Love Putin, or else

On 28 February, 2015, opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, some 100 yards from the Kremlin. That area probably has more surveillance cameras per square foot than any place in the world – yet by some serendipity they were switched off.

In due course, some Chechens were imprisoned for the murder. Even assuming they were the actual shooters, not a safe assumption by any means, they clearly didn’t act on their own. Yet no attempt was made during the trial to find out who had ordered the murder, who organised it and set up the getaway.

There’s no need: everybody knows the murder had to be commissioned by the Kremlin. That means by Putin, either in so many words or equivocally, along the lines of Henry II’s “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

Nemtsov committed a crime for which the capital punishment is the only just recompense: he didn’t love Putin, and he didn’t care who knew it. There are many nay-sayers like him in Russia, but they know how to keep their mouths shut. Yet Nemtsov not only used his for the nefarious purpose of proclaiming his understated love for Putin, but he also encouraged many others to join in.

Moreover, this objectionable individual continues to brew sedition even after his death. Nemtsov screams his dislike of Putin out of his grave, and his accomplices make sure these posthumous shouts are heard.

The site of the murder is marked with candles and flowers. The memorial is a veritable eyesore for the authorities, who are deeply offended by this shortage of love for the strong leader so beloved of Peter Hitchens. You know, the likes of whom he and other useful idiots wish we had here.

That’s why the authorities have had the memorial destroyed with monotonous regularity. Goons would arrive in vans and play football with the candles and flowers. They’d then pick up what’s left and take it away.

To prevent this from happening, Nemtsov’s accomplices in the heinous crime of not loving Putin have established a vigil there, with someone keeping an eye on the memorial round the clock. That’s not the safest job in the world.

For there are enough people out there who take not loving Putin as a personal insult. There are even more of those who can fake an outburst of righteous indignation for a one-off freelance fee, a retainer or, better still, a regular wage.

The memorial guardians thus routinely find themselves on the receiving end of abuse by burly louts unfamiliar with the notion of freedom of speech, assembly or anything else. The abuse varies from swearing (and the Russian language affords a practically unlimited range of such self-expression) to pushing and jostling to assault.

On 10 October, 2016, Moscow councilman (!) Igor Brumel, assisted by a professional thug, savagely beat up the guardian Nadir Fatov. Fatov managed to survive his smashed face and broken nose, even though doctors were denied access to him for two hours.

Ivan Skripnichenko, 35, wasn’t so lucky. A fortnight ago, on 15 August, he was assaulted in a similar manner. A beefy thug demanded to know how Skripnichenko felt about the strong leader. Unsatisfied with the reply, he screamed “So you don’t love Putin?!?” and punched Skripnichenko in the face, breaking his nose.

Proving he was less robust than Fatov, Ivan Skripnichenko died in hospital eight days later. His crime was protecting candles and flowers, and giving a wrong answer to the question that our own useful idiots would have happily answered in the affirmative.

(Preempting pedantic nitpicking by Russophones, the Russian verb любить means both to love and to like. So the thug’s battle cry could also have been translated as “So you don’t like Putin?!?” In this context, it’s a distinction without a difference.)

The CCTV cameras were suffering another malfunction that day, enabling the assailant to walk away from the scene of the crime without undue haste. Actually, there was no need for surveillance. If the authorities really want to find out who killed Skripnichenko, all they have to do is see who was paid to harass the memorial on that day.

The business of not loving Putin is getting more dangerous by the day, and simply guarding candles and flowers has become an act of heroism. Alas, heroes are never thick on the ground, and for every Skripnichenko there are thousands of wild-eyed morons duped by Putin’s brainwashing – and I don’t mean just within Russia.

Those of us whose moral compass hasn’t yet gone haywire should say a quiet prayer for Skripnichenko and, if such is our wont, light a candle in his memory. And perhaps even those Diana idolaters could spare a flower from those they’re heaping up outside Kensington Palace.

Ivan Skripnichenko, RIP

Houston, you have a problem

The pictures ring distinct, if distant, bells. For I used to live in Houston, from 1974 to 1984.

Ten years, which meant a couple of hurricanes, a dozen tornados and some half a dozen floods – I had never known nature to be like that. I knew how to handle extreme cold; that sort of knowledge comes with experience, of which I had plenty in Russia. Then once, back in 1967, I saw a massive hurricane in Pärnu, a seaside Estonian resort.

But that was it. All I had to show by way of experience with adverse weather was 25 cold winters and one hurricane. I wasn’t quite ready for Houston, and the very first flood showed me up for the greenhorn I was.

The deluge came, and it reminded me of the biblical story involving Noah. Except that the patriarch had plenty of company on his ark, and I was all alone in my car. It was moving, but only just – water was already some three feet deep, and there was a lot of physical resistance in the car’s way.

In those days I had only a vague idea of automotive mechanics, a cognitive void that has been only partially filled since then. I had heard the word ‘carburettor’ but didn’t know exactly what that device did.

More to the point, I didn’t know what happened if it sucked in water. That ignorance was quickly corrected: the engine coughed once or twice and died.

The water was already only a couple of inches below my window and the car began to pretend it was a boat by undulating gently. I realised it was time to abandon ship.

Now looking at the footage of the on-going flood, I can see that Houstonians know how to perform that simple manoeuvre. With wisdom born out of experience, they open their car windows, climb out and wade home.

Since I had neither wisdom nor experience, I did something incredibly stupid: opened the car door. A second later I knew that had been a wrong decision, which was how long it took for a giant wave, happy to have been set free, to roll into the car, filling it almost to the brim.

A good friend of mine, a Polish woman with aristocratic manners, a keenly intelligent face and large glasses perched on the tip of her patrician nose, found herself in a similar situation, but with a nice twist. She too had to abandon her car and wade home, except that in her part of town flood water ruptured a sewer. Hence she had to walk home waist deep in unspeakable muck, which didn’t at all go with the image she projected to the world.

In due course, I learned how to climb out of flooded cars, and that knowledge stood me in good stead on a few other occasions. But a nagging question just wouldn’t go away: how come just a couple of hours of subtropical downpours could create such mayhem in a city that was forewarned but clearly nor forearmed?

Surely a place with enough resident expertise to put a man on the moon should be able to upgrade the drainage system and provide flood defences?

I put those questions to my tennis partner, who worked for the mayor of Houston. Of course, we could do it, he replied, what d’y’all think we are, backward hillbillies?

So why don’t you? Well, you see, that’s a matter of money, dollars and cents, he explained.

We’ve done our sums and come to the conclusion that it’s cheaper to accept the consequences of a flood from time to time than to undertake the gigantic infrastructure overhaul required to protect the city. It’s like in the army, see? There’s an acceptable casualty rate in every operation.

In those days, I didn’t feel sufficiently self-confident to take issue with the way things were done in the West. My aim was not only to sound like an American but actually to be one, and the best way of achieving that was to accept things as they were, the way the locals did them.

By the looks of it, the locals still do things the same way. But I’m not the same man. I never succeeded in becoming an American, and now I even no longer sound like one. Nor do I think like Americans, at least those who’re paid to tackle such problems in Houston.

What price human misery, chaps? What price human lives? How do you figure the balance sheet? Surely it can’t just be a matter of cost-to-price ratio?

I’d suggest, 40-odd years later, that, if a solution to the problem is technically feasible, it must be solved no matter what the cost. Whatever it takes, even if that would mean imposing an extra two per cent tax on all the oil companies headquartered in Houston.

I realise that neither the Manchester nor the Chicago school of economics would countenance such a statist solution. I know that Friedrich Hayek would accuse me of signposting a road to serfdom and Milton Friedman would call me a crypto-Keynesian.

I could swear back, by calling them totalitarian economists, and arguing that free markets are fine as far as they go, but they don’t go everywhere. Some problems have no free market solution, but they still must be solved.

Those Texas authorities should stop thinking about human misery in terms of economic feasibility. I’d propose a different chain of thought:

A city of 2.5 million souls shouldn’t be devastated by regular floods. Ergo, it must be protected. Its flood defences, drainage system and infrastructure in general are inadequate. Ergo, they must be beefed up, expanded, replaced – whatever it takes. Let’s do a feasibility study and find out how much this will cost. Then let’s find the money – wherever it can be found.

And for God’s sake let’s stop thinking about life (and death) ab oeconomicam. That’s where the socialists and libertarians converge: nationalise the economy, say the former, and everything else will fall into place. Free up the economy, object the latter, and all life’s problems will be solved.

Tell that to those drowning Hustonians, who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of sound economic practices.

Gone with the wind of madness

“If there is no God, everything is permitted”, wrote Dostoyevsky. Yet he underestimated the despotic potential of godless modernity.

It imposes its own taboos, and they may well be more numerous than those imposed by Christendom. They certainly are different because their purpose is.

Judaeo-Christianity saw man as sinful but capable of becoming better. Both its prescriptions and proscriptions were issued to signpost the road to self-improvement in this world and salvation in the next. The original commandments were chiselled in stone literally, the later ones figuratively, but there was no room left for misinterpretation in either case.

Modernity sees man as perfect, yet tautologically perfectible. But it lacks any moral or intellectual system within which the standards of perfection can be defined.

Having replaced transcendent with transient, modernity has to ad lib commandments as it goes along. In practice, this means replacing morality with a kaleidoscope of rapidly changing fads, some of them mutually exclusive, most of them inane, all of them tyrannical.

The message our herd-driving modernity sends out to the multitudes is arbitrary and therefore despotic: “You must obey what we say for as long as we keep saying it, regardless of how stupid it may be. Tomorrow we may say something else, and you’ll obey that too, even if it contradicts what we’re saying today.”

Moral entropy ensues. Deprived of the absolute, society loses immutable standards of morality, replacing them with variously perverse relativities. As a result, society becomes not only post-truth and post-thought, but also post-morality.

Therein lies madness, and every day brings new evidence of our world resembling the Cuckoo’s Nest, with assorted mini-tyrants in the role of Nurse Ratched. And, thanks to all the advances in information technology of which modernity is so inordinately proud, the onset of lunacy has an accelerator built in.

Things that just a few years ago were seen as criminal, perverse or crazy are now regarded as legitimate, laudable and sane – and vice versa.

Everything is permitted? Far from it. Everything is open to frenzied attack, is more like it. Modernity has found ways to augment its permissiveness with bossiness, and woebetide anyone who rebels – even unwittingly.

For example, ESPN commentator Doug Adler never thought of causing offence when earlier this year he described Venus Williams’s chip-and-charge attack as “guerrilla effect”, a term used in tennis for over 20 years.

Alas, Venus is black, and the word “guerrilla” is almost a homophone of a racial slur. A few years ago, a New York councilman managed to save his job by issuing a grovelling public apology for having used the word ‘niggardly’. But in the interim madness had progressed too far, and Adler was summarily sacked.

It never occurred to anyone that the true racists are those who immediately think of black people when hearing a word that sounds like ‘gorilla’. What about the film Gorillas in Our Midst? Must be Ku Klux Klan propaganda, don’t you think?

Speaking of films, a Memphis cinema has just pulled the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind for being “racially insensitive”. That’s yet another case of PC laws being made retroactive. Neither Margaret Mitchell nor David O. Selznick could comply with injunctions that were another half a century in coming. No one told them that Uncle Tom’s Cabin wasn’t just another version of history, but the only one.

But never mind cinematic classics. Literary ones aren’t faring any better. Libraries all over America are tossing out copies of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, from which, according to Hemingway, all American literature had come.

Henceforth American literature can come from elsewhere. For that emphatically anti-racist novel features a character called Nigger Jim, a runaway slave.

Twain was depicting the way people spoke in those days. He would have happily called his protagonist Afro-American Jim, but unfortunately the term didn’t exist then. And even if it had, the people inhabiting Twain’s pages wouldn’t have used it.

Art is supposed to imitate not just any old life, but today’s life specifically. If it doesn’t, it’ll be banned, the way Dostoyevsky was banned in Stalin’s Russia or Heine in Nazi Germany.

Modernity is at war not only with past masterpieces, but with the past itself. If little in history can pass muster when held to the tyrannical standards of modern insanity, history itself must go.

It’s not just all those Confederate statues that are under attack. That famous racist Christopher Columbus is about to be expunged from American history (and Columbus Circle) as well. And Donald Trump thought he was being facetious when he asked: “Who’s next? Washington?”

Damn right he is. Not only was America’s first president a slave owner, but he also took part in the Indian Wars, more appropriately called Racist Wars of Extermination Against Native Americans. Not only that, but Washington once caused damage to ‘our planet’ by taking a hatchet to a cherry tree.

Nativist. Slave owner. Murderer of ethnic minorities. Ecological terrorist. And Trump thought he was kidding.

Closer to home, statues of Queen Victoria are dotted all over the country. Now if Cecil Rhodes was rotten to the core, what about this empire builder par excellence? Even though Victoria partly redeemed herself by using opiates (laudanum, to be exact), every petrified likeness of her must offend modernity.

And don’t get me started on that white supremacist Jan Smuts, whose statue adorns Parliament Square. If Nelson was bad, how about this precursor of apartheid? Down with him – and bloody well down with the statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square too, while we’re at it.

Standing next to him is that murderer of Indians Sir Henry Havelock and, a few hundred yards away, towers Clive of India, another racist empire builder. Add to this a gaggle of Napiers, Edward Colston, Nelson, Wellington and Churchill among many others, whose name is legion, and one begins to realise that no piecemeal solution will do.

All London statues except Nelson Mandela’s must go, along with history in general. Every historical figure must offend somebody’s delicate sensibilities, which means they must all be expurgated, swept away by the madness-causing prairie wind.

The dial of history must be zeroed in every generation. That way we’re guaranteed real-time compliance with every generation’s dicta. We’re also guaranteed a world closely resembling a lunatic asylum, but that’s progress for you.

Diana is still a royal pain

Some of us serve a cause, but rarely do we do nothing else. In that sense, royals have much in common with priests: life and service are for them wholly coextensive…

I’m sorry, did I say ‘are’? I meant ‘ought to be’, and perhaps ‘used to be’. Yes, for the older generation of our royal family, living still means serving. The younger generation serve too, the way royals should. But they also want to live, the way the rest of us do.

They want to be regular blokes and lasses, which these days isn’t invariably a term of praise. For, since they’re constantly in the public eye, the kind of regular people they become don’t resemble either royals or priests any longer. They resemble pop stars.

They want to marry for ‘luv’, not dynastic duty. When young, they want to sow their wild oats on the covers of glossy mags. Inside those publications, they want to pour their hearts out in outbursts of tear-jerking vulgarity.

Their hearts are worn on their sleeves and eventually get coated with grime. Shove a camera and a mike in their faces, and they’ll babble on like… well, like 90 per cent of the population would, given the chance.

Monarchy performs a vital function in our society. Like most things in what used to be Christendom, it reflects the formative synthesis of the physical and metaphysical.

The physical, quotidian life of the country is the responsibility of Parliament and the institutions that radiate out of it. The monarchy’s responsibility is to act as a factor of religious, cultural and spiritual continuity – to act, in concert with the Church, as an adhesive gluing together generations past, present and future.

To serve or not to serve isn’t a question for them as it is for us. We may choose to serve or not; they’re born to do so. Some outsiders are co-opted into that service by marriage, in which case – whatever their legal status may be – they undertake to sacrifice their ‘normal’ lives to public good.

It’s mainly for that reason that royalty has traditionally married royalty. The code of royal behaviour is hard to learn unless one has been imbued with it from birth. It’s a big jump for a girl who has for 20-odd years lived a ‘normal’ life to change overnight into acting as a monastically dedicated public servant every minute of her life.

‘Monastic’ doesn’t mean self-denial in the physical luxuries of life. Quite the contrary, the royals can indulge the most refined or Gargantuan of tastes on a scale that’s beyond most of us. But it does mean checking every step, every word against the ancient code of service.

That’s what the two non-royal girls, Diana and Sarah Ferguson, couldn’t get their rather empty heads around when they married Princes Charles and Andrew back in the 80s. That’s why they wounded the monarchy, possibly mortally. And in doing so, they dealt our constitution a mighty blow.

Diana, in line to become queen, was in a position to do the greater damage, and she didn’t let that opportunity go begging. Having moved from Sloane Square to Kensington Palace, she wanted to remain the quintessential Sloanie, living high on the hog, seeking out paparazzi wherever she could find them (while pretending to be bothered by public attention), demanding ‘luv’ from her hubby-wubby, having highly publicised affairs when that wasn’t forthcoming, and venting her vulgar feelings on national TV.

While devoid of intelligence, that manipulative woman was richly blessed with cunning, which she used to insinuate herself into the kind of public adoration that’s normally reserved for tattooed, drugged-up pop stars. “I want to be me!!!” was the message that dripped from every gesture she made, every word she uttered.

A high aristocrat by birth and a petty bourgeois at heart, she complained to all and sundry about her husband’s unfaithfulness – and set out to punish him by emulating Messalina and Catherine the Great. He wasn’t the sole intended target: Diana sought revenge against the whole royal family, who tried to explain to her what the duties of a future queen entail.

That was a clash of dignified tradition and vulgar modernity, and there was only one winner. Modernity won, to the thunderous cheers of the braying herd of Diana’s admirers. They saw her as a mirror reflecting their own pettiness, solipsism and anomie.

They looked at Diana and saw themselves, as they’d wish to be if they had the dosh. That revolting Blair sniffed out the public mood with a bloodhound’s acuity when he described Diana as “the people’s princess”. That’s exactly what she was.

Some of the poison she injected into our venerable institution has been apparently passed on to her sons, who, in the approaching anniversary of their mother’s death, are hogging the media on a scale that would have done her justice.

They’re both desperate to show that, royal or not, they’re regular blokes, who like a pint, a good party and a televised chinwag with Gary Lineker, in which Prince William effortlessly spoke the ex-footballer’s language.

Now the two brothers are appearing in an ITV documentary and a BBC special, where they share with millions of viewers their anguish about losing their mum [sic] at a young age.

I can sympathise with their sorrow. No decent person would fail to feel for two boys orphaned in their childhood by an accident befalling their doting mother. What I can’t sympathise with is the undignified, unbecoming way in which this understandable emotion is being vented.

“She was the best mum in the world,” says one people’s prince, presumably on the basis of a global poll known to him only. And yes, I know that the old-fashioned word ‘mother’ has been ousted from popular discourse by the touchy-feely ‘mum’. But is it too much to expect a royal to talk – not to mention feel – like a royal, not an agony aunt?

“She was extremely good at showing her love, showing what we meant to her, what feelings meant and how important it was to feel.” Fine, we get it. I just wish she hadn’t displayed her ability to feel maternal (and other) love so effusively and publicly.

Then, “20 years on seems like a good time to remind people of the difference that she made, not just to the Royal Family, but also to the world.” Yes, she well-nigh destroyed the Royal Family, and may still do so by delayed action. As to the world, I don’t think it gives much of a damn. It has its own problems.

Sorry about your mum, lads. Now can you please go back to serving us the way you were born to do? A tough job, I know, but someone has to do it.

Nelson down, Engels up

I’ve found out that not all statues are being pulled down. Courtesy of the ‘artist’ Phil Collins, the centre of Manchester is now adorned with a 10-foot likeness of Friedrich Engels.

The statue was no longer wanted at its original site in the Ukraine. People there still remember the Holodomor, when millions were deliberately starved to death for having reservations about the creed concocted by Marx and Engels.

According to The Guardian, so do some British Ukrainians living in Manchester. The paper magnanimously acknowledges they just may have a valid grievance against the bearded statue. But no one else may. After all, Engels did live in Manchester for a long time.

By the same token, Jack the Ripper lived in London, the Strangler in Boston and Hitler in Vienna. Hence they too presumably satisfy the residency requirement for sculptural commemoration.

Yet this can’t be the only requirement. The denizens of a place also have to be proud of their erstwhile neighbour to erect a statue in his honour.

So, with the exception of a few Ukrainian spoilsports who refuse to forget the Holodomor, are the Mancunians sufficiently proud of Engels? Should the Viennese be equally proud of Hitler?

The Guardian hack rejects that parallel out of hand: “These comparisons by… rightwingers are crude. Engels was a philosopher, not a mass murderer. A better analogy would be asking whether we would tolerate the presence of Nazi propaganda in Manchester.”

This is a variation on three old themes. One is that communist propaganda is somehow more acceptable than the Nazi kind. Another is that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Engels’s philosophy, as possibly distinct from its implementation in the Ukraine.

Yet another, a broader one, is that cannibalistic creeds have nothing to do with the ensuing cannibalistic practices. Hence Marx and Engels aren’t responsible for millions murdered in the name of Marxism-Leninism, nor is Islam responsible for terrorism.

This reduces people to the level of dogs, acting out of instinct, not reason. Divorcing philosophies from their implementation betokens a contempt for human nature.

The wheels of any juggernaut rolling over millions of lives are always powered by the engine of ‘philosophy’, with brainwashing acting as the transmission. What people do depends on what they believe, and what they believe largely depends on what they’re taught.

So what did the ‘philosopher’ Engels teach? When you look closely, you’ll know that his teaching was too monstrous even for the Soviets to implement fully.

The Communist Manifesto, which Engels co-authored with Marx, demands wholesale abolition of private property (except his own factories of course), which ideal wasn’t quite attained even in Russia.

“Abolition of all rights to inheritance” is another dictate from the Manifesto. The pamphlet also insists that family should be done away with, with women becoming communal property. Children are to be taken away from their parents, pooled together and raised as wards of the state.

Modern slavery also derives from the Manifesto, which prescribes total militarisation of labour achieved by organising it into “labour armies”, presumably led by Marx as Generalissimo and Engels as his deputy.

Dissenters were to be locked away in what Engels euphemistically called “special guarded places”. Such places have since acquired a different name, but Engels can be credited with coming up with the concept of concentration camps as an expedient for promoting social uniformity.

Now I suspect that Guardian writers can see the fine points of this ‘philosophy’, provided its practical manifestations aren’t too bloody, at least not at their own doorstep. They worship at the altar of the same religion, if a slightly less fundamentalist confession.

However, even they would experience a conflict of pieties if they actually read Engels’s writing. For the ‘philosopher’ deemed worthy of a statue in Manchester was a great proponent of murder by category, based on race, class and political convictions.

Chaps like Engels defy commentary – they must be allowed to speak for themselves. In that spirit, here are some random examples of Engels’s ‘philosophy’:

“All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary war-storm … [which will] wipe out all this racial trash. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples.”

“A ceaseless fight to the death with Slavdom, which betrays the Revolution, a battle of annihilation and ruthless terrorism – not in the interests of Germany, but of the Revolution.”

“… the reconquest of the German-speaking left bank of the Rhine is a matter of national honour, and… the Germanisation of a disloyal Holland and of Belgium is a political necessity for us. Shall we let the German nationality be completely suppressed in these countries…?”

“This is our calling, that we shall become the Templars of this Grail, gird the sword round our loins for its sake and stake our lives joyfully in the last, holy war which will be followed by the thousand-year reign of freedom.” [My emphasis.]

“Justice and other moral considerations may be damaged here and there; but what does that matter to such facts of world-historic significance?”

“In history, nothing is achieved without power and implacable ruthlessness.”

“The plentiful meat and milk diet among the Aryans and the Semites, and particularly the beneficial effects of these foods on the development of children, may, perhaps, explain the superior development of these two races.”

[On Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, a Paris councilman representing a district that contained the Zoo]: “Being in his quality as a nigger a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.”

“I begin to understand French anti-Semitism when I see how many Jews of Polish origin and with German names intrude themselves everywhere, arrogate everything to themselves and push themselves forward to the point of creating public opinion…”

“With the Irish… their sensuous, excitable nature prevents reflection and quiet, persevering activity from reaching development – such a nation is utterly unfit for manufacture as now conducted.”

“The Lasalle manoeuvres have amused me greatly, the frizzy Jew-head now very charmingly has to distinguish himself in the red nightshirt and Marquis garb – from which at every movement the Polish kike looks out. Seeing it must give the impression of louse-like repulsiveness.”

Suddenly the ‘philosopher’ emerges as a German nationalist, complete with racism, anti-Semitism and general hatred that he insists must be expressed through mass violence. Moreover, this isn’t just the ranting of an evil loner unheard by anyone: we know that Engels inspired the two most satanic regimes in history.

How do those good Mancunians and bad Guardian writers square this conflict of pieties? Simple.

In such a conflict, the dominant piety always wins. Those chaps are driven by the same hatred for Christendom, what’s left of it, as was their bearded guru. Detecting this, they find redeeming qualities in his ‘philosophy’, as they do for the same reason in Islam, whose exponents after all mistreat women and kill homosexuals.

Hence we know what those people are: in all such cases, observing which piety emerges victorious gives a clue to what’s negotiable and what’s chiselled in stone. As it were.

Down with racists

Modernity is all about levelling – not only of people and groups thereof, but also of tastes, morals and opinions.

Anybody, no matter how ignorant, feels entitled to air any opinion, no matter how inane – and to demand a respectful audience. Freedom of speech is being abused so badly that one begins to yearn for freedom from speech.

Now, though I may disagree with some opinions, I still recognise that they belong in the panoply of self-expression. But ‘some’ doesn’t mean ‘all’.

For example, a person is entitled to opine that the rich should all be taxed more, even though I consider this view economically ruinous and morally defunct. But a person isn’t entitled to opine – except privately and in jest – that the rich should all be flailed alive.

The band of acceptable self-expression can be wide, but it can’t be endless. If it is, society’s intellectual backbone, already showing many slipped discs, will collapse altogether. Society will then die.

It’s in this context that one should look at The Guardian article advocating the toppling of Nelson’s statue in Trafalgar Square. The author is Afua Hirsch, whom I had the displeasure of meeting when we were both guests on a BBC chat show discussing the purpose of imprisonment.

Miss Hirsch, her eyes glistening with fanatical zeal, saw prison as strictly an educational facility, whose sole purpose was saving the poor souls so betrayed by society that they had to resort to crime.

I countered that, though rehabilitation was desirable, it was secondary. Prison’s primary purpose surely was to serve justice by punishing wrongdoers. Miss Hirsch’s reaction was that of hysterical incredulity that someone could entertain such a monstrous idea. She clearly thought that, unlike thieves and murderers, I was beyond redemption.

Now she has ratcheted up her mindset, shifting it from the gear of lefty faddishness into that of deranged fanaticism. Thereby she has crossed the line of possible, if wrong, opinion into the territory where lunacy resides.

Her gripe is that Nelson lacked the foresight to realise that two centuries after his death there would exist a broad swathe of opinion that society should be dedicated to racial equality first and foremost.

Nelson, according to her, had many West Indian slave owners among his friends and – are you ready for this? – defended them in the House of Lords. “Nelson,” she writes, “was what you would now call, without hesitation, a white supremacist.”

That may be, but, as the Russian saying goes, it’s not the only thing we appreciate him for. The laws of political correctness, like any other, can’t be made retroactive. Nelson lived in his time, not ours, and he can’t be judged ex post facto on the basis of Miss Hirsch’s monomania.

Figures of his calibre can only be judged within history, and against that backdrop Nelson towers like the giant he was. Thanks largely to him Britain was spared for over a century the advent of bloodthirsty modernity. Also important is that he helped defer a time when the likes of Hirsch feel entitled to express their febrile idiocy in the mainstream press.

That Nelson was a flawed man was beyond doubt – show me one who isn’t. I’m sure Hirsch counts Martin Luther King, Mandela and Gandhi among her heroes. Yet the first used his wife for a punching bag and was serially unfaithful to her, the second had political opponents tortured and killed, and the third provoked a carnage.

Standards of heroism are different from those of sainthood, real or bogus. And even some saints weren’t exactly saintly before they saw the light. St Augustine and St Francis, for example, were both philanderers in their youth, while St Paul prosecuted Christians even in his mature years – although Hirsch would probably see that as a point in his favour.

I doubt she realises that the treatment of history she proposes would cut our civilisation off its past completely. For few historical figures would pass muster if held to the standards of our multi-culti modernity.

Unlike Nelson, George Washington, along with most Founding Fathers, was a slave owner. Charles Martel, El Cid, and Jan Sobieski were Islamophobes. Richard the Lionheart ditto, though he partly redeemed himself by being homosexual. Cromwell was a genocidal nationalist, certainly in the way he treated the Irish. Louis XIV gave his wife a black dwarf as a present, thereby displaying double insensitivity. Shakespeare, Dickens and Dostoyevsky had their anti-Semitic moments. Brahms was a German nationalist. Cecil Rhodes was a racist who expanded the British Empire Nelson gave his life to protect.

That empire, like its defenders, wasn’t without its fair share of wickedness. Yet on balance it was unquestionably a force for good, specifically in the area so dear to Miss Hirsch’s frenzied heart. For slavery had been deemed abhorrent in England at least since Elizabethan times.

A report of a case as far back as 1569 states that: “… one Cartwright brought a slave from Russia and would scourge him; for which he was questioned; and it was resolved, that England was too pure an air for a slave to breathe, and so everyone who breathes it becomes free. Everyone who comes to this island is entitled to the protection of English law, whatever oppression he may have suffered and whatever may be the colour of his skin.”

In 1772, ruling on the ‘Somersett’s case’ of a slave suing for his freedom when brought to Britain, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield declared that “no court could compel a slave to obey an order depriving him of his liberty.”

Such statements weren’t heard in many other places at that time. And it wasn’t just words. Though Britain officially banned the slave trade only in 1807 (66 years before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation), unofficially the Royal Navy, in which Nelson served, had been harassing slave traffic for decades.

Given the balance of their record, shall we then forgive both Nelson and his employer a few currently unfashionable glitches? Not as far as Hirsch is concerned.

All decent people share her abhorrence of slavery. But if they look at all of history through the prism of today’s faddish obsession with ‘diversity’, they’re no longer decent. They’re mad at best, consciously subversive at worst.

In the past, such ranting fanatics could be found only in lunatic asylums. These days they adorn the pages of broadsheets. Then again, the two institutions are converging so much it’s hard to tell the difference.

How to win neocon friends

Modernity has replaced sentiments with sentimentality and ideas with ideologies, all intellectually feeble and morally pernicious.

That stands to reason: if ideas reside in the head and sentiments a foot lower in the heart, ideologies creepy-crawl a foot below the heart.

Of the ideologies found in the American mainstream (and increasingly ours as well) neoconservatism is among the least appealing and most influential. I’ve written a whole book about it (Democracy as a Neocon Trick), where I develop this thesis:

“Neoconservatism is an eerie mishmash of Trotskyist temperament, infantile bellicosity, American chauvinism (not exclusively on the part of Americans), expansionism masked by pseudo-messianic verbiage on exporting democracy to every tribal society on earth, Keynesian economics, Fabian socialism, welfarism and statism run riot – all mixed together with a spoonful of vaguely conservative phrases purloined from the rightful owners to trick the neocons’ way to broader electoral support.”

American exceptionalism is the dominant religion in the US, and neoconservatism is its proselytising confession. None so hostile as divergent exponents of the same creed, and the neocons reserve their most vitriolic harangues for ‘isolationists’, practitioners of the hermetic confession of the same religion.

Since during his campaign Trump established himself as a committed anti-globalist, the volume of spittle sputtered at him by the neocons could have drowned the White House like the ocean engulfing Atlantis. In my lifetime I can’t remember any president since Nixon attracting as much bilious hatred.

I’m no great admirer of Trump, for reasons I’ve mentioned many times before. Moreover, if his links with Russia are proved to be as shady as they seem, I believe he should be not just impeached but tried for treason.

For the time being, the grand jury is still out on that issue. Yet the president already deserves criticism, and not only for his Russian shenanigans.

But rational criticism is different from rolling on the floor, frothing at the mouth and screaming hysterical hatred, which is the neocons’ chosen mode of self-expression when it comes to Trump. They rabidly attack the president even when he’s innocent – even when he’s right.

Some of them aren’t completely devoid of brains, but that organ is overridden by ideology. For example, had they given the matter some thought, they would have applauded Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement, based as it is on another pet ideology and not on any rational thought or scientific evidence. Instead, they screamed deranged invective.

Then, when gangs of pro-Nazi and hard-left extremists clashed in Charlottesville, Trump made a perfectly reasonable statement that both sides were to blame. Not being the sharpest chisel in the toolbox, he then regrettably added that there were “fine people” in both groups, even though there clearly weren’t.

But that wasn’t the point. To an uninitiated observer, the neocons’ reaction to the basically correct statement could suggest that Trump had praised Hitler and called for the reinstatement of slavery. By ricochet, the neocon bullets fired at Trump hit the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee.

The general, who wasn’t a slave owner, is being depicted as some kind of plantation overseer in the Simon Legree mould. The man of whom Churchill once wrote that “Lee was the noblest American who had ever lived and one of the greatest commanders known to the annals of war” is being routinely described in the neocon press as a traitor.

This because Lee felt honour-bound to take the side of his native Virginia, and the traditional localism it represented, against the tyrannical centralism championed by the North. I dare say Gen. Washington, who had sworn allegiance to King George and then led armies against him, was more of a traitor than Gen. Lee. He was just lucky to find himself on the winning side.

All things considered, one would be justified in supposing that the neocons hate Trump so much that, no matter what he does, he’ll remain the eternal bogeyman. However, in supposing so, one would be wrong.

Trump has found an ingenious way of currying the neocons’ favour, if at the cost of alienating his core support. He has announced that the US will be committing more troops to fighting in that notorious ‘Graveyard of Empires’, Afghanistan.

Suddenly shibboleths like ‘nation building’ reappear in the neocon press, eliciting the same response from them as ‘Allahu Akbar!’ does from the Muslims. Overnight Trump has stopped being just any old Trump. He has become ‘Mr Trump’ or ‘the president’. All is forgiven! Mr Trump has realised the folly of his isolationist ways! He has learned his lesson!

Yes, but the neocons haven’t. One lesson is general: it’s not the Americans’ business to build any nations other than their own, and that job is far from finished. The other lesson is specific: their attempt to build democratic nations in the Middle East has since 2003 plunged the West into the kind of misery unseen since 1945.

Apart from the millions of people, thousands of them Westerners, directly killed in the conflicts, that criminal folly impassioned Islam worldwide and removed the nasty but effective leaders who had managed to keep those passions more or less under a lid. As a result, Europe has become a cauldron of terrorism, with the worst still to come – and not only in Europe.

The nations the neocons set out to build have since collapsed, threatening to bury us all under the rubble. Yet now Trump, desperately running out of friends, has revived that folly by sending 4,000 extra troops to Afghanistan.

One doesn’t have to be a military strategist to know that this move is inspired by political, not military, considerations. A country where Americans and their allies have been dying for 16 years, without managing to build a Western-style democracy, will now dig more graves.

Trump has tried to cater to both sides by claiming that his aim is killing terrorists, not building nations. But the neocons know surrender when they smell it. They realise that the beleaguered president has weighed the odds and found he needs the neocons’ support to stay in office.

The Steve Bannon types are screaming ‘flip-flop’, but Trump must have done the sums. He knows that neocon invective has done its job, and the landscape of public opinion has changed. He’s hanging by a thread, and it’s the neocons who’re holding the scissors.

Mollifying them has become a matter of survival, and Trump is clearly learning his political lessons. Alas, he’s learning no other.

What’s on the telly?

I realise that Putin’s useful idiots in the West are impervious to facts, arguments, statistics or observations. Affection for the KGB-run kleptofascist regime resides in the parts such things can’t reach.

The rest of you, however, may be amused by these assorted snippets from the chat shows on the Russian equivalent of the BBC and ITV. The shows in question are either daily or weekly, each lasting several hours.

The format is that of a panel discussion, featuring Russia’s top opinion formers: professors, university rectors, ministers, historians, politicians, philosophers, writers. This is what they’re saying, at random.

No comments are necessary, but some imagination on your part wouldn’t hurt. Just imagine what kind of opinions these opinion-formers form – and what kind of country would let them on air.

“The Soviet idea was universal and genius: the world must be just. Now, in order to defeat the US, we need an idea too. And it must resemble the Soviet one.”

“I admire the Soviet project. It made possible the modernisation of the country, victory in the war, post-war rebuilding. But it had two drawbacks. First, it demanded too much effort from the people… And then that project required a man like Stalin. Stalin died – and everything went to wrack and ruin.”

“Look at Hamlet. What does he do? Stabs his girlfriend’s father, provokes his stepfather, sends his classmates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their death. I think there Shakespeare showed the essence of the Western man. And look what happens in the world after the Soviet Union self-destructed in 1991! NATO is already in the Baltics!”

“The Poles have gone so far as to claim that the Soviet Union attacked Poland in 1939 together with Germany, thereby starting the Second World War. Why this assault on history?… It’s our own fault too: we never told the truth about Poland, not to upset a fraternal socialist country. Now we’re paying for that.”

“We didn’t have to take responsibility for Katyn. All the documents were fake there.”

“Poland was planning to join Nazi Germany in obliterating the Soviet Union.”

“The Poles never loved us as much as when our tanks were there.”

“In 1955 a black woman was arrested in America for not having offered her seat to a white man! 1955 – that’s 10 years after the victory, after Hiroshima. That’s American morality for you! Just compare it with our parents’ morality in 1955.”

“We must continue to strengthen our armed forces, to develop new weapon systems for Russia to forge ahead. Then Americans will always be nice to us everywhere.”

“If under Stalin there had been the same low economic growth rate as today, people would have been shot. We must change things.”

“During the Second World War, we and our allies set the precedent of joint fight against Nazism. But that war is still going on, and one of those allies has already developed a plan to annihilate us.”

“Americans fire even at children without warning – and believe this is perfectly normal.”

“When Americans begin to shed crocodile tears about human lives, one feels like reminding them that their own history isn’t so unequivocal either.”

“We were wrong to have voted for sanctions against North Korea. We should have at least abstained, to show somehow that we reject the policy of sanctions. Its purpose is to destroy Russia. And when Trump signed the law about the sanctions, he simply capitulated to the establishment. He should have followed Lenin’s example, who used to go against everyone – and win.”

“Spies are everywhere. The whole world is spies, druggies and prostitutes.”

“Russia can’t exist without a huge universal idea – otherwise there’s no need for her. Under the tsars it was Holy Russia… And after the revolution of course. And in 1991 we were told: ‘You’re the same as everybody.’ That’s the root of all problems.”

“We showed photos of Putin fishing – the whole West had a heart attack.”

“Let Europe perish, let it be Islamised! At least it won’t be moving eastwards! We’ll burn everybody! Like at the Chinese border, when we burned two divisions with napalm!”

“Enter those immigrant ghettos with guns and shoot everyone who disobeys! And no social benefits!”

“Americans don’t let migrants from the Middle East in. They admit Mexicans. Because a Mexican will steal and rob, but he won’t blow you up.”

“It’s possible to fight terrorism. Was there any terrorism in the Soviet Union, in the 30s and 40s? No. And what about Europe now?”

“We need absolute monarchy and strong special services!”

“The economy collapsed under Gorbachev! Because the Party self-dispersed – they removed from the Constitution the article saying the Party is the state! And the civilisationally progressive Soviet project died!”

“Pulling down the Dzerzhinsky statue was unjust. He saved five million stray children.”

“Khrushchev replaced the great idealistic notion of constructing communism with the philistine idea of catching up with America in the production of milk and meat. That’s when the degradation of the elites began.”

“Yeltsyn dug the pit. And Putinism is about getting out of the pit and moving towards guaranteed flourishing! Pan-Putinism is an odd name, but it caresses my ear!”

“Why didn’t Gorbachev, instead of this idiocy called perestroika, get down to strengthening the state? It’s like in the army. If the division commander is weak-kneed scum, what’ll happen to that division? Our country is the same way.”

Take my word for it: this sort of stuff isn’t just typical of the brainwashing fare on which the Russians subsist: they get nothing else. But then they are fortunate to have a strong leader, the kind our useful idiots wish we had (Peter Hitchens, ring your office).






























Gandhi’s murderous pacifism

This is a year of significant and tragic anniversaries: 100 years since Russia gave the world the most satanic regime in history; 80 years since that regime perpetrated its best-known (but neither the only nor even the worst) carnage; 70 years since the partition of India.

That last event being of particular interest to the British, the papers are full of articles and recollections, most focused on the attendant violence: after all, those who saw it may only be in the their 70s and 80s.

All of the accounts are moving, as such recollections always are. But that’s not the only thing they have in common: they all exonerate one man directly responsible for the massacre: Mohandas Gandhi.

Ghandi is beyond reproach, for he passes muster as a saint venerated by our post-truth, post-thought, post-Christian society. Having debunked the real saints, we fill the void thus formed with fake ones, idols who tickle the naughtiest bits of modernity.

The qualifications for this accolade are simple. To be sanctified in the modern canon, a man has to come from the Third World, espouse any faith other than Judaism or Christianity, hate the West, contribute to the West’s troubles, lead or inspire some kind of liberation movement against Western powers. Gandhi ticks all the boxes.

He’s routinely described as the ‘father of democratic India’, but ‘a father’ would be more appropriate. Defying biology but vindicating history, that child had many parents.

One was the British Empire that created most of the institutions that allow India to boast of being the world’s largest democracy. Hence, as India’s last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten had a valid claim to begetting India’s democracy. Moreover, if rumours are to be believed, his wife even came close to begetting a few Indian democrats.

Hitler and Stalin are the other co-parents, responsible as they jointly were for the Second World War. That war knocked the remaining stuffing out of the already limp British Empire, depriving her of both the physical means and, more important, the will to protect her integrity.

Mohammed also has a valid claim to a share of parenthood, if only at many removes. It was his creed that put fire in the bellies of the millions of his adherents in India, making them seek power in every possible way, including violent ones.

Yet those paternity candidates can have only a limited and esoteric appeal in the West. Gandhi, on the other hand, with his Tolstoyan sermon of nonviolence, hatred of the West, quaint personal habits, fancy-dress folk garb and peculiar sexuality, satisfied every requirement for post-Christian canonisation.

Apart from the aforementioned Hitler, Stalin and also possibly FDR, Gandhi loathed the British Empire more than anyone. That animus had many components: racial, religious, cultural and political. It was hatred that added tongues of fire to Gandhi’s charisma, as is the case with most revolutionaries. And, like so many of them, he had to mask hatred by sanctimonious claims to love.

The claims weren’t invariably valid. Thus Gandhi busily agitated for the departure of the Raj during the Second World War. That would have left India at the mercy of Japan and led to an immediate massacre of thousands, possibly millions, of Indians. But such numbers mean nothing to fanatics.

This Gandhi went on to prove by continuing his agitation after the war, when India was already self-governed de facto if not yet de jure. All that was needed was some prudence and patience, but revolutionaries are never endowed with such qualities, especially when they’re old and running out of time.

Gandhi didn’t realise, or perhaps didn’t care, that it was the Raj that maintained a semblance of social order in India, keeping the Hindus and the Muslims off one another’s throats. With the British gone, the throats became exposed.

Gandhi, with the able political support of the ruling Congress Party, unleashed a torrent of sermons, quoting from Bhagvad Gita to justify Hindu exclusivity, as expressed in terms of caste, religion and race. That predictably radicalised the Muslims, not that they needed much stimulus. At the same time, Gandhi self-refutingly preached equality of all religions, which added impetus to the Muslim League’s quest for equal political power.

Effectively Gandhi, for all his otherworldly mysticism, politicised Hinduism, which had the inevitable effect of politicising Islam as well, more than it was already politicised doctrinally. A split along communal lines became inevitable.

Gandhi’s dream came true in 1947-1948, when the violent partition of India drove 14 million people out of their homes and killed the best part of a million.

Rather than being at odds with Gandhi’s pacifism, this tragedy was its direct result. That the result was unintended is neither here nor there.

It was entirely predictable, and people who can’t predict such results should refrain from revolutionary, indeed any political, activities. Otherwise they’re as culpable in the ensuing massacres as those who actually do the massacring. In other words, they’re criminals.

At the height of Gandhi’s agitation, Churchill summed him up neatly: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience…”

Such clarity of vision is now extinct in the West. Only idolatry remains, undiminished by the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan, with itchy fingers on the buttons either side of the border. Gandhi’s pacifism has turned out to be very warlike indeed.

How I cop a feel at a market

Writers often compare women’s breasts to various fruits. Depending on the author’s imagination, the fruity analogues may vary from a fragrant peach to a pendulous pear to a well-endowed melon to a pejoratively buxom watermelon.

Hence, anyone who can claim, in the words of a popular song, that mammaries haunt the corners of his mind, will suffer no shortage of visual associations when shopping at a French farmers’ market.

Moreover, a libidinous chap may even get so excited by this associative abundance that he’ll feel an irresistible urge to add tactile perception to visual. This could be done either surreptitiously, by rubbing, as if inadvertently, an elbow against a woman’s breast in the crowd or savagely, by openly fondling a strange woman without permission.

The first would be infantile, the second possibly illegal. So, being neither a child nor a criminal, I hasten to reassure you that the claim made in the title above refers not to a woman’s breasts but to their visual analogues: fruit.

Since the thought of feeling up a strange woman in public never crosses my mind, I haven’t investigated French laws proscribing such an indiscretion. However, on general principle, they must be rather strict – especially since even in France women bizarrely object to being regarded as merely sex objects.

But, no matter how draconian such laws may be, they can’t possibly be stricter than the rules protecting the inviolability of fruit and veg to any unauthorised fondling.

Some market traders exhibit written injunctions to the effect of DO NOT TOUCH FRUIT!!! Most don’t bother, just as no one puts up a sign saying “Don’t grab my wife’s breasts”. This is a rule of such long standing that it requires no explicit reiteration.

Now I have a real, as opposed to a facetious, confession to make: I’m a bit of a foodie. I like eating well and, since I’m married to an Englishwoman and can’t afford to eat out every day, I do all my own cooking.

Any serious cook will tell you that this means doing all my own buying: I can no more make a decent meal with someone else’s ingredients than I can play decent tennis with someone else’s racquet.

I further maintain than no serious cook can buy, say, a peach or tomato without touching it first. Appearances alone are deceptive, especially in these days of industrialised farming directed by government guidelines. Seasonality is a better indication, but even that doesn’t guarantee quality.

Peaches, for example, are in season now. Yet you may take two identical-looking fruit, and one will be harder than a rock or, to develop the earlier simile, any woman’s breast I’ve ever touched, while the other will be amorphously softer than either a rock or, well… you get the point.

If I buy tomatoes to make a sauce, I don’t mind them squirting juice at the slightest touch, the way a lactating breast squirts milk. However, I expect firm texture in a tomato destined for a salad.

So why don’t French farmers allow me to touch their produce? I can merely ask for a kilo of something, specifying the degree of desired firmness and hoping that the seller will comply.

The reason is fairly obvious. The trader doesn’t want me to skim all his best stuff off the top, leaving only scraps for other customers. His reputation may survive if a third of the firm peaches I requested turn out to be mushy, but not the next man in line being stuck with nothing but squishy fruit that disintegrates before he gets back to his 30-year-old Peugeot.

The tradesman’s motives are understandable, but that doesn’t make them any more forgivable. The French are wrong when saying that to understand all is to forgive all. Milking my simile for all it’s worth, and even a bit more, a woman may understand a ruffian feeling her up in a crowded place, but that doesn’t mean she’ll forgive him in a hurry.

Here it’s important to mention a difference between France and England. The English have fewer rules, but these tend to be rigorously enforced. The French, on the other hand, outscore the game of cricket in the number of rules governing the simplest of activities, such as the issuing of a planning permit to develop a loft.

However, any such rule can be trumped by a personal relationship based on friendship, mutual acquaintances or a bribe. I recall applying for such a permit, only to be told at the local council that the issue was so complex that it would take at least a year to resolve, probably longer. In fact, we got the permit the next day because our neighbour worked as secretary to the mayor.

The delicate issue of touching fruit can be resolved in the same manner. I’ve known many of our local traders for years, and after the first decade or so, they generously allowed me to find out what I was buying before I bought it. Even if the trader doesn’t know you, a polite request of “may I choose?” could work, although you must be prepared for a rude rebuke.

Come to think of it, this isn’t all that different from groping a woman. Ask politely – you never know your luck.