Dave’s equation: ecology plus arithmetic equals politicking

Global warming is a unique scientific discovery in history. It was made not by scientists but by a political body, in this instance the United Nations.

Since that organisation isn’t known for dispassionate analysis of painstakingly gathered research data, predictably grand conclusions were reached on scant, controversial and often bogus evidence.

The evidence was scant, but the subsequent expenditure in all Western, and some Eastern, countries was huge. Never in the history of human folly has so much been spent by so many on so little evidence.

As everything is these days, global warming became politicised and quasi-deified. The same people who march to ban free enterprise now timeshare with marches to ban anything other than the pre-technological sources of energy.

Government officials are rubbing their hands with glee: now they can fleece the public even more, perhaps even put a few energy companies out of business by suffocating them with taxes. Their own power will grow, and isn’t that what democracy is all about?

Now Dave has ploughed into the argument yet again, blaming the Philippines typhoon on our overuse of aerosols, under-reliance on wind farms and underpayment of tax. As Canada, Australia, Japan and quite a few others are beginning to come to their senses and relax emission laws, Dave feels he has to speak out.

If others can’t see the light, he declared, Britain will go it alone if she must. Going it alone in the sense of leaving the EU would spell an unmitigated disaster, Dave is sure about that. But when it means continuing to saddle people with extortionate taxes, our country must stand up for her principles.

That, explained Dave, is the right thing to do “even if you are less certain than the scientists” about global warming. I get it. If you’d rather not pay more into Dave’s bottomless coffers, you go against scientific consensus.

If that’s what Dave is suggesting, he’s either lying through his teeth or displaying his ignorance or, in all likelihood, both.

Most scientists, especially those who don’t depend on the UN or other similar setups for their grants, mock the whole global-warming offensive for being a purely ideological contrivance going against all available evidence. In fact there’s more evidence for global cooling than global warming (I could cite the sources, but you can find them on the net in seconds).

Yet Dave wouldn’t be held back by such trivia. Even if there’s only a 60-percent chance that typhoons are caused by not enough green taxes, he says, we must stay the course.

Statistically speaking, I’d say there’s a 100-percent chance that global warming is caused by the hot air released into the atmosphere by madcap activists and those politicians who tout their cause for personal electoral gain. Like Dave.

Those activists are fighting for the cause of global warming with the same fanaticism as their fathers (or on occasion they themselves) fought for the cause of global communism. Our technological civilisation, they scream, is poisoning the environment on ‘our planet’.

Obviously they’d rather go back to earlier times when the environment was safe from greedy capitalists. To the times when the Romans had lead plumbing, when bronze was made by adding not tin but arsenic, when primitive irrigation systems turned the once green and fertile Middle East into a desert, when slash-and-burn agriculture destroyed first forests and then fields, when millions were dying in epidemics, when London was enveloped by smog caused by low-tech industry, when people’s houses were warmed by hearths belching carcinogenic smoke.

What a wonderful world it was then. A world in which pernicious genetic modification of cereals was unheard of and people joyously starved to death in the serene knowledge that their cause was just.

Actually, Rwanda, North Korea and Haiti still feed themselves almost exclusively by organic farming so dear to our environmentalists’ hearts. They apply unimpeachable logic: when organic farming can no longer feed a growing population, the population has to be reduced. Hacking a few thousand or, if available, million with machetes is so much better for the environment than chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Japan has a much higher population density than Haiti, but it’s in the latter that primitive technology and agriculture are depleting the soil and destroying the environment.

Everywhere you look, the conclusion is undeniable. Technological civilisation doesn’t create environmental disasters – it prevents or, as the Israelis showed in the Middle East, reverses them. And technological civilisation is fuelled by energy that isn’t generated by water, wind or human, equine and bovine muscle.

It’s the non-renewable sources of energy that are primarily responsible for consigning Malthus with his overpopulation theories to the status of a quaint museum exhibit. It’s hydrocarbons and uranium that heat our houses, produce our food, treat our diseases and carry us effortlessly around the world.

None of this has any spiritual content – it’s all crass materialism, but then most of us have a bit of that in our psychological make-up. We’d rather not freeze in the dark if we can help it, and we’d rather not pay through the nose for the privilege.

But there’s also a loudmouthed minority of revolutionaries and Luddites out there who loathe not only the newfangled materialism of the West but also its erstwhile spiritual content. They’ve succeeded in destroying the latter; now they’re after the former.

Global warming is being cannily used as religious surrogate, and the stratagem succeeds because there indeed exists a vacuum to fill. Global-warming denial has become uncool; before long it’ll become illegal.

This creates murky waters in which the likes of Dave love to fish – ethically and renewably, of course. They use shameless demagoguery as their bait, and their focus groups suggest that most people will swallow.

They may well be right. Let’s just hope we won’t suffocate in the resulting reflux.
















Immigration: politicians lie even when admitting mistakes

Jack Straw, one of only three men to have been cabinet minister throughout the Labour years (1997-2010), is a case in point.

By the looks of it, Straw has decided to come clean and admit his own, and his government’s, fallibility.

According to him, they committed “one spectacular mistake in which I participated (not alone) [by] lifting the transitional restrictions on the Eastern European states like Poland and Hungary which joined the EU in mid-2004.”

Specifically, Labour handed them immediate working rights. This was based on a forecast, now described by Mr Straw as ‘worthless’, that only 5,000 to 13,000 immigrants a year would take advantage of this hospitality.

Within a few years, however, the number of those arrivals went over a million – but hey, what’s a couple of orders of magnitude among friends?

Anyway, errare humanum est, if Seneca is to be believed. We can all make an honest mistake, can’t we? Or, as my new friend Jack put it, this was a ‘well-intentioned policy we messed up’.

I’m amazed Jack didn’t put it all down to a certain deficit of numeracy for which the Brits are becoming widely known. We just didn’t add up right, he could have said. Ever so silly, there ought to be special schools for boys like us.

This refers us to the title above. A ‘well-intentioned policy’, eh? A ‘worthless forecast’? A miscalculation?

Let’s see. Close to a hundred million people are given access to UK job markets, to say nothing of UK social services. How many will come?

No, keep your calculators in your pockets, Jack, Tony and Gordon. Just consider the variables.

Variable 1: To most of those people the UK’s minimum wage constitutes untold riches.

Variable 2: Welfare payments, for which they’ll eventually qualify, are even much higher than that.

Variable 3: Every other Western European country, emphatically including Germany and France, has put a seven-year delay on providing working rights.

Now, class, how likely is it that within a few years the number of immigrants from those countries will hit a million? Here’s the multiple choice: a) a dead cert, b) not on your nelly. No, Tony, put your hand down, we know what you’re going to say. Yes Jack? Not very likely, considering it’ll only be 5,000-13,000 a year? Thank you, Jack.

A likely scenario, would you say? Or do you think my new friend Jack is lying through his teeth? He is after all a politician, and a Labour politician at that.

His (and therefore my) friend Peter Mandelson was more honest, but then he’s no longer in Parliament. He openly admitted that Tony’s government imported millions of potential Labour voters as a deliberate policy, with no miscalculations, ‘well-intentioned’ or otherwise, anywhere in sight.

Now, given a straight choice between my new friends Peter and Jack, which do you think is closer to the truth? Thought so.

Another former Labour cabinet minister, David Blunkett, has also delivered himself of an opinion on our immigration policy, this time in relation to Roma Bulgarians and Romanians who will be allowed to come to Britain in unlimited numbers from 1 January.

According to some reports, whole Roma villages are packing their bags. “The only one left behind will be the goat,” allowed one potential arrival to these shores.

David thinks this is a big problem, and if he can see this, anyone can. (This isn’t a tasteless reference to Blunkett’s blindness but a tasteful one to his being a Labour politician.)

Jack’s successor as Home Secretary warns that the influx of Roma migrants into Britain risks causing riots. Replace ‘risks’ with ‘guarantees’, and we’re on the same wave length there.

David is speaking from experience. Roma groups from Slovakia have settled in his Sheffield constituency, where they are “behaving like they were living in a ‘downtrodden village or woodland’ where there were no toilets or litter collections.”

Well, when in Sheffield, do as the Roma do. For the time being existing residents have set up street patrols trying to combat the anti-social behaviour. Vigilante groups are probably forming even as we speak.

“We have got to change the behaviour and the culture of the incoming Roma community – because there’s going to be an explosion otherwise,” says Mr Blunkett.

Good luck, mate. People in Eastern Europe and Russia have tried to ‘change the behaviour and the culture’ for centuries – without any noticeable success. In fact, women across Eastern Europe routinely make a highly credible threat to their naughty children: “If you’re a bad boy, the Gypsies will get you.” I was one such boy, so I know.

Blunkett still remembers the 2001 wave of anti-immigrant riots exploding in Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and across the North. Though he didn’t put it in such uncouth terms, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

The only way to solve the problem is to ignore the EU directive on free movement of labour. And the only way to do that is to leave the EU. So is Straw advocating such a move? Is Blunkett? More to the point, is Dave?

Of course not, don’t be silly. That would be a tough thing to do. Destroying the country and apologizing later is so much easier.


Russian artist nails his colours to the mast

Well, not to the mast and not exactly his colours, but otherwise the idiom works.

On 10 November the Petersburg conceptual artist (whatever that means) Pyotr Pavlensky travelled to Moscow to commemorate the annual Russian Police Day.

Or rather, to be more precise, he decided to use the occasion to score some valid political points about police curtailing the freedom of political self-expression.

To demonstrate exactly what he meant, the chap went to Red Square, stripped naked and affixed his scrotum to the pavement with a huge nail hammered into (more likely between) the cobbles.

Western papers coyly ran the photo of the event taken from the side, but Russian websites obligingly provided face-on pictures, thereby exposing both Pyotr’s shortcomings and their own lack of inhibitions.

The police arrived, removed the nail, wrapped the conceptual artist (whatever that means) in a blanket and took him to hospital. He had chosen the site well – had he done the same thing in a less visible place the cops would have probably yanked him to his feet without bothering to remove the nail.

Later Pavlensky was charged with petty hooliganism and released pending trial, where he’ll probably be sentenced to 15 days in prison.

It has to be said that young Pyotr has a bit of previous with that sort of thing.

In July 2012 he had his assistants wrap his naked body in a cocoon of barbed wire and deliver him to the main entrance of the Petersburg Legislative Assembly. In the cocoon he stayed until the police released him with garden shears.

That particular performance was called ‘Carcass’. The aim was to symbolise… well, you can guess what it was supposed to symbolise.

Last July the conceptual artist (whatever that means) went even further, this time to protest against the imprisonment of the Pussy Rioters, the young girls who themselves had protested against something or other by singing obscene rap lyrics in a cathedral. Their prior political action took the form of public copulation in a museum.

In defence of their God-given right to manifest their innermost feelings, Pavlensky turned up at Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral, his mouth sewn up with a coarse thread. He was carrying a banner saying, “Action of Pussy Riot was a replica of the famous action of Jesus Christ (Matthew.21:12–13)”.

Without entering into a full-blown theological debate, one should instead comment on the lamentable state of Russian psychiatry. For after his protest was all sewn up, Pyotr was examined by shrinks and found sane.

His latest stunt was called ‘Fixation’ – by affixing his private parts to the cobbles he was making a statement about the people’s fixation on something they shouldn’t be fixated on, not sure what. A bit weak as far as visual puns go, especially in the original Russian, but there we have it.

“A naked artist, looking at his testicles nailed to the cobblestone is a metaphor of apathy, political indifference and fatalism of Russian society,” declared Pavlensky in his statement to the media. I suppose this clarifies the matter.

Far be it from me to suggest that there’s nothing to protest against in Putin’s Russia. On the contrary, Russia is already bearing many hallmarks of a fascist state, and things are getting worse.

But surely every normal person must realise that the escapades of an obvious madman or of a couple of blasphemous whores compromise and trivialise all serious protest? The next time a meaningful anti-Putin action is undertaken it will be lumped together with self-mutilation, blasphemy and public indecency.

Yes, any normal person would probably realise this. That’s why it’s particularly worrying to read comments by the crème de la crème of the Russian intelligentsia. One may get the impression that normal Russians are in short supply. To wit:

Kirill Serebrennikov, film director: “…A powerful gesture of absolute despair… The action is called ‘Fixation’… Affixing one’s sex organs to the cobbles of the country’s main square is a fixation on one’s own impotence… Everything is perfectly honest.”

Marat Gelman, political technologist (whatever that means): “I think it’s a sign of despair. I think, yes, a normal person won’t act in this way. But evidently the situation in the country isn’t normal. This is certainly no longer an act of protest. It’s a MANIFESTO OF IMPOTENCE.” Also its possible cause, the cynic in me is tempted to add.

Irina Kosterina, culturologist (whatever that means): “Personally, this kind of body art makes me feel terrible physical discomfort, shock and incomprehension of how it’s possible to DO THIS TO ONE’S BODY. But the meaning and message are absolutely intelligible: this is political art-activism. Alas, those to whom this message is addressed aren’t sufficiently advanced to understand it.”

Neither am I and neither, I suspect, are you. However, if you still think there’s hope for Russia yet, such comments – and I could cite many more ad infinitum – should disabuse you of this notion.

A country is utterly hopeless when its intellectual elite sees disgusting self-mutilation as a legitimate form of political protest. As to the frankly pathetic attempts to intellectualise madness, Russia has a long, if not necessarily honourable, tradition along those lines.

I am however curious how the conceptual artist (whatever that means) would protest against ‘homophobia’, another burr under his blanket. Actually, forget it. This sort of thing doesn’t bear thinking about so close to night-time.

New York’s mayoral election is a lesson to us all

Aristotle referred to democracy as a ‘deviant constitution’. And the election of Bill de Blasio as New York’s mayor ought to give pause to anyone wishing to take issue with this put-down.

On the assumption that cold reason is a better cognitive tool than hot air, let’s consider the facts.

Under Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, the city’s previous two mayors, New York did in two decades something I would have bet couldn’t be done in a thousand years. It became a clean, safe, prosperous place.

In fact in my, lamentably rather long, lifetime I can’t recall a single major city undergoing a similarly amazing transformation.

When I left Manhattan in 1988, some parts of it were life-threatening, many more nose-pinchingly squalid. As to the acres upon acres of combat zones in the other boroughs, the less said about them the better. Those interested in the gory details could do worse than read Tom Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, for whose verisimilitude I can vouch with a clear conscience.

Then Giuliani became Mayor in 1994 and worked a miracle. His politics were mostly liberal, but many of his policies weren’t. Specifically, he declared ‘zero-tolerance to crime’, a term he interpreted in the broadest possible sense to include even things like graffiti, panhandling, begging and vagrancy.

Giuliani gave New York’s finest wider ‘stop-and-frisk’ powers, then built more prisons and filled them to the brim.

It goes without saying that civil-rights fanatics immediately espied a racial bias in the groups whose members were stopped and frisked. Their ensuing indignation was predictably not attenuated by the demonstrable fact that those groups accounted for 90 percent of the crime rate.

Had the drop in crime been less spectacular, they would have carried the day. As it was, Giuliani managed to hang on – and press on. He privatised some public services to their vast improvement and gave more autonomy to local government, which became more efficient as a result.

His successor Michael Bloomberg, another man displaying an unlikely combination of liberalism and pragmatism, continued the same policies and also introduced sweeping reforms in education. School funding was made contingent on results, and results improved drastically.

The upshot of it all was that New York became a better place to live. Its crime rate dropped below that of most other major cities in the USA and the world – for example, to half the rate of London in most categories. (The chances of getting mugged in London are now 25 percent higher than even in the notoriously dangerous Harlem.)

One would think that, when it was time for Bloomberg to go after three consecutive terms, the next mayor would gain office on the promise of more of the same. Alas, one would be mistaken.

For Bill de Blasio won the race on the promise to undo everything his predecessors had achieved. He’ll punish the rich with taxes, betray the poor with re-nationalisation and hamstring the police, which will predictably turn New York into the hellhole it was for so much of its history.

Now that we’ve considered the facts, de Blasio’s landslide victory seems rather counterintuitive. But then any reasonable intuition is useless when applied to the workings of modern democracy.

Putting it simply, when democracy isn’t counterbalanced by other methods of government it turns into a snake biting its own tail. Thomas Jefferson (who, along with most of the Founders, was no champion of democracy) put his finger right on it: “The Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Unfortunately, when franchise is unqualified and democracy is unchecked, politicians find it hard to resist buying the votes of many with the money of some.

This inexorably undermines the organic distribution of wealth in a free economy where many earn increasingly higher wages and few make increasingly greater profits. This is replaced by an enlargement in the size of groups making a living without earning it, and the consequent plunder of wealth actually earned.

The entitlement group is bound to continue to grow, for human nature is such that the availability of unearned income and the number of those desiring it exist in a symbiotic relationship.

The process of redistribution, rather than being organic, has to become coercive: wealth producers are forced to part with greater and greater proportions of their wealth to support the expectations of greater and greater numbers of those who feel entitled to consume without earning.

When their numbers reach a certain critical mass, democracy stops working even on its own limited terms. Reason no longer applies, and destructive policies have a greater chance of electoral success than reasonable ones.

The election of Bill de Blasio shows that, for all the efforts of his predecessors, New York has reached this critical mass.

Since it’s easier to destroy than to create, one can confidently predict that in a few short years the city will revert to its former unappealing persona – no doubt to the thunderous applause of The New York Times and the three major TV networks (American answers to The Guardian and the BBC).

You may choose to believe that what happens in New York has little to do with you. Or else you may choose to agree with me that in this instance New York must be treated as a microcosm of the West at large. It’s certainly not the only place where the critical mass of folly has been reached.

In more concrete terms, if you think that the likes of Red Ed can’t carry the British electorate, think again. After all, unlike de Blasio, he won’t even be campaigning against rival policies boasting a record of great success.





John Major is a fine one to talk

Since leaving Downing Street in 1997 John ‘Maastricht’ Major has been a popular presence on the after-dinner speech circuit, getting £25,000 a pop. (Many people are willing to pay for Sir John’s dazzling insights: there’s one born every second.)

Yet for those who don’t often listen to after-dinner speeches, Major’s profile has been rather low. Finding nothing to latch on to in his soliloquies, the hacks mercifully left them unreported.

Now that Sir John’s latest homily has made the papers, one can understand their prior reluctance to give his thought a wider exposure.

It’s not that Major’s speech was any more vacuous, dishonest and hypocritical than those with which his successors have been regaling us in the intervening 16 years. It’s just that it was no less so.

What excited Major’s hitherto hibernating mind is his old bugbear: the predominance of the ‘affluent middle class’ in public life. This at least displays laudable consistency: he dreamt about the delights of ‘classless society’ when still Prime Minister.

If he meant it as it sounded, then we should all be enlightened by an example of a single classless society in the 5,000 years of recorded history. More likely Major meant not a society devoid of any social structure but one where elevation is achieved on merit.

None of that has ever been clarified, and obviously Sir John has now decided to address this deficit of meaning.

The fault for having all those Eton boys at the top, explains Major in his latest oration, lies with Labour who are responsible for the ‘collapse of social mobility’. Specifically, it’s the educational system put forth by Labour that’s holding back lower-class youngsters chomping at the bit.

Though he didn’t specifically mention the demise of grammar schools, this had to be what he meant, for elite free education was indeed a successful social hoist for able youngsters from lowly backgrounds.

So did the Tories ever try to reverse that asinine policy when in power? Did they reintroduce the tripartite education that had worked so well in the past? Not exactly.

In fact, when still Education Secretary, the sainted Margaret Thatcher shut down more grammar schools than any of her Labour counterparts ever did. And Major himself did absolutely nothing to get rid of comprehensives during his seven-year tenure.

Actually his own example suggests that scant education is no obstacle to a successful career, albeit in politics, a field that doesn’t require intellectual attainment – and in fact actively discourages it.

Little Johnny was educated at a comprehensive in an iffy part of London, emerging with three O levels and an unbridled ambition. Although he later acquired three more O levels by correspondence, that didn’t noticeably add a patina of cultural refinement.

Yet this manifest lack of basic education hasn’t held John Major back. In fact, he found himself in a position to sign the disastrous Maastricht Treaty and preside over the Black Wednesday calamity. If this isn’t testimony to towering achievement, I don’t know what is.

In common with most people whose minds haven’t been sufficiently trained, Major confuses different concepts altogether. Unfortunately he isn’t helped by modern English, in which the words education, diploma and training are often used interchangeably.

But they mean entirely different – some will say mutually exclusive – things. Education is a process of enriching a person intellectually, spiritually, morally and aesthetically. This may or may not prepare him for practical life, and when it does it’s by pure coincidence.

For example, someone who has spent 10 years at university studying, say, scholastic ontology, has a fair shot at becoming well-educated. However, it’s not immediately clear how this can help him run a pyramid scheme or for that matter a government (these days the two are often indistinguishable).

Should he reach such a career apex it would most likely be not because he’s educated but in spite of it. Conversely, someone trained in computer science may not know much about scholastic ontology, but he has a clearly signposted career path in front of him.

Sir John can’t mean education in its proper sense for the simple reason that he doesn’t know what it is. Nor does he probably mean professional training – after all, he talked specifically about success in public life, which doesn’t often depend on proficiency in systems analysis.

So what does he mean? A diploma of some sort to beef up a CV? Alas, I don’t know what Sir John means and I doubt he does either.

But I have news for him: in every society the world has ever known, most people who rise to the top in public life come from what Sir John would brand a privileged background. Typically this would involve several prior generations of cultural and professional attainment, or at least one.

There will always be exceptions, talented and energetic youngsters who make their own way in life. Such people should be helped, encouraged, applauded and held up as examples for all to follow.

But all will not follow: talented people are never thick on the ground, and those who can completely buck their family background even less so. That’s how the cookie crumbles and crumble it will.

The problem with Britain today isn’t that there are a few Eton boys in prominent political positions but that so many in Britain, including the Eton boys in prominent political positions, have been disconnected from Western civilisation.

The culprit here isn’t the Labour party, even though it’s undeniably revolting. It’s not the Conservative party, which is these days barely distinguishable from Labour. It’s our anomic, soulless, materialistic modernity.

John Major isn’t going to understand this – and wouldn’t even had he gone to Eton rather than to a Brixton comprehensive. So perhaps he ought to concentrate on cricket, which reputedly he understands quite well.

In Bruges: an eye-opening experience

The other day I visited Bruges, the Belgian city that inspired a film about British gangsters.

I too found it inspirational, though not in any straightforward way. As a tourist attraction, Bruges has always reminded me of a Hollywood starlet: pretty but dull. It’s also, well, a bit twee. But the good thing about Bruges is that it’s only an hour from Calais, if one drives fast (one always zips through Belgium).

The thirteenth-century Belfry, which co-starred in the film, is a case in point. That period was the height of Gothic, as demonstrated by the glorious structures erected at the time across the border in France. And what did they put up in Bruges, just a few miles away? A megalomaniac, over-ornamented, astigmatically proportioned monument to money unsullied by taste.  

The city used to be mostly Catholic, but by the looks of it there are quite a few Calvinist households about. One can always tell: Flemish Calvinists leave their curtains open after dark, to let passers-by know that nothing sinful goes on inside.

Having taken full advantage of the opportunity to be a Peeping Tom, I can testify that I indeed espied no nude Lady Godiva, though I did see several boxes of chocolates named after her. The people indoors were chasing the chocolates with beer.

However, it was on this visit to Bruges that I saw the light, and I’m thankful to the place for it.

You see, Bruges is clearly – and rightly! – proud of being at the heart of the European Union. Those starred flags are everywhere, as are numerous plaques commemorating various EU milestones, such as the Hague Convention.

Suddenly I was struck by a lightning and fell off my high anti-EU horse. The problem with this organisation, it dawned upon me, isn’t that it has pushed federalism too far. It’s that it hasn’t pushed it far enough.

Champions of the EU, which until the other day I wasn’t, like to draw parallels between it and the Holy Roman Empire. At the same time they incongruously and disingenuously claim to be champions of democracy.

But the two simply don’t go together, unless you believe that Charlemagne was secretly committed to universal suffrage. So why not go all the way? Why not turn the EU into a real answer to the Carolingian empire? How great would that be?

Just as its precursor, the new empire must be run by the Germans. Its capital should be sited not in Aachen (or Aix-la-Chapelle, as it’s sometimes called as a sop to the French), but in Bruges. The city deserves the honour because of its unsurpassed ability to fleece outlanders, which is both a necessary and sufficient qualification.

All the elements would fall in place as if by themselves. Frau Merkel would obviously become Empress Angela I. Her realm would be called The Angelic Empire of the Franco-German Nation, and Bruges would be renamed Lost Angela’s.

The imperial emblem would be the outline of the continent with the superimposed slogan Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Frau. The anthem could be based, with minor modifications, on the old German song Spaziren, Spaziren mit Diversity Offiziere. The insertion of the English word is necessary to emphasise the pan-European nature of the Empire, along with its principal moral tenet.

The language of the Angelic Empire would have to be English, but in a slightly simplified form. The words would be spelled phonetically (e.g. ‘nife’, not ‘knife’), though in such a way as to make the pronunciation easier for the Germans and the French.

Thus the letter w should be replaced with the v. To the same end the th combination will be replaced either with the s, as in ‘I like sin vimmen’, or with the z, as in ‘Zat vooman is too sin.’

To please the French, the adjective must always be placed after the noun, as in ‘federalism European’, while as a concession to the Germans the verb should always come at the end of the sentence, followed, if required, by its negation. This simple sentence would illustrate the changes: ‘Federalism European in ze context of ze history geopolitical entire of ze continent a sawt hooz advantages denied can be not.’

European politicians currently holding national offices need not worry: their talents would thrive under the Empire as they may not have done in their own countries. For example, François Hollande could be appointed Viceroy (Gauleiter) of Holland. Thus the country (Niederlandische Gau) wouldn’t even have to change its name. And François would be mercifully removed from France, where he runs the risk of dismemberment every time he shows his face in public.

Dave could also find a suitable imperial position commensurate with his talents, such as Angela I’s Head of PR (Reklameführer), while Nick could easily slip into the position of leader of the biggest parliamentary faction, ze International Socialist Verkers Party (Internationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei, INSAP for short).

Such sketchy but insistent thoughts kept haunting my mind as I walked along the dreamy canals of Bruges. Really, you ought to visit the place. If Bruges has proved so inspirational for me, imagine what it could do for you. 





The Pope’s survey can’t be right: The Times loves it

The worldwide survey undertaken by the Vatican is bizarre on so many levels, one’s head spins.

The sheer cost of polling 1.2 billion subjects, which is the world’s Catholic population, must be staggering.

If it were conducted by a marketing company, the cost could run into billions. But even if much of the work will be done by local parishes, we’re still talking millions.

How this tallies with the Pope’s intention of turning the Vatican into ‘a poor Church for the poor’ is an interesting question. Also, does he mean the Church is only for the poor? If so, what’s the income above which a communicant would be excluded? I’m sure His Holiness will be able to field such questions with some élan. He was after all educated at a Jesuit seminary.

Then there’s the questionnaire itself. Its stated objective is to find out how Catholics feel about the Church’s family policy, how parishes apply it and how both handle such thorny issues as divorce, cohabitation and homomarriage.

I haven’t studied the demographics of the world’s Catholics, about half of whom live in Latin America. Most of the Catholics I know are erudite priests and laymen, but one doubts they’re a representative sample.

Yet some of the questions in the survey seem to be based on the assumption that all Catholics are at least as accomplished as my friends. To wit:

Question 1 a): “Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today?”

Or else Question 2 a): “What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?”

I must admit the implicit presumption that most Catholics could be coherent on such issues shatters my preconceptions about the schooling of all those Peruvian campesinos. Alternatively, in addition to its known intoxicating and hallucinogenic properties, pisco must produce epiphanic experiences that override some likely gaps in their grasp of scholastic theology.

As so often happens, the context elucidates the text. Considering the pontiff’s earlier statements about the Church’s ‘obsession’ with things like abortion, divorce and homomarriage, along with his intention to make theology friendlier to women, one fears the Pope is considering a leftward shift.

The questionnaire contains fairly transparent hints at this. Thus Question 4 f): “Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognising a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved?” (“Are you comfortable with divorce?”, in plain English.)

Or else Questions 5 d): “In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?” (“Should the Church bless homomarriage?” in other words.)

The Church hierarchy is denying that the survey implies any subsequent doctrinal changes. “The synod does not have to decide on the basis of the majority of public opinion,” says Archbishop Bruno Forte.

Then why spend the ‘poor Church’s’ millions? If the survey is inspired by customer-satisfaction polls of department-store customers, then surely the results must determine the merchandise on offer. If, on the other hand, the idea comes from politics, then policy changes are bound to follow.

Surely the money isn’t being squandered to satisfy idle curiosity? Not according to The Times.

“Let us hope [the survey] is a harbinger of change that is needed in the Catholic Church,” says the paper’s editorial. “Reforming an ancient institution is never easy,” it goes on. “Look at the House of Lords.”

I couldn’t agree more. Reforming an ancient institution is never easy. Deforming it, however, is a doddle – look at the House of Lords, to quote the formerly respectable paper.

It gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view). “In the developed world, at any rate, the Church’s doctrines concerning sexual and personal morality are now completely out of kilter with how people actually live and think.”

True. By the same token, many people break the laws against murder, theft and rape. On this basis does The Times think such laws should be repealed?

This is just one example of a shortfall in logic that’s the paper’s current trademark. The editorial provides many others:

“The Catholic Church… can choose to stand against social change in the name of a dogmatic interpretation of its principles. Or it can seek to adapt to changing mores… If this is the mission of Pope Francis then it is very much a welcome one.”

No doubt it is, in such pockets of staunch piety as Notting Hill and Islington. The rest of us reach for an antiemetic.

It’s not the Church’s business to ‘adapt to changing mores’. Its mission is to welcome those that agree with its teachings and fight tooth and nail those that don’t.

Somewhere a flip-flop occurred in what passes for the mind of the liberal elite. The Church is now expected to conform to the UN Charter on Human Rights rather than to Christian dogma. In the process it’s supposed to turn into a plebiscitary democracy, as if this method of government weren’t perverse even in its natural habitat.

Should the Vatican abandon subterfuge and let focus groups shape the Christian doctrine? The Times would welcome that, especially if the findings suggested that the divinity of Christ is no longer accepted by the majority.

Those intellectually challenged pundits simply don’t know better. Let’s pray the Vatican does.


Parlez-you Franglais?

The French are on the warpath against English invaders, in this instance words rather than muscular chaps bandying longbows and flipping two fingers at French knights.

Predictably the counterattack is spearheaded by L’Académie française, a body established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, first minister to Louis XIII and the villain in Three Musketeers.

The statesman, snappily named Armand Jean du Plessis, cardinal-duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac, was concerned about the purity of the French language.

Said purity was at the time threatened not so much by les anglais as by those technically French people who shunned the French language. The English chose less subtle ways of undermining France, mostly relying on military rather than linguistic aggression.

Yet the Bretons, Normans, Picardians, Catalans, Basques, chaps from Languedoc and the Provence, Alsatians and so forth stubbornly insisted on clinging on to their own languages – and many of them did so well into the twentieth century.

Whenever they grudgingly agreed to speak French, they did so with less purity than one would have encountered in the Loire Valley, and Richelieu would have none of that.

The body he established, L’Académie française, was supposed to police the language of Rabelais, making sure that those hiring French for part-time use returned it in mint condition.

It’s hard for me to judge the extent to which the Academy succeeded in this undertaking, though on general principle attempts to interfere with the organic development of any tongue tend to fail miserably.

Les anglais no longer threaten to occupy the western reaches of France, although any visitor to the Dordogne may get a different impression. But the French are getting their culottes in a twist about the preponderance of English words in advertising, media and everyday speech.

There are more English words on the walls of Toulouse than there were German words during the Occupation,” said philosopher Michel Serres, a member of L’Académie.

He was referring specifically to advertising hoardings, though any visitor to France will testify that many French walls also feature a profusion of handwritten English words, mostly those that until recently only ever appeared in unabridged dictionaries.

Mr Serres called for a boycott of any product advertised with the use of English words and of any film whose title hasn’t been translated into French. Considering the all-encompassing scale of the linguistic invasion, I’d say he’s on a losing wicket there.

To reverse the trend he’d have to resort to much more drastic measures, such as for example shutting down every tennis club. When I first joined one of those 13 years ago, I feverishly ransacked my rather limited French vocabulary in search of French tennis terms.

It turned out I needn’t have bothered. In French, ‘slice’ is slice (as in service bien slicé), ‘kick’ is kick (as in service bien kické), ‘lob’ is lob (the native French chandelle is regarded as uncool) and ‘walkover’ is walkover. However, ‘topspin’ is lift, which is also an English word, but a wrong one.

Something excellent is top in colloquial French and it’s possible to talk about une supermodel having a quiet weekend at home with a takeaway, although ce n’est pas cool. In fact, one could compile une checklist of such offensive vocabules, but don’t ask me to do so: I’m fully booké.

But I’ve got les news for you: any effort to stop the influx of English words into French or any other language will fail. English has become the world’s lingua franca, and I lament this development as much as Mr Serres does.

I hope my French friends won’t mind this admission, but I’m less concerned with the attrition suffered by their language than with the damage done to English itself by its global status.

A lingua franca may be useful to others as a way of cutting through language barriers. But when a language functions in this capacity it first gets maimed and then killed – Latin is a prime, though far from the only, example of such a demise.

We’re going through the maiming stage now, as any reader of EU directives can testify. A survey of 6,000 Commission employees found that 95 percent wrote in English, but only 13 percent of those were native speakers. Over half said that they rarely or never ran their documents by someone whose mother tongue was English.

The resulting semi-literate bureaucratese then reinfects the English spoken in its natural habitat. The natives are doing their destructive bit too: NHS leaflets and other government circulars are translated into 17 different languages as a sop to multiculturalism.

Thus we witness an odd process: English is ceding its dominant position at home while making huge advances abroad. The two developments may look opposite, but their eventual outcome will be the same: our great language will be universally reduced to a pidgin patois, badly mangled by ‘enemies foreign and domestic’, to borrow a phrase from the American Oath of Allegiance.

Perish the thought and punish the perpetrators. Don’t ask me how: I don’t know. And neither, unfortunately, does L’Académie française.

A man’s wardrobe just isn’t complete without a burka

Yesterday I wrote an admittedly facetious piece pointing out the advantages of the niqab, “…provided of course we can be sure that the person inside the niqab is indeed a demure Muslim woman rather than an escaping male terrorist – something that apparently has happened a few times.”

What do you know – in a startling demonstration of life imitating art, that very day a tagged Somali-British jihadist used the garment to escape the attentions of the police.

Al Qaeda-trained terrorist Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed (MAM for short) entered a London mosque wearing normal clothes complete with an electronic tag. He then disabled the device and slipped out of the mosque in a burka.

Now we’re all in favour of free religious worship, but surely the freedom to adore Allah doesn’t incorporate the freedom to abet terrorists – or indeed to incite terrorism. It has always been my contention that any mosque implicated in such activities should be immediately and irreversibly shut down, even at the risk of having few mosques left.

In this instance someone inside the mosque must have helped MAM to disable the tag, and someone must have supplied the burka. This sort of thing may be called aiding and abetting in some quarters, but this is strictly a police matter. What should be a matter for society at large is that houses of God must not be used as safe houses for murderous aliens.

Moreover, we must ban the burka – even though the French have done so and we certainly don’t want to be known as copycats. For using the garment for terrorist activities is nothing new: it’s a tradition going back centuries.

Russia springs to mind. Throughout the nineteenth century the tsars waged a non-stop war against Caucasian, mainly Muslim, guerrillas. Echoes of this desperate struggle resonate from the pages of great Russian literature, from Pushkin and Lermontov to Tolstoy.

Using their books for historical reference, we find out that the use of a burka as a means of escape was widely practiced 200 years ago. In Lermontov’s sublime novel The Hero of Our Time, a young Muslim guerrilla demonstrates how effective this trick can be.

Closer to our own time, the Muslim, chiefly Turkic, provinces of the Russian Empire, never quite at ease with their status, rebelled against the Soviets directly they took over in 1917. The rebellion continued well into the 1930s, at first as a straight pan-Islamic war of national and religious liberation.

The war was truly pan-Islamic – for several years it was led by Enver Pasha, who had held the post of War Minister in Turkey’s Young Turk government. After the Red Army routed the badly outgunned and outnumbered basmachi groups in the mid-1920s, the jihad movement went underground.

The old burka trick stood the basmachi in good stead: bearded men could easily sneak up on Bolshevik occupiers and gun them down. Interestingly, one of the most persistent slogans used by the Bolsheviks in their early days was “Free the toiling woman of the East from the parandja [the Central Asian version of the burka]!”

Considering the well-documented affection the Bolsheviks felt for freedom of any kind, one may suspect that their main concern wasn’t so much the toiling woman as the sharpshooting man.

My retrospective sympathy is in this case with the Central Asian jihadists: they fought the greater evil and their cause was just.

You may call me a moral relativist if you wish, but I don’t exactly feel the same way about MAM and his fellow wild-eyed al Qaeda murderers. Their cause is evil, and the only way to defeat it is to display fortitude and resolve.

The two measures I’ve suggested (banning the burka and shutting down any mosque implicated in nastiness) would be a good start.

The next thing would be to look at the desirability of massive influx of Muslim (and other non-Christian) immigrants. Part of the rich panoply of life and all that, but I doubt many Brits agree with our consecutive governments that these groups enrich our life.

I may change this shamefully unfashionable, reactionary view if someone were to demonstrate the specific advantages we’ve derived from the presence of, say, the 115,000 Somalis (and these are just the ones we know about).

As our transvestite MAM proves, demonstrating the disadvantages would be considerably easier.









It’s time we discussed the niqab seriously

For once in his life Ken Clarke has said something sensible.

Muslim women giving evidence in court shouldn’t be allowed to wear ‘a kind of bag’, Ken explained, because that makes it ‘impossible to have a proper trial’.

You see, jurors often judge testimony on the basis of facial expressions and body language, both of which remain hidden under the veil. Since before he became a rotten politician Ken was a good criminal barrister, he knows what he’s talking about.

The rest of the time Muslim women can wear ‘what the devil they want’, added Ken and I agree wholeheartedly. Provided of course we can be sure that the person inside the niqab is indeed a demure Muslim woman rather than an escaping male terrorist – something that apparently has happened a few times.

Ken insisted that his comments ‘had no trace of Islamophobia’, and I for one am happy to hear that. There’s nothing worse in the world today than anything described by a word ending in ‘-phobia’.

The first part of the word doesn’t really matter. It may be ‘Islamo-’, ‘homo-’, ‘negro-’ – whatever it is, whoever evinces it should be, as a minimum, drawn and quartered.

But I do think it’s unfair to Islamic womanhood to restrict this sartorial issue strictly to utilitarian considerations. Call me a misogynist (or femalophobe, if you’d rather), but I don’t think a woman’s dress should be assessed without applying aesthetic criteria.

Now at first glance you may say that the shapeless black garment leaving only the woman’s eyes visible has no aesthetic argument going for it. So who’s being the misogynist now?

First, what’s the most beautiful part of a woman? No, it’s not what you’re suggesting with that scabrous smirk on your face (you ought to be ashamed of yourself). It’s her soul, that immanent link to God, however God is defined.

And as we all know, the eyes really are a window to the soul. Scientists concur: their research shows that patterns in the iris can give an indication of whether a woman is warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive.

You have to agree that by veiling the woman’s more jutting attractions, along with the rest of her face, the niqab focuses our attention on the most beautiful part of her – her soul. What more would anyone wish to see?

I mean, once you’ve seen Chelsea, would you want to see Elephant & Castle? Of course not.

Let’s also not forget the practical considerations, those bordering on moral ones. We all agree that our wishy-washy blondes pale by comparison to the exotic beauty of Muslim women, especially after a little electrolysis.

Surely you can understand the desire of Muslim men to keep at bay swarms of panting males inflamed by the sultry, depilated beauty of an Aisha, a Soraya or a Fatima? If you were married to a raving beauty, or four of them, wouldn’t you like to keep all those lechers at arm’s length?

The niqab also has many other advantages we shouldn’t ignore. For example, and this is an important consideration during this season, it’s a natural Halloween costume. There’s no need to paint skull and bones on a woman’s dress – the niqab will do nicely all on its own.

Nor should we ignore other interesting avenues worth exploring. For example, now that I’ve mentioned the possibility of painting things on garments, it’s possible to treat the niqab as a broad canvas.

Not that it’s necessary, considering that we can still see Soraya’s most beautiful part. But suppose some men are less spiritual in their demands. Those sorry individuals may want to see more than just a woman’s eyes.

Well, then, how can this be reconciled with the Muslim men’s well-justified fear of competition for their women’s charms? Simple.

Why not silkscreen the face and body of a film star onto the niqab? Let’s say Kelly Brook, Marylin Monroe in her prime or Rachael Weiss? No, forget Rachael. She’s Jewish and we don’t want to offend the keenly felt sensibilities of Muslim men. But you get the idea.

Just imagine a semi-clad or, ideally, nude Kelly smiling at you from every niqab. How good is that? Wouldn’t it make a stroll through central London a more pleasurable experience? Of course it will.

It’s time we rehabilitated the niqab, at least this side of a courtroom. If you’re against the veil, you’re against diversity. That’s worse than any -phobia I know, for being all-encompassing. And let’s not forget the strongest argument in favour of the niqab: the French are against it.

All I’m saying is give veils a chance. All together now: All we’re saying…