Zeitgeist speaks through Robson Green

If, like me, you aren’t plugged into popular culture, Robson Green is some kind of TV actor, a rather good one by general consent.

That makes him a celebrity, a status that confers on its proud possessor the authority to enlarge on any subject under the sun and have his views taken seriously.

Now my lifelong familiarity with actors (I grew up in the family of one) has led me to one of those YOU CAN’T SAY THAT observations, namely that thespians tend to be rather dim.

This stands to reason: someone who spends his life assuming other people’s personalities is unlikely to develop a strong one of his own. Good actors are so used to delivering other people’s clever lines that they are unlikely to come up with any of their own.

Proving my oft-made point that left-wingers are usually knaves and always fools, most – though not quite all – actors gravitate towards the sinister (or is it gauche?) end of the political spectrum.

Basking in the reflected light of their celebrity, they appeal to the constantly widening group of people who accept their authority to pontificate. The common misapprehension is that an actor, when not in character, speaks his mind.

This is wrong: a person can only speak his mind when he has one. Since most actors have little of that faculty, in their public pronouncements they continue to deliver someone else’s lines.

That – and only that – makes their statements interesting for they provide a clue to Zeitgeist. Hence Mr Green’s tirade against tax avoidance deserves to be considered with the attention it otherwise wouldn’t merit.

The actor riles against tax avoiders, not tax evaders. There’s no point getting too worked up about the latter, those who break the law trying to shield their money from the state’s grubby fingers.

Taking a moral stand against them is like taking one against robbers. Let the law deal with those who break it.

Tax avoidance is a different matter altogether. This is practised by those who find legal shelters for their money, tucking it away so that neither the Treasury nor its legal arm can get to it.

The only way for the state to claim what it feels is its due is to shame the clever chaps into transferring more of their hard-earned into public coffers. Thus Dave Cameron, that unimpeachable moral authority, often delivers himself of diatribes against the depraved vermin who deny the state its uncountable pounds of flesh.

But Dave, for all his manifest intellectual failings, seldom oversteps the boundary where demagoguery ends and madness begins. He must have slept through most classes at his expensive schools, but at least he did attend them.

Robson, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from similar restraints on his freedom of self-expression. Hence: “My son was in real trouble when he was young and we took him to the hospital… That’s why you pay your taxes.”

And further: “We’ve got a police system who protect us [should be ‘that protects’, but obviously no teleprompter was available], we’ve got firemen who put out fires. We’ve got defence, man. That’s what tax is for.”

Thanks, Robson, for putting it so simply that even we can understand. But simple is always in danger of becoming simplistic, and this is the case here.

These days the public sector, largely financed by taxes, consumes just under 50 per cent of our GDP (in fact, but for some statistical acrobatics, it would be even higher than that, but that’s a different matter).

In 1900, however, the public sector claimed only 15 per cent of the nation’s wealth. Does this mean that Robert Cecil, 3d Marquess of Salisbury, PM at the time, was less committed to public services than Dave is now? And a lot less than Ed?

Did his government not give a hoot about the Brits getting killed by medical neglect, domestic criminals, foreign enemies or raging fires?

But forget about Britain for a second. Why is it that the thought of confiscating half of people’s income never crossed the mind of a single ‘absolute’ monarch of yesteryear? Shame Robson wasn’t around then to teach them the morality of taxation.

Extortionist taxation isn’t about public services. This serves as nothing but the smokescreen for the real objective: the state putting its foot down. That’s what tax is for, Robson.

All modern post-Christian governments, democratic, authoritarian or totalitarian, overlap on one common imperative: transferring more power from the individual to the state.

Where they differ is in the methods by which they facilitate this process, and therefore in the speed at which it accelerates.

For old times’ sake, most Western states move towards total control more slowly and less violently, which shouldn’t mask the fact that they do move towards it.

People are being gradually conditioned to accept as an inexorable force of nature that it’s up to the state to decide what to do about their health, education – and money.

Yet if there is an historical fact to which there are no exceptions it’s that a government that does a lot for you does a lot to you. That’s why wise men of the past delivered many variations on the same theme: a government governs best that governs least.

We today live in an age of totalitarian economism: deprived of any spiritual core to our lives we’ve been trained to lead an existence mostly defined in economic terms.

The exact terms differ from one economist to the next, but they all, Marxist and ‘conservatives’ alike, preach the philistine gospel enunciated by Max Weber: “Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life.”

If true, then man dominated by the making of money can easily be dominated by a state taking his money away from him. The larger the proportion of his income thus extracted, the greater the state’s domination.

This play was written by Zeitgeist, and Robson Green dutifully delivers its lines with the usual amount of demagogic pathos. However, the rest of us should get up and cheer every clever chap who finds legal ways of saving his wealth from the state.

His intention may only be to protect his money. But in effect he’s protecting what’s left of our liberty.

 

My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservatism in crisis

Lord Hailsham’s explanation of conservatism is correct, but only as far as it goes:

“Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself.”

Fair enough, conservatism isn’t so much an ideological bias as a matter of intuitive, visceral predisposition.

But a temperamental proclivity is a liquid that needs to flow into a particular vessel, for otherwise it will end up as an amorphous puddle on the floor.

Just as there’s more to a religion than just faith, there’s more to conservatism than just ‘an attitude’.

Both faith and attitude require the forklift of doctrine and philosophy to rise above a personal idiosyncrasy to the height of a social phenomenon, a dynamic creative force.

For this force to acquire a practical, political expression it needs to be translated into compatible policies. In other words, what Lord Hailsham referred to is not conservatism but a predisposition for it, a base on which a structure can be erected.

This points at the Tories’ fundamental problem, which may yet cause the catastrophe of Ed Miliband moving into Downing Street next year.

The party fails on both fronts. It seems unable to translate people’s conservative longings into either a coherent philosophy or a set of policies based on such a philosophy.

In other words, the trouble with the Conservative party is that it’s no longer conservative – all its other problems are derivative.

Yet even if we accept Lord Hailsham’s explanation as sufficient, one doesn’t sense that many in the parliamentary Tory party have viscerally conservative attitudes.

A Tory frontbencher tweeting a woman he has never met pictures of his genitalia may be all sorts of things. But one thing he definitely isn’t is an intuitive conservative: we simply don’t do such things.

This isn’t to say that conservatives are incapable of sexual naughtiness or marital infidelity. We are all sinners, if Genesis is to be believed, and those few who overcome their compromised nature don’t become politicians. They become saints.

What any conservative would instinctively steer clear of is the tasteless vulgarity of such electronic exhibitionism. A conservative would never point a camera at his genitals; all his senses would scream ‘no!!!’.

Circumspection is another component of conservative predisposition: we may take necessary risks but we avoid unnecessary ones.

A conservative is perfectly capable of being stupid, but usually not of being stupidly reckless. Thus he would have stopped to think that a pretty, available blonde blatantly offering herself on Twitter just may be part of a sting operation concocted by either the press or political rivals (or, in the case of The Daily Mirror, both).

And even if she were genuine, a married conservative wouldn’t want to leave any evidence of his planned infidelity, certainly no photographs of himself letting it all hang out.

Unfortunately, it’s not only entirely possible but, these days, most likely that a man can end up on the Tory front bench without possessing any of the qualities highlighted by Lord Hailsham.

After all, the entire leadership of the party, starting with our illustrious ‘heir to Blair’, are such men, which explains the second part of the party’s problem.

By and large, their few vaguely conservative policies, such as so-called austerity (increasing the deficit and debt at a slightly slower rate), have failed to inspire love among intuitive conservatives.

However, their demonstrably unconservative policies (homomarriage, Europe, immigration etc.) are guaranteed to inspire disgust.

Hence defections of Tory voters and now also MPs to Ukip. Their conscience, temperament and intelligence all tell them they can’t stay. And where else can they go, other than to Ukip?

Ukip, with its rather unconservative populism and certain fuzziness of policy details, doesn’t provide all the answers. But at least it provides some, more at any rate than the Conservative party that’s no longer conservative.

A dyed-in-the-wool Tory may regret the defection of MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless to Ukip. But even such a party-loyal individual will fail to notice the selfless nature of their act.

If Carswell is almost certain to retain his seat even as a Ukip candidate, Reckless’s chances of doing so are touch and go. This means he has done something none of our governing spivs would ever do: he risked his whole political career for the sake of principle.

On second thoughts, it might have been more than just principle. Mr Reckless could be driven simply by the visceral, emetic revulsion Dave Cameron inspires in every intuitive conservative.

As Daniel Hannan, MEP, explained, given this tendency among both the electorate and Tory MPs, it increasingly appears that the only way of sparing the country the disaster of Ed Miliband would be for the Tories and Ukip to pool their resources and campaign as a coalition.

So far neither party has shown much appetite for this accommodation, but the likelihood of staying out of power tends to focus politicians’ minds.

Such a coalition would be more natural than the current one between the Tories and LibDems, what with both partners cordially loathing each other, at least at the grassroots level. But would it be natural enough?

As a senior Ukip politician told me recently, his party doesn’t trust Dave to keep whatever promises he’s likely to make. Such concerns aren’t unwarranted, considering Dave’s track record and his character, which has now had enough time to emerge from the fog of his empty verbiage.

The Tories, on the other hand, fear that an association with Ukip would cost them the support of the Blair fans in the ranks of all parties. That support is something Dave would dearly love to inherit, along with Tony’s knack at manipulating the public.

Hence it’s unlikely that the two parties will form a pact – unless, of course, they feel it’s the only way to get elected.

When the polls point at a guaranteed defeat, Cameron’s wish to remain Prime Minister, and Farage’s possibly to become his Deputy, may overcome the mutual revulsion the two men obviously feel.

They may think a Tory-Ukip coalition would be the lesser evil. The conservatives among us may think the same thing.

 

My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s hear it for this courageous victim of a gruesome crime

Giving testimony took an act of sheer heroism for the poor victim, still deeply traumatised even after 24 years.

Addressing London’s Southwark Crown Court, she said: “I was a naive and trusting 22-year-old when I was subjected to an unprovoked and terrifying physical assault at my place of work.”

“I was too paralysed with fear,” she added, “to confront my assailant.”

But she felt “lucky” that she was “physically resilient” enough to get on with her life “thanks largely to my colleagues”.

Just the colleagues? A lesser person would have had years of therapy and possibly a lifelong course of antidepressants, but this brave girl showed that the spirit of the Blitz still hasn’t evaporated.

And there she was, agreeing to act as witness for the prosecution even though the trial made her relive the ordeal, taking her back to “feeling like a scared, vulnerable young woman”.

My faith in the English character restored (and it was badly in need of restoring), I was so moved that I felt the urge to stand up and sing “God save our gracious Queen…”.

At the very last moment, however, I went back to the beginning of the news bulletin to find out what sort of heinous crime has tapped such deep reservoirs of the victim’s courage.

Was she savagely beaten? Robbed at gunpoint? Raped within an inch of her life? Crippled? All four?

Er… not quite. Not even close actually. Twenty-four years ago she worked at a TV studio. The DJ Dave Lee Travis saw her smoking in the corridor, said something about her “poor little lungs” and squeezed her breasts. That’s all, honest to God.

Methinks the poor dear just might have overreacted a bit, wouldn’t you say? I’ve spent a great deal of my life in TV studios and take my word: no 22-year-old women working there would still be traumatised 24 years after being groped by a celebrity – however unpleasant she found the experience at the time.

This one wasn’t either. She just knows she has to say what the surrogate morality of modernity demands. She’s the dummy, modernity the ventriloquist.

Don’t get me wrong: a man who does that sort of thing is a vulgar oik, but then that’s what a DJ is almost by definition. Being a vulgar oik is a job requirement that must have been written into Travis’s contract.

Still, women shouldn’t be felt up at work unless they want to be. All sexual activity, no matter how innocuous, should be consensual, and a gentleman would never act in such a boorish manner.

But there is, or at least should be, a long distance between someone who’s not a gentleman and a criminal.

Dave Cameron, for example, proved he’s no gentleman by divulging the details of his private conversation with our gracious Queen. But he’s not a criminal, at least not by any technically accurate interpretation of the law.

Neither is a chap who feels a girl up without permission. It’s utterly ridiculous to bring such a case to court and then to convict the groper.

The prosecution demanded a custodial sentence, but Travis got away with a suspended. Afterwards, he was right to fume about the “millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, thousands of hours of police resources” wasted.

But neither he nor even the law interests me nearly as much as our country, and what has become of it.

What happened to the restrained, understated, diffident, self-deprecatory, humorous, stoic British character that has always been admired by those not lucky enough to be born English, winning what Cecil Rhodes called “first prize in the lottery of life”?

It’s gone, vanished, trampled underfoot by victorious modernity. Young people are taught to wear their heart on the sleeve, ignoring the fact that it’s likely to be caked in grime as a result.

They are also taught they’re all victims of something, either society in general or some of its particular aspects. And if they do feel wronged, no sense of proportion is there to moderate the response. Hence a girl whose breast got squeezed is conditioned to regard herself as a victim of a “terrifying physical assault”.

The fact that she’s taken seriously does untold harm by trivialising real terrifying assaults, such as a brutal rape with a knife at the victim’s throat. How should that be described, considering that ‘terrifying’ has already been claimed by a quick feel?

We are all so sensitive now, except this sensitivity is phoney, thrust down our throats by the same people who insist that a public official be sacked for using the word ‘niggardly’. As such, it deadens real sensitivity – just as regularly listening to pop excretions makes youngsters deaf to real music.

Today’s lot, weaned on an abundance of information available at the push of a button, are unable to make the effort necessary to obtain real education, real taste, real refinement. At best they slide along the surface.

The same goes for their moral sense. They’ve learned the lesson of modernity well: everything real must be replaced with a virtual-world surrogate.

Hence the widespread belief, largely influenced by Transatlantic perversions, that everything one doesn’t like should have a legal restitution.

So what if the Crown has to spend millions prosecuting a drunk who patted a co-worker’s behind at an office party? Our printing presses are in order, we can always run off a few more millions.

While the state, egged on by the diktats of modern faux morality, is thus occupied, real crimes go unpunished. Burglary, for example, has been to all intents and purposes decriminalised – an average burglar commits 50 burglaries before he’s caught, three times as many before he’s convicted, and twice as many again before he goes to prison.

This stands to reason. A burglar who steals an old woman’s savings commits a crime against a person. Someone who violates the diktats of modernity commits a crime against its very ethos.

Which crime is graver? At a time when the last vestiges of our civilisation are being uprooted, there can only be one answer.

Hence I’m surprised Travis got such a derisory sentence. Next time he as much as brushes against a woman on a train he may get a tenner with no tariff and no statute of limitations.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Four most destructive words in English: YOU CAN’T SAY THAT

Lewis Carroll was nothing short of prophetic when he made his Humpty Dumpty conduct this dialogue with Alice:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

The writer foresaw which way the world was going: words would cease to be merely a means of communication. Instead they’d become an instrument of power.

This is the only way to make sense of our ostensibly idiotic political correctness.

Those who mandate and enforce the use of awkward and meaningless euphemisms don’t do so because they genuinely want to protect the delicate sensibilities of minorities or the less fortunate.

They do it to bring the majority to heel by controlling its language, thereby inverting its erstwhile certitudes and rendering it helpless to resist the increasingly tyrannical rule of the elite.

Depending on which Greek root you prefer, you may call this process ‘glossocracy’ or ‘logocracy’. Either way, our democratic tyrants now use words to serve exactly the same purpose as bullets fired by their totalitarian colleagues.

Hence the mock-horrified half-whisper YOU CAN’T SAY THAT uttered by real or aspiring members of the elite in response to anything that threatens their Humpty Dumpty control of language.

Why can’t I? Is it because what I said isn’t true? No, that doesn’t even come into it. Or rather it does: YOU CAN’T SAY THAT specifically because it’s true.

You want to communicate the well established, but to me utterly trivial, fact that different races have different median IQs? YOU CAN’T SAY THAT.

Wish to say what everyone knows already, that homosexuality isn’t normal? YOU CAN’T SAY THAT.

The NHS is failing not because it isn’t run properly but because it’s based on the corrupt idea of egalitarianism? YOU CAN’T SAY THAT.

Even though women are better than men at some tasks, they aren’t as good at some others? YOU CAN’T SAY THAT.

On this last, my eye was first caught and then abused by an article appearing on the BBC website: Why Are Men Still Suspicious of Female Coaches in Sport?

Someone enslaved by glossocracy is expected to deliver the only possible reply to the eponymous question: “Because they are all male chauvinists suffering from antediluvian and atavistic prejudices.”

Since neither you nor I fall into that category, allow me to say what can’t be said: “Because women don’t understand the game played by the men sufficiently well to improve it.”

The article was prompted by the appointment of the journeyman female player Gala Leon Garcia to captain Spain’s powerful Davis Cup team.

Toni Nadal, the coach and uncle of Rafa, the world’s best player, came up with a spurious objection that he himself knows for what it is: “A lot of time is spent in the locker room without clothing, and with a woman it would be weird.”

Marc Lopez, the doubles specialist on the team, noted reasonably, “There are other rooms.” True. It’s possible to coach players when they are fully dressed, which is most of the time.

Now Uncle Toni is a clever man. So why didn’t he voice the real objection? Because YOU CAN’T SAY THAT.

A professional woman player obviously knows a lot about the game. So does a reasonably strong male club player. But when it comes to the qualifications necessary for coaching at the highest level, a woman pro is closer to the club player than to a male professional.

A female pro could teach me how to flatten out my forehand or transfer my weight into the shot. But male pros already know all those things.

What separates a world Number 94 from a top tenner is the upper 10 per cent, a few things, often imperceptible, that are beyond any female player I’ve ever seen.

The stratospheric knowledge of this top 10 per cent is only accessible to a player who either possessed it himself or at least regularly found himself on the receiving end of it.

An intelligent female player regularly watches the men’s game and thus knows exactly what is happening when, say, Rafa whips his arms up to put more RPMs on the ball than anyone has ever done. But she has no way of knowing why.

Some factors operating in that top 10 per cent aren’t technical. They are psychological and, according to the article, female coaches have a higher ‘empathetic accuracy’ than men do, which enables them to understand a male player emotionally.

I’d suggest that the psychological differences between male and female players are even greater than the technical ones. Why do you think men come to the net, which is the most aggressive move in tennis, so much more than women?

Women are perfectly capable of running as far as the net or, for that matter, mastering the volleying technique. So why do they prolong those boring baseline rallies even when an opportunity presents itself to come in and win the point with one shot?

Because, as numerous conclusive studies have shown, aggression is a function of testosterone, the male hormone of which men usually have more than women. Thus a woman isn’t naturally drawn to the net and has to force herself to come in.

This explains why the best female net player ever, Martina Navratilova, has just publicly proposed to her girlfriend on bended knee. Lesbians, especially of the butch variety, clearly have heightened levels of testosterone, which gives them certain male characteristics.

I’m sure there are many subtler differences as well. All told it’s extremely unlikely that, for all their ‘empathetic accuracy’, women can add anything to the professional men’s game.

Actually, Andy Murray is conducting a one-man case study even as we speak. For two years he enjoyed the services of Ivan Lendl, formerly the world’s top player. During that time Andy won two Grand Slam titles, which no other Brit has done since God was young.

Ivan then got tired of globetrotting, and Andy had to find another coach. For some inexplicable reason he turned to Amélie Mauresmo (another proud lesbian).

Now Amélie had a lovely game for a woman, and she’s unusually bright for a professional athlete. Yet in the first few months of her in charge of Andy’s coaching team, he dropped out of the world top 10 for the first time since 2007.

To be fair, his back surgery in the off season has had something to do with that. But so much of the game happens in the head, and Amélie was known for emotional brittleness during her time on the tour.

Andy, who isn’t averse to weeping in public, needed a Sergeant Major type like the tough, unsmiling Lendl to tell him to get a grip and play like, well, a man. He got Amélie instead because “she listens”.

A good coach at any level and at any sport should speak, not just listen. I bet Andy will never win another major unless he finds a coach with less ‘empathetic accuracy’ and more understanding of the top men’s game.

Now do you think I’d be able to write any of this in any newspaper? Of course not. YOU CAN’T SAY THAT would be their response.

We’ll never regain the liberties we’ve lost until these pernicious words are expurgated from our language.

 

My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

PlayStation war against the IS

Tomorrow Dave will let slip the dogs of war.

But, in compliance with Shakespeare’s original, the crying havoc part will come first.

Dave will entertain his parliamentary colleagues with a few horror stories about IS monstrosity, beheadings and some such.

The canine part will follow, with Dave and his jolly friends, now suitably worked up, pushing the button for yet another PlayStation action against the nasties.

But there will be strings attached. We won’t bomb the IS in Syria, which is where its command centres and power base are.

Iraq, yes. Syria, absolutely not. Dave has doubts about the legality of letting the Tornados do their thing over Syria for as long as it’s ruled by Assad.

Another must, and here Dave and Barack agree, is that this phase of the war will involve no action on the ground. It’ll be strictly PlayStation stuff: hands on handles, fingers on buttons, eyes on the head-up display.

Characteristically, neither the USA nor Britain worried very much about international law in 2003, when they invaded Iraq on a trumped-up pretext, or rather a series of them. Nor did they have many seminal doubts about the advisability of using ground troops then.

Such doubts would have been useful, for it was entirely predictable that the criminal invasion would serve one purpose only: radicalising the whole region which only Ba’athist tyrants could keep at a more or less even keel.

The IS is an equally predictable spin-off of that harebrained adventure. The West’s invasion provided a catalyst for the diabolical rancour that for the last 1,400 years has never been far beneath the surface in the Islamic world.

If in 2003 the West had a choice, now there is none. The region must be pacified, and the IS must be eradicated.

This is a task that can never be accomplished by PlayStation war only. The IS decapitators are guerrillas, not regular troops.

They take their cue not from Caesar and Clausewitz, but from Mao and Osama bin Laden. They won’t stay in one place to be hit by our bombs. They’ll mix freely with the local population, using it as a shield. They’ll hide in schools and hospitals, daring the West to get all the bad press the way Israel got it a month ago.

What then? Shall we say sorry, we were just leaving, or shall we level a few towns densely populated with women and children? Hobson’s choice, if you ask me.

Yet again we are being drawn into a war that has no clear tactical objective and serves no feasible or indeed discernible strategy. The result will be not one IS but several, all seeking vengeance on our soil.

And why not Syria, pray tell? Dave’s mealy-mouthed references to international law don’t really convince too many people, especially those familiar with the history of the last decade.

Thing is, those who cut off the heads of Western hostages are the same people who are trying to unseat President Assad. In other words, they are exactly the same people on whose side Dave wanted to join the fun a year ago.

For him to unleash the Tornados on the heads of his would-be allies would be owning up to that peculiar combination of idiocy and immorality that our politicians have made their stock in trade.

Dave has no problem seeking an alliance with Iran, even though he knows that the price for its help would be the sudden onset of myopia among the West’s nuclear inspectors. It’s an alliance with Assad, who so far hasn’t tried to acquire hydrogen bombs, that Dave finds unacceptable.

If Iran does indeed enter the war as our proxy, a decisive victory against the IS will be likely. But the price of it will be the emergence of Iran as the only superpower in the Middle East – not a prospect to fill our hearts with joy, especially since the newly empowered ayatollahs will almost certainly acquire a nuclear capability.

The only sensible action now would be to invade on the ground, without worrying too much about the casuistry of global legality or what the UN will think. It’s too late in the day for such concerns.

Hit them fast, hit them hard – wherever and whoever they are. And while the cleanup operation is going on, a sensible post-war strategy should be worked out.

This ought to be based not on the mythical distinctions among Muslims, fundamentalists, Islamists, moderates and Islamofascists. We must finally reacquire the knowledge we possessed 1,000 years ago: the problem comes not from any particular version or interpretation of Islam, but from Islam as such.

The only way of containing and internalising the Islamic hatred of the West is to show naked, unrestrained strength. The West must be prepared to go to any lengths to send an unequivocal signal to the region: no aggression against us and our allies will be tolerated.

Historically the West has only ever been able to hold its own against Muslim expansionism when the balance of power was on the West’s side. Well, now we are physically stronger vis-à-vis Islam than we were at the time of the Crusades.

Moral strength is something else again, and that’s what it takes to send a simple and believable message: the consequences of any anti-Western violence will be dire not only for those firing the guns and wielding the knives, but also for those who recruit, train, finance and inspire them.

This may take regime changes throughout the Middle East, the taking over of the oil fields, strikes against cities – whatever is necessary. It’s our own stupidity that let the genie of Islamic radicalism out of the bottle. It’s only our resolve that can drive it back.

Is this what Dave will be telling Parliament tomorrow? Somehow one doubts it.

Instead there will be more nonsense about limited action, the absence of footwear on the ground, the special relationship with the USA and the urgent need not to tar all Muslims with the same brush. Islam, after all, is a religion of peace.

I wonder if the idea of introducing democracy to the Middle East will get an airing. It probably will – we know how well it worked the first time around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten years to turn Britain around? Ed won’t take that long

Ed Miliband is asking for 10 years in power to “turn Britain around”.

He’s being uncharacteristically modest. Socialists have never needed years to destroy a country when they take over.

Depending on their radicalism, this feat may take them days to achieve (Lenin) or perhaps weeks (Hollande). Never years.

Writing his essay The Apocalypse of Our Time in early 1918, shortly before he starved to death, Vasily Rozanov remarked ruefully: “Russia faded away over two days, three at the most.”

Of course Lenin’s speedy version of socialism relied on such time-saving measures as mass confiscations, torture and murder.

Our ‘democratic’ socialists regretfully have to use more moderate techniques to achieve the same purpose: transferring more power from the individual to the state.

The results are therefore slower in coming, but they do come. Actually one result is always almost as instantaneous as it was in Soviet Russia: when the socialists take over, the most capable, energetic and enterprising people flee.

A recent demonstration of this law of nature was kindly provided by François Hollande who in a matter of weeks turned London into the world’s fifth largest French city.

I don’t know if Ed has deliberately set out to stem the influx of French economic migrants, but he’ll certainly achieve this purpose, given the chance.

For he’s proposing all the same policies as those Hollande introduced to such a rapid effect. The result will also be the same: reduced liberties, economic devastation, job creators fleeing to create jobs elsewhere.

The refreshing effrontery of it all is that the Milibandits are trying to give the impression they’re proposing something new. In fact they’re following, mutatis mutandis, Marx’s prescriptions – certainly in general principles, if not every detail.

Their umbrella promise is pure Marx: to create paradise on earth (the only paradise this lot believe in) by taking from the rich and giving to the poor, thereby reducing the gap between the two.

As is the case with socialist fantasies, the results aren’t just different from the promises, but often diametrically opposite to them.

For example, in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Marx’s and Ed’s dreaded capitalism was at its peak, robber barons at their most oppressive and markets at their freest, the average ratio of income earned by US company directors and their employees was 28:1. Yet in 2005, when socialist corporatism became the norm, if less so than in Europe, this ratio stood at 158:1.

What Ed is proposing is a rehash of the same wicked idiocy that has historically brought Britain to her knees under every Labour government – and has never failed to achieve similar results everywhere else.

Miliband has declared he’ll “save the NHS” by pumping an extra £2.5 billion into this moribund socialist project. That’s throwing good money after bad.

Such Leviathans always end up operating for the benefit of the operators, not in this case patients. Hence the ruinous cost of the NHS is greatly attributable to the cancerous growth of the administrative staffs running it.

Hospitals all over Britain are reducing the numbers of beds and frontline medical staffs. Instead they bring in leeches and freeloaders: all those highly paid Directors of Diversity, Optimisers of Facilitation and Facilitators of Optimisation.

Such bureaucratisation is an ever-present feature of socialism, as Lenin realised months into the Soviet nightmare. Here too, if in the past a hospital was run by two people, the head doctor and the matron, today doctors and nurses are marginalised.

Under Labour this tendency will gather speed, whatever Ed says. It always does, and other countries, even those that are even more socialist than we are, know this.

That’s why Britain remains the only Western European country with completely socialised medical care; everyone else relies on a mixed system with a strong private element.

Anyway, where’s the £2.5 billion going to come from, Ed? No problem, at least none for the mendacious chaps who claim that borrowing one in every six pounds, as opposed to one in five, constitutes cruel austerity.

The billions will come from squeezing the rich till their pips squeak, in Denis Healey’s colourful phrase.

Specifically, the Milibandits will introduce ‘mansion tax’ on expensive houses. One wonders if they’ve followed the asset inflation over the last few decades, which has been outstripping the money inflation by a factor of almost 10.

This means that property prices have for decades been growing 10 times faster than incomes. The observable result of this two-speed economy is that many people on small incomes live in jolly expensive houses, those they bought years ago.

Making them pay even higher taxes will force them to sell out and move, but the houses won’t move with them. They’ll be bought by the rich, which will further increase the very gap between the two groups that keeps Ed awake through those long Hampstead nights.

What else? Oh yes, of course, Ed will reintroduce the 50% tax rate.

Serious economists have shown, calculator in hand, that this punitive measure would result in, at best, trivial gains in tax revenue.

But the slowdown in economic activity would be far from trivial. Economic emigration will start, not at the same rate as that prompted by Hollande’s 75% tax but ruinous nonetheless.

Abolish the married tax allowance, that goes without saying. God forbid we’ll give people financial incentives to get married, and who says social engineering has to be economic only?

The family is the greatest competitor to the power of the central state, which is why all socialists seek to destroy it. This started with the founders of this evil creed – just read The Communist Manifesto. So Ed will simply continue this fine tradition.

Have I forgotten anything? Nationalisation perhaps?

Actually this word hasn’t been uttered yet; focus groups must have suggested the Brits aren’t quite ready to hear it again.

But crude confiscation isn’t the only way for a socialist state to gain control of businesses. This was demonstrated by another socialist, of the national variety, Adolf Hitler.

The Nazis didn’t nationalise companies, they simply told them how to go about their business: whom to hire, whom to fire, what to produce, in what quantities, how much to pay, how much to charge and so forth. It’s good to see that Ed takes lessons not only from Marx himself, but also from his diverse disciples.

Hence he plans to force large businesses to take on young apprentices. A universal result of such policies, observable for example in France, is burgeoning unemployment. Rather than being saddled with unsupportable labour costs, companies stop hiring.

To make sure this happens, Ed also plans to introduce an £8 minimum wage, which many companies will be unable to pay. Unskilled labour, which otherwise would have been employed, say, for £6 an hour, will go on the dole instead.

The Milibandits also promise to make wages grow at the same rate as the economy, which is a safe proposition. The only way to make sure this happens is to tell businesses how much they must pay their employees. If any government is asinine enough to try this, it’s a surefire guarantee that the economy won’t grow at all.

But it’s not all about destruction. Ed also promises to create – a million ‘green’ jobs in environment-friendly industries. How exactly?

The only way a government can create jobs is to nationalise more of the economy, where the public sector already accounts for almost half of GDP. If you wonder how this will work, look at Britain circa 1975.

Of course another way would be to provide tax incentives, but this would clash with Ed’s other ambitions.

So far I haven’t mentioned the national debt and budget deficits, but I’m not the only one. Neither did Ed, in his yesterday’s speech at the Labour Conference.

Such reticence is understandable, for both will climb as rapidly and vertically as the Harrier used to do.

Neither have I said anything about the profound immorality of everything the Milibandits are proposing. There’s no point: wicked immorality is the founding and defining feature of socialism in its every manifestation.

“Friends, it is time we ran the country like we know it can be run,” concluded the Demosthenes of Labour. Yes, into the ground.

 

My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html

 


 
 

 

 

 

“One must read the papers,” said a Soviet literary character

A sound piece of advice, that. Sometimes one wishes that those who report on Russian affairs followed it.

They don’t though, which is why over the last few days they’ve been breaking the earth-shattering news of Russian paratroopers fighting, and dying, in  the Ukraine.

I hope you won’t think I’m bragging, but I shattered that very earth a fortnight earlier, on 28 August: http://alexanderboot.com/content/no-russian-soldiers-are-fighting-ukraine-so-why-are-they-dying.

How did I manage to scoop the Moscow bureaus of our major newspapers? By doing what they evidently neglect to do: following Russian sources.

The Russian media don’t just enlighten; they also delight. They don’t just sate one’s hunger for information; they also stroke one’s poetic sensibilities.

Take, for example, the chastushka by the blogger Norvezhsky-Lesnoy who, if it were up to me, would give Bob Dylan a good run for his money in this year’s Nobels.

For the non-Russians among you, the chastushka is the Russian answer to the limerick. Unlike the limerick, the chastushka has only four lines, rhymed as either AABB or ABAB.

Also unlike the limerick, where each line develops the story, chastushkas often say what they have to say in the last two lines, unrelated to the first two. Like the limerick, the genre demands the use of off-colour lexicon.

In common with Bob Dylan’s doggerels, which, according to Ben Macintyre of The Times, represent the height of lyrical poetry, chastushkas are meant to be sung, not read. This didn’t prevent my New York friend Vladimir Kozlovsky from publishing two volumes of them.

However, those he published weren’t so much the original folk verses as parodies of them, written by Moscow intellectuals able to delve the poetic depths of the genre. Sometimes they resort to it by way of commentary on current events.

That’s what my Russian colleague did in response to the oligarchs’ frantic rush to sell off their foreign assets – for fear of having them impounded should the national leader attack another few countries, or else losing them to said leader’s confiscatory whims.

Here’s his chastushka, in my loose translation that captures some of the lyricism of the original without doing it full justice:

“In the street a lonely Basset// Is sitting sadly on a stone// I have sold my every asset// To be left the f*** alone.”

Sublime, isn’t it? I hope the Nobel Committee gives the poem proper consideration.

Unless, of course, they’d rather honour the Ukrainian Putin-leaning poet Oles Buzina. I’ve been unable to obtain the full text of his masterpiece What Did They Fight for in the Maidan?, but the last two lines answer the eponymous question with awe-inspiring poignancy:

“So that the fate of the Ukraine// Be decided in Europe by pederasts.”

Here’s another deserving Nobel candidate, whose poetic power is fully comparable with Bob Dylan’s, even if his civic pathos is different.

Lest you may get the impression that the Russians shun prose as a means of political self-expression, allow me to assure you this isn’t the case.

Moreover, the erudition of Russia’s commentators fully matches the poetic sensibility of her bards.

For example, the most widely viewed talk show on Russian state television (which is to say Russian television) got to the bottom of the West’s hostile reaction to Russia’s reclaiming her rightful property:

The vengeful West has imposed sanctions “because 500 years ago Russia declined to accept the crown from the Pope’s hands.”

This regrettably fails to explain why mainly Protestant countries, such as the USA or Britain, have imposed the same sanctions as the Popish Italy or France.

Also, dating the Catholic Russophobia back precisely to the early 16th century strikes one as slightly arbitrary, what with the Reformation diminishing papal power in Europe at exactly that time.

Yet the Papist angle is self-evident to Russian audiences, what with their possessing the Gnostic knowledge inaccessible for Westerners. As an ex-Russian myself, I can try to fill in the blanks for your benefit.

Half of Europe rejected Roman Catholicism 500 years ago, and so did Russia. (Actually the Russians did so in 988 by opting for the Byzantine rite, but what’s a few centuries among friends? It’s the thought that counts.)

Unlike the Russians, however, the West still feels guilty about this apostasy, an emotion universally known to make people seek scapegoats. In this instance it’s Russia, which remains staunchly anti-Catholic, and indeed anti-Western, to this day.

Hence, 500 years after half of them rejected Catholicism the dastardly Westerners have decided to punish Russia for doing the same. Only a Judaeo-fascist Nazi Banderite would detect a causal relationship between the sanctions and Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine.

Gnostic Russians are capable of discerning real, as opposed to trumped-up, causal relationships. Thus that very talk show explained that those opposing Russia in eastern Ukraine are the same people who are decapitating hostages in northern Iraq.

And even if they aren’t exactly the same people, they are certainly driven by the same evil forces. This equates the Ukraine with the Islamic State, and just to think that the Ukies stubbornly claim to be as Christian as the Russians themselves.

It’s time the world saw through their heinous subterfuge; it’s time the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (recently anathemised by the Moscow KGB Patriarchate) referred to himself by his real, if hitherto secret, title: the Ayatollah of Kiev.

Isn’t Putin’s propaganda fun? One does wish the Hitchenses and Bookers of this world knew enough Russian to follow it.

“People who don’t read the papers,” said Ostap Bender, the hero of the most popular Soviet novels Twelve Chairs and The Golden Calf, “ought to be killed on the spot.”

The death penalty would be a bit harsh; public recantation would suffice. Or perhaps a Catholic-style mea culpa would be just the ticket.

 

National self-determination as the enemy of nationhood

It’s hard not to notice the semantic confusion arriving in the slipstream of the Scottish referendum.

No one seems to be any longer sure of anything: nationhood, home rule for Scotland, England or possibly Merseyside, democracy, constitution, why the chicken crosses the road or whether or not it comes before the egg.

What one is observing is an intellectual mess, a veritable rain of error. Whenever a political system delivers such a deluge, one has to question the system, not just its isolated workings.

More than that: one has to take a piercing look at the tectonic shifts that threw up the system in the first place.

Modernity, as I use the term, was brought to life by a frenzied mass rebellion against traditional Western civilisation, otherwise known as Christendom.

At the root of it lay a mutiny against the religion that had inspired the civilisation: its demands had proved to be too onerous, especially when juxtaposed with the seeming free-for-all of humanism.

As Chesterton put it, “The Christian idea has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult – and left untried.”

Steering clear of metaphysical issues, Ortega y Gasset referred to this mutiny as ‘the revolt of the masses’, and this is the only explanation that makes modernity intelligible.

Thus every newfangled political innovation, whatever its positive content, always has a significant, at times dominant, negative element.

Democracy of suffrage for all, including pubescent youngsters, is one such. It belies its etymology in numerous ways, including the most fundamental one. It divests demos of the power it possessed under the putatively oppressive monarchs of yesteryear.

I enlarge on this point in my forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick, but in this abbreviated format a purely empirical observation will have to suffice: the most absolute monarchs of Christendom never had the same power over demos that today’s democratically elected prime minister or president claims as his due.

Believing, along with St Paul, that their power derived from God, rather than mythical ‘consent of the governed’, traditional rulers were committed to the same structural principles as those applied by the Church.

Fundamental to them was what the Church called subsidiarity and what in a political context is best described as localism: the devolution of power to the lowest sensible level.

Just as familial setups (parish, guild, village commune, township etc.) acted as the individual’s defence against local government, so did local bodies protect those setups, and hence the individual, from the tyranny of the central government.

Democracy of universal suffrage, on the other hand, was put forth as a battering ram of modernity designed to smash traditional polity to smithereens. Its ubiquitous stratagem is reversing the vector of power.

If in the past power was vectored from centre to periphery, in misnamed democracies it infinitely gravitates the other way. Thus George III, against whom his American subjects rebelled, never possessed even a modicum of the power wielded by Barack Obama. Louis XIV may have said l’état, c’est moi, but he was politically impotent compared to François Hollande.

National self-determination is another arrow in the quiver of modernity, and it too is aimed at the heart of traditional order.

The term first gained currency courtesy of Woodrow Wilson, who was a fanatic of world government. The League of Nations, his brainchild, was supposed to be the first step towards that goal – and yet the term ‘national self-determination’ was never far from Wilson’s lips.

There seems to be a contradiction there, but in fact there is none. ‘National self-determination’ was touted to destroy the remnants of traditional polity, largely vested as they were at the time in multinational empires: British, Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian.

Those empires more or less honoured the localism of traditional polity, and even the authoritarian Russian tsars relied on a great deal of self-government at the outskirts of the empire. The other European empires went much further along that route, with the Habsburgs serving the brightest example.

Breaking those empires up was Wilson’s goal, as he heard the clarion call of modernity in every tonal detail. Their demise would inevitably create a vacuum of power, to be filled by a supranational government in hock to the only combatant emerging from the Great War stronger than before: the USA.

It took another war to complete the destruction. The last bastion of traditional polity, the British Empire, collapsed in the immediate aftermath, with the other European empires by then a distant memory.

The map of Europe was now defined by nation states, the biggest of them multiethnic. Yet the inner imperative of modernity, that of greater and greater centralisation of power, didn’t disappear.

Its champions had the same target, but they now had to readjust their sights. If before they wanted to smash the traditional empires, slated for destruction now was the nation state.

But the weapon of ‘national self-determination’ didn’t have to be decommissioned. It’s just that modernity, with its usual sleight of lexical hand, perverted its meaning.

National determination increasingly got to mean ethnic self-determination, which isn’t at all the same thing. In its previous meaning, the term was used to bring down multinational empires. Today it’s counted upon to perform the same outrage on the nation state.

The idea that every ethnic group constitutes a nation, whose birthright to independence is reclaimable by either referendum or revolution, isn’t just spurious – it’s deliberately subversive.

No wonder that both the USA and, more to the point, the EU are firmly committed to it. Both have the same DNA traceable back to the first tentative steps of modernity.

A nation state has clearly defined borders, setting a natural limit to centralisation. Once a morally and intellectually corrupt elite has concentrated all power in its hands, further centralisation seems impossible.

And so it is – within the national borders. For centralisation to proceed apace, such borders therefore have to be made nominal to begin with, and nonexistent in the near future.

It’s in this context that most European politics can be understood. The rise of separatism, of which the Scottish referendum provides but the most recent example, is specifically designed to destroy the nation state.

One might object that Europe is trying to revive the traditional polity of Christendom, based as it was on localism, or devolution as it’s now called. Indeed, one hears many EU fanatics, especially French and German, drawing false parallels between their ugly contrivance and the Holy Roman Empire.

The difference is fundamental. The Carolingian empire was a working arrangement organically evolved to protect Christendom with its political ethos. The EU is an artificial concoction whose aim is to destroy whatever is left of traditional polity.

The Holy Roman Empire was a loose ganglion made up of local elements, exercising real power. The EU, on the other hand, wishes to destroy local power and exercise totalitarian control over all its constituents.

The two entities, therefore, aren’t so much similar as diametrically opposite. And the drive for ethnic separatism, encouraged by the EU, is a destructive weapon.

In connection with Scotland, any sensible government, if we still had one, would have snuffed out any talk of independence. Rather than allowing a pathetically designed unconstitutional referendum, it would have insisted that Great Britain, whose age of 300-plus makes it the oldest major Western constitution, is indivisible.

At the same time, such a government would act to transfer increasingly more power to the local bodies, including, but not limited to, those in the Celtic fringe. The Brits, wherever they live, shouldn’t feel that revolutionary separation is the only path towards self-government.

This would be a step in the right direction, that of restoring some of the traditional political dispensation of Christendom. Alas, we have no such government and we’ll never again have such an arrangement.

What we do have is an agglomerate of self-serving spivs who are unfit for government and hence have to bribe their way to it. All three parliamentary parties spoke in touching unison: let’s give the Scots even more of our money.

Thus a place already corrupted by welfare is being offered more of it. The subversive drive towards ‘national’ independence is bound to return but – and that’s a critical consideration for our spivs – not straight away.

It may take 10 years or even 20, by which time most of today’s politicians will be past their sell-by date. So by all means, let’s throw more unearned cash at the Scots and whomever else may vote for us. Après moi, le déluge, to quote another Louis.

It’s hard to feel encouraged by the referendum outcome. The feeling of disgust at the whole thing comes more naturally.  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben and Bob: the answer, my friend, really is blowin’ in the wind

The answer to this question, that is: Is there any limit to the stupid, subversive, demotic rubbish The Times will publish these days?

Ben Macintyre’s article on Bob Dylan unwittingly plucks the answer out of the blowin’ wind and lays it before us. It’s an emphatic no.

The article itself must have been plucked out too, but not so much of the wind as of the orifice that at times produces it. For Ben thinks Bob should be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Correction: he doesn’t just think that. He agitates for it with the fervour that can only come from deep conviction, approaching religious faith in its intensity.

Like faith, this conviction first springs from intuition and only then acquires the support of rational justification. This may sometimes look odd to an outsider, whose intuitive assumptions take him on a different path.

And odd would be too mild a word to describe Ben’s belief in Bob’s greatness; “…Dylan is indisputably one of the greatest lyrical poets of the age, a supreme master of language who has reinvented his art with exemplary energy and imagination for more than half a century.”

The only way to establish whether or not Bob’s greatness extends to the lofty heights at which the Nobel Prize is merited is to read some of those poetic masterpieces. Such as:

 

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:

Let the winds of dawn that blow

Softly round your dreaming head

Such a day of welcome show

Eye and knocking heart may bless,

Find the mortal world enough;

Noons of dryness find you fed

By the involuntary powers,

Nights of insult let you pass

Watched by every human love.

 

Now what kind of illiterate nonsense… Hold on a moment. Come to think of it, this stuff isn’t bad at all…

Oops, sorry, lapsus manus. With my characteristic negligence of detail, I’ve written out a wrong poem. This stanza actually comes from Lullaby by W.H. Auden. Someone who never received the prize so richly deserved by Bob for such immortal lines as:

 

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

How many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly

Before they’re forever banned?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

This flatulent doggerel supposedly merits the accolade that has bypassed, along with Auden, such undeserving scribes as Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges and Robert Frost.

To be fair to Ben, he anticipates dissent in some quarters and moves fast to preempt it:

“Those who insist that words can only be literature if written for the page seem quaintly old-fashioned. At a time when traditional formal poetry is in decline, informal oral poetry is booming. This is poetry written for the ear before the eye, returning the voice to verse, and now being consumed and recited in vast quantities by a younger generation. It is called rap.”

This is a time-honoured trick. The writer concocts an idiotic objection that no one in his right mind would ever make. Then he refutes it with some élan.

Someone insisting that true poetry can’t be sung wouldn’t be ‘quaintly old-fashioned’, Ben. He’d be ignorant.

Sublime poetry has been sung since the Song of Songs, Homer and the troubadours. Great Persian poets, such as Saadi, sang their poems. Whenever the sublime Russian poet Osip Mandelstam (who never received the Nobel either, instead dying in a Soviet concentration camp) recited his poems, he did so in singsong. So did Pasternak. So did Brodsky.

Poetry doesn’t have to be ‘written for the page’. But it does have to be poetry, which Bob’s excretions aren’t.

Bob is nothing but a trendy leftie who not only hasn’t written a single poetic line in his life but wouldn’t recognise one if it hit him in the eye, still aching from yesterday’s intake of coke.

His acclaim is wholly owed to the fact that he is indeed a trendy leftie who during the ’60s appealed to the pimply youths ready to ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’. Since then he has been attracting their intellectual heirs.

Bob’s art, such as it is, is an extension of the drug culture, which is the only kind of culture it’s an extension of. Only a tasteless ignoramus would regard his songs as poetry (sorry, Ben).

But then Ben also thinks that rap is poetry, albeit ‘informal, oral’. He doesn’t offer any aesthetic judgement to back up this assertion. His argument is entirely ad populi: “[rap is] now being consumed and recited in vast quantities by a younger generation.”

A younger generation does indeed display a voracious taste for aesthetic coprophilia. That’s why a middle-aged, bespectacled gentleman like Ben is duty-bound to educate their taste as best he can, bucking the paedocratic trend. Instead he serves up more of the same malodorous fare.

A modern reader, battle-hardened in the trenches of egalitarianism, may object that I’m too harsh on Ben and indeed Bob. They have one opinion on what constitutes great poetry, I have another. And all opinions are equally valid, aren’t they?

They may be. But not all judgements are, and the crucial difference between an opinion and a judgement is these days lost. Allow me to illustrate this shockingly retrograde point by using Andy Murray as an example.

“I don’t think Andy is all that great a player” is an opinion. “Andy doesn’t get enough ball rotation on his topspin forehand” is a judgement. “Andy’s statement on Scotland’s independence was ill-advised” is both an opinion and a judgement.

In my judgement Bob’s verses, with their distorted meter, attempts to rhyme words that don’t rhyme and absence of any poetic sensibility, are crude doggerel which isn’t so much poetry as its exact opposite.

In Ben’s judgement they, along with rap, are high poetry worthy of the highest accolade. You’ll have to judge which of us is right.

 

Putin is screaming historical parallels – is anyone listening?

One can observe two things about modern tyrants: first, they can’t resist divulging their plans; second, the world never listens.

Marx, for example, laid down the blueprint for a modern totalitarian state, complete with genocide, democide, concentration camps, suppression of every liberty, dictatorship of a small elite, confiscation of all private property, destruction of the family – the lot.

He himself didn’t quite succeed in bringing his vision to fruition, but it didn’t take much imagination to predict that any future Marxist state would.

Yet no one took any notice.

Lenin too suffered Cassandra’s fate. He honestly and with remarkable forthrightness wrote in every pre-revolutionary book of his exactly what he’d do if he grabbed power.

Well, perhaps not quite exactly: the future Red Square mummy was so reticent about the positive end of his programme (little things like the economy, food supply, medicine) that one could see he had never given the matter much thought.

The same can’t be said about the negative end. There the mummy-to-be was extremely detailed and explicit. He knew exactly which classes made up of ‘noxious insects’ should be expropriated and exterminated – not just in Russia but all over the world.

Again no one took any notice, and many feigned surprise when in due course the Bolsheviks started doing exactly what Marx and Lenin said they’d do.

Some 60 millions died in the Soviet Union alone as a direct result, which could have been avoided if civilised people had unplugged their ears and listened.

Hitler in his Mein Kampf also said exactly what he’d do 14 years before he did it. Again one can get the impression that the West was at the time governed by people needing a remedial reading class.

It wasn’t just that the West refused to believe that those wonderful people who gave the world Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Bach and Beethoven could ever do such awful things.

The West actually failed to acknowledge the ongoing monstrosities as they were going on. More than that: both the Soviets and the Nazis had a huge army of Western admirers, and only a slightly smaller one of Western agents.

Lenin was a visionary reformer, ‘the dreamer in the Kremlin’ in H.G. Wells’s phrase. Stalin was an effective, if occasionally strict, manager (which is, incidentally, how he’s presented in today’s Russian textbooks). Hitler had the backbone that was, according to many British aristocrats all the way to the royal family, so lamentably missing in Britain’s own politicians.

Reading problems were again very much in evidence. People who knew what they were talking about were dismissed as overemotional cranks; their books were left unread.

For example, the émigré historian Sergei Melgunov published his The Red Terror in the West while Lenin was still alive.

The book documents thousands of such niceties as skinning people alive, rolling them around in nail-studded barrels, driving nails into people’s skulls, quartering, burning alive, crucifying priests, stuffing officers alive into locomotive furnaces, pouring molten pitch or liquefied lead down people’s throats.

All this went on against the background of mass shootings that in the first three years of Soviet rule dispatched almost two million in a quasi-judicial way, and millions on top of that without even a travesty of justice.

Yet Melgunov was derisively dismissed. He’s a Russian émigré, isn’t he? So he has a chip on his shoulder. What does he know that those clubbable Bloomsbury chaps don’t?

In fact, the so-called public opinion in the West refused to acknowledge the Russian Walpurgisnacht until 1956, when Khrushchev himself owned up to it, tactfully omitting his own role in mass murders.

Similarly the NKVD defector Walter Krivitsky was mocked when he revealed in his book serialised in April, 1939, that in a few months Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would form an alliance.

Utterly preposterous, those Russians, what? Say anything to draw attention to themselves. A Nazi-Soviet pact? Unthinkable.

The West has form in such negligence, and there has always been a steep price to pay. In this context, we’d be well-advised to listen very carefully to what Putin has to say for himself.

The other day the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published a documented statement made by the Ukraine’s president Poroshenko to José Manuel Barroso. Poroshenko quotes Putin as saying “If I wanted to, it would take me two days to occupy not only Kiev, but also Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.”

Putin went on to advise Poroshenko “not to rely too much on the EU”. He, Putin, could easily “influence and block any decision” made there. That second part of his claim is more readily believable than the first, but we’d ignore it at our peril. 

The general thrust, if not the details, of Putin’s threat is the same as in the statement he had made to Barroso directly.

According to La Repubblica, Putin waved aside Barroso’s timid objections to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine: “That’s not the issue. Thing is, I can take Kiev in a fortnight if I want to.”

Taking Kiev in two weeks sounds more plausible than taking six European capitals in two days, but it’s the thought that counts. And the thought that has at least crossed Putin’s mind is that no one could stop him if he wished to occupy the Ukraine and also five Nato countries.

Strategic plans for that type of action were drawn up by the Soviet General Staff as far back as the 1930s. Then it was called Operation Thunderstorm, and only Hitler’s preemptive strike managed both to delay it by four years and also limit its scale.

Since Putin’s stated objective is to resurrect the Soviet Union to its former glory, he must have had his generals working overtime on an updated version of Thunderstorm. Of course having plans and carrying them out are two different things, but history shows that the distance between the two is much shorter in dictatorships than in democracies.

And yet once again, just as Lenin, Stalin and Hitler were never short of Western admirers, neither is Putin. He’s supposed to be the sole remaining flag-bearer of Christianity, a champion of all those conservative values we in the West no longer uphold.

The Hitchenses, Bookers and Tolstoys of this world, not to mention some of my readers, are busily extolling Putin’s virtues. Why, one such chap even went so far as to describe Putin’s foreign policy as ‘pacifist’.

Come to your senses, gentlemen, before it’s too late – yet again. We’re looking at the greatest danger the West has confronted for 20 years, and a show of strength is the only way of preventing a catastrophe.

Except that we’re neither confronting the danger nor showing strength. In fact, our demob-happy governments, hoping to get fat on the peace dividend, have made sure we have little strength left to show.

We must rebuild our military power, and the resolve to use it, as fast as we did in 1940. Learning to heed what the aggressors are saying would be a good start.