With this $1 billion I thee wed

wedding_cakeWhat loving father would begrudge a paltry £700 million (it’s a more round number in US dollars) for his beloved son’s wedding?

One possible answer to this question is the kind of father who doesn’t have that much loose cash jangling in his pocket. Another answer is the kind of father who, though one of the world’s richest men, has the good taste to eschew vulgar displays.

Mikhail Gutseriev, the Russian-Kazakh oil billionaire (for those of you whose Russian is rusty, ‘oil billionaire’ means ‘gangster’) doesn’t fall into either of those categories. That’s why he did spend that rather extravagant amount on the Moscow nuptials of his son Said and the love of his young life.

Said, who now works for Daddy, was educated at Harrow and Oxford, so one would have thought that, along with whatever academic disciplines they teach there, he would have picked up the rudiments of good taste. (A note to Said: they lied to you, son. ‘If you got it, flaunt it’ isn’t what taste is all about.)

Such an expectation would reveal a rather romantic, and certainly dated, notion of our elite educational institutions. For they don’t teach good taste any longer. I’m not even sure what kind of academic disciplines they teach, or how well, an uncertainty bolstered every time I come in contact with recent alumni.

So our Kazakh Harrovian went along with the style and scale of the festivities. Every guest, and there were many, was picked up in a Rolls Royce limousine, the wedding cake was taller and wider than any guest, which last dimension was no mean feat at a Russian wedding.

The entertainment was provided by such A-listers as Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias and our own Sting, who weren’t above picking up a few quick million for a 20-minute gig. I’m not familiar with the numbers they performed, but I’m sure that, to match the event, they were in impeccable taste.

The blushing bride needed help walking down the aisle, or whatever Russo-Kazakh newlyweds walk down, because her wedding dress weighed two stone (28 pounds or 12.7 kilos for the outlanders among you). Then again, the jewels with which the dress was embellished are known to be heavy.

In case any of the neighbours were unaware of the event or its cosmic significance, the celebrations were crowned by mighty fireworks, reminiscent of those commemorating such other events of cosmic significance as the anniversary of the Bolshevik coup on 7 November.

Far be it from me to tell the Gutsurievs how to spend their plundered wealth. I’m no expert in that sort of thing myself, not possessing any wealth, plundered or otherwise. I do know something about history and on that basis could perhaps offer a bit of avuncular advice to the young Harrovian.

Son, did they teach you history at all? If so, you must have heard of the French Revolution, when the wealthy classes were culled en masse. However, the English wealthy classes not only survived their own earlier revolution, but actually prospered even more soon thereafter?

Do you know why that was? One reason was that the English didn’t flaunt what they had, and the French did.

How do you think your own countrymen feel, son, when they watch, nose to the window, that kind of display? This in a place where pensioners starve, 28 million people live under the poverty level of £175 a month and qualified medical care is available only for the rich?

In the land of Jennifer Lopez and, at a pinch, of Sting, most people are still comfortable enough not to let other people’s wealth rankle too much. In Russia, just take my word for it, resentment builds up, like pressure in a boiler.

One day it’ll splash out and then… Said, my old son, you and your ilk will be dreaming of the guillotine as a great mercy. I’m not going to mar your honeymoon with graphic details, but (when you have a break from your conjugal duties) Google ‘impaling’ or ‘flailing alive’ and you’ll get the general idea.

And now to the really important news. Apparently the income gap between the rich and the poor in England is still alarmingly high. What we need to sort things out is a real leader, like a certain KGB lieutenant-colonel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equality before quality: roll over, Beethoven

SchumannA book review in yesterday’s paper drew my attention to an egregious injustice, possibly trumping all other iniquities of our miserable world. Or so the author seems to think.

The book, Sounds and Sweet Airs by Anna Beer, is about women composers in history. The review is by Jessica Duchen. I haven’t read the book, and judging by the quotations from it, won’t do so in the future. I have read the review though, or rather the rant.

The rant starts with the very first sentence: “The under-representation of female composers in concert programming, broadcasting and recording is, if you think about it, little short of scandalous.”

I have thought about it. It’s way short of scandalous. I’ve considered the possibility of replacing Bach, Beethoven and Brahms with Marianna Martinez, Barbara Strozzi and Clara Schumann, or even giving them equal time to make sure women aren’t ‘under-represented’.

I didn’t like the possibility. No sane person would – but then fanatical adherence to an ideology is rather the opposite of sanity.

It’s also the opposite of intelligence. I mean not the higher type, but the basic competence measurable by IQ. Only a deficit in that faculty can account for this statement by Miss Duchen: “As Anna Beer says in her book’s endnote: if a C major chord is the same whether written by Wagner or a female composer, why should the former be played every day and the latter not?”

If such a question can be asked, there can be no answer. I can press a C on a piano keyboard as well as my wife, the sublime concert pianist. But wouldn’t you call for the men in white coats if I suggested that, on this basis, I should replace her on the platform?

Fair enough, if the C major chord were the only music ever composed by a man and a woman, choosing the former over the latter would be discriminatory. But personally I’d find a concert by either of them rather repetitive if nothing but that one chord were heard.

Miss Duchen evidently proceeds from the assumption that the representation of men and women in any group must faithfully reflect their representation in mankind at large, 50.5 per cent women, 49.5 per cent men. And if it falls short, only one explanation is possible: the beastliness of men and the discrimination against women caused thereby.

Here’s her take on the iniquity of Robert Schumann’s music being more popular than his wife’s: “The least congenial partner was, sadly, Robert Schumann, whose idealistic dreams of a marriage of minds, in which he and his wife, Clara, would compose together, lasted only until they began, prolifically, to create children instead.”

This sentence is about as mellifluous as Clara’s compositions. Nothing about them suggests that we’d be better off if she had been composing her own Fantasy and Symphonic Etudes, while Robert gave birth to the brood.

Clara, one of the best pianists of her time, herself didn’t consider her compositions to be interesting enough. They were mostly little nothings she knocked off for her recitals, as was then a common practice. Essentially Clara wasn’t even a minor composer – she wasn’t a composer at all.

This she realised and stopped composing, dedicating her life instead to performances, mainly of the music by two towering geniuses: her husband Robert and her admirer (probably also lover) Johannes Brahms.

But Miss Duchen knows better than Mrs Schumann: “If women were not being sexually objectified, then their frail beauty or domestic virtues were being sentimentalised…” So Clara failed to compose great music because Robert and Johannes saw her as a sex object.

But wait a minute, here’s a little snippet Miss Duchen cites with gushing enthusiasm: “Clara Schumann apparently walked much faster than her husband, often 20 paces ahead.”

Oh well, if that doesn’t clinch the argument, I don’t know what will. Obviously Clara’s greater energy and athletic ability must give her music an edge over that slow coach Robert’s. Who can possibly fault this logic?

Now I have a beef of my own. Not only are the chaps in charge of ‘concert programming, broadcasting and recording’ sexist, but they are also anti-Semitic. How else can you explain the dearth of Jewish composers being performed publicly?

There’s Mendelssohn, Mahler, Schoenberg, one or two others – and that’s it. What about Korngold? What does Prokofiev have that he doesn’t? And only a rank anti-Semite would prefer a Brahms piano concerto to Anton Rubinstein’s, or a Bird motet to Salamone Rossi’s.

And if you think it’s just sexism and anti-Semitism, think again. How many black classical composers are being performed? You don’t know a single one? That’s precisely the point: you don’t know because their music falls victim to racist discrimination.

Just to think that such drivel is being written – and published. But then Miss Duchen is a woman. A case of reverse discrimination, or what?

 

Happy Easter!

EasterThis is what I wish my readers on this most joyous day of the year – regardless of whether or not they are Christians, or what kind of Christians.

There is enough in this event even for non-believers to celebrate, for without it our civilisation wouldn’t exist, and my readers, whatever their faith, are civilised people.

Because in addition to being civilised they’re also intelligent, they realise that without Easter our world would be a different place and, for all our complaints and laments, not nearly as glorious a place.

Speaking of our glorious world, my readers come from every corner of it, and – though they all self-evidently speak English – the words even strangers traditionally exchange on this day must sound more familiar to them in their mother tongue.

So Happy Easter, wherever you are – even if you celebrate Christ’s Resurrection on a different day or not at all:

Christ is risen!

Le Christ est ressuscité!

Christus ist auferstanden!

Cristo ha resucitado!

Cristo è risorto!

Kristus on üles tõusnud!

Kristus er oppstanden!

Xристос воскрес!

Chrystus zmartwychwstał!

Kristus vstal z mrtvých!

Cristo ressuscitou!

Kristus ir augšāmcēlies!

Christus is verrezen!

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!

Krisztus feltámadt!

Kristus är uppstånden!

Kristus prisikėlė!

Kristus nousi kuolleista!

Hristos a înviat!

 

 

 

 

Nuthin wrong with grammar what folks use

Dr JohnsonThe ideological permissiveness of our age goes beyond sexual perversion, outlandish clothes and body art. It extends to language, an area where it arguably does the greatest damage.

Anything goes, nothing is incorrect provided it’s used widely is an approach reducing language to plebiscite – if enough people use it, it’s ipso facto correct. Such populism is guaranteed to destroy linguistic discipline and, by ricochet, in due course any other.

Not only does disciplined usage reflect a disciplined mind, but it also has a moral aspect. For someone insisting on correct words and grammar thereby rejects relativism. Not everything is to be left to personal choice, such a pedant implies. Absolutes exist. Things can be right or wrong, and the norms of rightness must be set by an outside authority.

The outside authority in language doesn’t have to be an actual institution, like the French Academy. Simply the standards set over centuries by highly literate elites would suffice.

However, if one tags the suffix -ism on to ‘elite’, one gets one of the three mortal sins of modernity, those that have replaced the outdated seven: elitism, discrimination and discernment. Espousing any one of them will make one highly suspect at a Notting Hill soirée. Espousing all three will turn the wretch into a social pariah tout court.

Thomas Mann famously said that all intellectual attitudes are latently political. I’m not sure about that, but it’s true that a person’s political convictions can usually be inferred from his ideas on subjects that ostensibly have nothing to do with politics.

Hence a linguistic rigorist is likely to be conservative (a word I generally use interchangeably with ‘intelligent’) in politics as well. Conversely, show me a permissive linguistic populist, and I’ll show you a leftie. There may exist rare exceptions to the first statement, but not to the second.

Oliver Kamm, the resident language guru at The Times, is a case in point. As a committed leftie, Ollie wages war on tradition in anything. Hence he welcomes every linguistic perversion because he senses viscerally that such permissiveness promotes cultural and social egalitarianism, thereby adding another twig to the pyre of our civilisation.

This is how he once summarised his linguistic philosophy: “[Grammar] has many rules and the way to find out what they are is to examine how native speakers use their own language.”

Exactly which native speakers are we talking about, Ollie? Tattooed Millwall fans? Smug Times columnists? The average of the two? Since, on this evidence, there’s little intellectual difference, the grammatical extremes must also be converging.

In today’s paper, young Ollie resumes hostilities in his on-going war against Simon Heffer who, unlike him, is an intelligent man and therefore a prescriptive, as opposed to descriptive, grammarian. (Dr Johnson is an implicit target too.)

As a test case, Ollie chose a sentence written by Daniel Finkelstein: “It isn’t much good for anyone… but I think for we Jews particularly not.” Even anyone devoid of recondite expertise in such matters but simply blessed with an ear for English would know that in this sentence ‘us Jews’ would be correct, while ‘we Jews’ is jarring and illiterate.

Not Ollie, and one wonders if Lord Finkelstein’s position as one of The Times editors encourages Ollie to utter such sycophantic panegyrics as “Daniel takes some convincing that he is a grammatical genius; but he is.” Not on the evidence of that sentence, he isn’t.

Like most ideologues of linguistic license, Ollie relies on an argumentum ad populum for vindication, something he calls “evidence of usage”. In this case, he refers to Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage citing such errors in works by Shakespeare and Hardy.

Yet quoting great writers’ solecisms in support of grammatical populism is disingenuous. Shakespeare et al create their own language universes in which they are the demiurges establishing all the rules.

Sometimes they use bad grammar on purpose, to achieve a stylistic effect. Sometimes they do so out of carelessness, caused, say, by that second sherry before dinner, time pressure or the late hour of the day. Either way, simple mortals haven’t earned the right to the same latitude that great writers enjoy and silly mortals like Kamm demand.

Dazzling the reader with technical terminology is another trick Ollie uses, as if to imply that his championship of license is cause by conviction rather than illiteracy or a tin ear. Therefore we’re treated to an explanation of what appositive constructions are and how they are exempt from the generalities put forth by Simon Heffer and other normative grammarians.

It’s true that Lord Finkelstein’s ‘we Jews’ is an appositive construction. It’s also true that in some instances appositive constructions permit the otherwise eccentric use of the accusative case. But Finkelstein’s sentence Ollie cites isn’t such an instance. It’s plain incorrect.

Still, what’s one awkward sentence among friends? What’s worth discussing here is the general philosophy, not this or that particular. And according to Kamm’s philosophy the title of this article is perfectly acceptable.

It isn’t. Since Ollie is fond of technical terms, it’s a rhetorical device known as reductio ad absurdum. But Ollie’s own absurdities are well-nigh irreducible.

 

Sex as a crime against the state

AdamJohnsonFootballer Adam Johnson was yesterday sentenced to six years in prison for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl in his Range Rover. The abetting Range Rover got off scot-free.

Sentencing Mr Johnson, the judge cited several aggravating circumstances. Such as – are you ready for this? – the fact that Mr Johnson had parked the abetting Range Rover in a quiet place before unzipping his trousers. Presumably His Honour would have gone easy on the footballer had he done it in the open, with the passers-by enjoying the show.

The law did let Mr Johnson off the hook by magnanimously not charging him with possession of bestiality videos. He himself didn’t star in any of those and hence couldn’t have been charged with corrupting the morals of a donkey, but even viewing such material isn’t nice. So Mr Johnson should count himself lucky.

Then the victim was said to have suffered psychological damage after testifying. No evidence of her suffering such damage as a result of the act itself was presented, and one could argue that it wasn’t Mr Johnson who had dragged her through the proceedings. But the judge explained that was Mr Johnson’s fault because he had refused to plead guilty to all charges, thereby necessitating a trial – how dare he claim his innocence.

If you detect a touch of levity in my tone, you’re right. It’s not that I don’t consider Mr Johnson a lawbreaker and a naughty boy – he is and I do.

If the law says a girl has to be 16 to perform fellatio, then 16 it is. Dura lex, sed lex, as the Romans used to say. Mr Johnson ought to have been punished, even though our whole school system, our whole society, sexualises children even 10 years younger than his victim.

Most 15-year-olds have the kind of sexual sophistication, both theoretical and, as it were, hands-on, that few children had in the past, so we want to have it both ways: teaching 5-year-olds the benefits of condoms while insisting they remain innocent lambs at 15.

Still, the law must be obeyed. And one way of fostering law-abidance is not only punishing a transgression, but also making sure the punishment is commensurate with the crime.

For example, most of us agree that a fine is a just punishment for speeding. Most, however, will probably disagree that a mandatory custodial sentence for first offence would be just. And if such a punishment were imposed, people would lose respect for the law in general, not just the traffic laws.

So is six years a just, commensurate punishment for unzipping one’s trousers for a girl a few months short of the legal limit? This question can only be answered in the context of other crimes receiving the same sentence.

The Mail has provided such a context by listing a dozen crimes recently drawing the same term of imprisonment. These include beating a stranger to death for fun, aggravated burglary, drug pushing on a massive scale and laundering money for terrorists.

Now even a person considerably less blasé about sex than me may agree that there’s something crazy going on here. How can a bit of unauthorised yet uncoerced sex be punished as severely as beating a stranger to death just for fun?

Another time-honoured legal principle is the difference between malum prohibitum and malum in se – something bad only because it’s prohibited and something bad in itself. Surely sex with a girl a little short of the age of consent falls into the first category and killing into the second? How can they be punished equally?

In a world of actual reality they wouldn’t be. But in our virtual world things like killing, burglary or robbery are merely crimes against the individual. The crime Mr Johnson committed, however, is also one against the sanctimonious ethos the modern state wishes to impose, the better to control us.

Hence it’s a crime against the state itself – and these are punished more brutally than any crime against a person. For example, tax evasion, cheating the state of its pound of flesh (or a few pounds sterling), is treated as a worse crime than cheating a pensioner out of a much greater sum.

Sex is one area where the state puts its leaden foot down heavily. It insists on its prerogative to dictate intimate behaviour, criminalising, for example, a man not stopping when his wife tells him to while legalising, indeed encouraging, cohabitation, homosexual marriage and abortion as contraception.

We could argue about the morality or advisability of this or that practice, but what is unarguable is the totalitarian cravings of every post-Enlightenment state. This doesn’t exculpate Adam Johnson. But the draconian severity of his punishment will further undermine respect for the state and its law.

When laws are feared but not respected, they won’t be obeyed. Fear alone isn’t a sufficient deterrent, and this case is one of many that de facto promote lawlessness by making the law less respectable.

I don’t know whether we should change the age of consent. But we should definitely change our frame of moral reference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no justice in tennis either

TennisCrowdA couple of days ago I talked about the concept of social justice, suggesting that, in common with most modern jargon, it means the opposite of its dictionary definition.

‘Social justice’ means the injustice of awarding something that isn’t due, and the tennis world has developed the theme by kicking up another row about equal pay for men and women.

First, the Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore caused a mighty uproar by suggesting that women players don’t deserve the same prize money as the men. Then the world’s top player Novak Djokovic said the same thing.

Both Messrs Moore and Djokovic based their statements on the commercial argument. Men, they said, attract more TV viewers and sell more tickets at higher prices. Hence, in the good tradition of sound economics, they should be paid more.

The twin bombs exploded; shards flew off in every direction. The fallout was so powerful that Mr Moore resigned, and Mr Djokovic had to offer an abject apology along the lines of his words not meaning the way they sounded.

Their opponents were scathing nonetheless. Our own Andy Murray countered that some of the women’s matches attract a wider following than some of the men’s. That’s like saying that some of my shots land in the court and some of Andy’s don’t. He could still beat me without working up a sweat.

Martina Navratilova used the occasion to reaffirm her commitment to equality between the sexes. That was redundant, for Miss Navratilova had already made her feelings on the subject abundantly clear last year, when she donned an elegant mannish suit, went down on one knee in a restaurant and proposed holy matrimony to her girlfriend.

Female players, said the advocates of equal pay, ‘deserve’ the same prize money. That’s another modern solecism: ‘deserve’ actually means ‘don’t deserve, but would like to get anyway’.

The commercial argument used by Messrs Moore and Djokovic isn’t the only one, though it’s doubtless strong. Men do attract wider audiences, and at most major tournaments the tickets for their matches do cost more.

For example, debenture tickets for the men’s quarters and semis at Wimbledon go at three to four times the price of the women’s. And in terms of TV audiences, the men’s final at last year’s Wimbledon was seen by 9.2 million viewers, while the women’s final attracted merely 4.3 million.

Yet the moral argument is, as usual, stronger. For, even as elementary decency demands that equal work command equal pay, the same admirable quality dictates that greater work should be paid better.

And awarding the same prize money to the women means they get paid more than the men per unit of time. To wit, last year’s Wimbledon winner Djokovic spent 16 hours on court, compared to his female counterpart Serena Williams’s 10.5. That means he was paid 50 per cent less per hour, which I suppose comes close to the feminist idea of equal pay for equal work.

Yet time on court is only one aspect. Why do you suppose men’s tennis attracts more viewers? After all – and I’m speaking not only for myself but for all those red-blooded men out there – few sights are more fetching than a good female body throwing itself about every which way.

The reason is that most tennis spectators play the sport themselves. For them watching the pros is tantamount to a free lesson. And they learn more from the men because the men are, not to cut too fine a point, better.

Not just stronger and faster, for these are largely physiological differences, but better technically, with a greater variety of shot, better timing, a clearer idea of how to construct a point.

Now this difference derives not from physiology but from application, time spent on the practice court, day in day out over a lifetime. Also, the men’s infinitely faster speed around the court isn’t all down to pure physiology. Much of it comes from endless work in the gym, never touching wrong foods, taking ice baths – everything it takes to become a smidgen better.

Hence one never sees a fat or unfit male player, while some of the women – I don’t know how to say this without sounding unchivalrous – are ever so slightly porcine. That’s why they are so slow around the court, and that’s why women players get injured more often than the men.

In other words, men professionals are more professional – and they probably spend at least twice as much time on their work than the women. That’s why the moral principle of equal pay for equal work should in this case mean that the men get paid twice as much.

The money thus vacated could be used to boost the prize funds in the lower echelons of the men’s game, to enable, say, a world number 200 (who could thrash any woman with his eyes closed) make enough of a living not to have to sleep rough when travelling to faraway events.

So welcome to our world of virtual reality, where justice means injustice, equality means inequality, and fairness means unfairness. That’s modernity for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Islamic flags are deadlier than nail bombs

Flames explode behind the U.S. Navy Blue Angels'  F/A-18 Hornets during the night portion of the 2014 Miramar Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Oct. 4. The wall of fire is the last event of the night air show.

Just hours after the unspeakable atrocity in Brussels, police raided a flat in the Belgian capital and found a nail bomb, similar to those that had murdered all those people, some chemicals – and an Islamic flag. Who could have thought?

I didn’t know about this new tragedy when a friend rang me yesterday morning to tell me about it. Even though I wasn’t fully awake, I instantly asked if the attackers were Muslim.

“No, they were Methodists.” My friend’s sarcasm belied the respect he must have felt for my powers of instant deduction.

Ask a silly question… But of course monsters who blow up people at airports and underground stations are Muslims. Not Islamic terrorists. Not Islamists. Not Islamofascists, a term of US neocon coinage.

Muslims. And they do it because they are Muslims.

Obviously not all Muslims are suicide bombers – if they were, the problem we’re facing would be short-lived. Similarly, not all Russian communists executed millions and not all German Nazis killed Jews. But those who did those things, did so because they were, respectively, Russian communists and German Nazis.

Communism has a propensity for mass murder. So does Nazism. So does Islam. This is an ontological property, inherent to the very nature of the three creeds and confirmed by their founding documents.

Most people realise this about Nazism and some also know it about communism. Yet when it comes to Islam, we hear much braying that the crimes being committed by Muslims have nothing to do with Islam.

Shrieks of ‘Allahu akbar!!!’ regularly accompany mass murder on every continent, and still the Obamas, Camerons et al tell us that Islam isn’t at fault. Well, as my facetious question implied, the murderers certainly aren’t Methodists.

Tony Blair’s response to this tragedy trumped all others in the disgusting stakes. He warned against ‘flabby liberalism’ and suggested that “We are in a situation where we have to fight back.” Said fight ought to be waged by the ‘centre ground’.

Cameron has a long way to go before he matches the nauseating cynicism of his role model. To emphasise this point, Blair added “I’m a supporter of multiculturalism. But there’s been a long period of time when we’ve allowed the concept of multiculturalism to be abused.”

Thus spake the man responsible for inviting to Britain millions of Muslim immigrants, most of them virulently hostile to the West and everything it stands for.

This was done ostensibly in the name of multiculturalism, which ‘concept’ Blair self-admittedly supports, but really in order to dilute or rather smash the core of Britishness that tends to gravitate toward the Tories – “to rub the right’s nose in diversity”, as Blair’s speechwriter put it.

When diversity has a Muslim provenance, a nose rubbed in it tends to bleed, but an ideological multiculturalist would rather perform a DIY amputation than make this empirical observation.

And what does a ‘centre ground’ approach to fighting terrorism mean? Centre ground between what and what? Abject surrender to murderous ‘diversity’ and a resolute response to it?

There is no centre ground between the two. It’s either one or the other, and we know which option European governments are choosing. They’re voting for fighting Muslim terrorism by throwing both arms up in the air, palms open, knees quivering.

The same friend who wasn’t impressed by my perspicacity about the Brussels murderers’ religion asked me, rhetorically, what’s to be done about this whole thing.

Both of us know what needs doing. As we also know that nothing will be done, at least nothing that could conceivably solve the problem.

Such a solution should start with acknowledging what makes the terror campaign possible. It’s what Blair calls ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘diversity’, a belief that, since our own culture and religion are no better than any others, Muslims should be welcomed in any numbers and allowed to live in Europe while hating it.

Once that start has been made, any concrete measures will suggest themselves. Specifically, our unwavering commitment to human rights must be suspended, as it always is at wartime – and those who don’t realise we’re at war should take another look at the Brussels photographs.

While, largely thanks to the Blair government and its continental twins, it’s patently impossible to intern all Muslims the way all Germans were interned in Britain and all Nisei Americans in the US during the war, they must all be regarded as enemy aliens – at least potentially.

That means their opportunities to congregate, be it at mosques or ‘Muslim centres’, must be curtailed. The standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt should also be suspended: a mere suspicion of perpetrating or abetting terrorism must be seen as sufficient for preventive arrest, the way a suspicion of spying was during the war.

All Islamic immigration to Europe must stop summarily, and deportation must become a standard method of dealing with those Muslims who misbehave while here. And so on – the list of possible actions could be long.

But my friend knows and I know and you know that nothing of the sort will ever be done. Instead those who are indirectly responsible for Muslim crimes will talk tough and pontificate on the subject of ‘flabby liberalism’.

 

Nobody wants social justice

Social justiceFew words in the modern political jargon can match ‘social justice’ for either mendacity or stupidity, depending on who uses this pernicious term and to what end.

As I wrote yesterday, words no longer convey their real meaning. Vindicating Talleyrand’s bon mot, they conceal it.

Hence, following the turmoil embroiling the Tories, everybody’s talking about our lack of social justice, as if we were short of something valuable. In fact, social justice is the last thing those people – including the newly martyred and beatified Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) – want.

My dog-eared Chambers Dictionary defines justice as “the awarding of what is due”. If our semi-literate population, corrupted into chronic idleness by the welfare state, were indeed awarded its due, a third of it would starve to death.

Yet illiteracy has been used as a weapon of mass instruction for so long that few cringe when served up ‘social justice’. In fact, ‘social justice’ is nothing but levelling, which is about as opposite to justice as one can get. Economic levelling isn’t economic justice; social levelling isn’t social justice; political levelling isn’t political justice. They’re all, however, aggressive weapons in modernity’s war on custom and decency.

Astonishingly for an ex-leader of the Conservative Party, IDS seems to believe that levelling, otherwise known as ‘social justice’, is an essential function – nay, duty – of government.

Sorry about insisting on using words in their real meaning, but the state robbing an industrious Peter to pay a loafer Paul, thereby increasing its own power over both, has nothing to do with justice.

Nor does it have anything to do with charity, as socialists like to lie. Just as levelling is the exact opposite of justice, so it is the exact opposite of charity.

Charity is an act of individual compassion and mercy that, while helping the receiver materially, also elevates the giver spiritually. The state extracting money from people on pain of imprisonment and then using public funds to create generations of parasites is something else again.

Obviously those who are genuinely unable to work and can’t provide for themselves must be offered charitable help. But this should come from individuals, not the state. What the state should do is use its taxation system to encourage acts of private charity (for example, by making donations tax-free), not discourage them, as it does now.

The state isn’t there to be charitable; that’s what individuals are for, and perhaps the church. The best thing the state can do for ‘the less fortunate’ is to create an economic environment in which there will be few of them.

(‘Less fortunate’ in the meaning of ‘poor’ is another cynical misnomer. The implication is that poverty results from bad luck. Sometimes it no doubt does. More typically, however, people in the West are poor because they don’t work hard enough.)

As has been amply demonstrated everywhere in the world, with absolutely no exceptions on record, the best way the state can create such an environment is to act as a referee in the economic game, not an active player.

That means reducing the tax burden to the absolute minimum required for the state to perform its legitimate functions, which don’t include social engineering and economic levelling.

They do include protecting individuals from external and internal evil-doers, and guaranteeing the security and sovereignty of the realm. It’s in these legitimate functions that our state is manifestly remiss.

What it does well is extorting from working people at least half of what they earn by hard toil. This puts dampeners on the productive elements in the economy, while then rechanneling the money into the conduit of ‘social justice’ that encourages the least productive elements.

The government of which IDS was a member does nothing to create a healthy economic climate, although certain measures proposed in Osborne’s budget suggest he knows what that may involve. But acting on such knowledge by, for example, reducing the state’s take to, say, 25 per cent of GDP, would be politically suicidal.

It would be so because for the better part of a century, certainly since the Second World War, the state has conducted a concerted campaign aimed at brainwashing people into equating profligate government expenditure with morality.

The ploy has been as successful as it has been cynical: most people grumble about being skinned alive by taxes, but few question the state’s right to extort a lion’s share of their income. Doing so would sound tantamount to being crassly selfish and insensitive to the plight of their fellow man.

IDS is a culprit in this morally shabby exercise and, judging by his sanctimonious pronouncements, an enthusiastic culprit at that. For what he singled out for criticism in Osborne’s budget is precisely the measures that hint, from light years away, at what must be done: rolling back the welfare state and lowering the tax burden.

No more than a hint it is, for the budget doesn’t reduce welfare handouts but merely slows down by a whisker their rate of growth – and the same can be said about taxation. It’s a virtual, spivocratic, political budget, and in this IDS is right.

However, one shudders to think what sort of budget he himself would propose given the chance. We’d all die by social justice.

 

Admiral Nelson, a casualty in a war on the English language

NelsomHaving abandoned all hope of ever cranking up my body into life in the morning, I try to get my mind started instead. To that end I do a couple of easy crosswords, which sometimes makes me think about our great language.

We get words second-hand, after they’ve been used by a chastening number of generations. To make verbal discourse possible, those generations had to agree on the meaning of words and stick to that agreement.

They, the generations that produced John Donne and Anthony Trollope, didn’t feel that words mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean. We, the generation that produced Don Brown and Joanna Trollope, think they must.

Well, you know what I mean, says a modern man using ‘masterful’ to mean ‘masterly’. No, I don’t, my friend. Are you sure you do?

In fact, lexical laxity is a distinguishing feature of modernity, what with its understated education and overstated solipsism. Look at one clue in today’s crossword, for example: “Essential aspects (5-6)”, with me expected to write in ‘nitty-gritty’. But that’s not what nitty-gritty means.

It means fine, basic details. Such details may be essential, but then again they may not, as anyone will agree who has ever foolishly said ‘nice car’ to a boffin and received a lecture on McPherson struts and slip differentials in return.

Here’s another clue in the same crossword: ‘Deep admiration (7)’. Would you guess that the answer is supposed to be ‘respect’?

Admiration and respect are two different things. For instance, I respect our cleaning lady for being honest and conscientious, but I don’t admire her.

It’s not just crosswords either, as I found today by visiting the National Portrait Gallery. Hanging on the fence was an expensively produced poster advertising an exhibition of Admiral Nelson’s portraits. It’s called Nauseous Sailor.

Now in the language of William Shakespeare ‘nauseous’ means ‘disgusting’, ‘vomit-inducing’. Surely that’s putting it too strongly, I thought. Nelson had his failings, a propensity to consort with courtesans for one, but he’s generally regarded as a decent sailor.

In fact, the square next to the Gallery is named after one of Nelson’s exploits. You know, the one in which he established that Britain was a naval power and France wasn’t, a state of affairs that lasted until Dave bought a time share on a French carrier. Could a nation really have thus honoured a ‘disgusting’ sailor?

It didn’t. By erecting Nelson’s Column, the nation honoured its great hero. Unfortunately, the same nation later did to its education what Nelson had done to Villeneuve’s navy. The broadsides were so overpowering that even today’s supposedly literate curators don’t know the difference between ‘nauseous’ and ‘nauseated’. The institution once graced by the directorship of the erudite, elegant writer Kenneth Clark is now led by ignoramuses.

Why not just call the exhibition Seasick Sailor? Sea sickness is the unambiguous description of Nelson’s affliction – after all, a sailor can be nauseated (or ‘nauseous’ in the ignoramuses’ lingo) for a variety of reasons, such as too much grog, or else constant exposure to pretentious pseuds.

All this sounds trivial, and so it would be if it weren’t a symptom of a general malaise. For anyone who uses words loosely thinks loosely, which makes him easy prey to those who use language to deceive.

Thus when a politician talks about social justice, few realise he means the injustice of dispossessing hard-working people in favour of idlers. When he mentions cooperation with Europe, few understand this means overturning 2,000 years of British political history. And when he preaches respect for different cultures, many overlook that he means destroying our own.

Much as we may despise conspiracy theories, one finds it hard to believe that our educational catastrophe is a result of honest errors. Some deliberate design is discernible behind the concerted drive to disengage people from their culture, including their language.

Our ‘leaders’ believe that stuffing the people with bread and keeping them half-catatonic with circuses will keep them docile. The blighters only ever sound alarm bells when they realise that our moron-spewing ‘education’ produces millions of unemployable savages.

All those Poles and Estonians, some of them not speaking a word of English, come here and within a few months take jobs the Brits are no longer qualified to do. Since people don’t starve to death in civilised countries, the state has to feed those underachieving Brits, which as a side benefit makes them likely to vote for those who promise to feed them better.

Our ‘leaders’ generally think this is a fair deal but, with the economy being what it is, feeding a burgeoning army of illiterate idlers lowers the standard of living for everyone else.

Since those who thereby suffer still outnumber the loafers, an electoral calamity may become a distinct possibility. It’s only at this point that politicians try to paper over the spidery cracks in our ‘education system’.

Otherwise, reducing a great nation to anomic barbarism is perfectly fine with them. That’s actually a clue in another crossword: “savage (8)”. ‘Barbarian’ is supposed to be the answer, a typically imprecise one.

 

 

Duncan Smith isn’t much better than Osborne

DuncanSmithIain Duncan Smith has earned much sympathy for resigning his post as Work and Pensions Secretary on a matter of principle.

My own reaction is rather less unequivocal. After all, the two main reasons Mr Duncan Smith cites for his resignation are both dubious, as is his matter of principle.

Primarily he objects to one plank in the Chancellor’s budget: the symbolic reduction in disability benefits. This, said the man largely credited with welfare reforms, is “a cut too far”.

Actually, it’s a cut not far enough. The current roll of disability benefit recipients suggests that Britain has more cripples now than in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

One can’t help feeling that this benefit offers even a larger potential for cheating than most others. The minuscule reduction proposed by Mr Osborne won’t even make much of a dent in the abuse and, if properly administered, won’t leave any people genuinely unable to work begging in the streets.

The second and, one suspects, real reason for Mr Duncan Smith’s action is the contempt in which he clearly holds the Chancellor. Here his motivation is hard to fault, for George Osborne is indeed contemptible.

But accusing him, as Mr Duncan Smith does, of putting forth a budget pursuing political rather than economic objectives is disingenuous. He might as well accuse Mr Osborne of being a modern politician.

Modern politicians do politics, not statesmanship. They crave personal power for its own sake, not as a vehicle to promote public good. It’s in this sense that they are all profoundly corrupt – and neither the accused nor the accuser is any different.

Occupying as they did the two key economic posts in the government, both men sold the public on the message of bogus austerity. Britain, they said, wasn’t paying its way under Labour, with politically expedient overspending financed by ruinous deficits. That was going to change under the Tories, hence the austerity in general and Duncan Smith’s much-touted welfare reforms in particular.

As an immediate result of this commitment to fiscal responsibility, Britain’s public debt has doubled under the Tories to its present level of almost two trillion pounds.

Consequently our children are being saddled with an unsupportable debt in six digits each, which may well reduce them to a lifetime of penury. Hence one has to admire the unabashed cynicism with which Osborne described his effort as “a budget for the next generation”. For screwing the next generation, is more like it.

If there’s anything to commend in Osborne’s budget, it’s precisely his cosmetic attempt to reduce the disability benefits and raise the threshold for the 40 per cent tax rate. These are the measures Duncan Smith cites as reasons for his resignation.

The language he used came right out of the lexicon favoured by Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour Trotskyists. This budget, he thundered, favours the rich at the expense of the poor.

Evidently he shares the socialist canard that anybody with an income of over £45,000 a year (the new threshold for the 40 per cent tax rate) qualifies as rich. Mr Duncan Smith ought to check out how much it costs to have a half-decent life in Britain. After all, not everyone has parliamentary expenses to fiddle.

Where all our politicians are fundamentally dishonest is in their attempt to peddle the belief that a little bit of tweaking can actually cure our terminally ill economy. A little nip here, a little tuck there, and we’ll be in the black by the time of the next election (as Mr Osborne promised with characteristic mendacity).

The real problem with our economy is systemic, not symptomatic. Like the NHS, which the present budget ring-fences from even cosmetic cuts, its problems spring not from poor administration but from the corrupt principles on which it’s based.

Modern democracy creates the conditions for politicians to gain power by buying their votes with our money. This is clouded by emetically sanctimonious verbiage that comes from Marx either directly, as it does with openly socialist parties, such as our Labour, or surreptitiously, as with cryptosocialist parties, such as our Tories.

As a standard ploy, they elevate suicidal borrowing to a high moral ground, claiming they are driven by genuine empathy for the poor. In fact, the amount of poverty in a country is directly proportionate to the amount of socialism in the economy – to the extent to which the government is prepared to bolster state power by creating a class dependent on the state.

By spending money we don’t have on the welfare state, we create a pyramid-scheme economy and, which is worse, a vast underclass of those unwilling and by now unable to work. The ruinous effects aren’t just economic – they are moral.

While corrupting the populace, the likes of Messrs Osborne, Duncan Smith et al also corrupt themselves and indeed the very idea of public service. In their able hands public service becomes personal self-service surely and ineluctably.

One suspects that, on balance, Mr Duncan Smith is a more decent man than Mr Osborne, who’s basically a jumped up spiv with overblown ambitions. But there isn’t as much there as some people believe. They are both modern politicians, aren’t they?