Mind your own business, Donald

I try very hard to like President Trump. But he makes it difficult.

Liking many of his policies is easier, even though some of them have no chance of clearing Congress. But even when Trump is politically on the side of the angels, personally he resembles their less appealing antipodes.

That’s no trivial matter. For the wisest of policies and the best of intentions can be undone by their champion’s crudeness, ignorance, effrontery, insensitivity and inability to perceive nuances of thought and feeling.

These are all traits Trump has in abundance and, when they come to the fore, he can damage the very causes he wishes to advance. Such as the cause of checking Islamic expansion in the West.

In addition to his personal failings, Trump shares a characteristic American ignorance of European affairs and indeed of the European civilisation shaping the affairs. If it were otherwise, he wouldn’t have retweeted the messages first posted by the fascisoid, Islamophobic group Britain First.

I hope you realise that my definition of ‘Islamophobic’ is different from the likes of the BBC’s, Merkel’s or Blair’s.

To them, an Islamophobe is anyone who a) minds the creeping Islamisation of Europe, b) has problems with Europe turning into a caliphate and c) realises that this is indeed a real problem and not a figment of somebody’s febrile imagination.

By that standard, an Islamophobe is anyone possessing common sense and a modicum of affection for our civilisation – and no affection at all for the likes of the BBC, Merkel and Blair.

My definition of Islamophobia is simple: it’s hating Islam more than necessary – and using this hatred as the presumed axis around which the whole complexity of life revolves. Add to this a certain amount of radicalism, and fascism beckons.

Alas, when nice, tweedy conservatism refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and respond appropriately, anorak-clad fascism emerges as seemingly the only available alternative to disaster.

Recent history provides ample examples of that. Thus the danger of communism was as imminent in the Weimar Republic as the danger of Islam is in today’s Britain (or for that matter Europe). Yet, when the German answers to tweedy gentlemen cocked a snook at the communists while sipping their clarets, the Nazis took to the streets.

They picked up the banner of anti-communism and… well, you know what happened next. By the time the tweedy gentlemen realised what was going on, it was too late. The anoraks or rather, as it happened, the brown shirts were running the show.

Britain First is a fascist group trying to ride to legitimacy the horse of resisting Islamisation. There isn’t much wrong with the horse; the problem is that it’s Britain First (and similar groups) riding it.

By picking up their messages and images, Trump has done untold damage to the important cause. He’s a savage who smashes a Stradivarius trying to extract beautiful sounds from it.

Criticism of his monumentally vulgar stupidity has focused on irrelevant incidentals, such as that the abusive Dutch Muslim shown in one picture was actually not a migrant but a native of Holland, or that the pictures of Islamic violence had been taken not in Europe but in the Middle East.

The distinction between native-born and immigrant Muslims is these days so slight as to make no difference. For example, the Muslim chaps who blew up London buses in 2005 were British born and bred.

And surely perfectly genuine photographs of terrorist acts committed by Muslims in London, Paris or Boston would be easy to find. The problem with Trump’s tweets wasn’t their dubious authenticity but their indubitable provenance in the fascist ranks.

The best way for Mrs May to respond to those inane tweets would have been to ignore them publicly, while privately advising Donald to do what I suggest in the title above. Instead she foolishly responded, using the word ‘Islamophobia’ not in my definition but in the BBC’s. Predictably she got back a retort:

“Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom”.

I’m always amazed to see how little imprint Trump’s expensive education has left on his culture and personality. Of the three words he capitalised in the middle of his sentence, only ‘Islamic’ calls for such distinction. Don’t they teach English syntax at Wharton?

Well, The Cause of Destructive Islamic Terrorism Has Got A Boost From Trump’s Opposition To It. I for one would be hard-pressed to choose between living in a Britain run by the mullahs or in one run by Britain First. No form of fascism appeals to me.

By chance, I ran across an impassioned defence of Trump by a Britain First moron, who, to provide unwitting proof for the validity of this designation, posted this on Facebook: “Edward VIII and Lady Wallis would be staunch supporters of Britain First if they were alive today. Recent polls show that 47% of Britons want to ban ALL Islamic migration.”

Edward VIII and Lady Wallis (wrong title, by the way, but hey, it’s morons we’re dealing with) were also ‘staunch supporters’ of Hitler. I wouldn’t want to be in their company – even though my view of Islamic migration is close to the 47 per cent.

Personal God and public loos in Sweden

Life is full of mysteries, and one of them is the Church of Sweden’s odd insistence on continuing to identify itself as Christian.

(In a more combative mood, I’d be capable of making a similar remark about most Protestant confessions, but I’m feeling uncharacteristically mellow this morning.)

One simply can’t associate with any Christian denomination a peculiar cult that’s led by a woman and ‘consecrates’ openly lesbian bishops, who then suggest that crosses be removed from churches and Muslim prayer space be allocated.

How about space for the Black Mass and sacrifice of virgins? Inclusivity has to be consistent, comes a scream from the depths of my soul.

The scream has been heard and partly acted upon. The progressively lesbian high command of the Church of Sweden has just instructed its clergy to make liturgical language ‘more inclusive’ by referring to God in a ‘gender-neutral’ fashion, eschewing such perniciously exclusive terms as ‘He’ and ‘Lord’.

God in Sweden is thus rapidly ascending to the progressive heights already reached by public lavatories, where any distinction between the sexes has been (or is about to be) outlawed.

The new guidelines helpfully offer an inoffensive prayer able to satisfy the most up-to-date of cravings: “God, Holy Trinity, Father and Mother, Son – Sister and Brother, and Spirit – Lifeguard and Inspirator, lead us to your depths of wealth, wisdom and knowledge”.

Ingenuous stuff, that, and it’s good to know that God has retrained for an alternative career as a lifeguard in a municipal swimming pool. But I’d like to have the arithmetical aspect clarified.

If my understanding of theology (and etymology, come to that) is correct, the word Trinity, Holy or otherwise, implies three. No more, no less – exactly three. If it’s more or less, it’s no longer a trinity, or am I missing something?

Mentioning every possible kinship in this context offends my sense of mathematical probity, among other things. But various spokesmen, or rather spokespersons, for the Church of Sweden delve deeper than the simple ability to add up:

“Referring to God as ‘Lord’ consolidates [gender] hierarchies and the subordination of women in a white, Western feminist context,” states one of them.

Again, I’m confused, which goes to show how far out of tune I am with modern Christianity, or modern anything for that matter. If the ‘Western context’ is already ‘feminist’, how and to whom can women be subordinated? If they do suffer this indignity, the context isn’t feminist, is it now? Sorry to be such a pedant, but that’s better than being some other cognates of the same word.

Another modern answer to Martin Luther explained that: “Liberation theologists, along with feminist and postcolonial theologians, have been crucial in identifying how legitimising hierarchies leads to violence and subordination.”

Much as we’re thankful for their invaluable contribution to theology, we ought not to forget the more indisputable role liberation theologists played in spilling oceans of blood in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

But then the son/daughter/other of God the Mother did say, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul…” No doubt the souls of the campesinos hacked to death with machetes in the spirit of liberation theology remained unscathed.

That’s what I cherish about modernity: it infinitely expands the boundaries of the possible. Public pronouncements that relatively recently would have caused a stampede to the exit, with some escapees dialling the nearest mental hospital, today can be made with impunity.

The kind of people who a few years ago wouldn’t have been regarded as fit to sweep church floors today make sweeping pronouncements in their capacity as bishops. Bishoprics in so-called Christian churches go to people who understand nothing about Christianity and seek to destroy everything.

In a more fundamental format, I think I’d be able to argue persuasively that what we’re reaping now is the toxic harvest sown by the Reformation, with its congenital commitment to destructive modernisation and the inviolable right of every communicant to make of God whatever he/she/it/other will.

For the time being, I’d suggest that the inner dilemmas impaling the Church of Sweden on their horns could be profitably solved by converting all the churches into mosques and inviting even more Muslims into the country. If the rape statistics are accurate, Swedish women – including the bishops – may enjoy a brisker sex life and an even greater sense of common purpose.

P.S. While we are on such ecclesiastical subjects, apparently Meghan Markle is to be baptised and confirmed in the Anglican Church before marrying Prince Hal. I don’t quite get that, but this time it’s genuine consternation.

Miss Markle is described as a Protestant. If we accept that Protestantism is still some kind of Christianity, then she must have been baptised already. It’s par for the course that she ought to be confirmed in her new confession, but what happened to “one baptism for the remission of sins”?

Anyway, good luck to Miss Markle on her citizenship test. What’s the height of Tower Bridge, Meghan? No peeking.

Congratulation to Harry, his father – and Prince Charles

Sorry, couldn’t resist that. Cheap shot, I know. One shouldn’t propagate malicious rumours of Harry’s paternity, nor indeed point out his uncanny facial resemblance to a certain Guards officer.

One can, however, exercise some restraint in expressing one’s otherwise overpowering elation at the news of the royal engagement.

It’s wonderful that this worthy young man and his pretty bride are passionately in love. The world is a better place whenever any man and any woman feel so deeply about each other.

There’s, however, a minor point. Meghan may be ‘any woman’, but Harry isn’t really ‘any man’. Prince Henry of Wales is fifth in the line of succession to the British throne.

That’s why the comment made by Meghan’s sister is so wide of the mark. “This isn’t about royalty,” she said. “It’s about love.” Royalty, not love, is precisely what this should be about, but one doesn’t expect an American to understand this.

For Meghan will be called upon to stop being just any woman and assume the responsibilities, along with the whole ethos, of a member of the royal family.

That’s no easy matter. I won’t bother you with a long rota of royal duties, but they all fall under one umbrella: submitting one’s own good to the good of the dynasty and therefore the realm.

The requisite skills can’t be picked up easily: they take serious training, ideally from a young age or, better still, birth. That’s why royals have traditionally married other royals, or at least members of high nobility: their spouses didn’t have to do an inordinate amount of training on the job.

Whenever our princes have ventured outside their own circle, the results have been rather mixed. For example, the experience of British royals marrying American divorcées of a certain age and uncertain past wasn’t an unqualified success. At least, unlike Wallis, Meghan is blessed with good looks, sunny personality and a smile that evokes nicer animals than snakes.

However, hacks singing hosannas to her don’t even realise how worried they make people who, like me, take our monarchy seriously. Thus, for example, the BBC:

“She is a campaigner with a variety of humanitarian interests and won’t want her marriage to limit her ability to speak out and support various causes – particularly those of gender equality.”

I’m afraid she’ll have to – of her own accord or under the express orders of older royals. I doubt they’ll want a member of their family to enlarge publicly on a raft of half-arsed progressivist causes, however strongly said member may feel about them privately.

Most things our royals say in public are pre-censored, which isn’t always a good thing. For example, I’d love to know how Her Majesty feels about being just another citizen of the EU, Liz Windsor.

But I certainly don’t want to know what Meghan thinks about ‘gender equality’ even in her present capacity, never mind as the Duchess of Sussex. And I especially fear that, by expressing herself with a distinctly American lack of inhibitions, she’ll do even more damage to the dynasty than Harry’s sainted mother did.

Richard Kay, who knew Diana well, put it in a nutshell: “Diana would have been thrilled – Meghan’s just the kind of woman she wanted to be,” he wrote in the spirit of jubilation.

Quite. That’s exactly the problem. For Diana was, and always wanted to be, an utterly modern, and therefore brainless, woman, who was both unable and unwilling to make the ultimate sacrifice of self-denial I mentioned earlier.

Rather than conforming to the traditional standards of British royalty, she wanted the royal family to go along with every modern perversion she espoused, solipsism being the principal one. When they wouldn’t, she consciously set out to do as much harm to the monarchy as she possibly could, using every weapon at her disposal, mostly of a sexual nature.

That deprived the dynasty of much of its dignity, dragging it into the mire inhabited by sleazy tabloids and their readers. And dignity is the most prized asset of the royals, now they’ve been regrettably deprived of any executive power.

Fair enough, Lady Diana Spencer wasn’t a commoner. But she was common, which is why she couldn’t understand the key constitutional role she was supposed to play in British polity.

This role precludes fixation on the present and its fads. The monarchy’s job is to provide the axis around which the entire history of the country revolves. It links the past with the present and the future, establishing the nation’s organic continuity.

This is a solemn and vital mission, which becomes much more difficult when royals begin to star in gossip columns. Photographs of Diana with her numerous lovers or of a topless Fergie having her toes sucked by athletic Americans jeopardised that mission no end.

Even Kate, who’s doing her best to learn what it means to be a royal, has added her own pinpricks. Eleanor of Aquitaine might have ridden bare-chested in front of the Crusaders’ hosts, but I for one would rather have been spared the sight of our future queen appearing topless in French tabloids.

According to Dominic Sandbrook, “we ought to remember that monarchy is nothing if not a spectacle.” This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a hare-brained one at that.

Implied there is a circuitous argument: if monarchy is but a show, a professional actress should do the job famously. However, one may harbour doubts precisely because monarchy, for all its pomp and circumstance, isn’t a spectacle. Mr Sandbrook should really take the trouble of pondering our constitution.

Sorry to be a spoilsport, but a massive outburst of public enthusiasm is always suspect, especially when its cause is far from being unambiguous. The term ‘Dianification’ isn’t particularly mellifluous, but it describes the phenomenon quite accurately.

Mobilisation means war

Putin has instructed Russian manufacturers to be ready to mobilise and switch into a war mode at a moment’s notice. For all intents and purposes, this means the country is already at war, for mobilisation has since time immemorial been regarded as tantamount to a hostile act.

It’s not as if the Russian economy has been particularly pacific until now. While in absolute terms Russia’s military spend is below that of the US or China, her relative spend is impressive, considering that her economy is ten times smaller than in either of those countries.

New weapon systems are coming on stream at a rate far exceeding America’s and China’s. These include the new generation of state-of-the-art battle tanks, nuclear weapons, submarine missile launchers, infantry weapons – and electronic attack systems.

The latter have already been deployed in a systematic contamination of the global information field. FCB-run Russian trolls have interfered with elections throughout what’s left of the free world, sowing discord wherever they can, confusing Western decision makers who are sufficiently confused already.

This is accompanied by an unprecedented campaign of fake news, drowning real news in torrents of lying effluvia. The obvious aim is to paralyse the West’s will to resist any subsequent Russian aggression, while also testing systems designed to render military communications and command structures ineffective.

“Why should Russia do this?” asks the British hack Nick Robinson. “One answer is her leaders have long believed that they are under assault from the West.” This ‘explanation’ is nothing new, as I’ve discovered.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke, on an unrelated subject, at a quasi-conservative conference. The speaker after me was a British academic seen in those circles as a Russian expert.

I couldn’t decide whether he was a paid troll or an honestly misguided ‘useful idiot’. One way or the other, that amiable chap faithfully regurgitated and endorsed Putin’s propaganda on every point, including Russia’s amply justified fear of Western aggression.

The presentation received much approbation, rather than the opprobrium it so richly deserved. My objections were drowned in an outburst of febrile indignation. Obviously, telling the truth on this subject is tantamount to blasphemy in those patriotic circles.

It’s true that Putin’s totalitarian propaganda portrays Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine as engaging the United States on a proxy battleground. But then predators always look for excuses.

In 1939 Nazi Germany attacked Poland having first staged a bogus raid, supposedly by the Poles but in fact by SS special troops, on a German radio station. Russia attacked Finland in the same year having first shelled its own border outpost and blamed the attack on the Finns.

Nazi aggression against Poland and, a year earlier, Czechoslovakia was justified as a humanitarian concern for the plight of the oppressed German minorities. The Soviets preceded their rape of Hungary by a massive disinformation campaign aimed at showing that theirs was a last-ditch action to save the country from an American invasion.

Such is the fine tradition within which Putin’s propaganda operates, ably assisted by our own trolls, useful idiots and governments that have neither the brains to perceive Russia’s aggression nor the courage to resist it.

On what basis do the Russians believe they are “under assault from the West”, which belief my co-speaker thinks is legitimate? Does Putin seriously think Nato may launch a preemptive nuclear attack? Is it going to deploy massive tank armies on Russian borders, poised to roll across like a steel juggernaut?

Well, the three biggest European armies, French, German and British, have, respectively, 423, 408 and 407 tanks. By contrast, Russia officially boasts 15,500 tanks in active service – and there are also tens of thousands of older but still perfectly serviceable models mothballed until the right occasion.

Tanks are a quintessentially offensive weapon. So are airborne troops, of whom Russia has about 60,000, roughly four to five divisions. By contrast, the US army has only one fully trained airborne division, the 82nd. (Some others are called airborne but don’t do any jump training.) So who’s showing aggressive intent?

As proof of Russia’s well-justified fears, the chairman of the aforementioned conference explained that the very fact that Nato is obligated to defend all its members, including the Baltics, constitutes a factor of danger.

Agreed. But the danger can only arise in case of Russia’s aggression against the Baltics. Portraying the situation as evidence of Western bellicosity is cloud cuckoo land.

True, the West is beginning to scrape together some will to resist Russia’s malevolent presence in the world. Token contingents of Nato troops, numbering in hundreds, rather than the more appropriate hundreds of thousands, have been deployed near Russia’s borders.

Does their presence give Putin sleepless nights? Does he toss and turn, worrying that his 3,371,027-strong army is too small to resist a couple of Western battalions? If so, step up the training, I’d suggest. And perhaps getting pissed on duty isn’t ideal.

Putin and his junta don’t actually believe they’re under assault. Their clamour to that effect is a cynical attempt to exploit traditional Russian paranoia lovingly cultivated for centuries.

The fantasy of being encircled by enemies seeking her destruction is as essential to Russia as the American Dream is to the US. To feed this self-legitimising myth, Russian propaganda has always castigated every attempt to check Russia’s predation as the actual aggression.

Ever since the early sixteenth century, when Russia announced herself to be the messianic saviour of the world, “third Rome” in the words of the monk Philoteus (“and there will not be a fourth”), the West has resisted being saved by Russia. Observing from afar the circles of hell into which the world saviours were turning their own country, Westerners cringed.

When the perceptive observer Marquis de Custine visited Russia in the 1830s, he gasped: “This country is always on a war footing; it knows no peacetime.” What was true in the reign of Nicholas I has been 100 times as true in the reign of Vladimir II (Lenin) and his successors.

It’s as true in the reign of Vladimir III (Putin). Half the population are undernourished, pensioners are starving, a third of the people dwell under the official poverty line of about £250 a month.

The only realistic food substitute is the froth sputtering off the mouths of Putin’s Goebbelses. And those poor Russians, zombified by centuries of subsisting on that poisonous fare nod their agreement.

I don’t know if Putin will go to war. But I’m absolutely certain that he’ll maintain the present war hysteria gripping Russia in a strangulation hold. Without it, neither he nor his gang will survive.

In any case, the West should marshal its resources and communicate to the Russians in no uncertain terms that their attack on the West will result in the end of not just their regime but their country.

Appeasement, abetted by Russia’s witting and unwitting agents, mostly on Europe’s right, won’t work any better than it did in 1938. Unless we prepare for war, there won’t be peace in our time.

Renaissance, a hint at an end

This article is based on an excerpt from my book How the West Was Lost. I remembered it, having recently seen a few exhibitions (invariably interesting) and read the reviews of them (not so).

The Renaissance is widely believed to be the birth of modern art. But there’s death inherent in birth, and the Renaissance proves this. For it partly reflected and partly set in train a fatal shift from God to man as the centre of the universe, thereby placing a delayed-action bomb under the foundations of our culture.

Now that the bomb has gone off, we could do worse than ponder the Renaissance from that perspective – and I use this word advisedly, both in its general and specifically artistic meaning. For during the Renaissance perspective became a painter’s tool of the trade.

Perspective placed the artist at the vantage point of individual vision and created an illusion of endlessness. Yet perspective isn’t reality but make-believe. It’s not so much the ultimate, scientific arrangement of space as a statement of belief in the exclusive truth of a scientific arrangement. In other words, perspective fakes reality to make it agree with a set of scientific principles that were taking on an ever-greater importance.

Extended use of perspective reflected an increasing shift from theocentrism to anthropocentrism. At some point man began to overstep the line beyond which lay the solipsistic belief that he himself was at the centre of the visual – and therefore philosophical – universe.

Believing that the ‘invention’ of perspective represented progress as compared to mediaeval art is naïve. More accurate would be an understanding that acceptance of perspective reflected man’s growing anthropocentric arrogance.

For, by the time the Renaissance arrived, perspective was old hat. Dürer acknowledged as much by stating in the introduction to his book that a reader familiar with Euclidean geometry needed to read no further.

Quite apart from Euclid, we mustn’t think that Hellenic and mediaeval artists could have failed to notice that lines of vision converged as they travelled away from the eye. They were perfectly aware of this, and acted on that knowledge extensively – but not in high art.

Perspective was known in ancient Greece, but there it was used in applied arts only. For example, the stage sets for Aeschylus’s plays in the fifth century B.C. were executed in perspective. The Greeks accepted this: theatre to them was frivolous. The truth lay elsewhere, so why not use the self-evident falsehood of perspective in the backdrop?

Mediaeval painters also knew perspective, and yet chose not to use it. They saw perspective as a fake that was unworthy of their higher purpose. Instead, mediaeval, particularly Byzantine, paintings relied extensively on reverse perspective, with parallel lines drifting further apart as they moved away – or else converging as they moved towards the artist.

Thus, the further from the artist’s eye a figure was, the larger it got, especially if it was a divine personage. This corresponded to the perception of the figure of God as the most remote and yet by far the largest of all – large beyond any human understanding.

Mediaeval artists didn’t regard themselves as God-surrogates. Their paintings were an exercise in prostrate humility, not arrogant self-assertion. When that began to change, the use of perspective grew.

Characteristically, it was mostly mediocre painters who were the first to rely on perspective dogmatically. The great ones, while acknowledging the existence of perspective, often complemented this plane of vision with others, where the rules of conventional single-point perspective no longer applied.

Even if we look at the evolution of just one artist, some interesting observations can be made. For example, Giotto, widely seen as the first ‘modern’ painter, started life as an agnostic wag, a Whistler of the late Middle Age.

During that period, Giotto used perspective extensively, though not with the same unswerving devotion that characterised most Renaissance painters. As he grew older, however, Giotto became a deeper, more spiritual man. Amusing his friend Dante by bawdy epigrams was no longer enough; more and more he searched for the meaning of life.

In the process, Giotto’s use of perspective began to decline; his vision was no longer that of a self-satisfied man. He was now attempting to understand how God might view man, rather than the other way around.

The Renaissance, and the period immediately after it, was the swan song of painting, and it was so because of the growing secularisation of art – hinted at by the universal use of perspective. As often happens with swan songs, the sound was so much more beautiful for being a dirge.

However, the greatest artists of the Renaissance and post-Renaissance periods, such as Leonardo and Rembrandt, continued to defy the soulless, scientific constraints of perspective. Their vision would not be squeezed into a proto-modern straightjacket.

Perhaps as a reaction to the Renaissance, the Spanish masters, particularly El Greco and Zurbaran, treated the device of perspective as they treated a colour in their palettes: one of many.

Walking through the Prado, one is transfixed by a Zurbaran painting depicting the artist himself as a minor saint struck by a vision of St Peter nailed to the cross upside down. In spite of being in the background, Peter is noticeably larger than the saint in the foreground.

To emphasise the hagiographic pecking order, the artist shows the minor saint in three-quarters from the back. And yet both his praying figure and the barely shown face convey the impression of passionate spirituality. At the same time, the crucified St Peter dominates the canvas not just by being its centrepiece but also by ‘violating’ every known law of perspective.

Rational arguments in favour of the scientific and therefore more ‘realistic’ nature of perspective as compared to the vision of the mediaeval masters are as misplaced as arguments in favour of atheism.

“Obviously,” sneers a modern chap convinced of his scientific rectitude, “when, say, Duccio, shows three walls of a palace at the same time, he demonstrates his ignorance of the laws of perspective. It’s impossible to see three walls at once.”

The answer may be that yes, it’s impossible. But likewise it’s impossible to see two walls at once, or even one. What’s possible to see at once is a tiny fragment of one facet, and arguably even that fragment is not seen ‘at once’.

What Duccio is thus showing isn’t a naturalistic depiction of a building, but the image of it that the artist sees in his mind’s eye. The painter seems to say that God would see the building this way, and it would be blasphemous for a mere mortal to argue.

Since Duccio is a greater artist than, say, Canaletto, his vision of a Siennese palazzo presenting three facets at once is ultimately more real than Canaletto’s picture-book depictions of Venetian palaces. Traditional Western vision was spiritual, not just optic.

Verticality in music is a rough parallel of perspective in painting. One dominant voice, presumably the composer’s, relegating all others into the background again may be a misrepresentation of the workings of the higher inner voice. The assumption is that, just as it’s self-evidently impossible for the human eye to see both covers of a closed book at the same time, so it’s impossible for the human ear to hear several voices at once.

The counter-argument could run along the same lines as above: of course it’s impossible. What is possible, however, is for an artist to weave multiple voices into the fabric of a seemingly horizontal aural canvas of spiritual infinity.

And as with painting, one can learn a lot by contemplating great artists who find themselves at the watershed of two different visions of the world, one inspired by faith from the start, the other initially driven by humanism.

What Giotto was in painting, Bach was in music. But although both were straddling the line of demarcation between the old and the new, Giotto looked mostly ahead, while Bach looked mostly backwards.

At the beginning of his career, Giotto was thus the first modern, which is to say humanist, artist. On the other hand, Bach was the last of the great composers who subjugated their personality to God’s and their art to God’s glory.

Giotto was the beginning; Bach, the end. And just as a tree bears fruit after its seasonal peak, so did our culture deliver ultimate greatness towards the end of its life.

Painting reached its peak in the seventeenth century, when the art of Spanish, Flemish and Dutch Baroque had taken over from the Italian Renaissance, having first learned from it. The painting of that period was largely a response to the pseudo-religiosity of the Renaissance.

For most of the Renaissance painters, religious subjects were merely an excuse to paint bodies, faces or landscapes. However, not any young woman breast-feeding a baby is the Virgin, and not any three men or two men and a bird are the Trinity.

The more human did divine figures appear to be, the nearer was God moving to man. Towards the end of the Renaissance, the distance had got so short as to be imperceptible, a relationship familiar to students of Hellenic antiquity but abhorrent to men of faith who were still not extinct.

Political point is the only point, Dr Fox

Our peerless leaders either don’t understand what the EU is all about or pretend they don’t. They cut a sorry spectacle either way.

In that vein, Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, claims he doesn’t understand why the EU “would actually want to diminish the prosperity of [its] own people to make a political point.”

That’s like not understanding why a wild beast devours a weaker creature, rather than conforming to the tenets of Judaeo-Christian morality.

Surely by now Dr Fox ought to have realised that the EU isn’t just out “to make a political point.” It is a political point and nothing else. It would put the whole population of Europe on the breadline if that would enable it to achieve its political goal: a pan-European state bossed by corrupt, unaccountable bureaucrats.

All the talk about economic benefits, cultural commonality and social cohesion is nothing but an elaborate charade designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the innocents. This is how it has been from the very beginning, ever since Jean Monnet explained the ruse in so many words almost 70 years ago.

The issue should be stripped down to its essence, with everything extraneous, including the economic ramifications, peeled away.

If we share the EU’s political goal and hence wish to divest our parliament of legislative power, reversing 2,000 years of our political history, then we should remain in the EU. If we feel our constitutional tradition of sovereignty is worth keeping, then we should leave.

In either case, we – and I include Dr Fox in this collective pronoun – should shut up about things that are extraneous to the issue. In any case, we don’t know exactly what the economic consequences of Brexit will be. We do know for sure that, without Brexit, Britain will no longer be a sovereign commonwealth.

Dr Fox goes on to say: “When the Commission would say, ‘We have to do this [punish Britain] to make sure no other country would dare to leave,’ it sounds a lot more like the language of a gang than of a club.”

Whoever said the EU was a club anyway? It’s indeed typologically close to a gang in that it lacks intrinsic, organic legitimacy and therefore has to rely on coercion, blackmail and bribery to keep itself together.

That’s why I keep insisting that there can be no halfway, ‘soft’ Brexit. Since the EU is solely dedicated to a specific political goal, our response can only be a binary yes/no, not a wishy-washy ‘yes… but’.

Though not in favour of strident language, I can’t blame those who refer to the EU as our enemy: after all, that’s how we’ve traditionally described foreign entities threatening our sovereignty.

This particular entity is trying to impose itself not with large bombs but with large ransom demands. The clear intent is to keep adding zeros to the number until the British get cold feet.

As with any giant state, national or otherwise, extortion of money has not only a fiscal purpose but also a punitive one. It’s the state’s way of exercising control by limiting its subjects’ independence.

The EU does precisely that, but stylistically it does approach gangland persuasion techniques, along the lines of ‘we know where your children go to school’. Yet again, the only logical response is not only to deny any payment, but also to refuse even to discuss the issue in such terms.

That’s what Dr Fox would be saying if he understood the issue properly, or stopped pretending that he doesn’t. At least Michael Bloomberg, who talks gibberish on this subject with the best of them, has an excuse.

He’s handicapped by two factors: first, he’s an American financier; second, he’s an American politician.

In both capacities he finds it hard to look at life through any instrument other than a calculator display. Interestingly, that’s where he converges with Trump, for whom Bloomberg pledges undying hatred.

Hence he describes Brexit as “the single stupidest thing any country has ever done”. Why? Because 45 per cent of our exports go to the EU.

That again shifts the argument away from its essence and into marginal incidentals. If Bloomberg realised that the issue is political and legal, not economic, he’d know that the requisite expertise is to be found among political philosophers, not Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

But if Bloomberg could realise this, he wouldn’t be Bloomberg. Actually, he’s wrong even on his own puny terms. The 45 per cent figure includes British freight passing through continental ports en route elsewhere, mostly Asia. And then neither he nor anyone else knows by how much Brexit will reduce this figure, if at all.

It pains me to resort to generalisations, but Americans do tend to attach a greater significance to matters economical than do people in ancient, organic commonwealths.

This isn’t a matter of choice but rather of emphasis. Both a European conservative and an American one will regard secure property as essential to liberty, but the American may feel that almost to the exclusion of everything else.

That’s understandable, considering that ‘pursuit of happiness’, which is to say money, is the principal component of the American Dream, which is to say of the legitimising factor of American statehood.

If Mr Bloomberg expanded his understanding of European affairs beyond being able to manipulate European stock markets, he’d realise this – or else keep shtum on the issue.

He’d also wonder why the United States has historically supported a single European state ever since the glorious days of the League of Nations. After all, an explicit purpose of the EU is to rival American economic power around the world.

This isn’t a case of Americans cutting off their economic nose to spite their face. Rather it’s an expression of a powerful impulse towards the ‘manifest destiny ‘of acquiring global domination.

That’s why the idea of a single world government (towards which a single European state is an intermediate step) has always appealed to the American political mind. It’s touted especially loudly by US neoconservatives, an objectionable movement to which Bloomberg belongs, if only tangentially.

And the stupidest thing? Really? No, Mr Bloomberg, Britain has done at least one other thing that beats Brexit hands down in the stupidity stakes. She resisted, at a great cost to herself, Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe in 1939.

It would have been fiscally wiser to sue for terms, relinquish some sovereignty for the sake of peace, preserve the architecture of our cities, save the lives of our citizens and clip the coupons on the side lines.

But British leaders at the time knew that preserving our sovereignty was worth any sacrifices. Mr Bloomberg doesn’t realise this. Does Dr Fox?

Politics kills economics stone-dead

Is this the best we can do?

Phillip Hammond’s budget is widely hailed as a life-saver for himself and his boss. Yet a government producing such economic travesty doesn’t deserve to have its life saved.

The only reason to rejoice in its continuing survival is the ABC of today’s politics: Anyone But Corbyn. The British economy may just limp on under the present lot; Corbyn’s arrival would produce a collapse within days, possibly hours.

This is an economic version of apophatic theology: proceeding from the negative. Proceeding from the positive is in this case impossible: the budget offers no positives.

It highlights a deep flaw of our democracy-run-riot: it politicises everything, including the economy. Lacking a parliamentary majority, HMG has to kowtow to the public, which is even more ignorant and corrupt in such matters than the government itself is.

The people are treated like so many customers in a bad restaurant: they’re invited to order whatever pleases them from a menu mostly consisting of unpalatable dishes.

Now economic activity has a long standing in history, second only to religion’s. Experience of running economies big and small for thousands of years surely must have built a solid capital of knowledge.

We know what economic principles have been empirically vindicated or debunked. We know what kind of policies produce prosperity or disaster. We even know how economics affects human behaviour, pushing it from moral and prudent to corrupt and infantile.

Yet in today’s democracies all this knowledge is wiped out by short-sighted political needs – not only of an election a few years away, but even of tomorrow’s polls. Decisions that ought to be based on wisdom, common sense, experience and sound principles are made solely to play lickspittle to a dumbed-down herd.

The aforementioned ABC principle brought to the fore the urge to preempt Labour. To this lot ‘preempt’ is fully synonymous with ‘emulate’. The Tories are trying to stop Labour by becoming Labour.

One flagship policy they’ve put forth is abandoning stamp duties for first-time buyers on properties costing under £300,000. This gimmick can fool only economic ignoramuses.

For one thing, I find it hard to believe that those who can cough up £300,000 for a chicken coop (all that amount buys these days in areas where most jobs are) will be deterred by an extra £5,000 in stamp duty.

Moreover, I think the law of supply-demand is still in force. Hence if the gimmick does miraculously stimulate demand, property prices are bound to go up, making that first rung on the property ladder ever more elusive.

The budget has been hailed as an end to austerity. Now for something to end it has to have begun in the first place. Our much vaunted (or derided) austerity has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with semantic chicanery.

Austerity means spending less, or at least not more, than one earns. If one’s excess spending used to be 50 per cent and now is a mere 15 per cent, it’s not more austerity but less profligacy.

Under our so-called austerity, the national debt steadily rose to almost two trillion. The annual cost of servicing it is greater than our military and law-enforcement budgets combined.

This, may I add, in conditions of historically low interest rates. If they go up, which they’re bound to, the servicing cost may well double or triple. Perhaps we’ll have to eliminate military and law-enforcement expenditure altogether (things are certainly moving in that direction).

The deficit is set to grow by an extra £20.5 billion, and experience suggests that such forecasts may be safely doubled. Touchingly, Hammond has ring-fenced something like £4 billion to pay for hard Brexit, should it catastrophically come to that.

Leaving aside the obvious observation that hard Brexit is the only Brexit, one still wonders where to look in this budget for the somewhat higher cost of ‘soft’ Brexit that currently stands, but won’t remain, at £40 billion.

That rubric simply doesn’t appear. Appearing instead is a huge bung for the NHS, which highlights the problem of an utterly politicised economy.

The NHS is a disaster. This is so not because it’s badly managed, though God knows it is, but because a totally nationalised medicine is based on a corrupt egalitarian philosophy married to rampant statism. That’s why no other European country, and some of them are even more socialist than Britain, has followed the same model, relying instead on a public-private mix.

The NHS is already by far the biggest employer not just in Britain but in Europe. If we continue to finance it lavishly, in due course it’ll become the only employer: we’ll all dedicate our lives, tightly controlled by central government, to keeping one another healthy.

Or not, as the case may be: nationalised medicine isn’t only suicidally expensive but also homicidally inefficient. Our cancer survival rates, for example, are the lowest in Western Europe.

Yet no politician can as much as hint at something like this. If he did, his political longevity would equal the time it takes for the PM to demand his resignation and for him to tender it. The NHS is a sacred cow that can be milked for political gain but can’t be slaughtered (or even slighted).

Then there’s more money for house-building, and we used to think such things are best left to the market. It’s not the government’s job to build houses. Its job is to create an economic climate in which it would be profitable to build houses and affordable to buy them.

The spending spree of Hammond’s inept budget will achieve exactly the opposite. At least he honestly lowered growth forecasts and confidently promised that personal income will in effect freeze for a generation or two.

Not to worry, Phil. Personal indebtedness will take up the slack. We’re fast approaching the glittering standard of the US where over the last 20 years people have spent three times more than they’ve earned.

Cheap mortgages and car loans are on offer, along with credit cards on which British families already owe something like £20,000 on average. A little more push in that direction, and 2008 will look like a minor blip.

This is a budget of crisis: political, economic, moral and intellectual. Yet again a Tory government has chosen to Labour under a misapprehension.

There’s hope for Russia yet

Uncle Vova likes what he sees

Yesterday I wrote about a video, showing a choir of brainwashed children led by the Russian MP Anna Kuvychko in a performance of the song Uncle Vova, We’re With You.

The stridently militarist song features, among other outrages, a promise to follow Putin on a re-conquest of Alaska and the Baltics.

Predictably, my Anglophone readers, brought up in vestigial civilisation and untouched by Putin’s fascistic propaganda, reacted with revulsion. But how did the Russians react?

Back to YouTube I went, expecting listeners’ comments to confirm my worst suspicions about the devastating effects of totalitarian propaganda. To my pleasant surprise, however, there wasn’t a single even mildly approving comment.

Either the 84 per cent who supposedly support Putin don’t watch such videos or they don’t comment on them. Or, as is distinctly possible, the figure is bogus.

The Russophones among you are welcome to read the comments for themselves. For the rest, here’s my translation off the top, with no deletions or editing, and only a few parenthetical comments when a clarification may be necessary. I apologise for the language, which is at times robust. But then so are the emotions.

“Very deep. Parliamentary language is capable of inhuman efforts to penetrate the most profound depths…”

“Uncle Vova won’t bat an eye when the time comes. Like with the storming of that Beslan school.” [A reference to 1 September 2004, when a group of Chechen militants took a school hostage. On Putin’s orders, special troops stormed the school using flamethrowers and killing 385 hostages, most of them children.]

“Even during the late USSR there was nothing like that…”

“What a diabolical f***-up, Lord…”

“For Putin, for Sechin, for Rotenberg! Not a step backwards!” [Igor Sechin is chairman of Rosneft and de facto deputy to Putin. Rotenberg brothers are Putin’s billionaire cronies.]

“Loony bin.”

“These loudmouths are rearing dummies for wars…”

“A cunning, disgusting creature who looks like the lowest prostitute is infecting with her patriotic syphilis the brains of young generations for centuries ahead…”

“A f***ed-up country! No Hitler could even dream of this. Heil Vova! SHAME!”

“The most hellish hell! Slavic North Korea!”

“We used to have a cult of personality. Now we have a cult of scum.”

“More hell!!!”

“A prison of a nation is glorifying the head screw… The population is being set up for porridge and glorification of a wonderful prison regime and its warden. Go f*** yourselves.”

“Young cannon fodder is ready to croak for the palaces and ambitions of a f***ed-up 65-year-old dwarf.”

“F***ing shame!”

“I thought nothing would surprise me…, but this… This isn’t even madness, this is a crime committed by the authors of this song and the idiot deputy who wants to kiss a certain part of ‘Uncle Vova’s’ anatomy… What are they doing to the children???”

“F***ing North Korea!”

“You go and die, while Uncle Vova will look on from his bunker.”

“Degenerate Putinjugend”

“This is North Korea, Mark 2!”

“Impale the militarist imperialist aggressors!!! Funny how the slaves deify their masters.”

“Takes an effort to f*** children’s minds so… But what one wouldn’t do for full Deputy benefits”

“Children of camp guards have reared a new generation ready to perish in penury defending the tsar and his gang…”

“A question to these children’s parents: ‘How will you look them in the eye when they grow up?’”

“This Kuvychko creature, is she herself going to fight too?”

“All of this is disgusting… not to say TERRIFYING!”

“Anna Kuvychko is a slag and scum, Russia’s shame!”

“The rarest of s***s”

“Well, go on singing as you croak for Putler, Sechin and Rotenbergs!”

“Let’s die for Vova! Let’s die for offshore funds! Let’s all rot for ‘spirituality’, for Sechin, for Miller!” [Alexey Miller is chairman of Gazprom]

“Fresh cannon fodder for a ghoul’s fun”

“The work of madmen”

“The idiocy of the bald retard and his s***-faced horde is off the scale!!! It’s 100 years now that they’ve been “fighting and winning” for “the bright future”, while sinking deeper and deeper into vice and poverty. A herd of complete nonentities!”

“Didn’t see such drivel even under the commies.”

“Thank you. I’ve puked.”

“Stockholm syndrome!”

“Ha-ha, and we dare laugh at North Korean TV. But the f***-up is right here, under our noses, personified by a deputy off her rocker and children dumbed-down by propaganda. Off to the loony bin with this cretin, together with Uncle Vova. Send the children home, take their uniforms away, and give them textbooks.”


“Real believers should be in no doubt: this is Satanism.”

“This song would go down even better against the backdrop of yachts, palaces and Rotenbergs”

“Get the f*** away from the children, you political paedos!!! This is beyond crazy!”

“Takes rotten scum to indulge in such propaganda. In normal countries, children reach out for science, knowledge, discoveries – and here it’s all about laying down their lives for Uncle Vova.”

“It’s very rotten to draw children, who understand nothing, into this political prostitution”

“I was ashamed watching this…”

“Putinjugend in full bloom…”

“And Mrs Kuvychko’s own children, are they singing there too? Or do they go to school in London and America and have no time to die for Putin?”

“Putlerjugend in all its beauty!!!”

“An attempt to rear today’s Putinjugend”

“Uncle Vova, c***sucker”

And so forth, ad infinitum. To be fair, many other patriotic videos attract very different comments from Russians. But I was struck by the unanimity of these. Perhaps there’s hope for the Russians yet (there’s none for our own useful idiots).

Music for useful idiots’ ears

This statue features prominently throughout the song

These days I use this Leninist term to describe British fans of Putin’s kleptofascist junta. Broadly they fall into two distinct, although often overlapping, categories.

First, there are congenital idiots, the kind of people who’ll support anything or anyone for the flimsiest of reasons. Second, there are those who do possess mental faculties, but have them overridden by fanaticism and ignorance.

The ignoramuses simply don’t know the facts of Putin’s regime; the fanatics know them, but don’t let factual truth interfere with their innermost convictions. Those in the first group and both sub-groups of the second are beyond salvation.

Trying to make any of those congenital or self-made idiots change their mind is a losing proposition, and God knows I’ve tried. But those who are neither stupid nor fanatical will learn everything they need to know from this one video that has gone viral in Russia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCpEaZRYluc&app=desktop

Duma Deputy (MP) Anna Kuvychko leads a choir of children, some as young as five or six, all clad in military uniforms, in a rousing rendition of a frankly fascist song ‘Uncle Vova, We’re With You’.

‘Vova’ is a popular Russian diminutive for Vladimir, and the intercut sequences of Putin at his most martial leave no doubt as to which Uncle Vova the tots are with.

In one frame, Putin shares with us his youthful experience as what he proudly describes as a ‘common Petersburg thug’: “If a fight is unavoidable, strike first.” These are words the children are taught to live by: strike first if a fight is unavoidable, or even if it isn’t.

The refrain of their song is suitably patriotic: “If only there were peace on the land from the northern seas to the southern borders; from Kuril Islands to the Baltic shores. But if the supreme commander calls us into the last battle, Uncle Vova, we’re with you.”

A reference to the last battle evokes all sorts of lovely things, especially since, as a polyglot friend has kindly informed me, the SS were known as Endzeitkämpfer, ‘soldiers of the last days’. Not an intended parallel, I’m sure; just a case of great minds thinking alike.

Any battle, last, first or intermediate, must have a clearly defined enemy, and the children do the honours with both directness and subtlety. “We,” goes the song, “have had it up to here with ‘the hegemone’”. Since that term is used in the Russian press interchangeably with the United States, the reference couldn’t be clearer.

The geographical parameters of the desired area of peace are also quite interesting. The poor children go on to specify that they’ll fight to preserve for future generations Sebastopol and the Crimea, thus endorsing Putin’s aggression.

They also reaffirm their commitment to keeping their atoll out of samurai hands – that’s a reference to Kuril Islands to which Japan has a valid claim. I’m not sure to what extent the term ‘samurai’ applies to today’s power structure in Japan, but the tots don’t care. If the last battle involves the samurai, the little ones are ready.

Then things get really worrying. The children’s patriotism, so commendable to our useful idiots, extends to recovering for Russia “the capital of amber”.

Amber in the Soviet Union came from the Baltic republics, which today are Nato members. Returning those amber-rich areas to the fold may spell a serious conflict, but the babes are with Uncle Vova no matter what.

Some doubt that Nato would be prepared to go to war over Putin’s land-grab in the Baltics. However, there’s no doubt America will fight if the tots follow Uncle Vova on a conquest of one of the 50 states. The children are undeterred though: we’ll get Alaska back, they sing with youthful gusto.

To establish historical continuity, the choir then explains that “our army and our navy are our loyal friends”. This is a paraphrase of Alexander III’s statement that “Russia has only two allies: her army and her navy”. And fair enough, these are still Russia’s only allies, apart from Venezuela, Iran, Assad’s Syria and our own useful idiots.

The reference to Alexander III isn’t accidental. He’s touted as the last strong Russian tsar and therefore a more appropriate role model for Putin than that wimp Nicholas II. Stalin is even better, and he’s being put on many a pedestal (and even a few icons) in Russia, but Alexander (who, incidentally, died of alcoholism at age 49) communicates the same message without creating premature excitement.

To emphasise that, the other day Uncle Vova unveiled a giant statue of Alexander III in Yalta. The plinth ignorantly credits the strong tsar with the achievements of Mendeleyev and Dostoyevsky, both of whom, alas, worked during the previous reign. But hey, never mind the facts, feel the sentiment.

Now imagine if you can a similar performance in England. A Tory MP, say Andrea Leadsom, leads a choir of children wearing monkey suits in a rendition of the song ‘Auntie Theresa, We’re With You’. The song reiterates the children’s desire to return to Britain the land of silk and spices, the capital of diamonds and the American states on the Atlantic Seaboard.

The footage is livened up by sequences of Theresa May climbing into a tank, riding a steed bare-chested, advising earnestly to strike first if a fight is unavoidable, and claiming that the army and the Royal Navy are our sole allies.

I’m being facetious here, but serious at the same time. This is to emphasise that Russia isn’t just a different country, but a different planet, nay universe. In that universe, the sentiments communicated by the poor brainwashed children dominate the press and airwaves.

Bugles blow and drums rattle all over Russia – to the extent they didn’t even during post-Stalin communism. Russians who, like me, remember those times will testify that the most strident songs sung at the time (and there were a lot of those) didn’t approach the febrile fascistic fervour of this nice children’s song.

These are worrying times, but our useful idiots aren’t worried. That’s what patriotism is all about, isn’t it? And patriotism is the highest virtue there is. God made a mistake leaving it off those stone tablets.

P.S. This is a cleaner version of the same video, but without the Putin sequences: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=uncle+vova+my+s+toboi

Hope next time she’ll use a sabre

Outside my front door in central London: vermin on the prowl

Making the rounds is a video of balaclava-clad thugs attacking a hunt in Sussex. The saboteurs grabbed the horses’ reins, trying to dismount the riders.

This was a serious matter because on many occasions saboteurs have beaten hunters up and injured them badly. For example, Mike Lane, joint master of the Tedworth Hunt, ended up in hospital with concussion and broken teeth.

One of the Sussex hunters, a courageous woman, lashed out with her riding crop, striking an attacker and, unfortunately, causing only superficial damage. She was shouting: “Get off my horse!” and “This is private land!”

I do wish hunters were allowed to defend themselves with something heavier than crops. They need real weapons in defence of our civilisation.

Commenting on the incident, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “The reality is that the anti-hunting movement is far more about the hatred of people who hunt than the love of animals.”

The statement is correct, but it doesn’t go far enough. The spokesman was alluding to class hatred, which is the most obvious motive driving the thugs, who share their sartorial tastes with bank robbers.

Disgusting though this is, the issue is really deeper than that. The thugs don’t just hate ‘toffs’ – they loathe, and seek to destroy, our whole civilisation.

This they wouldn’t admit, of course, although they aren’t always bashful about expressing their feelings for the ‘toffs’. Instead they’ll claim burning compassion for those poor furry animals torn apart by beagles.

“How would you like that to happen to you?” one of those cretins once asked me. I wouldn’t. Which is why I don’t steal chickens and devour them raw.

Hunting was banned, with some qualifications, by Blair’s government in 2004, which wasn’t the most subversive thing that awful gang did, but right up there. John Prescott, Blair’s loutish deputy, openly professed hatred for “the red coats”, correctly perceiving them as his superiors in every sense.

The face value of the anti-hunting argument doesn’t hold water at any level. Many people who hunt aren’t toffs at all, just people who like country sports. And thousands of those who served the hunts and lost their livelihoods as a result of the ban came from the same class as Prescott.

Since the ban, the fox population has exploded, with catastrophic effects for poultry farmers. And the vulpine population has spilled into cities as well, with the vermin rummaging in rubbish skips even in central London.

But in such matters, it’s not the text but the subtext that matters. And the subtext is the rejection of the founding presupposition of our civilisation: the uniqueness of and supremacy of man over all other living creatures.

Before Christ, Plato defined man as a two-legged animal without feathers; after Christ, Darwin explained that man was but a cleverer ape. Like two jaws of a vice, the two extremes have squeezed the life out of history’s greatest civilisation caught in between.

That civilisation rose to celestial heights because it proceeded from the assumption that man was created by God in His image, endowed with an eternal soul and destined for salvation and immortality. Any similarities with other animals were thereby reduced to the level of petty atavisms of academic interest only.

It was also understood that not everybody has the mental faculties to answer what Dostoevsky called “the accursed questions” for himself. People were encouraged to accept the authority of their intellectual and moral superiors and not bother themselves with matters beyond their understanding.

One of those matters was the relationship between man and other living creatures. In the unlikely event any parishioner had questioned the morality of eating meat or hunting, the priest would have referred him to two verses in Genesis.

In one, man was told he would “…have dominion over the fish in the sea, and over the fowl on the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” In the other, it logically followed that “every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”

But priests no longer have intellectual and moral authority – no one does. Modern people have been misled to believe they can be self-sufficient, that their puny, underdeveloped resources are adequate to answer every question for themselves.

When that calamity became final, in the nineteenth century, man came down from his uniquely high perch and descended to the level of all fauna. The newfangled concept of equality of all extended to equality between man and beast.

For the first time in Western history nature became sentimentalised and glorified. This wasn’t even old-fashioned pantheism – it was non-theism, the first time ever that phenomenon appeared en masse.

This was strictly the domain of urban lumpen-intelligentsia: peasants never felt sentimental about nature – and certainly not about vermin like foxes.

Nature kept peasants alive, but it could also kill them: with hurricanes, freezes, droughts, floods. Their crops could be devastated by blights, their livestock and poultry by wild animals. Nature was sometimes a friend and sometimes an enemy, but the difference was clear-cut, leaving no room for sentimentality.

The clash between actual and virtual reality in the treatment of nature was but one battle in the massive onslaught on our civilisation, but it can be properly understood only in that context.

The war is still being waged by direct action, such as attacks on furriers, women in mink coats and hunters, or by passive affirmation, such as encouragement of vegetarianism among the young. They don’t wonder why there are no veggies among farmers and peasants – instead they claim a high moral ground for their hysterical sentimentality.

Hunt saboteurs are today’s shock troops of the enemy; hunters, one of the few remaining lines of defence. I wish I could join them, but regretfully I can’t ride to hounds. But if my passive support is useful, they have it.