I couldn’t have put it better myself

victimsThis is my slightly shortened translation of yesterday’s article by Vladimir Yakovlev, published in a Russian Internet magazine blocked for internal consumption by Putin’s proud heirs to CheKa/GPU/NKVD/KGB.


 I was named after my grandfather.

My grandfather, Vladimir Yakovlev, was a murderer, bloody executioner, CheKist. His numerous victims included his own parents.

Grandfather shot his father, guilty of bartering for food. Having learned about that, Grandpa’s mother, my great-grandmother, hanged herself.

My happiest childhood recollections involve our old, spacious Moscow flat, the family’s pride. As I found out later, the family didn’t buy the flat. It was confiscated – that is, taken away by force – from a rich merchant’s family.

I remember the old carved cupboard where I would sneak jam. And the large, cosy sofa where Granny and I, a blanket tucked around us, read fairy tales. And two huge leather armchairs that, according to the family tradition, were used for serious conversations only.

As I found out later, for most of her life Granny, whom I adored, worked as a professional agent provocateur. Born to nobility, she used her lineage to establish friendships and provoke frankness. She’d then write denunciations.

Grandpa and Grandma didn’t buy the sofa on which I listened to fairy tales, nor the cupboard, nor the other furniture. They picked them at a special warehouse stocking furniture from the homes of shot Muscovites.

Using that warehouse, CheKists furnished their flats for free.

Underneath a thin film of ignorance, my happy childhood recollections are saturated with the stench of robbery, murder, violence and treachery. They’re saturated with blood.

Am I alone in that?

All of us who grew up in Russia are grandchildren of victims or murderers. Absolutely all, with no exceptions. Your family didn’t have victims? So it had murderers. No murderers? So it had victims. Neither victims nor murderers? So it has secrets.

Don’t even doubt!

Assessing the scale of Russia’s past tragedy, we usually count the dead. However, to appreciate the psychological influence those tragedies had on the generations to come, we must count not the dead but the survivors. The dead died. The survivors became our parents or our parents’ parents.

The survivors are widows, orphans, the exiled, the dispossessed, those who killed to save themselves or for ideology, the betrayed and betrayers, the ruined, those who sold their conscience, those turned into executioners, the tortured and the torturers, the raped, the crippled, the robbed, those forced to inform, the humiliated, those who lived through deadly famines, imprisonment, camps.

The dead number tens of millions. The survivors, hundreds of millions. Hundreds of millions of those whose fear, pain, sense of constant menace from the outside world were passed on to their children who, in their turn, having added their own suffering to the pain, passed them on to us.

Statistically Russia has not a single family that one way or another doesn’t carry within itself the deadly consequences of the unprecedented savagery that went on for a century in our country.

Have you ever thought how this experience of three consecutive generations of your DIRECT ancestors is affecting your view of the world today? That of your wife? Your children?

If you haven’t, think now.

At school, we were taught about the beastliness of German Nazis. At university – about the crimes of Chinese Red Guards or Cambodian Khmer Rouge. They somehow forgot to tell us that history’s most horrifying genocide, unprecedented in scale and duration, happened not in Germany, China or Cambodia, but in our own country.

And living through this genocide weren’t those faraway Chinese or Koreans, but three consecutive generations of YOUR OWN family.

We often feel that the best way of protecting ourselves from the past is not to touch it, not to delve into family history, not to uncover the horrors that happened to our ancestors.

We feel it’s better not to know. In fact, it’s worse. Much.

What we don’t know continues to affect us, through childhood recollections, through relations with our parents. If we don’t know, we aren’t aware of this effect, which is why we’re powerless to resist it.

The most awful consequence of hereditary trauma is the inability to perceive it. And, as a corollary, the inability to realise how this trauma distorts our perception of today’s reality.

It’s immaterial what personifies fear for each of us, what each of us sees as a threat – America, the Kremlin, the Ukraine, homosexuals or Turks, ‘depraved’ Europe, fifth column or simply a boss at work or a policeman at the entrance to a station.

…in 1919, during the famine, my murderer grandfather was dying of consumption. He was saved from death by [CheKa head] Felix Dzerzhinsky, who dragged in from somewhere, probably from another ‘special’ warehouse, a carton of French sardines in oil. Grandfather ate them for a month and only because of that stayed alive.

Does this mean I owe my life to Dzerzhinsky?

And if so, how am I supposed to live with that?

Such voices aren’t allowed to reach Russians. Here are the kind of voices that scream off every TV screen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtkvbwVrgDg

In an eerie echo of German women of yesteryear screaming “I want a child by the Führer”, this women’s folk choir is singing “We all want to marry Putin” and “give him our maidenly honour”. The ladies’ ‘maidenly honour’ seems to be long gone, but it’s the thought that counts.




Comprehensives aren’t working

comprehensivesThe words ‘fair education’ have the same effect on me that the word ‘culture’ allegedly had on Dr Goebbels.

Yet these dread words dominate the almost universal hysteria in the press over Mrs May’s intention to create new grammar schools. That, according to the critics, is unfair. The fair system is one we have now: comprehensive schools cranking out comprehensively illiterate savages.

A survey of teenagers aged 16 to 19 in 23 developed countries placed our youngsters at 23 in literacy and 22 in numeracy, which wouldn’t exactly qualify our education as a rip-roaring success.

Moreover, England is the only Western country where those aged 55 to 65 showed better literacy and numeracy than those aged 16 to 24. This wouldn’t have anything to do with the introduction of comprehensives in the 1960s, would it?

Never mind the quality, feel the fairness. Nothing else matters.

But what if – and I fully expect the god of progress to smite me – we suggested that levelling (aka fairness) isn’t a legitimate purpose of education? What if we reminded ourselves of how those purposes were defined before the 1960s?

Education was then expected, first, to incorporate youngsters into our civilisation, second, to develop their minds and, third, to give them basic tools for survival in the economic rough-and-tumble.

Anyone whose mind isn’t poisoned by what Mrs May correctly identifies as ‘dogma and ideology’ must see how spectacularly British education is failing on all three counts.

Starting from the end, about 650,000 youngsters are officially unemployed, which figure, though bad enough, is misleading. It excludes those who do odd jobs and those who only work part-time. Include them, and our youth unemployment rate wouldn’t be far off the Euro-area average of 20.7 per cent – this in a considerably livelier economy.

As to the first two desiderata, the less said about them the better. Forget about the civilising effect of education or developing pupils’ minds, let’s just hope we’ll keep most youngsters off the bottle and out of prison.

Perhaps teaching teenagers to read, write and add up would be a good idea too, modest though this goal is. Such minimum requirements used to be met in elementary school, whereas now they look like a shining ideal for secondary schools to dream of.

But an ideal it’ll remain for as long as we put equality before quality – for as long as the word ‘fair’ is bandied about. As it was yesterday on Sky News, which I courageously watched for 15 minutes or so.

First I was regaled by an illiterate rant from Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner. For the country’s sake, I hope Miss Rayner will remain in the shadows, for the way she talks, lexically, grammatically and phonetically, suggests only cursory familiarity with the subject under her aegis.

One can understand that, having produced her first, illegitimate, child at age 16, Miss Rayner had no time to learn how to speak English properly. But she does know how to use ‘fair’ and all its cognates with commendable fluency. Grammar schools, she explained, are unfair because only bright children are admitted – and the educated classes have brighter children.

The sports reporter Jacquie Beltrao chimed in, and knowing a thing or two about sports ipso facto qualifies her to pontificate on such subjects to a vast audience. Middle-class families, she explained, will be able to afford tutors to prepare their offspring for 11-plus exams or their equivalents.

I’ve got news for Miss Beltrao: more cultured families don’t even have to hire tutors. Having books in the house, rather than crushed beer cans, already gives their children an unfair head start. There’s also another factor… hold on a second, let me make sure no one’s listening… children from such families tend to have higher IQs than children from, well, different families.

Everywhere one looks life is unfair: some children are brighter than others, some are more cultured, some are more curious about the world than about places to score drugs, some have ambitions beyond producing illegitimate children in their teens. That’s how life is, and schools should accommodate such unfairness rather than trying to eliminate it and produce generations of feral ignoramuses.

Mrs May is absolutely right in this undertaking, but I doubt it’ll succeed. In the face of fierce opposition from most teachers and their unions, to say nothing of our ‘liberal’ media, the project will be either scuppered or diluted beyond recognition.

Even if it survives unmolested, it’s impossible to have better schools without better teachers. Where will these come from, in sufficient numbers to make new grammar schools work?

Most of our teachers have gone through the same moron-spewing system of education. Then they topped it up at teachers’ training colleges, which are hatcheries of precisely the ‘dogma and ideology’ Mrs May deplores.

They may be well-equipped to teach pupils how to use condoms, which is a significant part of the curriculum. But they can’t possibly incorporate youngsters into a civilisation of which they themselves aren’t a part.

Hence we need a considerably more, as it were, comprehensive overhaul than what Mrs May has in mind. But hey, we have to start somewhere.

Let’s hear it for strong leaders

Fuhrer und Duce in Munchen.  Hitler and Mussolini in Munich, Germany, ca.  June 1940.  Eva Braun Collection.  (Foreign Records Seized) Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #:  242-EB-7-38 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #:  746

As Trump has just reminded me, America has never faced such a catastrophic choice of presidential candidates, two corrupt and incompetent individuals, both with links to a hostile foreign power.

The power in question is Putin’s Russia, of which Trump is a fan. Putin, he said yesterday, “has been a leader far more than our president has been.” The KGB thug, he added, “has great control over his country”.

So had the gentlemen in this photo. So had Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Pondering such similes, one begins to think that leadership by itself is meaningless unless it’s directed towards a worthy destination.

Yet many seem to believe that leadership is self-redemptive, and no extraneous considerations matter. This dangerous fallacy produces adulation of evil foreign chieftains, rendering the country helpless to resist them.

Trump is trying to establish his own credentials by syllogistic association: Putin is a strong leader. Putin likes Trump (“I think when he calls me brilliant I’ll take the compliment, ok?”). Ergo, Trump too is a strong leader, and isn’t that what we all need?

It isn’t. What we need is a strong society, not a strong leader. It’s only weak and wicked countries that above all else require a strongman to control them. In healthy societies the leader’s personality counts for much less.

Political leadership does matter – but with many qualifiers that each may be more important than what they qualify. A good leader must be wise, just, selfless, prudent yet courageous, knowledgeable of political philosophy and history.

It’s those qualities that are worth highlighting before uttering the buzz word ‘leader’. But Trump wouldn’t understand that: neither his experience nor his intellect stretch that far.

It’s wrong to think that modern business experience, even if less marred by controversy than Trump’s, provides perfect training for high political office. If it does, it’s only by serendipity.

For example, today’s businessmen see nothing wrong in concentrating most of their bailiwick’s wealth in their own hands and those of their nearest associates. Interestingly, in the second half of the nineteenth century the average ratio of income earned by US corporate directors and their employees was 28:1. Yet in 2005 that ratio stood at 158:1.

Trump must admire the aspect of Putin’s leadership that, according to Credit Swiss data, has produced the worst wealth inequality in the world, with only 111 Russians owning 19 per cent of the country’s household wealth. Putin himself is much richer than Trump, and the Donald is trained to worship wealth, however amassed.

He also must see a parallel between a small board of directors headed by a ‘leader’ running a huge corporation and a Russia run by the KGB junta of a dozen men or so. What’s sauce for the corporate goose is sauce for the political gander.

In both cases, appearances of popular support are often maintained. In theory, a stockholder with a few shares has a vote that may change corporate policy. In practice, public ownership is dissipated so widely that no single vote matters. Control remains firmly in the hands of the board, usually ready to bend to the will of its ‘leader’.

Modern ‘democratic’ politics is similar. What decides the issue isn’t each vote but a winning voting bloc. Once it has been put together, the winner becomes for all intents and purposes unaccountable to the populace. Modern ‘leaders’ respond to Burke’s prescription of acting according to the electorate’s interests, not wishes, by acting according to neither.

This is the sort of leadership that Trump’s business experience has prepared him for. That’s why he has a QED expression on his face when saying “[Putin] does have an 82 per cent approval rating.”

He’s too ignorant to know that in a fascist country, into which Putin is rapidly turning Russia, approval ratings (or for that matter votes) are meaningless. Stalin had approval ratings of 105 per cent while running history’s worst tyranny. Ceausescu had an approval rating of 97 per cent the day before he was shot in the gutter, with crowds joyously dancing in the streets.

Trump is also too stupid to realise that such approval ratings, even if genuine, which Putin’s aren’t, testify to two things only: the absence of free press and the brainwashing effectiveness of mass propaganda.

Actually, ignorance and stupidity are the best possible explanations of Trump’s affection for Putin’s kleptofascist dictatorship. The recent statement by Trump’s son Don hints at a worse possibility: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

What part of Trump’s mind and experience has prepared him to ignore such naked self-interest? Probably none.

Russia’s sabres are rattling all over the world, half its budget is spent on the military, Putin has amassed 100,000 armoured troops on the Ukrainian border, his fighters cause near-collisions by flying, as one did yesterday, within 10 feet of US planes, his Goebbelses scream about turning America into radioactive ash – what a time for the US to have a president who admires the ‘leader’ cast in the mould of history’s worst tyrants.

The harrowing thought is that Hilary Clinton is just as bad, with possibly even stronger financial ties to Putin. The forthcoming election does evoke the old cliché about turkeys voting for Christmas.

We’re all totalitarians now

G20 leaders“Why does the left love tyrannical regimes?” asks Edward Lucas, one of the few journalists who begin to understand international politics.

Yet this question is phrased incorrectly. It’s not just the left that suffers from such perverse affections. It’s also the right. It’s also the middle ground. It’s modernity in general.

Mr Lucas specifically talks about the West bending over backwards to do trade with China, which he correctly describes as another “evil empire”. Much of Mr Lucas’s article is about showing that China is indeed both evil and an empire.

The case he makes is unassailable, with many cited facts leading to the ineluctable conclusion: “The rule of law in China is a farce. Torture and other abuses are endemic. The justice system is a tool of the Communist Party.”

However, replace ‘China’ with ‘Russia’ and ‘the Communist Party’ with ‘the KGB junta’, and the conclusion will be just as true. However, while China’s useful idiots generally reside on the left, Russia’s sub-species mostly roam on the right.

To be sure, following the rape of the Ukraine, Western governments imposed some mild sanctions on Russia. But pressure is growing throughout the West to repeal or at least soften them. This pressure is exerted by the right, and it’s every bit as shrill and pervasive as anything the left screams about China.

The arguments for trade with China are mostly economic, as opposed to being only partly so in relation to Russia. That’s why the China-loving left has a broader appeal than the Putinista right.

If support for China is, say, 20 per cent ideological and 80 per cent economic, with Russia it’s roughly the other way around. But what I call Western ‘totalitarian economism’ is a factor in both cases. Both totalitarian politics and totalitarian economism are children of the Enlightenment, even if the latter was born on the wrong side of the blanket.

Because the Enlightenment severed the metaphysical roots of our civilisation, the tree withered and its fallen fruits rotted on the ground. Supposedly perpetrated in the name of reason, the Enlightenment destroyed reason by replacing spiritual ratio with materialistic rationalism. Falling by the wayside was the essential sustenance of our civilisation: faith, charity, honour, spiritual and intellectual pursuits.

All such realities were perverted, destroyed and replaced with virtual caricatures. As an almost immediate result, the West lost its founding raison d’être, forming a vacuum that nature abhors and people try to fill.

If Western reason had seen search for truth as the aim of life, the materialistic rationalism of the Enlightenment threw up money to act in that capacity. For the first time in history the economy assumed a starring role in life’s drama, a new development that was ushered in and then post-rationalised by new thinkers.

In that sense, there isn’t much difference among the benign Adam Smith, the evil Karl Marx, the matter-of-fact Max Weber and their retinues of followers and acolytes. When it came to replacing Western truth with totalitarian economism, they were all culpable. (Thus Weber: “Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life.”)

Economy in general and trade in particular became deified or at least idealised. The British led the way, touting, along with material gain, the civilising and redemptive effect foreign trade can have on tyrannies.

Since then Western trillions, packaged as either trade or aid, have poured into the coffers of every diabolical tyrant of modernity, from Lenin to Hitler, from Stalin to Mao, from Putin to Xi Jinping – with utterly predictable results.

Not much civilising effect is in evidence. What is in evidence, amply documented in the past and rapidly piling up at present, is unbearable oppression, suppression of every known liberty, torture, assassination, unprecedented levels of corruption, millions murdered in the recent past and thousands being murdered at present, a world torn apart by two world wars and teetering at the edge of a third one.

But all that is happening in either the geographical or temporal elsewhere, while the profits brought in by trade with monsters are here and now. That’s the vindication of our vulgar post-Enlightenment modernity, and what better vindication than money can anyone want?

Add to this the gravitational pull of Chinese communism keenly felt by the left and the ideological attraction of Putinesque fascism giving the more ignorant parts of the right a tingling penile sensation, and one can understand why tyrannical regimes are thriving.

One could argue – in fact, I do argue in just about all my books – that all modernity, regardless of its professed ideological hue, gravitates toward tyranny definitely and totalitarianism probably. This isn’t a transient symptom but a systemic defect.

If the West’s traditional political and economic power was vectored from centre to periphery, devolving to the lowest sensible level, post-Enlightenment modernity has reversed that direction. Political power is now concentrated within central government, while its typological economic equivalent, the giant corporation, has usurped economic power.

China, Russia and similar regimes are merely extreme, rather than sole, manifestations of this tendency. They spread the kind of poison for which the West no longer secretes an effective antidote – its endocrine glands have atrophied and totalitarian poison is coursing through it veins.


Female King Lear is cultural communism

KingLearAristotle observed that political subversiveness will inevitably follow the cultural kind: “Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited…”

The idea is debatable, but it does contain a kernel of truth.

The columnist David Aaronovich has written two articles in The Times proving unwittingly that 1) Aristotle’s message may apply to culture at large and 2) the reverse is also true: political subversiveness in its turn produces cultural mayhem.

First, he wrote that his former membership in the Communist Party is entirely innocent, and so is the re-emergence of Labour Trotskyism. Second, he welcomed Glenda Jackson’s forthcoming appearance as King Lear in the West End.

Both messages are animated by subcutaneous resentment of our civilisation, which sentiment has become the hallmark of Western journalism. Both poisonous fruits dangle off the same branch of one tree.

The question to ask about the support of both communism and women playing male roles is Why? Pose it, and you’ll be amazed how close the two answers will be.

When a grownup (as opposed to an immature youngster) becomes a communist, he accepts that man isn’t an aim in itself but merely a material with which to build the edifice of universal happiness. A logical corollary is that, if said material is defective, it must be dumped into “the rubbish bin of history”, in Trotsky’s phrase.

Since most people fall short of the shining ideal, communism presupposes mass murder, a theoretical postulate that has been empirically proved in every communist country. A communist has to believe that an abstract political aim justifies the concrete massacre of millions.

Therefore a communist isn’t just intellectually misguided. He’s driven by a destructive animus, which is to say he’s evil.

This can’t be changed by merely abandoning communist phraseology or indeed convictions. The energumen resides not in the mind, nor in the vocal cords, but in the viscera, and that area is almost impossible to reach.

That’s why the wide spread of ex-communists among our opinion-formers is worrying. In most cases the ‘ex’ part is hard to believe. A man can’t become an ex-dwarf and, without a religious Damascene experience, he can’t become an ex-communist either.

Vindicating Aristotle, Mr Aaronovich shifts his innate subversiveness into culture. Why not, he asks, have a woman play Lear? Why not have two homosexuals play Romeo and Juliet, “as an exploration of transgressive love”? Why not have a black play Hamlet?

Because that’s “an insult to the playwright”, says the dramatist Sir Ronald Harwood. “But on this issue he’s completely wrong,” responds Mr Aaronovich, displaying the know-all effrontery so typical of communists.

The question to ask here isn’t Why not? but Why yes? It’s not that, as the playwright Sir Ronald says, the part “demands huge energy and masculine strength”. A woman is capable of possessing such qualities, although I doubt that the grossly overrated Miss Jackson does.

But why resort to this gimmick? Have we developed a shortage of male Shakespearean actors? Why have we decided that a prince of medieval Denmark could be black? What’s to be gained by portraying Juliet as a male pervert?

Apart from an expectation of commercial appeal, the Lear director is animated by the same impulse as a vandal who wants to relieve himself in a cathedral or spray-paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Just as man is but material to a communist, so is our sublime theatrical tradition but grist to the mill of any director’s hubris.

Even cleverer men than David Aaronovich sound ignorant and stupid when trying to defend a corrupt idea. He doesn’t disappoint either, by offering this argument in defence of thespian transsexualism: “Whatever gender Shakespeare intended in his writing, all Lear’s daughters were originally played by boys. Somehow the playgoers of the time managed to cope with this.”

The playgoers of the time didn’t have a choice because women were banned from acting in Elizabethan times. Given the opportunity, a Globe director would have jumped at the chance of casting a Maggie Smith as Cordelia or a Sarah Bernhardt as Goneril. But he would have muttered “Vade retro” if told to cast either woman as Lear.

“If you are black or Muslim or Jewish or white or male or female or gay or straight, these single qualities are held to define you in every way. But it’s a lie,” pontificates Mr Aaronovich, resorting to the communist trick of making an opponent utter nonsense the easier to ridicule it.

Such characteristics don’t define one in every way, but they certainly define one in some way. Hence having a conspicuously homosexual black man play Ophelia turns suspension of disbelief into suspension of sanity, as does casting an actress as Lear.

“King Lear is a play about the tragedies of ingratitude, ageing, madness and death,” Mr Aaronovich explains helpfully. “Shakespeare is not insulted by Glenda Jackson playing the part of his tragic king but rather, four centuries on, is honoured by it.”

Not blessed with his direct access to the playwright, I’d suggest that it’s not just Shakespeare who’s insulted by this cultural communism but elementary good taste – which is to say our whole civilisation.

Christianity as an à la carte menu

SmörgåsbordSt Augustine must have had a premonition of modernity when he wrote, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you do not like, it is not the Gospel you believe in but yourself.”

Today every man isn’t just what Luther described as “his own priest” but his own God. Hence the tendency either to ignore Scripture altogether or to treat it as an à la carte menu from which one picks a few items and ignores the rest.

An article in The Times by Tim Montgomerie provides an illustration to this observation. The subject is the growing Anglican acceptance of homosexually co-habiting clergy, which Mr Montgomerie welcomes.

Alas, when Mr Montgomerie tries to justify his position, he demonstrates in one fell swoop what’s wrong with a) modernity, b) Protestantism, c) his mind.

To wit: “In America, Christian acceptance of homosexuality rose from 44 to 54 per cent in seven years. Personally, I no longer see this as an abandonment of biblical faithfulness but as a potential rediscovery of the authentic Jesus Christ who, according to the four gospels, did not once condemn same-sex relationships.”

One could write volumes debunking every fallacy these 51 words contain, starting with logical lapses and going on to Mr Montgomerie’s ignorance of the very religion he claims to espouse.

The first sentence contains two rhetorical fallacies: argumentum ad populum and non sequitur. The first underlying assumption is that the more people support an idea, the truer it is. The second is that, if Americans feel something, it must be right. Since this argumentum ad populum is false, it’s also a non sequitur, providing no logical bridge to the next statement.

Mr Montgomerie’s deficit of intellectual rigour is only matched by his ignorance of the subject, as his second sentence proves. Yes, “the authentic Jesus Christ” (as opposed to the inauthentic one?) “according to the four gospels, did not once condemn same-sex relationships.”

From this one is supposed to infer that Jesus’s omission of homosexuality implies tacit acceptance. By the same token one could infer that Jesus saw nothing wrong in necrophilia, bestiality, coprophilia and all those other perversions he somehow forgot to mention in the Sermon on the Mount or any of his parables.

Apart from being logically unsound, this misapprehension evinces obtuse biblical literalism, so characteristic of sectarian Protestantism. In Mr Montgomerie’s case, this curiously coexists with the kind of selective approach to Scripture that’s closer to atheism or deism at best.

In addition to the Gospels, the Christian canon also comprises the rest of the New Testament and most of the Old. Both include numerous condemnations of homosexuality.

Citing the Gospels as the only valid source is therefore either pernicious or ignorant, take your pick. Then again, if Mark, Matthew and John contained injunctions against homosexuality, Mr Montgomerie would probably support his view by pointing out that Luke didn’t say a word about it.

Oddly, while ignoring most of the Christian canon, he seems to reduce all of Christian doctrine to Scripture. This is another typical Protestant failing, except that in Mr Mongomerie’s case it’s tinged with cavalier dismissal of the parts of the Bible that contradict his point.

Yet Christianity isn’t only the teaching by Christ but also – one is tempted to say mainly – the teaching about Christ. This has always been conveyed by and through the Church.

If one wrote out everything Jesus is quoted as saying in the Gospels, it would amount to about two hours of normal speech. Yet his ministry lasted at least a year. Surely he spoke for longer than two hours during all that time?

It has been the task of the apostolic Church to absorb not only written but also oral accounts of Christ, compiling them, with necessary interpretations, into coherent doctrine. The original oral accounts came from eyewitnesses, of whom there were thousands besides the apostles themselves.

This mission had started decades before the first Gospel was written down, with Christianity rapidly spreading on the strength of doctrine transmitted either orally or in short epistles, such as those by Paul, in which he condemns homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10).

Not recognising the Church as a depository and teacher of Christianity is therefore rank ignorance – even if one disagrees with Hilaire Belloc’s staunchly Catholic view that there’s no such thing as Christianity; there’s only the teaching of the Church.

What made Mr Montgomerie step on the path he doesn’t know how to navigate is his fashionably open-minded view not just on homosexuality in general but specifically on Anglican bishops openly living in homosexual unions, including marriage.

Here his co-opting the Gospels is particularly disingenuous. For in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 Jesus explicitly states that marriage is a union of a man and a woman, not any other combination thereof or any other mammals.

Mr Mongomerie’s unsound musings wouldn’t be worth talking about if they weren’t so typical and widespread. They’re another chapter in the civilisational suicide pact called modernity. And it’s our intellectually and morally unsound opinion-formers who’ll end up pulling the trigger.

Getting down to Russian cases

RussianTrialDo you think it’s wrong to play computer games on your mobile during a church service? I certainly do.

Even a non-believer must realise that doing so is a sign of disrespect both to the liturgy and to those parishioners who take it seriously. If you don’t think either is owed any respect, don’t attend mass. If you do decide to attend, you’ve joined a game played to certain rules that must be obeyed.

Do you think the culprit should be rebuked? Good, we’re in agreement on that.

A footballer who trips an opponent must be whistled for a foul. A tennis player who steps over the line when serving must be faulted. And a boor who plays computer games during mass must be…

This is where the fun starts. Such a man could be dealt with in any number of ways. He could be told to stop or get out. He could be summarily evicted. He could be told never to show his face at that church again. In any civilised society, that is.

If you still think that Russia is one such, think again. For Ruslan Sokolovsky of Yekaterinburg has just been arrested for exactly that transgression. He has been charged with two crimes: insulting the feelings of believers and inciting hatred. The first one carries a prison sentence of up to three years. The second, up to five.

Either punishment would be too soft, according to the Interior Ministry spokesman. Not even five years in the slammer would be commensurate with the crime.

One would think that a supposedly Christian country acting like a Muslim theocracy should give Putin junkies in the West second thoughts. But it won’t. Nothing will.

No doubt they’ll hail this theocratic fascism as a laudable display of the KGB junta’s conservatism. They’d feel the same way even if Sokolovsky were immolated or torn in half by two horses, which was how religious issues were settled under the early Romanovs. That’s what conservatism is all about, isn’t it?

I wonder what excuse they’ll find for the next case, that of the Perm blogger Vladimir Luzgin. There the judges who sentenced Luzgin are clearly liberals getting in touch with their feminine side.

The maximum sentence for Luzgin’s crime was three years in a labour camp, and yet he got away with a mere fine of 200,000 roubles. That’s about £2,300 in our money, roughly what a teacher gets in a year or a pensioner in 18 months.

What was the blogger’s crime? I shan’t keep you in suspense any longer. Luzgin was charged with publishing a piece that violated the tersely worded Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Vindication of Nazism by the public denial of facts established by the Nuremberg Trials’ verdict and by the dissemination of knowingly false information about the USSR’s activities during the Second World War”).

The blogger had the audacity to write that not only Germany but also Russia committed aggression against Poland, thereby starting the war. Admittedly, the information Mr Luzgin disseminated indeed denied the ‘facts’ established at Nuremberg.

Except that the trials where Stalin’s Russia sat in judgement along with the Western allies were both a travesty of justice and a giant cover-up. Apart from punishing Hitler’s crimes, the trial set out to exonerate Stalin’s, which were equally heinous.

There’s nothing false about the information that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a criminal pact dividing Europe between them. That happened on 23 August, 1939. A week later, on 1 September, the Second World War started with Germany’s attack on Poland.

Contrary to the popular misapprehension, the war wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for the Nazis. Though initially stunned by the blitzkrieg, the Poles regrouped to the east of the Vistula, and their resistance was growing stronger by the day. Meanwhile the Germans were running out of essential supplies, especially aircraft bombs.

Their new Soviet allies helped, restocking the Nazis’ arsenal, as they later did during the Battle of Britain. But the Nazis demanded more tangible action, and the Soviets obliged. On 17 September they knifed Poland in the back by attacking her from the east. That put paid to the resistance, and the two predators divided the spoils stipulated in the pact.

The SS Einsatzgruppen came in the Wehrmacht’s wake and began to exterminate Jews in the western part of Poland. Similarly, the Soviet army in the east was followed by the NKVD, which had by then gathered vast experience in mass murder.

Several hundred thousand Poles were immediately deported, to the accompaniment of pistol shots fired through the heads of the usual suspects: aristocrats, priests, teachers, writers, scientists, administrators – and POW officers. The widely publicised massacre of 22,000 such people at Katyn and elsewhere was the culmination of that process, far from its entirety.

Such is the historical truth declared criminally false in Putin’s Russia. Now what do you call a regime that, on pain of punishment, forces its people to accept lies as truth? I call it fascist. Putin’s useful idiots call it conservative.

I’ll spare your delicate sensibilities by not telling you what I call Putin’s useful idiots. Let’s just say that my understanding of conservatism is at odds with theirs.



Economists get the EU wrong even when they’re right

StiglitzJoseph Stiglitz has won the Nobel Prize for economics, which these days more or less presupposes that he’s a champion of spend-and-tax. And that he’s an economist at all presupposes that he’s lost outside the narrow confines of his discipline.

Even within those confines he at times resembles an arsonist put in charge of a fire department. In fact, he was in the past put in charge of other things. Prof. Stiglitz has served as the World Bank’s chief economist and, more recently, economic adviser to Jeremy Corbyn. Being left-wing is an ironclad requirement for both jobs, and Prof. Stiglitz amply qualifies.

Some things he does get right, as suggested by the title of his book The Euro And Its Threat To The Future Of Europe. “The euro is just a 17-year old experiment, poorly designed and engineered not to work,” he writes.

Alas, he then contradicts himself by suggesting that, however poorly designed, the euro could still work if only European leaders listened to Prof. Stiglitz’s ideas, mostly involving raising taxes in parallel with spending.

But the euro part is true, or rather a truism, like saying that a chap’s hope will be frustrated if he believes that drinking a bottle of whisky every day for 17 years will improve his health. The more challenging task would be to explain why he became a dipsomaniac and how he can stop being one.

To extend the simile, if Prof. Stiglitz applied his economic views to the problem, his answer would be that the man began to drink because it seemed like a good idea, and his only way out is to start drinking more.

No doubt shoving the same currency down the throats of vastly different countries is economic madness. But, and here Prof. Stiglitz is correct, the purpose of the euro was political, not economic. It’s wrong, he writes, “to let economic integration outpace political integration.”

Yes, unless economic integration is merely a tool designed to bring about the political kind. This was done successfully by Prussia, which started out by uniting German principalities in the Zollverein customs union, only then to unite them politically under its own aegis in 1871.

Economic integration can disguise the underlying political purpose, and here I can’t stop repeating Jean Monnet’s 1952 quotation, I love it so much: “Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose but which will irreversibly lead to federation.”

Because Prof. Stiglitz misunderstands the nature of the European Union, he blames the euro fiasco on his customary whipping boys the “neoliberals”, which is to say all economists to the right of Prof. Stiglitz. It’s their “market fundamentalism” that’s to blame.

This line is popular among socialists. For example, Emmanuel Macron, France’s former Economics Minister, declared with relish that Brexit would spell “the end of an ultraliberal Europe that the British themselves have pushed for, the end of a Europe without a political plan, centred on its domestic market.”

Actually, centring on the domestic market, and protecting it with punitive tariffs, is the exact opposite of liberal economics. Adam Smith, the founder of this genre, specifically wrote that “To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry… must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation.”

Yet it’s pointless to expect socialist ideologues to know what they’re talking about. Macron certainly doesn’t and – for all his commendable attack on the euro – neither does Prof. Stiglitz, not really, especially when he mounts his hobby horse and rides it into battle against nonexistent EU ‘neoliberalism’.

Prof. Stiglitz proves his ideologically induced ignorance with a single sentence: “Europe, the source of the Enlightenment… is in crisis.” Contextually, he seems to be claiming that somehow the whole euro debacle contradicts the sterling virtues proclaimed by French philosophes and reasserted by German philosophers.

This is another case of putting the problem on its head. The EU, and the euro as its logical and inevitable extension, happened not in spite of the Enlightenment but because of it.

Rampant internationalism, wrapped together with such fallacies as egalitarianism, was part and parcel of the Enlightenment. As Christendom collapsed, philosophers from Grotius to Kant, and all the Frenchmen in between, came round to the idea that an international system should supersede national allegiances.

For example, Kant, a fanatic of republicanism, whose “heart was overfilled with joy” by the French revolution, argued that, as more European countries became republics, they could guarantee peace by coming together in some sort of supranational arrangement. One can hear echoes of the same notion in the frankly idiotic pronouncements by today’s federalists who ascribe the 70-year absence of a major European war to the EU rather than NATO’s nuclear umbrella.

One wishes economists chatted about their cherished paradigms and models among themselves and left us alone. They seem to be wholly wrong even when they’re partly right. If we listen to them, before long we’ll all march to soup kitchens, singing the Economists’ Anthem Brother, Can You Paradigm?.






The Gospel according to Francis

FrancisLesbosIt saddens me no end to see that His Holiness’s injunctions against sins towards the environment have been reported loosely rather than verbatim.

 The key messages have been reported accurately enough: the need for carpooling and no need for lights in the house, the environmental debt that rich nations owe to poor ones, the sins we all commit against the environment.

 But, while conveying the Pope’s message, the papers have neglected to convey his language, thereby displaying a cavalier attitude towards the form within which the content resides.

 By a stroke of luck, however, I’ve managed to lay my hands on the original text, which, in the spirit of Christian generosity, I shall share with you:

Seeing the multitudes, Francis went up into the Vatican: and when he was set, his Cardinals and the multitudes came upon him:

And Francis opened his mouth and taught them, saying,

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; but I say unto you that whosoever driveth his own chariot shall be in danger of hell fire.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: But verily I say unto you that whosoever looketh at a late-model chariot with lust hath killed the environment already in his heart; his is hell fire.

And if the State will sue thee at law for committing global warming, and take away thy money, let it take thy chariot also.

Therefore when the State doest thou out of thine alms to pay for wind farms, verily I say unto you, Give it its reward.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to unclean air and the iniquity of global warming; even so now yield your members servants to chariotpooling and darkness in your abode.

And God said, let there not be light in thine abode: and there was no light.

And God saw the darkness, that it was good: and God divided darkness from light.

And God called the darkness in thine house virtue, and the light he called sin.

What fruit had ye then in the ecological debt whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of aerosols and lights in your house is death.

But now being made free from lights in your house and your own chariot also, ye have your fruit unto ecological holiness, and the end of everlasting life on this planet rid of carbon monoxide and other ravenings also.

For the wages of global warming is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in dark houses through responsible environmentalism.

Blessed are the poor nations for they shall inherit our planet.

Blessed too are the poor nations for they shall inherit also our alms to battle climate change.

Blessed are the poor in spirit and feeble in mind: for theirs is the message of global warming.

Blessed are the poor in money: for they have not their own chariots nor lights in their abodes also.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst: for they have not sinful fuels to cook food and they have no food also.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Say, what can I do to prevent global warming.

Behold the fowls of the air; for they drive not, neither do they have houses with lights and electric ovens; yet nature feedeth them.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow; take thought for climate change for then all things will take care of themselves.

Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is thy reward for darkened abodes and no private chariots.

Ecology is the light of the world. A mountain of environmental debt cannot be hid.

Let the ecology’s light so shine before men that they may need no electricity, and glorify Him which is in the Vatican.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle of carbon monoxide shall in no wise remain in thy air, till all are poor.

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife shall be smitten for murder, but I say unto you that Whosoever driveth his own chariot shall be smitten before.

Whosoever punisheth the Environment cannot be my servant.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Though shalt love thy neighbour. But I say unto you, Love thy Environment, bless them that ruin you, be good to them that take thy chariot away, and pray for them that make you live in darkness and cold also.

That ye may be the children of Environment Ministry, for it decideth what is good for you and samewise what is bad.

For your Minister knoweth what things ye have need of, and what ye have no need of.

Be ye therefore environmentally perfect, even as wind farms and solar panels are perfect.

Blessed are the pure in air: for they shall see new taxes.

Blessed are the merciful to the Environment: for they shall obtain mercy.

For where your private chariot is, there will your heart be also.

Ye cannot serve the Environment and mammon.

I am the Environment, thy God.

Look what progress throws up

DrunkWomanThe sight of young women throwing up their nightly intake of booze, passing out in the street or fighting in pubs is now commonplace – and not just in the downmarket parts of town.

Nor is it just downmarket girls who do that, as a feature in the Mail shows. On the contrary, the ladies mentioned are all middle class. One such girl has “a string of As and A*s in her GCSEs and A-levels” and “a degree in contemporary art”.

Yet come Saturday night this academic overachiever drinks two bottles of wine, followed by 10 shots of tequila and “a nightcap of Bailey’s or two”. In spite of being a 5-foot wisp of a girl, she gets into fights and staggers home all covered in “scars, bruises and cuts”.

The paper states that drinking toxic amounts of alcohol once or twice a week is pandemic among such girls. It also provides helpful statistics: over the last 20 years the number of alcohol-related deaths among women has increased by 80 per cent, and by 130 per cent among young women.

The article helpfully explains that women can’t drink as much as men. Their body mass is lower as are their levels of water, while their fat content is higher. Also their livers produce less of the enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase that breaks alcohol down.

However, the piece begins to falter when trying to explain why women do this sort of thing. And an explanation is needed because pandemic drunkenness among women is a recent phenomenon.

British men have always consumed more than the European average. Young men in particular have traditionally acted the way women act now. Hence male boozing has no novelty appeal, nor much of any other. It just is.

A rite of passage is probably involved, a visible assertion of masculinity. Real men, which the boys aren’t yet but seek to become and, more important, seem, are supposed to hold their own when drinking, fighting, driving and whatnot.

Call it silly, infantile or puerile by all means, but please don’t call it unnatural. This is how things are, always were and always will be.

Perhaps one may argue that today’s young lads, including those upmarket ones like Cameron, Gove or Johnson, who belong to drinking clubs like Oxford’s Bullingdon, may be drinking more than their fathers did at their age. Yet this is only a difference of degree.

Conversely, young women wallowing in their own vomit every weekend represent a qualitative shift, something rarely seen in their mothers’ generation and never in their grandmothers’. When things change so drastically from one generation to the next, serious analysis is called for, and the Mail’s attempts don’t qualify as such:

“Young middle-class women are more likely to go to university than ever before where… there is an institutional acceptance of binge drinking”. But the absolute number of women at university doesn’t matter. What matters is how many of that number wake up on park benches covered in vomit.

“Bad habits then become ingrained as aspirational women pursue careers, delay children, become stressed and overworked…” But surely a woman of, say, 50 years ago wasn’t exactly stress-free. She had to run a household full of children and old people, working her fingers to the bone trying to make both ends meet.

For example my mother, along with millions of other university-educated Russian women, had a full-time job, yet every evening she’d queue up for hours to buy some food, carry heavy bags on overcrowded transport, then cook in a communal kitchen and do a backbreaking amount of housework.

Yet, though Russia can hardly be described as a teetotal culture, I don’t recall knowing, or indeed seeing, many women like my mother who associated a good time with drunken stupor and public fisticuffs.

What else? “Another contributing factor… is the seductive marketing employed by the drinks industry…” Now it’s getting silly. Even after 30 years of writing ads, I don’t have such boundless faith in the power of advertising. An ad may inspire a girl to choose WKD over Smirnoff Ice, but not to drink 30 units of either in one sitting.

The real reason is that the girls described in the article as “intelligent and educated” are in fact neither. For real intelligence and education aren’t synonymous with A-levels and degrees in contemporary art. They are what happens as a result – or doesn’t, as the case usually is these days.

These girls drink not because they’ve been to university or seen a clever TV ad, but because they have no inner spiritual resources on which they can rely. Barren spiritually, intellectually and morally, they’re like ships cast adrift with no navigation devices.

This is what modern progress is all about: material enrichment going hand in hand with spiritual impoverishment. Because these girls’ lives lack purpose, the process of living becomes its own purpose. This wastes the advantage of being human, for – all the A-levels notwithstanding – purely material lives differ from those of animals only in insignificant details.

Their schools taught them to look for the truth only inside themselves. So they do – and find only themselves there. That’s a shattering discovery, and many are indeed shattered.

As I wrote in my book The Crisis Behind Our Crisis, “We have replaced religion with (at best) religionism, freedom with liberty, wisdom with cleverness, sentiment with sentimentality, justice with legalism, art with pickled animals, music with amplified noise, statecraft with politicking, love with sex, communication with sound bytes, self-confidence with effrontery, equality before God with levelling, respect for others with political correctness – in short, everything real with virtual caricatures.”

And, I might have added, pleasure with drunken oblivion. The girls’ will remains free, of course, and it’s not all society’s fault. But much of it is. Many young women have nowhere else to go but into a puddle of vomit on a grimy pavement.