Thank your local robber

And not just him. Thanks are also due to the burglars, muggers and fraudsters operating in your area.

Michael Gove, John McDonnell’s dizygotic twin

After all, they greatly augment your income – by not depriving you of it. Isn’t a penny saved a penny earned? Well then, think of all those countless pennies you’ve saved and therefore earned due to those gentlemen’s magnanimous decision not to steal from you, for the time being.

Do you agree with this logic? No? Good. But then you must also dismiss similarly justified claims made by the state, especially its outer left reaches. Actually, this qualification is unnecessary: our whole state now resides in its outer left reaches, with but a tiny space separating parties and factions.

The on-going brouhaha about Brexit conceals this fact by serving up binary possibilities, in or out. That’s what it ultimately boils down to, with all the talk about various deals either just background noise or else subterfuge designed to skew the debate one way or the other.

Since Brexit is so polarising, one may get the impression that the two poles reflect the traditional right-left divide. They don’t. All our three major parties proceed from roughly similar presuppositions, with any differences being those of degree, not principle.

Hence the Marxist John McDonnell complains about fee-paying schools costing the Exchequer huge sums. In a sane world, which ours no longer is, this assertion would fly in the face of simple arithmetic.

For our independent schools are financed not by the Exchequer, but by the fees they charge and also by private endowments and investments.

That’s why they save the taxpayers an annual £3.5 billion that would otherwise have to be spent on state schools. Also, in spite of their charitable status and other tax breaks, independent schools contribute £4.1 billion in tax revenues – which number is further augmented by the 300,000 jobs they create.

Not even John McDonnell can be so bad at sums as to be unable to add up large numbers. If he is, I’d be happy to buy him an abacus or, to be upbeat and modern, a calculator.

Alas, neither device would do any good. For not only McDonnell but just about all our politicians, be they Tory, LibDem, New Labour, Old Labour or Trotskyist Labour operate according to the logic I outlined above.

Some 10 years ago, Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, unwittingly explained the logic in a few simple words. Extolling his next year’s budget, he uttered the words that should adorn the façade of every government building.

“The government,” said Brown, “will let you keep more of your money”. Now, a government can let someone keep only something that belongs to the government by right. In other words, your money isn’t yours. It belongs to the government that can decide how much to take out and how much to let you keep.

Just like those burglars, robbers and muggers, they claim to make you richer by not making you poorer. Unlike those gentlemen, the state operates within the law, but the logic is exactly the same.

Applying it to independent schools, you begin to understand what McDonnell means.

Yes, those schools contribute billions to the Exchequer. But they could contribute even more if the state ended their charitable status and  exemption from business rates. And slapping a 20 per cent VAT on school fees (a policy already adopted by Labour) would work wonders too.

In other words, independent schools are costing the taxpayers in exactly the same sense as you are impoverishing thieves by selfishly holding on to your wallet, computer and jewellery.

Lest you might think this logic finds its champions only among the hard left, allow me to reassure you on that score. Here’s what the true blue Tory, former Education Secretary Michael Gove, wrote in 2017.

Poor Sarah Vine’s hubby-wubby argued that tax breaks for independent schools “provided egregious state support to the already wealthy so that they might buy advantage for their own children”. Egregious, dear me, the chap doesn’t pull his adjectives.

If anyone can discern a difference between Gove’s underlying philosophy and McDonnell’s – and not just in matters educational – I’d like to hear about it. They are soul brothers, which kinship starts with their definition of wealth.

The impression they like to convey is that only billionaires send their children to public schools, and those vipers must be soaked to the bone – that much goes without saying for the Tory and Trotskyist alike.

However, I know many people on middle-class incomes (some in my own family) who struggle to scrape pennies together to keep their children out of the dumbing-down laboratories of social engineering that go by the name of comprehensive schools.

And yes, they thereby “buy advantage for their own children”, although McDonnell’s grammar acquired at a fee-paying school, suggests that the advantage may remain elusive. That’s what parents do for their children; such is their duty.

Good parents go beyond school fees in that undertaking, and they still do their best for their children even if they can’t afford the exorbitant fees.

For example, they fill their houses with books, rather than crushed beer cans. They take their children to museums and galleries, rather than pop excretions. They tell them stories that encourage children to read, rather than play computer games. They teach their children discipline and work ethic, rather than how to get by without them.

Does Gove regard all those endeavours as egregious? Probably. They compromise equality at the starting blocks and also at the finish tape, and nothing is more egregious than that for our rulers. They think they can correct God’s oversight in making us all different.

As to the word ‘support’ used by Gove, it’s indeed egregious. The implication is that the state subsidises public schools. But the support Gove means is negative – it’s provided by not extorting, not by subsidising (see the opening paragraphs above).

If this lot are so upset with public schools, I can offer a free piece of advice on how to get rid of them – and to do so without resorting to criminal fiat or equally criminal extortion.

Go back to the system of grammar schools and secondary moderns, which used to make British education the envy of the world, rather than the laughingstock it is today.

Provide a good free alternative to make sure intelligent and capable children don’t have to impoverish their parents with astronomic school fees. Then also make sure that those less academically able would still learn how to fend for themselves in a modern economy without going on welfare.

That way you won’t have to bother about banning public schools or taxing them out of existence. Most of them, with the possible exception of such venerable institutions as Eton, Rugby or Harrow, will fade away of their own accord – who in his right mind will pay £30,000 a year in school fees if he could get the same education for free?

This advice will fall on deaf ears. For these chaps aren’t about getting good education for all. They aren’t even about equality, except as a slogan that plays well with a dumbed-down public. They are after naked power, which means increasing state control over every aspect of life – emphatically including education.

You know we are all in trouble when the state comfortably fits into the same sentence with robbers, muggers and burglars. Actually, those chaps are better: they do what they do just for the money.

Ignore evil men at your peril

One good thing about evil politicians is that they talk openly about their plans. One bad thing about decent people is that they don’t listen.

Old McDonnell had a dream, otherwise known as a nightmare

Lenin, for example, never concealed his intention to turn his party into a secret cabal, grab power and then exterminate and rob whole classes. He even expressed this idea numerically, by stating that he didn’t care if 90 per cent of Russia’s population perished, provided the remaining 10 per cent lived to see communism vanquish.

No one listened. Surely not in Russia, the land of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky – such was the prevailing sentiment among the intelligentsia. Surely that was just a figure of speech. It wasn’t, which the intelligentsia discovered the hard way in execution cellars and death camps.

Likewise, Hitler in his 1925 bestseller Mein Kampf was honest about his plan to exterminate all Jews. You know, the same group that didn’t exist according to the Kaiser (“We have no Jews in Germany, just Germans of the Judaic persuasion.”).

That wasn’t taken literally either, not even by most of the German Jews. The land of Bach, Beethoven and Goethe would never allow such a massacre, they shrugged. Well, it did.

One detects a similar complacency in today’s Britain about the Labour leaders’ pronouncements on their plans in office, should they get there. Even some dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, much as they hate the possibility of a Marxist government, deny that it could do irreversible harm.

Didn’t we have the same sort of thing in the 70s? Omnipotent unions, economy paralysed by strikes, Britain as the sick man of Europe, wholesale nationalisation, three-day weeks, runaway inflation, blackouts and whatnot? But we got over socialism then, and we’d do so now.

Such optimists ignore two fundamental differences between then and now.

One was that Wilson and Callaghan were socialists, but – to the extent that it’s possible for socialists – they weren’t evil. They weren’t Trotskyist energumens committed to annihilating Britain qua Britain.

The other difference was Margaret Thatcher, who became Tory leader in 1975 and PM in 1979. She managed to rally the country, roll back the unions, encourage private enterprise and somehow pull the country out of the putrid swamp into which it was rapidly sinking.

The Labour Party today isn’t just misguided but downright evil. And nor does one detect anywhere on the horizon a Tory leader of Margaret Thatcher’s calibre.

That’s why we must all join forces to make sure this evil cabal doesn’t grab power. Because if it does, it’ll be too late.

Luckily, its chieftains make such resolve easy by emulating Stalin and Hitler and unabashedly laying down plans that, if realised, will put paid to Britain as we know and love her.

For example, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will use this weekend’s party conference to kick off the ‘Abolish Eton’ campaign to eliminate private schools.

As part of this campaign, he wants to have the endowments, investments and properties held by private schools “redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions”.

Allow me to translate for those whose Marxist is a bit rusty: he’s talking about seizing private property in exactly the same way the Bolsheviks did so in 1917. In both cases, the ostensible justification is an unquenchable thirst for equality.

Thus McDonnell: “We know that our society is grotesquely unequal and part of the reason for that is because of the inequalities in education, particularly in private schools, where large amounts of money are spent on a privileged few.

“That’s why I support the campaign now for us to talk about how we ensure an integrated education system, where private schools don’t need to exist and should not exist where we have equality of education.”

Judging by McDonnell’s grammar, private schools, one of which he attended, don’t guarantee a decent education. Had he come and said “Look at the way I talk – do you really think fee-paying schools are any good?”, I’d be sympathetic.

As it is, he must know that, because God in whom he no longer believes made us unequally educatable, education (or anything else for that matter) can be equalised only at the lowest common denominator.

If the battle of Waterloo was indeed won on the playing fields of Eton, the only battle that can be won in a Marxist-style educational system dedicated to social engineering is one against the country’s future.

As to the “large amounts spent on a privileged few” at public schools, McDonnell must be aware that the money comes from school fees and private endowments – unlike in comprehensive schools funded by the taxpayer.

Even the foolish but not manifestly evil drive for comprehensive education in the 1960s has succeeded only in creating three generations of ignoramuses unable to operate a modern economy.

(Among other things, this forces Britain to import better-educated people from elsewhere, but that’s no problem for Corbyn and McDonnell. One of their aspirations is to increase immigration from all over the world, and not just of educated people.)

At that time, Education Secretary Tony Crosland saw in his sights not just public schools but also state ones for more capable pupils. Crosland expressed his aims with the kind of forthrightness one expects from socialists: “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.”

But at least Crosland, unlike today’s lot, wasn’t a Trotskyist. Though bad enough, he wasn’t possessed by the demon of destruction and, had he not died early, he might have realised the error of his ways (though I doubt it).

It’s not just education. The wicked cabal of today’s hard-left Labour is aiming a whole swarm of bullets at everything that makes Britain British.

They plan to rebuild the unions to their past glory, nationalise everything that can be nationalised this side of concentration camps (for the time being), tax the wealth-producing classes into penury, rob publicly held companies of 10 per cent of their shares – and of course decriminalise drugs and prostitution. Private medicine is also bound to go the way of private education, and eventually private enterprise will follow too.

Everywhere such measures have been tried, they’ve never failed to create an economic, social and cultural catastrophe. But the McDonnells of this world don’t care about that.

They are driven by hatred, envy and resentment – by the urge to destroy, not create. That’s why they are evil, and that’s why we’ll be criminally negligent if we don’t stop them.

Ban and burn all dictionaries

Have you heard the silly one about Donald Trump?

Dr Johnson, ring your office

Seems he was doing a general knowledge crossword aboard Air Force One. At one point he turned to his secretary and asked: “What’s the word for ‘woman’, four letters, blank-u-n-t?”

“Why, Mr President,” said the secretary, “it’s ‘aunt’ of course”. And Trump said: “Got an eraser?”

Well, I told you it was silly, didn’t? The point is that Americans use the implied word metonymically, to describe a woman, whereas the chivalrous Britons only ever use it metaphorically, to describe a man.

But the British aren’t so chivalrous that they can’t rival Americans in the number of synonyms, some of them pejorative, of ‘woman’. If you don’t believe me, look them up in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – it has loads of them.

Actually, according to a petition currently boasting 30,000 signatories, too many. Our noble fighters for women’s rights insist that “sexist definitions” of the word woman be expurgated from that august publication.

Specifically, their list of offensive “synonyms for woman” includes “bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy and filly”. Those victims of lexicographic assault must have been going alphabetically, which is why they didn’t get to ‘gorgon’ and ‘harridan’, not to mention ‘slag’, ‘slattern’ and ‘slut’.

This reminds me of the story (this one real) involving our first lexicographer Dr Johnson. At the 1755 launch of his Dictionary of the English Language, a woman of a certain age asked him why there were no dirty words in that publication.

“I can see, madam,” replied the great wit, “that you have been looking for them.”

I understand the petitioners’ problem, but then they should also understand mine. As  a professionally trained linguist, I’m hurt to see so much ignorance of my discipline.

Dictionaries have two principal functions: descriptive, always, and prescriptive, sometimes. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary combines both, by listing words and also recommending their correct usage.

The Oxford dictionary, like most others, is mainly descriptive: it lists and defines as many English words as humanly possible. Since English has by far the greatest vocabulary of all European languages, that humanly possible number is large.

The Oxford Corpus, for example, contains almost 2.1 billion words used in the Anglophone world. The more concise big OED still includes a respectable 58 million entries, and I’m man enough to admit that my vocabulary falls short of that number.

By including a word, the OED passes neither moral nor aesthetic judgement on the concept the word designates. It simply states that the word exists.

Almost every word sits at the core of what linguists call its paradigm: the sum total of its cognates and synonyms, close, remote or tangential. No two words in any language can be full synonyms, that is identical in meaning and stylistic nuance, both denotation and connotation.

If two words denoted and connoted identical things, one of them would eventually die out. There would be no need for it.

Now, if we examine the paradigm of most words, we’ll find many offshoots we wouldn’t use, some we’d use in some circumstances and not in others, even a few that might conceivably offend us if someone used them in our presence.

That may matter a lot to some people, less to others and nothing at all to still others. People exercise their own judgement in usage, and that can be variable. For example, I may use the word implied in the silly joke above when talking to my friends, but not when trying to talk a policeman out of giving me a ticket.

But lexicographers don’t judge words, although they may hint at their usage by adding parenthetic descriptors, such as ‘slang’, ‘offensive’, ‘vulgar’ or ‘archaic’.

Those scholars merely record words, which is why they are called ‘lexicographers’, from the Greek for ‘words’ and ‘writers’, and not ‘ithicographers’, from the Greek for ‘morals’ and ‘writers’.

Now that we’re talking lexical nuances, what’s worse than an ignorant moron? The answer is, a politicised ignorant moron.

That, I’m afraid, accurately describes those capable of writing or signing a petition demanding that the compilers of Oxford dictionaries “eliminate all phrases and definitions that discriminate against and patronise women and/or connote men’s ownership of women”, while including “examples representative of minorities, for example, a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, etc.”

Why not simply eliminate the intermediate stages and first ban all dictionaries and then burn them in a present-day answer to the practice popular in Germany, c. 1933? Are the authors and signatories of the petition aware of how accurate this analogy is?

A society that allows such people to dictate their terms and enforce compliance is a totalitarian society. If that’s the ideal to strive for, we’re getting closer by the day.

P.S. Speaking of totalitarianism, I have a good friend who works for one of the French ministries. She reads my pieces and used to do so during her lunch break. But not any longer: her office has put a block on my blog. The official reason is its content of sex and violence.

When I complained to an English friend that my pieces contain neither sex nor violence, he said: “Perhaps that’s why they are blocked.”

But, seriously speaking, I understand those bureaucrats perfectly. What were they supposed to say, that they disagree with the opinions expressed? ‘Sex and violence’ is so much safer and less controversial.

It takes heroism to get HIV

The retired rugby player Gareth Thomas has won praise for his courage from all sorts of lofty quarters, including our future king and queen.

Is that the badge of courage in his lapel?

Prince William tweeted, most lamentably leaving out a comma in the second sentence: “Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth.”

Not to be outdone, our aspiring, probably future, PM Comrade Corbyn described Mr Thomas as a “role model challenging stigma and prejudice”.

What did the former jock do to merit such accolades? Oh well, he picked up HIV from another homosexual and has now owned up to it.

Ever ready as I am to praise people, I’m trying to get my head around the reason for Mr Thomas’s new status as folk hero. Now, as some wags would have it, HIV is usually transmitted by hot breath on the back of one’s neck.

That’s to say that by far the most widespread method of transmitting this virus is anal intercourse between men. It’s not the only method, and I do know that straights can get the virus too. But what I’ve outlined is what usually happens in real life.

Now, since the orifice involved isn’t designed for that purpose, it must be rather tight, which can probably make penetration painful for both parties. Is that what Mr Thomas’s fans mean by his legendary, role-modelling courage? His ability to take the pain?

Probably not. Those who offer tributes to Mr Thomas do so because he has admitted he has the condition. Since he already came out of the closet 10 years ago, this new admission sounds rather tame, but perhaps one does have to be brave to declare urbi et orbi that one carries a venereal disease.

Now, advances in medical science have removed much of the doom and gloom from HIV and even AIDS. Antiretroviral drugs control the conditions well, and they no longer spell the death sentence.

Hence I still struggle to understand the nature of Mr Thomas’s claim to valour, especially since he seems to be in rude health. Actually, I’m being coy here. I understand it perfectly well.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to my recurrent theme: the evil of ideologies. This particular ideology is as emetic as all others: it mandates that HIV and AIDS carriers be treated as victims of some unidentified evildoers, who contextually have to be the dreaded Conservative Establishment.

Every HIV carrier is portrayed as a sort of freedom fighter, one who strikes a powerful blow against prejudice. How heroism can be displayed through any type of sexual intercourse is a mystery, unless we’re talking about trying it with a tigress (tiger?) at a zoo. Or, rather, if you find it mysterious, you yourself are a member of the Conservative Establishment.

Hence praising Mr Thomas is a way of establishing one’s own credentials as belonging to the warrior class, manning the frontline in the battle against said Establishment. That members of our royal family should seek such recognition is rather incongruous, but really nothing new.

Didn’t the Prince d’Orléans become Philippe Egalité to express his solidarity with the Revolution? That didn’t save him from the guillotine, but these days I doubt the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are risking the same fate.

Mr Thomas, who used to be unhappily married to a woman and now is happily married to a man, plays along with admirable PR skill. He has admitted publicly to his little problem, he says, for the sake of all those timorous souls who don’t seek early treatment out of embarrassment.

That is indeed laudable, if true. But then it turns out that, although Mr Thomas was diagnosed years ago (he doesn’t specify how many), he has only now gone public because he was being blackmailed. Now what about all those chaps too ashamed to seek treatment during the time Mr Thomas kept silent? Didn’t they deserve help?

The hysteria about HIV/AIDS has abated somewhat since those antiretrovirals started working well. One sees fewer people with those ridiculous ribbons on their chests; the demands that most research funds be channelled into AIDS and therefore away from, say, cancer have become less shrill.

But the ideology isn’t dead; it’s still there, striking less frequently, but striking nonetheless. So, if you don’t want to be ostracised, don’t you ever dare say that the condition is self-inflicted.

Diseases caused by smoking, drinking or excessive weight are self-inflicted. HIV/AIDS is a noble wound suffered in battle. The one against tradition, common sense, decency and, well, the Conservative Establishment.

I say give Mr Thomas the Victoria Cross. His courage on the battlefield merits nothing less.

How ideologies backfire

There exist good and bad faiths, good and bad principles, good and bad ethics, and we can argue which is which.

Some people take their ideology too seriously

No such dichotomies with ideologies. They are all bad by definition. Ideology is godless faith, thoughtless rationalism and amoral morality. As such, it’s always pernicious, regardless of its slogans or institutional symbols.

Propositions are sometimes best illustrated (indeed proved) by analysing extremes. I suggest we do just that by looking at the two most malignant ideologies of modernity, Bolshevism and Nazism.

The former preached international socialism; the latter, the national variety. Both claimed a superman status for its adherents, Bolshevism on the basis of class, Nazism on the basis of race. Both were committed to aggressive expansion, Bolshevism because of its doctrine of world revolution, Nazism because of its doctrine of racial hegemony.

Anyone who wasn’t a communist was Stalin’s enemy, to be enslaved or exterminated; anyone who wasn’t German was to Hitler more or less sub-human, to be enslaved or exterminated.

Both were socialist, with the Bolsheviks seeking total control over the economy, while the Nazis allowed some corporatist elements. Both identified ‘capitalists’, especially of the Anglo-Saxon variety, as their ultimate enemies.

Unlike Stalin (who came to the same idea later), Hitler lavishly leavened his anti-capitalism with anti-Semitism, taking his cue from Marx, a teacher he shared with the Bolsheviks. Both Britain and the US were to him viper nests of Jews, who ran their governments and dictated their policy.

America was out of immediate range, but Britain was at Hitler’s doorstep. A well-timed thrust, and all those Downing Street Jews would end up where they belonged: in death camps.

In line with their ideologies, both Hitler and Stalin were preparing for conquest – with Stalin doing so on a vastly greater scale. The Soviet economy was put into a wartime mode in the early 1930s, while Hitler only did so in 1942, three years after the war started.

Stalin had an in-built advantage over Hitler: an unlimited supply of both human and natural resources. Yet Hitler also had something Stalin lacked: a highly trained and expertly led army, and a workforce to match. A potential for exchange was rife.

The Pact the two predators signed on 23 August, 1939, was a marriage of convenience, but it’s a mistake to consider it just that. It was also a marriage of ideological commonality between two socialist, and therefore rabidly anti-Western, powers.

The two predators pursued similar goals in their alliance, up to a point. Hitler knew he couldn’t wage war against half the world without a steady supply of strategic materials, and Russia was the only possible source. Stalin was less desperate, but he knew German technologies would be useful.

Strategically, Hitler used the Pact to protect his rear while he sorted out Europe. Stalin promptly obliged by entering the Second World War on Hitler’s side, attacking Poland from the east just 17 days after the Germans attacked her from the west.

Both countries also had further-reaching plans. Hitler wanted to conquer the European continent and use it as the springboard for the conquest of Britain, leaving Russia for later. Stalin wanted Hitler to exhaust his relatively modest capacities on the continent and then get bogged down in the British Isles.

Then the Soviets would strike, stoking up the fire out of which Hitler would have pulled all the tasty chestnuts for Stalin. Hitler, on the other hand, also planned to trounce Britain before turning his attention to Russia, but he thought he could do so with ease, without enfeebling his army too much.

While Hitler was pursuing his plans, Stalin amassed on his new western borders the most monstrous army ever seen. By the end of 1940, he had over eight million men under arms, some 25,000 tanks, about as many warplanes, the world’s largest artillery park, more airborne troops than the rest of the world combined (all that in peacetime).

Moreover, not only did his armaments outnumber Hitler’s, but they were also of higher quality. The T-34 and KV tanks were already fighting in Finland when Hitler didn’t have their analogues even on the drawing board. His first Tigers saw the light of day only in December, 1942, when the great encirclement at Stalingrad was complete and the outcome of the war had been decided.

But in 1940 Stalin was in no hurry – he was patiently waiting for the Nazis to land in Britain. Only then would he take his foot off the brakes of his juggernaut. Given his overwhelming superiority in both quantitative and qualitative aspects of warfare, the thought of a German attack never even occurred to him. The numbers simply didn’t add up.

However, by then Hitler had realised that Operation Sea Lion would have to remain a cherished fantasy. The Germans didn’t have the sea transports and landing craft to get enough troops over the Channel to establish a beachhead. They had failed to establish air superiority during the Battle of Britain, while the Royal Navy’s sea superiority was still intact.

A massive airborne attack was the only chance, but Hitler had only one paratroop division, and even that was to be practically wiped out by the British during its brilliant landing on Crete, which was widely seen as a rehearsal for the invasion of Britain.

Meanwhile, Stalin’s monstrous army was poised to strike across the Reich’s eastern border. Secret mobilisation was well under way; the Red Army was moving its command centres and airfields close to the border; there were no warehouses left to house mountains of ammunition, and they were growing in the open air, often without even tarpaulin covers.

The Red Army was deployed in an attacking formation: most of its first echelon (there were three altogether) was concentrated in two salients, Bialystok and L’vov, which were like two tines of a fork ready to pierce Europe.

Hitler found himself in a desperate situation. An undefeated Britain increasingly supplied by America meant that, in case of a Soviet attack, Germany would have to fight a two-front war, something every German schoolboy knew was a rotten idea.

Hitler’s only chance now was in pre-empting Stalin’s attack and routing the Red Army with the same blitzkrieg thrust that had worked such wonders in Europe. He sighed and, late in 1940, ordered his General Staff to develop a plan codenamed Barbarossa.

That was coupled with a massive deception campaign designed to convince Stalin that Sea Lion was imminent. Stalin eagerly went along with the ruse because he couldn’t imagine Hitler being so reckless as to plunge into a war on two fronts.

That’s why he accepted Hitler’s assurances that the German troops amassing on Russia’s border were there for training and re-formation purposes. Stalin knew for sure that Sea Lion would have to come first, and his intelligence chiefs knew that they could only argue with him at their peril.

Several GRU heads had been tortured and shot, mainly for telling Stalin what he didn’t want to hear. General (later Marshal) Golikov, who took over the GRU in 1940, knew better. That’s why he diligently suppressed the intelligence reports of 110 German divisions, 11 of them panzer, poised on the border.

The offensive formation in which the Red Army was deployed was risky. Surprise flank strikes at the bases of the two salients could have entrapped the forces deployed there – and that’s exactly what happened.

Hitler managed to achieve strategic surprise and rout the regular Red Army. But still, surprise or no, any military theorist will tell you that shouldn’t have happened.

The traditional war wisdom says that the attacking side needs a threefold superiority as a precondition of success. In the war that started on 22 June, 1941, exactly the opposite was the case.

It was the Soviets who enjoyed at least a threefold superiority in every category – and that was just with their first, western, echelon (remember, they had two others). They had, for example, 11,000 tanks there, compared to Germany’s less than 3,000. They also had 11,000 warplanes, putting the Luftwaffe to shame.

The lies spread by post-war propagandists, both Soviet and Western, say that both the tanks and the planes were destroyed in the first days of the war by the preemptive Nazi strike. Yet the Red Army then lost only 1,200 planes and 600 tanks. The remainder still outnumbered the Wehrmacht by a wide margin.

It’s only now, after this long but necessary preamble, that I’m approaching my today’s theme. Yes, Stalin made some bad strategic mistakes. Yes, the Germans achieved surprise and struck first. Yes, their army was infinitely better led at every level, from general to NCO.

But that still shouldn’t have enabled them to advance at practically march speeds, reaching Moscow by December. The sheer physical mass of the Red Army bristling with an inexhaustible arsenal of armaments, should have stopped the German onslaught within a month – provided the Red Army had wanted to fight.

But it didn’t, and not anticipating that was Stalin’s greatest mistake. The mistake was ideological: he thought the Soviet people had been sufficiently brainwashed to do battle for world revolution, aka conquest. This, though there was hardly a Soviet soldier who hadn’t lost friends and relations to Bolshevik terror, and who himself hadn’t starved during the rape of the peasantry.

Instead, what happened in the first months of the war was in fact an anti-communist revolution. The Soviet people rose against Stalin and refused to fight for him. Many of them would rather fight for Hitler.

Before 1941 was out, the Germans took 4.5 million prisoners, and 1.5 million of them demanded weapons to fight Stalin. Many of those 4.5 million marched into Nazi captivity fully armed, sometimes to the sound of regimental bands.

So why didn’t Hitler end up winning the war, and why did Stalin do so? The answer lies in their ideologies. They both were evil, and in many respects similarly evil. But Stalin was less ideologically intransigent than Hitler.

All Hitler had to do was form a Russian Liberation Army, and it could have more than a million men under its banners already in 1941, a year before the widely publicised capture of the turncoat Gen. Vlasov. Then that army could have grown larger than Stalin’s, and the war would have ended differently.

Top Hitler generals, such as Franz Halder, realised this and begged Hitler to hoist a liberation flag. That made sense militarily – but not ideologically. “We aren’t liberating Russia from anybody or anything,” explained Hitler to Halder. “We are conquering her.”

And so the Nazis behaved as savage conquerors, armed ideologically with Rosenberg’s infamous pamphlet Der Untermensch (for which the author won the ultimate literary prize at Nuremberg). Suddenly the Russians found themselves between two devils, and at least Stalin was the one they knew.

Moreover, having realised that the Russians wouldn’t fight for communism, Stalin jumped on a different ideological horse, one, incidentally, that even his today’s successors are riding: patriotism, Mother Russia – even the church.

Old Russian heroes, such as Suvorov, Kutuzov and Nakhimov, who until then had been described in Soviet encyclopaedias as evil satraps to the tsars, were taken off the mothballs and re-canonised. The army was issued insignia reminiscent of the Russian Imperial Army. The institution of the patriarch was restored, and church hierarchs, until then culled in their thousands, were invited to the Kremlin and had a lovefest with Stalin.

All this was accompanied by the more traditional Bolshevik methods of unrestricted terror. Retreating soldiers were machine-gunned by the newly formed ‘blocking units’ of the NKVD, those guilty of desertion, encirclement or imprisonment – including those who had broken out of encirclement or escaped from POW camps – were tried by tribunals, and either hanged or shot.

During the war, 157,000 Soviet soldiers were thus executed, and perhaps three times that number killed even without a kangaroo trial. Moreover, Stalin’s message to the troops was that the family of insufficiently valorous soldiers would be prosecuted and, as a minimum, deprived of ration cards (that is, starved to death).

That combination of the ideological carrot and terroristic stick turned the course of the war around. Soviet soldiers began to fight, and Hitler was drawn into a long war on two fronts, one he had no chance of winning.

Indeed, ideologies – any ideologies – are more effective in the breach than in the observance (with apologies to William Shakespeare for bowdlerising his line). One hopes today’s ideologues would realise this.   

Jesus Christ, MP (LibDem)

Alas, the Liberal Democratic Party didn’t exist in the early days of the Roman Empire. That deprived Jesus of an opportunity to affiliate himself with the LibDem manifesto, which he otherwise would have done with alacrity.

“On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures and became a socialist”

However, should he choose today for his Second Coming, he’d get his chance. Why, if he timed it properly, he could even stand for the party in the general election, in the unlikely event he could pass the preliminary vetting.

That’s the impression one gets reading Prof. Ian Bradley’s article Why Liberalism Stands at the Very Heart of Christianity.

The article was inspired by Tim Farron, who, writes Bradley, “spoke movingly and bravely in last Saturday’s Times about the tensions involved in being an Evangelical Christian and leader of the Liberal Democrats”.

Well, I was moved by Mr Farron’s conundrums too, but in a direction opposite to Prof. Bradley’s. In fact, the first adjectives that sprang to my mind when reading Mr Farron’s article were neither ‘moving’ nor ‘brave’, but ‘vulgar’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘disingenuous’.

It’s both vulgar and theologically illiterate to co-opt Christ for any political platform, especially one of recent vintage. As a self-professed Evangelical Christian, Mr Farron ought to remind himself of Christ’s own words about where his kingdom isn’t.

Surely he must realise that the salvation Christ brought to man wasn’t the kind achievable through redistributive political action and social engineering, both the hallmarks of modern ‘liberalism’, as practised by the LibDems.

“Theological and political liberalism surely go hand in hand,” writes Prof. Bradley, and for once he’s right. One could argue, however, that neither has much to do with Christianity, the former usually and the latter by definition (the modifier ‘political’ should be a dead giveaway).

“Both,” laments Prof. Bradley, “are under assault from the rise of fundamentalism, populism and nationalism across the world and especially in its most powerful nations… Common to [these] groups is a literalist interpretation of scripture, a strong attachment to nationalism, Islamophobia and opposition to gay, transgender and women’s rights.”

Seldom does one see such a mishmash of ontological category errors in one paragraph. For, being political and not religious phenomena, neither populism nor nationalism has anything to do with any type of Christianity.

Christian fundamentalism does have something to do with it, although the same pejorative adjectives I used earlier sometimes apply to it as well. Actually, “a literalist interpretation of scripture” isn’t alien to Evangelical Christianity in general, which shows a certain lack of both theological and poetic imagination.

So is one to understand that, unlike those objectionable groups, Mr Farron isn’t opposed to “gay, transgender and women’s rights?” Does he regard such opposition as un-Christian? If he does, he’s either ignorant or mendacious.

Admittedly, transgender rights didn’t figure in either Testament. In those backward times, people still couldn’t imagine that within a couple of millennia their descendants would praise men born as women getting pregnant by women born as men.

However, taking a wild stab in the dark, somehow I don’t think that either Leviticus or, say, Romans would have welcomed such a development should it have been mooted. As to the other two rights upheld by our liberal Christian, both scripture and ecclesiastic tradition are absolutely unequivocal about them.

Homosexuality is described in both Testaments as an ‘abomination’, which is the traditional Christian position, at least in the apostolic confessions. But it’s not Mr Farron’s position. When asked whether he regarded homosexuality as a sin, he replied “I do not”, adding a silly non-sequitur to the effect that we’re all sinners anyway.

Indeed we are, and homosexuality is one of the sins some of us commit. As a political ‘liberal’, Mr Farron is free to think otherwise, but wrapping that faddish secular stance in a Christian mantle is a vulgar and ignorant category mistake.

As to women, scripture defines them as ‘helpers’ to men, and St Paul says: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”

Women clearly played a vital role in Christ’s life and Passion, but to talk about them in the crude terms of modern feminism and MeTooism again represents vulgarity at its most soaring. People who do so don’t have much in the way of intelligence, nor, more important, taste.

Not only do Messrs Farron and Bradley misunderstand Christianity, they also stumble over the concept of liberalism. Both use, or rather misuse, the word in the sense in which it’s used by modern socialists, whatever party they represent.

English liberalism, whose roots Prof. Bradley correctly identifies as Nonconformist, has performed an about-face since its inception. It used to stand for individual liberty, a small state, free enterprise and personal charity. Now it stands for exactly the opposite.

Citing biblical usage, Prof. Bradley equates liberalism with “broad, open-minded, gracious, expansive generosity.” Presumably, this fine quality is best expressed not through individual love, but through the good offices of a central, omnipotent state committed to robbing hard-working people for the sake of creating a vast parasitic class and sapping the country’s resources.

No? Sorry, my mistake. I must have been misled by the policies consistently advocated by today’s ‘liberals’, including Mr Farron. His voting record and numerous pronouncements show a loyal commitment to every hare-brained leftie superstition on offer.  

For example, he insisted that 50 per cent of target seats be contested by women and 10 per cent by ethnic minority candidates, regardless of any other qualifications. As a LibDem leader, he practised what he preached by appointing 12 women and 10 men to senior positions.

In the good Christian spirit, he voted not only for homomarriage, but also for extending it to the armed forces. Mr Farron’s voting record also shows that, while considering same-sex marriage essential to our defence, he regards a nuclear deterrent as superfluous.

While describing himself as a Eurosceptic, he logically believes in staying in the EU and flinging our doors open for migrants whose views on Christianity may be rather less liberal than Mr Farron’s.

And of course he supports the complete legalisation of marijuana, although he stops short of suggesting that it could be used as incense. Anyway, his brand of Christianity has no room for those time-honoured bells and smells.

The attempt to usurp Christianity for left-wing politics is nothing new. Yet people who insist that Christianity is some kind of socialism believe in the latter more than the former, and properly understand neither. That’s predictable in our academics, but unfortunate in MPs, whose policies affect our lives.

Space = ideology + atheism

So far, non-stick frying pans are the only practical benefit of space exploration, and even that benefit is dubious: cast iron usually works better.

Therefore there’s no God

Yet every now and then, one observes an eruption of gushing enthusiasm over discovery of something or other in space.

The latest seismic event of this nature concerns the possibility that the recently found exoplanet (one outside the solar system) K2-18b may have enough water to sustain biological, or even human, life.

This morning, two middle-aged women who ought to know better were discussing the possibility on TV in the gasping tones of kindergarten girls who’ve just found out where babies come from.

One of them graciously allowed that it was by no means “guaranteed” that K2-18b is inhabited, and there I was, getting my hopes up sky-high.

One down from guaranteed is highly likely, and even that assessment requires evidence, rather than conjecture. But the two women clearly didn’t know the difference between science and science fiction. Space exploration, one of them said, reflects our desire to learn more about ourselves.

Logically speaking, we could only acquire such knowledge if humanoid creatures were indeed found on some exoplanet. Comparing them to us, we could conceivably learn something, although I’d still maintain that we can learn more from Dante, Shakespeare and Bach – to say nothing of Scripture, and nothing is what’s usually said about it.

Now, all those centuries ago I worked at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston (or rather Clear Lake City), where I often drank with astronauts. I also travelled to the Marshall Space Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, where I drank with older scientists speaking in caricature German accents.

However, the romance of space travel was lost upon me, and it still is. So I have to disappoint the two TV gushers: people didn’t spend trillions on space exploration out of curiosity. They did so because they wanted to spy on other people and kill them more efficiently.

In both the USSR and the US, the space programme was an offshoot of a military build-up. After Wernher von Braun and other Nazi scientists had demonstrated the killing potential of missiles, both post-war superpowers awakened to the possibilities.

Once Germany was overrun, they forcibly recruited Nazi rocket scientists and engineers, dividing them between the two countries. The division wasn’t exactly equal: the Russians got 2,200 of them, while the Americans had to make do with a mere 1,600.

However, arguably the American imports were more senior – after all, they included von Braun himself, who had died before I got the chance to drink beer with his associates in Alabama. The Germans didn’t persevere as long in Russia: they were allowed to go home after Stalin’s death in 1953.

But the Soviets’ own space programme was already up and running, led by such talented men as Korolev and Chalomey. The essence of it was put in a nutshell by Khrushchev (whose son Sergei worked for Chalomey). He ordered Korolev to create a rocket that could carry a nuclear warhead to the US.

Around 1956 Korolev mentioned to Khrushchev in passing that oh, by the way, the same rocket could also put a satellite into space, just for fun. Khrushchev instantly grasped the propaganda potential of such a coup and ordered that a satellite be launched in 1957.

It was then that ideology barged in on space real politik. The Sputnik’s scientific value was nil; its propaganda value was immense. That caught Americans by surprise: their own space programme was developing along strictly pragmatic lines.

However, Khrushchev threw down a gauntlet, and the Americans had to pick it up. They too began to use the space programme for propaganda purposes – with neither side neglecting the military application.

President Eisenhower was lukewarm on space, putting it mildly. But his young and impetuous successor, Kennedy, was red-hot on it. He even lied to the public about the “missile gap”, with America supposedly trailing Russia in the space race.

In fact, the American rocket programme was already far ahead, which was demonstrated by the 1969 Moon landing. A gap in favour of the Soviet Union existed only in the area of ideology and the decibel level of the surrounding noise.

Since then the two countries have largely abandoned space-related propaganda – it has become old hat. Yet the military potential of space exploration remains huge, and it’s driven by the desire to kill people, not to learn more about them.

However, there was another strain to space-related ideology, one that went beyond the tug-of-war between the two powers.

When Gagarin became the first man in space, he also became the poster boy of communism and was hysterically feted (that, incidentally, was the last time I felt enthusiastic about space, which is forgivable for a lad of 13). But at one of the endless galas, Khrushchev, typically tipsy, let the ideological cat out of the bag.

Gagarin, he said, went all the way up to heaven and saw no God there. Wasn’t that proof that God didn’t exist?

I won’t demean either you or myself by pointing out the idiocy of that statement. But Khrushchev inadvertently revealed another impelling aspiration behind space exploration: atheism.

Modern people have taken on the impossible task of proving that man was created not by God, but by Darwin. Yet even some of them are aware that they could do with better proof than our supposed simian descent, which belief is doubtless based on atheists’ frank self-assessment.

Central to the Judaeo-Christian view of the world is the uniqueness of both man and Earth, the sole stage on which man’s drama is played out. Central to atheism is the urgent desire to debunk that view.

Hence atheists feel compelled to find life, ideally sentient life, on some other planet. That way they’d feel justified in insisting that man is nothing special, that he’s indeed nothing more than a jumped-up ape.

From there they’d be able to construct a rickety bridge to the materialist cosmology for which their loins ache. QED.

So yes, in that sense the two TV gushers have a point. The secondary purpose of space exploration is indeed to learn something about ourselves. Or rather to unlearn it.

The topic of cancer

Had I relied on the NHS 15 years ago, you’d be spared my immoral… sorry, I mean immortal prose.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

To be fair, it was a brilliant NHS GP, Guy Lawley, who first spotted something wrong and referred me to a private oncologist for tests, which started within a couple of days.

However, back then I could still get to see him on a day’s notice, as opposed to the fortnight it would take today. And Guy is no longer with the NHS: he retired at 50, in disgust at having to spend most of his time filling useless forms.

Once in the hands of private consultants, and much to their barely concealed surprise, I managed to survive two different cancers, both in Stage 4 (there’s no Stage 5). An NHS patient with a similar diagnosis would almost certainly have died.

He would have had to wait much longer for each diagnostic test, especially exploratory surgery, longer still for hospital admission – and he wouldn’t have received the same state-of-the art treatment that saved me.

One example if I may. The kind of chemotherapy used in my type of cancer wipes out leucocytes, white blood cells, leaving the patient with no immunity to ward off infection and, until the leucocytes are rebuilt, at deadly risk.

That’s why, after each chemo session, a private patient receives a combination shot of three different agents, which takes 48 hours to restore the immune defences. The problem with that shot is that it’s expensive. In my day it cost £1,200 a pop, which was too rich for NHS patients’ blood.

Those poor souls received the same three drugs, but in three different syringes. That much cheaper alternative left them unprotected not for two days but for two weeks. They had to live for a fortnight knowing that any germ flying through the air was a poisoned bullet aimed at them.

This is just a bit of personal background to the impersonal statistics showing that the UK lags far behind other civilised nations in cancer survival rates. In just about all cancers, we’re at or near the bottom of the table.

Yes, I know the NHS is the envy of the world, as all other giant socialist projects always are. But the world clenches its teeth and manfully overcomes envy to get on with the business of saving lives.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 British oncological patients a year are diagnosed when their cancer has already spread, reducing their chances of survival. The reason for this is given as NHS staff shortages, which I find baffling.

After all, the NHS is the biggest employer not just in the UK, not just in Europe, but in the world. Why then is it short of doctors and nurses saving people’s lives?

Anyone asking this question simply doesn’t understand socialism. It operates according to a law that says that any socialist enterprise, whatever its stated role, exists mainly for the benefit of its administrators and, ultimately. the state.

That’s why, while the frontline medical staffs are shrinking in the NHS, the administrative staffs are growing like mushrooms after an autumn rain. In fact, one gets the impression that doctors and nurses get in the way of the NHS’s real business, that entrusted to directors of diversity, optimisers of facilitation and facilitators of optimisation.

Whatever indispensable things those chaps can do, diagnosing cancer manifestly isn’t one of them. That’s why in 2017 115,000 cases were spotted only in advanced stages.

The same major study shows that three quarters of NHS services don’t treat cancer patients quickly enough. The guidelines call for 85 per cent of patients urgently referred by a GP being treated within 62 days (privately, I was treated within a fortnight).

Yet 94 of 131 cancer services in England failed to do that last year, almost a three-fold increase compared to five years ago. It’s useful to remember here that in some cancers an early diagnosis makes the difference between one in 10 dying and one in 10 surviving.

Every successive government pledges to throw more money at the NHS, and some even manage to do so. Politicians know vote getters and losers when they see them.

Even a hint at the remote possibility that perhaps other methods of providing medical services work better will spell the end of a promising political career – the voting public has been house-trained to worship the NHS with devotion formerly reserved for God.

This subject is impossible to discuss rationally and dispassionately. If you don’t believe me, just mention at a large party that papering the cracks in the NHS will never work, even if it becomes the only, not just the largest, UK employer.

Its problems, to use the medical parlance, are not symptomatic but systemic. The NHS, you might add, is run badly not because its practitioners are inadequate, but because its underlying idea is.

Then hasten to shield your head from the slings and arrows of the outrageous brainwashed. The projectiles will come in a swarm – as they always do when someone commits the ultimate sacrilege.

Meanwhile, the oncological argument goes on – and we are losing.

What’s a Jew?

Replace the word ‘Jew’ in that question with, for example, Englishman, Frenchman or, for that matter, Christian or Muslim, and the answer would be reasonably straightforward.

You won’t run into Woody at your local schul

Yes, a few taxonomic variations may be possible. Yet after some discussion, heated or otherwise, the argument can usually be settled.

The discussion could proceed by the process of elimination. Biting the dust by mutual agreement would be such impossible phrases as “He isn’t English; he’s a Catholic” or “He isn’t German; he looks Dutch” or “He isn’t French; he’s a Christian”.

Actually, France adopted laïcité as her essential national characteristic in 1905, and these days those seeking naturalisation have to prove they are comfortable with the notion. However, espousing Christianity or Judaism is still not seen as a disqualifying characteristic for citizenship, though things may well be moving in that direction.

Anyway, I suspect that Muslim applicants aren’t often ready to abandon their faith for secularism but, judging by their numbers admitted, the French system isn’t without some elasticity.

Some nations use different words for political and ethnic affiliations. ‘English’, for example, is these days an ethnic concept, while ‘British’ is mainly a political and cultural one: it may not include the ethnic element.

An outlander can become British by pledging allegiance to Her Majesty and thoroughly integrating into the British society and culture. But someone cursed with a less fortunate nativity can’t become English no matter how eager he is to swap cold vodka for warm beer.

If, according to Cecil Rhodes, “to be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life”, then the lucky ticket can only be drawn out of the mother’s womb.

The Russians have a similar distinction, which is lost in translation. The words rossiyanin and russkiy are both translated as ‘Russian’, and yet the conceptual difference between them is the same as between, respectively, ‘British’ and ‘English’ – the former may not include an ethnic component; the latter always does.

What about Jews then? Here no such clarity exists for many reasons, some obvious, some less so.

First, until 14 May, 1948, Jews didn’t have a state of their own. Hence they lived all over the world, and no definition of a Jew could have possibly included political or geographic aspects.

Yet, since even now Israel accounts for less than half of the world’s Jewish population, its existence doesn’t entirely settle the taxonomic issue.

Then there was the Holocaust, when six million Jews were murdered simply for being Jewish. The Nazis, ably assisted by their enthusiastic accomplices from all over Europe, especially its eastern part, therefore had to adopt their own definition of a Jew.

It was purely ethnic, based on what the proto-Nazi philosopher Fichte called jus sanguinis. A person with two or more Jewish grandparents was a Jew who didn’t deserve to live. He might have espoused Judaism or any other religion or none: nothing but das Blut mattered.

This was in marked contrast to the Kaiser, who declared that “We have no Jews in Germany. We only have Germans of the Judaic persuasion.” The German language of the time could have clearly benefited from the nuances available in English and Russian.

The Holocaust has affected the definition of a Jew prevalent in the West, not least among Western Jews themselves, especially in America. Since to Hitler a Jew was defined by his ethnicity, then anyone who deplored Hitler had to drop ethnicity from his definition.

Therefore Jewishness became synonymous with Judaism, and American Jews in particular will insist on this overlap against all logic and every available evidence. Being an argumentative sort, I’ve often tormented them with provocative questions.

“So no atheist Jews exist?” The typical reaction is that of consternation. “Why not?” I’d press on. “If a Jew is defined solely by Judaism, then no atheist can be Jewish. And if an atheist can be Jewish, then why can’t a baptised Jew?”

Another one of my stock questions is: “Is it possible for a person to look Jewish?” The reply based on ideology and emotion is an unequivocal no. One based on evidence before our eyes has to be an equally decisive yes.

What does, say, Woody Allen look like? An agnostic? And what about Sammy Davis Jr, who converted to Judaism? He didn’t look Jewish, and – call me a Nazi and report me to the Equality Commission – Woody Allen does.

Israel’s Law of Return doesn’t clarify matters either. According to it, any Jew anywhere in the world has a right to settle in Israel. But that brings the definition of a Jew into sharp focus.

The Law states that ‘Jew’ means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.

The words I emphasised are a late addition to the ancient law, and they sound illogical to me. So worded, the Law of Return would bar such Christian converts as Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler or Simone Weil, while welcoming, say, Leon Trotsky, Yakov Sverdlov or, for that matter, Woody Allen.

In other words, a person may be a Jew for most of his life, but then stop being one by getting baptised. I wonder what the first 17 bishops of Jerusalem, all circumcised Jews, would have had to say about that.

Obviously, centuries of peripatetic existence make it hard to talk about any ethnic purity among the Jews. But then isn’t that also the case about many other, stationary, nationalities?

Some Russians, for example, look like Mongols and some others like Swedes, and yet they are all Russians. Frenchmen born and bred may look like Arabs or like Germans, while Boris Johnson, who’s as English as they come, has an extremely eclectic blood mix.

Yet for all their geographic uncertainty, many Ashkenazi Jews look like, well, Ashkenazi Jews, which has to point to some genetic pool shared at least partially, if not wholly.

This is also proved by a long list of diseases specific to Ashkenazi Jews. For example, they are 100 times likelier than anyone else to be afflicted with familial dysautonomia (Riley-Day syndrome). On a more joyous note, Jews also seem likelier than anyone else to play string instruments in symphony orchestras and win Nobel Prizes for science.

All this shows yet again how ideology can cloud one’s judgement. For, with numerous qualifications and disclaimers, Jewishness is largely an ethnic notion. An Englishman can’t stop being English while retiring to the Costa del Sol, and a Jew can’t stop being Jewish by renouncing Judaism.

That this was a view taken by the Nazis disqualifies it no more than Heidrich’s affection for Beethoven means we should shun the 32 piano sonatas. The crime of the Nazi murderers wasn’t that they defined Jewishness ethnically, but that they deemed that ethnicity sub-human and therefore subject to extermination.

I think – and my Israeli and American Jewish friends may disagree – that, by denying the blindingly obvious ethnic input, they divert the problem into a dead end, where fighting anti-Semitism becomes harder.

It’s impossible to affirm racial equality by denying the existence of racial identity. But, and many of my pieces end on this note, when ideology speaks, common sense falls silent.  

Eat Granny, save planet

In 1729, Swift wrote A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.

“Hey, Jon, give us 2,000 words on cannibalism in Sweden, and keep it straight, will you?”

The eponymous modest proposal was that such children be used for food. “A young healthy child well nursed,” wrote the Dean, “is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”

The essay caused a backlash; some critics felt Swift’s flight of satirical fancy had taken him too far. Yet no commentators failed to see that it was indeed fanciful satire, not something to be taken literally.

Today A Modest Proposal would read as reportage. Cue in Prof. Magnus Soderlund, of Stockholm School of Economics, who believes that it’s about time society “awakened to the idea” of cannibalism.

Speaking on Swedish television, the good professor cogently explained that only thus can “our planet” be saved. You see, human flesh is more sustainable than meat or dairy products, and producing it has no adverse effects on climate change.

Since I’m pursued every night by nightmares of a planetary catastrophe caused by the consumption of hamburgers and pork chops, I’m sympathetic to the idea.

My only regret is that Prof. Soderlund failed to think his proposal through to its logical end. Unlike our great satirist, he only talked about scavenging, that is snacking on bodies already dead of natural causes.

Fair enough, those carcasses would otherwise go to waste, being either incinerated or buried to rot in the ground. Hence eating them would save our planet in two ways.

First, since Granny would be put to pasture only figuratively, her cultivation and feeding wouldn’t require tilling large tracts of land, which process jeopardises the planet almost as much as using deodorant sprays.

Second, since Granny could be fed on the carcasses of other Grannies who predeceased her, scavenging would in fact constitute recycling, which is tantamount to regeneration not only ecological but also moral.

However, while the planet lover in me applauds, the foodie sulks. For old people’s flesh has to be tough and stringy. Even with super-slow cooking, it would never achieve the juicy tenderness of younger meat.

Hence we shouldn’t ignore the nutritional and gastronomic advantages offered by stillborn children and, especially, foetuses aborted late, say in the third trimester.

The more one thinks about this, the more one appreciates Swift’s genius. For, from there it’s but a small step to slaughtering the post-natal babies of some undesirable people, such as global warming deniers, Islamophobes and Brexiteers.

The benefits would be staggering: promoting responsible nutrition, ecology, recycling – and cleansing society of the spawn of human vermin. I can already see a chain of human abattoirs, can’t you?

Prof. Soderlund graciously acknowledged that, alas, some anachronistic taboos of cannibalism still persist. But these can be expunged over time by “tricking” people into “making the right decision”. All it takes is “conversation” about eating human flesh, with Prof. Soderlund presumably acting as one party to that learned discourse.

This is where he went terribly wrong. For, if the aforementioned conversation is serious enough, no trickery should be necessary. People can be persuaded by rational arguments, and they may take the idea of cannibalism so close to heart that they’d actually eat Prof. Soderlund.

Lest you might think I’m prejudiced against Northern Europe (I am, but that’s a different story), another news item has caught my eye, this one dealing with France, my second home.

In 2013, Xavier X, whose full name can’t be revealed for legal reasons, went on a business trip from his Paris base to the Loiret. There he picked up a local woman, as one does, and took her to his hotel.

As the couple were consummating their budding love, Xavier X suffered a heart attack and, as the crude saying goes, came and went at the same time. His family immediately sued Mr X’s employer, for a hefty lawsuit is a natural by-product of bereavement.

The family’s lawyers, enthusiastically supported by French labour authorities, argued that, since Mr X had gone to the Loiret on his employer’s behalf, his death should be classified as an accident du travail, making his company liable for damages.

The company’s lawyers objected that, although Mr X did indeed die on the job, that wasn’t the job his employer had sent him out to do. However, that argument didn’t cut much ice.

The trial dragged on a bit, but yesterday the court found for the plaintiff. Mr X’s widow and children will receive 80 per cent of his salary until what would have been his retirement age. After that the company will be making sizeable contributions to the pension.

I can only repeat what many others have said before me: modernity makes satire redundant. Today’s Sophocleses, Juvenals and Swifts would be reporters or political commentators. Their readers might still laugh, but only through tears.