with the state’s acquiescence, worthy of his social benefits. Antisocial, is more like it.

The Bishop probably doesn’t realise that he has become party to the great larcenous shift of modernity, whereby Christian values are pilfered from the rightful owner, shifted into the secular domain and perverted. Thus Christian expansiveness was transformed into modern expansionism, Christian introspection became modern obsession with psychology, understood in a materialistic way. And thus Christian charity turned into materialistic egalitarianism of a most vulgar and pernicious kind.

Our governing spivs use ‘fairness’ for self-perpetuation; they buy their votes with our money by creating an army of dependents who’ll never vote for a party favouring small government, real justice, hard work. So far the stratagem has worked, after a fashion. But all those free chickens are springing out of pots and coming to roost. A realisation is sinking in that capitalist production can’t support socialist (‘fair’) distribution — not indefinitely. If we are to survive as a free nation at all, the gravy train has to be derailed; we simply can’t afford to keep it rolling along. But three generations of people have already been irredeemably corrupted by ‘fairness’ — they want their handouts, and if they don’t get them, they’ll take to the streets and build barricades, not those foul tents.

‘We are still borrowing £400 million a day,’ laments the Bishop, without realising that this suicidal borrowing proceeds apace precisely because the spivocrats feel they have to go on paying for ‘fair distribution of awards’. They are quaking in their boots at the thought of riots, compared to which the summer disturbances will look like innocent fun. They know they’ll be helpless: their own MPs are screaming that the use of plastic bullets and water cannon would be ‘indiscriminate and dangerous’. Yes, live rounds would work better, but this option isn’t on the table, is it?

The government ministers are stuck in the corner they themselves have painted. And the top Christian minister of London should use his moral authority to remind them of another Christian virtue: courage. They already know the ‘fairness’ bit, Your Lordship. That’s precisely the problem.




Kicking football racism into touch

In parallel develoments, the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Chelsea’s John Terry were charged with racial offences, the former by the FA, the latter, earlier today, by the CPS. Suarez has been banned for eight games and fined £40,000. Terry’s offence carries a maximum fine of £2,500 but, if convicted, he’ll have a criminal record. Let’s look at the two cases.

Even by the standards of his profession, Suarez can hardly be confused with an altar boy. When signed by Liverpool from Ajax last season, he was serving a seven-game ban for biting a defender. I don’t know what line of defence he pursued in Holland, presumably that he was feeling peckish, but whatever it was it didn’t work. Earlier this month, while awaiting the FA’s verdict, he saluted the terraces with an outstretched middle finger. Among other things this testifies to his insufficient sensitivity to the British cultural idiom: in this country, Luis, we do it with two fingers. This isn’t America, you know.

In fact, it’s Suarez’s poor command of English that seems to have caused the offence. He, in common, incidentally, with Chambers English Dictionary, doesn’t realise that the word ‘negro’ is pejorative. In his native language it isn’t; in fact, said Suarez, it’s almost affectionate, used to mean ‘mate’. And he doesn’t remember saying it anyway. Neither does anyone else who was on the pitch at the time. The only one who seems to have heard the word is the accuser, the ManU defender Patrice Evra. He heard the ‘n’ word, considered it offensive, and that’s all there’s to it. Chambers can go suck an egg.

Many have accused Mr Evra of hypersensitivity, and in fact he is known to have made similar accusations in the past, without justification. Now, if Suarez indeed used that word, stylistically neutral though it may be, he probably didn’t do so out of affection. And though he may not know this, in today’s Britain an insult is anything the victim considers it to be. Some may even be insulted by the acronym FA.

As to Evra’s sensitivity, he’s entitled to it: after all, many Africans were brought to Europe as slaves. Genetic memory of en masse humiliation and brutality lives long, though perhaps in Britain it ought to have attenuated a bit. If my black friend in Texas still remembers having to ride in the back of a bus in the 60s, England’s Chief Justice Holt ruled as far back as in 1702 that ‘as soon as a negro [the word hadn’t been PCfied yet] comes to England, he is free; one may be a villein in England, but not a slave.’ Be that as it may, Evra has a right to feel aggrieved, and would have been justified in insulting Suarez right back, calling him say a Uruguayan, possibly preceded by an obscene modifier. Instead he chose to demand institutional justice and, pending an appeal, won his case — even though it was his word against Suarez’s. You decide whether justice has been served.   

Now John Terry wouldn’t have his photograph in the dictionary next to the word ‘decorum’. The man has had a few brushings with police, one for using a bottle as an offensive weapon. However, the chap on the receiving end was white, so the issue of racism didn’t come up. This time, it has. Upset with an opponent, Terry, being unlike Suarez a native speaker, used the PC adjective ‘black’. But he inserted  it between two sexually oriented obscenities. You know, the words you heard used together the other day, when walking through High Street? When the chap (or was it a girl?) who said it didn’t even get a reprimand? In such cases, few are overly bothered these days. Words several clicks below on the insult scale would have been grounds for a different response in the past: ‘You, Sir, are a bounder and a cad, and I am at your service.’ These days we don’t believe in duels, and we really don’t mind insults. Unless, of course, they are preceded or followed by a chromatic adjective.

Unlike Suarez’s, Terry’s affront was filmed, and under the weight of evidence provided by numerous lip readers he had to own up. ‘I did use the words,’ he allowed. ‘But only after the other guy accused me of using them when I hadn’t. I replied “How dare you say that an upstanding man like me could have possibly called you a […]. That’s when I was filmed.” ‘ Quite. Terry’s lawyers must have worked overtime on that one.

I’m defending neither Suarez nor, especially, Terry. They aren’t gentlemen; they are thugs. So are those who scream, in public, the kind of words that until Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been unprintable in Britain. Standards of public behaviour must be upheld, but one can’t help noticing that while hypersensitivity in one instance is aggressively encouraged by the government, hyposensitivity in the other is promoted by the whole ethos of modernity. For purely aesthetic reasons, I’d be happy to see not just the book but the whole library thrown at Terry. But I can’t help noticing that state interference in private squabbles tends to foster exactly the kind of behaviour it’s supposed to expunge. Creating a mighty mountain out of a trivial molehill is going to push races further apart, not bring them closer together. The law of unintended consquences has never been repealed.