Poetic justice: Russian literature is to die for

Last week a 53-year-old denizen of a small town in the Urals went to see his older friend and mentor, aged 67.

In the good Russian tradition the two friends cracked a bottle of what in common Russian parlance is called ‘white wine’ (vodka to you). The report of the incident doesn’t mention if a second bottle saw the light of day, but on general principle and lifelong empirical evidence I’d think it likely.

In another good Russian tradition, once the two chaps got properly lubricated, they kicked off a heated literary dispute. In this instance the bone of contention was the comparative significance of poetry and prose as genres of literature.

The guest, whose CV includes university education and a career as school master, maintained that only poetry qualifies as real literature. The host, whose professional credentials weren’t divulged in the report, begged to differ.

I don’t know the details of his argument, but no doubt the names of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky came up, as did the fact that some of Russia’s greatest poets (Pushkin, Lermontov, Pasternak, Bely et al) eventually turned to prose, with hardly any movement in the opposite direction.

I do hope you’re suitably impressed and ever so slightly envious. How often do you hear two pissed Englishmen falling out over such topics? I’d suggest they’d be more likely to disagree about the relative merits of two football clubs or perhaps of various Black & Decker home-improvement tools.

On balance, having experienced both, I prefer the English way: it seldom reaches out to the sublime but at least it’s less likely to sound ridiculous, as the argument in question clearly is.

Staying within the confines of Russian literature, the dispute reminds me of a 5-year-old character in a popular children’s book. The boy asks his slightly older brother, “If a whale wrestles with an elephant, who will win?” Ask a stupid question and you’ll get a stupid answer, as the saying goes.

Well, in this instance the answer was rather worse than merely stupid. For the champion of poetry grabbed a knife off the table and killed the defender of prose with one mighty thrust.

Drunk as he was, the ex-teacher was sufficiently compos mentis to do a runner and go aground in another friend’s house. This friend either wasn’t informed of his guest’s chosen method of settling literary disagreements or else didn’t particularly care about literature one way or the other.

Considering that Russia’s murder rate is higher than ours by an order of magnitude, and in that region by two, the police resources there are stretched thin. Yet in this case the law enforcers did themselves proud: they quickly tracked the poetry lover down and charged him with violating the Russian Criminal Code, Article 105, Part 1 (murder). One hopes poetry is amply represented in his prison library.

What’s one to make of this? Jokes aside, literature has to be held in high esteem to be considered a matter of life or death even in a state of inebriation. Not many Westerners, apart from the French, would allow such abstract arguments to inflame their passions to such an extent.

I’d suggest that this is an argument against universal education. Education only means anything important when it brings about a certain ennoblement of character and refinement of soul, not just wider erudition. Yet observation suggests that most people find it easier to absorb information than to improve their character in any noticeable way.

Someone who has read Shakespeare’s sonnets may still beat his wife, even when she doesn’t deserve it. But someone whose soul was penetrated and shaped by Shakespeare’s sonnets, or come to that Pushkin’s poems, would be unlikely to resort to domestic corporal punishment or, in our case, murder.

It’s much healthier for most people to cultivate an interest in things like football and home decoration than, say, iambic pentameter vs. dactylic hexameter. This diminishes the chances of serious culture falling into wrong hands, with concomitant damage done to both the neophyte and serious culture.

On a personal note, incidents like this make me even happier about leaving Russia over 40 years ago. Human life is worth considerably less there, nor lasts nearly as long.

According to one news item today, a quarter of Russian men die before their fifty-fifth birthday. The BBC ascribed this rather appalling statistic to vodka, but clearly at least some of it has to be due to literary arguments fuelled by vodka. 

“They change their sky, not their soul, who run across the sea,” wrote Horace. That may be. But thankfully they do change their life expectancy.


My new book, How the Future Worked, ponders many such stories. It’s available from www.roperpenberthy.co.uk.



Floods can drown political careers

It has been raining for quite a while now, and Albion isn’t just misty but submerged.

This causes every manner of acute discomfort and sheer annoyance. And of course it’s in our nature to look for culprits whenever there’s something we don’t like.

In this instance we turn to environmental scientists for an explanation. When it turns out they’re stuck for one – or else come up with conflicting stories – we can’t help blaming them for the floods, which, one is sad to admit, isn’t a charge that would stick in court.

David Silvester, UKIP councilman at Henley-on-Thames, came up with his own explanation last week. Writing to the local paper, he opined that we were being “beset by storms” because the Prime Minister had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel” and “more than half of his parliamentary party” by passing same-sex marriage laws.

Since this view is insufficiently supported by environmental science, Mr Silvester has been suspended by his party. Other parties, especially the Tories whose seats are directly threatened by UKIP, see the event as a political opportunity, and why should they not?

Everything these days is a political opportunity: low economic growth, high economic growth, too much rain, too little rain, Mrs Poindexter dropping her cup in a chintzy tearoom, the waitress being rude to Mrs Poindexter – you name it.

Acting in that spirit, Michael Fallon, the Conservative Business Minister, said the Silvester affair showed that “there clearly are one or two fruitcakes still around there”.

Fair enough. We’re now agreed that a) anyone is a fruitcake who ascribes the floods to a cause that’s not scientifically proven and b) if they happen to be politicians, such fruitcakes ought to be suspended by their parties.

Since our legal thinking is defined by the concept of precedent, one such has been established. All perfectly English, that, first prize in the lottery of life.

Now if suspension is the sauce and Mr Silvester is the goose, then clearly Dave Cameron must be the gander. For he too explained the floods in a way that contravened environmental science.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath, Dave declared that he “very much” suspected that the floods had been caused by anthropogenic climate change.

Yet the Met Office said there was no evidence that the winter floods had been caused by man-made global warming, and even Dave’s own Environment Secretary Owen Paterson refused to endorse his views.

Now I have every respect for man-made global warming because it’s the first discovery in the history of science made not by scientists but by a political organisation, in this instance the UN.

The groundbreaking implication is that science is too important to be left to scientists. Enter UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaking out of the burning bush and dispelling every doubt on the meaning of life.

Lest some residual doubts remain, the august Panel brib… sorry, I mean engaged, a few environmental scientists to add gravitas to its rather eccentric declarations. There’s nothing like a grant or two to make scientists see the truth, but in this case even they demurred.

Climate-change scientists, including those brib…, I mean engaged, by the Panel, stated as unequivocally as scientists ever state anything that:The linkages between enhanced greenhouse forcing and flood phenomena are highly complex and it has not been possible to describe the connections well, either by empirical analysis or by the use of models.”

Allow me to translate from the scientific into English: Dave was talking… what’s the polite word?… oh yes, unscientific nonsense. The words ‘goose’ and ‘gander’ spring to mind yet again. Dave must be immediately suspended by his party for being an unreconstructed and incurable fruitcake.

Actually, I don’t think he should be suspended – much as I would toss my hat up in the air and cheer if that were to happen. Neither do I think Mr Silvester should have been punished.

Both men expressed views wholly consistent with the intellectual, spiritual and moral systems within which they operate. If we accept each man’s system, we may still disagree with his conclusions, but we can’t regard them as implausible enough to warrant an accusation of emotional instability.

As a Christian, Mr Silvester accepts the veracity of scriptural sources, in this instance what he erroneously refers to as ‘the Gospel’. As I recall, none of the Gospels contains an injunction against homosexuality – these come across in the Old Testament and the Epistles. But this is a minor, pedantic quibble: homosexuality is explicitly proscribed in Scripture.

Moreover, both Testaments leave believers in no doubt that going against God’s will may incur punishment. The good denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, got punished for exactly the kind of carnal lassitude to which Mr Silvester objects.

Operating within his system of thought, he predicted back in 2012 that God would punish us for passing the homomarriage law. Now he feels justified, which is a sign of intellectual consistency, not madness.

The only way to declare Mr Silvester’s views to be beyond the pale is to disavow the whole philosophical system within which the belief is possible, that we can indeed be punished for defying God. In other words, we can think Mr Silvester’s view is mad only if we think Christianity is.

Now the provenance of our Dave’s take on the matter can also be found within his system of thought. This is wholly described by powerlust and eagerness to do or say anything that would appeal to enough potential voters for Dave to gain or hang on to power.

Since his focus groups doubtless show that more voters believe in anthropogenic global warming than in God, Dave knows what his heartfelt convictions must be. Hence he is being as consistent in his own way as Mr Silvester is in his.

They simply worship different Gods: David Silvester, our Trinitarian Lord; David Cameron, the God of Global Warming. Since we must on pain of punishment believe in religious fairness, suspend neither man – or both.

Only one question remains: I have a fairly reliable idea of how Mr Silvester prays to his God. But how does Mr Cameron pray to his?





Pete Seeger converts the Daily Mail

When even Daily Mail writers begin to repeat leftie shibboleths without bothering to think first, you know it’s the end of the world.

Witness Tom Leonard’s hagiographic obituary of the American folk singer and communist activist Pete Seeger who died at 94 on Monday, and I didn’t even know he was sick, or indeed still alive.

“Whatever you might think of Seeger’s sometimes sanctimonious politics,” writes Leonard, “they weren’t some marketing gimmick but a way of life and, so he believed, a tool for change.”

That’s all right then. But of course neither Lenin’s nor Stalin’s politics were marketing gimmicks either. They too were a way of life and a tool for change. Nevertheless our assessment of their politics is based not on the two chaps’ sincerity but on our view of their lives and the kind of change they brought about.

This isn’t to suggest that Seeger was a comparably evil figure – only that Leonard’s eulogy is somewhat lacking in intellectual rigour. It gets worse though.

“[Seeger]… had his career almost wiped out by a vengeful establishment after he stood up to the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunts in the fifties.”

On the basis of this passage, what colour hats do you suppose the opposing parties wore? It’s obvious. White-hatted Seeger suffered for his deeply felt and implicitly commendable political convictions at the hand of the black-hatted ‘establishment’ and the witch-hunting McCarthy.

No doubt that’s exactly how Seeger himself felt, along with assorted communists and Soviet fellow travellers the world over. But one was under the impression that The Mail is a conservative paper, and the defining feature of conservatism is its commitment to truth.

After the Venona intercepts and some archival data were finally published in the late ‘90s, and then only partially (can’t offend the Soviets even retrospectively, it’s awfully un-PC), the truth was established beyond a shadow of doubt: in his accusations Sen. Joseph ‘Tailgunner Joe’ McCarthy erred only on the side of caution.

The upper echelons of the US governing elite were indeed thoroughly infiltrated by Soviet sympathisers, agents of influence and downright spies. In fact, at least 500 of them were in government, including President Roosevelt’s immediate entourage.

Among his closest advisers, Harry Dexter White (in effect top man at Treasury) and Alger Hiss (one of the top officials at State) definitely, and America’s second most powerful man Harry Hopkins almost certainly, were Soviet spies.

These and hundreds of other men not only provided information to Stalin but also steered US wartime policy to serve Soviet, rather than Western, or even more narrowly American, interests. It was they who talked the rapidly declining FDR into a potentially suicidal landing at Normandy – rather than attacking southern Europe from the already existing stronghold in Italy, something favoured by Churchill.

Had that not been the case, the Soviets would have been unable to establish post-war control over Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania – or indeed other countries of Eastern Europe. Moreover, Stalin-inspired demand for unconditional surrender, coupled with the Allies’ failure to develop the Italian beachhead, prolonged the war by at least a year, causing millions of unnecessary deaths. (Those interested in the subject ought to read American Betrayal by Diane West, an exceptionally well-researched if sloppily written book.)

It was also thanks to Soviet agents in the higher reaches of the American ‘vengeful’ establishment that the Soviets got the atom bomb approximately 18 months sooner than they would have otherwise. That emboldened them to provoke the Korean war, which they otherwise wouldn’t have dared to do. Not only did the war cost horrendous casualties, but it also entrenched the communist regime in the North, and we all know how lovely that is.

McCarthy found himself on one side of the watershed, and Seeger and his friends (Lillian Hellman, Dalton Trumbo, Dashiell Hammett and thousands of others, whose name is legion) on the other.

Those on the McCarthy side deplored Soviet activities in the USA and wanted them stopped and prevented. Those on the other side, you know, the chaps who shared Seeger’s “sometimes sanctimonious” politics, wanted exactly the opposite. So who wore the white hats?

Leonard’s take on this? “…The wide-eyed Seeger became an apologist for Stalinism. Unlike many of those targeted by Senator McCarthy’s hysterical Red-baiting campaign, Seeger made no secret of his communist sympathies.”

Right. McCarthy was a hysterical Red-baiter unleashing unfounded invective on good folk, whose only fault was concealing their implicitly commendable “communist sympathies”. By contrast to both McCarthy’s hysteria and his opponents’ stealth, Seeger was an honest communist and therefore a good man.

So he honestly joined the Communist party and later honestly insisted that he was only ever a communist with a small ‘c’. Whatever that means.

Leonard doesn’t go as far as some other fans, those who compared Seeger to “St Francis of Assisi and even Jesus.” Nor does he match the putrid effluvia by Billy Bragg (whoever he is) in the Times. But then he did publish his piece in a supposedly conservative paper.

“If I had a hammer,” to quote one of Pete Seeger’s songs, I’d hammer Tom Leonard on the head (figuratively speaking, as I hope you realise – I harbour no murderous animus). “I’d hammer every morning, I’d hammer every evening, all over this land.”

Pete Seeger, RIP.











Cycling as a (surrogate) moral statement

Yesterday’s incident in central London was simple, but its implications anything but.

Just before the lights were to turn green, an Audi edged into the cycle-only box. Law’s law and all that, but drivers hate those.

After all, we pay for the privilege of having our locomotion assisted by an internal combustion engine. The car itself is pricey, and then there are road and registration taxes, parking charges, maintenance costs and what have you.

We bear the costs for three reasons: comfort, safety and speed. Yet cyclists lining up side to side in their assigned box in front of us impose their own speed: having the power of 240 horses at our disposal, we have to get off the light at the pace of one man pushing two pedals.

Of course the cyclists could line up single file, leaving room for cars to accelerate properly. But they don’t – and didn’t before yesterday’s incident, as anyone with access to YouTube can see for himself.

One of those cyclists felt called upon to harangue the Audi driver for rolling into the box a second too early. The driver sensibly refused to engage in an argument and, when the light changed, drove on.

By now the cyclist was overcome with righteous wrath. He pursued the car at an Olympic-calibre speed and caught up with it at the next light. There he called the driver a ‘f****** p****’ and a few other things that these days roll off the tongue so naturally.

In response, the Audi’s passenger jumped out and hit the thug with a left hook, knocking him off both his bike and his moral perch. So far the cycling ruffian hasn’t reported the incident to the police, but do-gooders all over the country are urging him to do so. For my part, I have a few questions and observations.

First, what recourse do we have against being publicly insulted? The answer is none, unless sex-based epithets are interspersed with chromatic adjectives. Someone calls you a f****** p****, and you’re supposed to grin and bear it.

Things like dignity and honour have fallen by the wayside, as have any legal means of protecting them. This is part of the general transsexual programme in which we all must participate: men can’t act like men any longer but women must.

What gives cyclists the right to be so sanctimoniously self-righteous? After all, they don’t bear any of the costs I mentioned earlier. Who told them they can claim high moral ground?

Suddenly the context overrides the text. For cyclists have been told either explicitly or through the emanations of Zeitgeist that operating a vehicle consuming hydrocarbons isn’t just expensive but also immoral.

Yet having consulted my Exodus and Matthew 5-7, which laid down the moral law on which our civilisation is based, I found no proscription against Audis. Nowhere does it say, “Thou shalt love thy bicycle and hate cars with all thy heart, for verily they are the work of the devil.”

The problem arises from the obvious fact that modern morality is no longer based on Exodus and Matthew 5-7. They have been taken out of circulation, to loud cheers.

The cheerers didn’t notice at the time that a giant hole appeared in the social fabric and, unless the hole was filled, it would spread and there would be no fabric left.

Since then every hater of the book containing Exodus and Matthew 5-7, and the group isn’t just large but dominant, has tried to offer various new moralities. Yet each time a new morality was tested, the test turned out to be destructive.

We’re in the midst of another new morality being shoved down our throats. Since morals based on the truth have been rejected, this newfangled code is based on boldfaced lies – and only on boldfaced lies.

Such as: using private medicine or sending children to private schools is immoral; it’s immoral for financial institutions to generate profits; legally keeping some of our money from state extortion is immoral; it’s moral to use welfare to create a sociopathic dependent class; suggesting that man-made global warming is based on shockingly bad (and often falsified) evidence is immoral; it’s immoral to point out that there’s anything wrong with homomarriage – and so on, ad nauseam.

Every one of those surrogate commandments rests on either a cynical or ignorant, but in either case flagrant, lie. One such lie is that only energy produced by water, wind or our muscles is morally acceptable, even if other types regrettably have to be tolerated.

In other words, in order to vindicate its own mendacious morality, modernity is decrying its sole claim to legitimacy: scientific and technological progress. This is yet another clash of pieties that a fossilised reactionary like me takes so much delight in lampooning.

A small example: if you had a ruptured appendix, would you like to be taken to hospital by a) a bicycle or b) an IC-driven ambulance? The point is that the whole material progress, so dear to the hearts of those who are only capable of thinking in material categories, was fuelled by hydrocarbons. When all energy was renewable, life wasn’t always nasty and brutish, but it was almost always short.

So far the only viable alternative to hydrocarbons is nuclear energy, which is by far the safest source and also one that can claim the moral ascendancy of being carbon-free. But nuclear runs headlong into another self-refuting moral law of modernity: though hydrocarbons are wrong, any other than antediluvian alternatives to them are even more so.

I doubt the feral cyclist involved in yesterday’s conflict has ever formulated a coherent moral code to live by. It’s a simple physiological fact that most people are incapable of thinking for themselves – they act like lemmings following one another towards the precipice.

But while impervious to reason, modern barbarians are sensitive to the vibes of Zeitgeist. Hence their nauseating self-righteousness – the blighters think they’re moral, but in fact they’re only moralising.





Is Denis Healey whispering in Ed Balls’s ear?

Elect the Milibandits in 2015, and by the end of their term they’ll clear Britain’s deficit, promised Ed Balls. Then we’ll begin to reduce our national debt.

“Without fiscal discipline and a credible commitment to eliminate the deficit,” explained Ed, “we cannot achieve the stability we need.”

Few will argue. Some, however, will doubt that such commendable goals can be achieved by any government led by our two fast Eddies, Balls and Miliband. Their CV gives little grounds for optimism.

Just imagine a company interviewing an applicant for the CEO job.

“What do you see as the highlights of your career, Mr Smith?”

“Well, I successfully drove my previous employer into bankruptcy.”

“Really? This sounds interesting. How did you achieve that?”

“It wasn’t easy but I was perfectly qualified for the task. At first I made sure that the firm’s outlays consistently and increasingly exceeded its income…”

“As simple as that?”

“Not quite. I also doubled the staff by adding unnecessary jobs, paying my employees way over the odds. And I allowed many of them not to come to work at all while still getting paid.”

“And the board went along?”

“They wouldn’t have of course, had they known. But I hired some capable youngsters to cook the books, at the same time planting glowing reviews of the company in the trade press. The board members didn’t bother to do any checking of their own, and after a few years the company was well and truly… well, on the rocks.”

“Excellent! You’re just the man we’re looking for!”

If you think this is a somewhat unlikely scenario, marvel at modern politics. For Ed Balls and Ed Miliband both had major economic posts in the previous Labour government (Treasury Economic Secretary and Secretary for Energy respectively).

Hence they had key roles to play in using public finances for party political purposes, bribing the electorate with unprecedented handouts, using extortionist taxation to destroy as much enterprise as possible, borrowing and printing money with criminal irresponsibility, running insane deficits, driving the national debt over £16 trillion, straining public services to breaking point by opening Britain’s borders to millions of potential Labour voters, inviting (and religiously complying with) miles of EU red tape and complementing those outrages with epic mismanagement.

Yet their victory in the next election isn’t just possible, but likely. What does this say about our present government? The Tory party? The electorate?

Leaving such sweeping questions aside for the moment, let’s ask an easier one: “And how do you propose to balance the books, Ed, considering your personal record and your party’s general outlook on life?”

It would be irresponsible, answered Ed with the swiftness of a used-car salesman, “to make detailed commitments and difficult judgments about what will happen in two or three years’ time.”

Yes, but can you give us a teeny-weeny whiff of your plans?

Well, if you insist. We’ll raise the top tax rate to 50 percent to reduce the deficit “more fairly” and in general follow the route charted by Denis Healey who in 1973 promised to “squeeze the rich until the pips squeak.”

The rest of the Milibandits’ economics remains unsaid, but what Ed has already revealed is enough. They’re going to do all the same things they’ve always done, causing the same economic catastrophe they’ve always caused.

That’s fine with all factions of the Labour party, including the Blairites. By all means, they say, do all those things when elected. But for Tony’s sake don’t talk that way before you’re elected. Are you insane? Talk like Adam Smith to get in, then start acting like Vladimir Lenin – isn’t that the proven model?

“The whole point of New Labour,” explained one prominent Blairite, “was it showed you could help the poor and wealth creators at the same time.”

It didn’t. It promised it would and afterwards claimed it did. In between New Labour did exactly the same thing socialists always do: it destroyed the economy first and Britain’s social fabric second.

The same Blairite complained that, “The trouble is they [the Milibandits] are economically illiterate and have no understanding of business or profits.”

That’s not what he meant. The trouble, according to the Blairites, is that the Milibandits don’t know how to conceal their economic illiteracy. Haven’t they learned anything from Tony? Talk Smith, act Lenin – that’s the trick.

That Labour remains Labour is really no surprise. A leopard can jump through circus hoops and stand on its hind legs, yet it can’t change its spots. But how can the electorate go along with that evil nonsense to a point where the Milibandits are consistently leading in the polls?

That, I’m afraid, isn’t surprising either. The nation has been thoroughly corrupted by socialism, as perpetrated by all three parliamentary parties. At the heart of this pernicious philosophy lies an appeal to envy and concomitant hatred of hard-earned economic success.

The argument that attacking enterprise is tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face is sound, but it doesn’t work. The British no longer mind suffering as long as they can be sure that some, preferably the squeezed ‘rich’, will suffer more.

That’s why no government – and certainly not Labour – will ever do what any sound economist knows has to be done: gradually eliminating the welfare state, drastically reducing taxation, providing incentives for investment and enterprise, banning deficit spending in peacetime, reducing the size and power of the state.

But socialism, whoever preaches and practises it, isn’t about sound economics or indeed reason in general. It’s about activating people’s most shameful and destructive instincts, bribing and cajoling them into committing deadly sins.

At least Tory leaders have to mitigate their wickedness to some extent – there’s still some residual grassroots pressure left, something Labour leaders don’t feel. Dave and George may be evil, but they’re marginally the lesser evil.

If we fail to realise this by 2015, it’ll be Balls to us all. 

Bait rottweilers at your own peril

William Shakespeare invented 1,700 words now in common use, which is more than an average Englishman uses or, if comprehensively educated, even knows (yes, there must be exceptions, thanks for reminding me).

Not only that, but the Bard contributed enough aphorisms to the language to justify one wit’s quip: “What I hate about Shakespeare’s plays is that they’re so full of clichés.”

Yet Shakespeare didn’t fill the whole Thesaurus of Quotations, just much of it.

One of the most quoted, and often misquoted, adages in the English language comes from another William, Congreave, who lived 100 years after Shakespeare. He too knew a thing or two about human nature, to wit:

“Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,// Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”

I can testify to the veracity of this observation, for it’s amply supported by my personal experience. In my impetuous and, alas, dissipated youth I scorned a woman or two, finding myself on the receiving end of their ensuing fury.

One long sufferer credibly threatened to smash my skull with a flatiron when I fell asleep, giving me chronic insomnia as a result. Another threw a kitchen knife at me with the accuracy of a circus performer, but mercifully without the power (the knife didn’t penetrate my back deeper than half an inch or so). Yet another victim of my beastliness punched me in the face in a crowded street and, when we got home, smashed a stack of plates.

All this is par for the course, and many a formerly dissipated man can recount similar episodes. But few can match François Hollande’s story of woe (Shakespeare is today’s leitmotif, in case you haven’t noticed).

For his ‘woman scorned’, Valérie Trierweiler, directed her wrath not at my friend François’s person but at his office, which she, not to cut too fine a point, trashed. In the process she destroyed, along with other national treasures, a Sèvres vase that belonged to Louis XVI. The overall damage is estimated at €3,000,000, but it’ll cost less to François than those broken plates once cost me.

You see, I pay for my own plates, but François doesn’t these days pay for his Sèvres vases that belonged to Louis XVI. Nor are they his own – they belong to the nation. François has no more claim to them than you or I would have to the furniture and fixtures at a hotel where we spend a couple of days.

Valérie, affectionately known as ‘Rottweiler’, possibly because of her sexual preferences (I’m guessing here), has even less of a claim. In fact, in her capacity as François’s mistress, she has none at all.

One would think that in this instance French law would apply the principle first enunciated by some retail outfits: “You break it, you’ve bought it.” Sounds reasonable that the baited Rottweiler should pay for the damage, or alternatively (perhaps additionally) go to prison for gross vandalism.

That’s what would happen to anyone who tore down a suite at, say, Georges V, wouldn’t it? I can’t for the life of me see any legal or moral difference between that and what the Rottweiler did at the Élysée Palace. Surely it’s the same law for everyone, isn’t?

Silly me. Of course it isn’t. François and his assorted concubines have been touched by the neo-divine hand of the state. This gives them the dispensation to do as they please, treating the law as at best a statement of intent.

They are part of the new untouchables, the ruling elite that lives according to its own laws, not those of the nation. Certain of their impunity, they expect to get away with anything short of murder – and les mauvaises langues hint that, say, Mitterand may have got away even with that.

France can’t claim exclusive rights to that sort of thing. Hardly a month goes by without one of our politicians being caught in a scandal of a sexual, fiscal, political or simply criminal nature (for example, attacking people physically).

Most of the time they get away with it, occasionally they don’t, but what really matters is that they fully expect to go unpunished. They too have been anointed by the God of State Power, and he’s a merciful deity when it comes to the denizens of his Olympus.

The story of the Rottweiler attack on national treasures was broken by Closer magazine. It’s the same publication that had earlier divulged that François was a naughty boy, thereby baiting the Rottweiler into baring her fangs. (The magazine’s previous scoop was publishing photographs proving that Prince William has an impeccable taste in women.)

The Élysée Palace denied the story, but none of my French friends, some of whom revolve in government circles, doubt it for a second. Yet none of them has suggested that the vandal ought to be prosecuted. The thought simply doesn’t cross their minds.

Trying to picture the trashed office, one recalls another Shakespearean story, this one dating back to the Victorian era.

The visiting French actress Sarah Bernhardt delivered a bravura performance in Antony and Cleopatra. In the last scene she tore down the whole palace and rolled all over the debris in paroxysms of rage.

On the way out of the theatre, an elderly lady was overheard saying to her companion, “How different, how very different from the home life of our dear Queen.” Quite.


My new book How the Future Worked is available from www.roperpenberthy.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk and the more discerning bookshops. 



Multiculturalism watch: seems like there’s more work to be done yet

Repeat after me, so I can hear you:

Our culture is no better than any other, just different. Louder! It’s no better! Just different! And, when all is said and done, not that different either!

Good. But now that we’ve added our voices to the received mantra, let’s consider just how different.

For example, do you agree there ought to be a law banning young women from going out with men from another village? And that any transgressor must be sentenced to be gang-raped half to death?

If you don’t, you haven’t grasped the full meaning of multiculturalism. You should be sent to West Bengal to complete your education.

There, in a village just a few miles from the birthplace of the great humanist Rabindranath Tagore, a 20-year-old woman was tried by a kangaroo court for having an affair with a man outside her own community (and its religion).

By way of an improvised dock, both she and the man were tied to posts sticking out of an elevated bamboo platform. The judicial process was swift, none of that adversarial nonsense complete with dithering juries or loud-mouthed barristers.

At first the transgressor was sentenced to a fine, just £490 in our currency. Yet neither she nor her family could cough up that princely sum, which represents a fortune in that nuclear power capable of launching satellites into space. (Obviously we must urgently up our foreign aid, but that’s another story.)

The elders discussed the situation and, being sage men well-versed in the intricacies of tribal law, came up with an alternative punishment. The woman was to be gang-raped by all comers.

The verdict was hailed as just by all villagers, except perhaps the defendant’s family. They begged for a night’s reprieve, so they could scrape the exorbitant sum together. Their request was denied: just like in Stalin’s Russia, where the guilty were shot immediately after the verdict was announced, there was no delay.

“If the family does not pay up, go and enjoy yourselves,” the chief judge told the male villagers, and enjoy themselves they did, proceeding to execute the punishment with unbounded vigour. Some of the 13 rapists were barely post-pubescent children, some others men old enough to be the victim’s father.

Those not taking direct part in the fun watched it with relish, cheering and filming the action with their mobile phones (the village obviously keeps abreast of modern technology). The poor girl’s family were in a distinct minority and could do nothing.

Her cries reverberated through the night, by the end of which she was dumped at her doorstep, bleeding profusely from severe internal injuries. She’s now in hospital, fighting for her life.

Far from showing any repentance, the villagers barracked the police the next day when they finally arrived. The women were in especially fine voice, insisting that their men had done nothing wrong and the girl had been punished justly.

They even tried to prevent the police from arresting the criminals, and eventually reinforcements had to be brought in to take them into custody. But no government official has visited the scene of the crime yet, or talked to the victim’s family.

So far it’s unclear what action, if any, will be taken against the arrested men. It is however crystal-clear what action will be taken against the half-dead woman and her family.

“We will never allow the woman and her family to return,” vowed the villagers. After all, she had been warned not to continue the affair, or else. It’s because of her lackadaisical response that those good men ended up in prison, though, the villagers hoped, not for long. And the family had no business grassing up to the cops.

Actually, I have faith in India’s justice, and I doubt the savages will see their native village in the near future. Nor am I trying to suggest that India at large is in any way similar to that Bengali hellhole.

However, I doubt that a similar incident could have occurred in Cornwall, Bordeaux, Andalusia, Calabria or Brabant. This isn’t to say that our culture is inherently better, God and the Equality Commission forbid – only that it’s so different that any attempt at homogenising East and West will be as futile as Kipling once suggested.

Spanning such a chasm even within the borders of a Western country seems like a losing proposition – unless Eastern arrivals desperately wish to abandon their ways and adopt ours. It may be an optical illusion, but one doesn’t readily observe any effects of any such desire in Britain.

On the contrary, having reached a certain numerical critical mass, many ethnic and religious groups resident here openly preach contempt, often hatred, for everything British and indeed Western (except mobile phones, trainers, cars and I-Pads). For example, even though they’re born in this country, some Muslim youngsters join the ranks of suicide bombers murdering their fellow Brits.

Cultural and linguistic alienation is in full flow, whereas genuine adaptation is increasingly rare. Just think about it: those Bengali rapists are unlikely, one hopes against hope, ever to be admitted here. But their accomplices, all those cheerers and photo snappers, may well end up in Birmingham or Leeds. How British do you think they’ll become?

A harrowing thought, that, but an utterly realistic one. For our rulers are hell-bent on destroying our society and its culture, with dilution being one of the most effective stratagems. The less our electorate is British culturally, the more troubled the waters in which our spivs like to fish politically.

They proceed unimpeded for they’ve sold to the public the toxic myth of multiculturalism, realised in practice as a free-for-all for all cultures except that of Christendom. Few dare raise their voice against this newly hatched orthodoxy, and those who do are either hushed up or ostracised.

You know, like the family of that poor girl in West Bengal.  







You and I don’t understand “the complex strategic dilemmas of the 21st century”

The phrase comes from Matt d’Ancona’s article in the Evening Standard. Unlike you and me, Matt is on top of strategic dilemmas, no matter how complex.

Yet he also has a laudable common touch, which he once proved by flying clear across the world to attend Elton John’s party. Those less catholic in their tastes wouldn’t be caught dead at such a party even if it were held across the street – and in fact would complain to the police about too much noise.

But not our Matt: his grasp of ‘strategic dilemmas’ is fully matched by his celebrity worship. Both are evident from the article’s title: “Tony Blair’s instincts on Iraq were right – and Syria proves it.”

As far as Matt is concerned, Tony’s instinct are right on everything: after all, they both belong to the smart set that more or less runs Britain.

This elevated status raises them above the quotidian rough-and tumble where traditional moral and intellectual standards operate. The likes of Tony and Matt are true Gnostics, privy to knowledge inaccessible to anyone else.

The knowledge is purely metaphysical: no crude standards of logic or factual proof need apply. Those of us who have to crawl on the flinty ground of time-proven ratiocination simply can’t judge our modern demiurges.

Yet at a weak moment, such as now, one can’t resist the odd bit of analysis – in the full understanding that only the likes of Tony and Matt can ever possess the ultimate truth. 

Matt is upset, as we all are, by the “systematic torture and killing of detained persons in Bashar Assad’s Syria, including the death of around 11,000.” Yet what does this prove? That Assad is a brutal dictator? But we already know this. That he falls short of our understanding of absolute goodness? Ditto.

Yet Assad isn’t exactly up against the forces of such goodness. Instead of indulging in oral flatulence, which is always easy, Matt should weigh one evil against the other, letting us decide which is the lesser one. Well, if he could, he wouldn’t be Matt.

Speaking to a group of university professors a year ago, I invited them to compare the number of people killed under South African apartheid (a few hundred) to those murdered by the Russian communists (about 60 million). The educators got very angry. When morality is involved, they screamed, numbers don’t matter.

“They do,” I objected, “to those extra 60 million victims and their families.” I was immediately accused of moral relativism (false) and dismissed as a hopeless reactionary (true).

In that spirit I’d suggest that the ‘death of around 11,000’ should be weighed against the death of around 1,000,000, those killed as a direct result of Tony playing lickspittle to Dubya over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moreover, those ‘around 11,000’ were brutally murdered by a regime fighting for its life against a band of jihadist fanatics who at the moment represent perhaps the greatest threat of a world war.

Modern wars in general, and particularly those in that part of the world, especially if they are civil wars, aren’t fought to Queensberry rules. So of course Assad’s regime is guilty of atrocities. And of course Matt is wholly within his right to deplore them.

What he shouldn’t do is confuse moral indignation with resolving ‘strategic dilemmas’. Strategically, we must all go down on our knees and pray that Saudi-financed al-Qaeda cannibals don’t take over in Syria. Once they’ve got their hands on the country’s resources, not only Israel but we all will be in mortal danger.

Advocating direct military involvement on al-Qaeda’s side is the acme of criminal stupidity, exacerbating no end the gross folly of having attacked Iraq in the first place. Yet obviously Matt, privy as he is to the Gnostic understanding of ‘strategic dilemmas’, doesn’t see it that way. To wit:

“One wonders how many detainees have been maimed and killed since the Commons rejected possible military action against the Syrian dictator last August. [Not nearly as many as those killed by the Anglo-American aggression, Matt. And is it just Assad’s side that’s maiming and killing? Surely not.]

“This, of course, is Blair’s strongest point: that inaction, as much as intervention, has a cost. [Sounds almost Burkean, that. In this instance, inaction will mean that evil will prevail. However, intervention will mean the triumph of a far greater evil, something that’ll kick off the kind of bloodbath neither Saddam nor Assad would have dreamed of – not to mention its being a direct threat to us and our allies.]

“It is not always right to intervene, and often impractical to do so in any case. But those who do nothing should be held to account, too. Who interrupts the appeaser’s meal?” [A barman in a London restaurant, that’s who (see my yesterday’s piece). But I for one wouldn’t mind interrupting the meal of Assad’s al-Qaeda enemies. You know, the chaps who munch on freshly removed human organs?]

So, according to Matt, naked aggression against a sovereign state is an act of appeasement. George Orwell, ring your office. Doublespeak is alive and well.

Don’t know about you, but I’m scared out of my wits. What frightens me isn’t just the possible triumph of jihadists in Syria and the Middle East at large, although God knows that’s frightening enough.

What really gives me sleepless nights (apart from drinking too much wine at dinner) is the thought that it’s the likes of Tony, Dave, Dubya, Barack Hussein et al who tackle our ‘strategic dilemmas’ – and the likes of Matt who are in a position to egg them on.

In their capable hands those dilemmas can turn around with a ferocious scowl, leaving us all impaled on their horns.




Truth hurts (whomever dares speak it)

Totalitarian states define truth as anything that serves them and a lie as anything that doesn’t.

Since such states are based on lies, what they define as a falsehood is usually true and vice versa. Thus actual reality is inverted by the virtual kind: an actual lie is a virtual truth to be rewarded, while an actual truth is a virtual lie to be punished.

It’s refreshing to observe how the same inversion is making inroads on our public life. These days any statement by any public figure is judged on its compliance with the ruling orthodoxy, and often solely on that. Whether or not it’s actually true is irrelevant.

Hence American scientists Richard Hernstein and Charles Murray were viciously attacked and eventually ostracised for their 1994 book The Bell Curve, in which they showed that a person’s IQ has a significant genetic input, which differs from race to race.

This was proved by a vast corpus of scrupulously gathered and analysed data, but that made no difference. The scientists were attacked as ‘racists’ not because either their data or their conclusions were disputed, but because their findings went against the dominant egalitarian ideology. Even though they were actually right, they were virtually wrong, which couldn’t go unpunished.

Totalitarian states punish ‘lies’ by prison or execution, expedients that are still largely outside the reach of modern ‘democracies’. ‘Largely’ is the operative word here, for there already exist a broad array of imprisonable thought offences, but so far legal prosecutions for what people say or think have been rare.

That, however, doesn’t mean such offences go unpunished. It’s just that the ruling orthodoxy uses different methods of punishment.

Public ridicule is one, ostracism is another, harassment is yet another, professional damage another still. For those people whose profession is politics this could effectively mean the end of their careers.

Thus Enoch Powell’s professional life was ended by his annoying familiarity with classical sources. His remarks on the social dangers of an uncontrolled immigration of cultural aliens were prophetic and since then amply vindicated, but no matter. Not only Powell’s career but even his posthumous reputation was destroyed for uttering an actual truth that was adjudged to be a virtual lie.

Nigel Farage can suffer the same fate if he isn’t careful. The other day he was attacked both verbally and physically for saying something that anyone who has ever had to meet a payroll knows: in businesses built on personal relationships with clients, women of child-bearing age, regardless of their otherwise sterling qualities, represent a risk that lowers their market value.

Farage who, unlike his critics, hasn’t spent his whole professional life in politics, said something every businessman knows to be true:  “And if a woman has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to the employer when she comes back than when she went away because her client base will not have stuck rigidly to her.”

Having been involved in running an advertising agency, I can confirm that this is indeed the case. The series Mad Men got a few things wrong, but one thing it definitely got right is that an agency can only ever get accounts, or especially hold on to them, if its employees enjoy good personal relationships with the clients.

There’s usually one such employee, called Account Director or some such, who’s the principal link between agency and account. When such a person leaves, so may the account – and with it the agency’s lifeblood.

Women often excel in the account-handling role, largely on the strength of their administrative and personal skills. They’re also less likely than men to irritate a client by being overly abrasive and argumentative.

However, all those laudable qualities count for nothing when a woman has to take a long time off to give birth and then look after the baby. I’ve seen agencies lose important accounts for this reason alone, which obviously has to make any sensible manager think twice before hiring a young woman for such a position.

She represents a risk that has to be weighed against her value. This doesn’t mean the agency won’t hire her – but it may have an impact on her remuneration and career path. I have no personal knowledge of other businesses, but five gets you ten the situation there has to be the same whenever personal relationships with clients are vital.

Now Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has no personal knowledge of any business outside of politics. Between matriculating at university and gaining a parliamentary seat she spent a few years doing something with civil liberties, which is politics by another name.

Yet she confidently declared that Mr Farage was ‘downright wrong’. “I think,” she added, “that this is an affront to women in this country and I just can’t believe that he’s said that.”

Yes, Harriet, but was it true? I bet no one asked her this question, and if anyone had she would have been perplexed. Farage’s statement is ‘downright wrong’ not factually, but because it goes against the dominant egalitarian ideology. Nothing else matters. 

Meanwhile Harriet was on a roll: “There’s not a single business or public service in this country which would still have the lights on if women weren’t there at work.”

One wonders how businesses had managed to stay open until the ‘60s, before women began to enter the workforce en masse. Who said that? You?

Off with your head: you haven’t grasped the modern difference between true and false. But I hope you do realise that we’re rapidly slipping into neo-totalitarianism. You know, the disease whose reliable symptom is wicked inversion of truth.


“Yes, but apart from that, Mr Blair, how did you enjoy your meal?”

A young and impressionable barman at a trendy East London restaurant has done something all decent people have wanted to do for a long time.

He arrested Tony Blair.

Having espied Tony having dinner with friends (with no doubt some burly bodyguards in close attendance), the youngster put his hand on the ex-PM’s shoulder and said, “Mr Blair, this is a citizen’s arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.”

The exact wording of the mantra wasn’t improvised. It came from the website arrestblair.org, specially created to do what its name says.

The website offers a bounty to anyone attempting to nab Tony, and it lays down what looks to me like an airtight case. Yo-Blair, as he was referred to by his accomplice George W. Bush, was directly responsible for starting a criminal war that has so far cost the best part of a million lives.

Personally I’m less troubled by the illegality of the Iraq war than the young barman seems to be. As far as I’m concerned, a UN Security Council resolution is as weak a reason to start a war as its absence is not to start one.

The problem with the Iraq war isn’t that it wasn’t authorised by an (at best useless) international organisation but that it was unjust, stupid, cowardly and shrouded in a tissue of lies.

Witness the number of times the putative casus belli changed in the explanatory speeches delivered by the perpetrators.

First, it was all about WMD which Iraq turned out not to possess – something Blair & Co knew from the beginning.

Then it was about regime change – Saddam was a nasty bit of work whose toxic presence could no longer be tolerated by a world as comfortable with Putin, Lukashenko and Kim Jong Un now as it ever was with Lenin, Stalin, dozens of communist chieftains and, from 1933 to 1939, Hitler (TIME’s Man of the Year, 1938).

After that the mendacious explanations grew more altruistic. Iraq was a nation that deserved to be ‘built’ – specifically by Tony, who was doing his level best to destroy his own nation.

American neoconservatives contributed their own penny’s worth by explaining that Iraqi people were being denied democracy, the only political system that can ever have even a shadow of legitimacy.

Since then the Iraqis have demonstrated – as if it needed demonstrating – that their affection for democracy is less urgent than their desire to be left alone so they can continue to kill one another. The country is being drowned in an ongoing bloodbath, and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, as Tony’s accomplice would say.

Moreover, the war has escalated into an ‘Arab Spring’ offensive, claiming even more lives, getting rid of some nasty but internationally impotent regimes, destabilising the Middle East and making the world an infinitely more insecure place. 

Unfortunately, the teenaged barman didn’t succeed in bringing Blair to justice. Tony talked his way out of trouble by unsheathing his rhetorical weapons. These proved sufficiently powerful to work on poorly educated teenagers, if no one else.

“Shouldn’t you be worried about Syria instead?” asked Tony, which is a bit like a burglar claiming he shouldn’t be arrested because there’s so much other evil in the world.

Then came the clincher: “But don’t you agree that Saddam was a brutal dictator and he needed to be removed?” The youngster replied “Not by an illegal war,” which isn’t an answer I would have given. He should have said that the second part of the question is an utter non sequitur.

Of course Saddam was a brutal dictator, but from this it doesn’t follow that he should have been removed by foreign powers. Said powers should only unseat foreign governments in their own national interests – otherwise the world would be turned into an incessantly bubbling cauldron full of blood.

Neocons, American and alas now also ours, are driven by their Trotskyist DNA to seek a permanent armed conflict, preferably a global one. The slogan they inscribe on their banners isn’t ‘revolution’, which their spiritual father favoured, but ‘democracy’, yet the animus is exactly the same temperamentally.

For at least a couple of decades neocons have been exerting a strong influence on US foreign policy, to which our spivs habitually play poodle. The war in question is a direct result.

Our Tone, to do him justice, lacks even such petty and asinine convictions. He desperately craves only two things: power first and money derivatively. And he knows that usually only wartime leaders go down in history as ‘great’.

Churchill, who incidentally extolled Hitler as ‘a strong leader’ in early 1934, was a vacillating and often unsound peacetime politician. But because he did well as an inspirational wartime PM, Churchill now enjoys a sterling posthumous reputation.

In that vein, Tony was clearly hoping that his valiant attempt to reduce Britain to third-world status would be written off by successful martial exploits. That hundreds of thousands were to die in the process wasn’t a minor consideration for him. It was no consideration at all.

That makes the next question he asked the arresting youngster so particularly emetic: “Don’t you know how many people died in the ‘80s?” Quite a few, would be my guess. Which was of course an excellent reason to kill many more, by orders of magnitude, in the 2000s.

I do hope one day Tony will be arrested for real and spend some serious time in prison. The pleasure one would derive from this would be purely aesthetic, for we’re only ever likely to have similar nonentities at the helm.

Still, don’t knock aesthetic pleasure. It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.