Eurovision is indeed a Euro vision – and it’s a nightmare

It’s as if the Weimar Republic has come back with a vengeance, and we all know what happened next.

The post-Weimar Walpurgisnacht called Eurovision has just befouled Copenhagen and outdone its predecessor a hundred-fold, but then the EU isn’t yet reeling from a military defeat.

If Weimar was naughty, Copenhagen was wicked. If Weimar was decadent, Copenhagen was degenerate. If Weimar presaged totalitarianism, Copenhagen showed it in all its glory.

For totalitarianism doesn’t have to include concentration camps to be what it is. Its defining feature is producing the same crude stencil to which everyone must be cut. Reason, morality, good taste all have to be sacrificed at the altar of naked, stupefying, ugly power. And power can be projected by propaganda and art as effectively as by firing squads.

If you have any other explanation for the popularity of this obscene spectacle, I’d like to hear it. But it had better be good: the outburst of pan-European enthusiasm for this perversion on wheels is well-nigh incomprehensible. 

Before even my time every self-respecting county fair featured freak shows, offering for the bumpkins’ delectation such thrills as Siamese twins (who afterwards happily went their separate ways), men with breasts and women with beards.

One of those hermaphroditic apparitions has just won the Eurovision contest, and how sane people didn’t all throw up at the disgusting sight is another phenomenon that requires a good explanation.

To say that the apparition had not an ounce of musical ability, never mind talent, would be redundant. The appeal of pop music of any kind not only doesn’t rely on such outdated attributes but actively discourages them.

This isn’t music – it’s the pagan victory dance of vanquishing savages, and its appeal isn’t artistic but ritualistic. Real art brings out the best in people; this blend of a Nuremberg rally and an orgy brings out the worst.

And right round the corner from these spiritual totalitarians lurks the muscle-bound totalitarian ready to pounce, his fangs bared. The resurgent Russia, and specifically its Leader so beloved of Peter Hitchens, is watching on with his cold, expressionless eyes.

He knows a bit of German history, and he knows what happens to a Europe softened up by Weimar decadence. It’s Putin’s mission to make sure it does happen, and Eurovision can serve Putin’s purposes famously.

If you think this is far-fetched, here’s a clip from the show aired on Russia’s equivalent of BBC1, Rossia 1 TV, on 7 May, the day after the Russian act had made it to the Eurovision finals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoc1DySBqu8&feature=youtu.be

The act was the Tolmachyov girls, sequined, slit-skirted 17-year-old twins whose musical accomplishments wouldn’t get them a job in a brothel, although some other talents they appear to possess might.

My commiserations to those of you who can’t understand the language of the show, but the pictures speak louder than the words.

The principal shills, by the way, included celebrated poets, actors, artists and even the leader of one of Russia’s main parliamentary parties Mr, né Comrade, Zhirinovsky.

The MC, a young man clad in an electric-blue suit, kicked off the proceedings by punching the air and screaming hysterically, “It’s happened!!! The sun rose over Copenhagen!!!! We’re in the finals!!!!! The light is shining on all our souls!!!!!! We’re all crying because we’re all one big family!!!!!!! We’re all happy to have been born in this great, wonderful country!!!!!!!!”

Before I run out of exclamation marks, the others, all waving Russian flags, put in their penny’s worth, reaching the kind of heights seldom seen this side of a lunatic asylum.

“Our strong, powerful, dynamic country has shown she can bring America to her knees!!!” – this contribution was delivered in broken Russian by a well-trained Cameroonian married to a Russian woman who looked as if she had successfully passed the vetting at the brothel I mentioned earlier.

The African then explained to the Russian audience that even they don’t understand the God-like beauty and power of their native land. The others must have taken exception to that putdown and tried to prove that they did unxderstand their country perfectly well:

“And it’s not just our girls who’ve made the finls!!! It’s also singers from the Ukraine and Armenia!!!! These too are our lands!!!!!” (Or rather soon will be, I have to add for the sake of geopolitical accuracy.)

“This is our Victory Day! As important and smelling of gunpowder as the other one!”

Then, in reference to the Kursk origin of the slit-skirts, “The Battle of Kursk happened 70 years ago!!! So it’s only fitting that these two Kursk maidens have again cemented the motherland together!!!!”

“Our girls have shown the beauty and innocence of Russian womanhood to the West! They’re going to infect the West with their innocence and pristine purity!!!”

In addition to innocence and pristine purity the twins look as if they might also infect the West with other things I shan’t mention for fear of sounding slanderously malicious. But that’s not the point anyway.

The point, ladies and gentlemen, is that I don’t recall chauvinistic spectacles pitched at the same level of fervour even in my Soviet childhood. That was Orwell; this is a schizophrenic rant.

Aren’t you glad that these madmen are armed with an up-to-date nuclear arsenal? That they’re led by a proud scion of history’s most murderous organisation? That he’s commissioning such emetic displays to whip up the whole nation to martial enthusiasm?

I’m not. But I respectfully doff my hat to Peter Hitchens who must be detecting in this obscenity something that escapes me. A truly perceptive man, our ex-Trotskyist.

 

By attacking UKIP our press follows a wrong model

Uniformity of opinion as expressed by the press is a telltale sign of a totalitarian state.

A discreet signal from high above, and suddenly all papers begin to sing in unison. The general political bend of the paper doesn’t matter: they all have the same marching orders and they all follow them religiously.

Britain is like any other totalitarian country, at least as far as the press coverage of UKIP is concerned. Papers whose loyalty is pledged not to certain principles but to certain parties are united. UKIP is an ideological irritant to Labour and electoral threat to the Tories – that’s all our hacks need to know.

When it comes to, say, The Guardian and The Independent, one considers the source and realises that such canine devotion to the master, in this instance an ideological one, is par for the course.

But anyone who expects The Telegraph to be conservative, which is to say intelligent, will soon be frustrated. The odd article here or there notwithstanding, the paper has lost whatever philosophical backbone it ever had. That has been replaced by party loyalty: The Torygraph would campaign for a bull terrier if he sported a blue rosette on his collar.

Conversely, when the paper smells a threat to the Tories’ electoral chances, it cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war. This brings me to the vituperative and, which is worse, feeble-minded attack Alice Arnold launched the other day against the UKIP parliamentary candidate Roger Helmer.

I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr Helmer, but he sounds like the kind of man who speaks his mind, which comes close to being a disqualifying characteristic in our political life.

Most people who always say what they think run the risk of offending someone, and a few pronouncements attributed to Mr Helmer, specifically those on Catholic priests, are offensive even to thick-skinned me.

But those Miss Arnold sees in the sights of her popgun seem to be unassailable either factually or morally.

Here are the verbal daggers that wounded her delicate sensibility: “At the risk of offending the politically correct, I will argue that homosexual behaviour is abnormal and undesirable.”

To argue against this statement one has to demonstrate that such behaviour is perfectly normal and desirable. But that’s simply not the case even if we disregard for a moment the religious, moral and social traditions of the West.

At a purely practical level the best such behaviour can aspire to is being tolerable. Considering that only between one and two percent of us are homosexual, it isn’t normal; and considering its non-reproductive nature, it isn’t desirable.

To her credit, Miss Arnold didn’t even attempt to maintain the pretence of journalistic objectivity, although out of girlish modesty she didn’t cite her own interest in the matter. Allow me to correct this oversight: she lives in a civil ‘partnership’ with the sports presenter Clare Balding.

Her indignation is thus humanly understandable, if not unquestionably laudable. But simply saying ‘As a lesbian I hate anyone who says anything at all against homosexuality’, does not an article make. This genre requires an argument, and that’s where Miss Arnold falls flat.

In fact, she doesn’t seem to know what an argument is, if this attempt at one is anything to go by: “I have just applied my ‘substitute-the-word-homosexual-for-black-or-disabled’ test to see if it is in any way acceptable. Guess what? It’s not.”

This non sequitur brings into question the author’s IQ. It’s absolutely true that being either black or disabled is neither abnormal nor undesirable. But from this it doesn’t follow that being homosexual is both desirable and normal.

In other words this substitution proves nothing other than Miss Arnold’s idiocy – and poor command of English (it should have been ‘substitute-the-words-black-or-disabled-for-homosexual’, not vice versa).

The word ‘homosexual’ could be replaced with an infinity of words, each of which would make Mr Helmer’s statement nonsensical. How about ‘redheads’? ‘Fat bastards?’ ‘Cyclists’? ‘Bus conductors?’ All of those would render the original statement meaningless. None would invalidate it.

Miss Arnold is deaf to such elementary logic. That’s why she used that demonstration of her own mental inadequacy as the starting point of a long string of hysterical epithets aimed not only at Mr Helmer but also at the party he represents.

These she presaged with the remark that she wouldn’t want to attack UKIP because “the target is simply too big and too easy”. Then she proceeded to do just that, unsportingly shooting arrows at a putative sitting duck.

Alas, given the rhetorical weapons at her disposal, Miss Arnold wouldn’t be able to hit a target as big as Buck House. And if the target is so easy, how come the combined efforts of considerably cleverer propagandists have so far failed to stem the UKIP tide?

At the risk of sounding a misogynist, homophobic, Holocaust- and global-warming-denying, sexist, politically wrong, child-abusing, raping fascist, I really don’t think Miss Arnold should bother her pretty little head about subjects on which she can’t sound coherent.

Just go home, love, have a nice cup of tea – and say hello to Clare for me, will you? And by the way, you know what totalitarian means, don’t you?

Russia parades the Soviet Union

I was about to write ‘this morning time stood still’, but then changed my mind, and not just because the phrase is a lazy cliché.

It’s just that time didn’t really stand still. It went back some 50 years when I, a teenage non-person, would catch some TV glimpses of military extravaganzas in Red Square.

In those days I gagged after five minutes or so and turned the bloody thing off. This morning I watched the spectacle to the end, even though the emetic reaction was exactly the same.

Only one thing has changed. Today’s leaders overlooked the proceedings from an ad hoc dais rather than the stand in Lenin’s mausoleum, as if to remind me that this is 2014, not 1964. Other than that the illusion of time warp was complete.

First a detail of goose-steppers carried in the flags of today’s Russia and yesterday’s Soviet Union. The electronically enhanced brass band accompanied the solemn processions with the tune of the song The Sacred War. One could write a whole book on the basis of this song alone.

Anybody who ever lived in the Soviet Union knows that it took a song, especially a patriotic one, months from conception to performance. Writing it was the easiest part: aesthetic standards applied to such works were low, while the authors’ rewards were high.

Most of the time was taken up by the song working its way through multiple stages of approval, from the Composers’ Union to the Writers’ Union to the Ministry of Culture to the Censorship Bureau (I’ll spare you the Soviet acronym) to the Ideology Department of the Central Committee to, typically, the Leader himself.

But The Sacred War appeared on 24 June, 1941 – two days after Germany attacked the Soviet Union and wiped out most of the regular Red Army. Every government institution, every Soviet official (starting with Comrade Stalin himself) was in a state of abject panic – so are we to assume that the circles of censorship suddenly started to turn at record speed?

Of course not. The song had been signed off in advance, which means Stalin’s clique had planned the war in advance. But not the war they ended up fighting: from the early 1930s, Stalin had been preparing the Red Army for a conquest of Europe.

To that end the whole country had been converted into a labour-military camp inhabited by slaves. Some of the slaves served in the army, some worked in military factories, some designed weapon systems, some – millions at a time – were dying in concentration camps. The differences were minute. They were all slaves.

Stalin worked tirelessly to turn Hitler against the West, leaving his back exposed to the thrust of the Soviet dagger. At first Hitler swallowed the bait and agreed to the notorious ‘Non-Aggression’ Pact dividing Europe between the two predators.

The criminal document was signed on 23 August, 1939. A week later Hitler attacked Poland from the west to claim what was stipulated in the Pact’s secret protocol. On 17 September Stalin attacked Poland from the east to claim what was left.

Thus it wasn’t one aggressor who started the Second World War but two. Yet interestingly Britain and France declared war on Germany but not on the Soviet Union.

In fact, not only American but also British supplies to Stalin continued even while the Luftwaffe planes flying on Soviet-made fuel rained Soviet-made bombs on London, and while the Kriegemarine operated from a naval base in the Soviet Kola Peninsula.

Meanwhile the Soviets amassed on their western border a military force never before even imagined by any belligerent in history. The Soviet tanks, including the T-34s and KVs of which no other country had even approximate equivalents, outnumbered the tank forces of the rest of the world combined, and Germany’s seven to one.

The Red Air Force, artillery, cavalry and infantry also enjoyed a prohibitive advantage in numbers and quality over the Wehrmacht, and not only Germany but indeed the rest of the world combined had nowhere near the Red Army’s million paratroops.

That juggernaut was strategically deployed in two long and narrow salients, the Byelostok and Lvov – two prongs ready to pierce Germany and the rest of Europe. But the juggernaut didn’t roll in time, mainly because Stalin was labouring under the misapprehension that Hitler was planning an invasion of Britain.

That indeed would have been a perfect moment, except that it never came. Hitler had neither the desire nor, more important, technical means to launch such an invasion. Instead he launched a pre-emptive strike, beating Stalin to the punch, cutting off the two Soviet salients at their bases and routing the armies inside.

To his horror Stalin discovered that wars weren’t fought by tanks, planes and cannon. They were fought by people, and Soviet people didn’t want to fight for Stalin. Almost every Soviet soldier had had someone in his family executed, starved to death, imprisoned and tortured by Stalin’s henchmen – now came the payback time.

Whole regiments were surrendering their arms to the sound of marching bands similar to those performing this morning in Red Square. Millions simply fled, deserted, surrendered individually. Most of those youngsters weren’t cowards – they were desperate. In fact, hundreds of thousands volunteered to fight against Stalin whom they saw as the lesser evil.

It wasn’t Stalin’s army but Beria’s Chekists who turned the tide. If soldiers wouldn’t fight for the Motherland, the Motherland would make them fight – using the same violence with which she had always treated her subjects.

Mass executions behind the lines began immediately, with even returning POWs treated as traitors. All in all, Beria’s heroes shot or hanged 157,000 Soviet soldiers following tribunal verdicts – and probably three times as many without even that travesty of justice. Thus the Soviet army suffered heavier casualties from its own side than the British army suffered altogether.

Faced with Nazi brutality before them and Soviet brutality behind, the soldiers began to fight, eventually ending the war in Berlin. More than 26 million died along the way, many because no effort to reduce casualties was ever made by a single Soviet commander, starting with the sainted Zhukov himself.

In fact, Dwight Eisenhower recoiled with horror when Zhukov casually mentioned that his favoured method of clearing a minefield was to march some infantry across, thus making it safe for the precious tanks.

The Germans capitulated to the Soviets on 9 May, 1945, and this was the event commemorated with such pomp this morning – but wait, we’re still on the opening song.

What followed was the show I saw several times a year since I was little: the Defence Minister and parade commander slowly inspecting the troops in their convertible limousines. “Hail, Comrades!” “Hail, Comrade Defence Minister!!!” Even the form of address was the same – and there I was, thinking that ‘Comrades’ has communist associations.

Then came the Leader’s speech, this time shorter than I remember from the time of Brezhnev and especially the loquacious Khrushchev. But never mind the length, feel the content.

For Leaders don’t just say things. Every word is replete with meaning, cryptic or otherwise. This time Putin informed the listeners that “continuity of generations is Russia’s greatest treasure”. Those who have ears will hear: the Soviet Union lives on.

“We won’t allow the memory of our fallen heroes to be betrayed!” [Translation: more heroes will have to fall.] Then followed a highly meaningful reference to the sites on which the heroes had fallen (Cheka cellars didn’t get a mention).

Their sequence was pregnant with meaning. Any war historian will tell you that the three crucial battles of the Great Patriotic War were, in chronological order, Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk. You’d expect that the Leader would mention them first, but you’d be wrong.

For the first two battles mentioned were Leningrad and Sebastopol – the first, presumably because it’s the Leader’s birthplace; the second, definitely because it’s in the Crimea. “We won’t let you down!” intoned the Leader before stepping back.

The rest of it unfolded to the same old script: the troops representing various branches of service marched past the dais, with the announcer commenting on their heroic deeds, past but tactfully not present.

I was particularly pleased to watch a goose-stepping Andropov Division, so named after the longest-serving chief of Putin’s sponsoring organisation, the KGB. The announcer’s solemnly rotund voice withheld any specifics, only saying that the division had distinguished itself in “numerous operations on home and foreign soil”. Quite.

Then the Cossacks marched by, which was a miracle in itself, considering that Putin’s role model Lenin decreed that the Cossacks were to be “wiped out to the last man”. Evidently they weren’t, which testifies not so much to the Cheka’s mercy as to its inefficiency.

And of course no celebration would have been complete without the armoured personnel carriers conveying the glorious army of the Republic of Crimea. Considering that said republic was only founded a few days ago, it’s amazing how quickly its army was put together and kitted up.

Footsteps died out, engines roared, and various weapon systems, 115 of them, rolled into Red Square. The announcer informed the admiring audience that “President Putin is personally overseeing the modernisation of our armed forces, and equipping them with state-of-the-art systems.”

I’m sure that came as welcome news to the Ukrainians who are hastily trying to put together a ragtag army able to slow down, if not repel, Putin’s aggression. So the modernisation isn’t yet complete? I can see the Ukrainian commander wiping his brow even as we speak.

Compare these obscene festivities with yesterday’s understated commemorations in Britain and you’ll grasp the key difference. The British bowed their heads to the past; the Russians raised their heads to the future. Britain becomes bellicose when she has to; Russia remains bellicose at all times.

The Marquis de Custine travelled to Russia in the 1830s and gasped with horror: “This country is always at war; it knows no peacetime!” Custine didn’t say plus ça change, but he would today, had he lived this long.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Anglicanism is now in fashion and vice versa

The announcement that a British designer is bringing out a line of female clerical wear has come none too soon.

“Today more than ever women in ministry are complaining about the boxy, shapeless shirts on offer,” commented the designer Camelle Daley.

Of course one way to solve the problem would be for women to choose careers offering a greater sartorial latitude, but we know that’s not on the cards.

The Church has to be inclusive, upbeat, modern and, well, cool. This was more or less the message preached ex cathedra by the Archbishop of Canterbury more than a year ago.

Service attendance is declining precipitously, the Church is haemorrhaging communicants to Catholicism and so, according to His Grace, must do all it can to attract more and younger worshippers.

The way he worded this goal left one wondering what exactly those coveted youngsters should be worshippers of. Implicitly it didn’t matter: anything went as long as it put bums on pews.

Specifically a wider use of pop music was mentioned along with a liturgical language steering the middle course between the archaisms to which youngsters can’t ‘relate’ and the council-estate slang to which they can relate very well indeed.

Though specifics didn’t come up, His Grace ought to take a closer look at some versions of Scripture widely in use across the Atlantic. Wouldn’t it be nice if we too could replace “Thou shalt not kill” with “Don’t waste nobody, it ain’t cool”?

Only old fogies wouldn’t be able to relate to such a lexical shift, but they aren’t the target. The target is young people who ought to be made comfortable with the idea of not dissing their Mums and Dads or not nicking nothing. That’s what cool is all about.

At the time I proposed a few other measures, all admittedly unorthodox. In fact, had the stated aim been to entrench orthodoxy, I wouldn’t have proposed them. But if we’re after simply boosting attendance, my modest proposals have merit.

For example, since we now have the better part of 2,000 woman ministers in the UK, why shouldn’t they use their femininity more aggressively to achieve the Archbishop’s goal? That would be ignoring an opportunity that’s too good to miss.

To this end a female vicar should celebrate mass wearing nothing but her clerical collar and, as a sop to tradition, shawl. This would add a touch of delicious naughtiness to the words “Take, eat: this is my body”, especially if accompanied by a lascivious wink.

Moreover, our vicars could put their femininity to an even more direct, tactile use, taking their cue from Babylonian priestesses who knew exactly how to increase temple attendance.

Lest you might think I’m unfashionably sexist, male vicars could resort to similar ecclesiastical populism in some areas of London, such as Hampstead and Camden Town or, in the USA, all of San Francisco.

These proposals pursue a long-term strategy, a shining ideal at the end of the road, and should not be construed as a call to immediate action. Ideals are seldom achievable all at once – more often one edges towards them by a series of incremental steps.

This patient approach was taught by such role models for our prelates as Marx and Mao. The former emphasised the crucial distinction between a minimum and maximum programme, while the latter taught that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Replacing ‘a thousand miles’ with the EU-friendly ‘1,609,344 kilometres’, we get a call to action that works well in the present sartorial context.

One such initial step would be to dispense with the dull clerical garb or at least to jazz it up. After all, sex appeal is at its strongest when conveyed subtly.

A discreet two-foot slit on the side of a clerical skirt, for example, could enable a servant of God to flash a shapely thigh when kneeling at the altar. (Discretion is advised for not many shapely thighs are in evidence among our current female vicars.)

This could unlock young parishioners’ imagination, and we know that the brain is the most powerful erogenous zone. One can just see pimply parishioners half-rising from their pews to catch the delectable sight and then clearing their electronic week-planners for next Sunday.

But then Miss/Ms Daley doesn’t need fashion advice from rank amateurs like me. She knows what she’s doing and as proof of that she already has hundreds of customers.

“The style,” she says, “…is about clothes that accommodate the female shape in cut and fit.” Quite. Accommodate and accentuate, I’d suggest.

Far be it from me to offer advice to other Christian confessions, such as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but they should watch out lest they be overtaken by the progress pioneered by the C of E.

Since they still haven’t dispensed with monasticism, they ought to give serious consideration to the fashion statements made by nuns’ habits. A bit of décolletage would surely make the ladies, and hence their orders, more attractive.

Those sandals need work too. If they must wear them over bare feet, fine, although fishnets would work better. But why not add a few inches to the heels?

For the time being, the newspaper articles about Camelle Daley’s fashion breakthrough are accompanied by photographs of heavily made-up clerical babes sporting dog collars and skirts cut about six inches above the knee.

This, I dare say, is a move in the right direction. Upwards and upwards, Camelle, inch by inch. Godspeed to you and your devout customers.

 

 

 

Totalitarian longings, in Russia and closer to home

A self-satisfied philistine invariably makes the mistake of assuming that everybody else is, or longs to be, just like him.

Since philistine mentality is now dominant, it’s mainly for this reason that the West always misunderstands nations that aren’t like us at all.

Russia happens to be in the news today, and suddenly our philistine mentality is being shaken out of its torpor. After an uneasy lull, the current events are reminding us yet again that the Russians are different.

Yet our smugness won’t cede its position without a fight. As we worship at the altar of democracy, we assume that so do the Russians. We assume they share our affection for the rule of law, as opposed to the arbitrary rule of a dictator. We’re certain that, like us, today’s Russians dislike the Soviet Union.

All these assumptions are wrong, which goes beyond intellectual folly. For none of the Western countries is currently blessed with governments whose thinking is superior to that of the statistically average philistine. Hence they pursue misguided policies, and the voting public doesn’t mind because it thinks along the same lines.

All this is predictable, and protesting against it is as pointless as protesting against natural disasters. One-man-one-vote democracy inevitably brings to the fore those the average voter recognises as his moral and intellectual kin.

This voter projects his own personality on his leaders and insists that they comply. A few generations of such symbiosis will ineluctably produce public officials who no longer have to pretend they’re carbon copies of the average voter – they actually are.

What upsets me is that this philistine contagion has infected many otherwise respectable, intelligent and moral people known as conservatives.

They too show every symptom of the same malaise: looking at Putin’s Russia through the prism of their own preferences, frustrations and disappointments.

British conservatives specifically still miss the British Empire, as well they should. Yet because of that they identify with Putin’s empire re-building, as well they shouldn’t.

The Russian Empire was no more similar to the British than cold vodka is similar to warm beer. A successful empire doesn’t just conquer and rule other territories. It civilises them by giving them the benefit of the same just institutions that have made the metropolis what it is.

This is what the British Empire tried to do, if with variable success. Its successes included equipping some former colonies, such as the USA, for surviving as independent nations. Its failures included some violent episodes, along with insufficient sensitivity to the innermost feelings of the conquered peoples.

The Russian Empire also displayed violence and insensitivity, the difference being that there was little to counterbalance them. The Russian metropolis itself was never ruled by law, its people’s interests were never adequately represented in the political mix, many of its colonies were Russia’s cultural and political equals (not to say superiors). 

Still, if Putin and his Russo-Ukrainian bandits wanted to restore the Russian Empire as it was, say, in the nineteenth century, there would be something to discuss, some pros to weigh against the cons. But they don’t.

They want to restore the Soviet empire that, though it undoubtedly evolved out of its Russian predecessor, raised evil to a level never before seen anywhere in the world – and not even in Russia herself, although Ivan IV presaged many of the Soviet practices and institutions.

The Soviet Union was the first and only imperial metropolis that was systematically exterminating and enslaving its own people, never mind those it conquered.

In parallel it destroyed the nation’s culture, religion and whatever passed for its civilisation. At least 60 million Soviet citizens perished in Cheka cellars and concentration camps, but the psychological and cultural damage was even greater.

This reminds me of a story I’ve read somewhere about a bear who spent all his life pacing his zoo cage, 20 by 20 feet. Then all of a sudden the cage was removed, and the animal was free to roam.

Yet he continued never to overstep the 20 by 20 boundaries that no longer existed. The cage was no longer around him; it was within his head.

The metaphorical Russian bear, the Russian nation, suffers from the same deprivation. The Russians overwhelmingly support Putin’s brutality, because they miss the Soviet Union, and this goes even for the youngsters who’ve never lived in the country bearing that name. Technically, the Soviet Union is dead. In reality it lives on in the people’s heads.

Yet British conservatives praise Putin’s commitment to ‘conservative values’, his ‘Christian faith’ and his ‘patriotism’. They are desperate to see in him the conservative leader they can’t have in their own country.

Putin is indeed a conservative, but not in our sense of the word. What he wishes to conserve, or rather to reinstall, is the same cage cum abattoir that was the Soviet Union. The abattoir ideally wouldn’t have the same throughput, but the cage would be just as strong.

Yet our conservatives see in the KGB colonel the strong leader they wish we had. This is sheer folly.

Churchill, my friends, was a strong leader, but so was Stalin. Putin is very similar to the latter. He has nothing in common with the former.

Wishful thinking comes together with ignorance to produce a particular desensitisation, where we lose our sight, hearing and olfactory sense.

We don’t see that fascism is on the march. We don’t smell the rat running around Putin’s propaganda. And we don’t hear desperate shrieks coming from those few Russians who refuse to live in a cage.

Such as the Moscow columnist Alexander Skobov who the other day correctly described Putin’s Walpurgisnacht in the Ukraine as ‘fascist’ and stated, again correctly, that it presents “the same threat to the Russian as to the Ukrainian people: the threat of totalitarian restoration”.

Every time we pine for a Putin-type strong leader, we betray Russians like Mr Skobov – as in the past we betrayed those Russian officers who in 1918-1920 fought the Bolshevik hordes to the last bullet, the last drop of blood, the last breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting with the heart (cont.)

The other day I argued that people’s political views on international matters are seldom based on strictly economic considerations.

This certainly goes for our domestic politics as well.

We are viscerally predisposed towards supporting some parties and, even more strongly, towards rejecting some others. Most of us are capable of explaining rationally the choice made intuitively, but this will only fall into the domain of post-rationalisation.

Such a bias is seldom mainly, and never merely, rational. Nor is it ever based solely on a cold-blooded calculation of financial odds.

I can prove this assertion by simply pointing out that, if people saw their voting forms as nothing but balance sheets, we’d never have a single Labour MP, never mind prime minister.

To realise this one doesn’t have to delve deep into economic theory – just looking at history would clinch the argument. For Labour governments have always, with predictable monotony, destroyed the economy they ran. No crystal ball is needed to realise that, if they’ve always done so in the past, they’ll always do so in the future.

Tory governments have had a spotty economic record, but it has never been as disastrous as Labour’s. And it would have been even better if the Tories hadn’t always had to take over a ruined economy bequeathed to them by their predecessors.

There’s no sound economic reason for those who aren’t subsisting on welfare ever to vote Labour – yet many do. It would be naïve to think this is because they’re too stupid to figure out where their economic interests lie.

I worked for many years with Labour-voting advertising executives whose six-figure salaries were nicely padded with hefty bonuses, stock options and all sorts of perks. And they were perfectly aware that under a Labour government they’d pay higher taxes and have every manner of spoke stuck into the wheels of their business.

And yet my partners persisted in their urge to “punish those bastards”, meaning the well-off. When I pointed out that they themselves were “those bastards”, and they themselves would be punished, they simply shrugged. “I don’t care,” was the typical answer.

In other words, another man’s pain is a more attractive prospect than their own benefit. This explains the alacrity with which Ed Miliband is outlining his electoral platform. If realised in government, it’ll spell the greatest economic disaster this country has ever seen, and yet he feels that enough people won’t care about that and return Labour to power.

Just think: we’d have a doctrinaire authoritarian government hell-bent on bleeding us white with taxes, increasing the national debt even beyond its present catastrophic size, attracting even more immigrants while introducing taxation policies guaranteed to keep foreign business at bay, spending even more on foreign aid and madcap green projects, nationalising all they could (starting with the railways), controlling our eating, drinking and smoking habits, destroying what little is left of our education, disarming the country in the face of growing foreign threats – and I’m only mentioning the policies about which the Milibandits are talking openly.

Add to these those they keep up their sleeves, as everyone knows they do, and on any rational level a Miliband victory would spell an unmitigated economic calamity, one that no subsequent Tory government would be able to reverse.

This would be almost acceptable if one felt confident that we’d learn our lesson and next time elect a sensible government. Yet we know already that this won’t be the case. The Brits are still keeping Labour at the top of the polls even though Miliband is promising more of what plunged the country into an economic abyss just a few years ago.

I’m not adopting a holier-than-thou position here. True enough, at the risk of sounding immodest I probably know more about politics and economics than the average voter. And I can rationalise my political judgement in the form of soundly argued book-length essays.

Yet I’m as guilty as anyone of disregarding logic and voting from the heart. If this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t even contemplate voting UKIP in national elections. After all, as a formidable battleaxe of a former Tory minister once told me, a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour.

We all know Nigel Farage’s party won’t carry the 2015 elections. We also know that people who are ever likely to vote UKIP are intuitive conservatives like me and, if you’re reading this, probably you.

If they cast their vote that way, it won’t be the vote that’ll win UKIP the election, but it may well be one that’ll lose it for the Tories. Yet I and many others like me are so disgusted with Cameron’s take on conservatism, that we may well go against reason and put Miliband into 10 Downing Street by voting UKIP.

It’s interesting to observe how the strategies pursued by the two main parties are diametrically opposite.

Cameron’s Tories are ignoring their core support, intuitive conservatives like you and me. I won’t bore you with citing a list of Dave’s policies, such as his fanatical push for homomarriage, that have made many a conservative stomach churn.

Rather than going for depth, fortifying its position with the core support, the party is going for breadth: trying to appeal to those whose hearts are in a different place. This runs the obvious risk of haemorrhaging votes the UKIP way and not replenishing them from elsewhere.

Miliband’s Labour are doing exactly the opposite: they’re ignoring intuitive and even marginal Tories, who they know aren’t likely to vote Labour under any circumstances. Instead they’re trying to shore up their position among intuitive socialists.

Socialism is demonstrably animated by class and economic resentments, and every policy Miliband has announced so far is aimed at boosting those. While the Tory message bypasses the voters’ heads only partly, the Labour message does so entirely.

It goes straight to the rotten heart of those who’d want to “punish the bastards” even at a loss to themselves. A vote for Labour would thus mean that the nation has sunk deep into a moral and intellectual hole. But if you think this makes the Labour victory unlikely, don’t hold your breath.

 

 

 

 

 

People don’t vote with their wallets, they vote with their hearts

The spread of vulgar materialism is one of the main characteristics of modernity. Actually no modifier is necessary: materialism is vulgar by definition.

As a derivative of that, we live in the middle of what I call totalitarian economism. Or rather that’s what politicians, economists and political economists try to make us believe.

Now that we know for sure that man descends from a rather unsavoury mammal via a path whose existence is strictly a matter of materialistic faith, metaphysics has been banned.

Our behaviour, our thoughts, our lives are supposed to be wholly describable in strictly physical terms. Man, taught Enlightenment gurus, is a rational animal who only ever acts irrationally because he doesn’t know any better.

Marx translated this line of thought into economics, and his followers into politics. The upshot is that even those who profess contempt for Marxism seem to think that on polling day voters coolly weigh the economic pros and cons, and only then tick their voting forms.

Hence James Carville’s maxim “It’s the economy, stupid”, meaning that an election or a referendum is decided exclusively by economic considerations. Yet this belief is itself stupid, disproved by just about any election just about anywhere.

For example, those politicians who correctly perceive that Scotland voting for independence would spell the end of the United Kingdom cite one balance sheet after another, each proving beyond doubt that the Scots have nothing to gain and all to lose by casting the ‘out’ vote.

QED. Or is it? Then how come every poll conducted so far shows that the referendum is balanced on a knife’s edge, and the result could go either way?

We may legitimately use this example to question the very notion of universal suffrage. In support we can cite Churchill’s statement on democracy – not the popular one about it being the best of everything that has been tried so far, but the one where he says that “The greatest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Such scepticism is perfectly valid in general, but not when it comes to economic self-interest. Most people, especially Scots, are perfectly capable of looking at a set of policies and figuring out which one will suit their finances better.

The Scots, ineptly led by Alex Salmond, know they’re likely to lose the pound, certain to lose massive payments into their social budget, guaranteed to lose freedom of the City of London and what not.

Not to cut too fine a point, opting out of the UK will mean opting out of relative affluence, and the parsimonious Scots are perfectly aware of this. So why are the polls so close?

Because the Scots hate the English. Well, not really hate, even though one often hears this phrase delivered with the maddeningly narrow vowel in the verb. It’s just that they prefer the Braveheart Mel Gibson to those actors with cut-glass accents who acted the roles of villainous Englishmen.

That utterly dishonest film reminded the Scots of various chips they’ve been carrying on their shoulders ever since the 1706-1707 Acts of the Union. Their blood boils, their eyes steam up, their ears get plugged.

Cold financial calculations need not apply, and three cheers for the Scots. Not because their separatist sentiments aren’t ridiculous – they are. But because they give the lie to totalitarian economism. They prove that people aren’t electronic calculators – we are human: sinful, sentient, fallen, gloriously free people created to seek not philistine comfort but immortality.

Or look at the Irish. Unlike the Scots, they have a legitimate claim to having been conquered and cruelly abused by the English, specifically during the 1649–53 Cromwellian expedition.

Even though the English have played demographic tricks for three and a half centuries, trying to populate Northern Ireland with Anglo-Protestants, the anti-English sentiment is still strong. To test this proposition, go to the centre of Belfast, raise an Up the Republic! placard and see enthusiastic crowds gathering around you in minutes.

Do they think they’d be better off financially if Ulster were to secede? I bet that consideration doesn’t even enter their minds. Call this sectarianism, nationalism, vengefulness, religious strife – call it anything you wish. I’d simply call it human.

Are they wrong? Probably. But then Seneca did say that errare humanum est, and he knew a thing or two about human nature.

Now if the Irish are still smarting from the massacre of Drogheda that happened three-and-a-half centuries ago, is it any wonder that the Ukrainians haven’t forgotten those 8,000,000 of their countrymen who were deliberately starved to death by the Soviets in 1932-1933?

And the Holodomor was far from being the only democide perpetrated by the predominantly Russian Soviets during Bolshevik rule. How do you suppose the Ukrainians feel when they see that Russia is still run by the same unrepentant organisation that murdered millions of their grandparents?

I’m sure some, though not most, of them would be prepared to forgive – there still are some Christians in the Ukraine. Except that no one has asked for forgiveness, and in fact the Russians only owned up to the Holodomor a few years ago. So when an opportunity to settle accounts presented itself, the Ukrainians grabbed it.

Do you think they care about the Russian loans that will be recalled, the Russian gas that will triple in price, their own economy that’ll suffer egregiously?

If so, think again. The Ukrainians don’t even care about the possibility of another massacre perpetrated by the Russians. And you know why? Because they’re human and as such endowed with the ability to rise above material concerns.

The glass houses of Russian fascism

Reading the Russian papers these days brings back what honesty prevents me from calling happy childhood memories. Recurrent childhood nightmares would be more like it.

The same shrill propaganda to put Dr Goebbels to shame, the same visceral hatred of the West, the same absence of divergent views, the same schizophrenic touting of a ‘national identity’, the same howling panegyrics for the top dog, the same paranoia about being encircled by enemies, the same drums and bugles thundering from every word.

Some words have changed. In essence everything is the same. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

In the old days any foreigners who didn’t much care for their countries being overrun or at least dominated by the Soviets were routinely called fascists.

That designation had a certain binary simplicity to it. The world was broadly divided into us (the Soviets) and them (fascists). The two principal groups had some sub-divisions, but not many.

‘Us’ drew a broad support from ‘all progressive mankind’. ‘Them’ relied on ‘capitalists’, ‘imperialists’ and ‘so-called democracies’. (Democracies were always ‘so-called’).

It’s refreshing to see the old watershed still in place. Thus those Ukrainians who’d rather not be ruled by Putin and his stooges are consistently and roundly described as ‘fascists’, ‘Banderites’ (followers of the nationalist leader Stepan Bandera murdered by the KGB in 1959) or, in a nice portmanteau neologism, Banderofascists.

Quite a few of them are Jews, which somewhat belies the fascist nomenclature. Hence yet another portmanteau  neologism: Judaeo-Banderites. This is rather incongruous, considering that Bandera’s people didn’t manifest any particular fondness for Jews during the German occupation. But never mind: anti-Putin means fascist, and Jews are no exception.

The implied syllogism is beautiful in its streamlined simplicity. Everyone who opposes Putin is a villain, that is a fascist. Putin’s Russia is an encapsulation of virtue. Ergo, Russia is anti-fascist.

This is a good story, but unfortunately facts have a tendency to interfere. One such fact is a dramatic rise in the number and virulence of fascist groups within Russia herself – on a scale not even approached in the Ukraine.

Some of these groups have risen to the status of major parliamentary parties. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s quaintly named Liberal Democratic Party is one such group, with millions voting for it in every election.

Zhirinovsky’s cherished, and regularly declared, aim is to see Russian soldiers wash their boots in the Indian Ocean. This worthy desideratum still being out of sight, though approaching fast, he entertains the public by staging fisticuffs in the Duma and delivering drunken diatribes about Western politicians.

Those who are female are invited to visit Spetznaz barracks, where virile Russian soldiers will rape sense into them. Those who are female and black are called ‘black slags’. In the manner of a thief screaming ‘Stop thief!’ louder than his pursuers, male Western politicians are collectively described as fascists.

Numerous other fascist groups don’t yet enjoy parliamentary representation. They are, however, well-organised and highly motivated. Their flags tend to feature graphic variations on the swastika theme, under which institutional symbol they bring together Russian Orthodoxy, anti-Semitism, fascism, jingoism and bellicosity.

This video is a compilation of marches by one such group, the Orthodox Fascist Party:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rHvt199fKc

The Russophones among you can appreciate the clip in all its beauty, but even those whose Russian is rusty can revel in the visual images.

Crowds of people clad in military and paramilitary uniforms carry swastika flags and icons, screaming the kind of slogans that would get them long prison terms in any Western country.

Their führer extends his right arm in the Nazi salute and screams, “Christ is risen!” The marchers replicate the salute but instead of the customary ‘Heil Hitler!’ shout, “Indeed he is risen!”

A young man equipped with a megaphone recites his own poem (Pushkin or Pasternak he ain’t): “Being a Russian means being a saint, a racist, an extremist and a Jew killer…” The poetry-loving marchers roar their approval of this concept of sainthood. The policemen by the roadside yawn their indifference.

A young man wearing the uniform of Spetznaz (a would-be rapist of Condoleezza Rice) explains that the movement is driven by “love of people”, except naturally the Jews. “We need a strong leader who makes decisions without all that parliamentary pussyfooting. We need to have the Orthodox Church at the helm! We’ll see all our enemies in Red Square with bullets in the back of their necks!”

These chaps would be easy to dismiss as a bunch of nutters on the way to the lunatic asylum, but such a conclusion would be too hasty. For the fact is that Putin is exactly the type of leader they yearn for.

Putin’s message urbi et orbi (but mainly urbi) is exactly identical to the marchers’, if couched in slightly more moderate terms. No parliamentary pussyfooting for him – even his close associates acknowledge that Putin makes decisions single-handedly.

Nor does the good colonel shy away from claiming that God, as represented by the KGB hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, is on his side. His message of blood-and-soil chauvinism is exactly the same as that punctuated by the marchers’ outstretched arms.

And it’s working: Putin enjoys the support of almost 90 percent of his countrymen, which is a ringing mandate if I’ve ever seen one.

Actually, what concerns me isn’t so much Putin’s countrymen as my own, along with other Westerners, particularly those of the conservative persuasion. Taking their cue from Peter Hitchens, they praise Putin for hating Muslims, homosexuals and internationalism – and for loving God and country.

Replace Muslims with Jews, and all the same things can be said about Hitler or, if you’d rather, Osama bin Laden. Yet my conservative friends don’t profess any affection for such political figures.

What exactly makes Putin different? That he’s still alive? That, my friends, isn’t a point in his favour.

A Russian-speaking French UMP supporter told me the other day that she wanted “Putin to take over everything”. “Including France?” I asked. “Mais non!” she stated categorically.

So what’s the Ukraine’s meat would be France’s poison. Let’s hear it for the double standard.

 

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, you’re a racist (we say so)

The laddish petrol head Jeremy Clarkson is in deep trouble.

His own fault, really. Trying to make a point that there wasn’t much to tell two cars apart, the host of Top Gear declaimed the old counting rhyme that unfortunately contains the objectionable – nay, criminal – ‘n’ word.

Why couldn’t he just say, “Catch a male person of the Afro-Caribbean descent by the toe…”? So fine, this would have erred against metre and rhyme. But at least such usage wouldn’t have hurt our brittle sensibilities.

Or else Clarkson could have followed the officially approved version of the hitherto offensive rhyme: “… catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers let him go…” The metre and rhyme would have been intact, though sticklers for zoological detail might object that a tiger has no toes.

He has claws, and catching him by one of them may elicit a more decisive response than just hollering (which, incidentally, tigers don’t do either). But never mind all this nitpicking: propriety would have been observed and that’s all that matters.

By the same token, we must all be made, on pain of imprisonment, to talk about a tiger in the woodpile, even though the stripy ones seldom bury themselves in one of those when they wish to be stealthy.  

Clarkson’s excuse? He claims he didn’t really say it and, if he did, it wasn’t meant to be racist. Pull the other one, Jeremy. Anything is racist if we say it is.

Never mind how you use the ‘n’ word. To a modern moralist weaned on sanctimonious political correctness, someone who unthinkingly utters an ancient phrase never meant to be offensive in the first place is as culpable as a thug who screams the ‘n’ word at a black chap on a bus.

The context doesn’t matter; only the text does. To us the word itself is well-nigh criminal, regardless of the intent behind it. Then again, if the offensive intent is there, any word can work as an egregious insult.

For example, you might think that ‘turnip’ has no more  offensive potential than any other root vegetable. Yet, when the tabloid press used the word to describe Graham Taylor, the hapless manager of the England football team back in the ‘90s, ‘turnip’ was used pejoratively.

When ‘dumbbell’ is used to describe an exercise weight, it’s stylistically neutral. When it’s used to describe the person who exercises with it, it’s an insult. When denoting smelting waste, ‘slag’ is fine. When describing a woman, it’s rude. In the context of Swiss Alps, the word ‘slope’ is neutral, in the context of the Far East it isn’t – and so forth.

But the ‘n’ word is denied such latitude. So what if Clarkson wasn’t trying to convey a negative view of multiculturalism? So what if the counting rhyme has existed for over two centuries? This only goes to show how much progress we’ve made.

In the barbaric times of Byron, Coleridge and Keats people still hadn’t realised that words are insulting only if they’re meant to insult. Aren’t you glad we know better?

These days the worst insults aren’t personal; they’re collective. Insulting an individual is fine, and it’s no use seeking recourse if a drunk lout calls you a f***ing c*** out of the blue. But insert the word ‘black’ between the two obscenities, and it’s not a person but a category that’s insulted. A bit of nice innocent fun becomes a criminal offence.

Only groups are allowed to have dignity these days, and this must be jealously guarded by everyone, not just the group members. Thus a young Englishman once took offence when I referred to American Indians as just that.

The youngster contorted his features in a symbiotic message of opprobrium and said indignantly, “You mean native Americans?” Now my reply was indeed an insult, but a strictly individual one (I’ll give you a clue: the second word was ‘off’).

The truly emetic part of it all is that the guardians of linguistic probity don’t really care about the presumably offended group. They simply know that they gain a greater power every time they win a linguistic skirmish.

The face value of the issue doesn’t even come into it. Thus since 1999 there have been numerous instances in the United States when a public official has had to apologise for using the word ‘niggardly’.

Never mind that it has no etymological link to the racial slur – in fact, ‘niggardly’ comes from an Old Norse root, whereas the person to be caught by his toe got his name from the opposite end of Europe. It’s not just semantics but also phonetics that can be used as an offensive weapon against sanity.

We are rapidly catching up in this madness with the USA, the pioneer of political correctness. It has to be said that the Americans guard their primacy assiduously. To that end, Mark Twain’s American classic Huckleberry Finn has been removed from most school libraries because it contains a character named Nigger Jim.

It takes some doing for us to keep up, but we must try. Our next step should be to flog Jeremy Clarkson publicly on the bonnet of a Ferrari. And then we can start a campaign to rename Nigeria. May I suggest Sanctimonia?