Dress to depress

Our pundits are getting weak-kneed at the sight of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wearing native garb on their visit to Pakistan.

Not only that, but Kate was turned out in the style popularised by her late mother-in-law, who did feel that special something for Pakistan.

I don’t understand why our future king and queen should indulge in this sartorial exercise. What’s wrong with the clothes of their own civilisation and rank? After all, the apparel oft proclaims not only a man, but also his culture.

Respecting other cultures doesn’t presuppose adopting them or abandoning one’s own, if only temporarily. Indian and Pakistani politicians make that point by routinely wearing their own dress at official functions in England, and I don’t recall ever seeing, say, Nehru clad in white tie.

Had Queen Victoria ever visited the subcontinent, one can’t easily imagine her wearing a sari, with a turban-topped Prince Albert by her side. In those days British royals didn’t have to apologise for being either British or royal.

One can understand a Western woman taking her shoes off and covering her head in a mosque, or a Western man donning a skullcap in a synagogue. Places of worship are like private clubs that are within their rights to impose house rules.

But Pakistan is a country, not a mosque. It’s part of the Commonwealth of Nations (née the British Empire) of which William will be head one day. He and his wife are thus constitutionally obliged to treat all member nations with courtesy – but without ever demeaning the dignity of their office.

One suspects that in this case they were inspired not by an all-abiding love of exotica, but by our multi-culti Zeitgeist. That’s most unfortunate, for the monarchy is by definition a conservative institution that must act as a bulwark against the perverse aspects of modernity, not kowtow to them.

It’s not just the royals either. Every time female TV reporters do their thing in a Muslim country, they feel obliged to wear a head scarf. Why?

Are they trying to camouflage themselves as Muslim women? If so, a head scarf alone wouldn’t do the job. A burka is a must, and perhaps also a pair of dark glasses if the reporter’s eyes are some non-Islamic colour.

If the sight of a bareheaded woman offends Muslim men, they should contain their brittle sensibilities – as we do when seeing gaggles of burka-clad women overrunning those boutiques in Knightsbridge. 

Anyway, all this raises a tantalising question. What if Will and Kate next visit a Commonwealth country where both men and women tend to wear nothing but a loincloth?

Will Kate… no, I shouldn’t let my fantasies run wild. Most unseemly at my age. Instead, after all these years, I must finally bring myself to put that notorious issue of Closer magazine on e-bay.   

Stick to footie, Jürgen

Ours is an age of narrow specialisation and broad audiences.

Bringing those two together creates a lamentable situation: broad audiences are eager to listen to a narrow specialist pontificating on areas outside his expertise.

Glittering with the gold dust of celebrity, he’s accepted as the light of universal wisdom able to elucidate any problem under the sun.

However, nowadays such men are so rare that one is tempted to say they are nonexistent. For it’s precisely the modern obsession with narrow specialisation that precludes multifaceted sagacity. The jigsaw of life is now too fragmented for anyone other than a great philosopher to put the picture back together, and one doesn’t see many of them around.

Anyway, if one were to search for such an overachiever, football players and managers wouldn’t be the first group to investigate. Jürgen Klopp is a case in point.

An excellent coach, he’s also a likeable man, ever ready to flash his pearly dentures at an interviewer, laugh raucously and reassure his audience with his stock phrase “it’s all good”.

What’s not good is his constant pontificating on the delights of unlimited immigration and, consequently, the evils of Brexit.

Now Herr Klopp’s Weltanschauung is wholly informed by the game he loves. He’s a narrow, and highly accomplished, specialist. However, when his mind wanders off from the football pitch, it’s swept away by the hurricane of ideas that go beyond the lapidary phrase “I hit it first time and there it was in the back of net”.

As a football manager he swears by meritocracy. That’s the beauty of football and sports in general: there exist simple numerical criteria of truth.

No nuances need apply, there’s no antithesis to any thesis: England beat Bulgaria 6:0 yesterday and there’s really nothing to argue about. England is the better team. End of discussion.

Few things outside sports arenas are as simple as that. Predictably, however, Herr Klopp fails to realise that. Football to him is the distillation of life, an unfailing matrix to apply to every little problem. Such, for example, as Brexit.

Herr Klopp hates it because he knows that his Liverpool team benefits from unlimited immigration. His celebrated front line consists of an Egyptian, a Senegalese and a Brazilian; his best line-up includes only three British players. And if it works for Liverpool FC, surely it must work for the UK.

Hence he writes: In football it’s clear: the best player plays. It’s the same outside football. If you didn’t bother listening at school and you don’t have any education or skills, you can’t expect to get a good job. And when somebody turns up from another country who has worked hard and studied economics or whatever, they don’t get the job because they are black or foreign. They get the job because they are the better candidate.”

Heresies, religious or intellectual, attract because their claim is always partly true. The problem is that they try to pass that part for the whole, making the overall idea fall flat on its face.

In this case it’s true that, if a qualified immigrant can do a better job than a locally sourced recruit, he should be welcomed. One exception I’d make is specifically the profession Klopp singled out: economists.

The fewer we have of them, the better because economists, armed with their computer models, do more harm than good. They should get out of our hair and let people get on with making a living the best they know how. So a Jean-Pierre Whatever can take his degree in economics from l’Ecole de Thingamajig to some place where the sun shines all year round.

But yes, if we can’t produce enough good doctors or engineers, qualified foreigners should get their work visas. Given the pitiful state of our education, I can see accommodating a couple of thousand of those every year.

However, the UK immigrant population currently stands at about 10 million, and it’s increasing at 400,000 a year. Something tells me that not all of them are high-calibre professionals who can show our Tom, Dick and Harrys what’s what.

Something else tells me that most of them place a high demand on our social services without providing a supply of much-needed knowhow. For example, I wonder how many of the 100,000 Somalis who’ve graced our Isles with their presence recently are structural designers or endocrinologists.

Then again, even assuming that our economy has gaping holes that only migrants can plug, it’s not immediately clear why Britain can’t accept them without abandoning her national sovereignty.

After all, foreigners have been able to come to England throughout history without England having to become a province of Germany or some other continental power. Holbein, Rubens, Handel, Haydn, Wittgenstein, Hayak, Eliot and countless others plied their wares in Britain without Britain becoming a Gau in some kind of Reich.

Another consideration is purely numerical. Supposing for the sake of argument that 20 million Germans, all as supremely qualified in their fields as Herr Klopp is in his, wanted to settle in Britain.

There’s no doubt the British economy would benefit, but a country doesn’t live by economy alone (I know how anachronistic this thought sounds). It has to preserve its own idiosyncratic culture, which presupposes a certain ethnic equilibrium heavily favouring the indigenous population.

Hence, even if all those Germans were Klopps in disguise, some limit would have to be put on their number. We’d have to say, sorry, Freunde, we may consider 2,000 but 20 million is ausgeschlossen.

To be able to be so picky, we’d have to have control over our borders. And to have that, we must have… well, you know the litany. Trouble is, Klopp doesn’t. All he knows is football, and more power to him.

Sei nicht dumm, Jürgen. Der Fußball über alles. Du wirst niemals alleine gehen! (I assume that’s how the Liverpool FC theme song, You’ll Never Walk Alone, sounds in German.)


Je m’excuse…!

This title is transparently inspired by Emil Zola’s 1898 pamphlet J’accuse…!, in which that otherwise dreadful writer passionately attacked those who had framed Capt. Dreyfus for espionage.

I’d like to apologise to ‘Great’ Thunberg on behalf of Western civilisation

That’s where the similarity ends, one hopes. First, my piece will be apologetic, rather than accusatory. Second, as a result of his effort Zola was convicted of libel and had to flee to England, a fate that I’m confident won’t befall me.

After all, since I’m already in England, escaping there would be physically impossible. Nor will an escape be necessary because, as someone who has sleepless nights worrying about our planet, I’m firmly on the side of the Extinction Rebellion angels.

That means no one will dare sue me no matter how often I call people fascists or murderers – and that’s when I’m in a good mood.

But before I offer my profuse apologies, I must point out that Greta Thunberg’s Christian name is an anagram of ‘great’, and no aptonym has ever been more appropriate.

Following in Boris Johnson’s footsteps, I’d like to thank anagrammatic, aptonymic ‘Great’ and the movement she inspired for pointing out our civilisation’s “mind-blowing carbon debt”.

And, taking my lead from Michael Gove, then Environment Secretary, I apologise on behalf of Western civilisation for bringing our planet to the verge of extinction, using the Industrial Revolution as a lame excuse.

Moving from the general to the particular, I want to mention some of the specific culprits that throughout history have been bringing our civilisation into disrepute and our planet close to extinction.

First on this list of shame is agriculture, and I mean all of it, not just animal husbandry.

That devouring the flesh of murdered livestock is both a moral disgrace and an ecological disaster is a truth more universally acknowledged than anything Jane Austin could concoct.

Alas, less opprobrium is levelled at cereal farming, which ignores its dastardly, millennia-long contribution to global warming.

In particular, I’d like to apologise for the villain who first came up with slash-and-burn agriculture, wherein large tracts of forest were burned to make the soil more fertile – this, with criminal disregard for either the raised temperature or the murdered trees.

If that was bad, the subsequent three-field system was even worse, for it rotated three fields to grow different crops in sequential seasons. Only one of the three fields lay fallow – rather than all three, which they would have been had ‘Great’ lived at the time. I’m sorry about that.

And I’m even sorrier about the scoundrel who at the same time invented the moldboard plough, that diabolic global warmer. You see, turning the soil releases heat into the atmosphere, which has been hurting our planet since God was young.

Apologies are also in order for Benjamin Holt, the criminal American fascist who in Zola’s time invented the tractor, exacerbating the problem no end. And as to those planet-killing degenerates who came up with chemical fertilisers, no apology will be abject enough.

Instead, with all humility and boundless respect, I’d like to draw ‘Great’s’ attention to the perils of the vegan diet.

While morally superior to barbaric carnivorism, it too pushes our planet to the precipice. To be on the safe side, we must stop eating not just meat but also bread and related foods. Only consuming naturally growing grasses, nuts and tree bark would obviate the need for apology. 

Now we can smoothly segue from agriculture to the chemical industry, including its pharmaceutical offshoot. Here my mea culpas reach fervour pitch and I’m banging my head on the floor even as we speak.

In particular, I’d like to apologise for Hippocrates who first noticed the medicinal properties of willow bark, Charles Frédéric Gerhardt who synthesised that bark’s acetylsalicylic acid, and the firm Bayer that turned it into mass-produced aspirin.

Enough people have already apologised for another Bayer product, the Zyklon B gas that served the needs of Germany’s growth industry in the 1940s. Yet mine is the first apology for its seemingly innocuous aspirin, which might not have killed a few million people directly, but has still dealt a mortal blow to our planet.

As to Alexander Fleming with his evil penicillin, don’t let me get going on that mass murderer. The pathetic little benefit of antibiotics, saving a few carbon-producing lives, is outweighed by the egregious damage caused by manufacturing those satanic potions.

Have you seen smoke coming out of pharmaceutical factories? Then you know what they do to our planet, and I’m genuinely sorry. So say no to drugs (other than recreational ones) and explore the medicinal properties of naturally growing grasses, nuts and tree bark – and if you don’t, I’ll report you to ‘Great’.

The list could go on, each item accompanied by my head-banging apology. But you get the message: all science and technology over the ages has been hatched by a perfidious conspiracy devoted to destroying our planet.

It’s time we sat down and pondered the possible solutions (actually, sitting down is the only option here in London, what with ‘Great’s’ troops gridlocking the city centre).

The conspirators I mentioned camouflage their subversion with empty pronouncements about people living longer and better as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Rather than apologising for it, hiss those snakes, we must give thanks.

Those vermin don’t realise that they thereby betray their fiendish designs. For the problem is precisely the longer lifespans and therefore greater numbers of people befouling our planet.

Reverting to the pre-industrial, ideally pre-historic, conditions would rapidly depopulate, and thereby save, our planet. I just wish ‘Great’ and her friends had the courage to spell out this objective in so many words.

Perhaps they are planning to do so shortly. If that’s the case, I may have inadvertently stolen their thunder, for which I’m terribly sorry.

Equality makes people dumb

If I may be allowed a slight paraphrase, I hold this truth to be self-evident that no two men are created equal.

There’s one born every second

There, doesn’t this tally with our daily observation better than the original text? Clearly, an innumerate chap isn’t equal to a maths professor, an illiterate one to a writer, a child to his father, a criminal to a law-abiding man.

We aren’t even entirely equal before the law: people under a certain age can’t vote, neither can prison inmates, a Catholic can’t marry into our royal family, Americans who inscribed equality in their founding document I bowdlerised above have age qualifications for public offices and a nativity one for the presidency.

Even equality before God only works at birth and perhaps in infancy. Later, if a child grows up to be a thief, he isn’t equal to one who observes God’s and man’s laws. They are no more equal than paradise and hell.

The more we look at the world, the more we realise that it’s organised hierarchically. So was the traditional Western society, patterned as it was on the family.

A family is always vertical, with the father occupying a higher rung than the child and… I almost said ‘the mother’, but stopped myself lest the sky might open and the God of secular virtue smite me with a court summons.

A hierarchy is like the steel carcass of a building: it makes the structure sound and durable. In society, a vertical social arrangement provides a form into which human content can then flow. Remove that, and society becomes amorphous – water on the tablecloth, not in a glass.

It’s precisely destruction of this form that a newly inaugurated modernity declared as its overriding goal. Removing ranks of nobility or at least divesting them of any power was one part of it; sanctifying majority vote as the only just political system was another.

Both may sound like good ideas, but only to those who lack training in thinking things through. Such an exercise, coupled with unbiased observation, would show that egalitarianism has lethal consequences in every walk of life.

Losing its form, society disintegrates into an atomised mass of resentful egotists, giving the lie to the masonic slogan of modernity. For it’s not just liberty, but also fraternity that equality makes impossible.

Revolutionaries who start out by believing that, since all people are equally good and capable, they are only ever held back by the yoke of hierarchy, soon find out they are wrong.

Given equal opportunities for advancement, some people advance further than others, and some don’t advance at all. The revolutionaries become so disappointed with the people that killing them all seems unavoidable.

In more vegetarian societies it’s the people themselves who get disappointed. No matter how vociferously they demand equality, and no matter how hard the state tries to deliver it, the rich remain richer than the poor, the tall taller than the short, the knowledgeable smarter than the ignorant.

That produces social atomisation, for a sense of supposedly unjust inequality breeds resentment, and resentment begets egotism. Feeling betrayed by society, each man locks himself within himself. Rather than seeing his neighbour as his brother, he begins to see him as a competitor. There goes fraternité, biting the dust.

Yet it would be wrong to say that equality is a pipe dream. In fact, every country has achieved it in small enclaves where people’s clothes, food, lodgings and indeed rights aren’t merely equal but identical.

These perfectly egalitarian places are called gaols, and indeed prison is the epitome of egalitarian aspirations, the ideal towards which they strive. Liberté goes the way of fraternité, both ousted by égalité.

Another great damage caused by egalitarianism is intellectual. All classes have been levelled socially, and politically each vote has the same weight at the booth. By unavoidable transference, a belief gradually sets in that all opinions are equally true or at least equally valid.

Phrases like “I have a right to my own opinion” and “let’s agree to disagree” are routinely uttered by ignoramuses arguing with learned men. You think the Earth is round, I think it’s flat, so what makes your opinion better than mine?

Underpinning such exchanges is the dominant belief that greater knowledge confers no more advantages intellectually than noble birth does socially. All idiots are savants or all savants are idiots – take your pick.

Since absolute truth has been declared nonexistent, thought on all subjects other than the narrowly technical ones has lost both structure and a teleological aspect. It too has become amorphous, and the general assumption is that intellectual arguments can be settled by majority opinion as decisively as political elections. “Not many people will agree with you” is seen as a valid QED.

When truth is replaced with a patchwork quilt of supposedly equal opinions, the opinion that most readily appeals to the less intelligent wins out by its strength in numbers: people capable of grasping the totality of a problem are always in the minority.

Witness the ease with which yesterday’s eccentricities become today’s orthodoxies – and also the maniacal stridency with which the huddled masses yearning to be equal enforce the new-fangled orthodoxies.

The views that homosexuals could marry, or that people could choose their sex from a menu of some 20 options, or that a freshly minted man can give birth and become both the father and mother to his child would have been regarded as symptoms of mental illness a generation ago.

Today they are orthodoxies, meaning that no dissent is possible. The same goes for equality between (among?) the sexes.

Ask its champion how come, if the sexes are equal, every time you call for a plumber or electrician a man turns up, and you’ll be told you can’t generalise on that basis – you can’t generalise full stop, under any circumstances.

In fact, the ability to generalise, to think inductively, is a tell-tale sign of an intelligent man – for him, empirical observations fit into a system of thought, rather than walking away in every possible direction on their own two legs, leaving intellectual emptiness behind.

It’s in this context that we can understand the public reaction to the Extinction Rebellion and the mayhem it’s causing in central London.

Anthropogenic (and apocalyptic) global warming is a hypothesis, a theory, just like Darwinism is only a theory. That designation used to presuppose vulnerability to conflicting evidence and certainly a possibility of debate. No longer.

If in the past elevation to orthodoxy took decades, advances in communications technology of which modernity is so smugly proud have shortened that span to days, months at the longest.

Hence the most we are allowed to say is that, while we deplore the disruption those crazed cretins are causing, we wholeheartedly sympathise with their half-baked cause. In fact, as Boris Johnson has grovelled, we are grateful to them for bringing the impending end of the world to our attention.

We are witnessing a delayed-action bomb going off, for modernity, ushered in to uphold reason, has gradually destroyed it in the name of equality. Intelligent people still exist, but they are neither listened to nor indeed heard.

All we hear is the deafening braying of the mob, Chesterton’s village idiots and village atheists coming together not only in the same crowds but also in the same breasts. And then marching towards a glorious dream bound to turn out to be a macabre nightmare.

Sanctimonious, moi?

By itself, taking part in the Extinction Rebellion circus doesn’t make Benedict Cumberbatch a “sanctimonious fraud”, “stupid” or “shallow”, as some of his disappointed fans are calling him.

How many miles to a gallon is that, Ben?

It makes him a modern man par excellence. I’d even go so far as to suggest that Mr Cumberbatch is the sun for which all modernity tropistically reaches.

The fans detect, and are upset by, some incongruity in Mr Cumberbatch’s febrile hatred of carbon emissions and his frequent lucrative endorsements of muscle cars, such as the MG and Jaguar.

Shilling for the latter, he once delivered a snappy line: “It’s good to be bad.” Possibly, provided one knows what good and bad are. That’s where the problem is.

Good and bad are, or rather used to be, moral and therefore metaphysical concepts. They presuppose the existence of some ideal of moral truth acting as the measuring stick of virtue and sin.

By definition such an ideal has to be absolute and timeless, for if it isn’t, it leaves the realm of truth and enters one of fickle relativities. In the process, words that in the past denoted metaphysical realities are prostituted to physical appetites and thereby desemanticised.

Thus Hemingway, another quintessentially modern man, felt justified to write that “if it feels good, it’s moral”.

If that’s not a category error, I don’t know what is: the writer equates sensual, which is to say physical, which is to say transient, which is to say relative, pleasure with an absolute metaphysical ideal. Hemingway could write, but he couldn’t think.

Such an understanding of morality is consistent with the rampant, all-conquering materialism of modernity. To a modern man, relating his appetites to first principles isn’t so much alien as incomprehensible.

Yet even a modern man is still human. While pursuing material gains in the form of money and the sensations it buys, he still feels a longing for that elusive something he can no longer define, something bigger than himself – or rather something he pretends to be bigger than himself: inveterate egotist, deep down he knows that nothing really is.

Since truth is no longer part of his vocabulary, nor metaphysics a word that means anything to him, he looks for that something in the material passions of today. He seeks the superpersonal while rejecting the supernatural.

For those who retain some vestiges of sanity (and their number is dwindling), this quest is a pleasant, ego-stroking diversion, a way of feeling good about themselves without having to do anything serious to deserve it. Ego thus stroked and purring with delight, they can resume real, material life.

Thus I’m sure Mr Cumberbatch doesn’t quite understand why some of his fans are calling him names just because he promotes carbon emissions on wheels and then protests against carbon emissions.

The first is real life, the second is onanistic self-gratification. What on earth is the problem? Can’t a chap do both? A secular materialist during the day, a secular idealist in the after hours?

Indeed he can. Especially if he doesn’t realise that he, along with all quintessentially modern men, suffers from schizophrenia. When the proportion of such madmen losing touch with reality reaches a critical mass, our civilisation will perish – while ‘the planet’ will remain in rude health.

It’s not long now, judging by the public response to this current bout of madness. What used to be condescending acquiescence has become mandated approval. When it becomes compulsory participation, we’ll know the end is nigh.

At least terrorists do it on purpose

Whenever US and British personnel share military bases, carnage ensues. The Americans kill and are killed, using cars as their weapons of choice.

It’s time foreigners learned to drive properly

Here I’d like to share my experience of driving close to a million miles in the US, Britain and just about every country in Western Europe. Naturally, switching from one place to another, one has to adjust to different road conditions and drivers’ habits.

Comparisons are made, generalisations are drawn, and mine are that Britons are by far the best drivers I’ve encountered, and Americans are among the worst.

Statistics support this observation: in Britain we have 3.1 annual road deaths per 100,000 population; in the US it’s 12.4. Four times as many – even though Britain is cramped and drivers have to fight for every inch, while much of driving in America is done on empty motorways.

I recall driving from Houston to Los Angeles years ago, and for about 300 miles the only other car I saw going in either direction belonged to a cop who gave me a ticket for doing 40 miles over the 55 mph limit.

Other than being done for speeding, the only danger on such roads comes from falling asleep, and this may explain why it’s American and not British soldiers who create fatal accidents when serving together.

The knife’s edge conditions on British roads train drivers to stay focused at all times, never losing their concentration. Luxurious American roads may have the opposite effect – one learns to relax, knowing that it’ll be hundreds of miles before another car appears.

The latest cause for such conjecture is the scandal caused by Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a CIA officer attached to an RAF base in Northamptonshire. Mrs Sacoolas drove on the wrong side of the road and killed a 19-year-old motorcyclist.

She then promptly fled the country under cover of diplomatic immunity, which supposedly protects her as well as her husband.

Now diplomatic immunity may be an essential tool in international relations, but it’s not – nor is meant to be – a licence to kill. Established by the 1961 Geneva Convention, it’s granted with the proviso that its beneficiaries must obey the law.

Causing death by dangerous driving merits up to 14 years in prison. Hence Mrs Sacoolas’s spy-drama escape on a private flight, even though she had promised the police to stay put.

The spirit of the law demands that her immunity be revoked and she face the music in Britain. The British foreign secretary made that request, only to be curtly dismissed by President Trump.

“The spouse of the US government employee will not return to the United Kingdom,” he said, adding an offhand remark that people sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road.

Indeed they do. However, if they kill as a result they tend to be prosecuted, which by the looks of it isn’t going to happen to Mrs Sacoolas.

Americans have form in being confused by unfamiliar traffic rules. Back in 2007 two US servicemen died near RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall. The Suffolk coroner then issued a reminder that Britons drive on the left, and yet in 2016 another American serviceman was killed on the wrong side of the road.

British left-hand traffic causes problems not only for Americans but also for continentals – much to the delight of a friend of mine who lives in Colchester.

His terrace overlooks a roundabout on the road leading from Harwich ferry port. Every Saturday afternoon my friend settles in a comfy deck chair, G&T in hand, and waits for some arrival from the Hook of Holland to cause an accident by driving the wrong way on that roundabout. He seldom has to wait for more than one drink.

All that points to a problem, but there is a solution. Ideally, any American or European planning to drive in Britain should take a remedial driving course. That, however, is neither practical nor promising, considering that those foreigners kill one another with alacrity even on their own roads.

Hence we must make sure that everybody drives on the same side. To that end, both the US and continental Europe should switch to left-hand traffic.

This proposal is inspired not by jingoism but by history, science and common sense.

Historically, all of Europe drove on the left until the continental blockade introduced by Napoleon, who presaged Macron in his fanatic commitment to a united Europe.

Since Britain characteristically refused to play along, out of sheer spite Napoleon introduced right-hand traffic in the European countries under his control.

Originally, people drove on the left because carriage drivers wielded their whips with the right hand. That’s why they were unlikely to lash innocent passers-by, only ever endangering other carriage drivers.

When drivers switched to cars, science came in to support left-hand traffic. Tests show that, when a head-on collision is threatened, most drivers instinctively turn the wheel to the left, which in Britain means towards the pavement and on the continent towards the oncoming traffic. That too might be a contributing factor to the remarkably low number of road deaths in Britain.

One wishes those continentals realised the error of their ways and followed our rational example proven historically and scientifically. But they never do, do they?

A bloody good question

“We have been there for 16 years,” writes an American reader of mine in response to my yesterday’s piece on Turkey and the Kurds, “and if you say that we have no exit at this time, how can we end it?”

The problem goes deeper than the odd explosion or shooting

The title above is the short answer, or rather non-answer, to that question. Yet I feel duty-bound not to leave it at that.

The general comment is that the best way to correct costly mistakes in foreign policy is not to make them in the first place.

That, however, is seldom the option, given the calibre of those in charge of global affairs. Today’s politics simply doesn’t attract people capable of thinking as deeply and broadly as this subject demands.

Emotions, ideologies, short-sighted electoral needs, press campaigns, inflamed public opinion all conspire to push our intellectually and morally challenged leaders towards precipitate, often foolhardy, action. Such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Fear of Saddam’s WMD, which he didn’t have, was only a pretext for it, not the reason. The reason was an overemotional reaction to the shock of 9/11.

WE MUST DO SOMETHING!!! was the battle cry, and it had merit. Something indeed had to be done, but what?

The answer to that question depends on whether 9/11 is believed to be an isolated incident, one of many such ad hoc events, or a manifestation of a certain pattern of long standing.

Any person whose mind isn’t befuddled by self-righteous ideologies will know that Islam has been waging war on the West for 1,400 years. That religion is doctrinally committed to expanding ad infinitum, and disposing of as many infidels as that goal required.

Obviously, no nation can afford 1,400 years of non-stop action. Even conflicts of considerably shorter duration, such as the Thirty Years’ War, didn’t feature 30 years of uninterrupted hostility. Long wars always ebb and flow, they have peaks and troughs. Islam’s war on the West is like that too.

Whenever the Muslim world is at its most impassioned, and the West at its weediest, the war flares up. When Muslim passions attenuate and the West’s strength increases, there are lulls. Yet the underlying hostility never abates.

At present, the West enjoys an overwhelming military and economic superiority over the Islamic world, sufficient for keeping Islam at bay – provided it doesn’t experience a sharp peak in uncontrollable passion.

The West’s strategy should then be keeping things at an even keel, trying to preserve the status quo and not to inflame too much rage. And, if a major hostile act is nevertheless committed, it must be punished with a sufficient deterrent value to discourage further attacks for a long time.

Under such circumstances the West is justified to treat Islam at large as the enemy, not just the group, or even the state, immediately at fault. Islam must be held collectively responsible for the crimes committed in its name.

A cataclysmic event like 9/11 called for a no-holds-barred response. For example, since the strength of the Islamic world is solely dependent on oil, I would have been in favour of occupying the oilfields throughout the Middle East and administering them long enough for the passions to quiet down.

No force, regardless of how apocalyptic, required to achieve that objective would be off-limits. The West would explain to the Muslims that hostile acts would be punished severely enough to prevent them in the future. They’d get their oil back when they learned to behave, but not until then.

Throughout I’d ignore political realities – the war between Islam and the West isn’t political, but existential. Hence it wouldn’t matter how often, if ever, this or that Muslim state held elections. Elections mean little in Islamic countries that are all theocratic to some extent.

Now, we understand that no Western leader would allow such thoughts as much as to cross his mind. They all fall over themselves like ninepins screaming: “Islam is a religion of peace”.

I’ve heard these very words uttered by a platoon of US presidents and British prime ministers. Clearly, 1,400 years of history fall silent when ideology speaks.

Yet SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE!!! And that something had to be justified, for America must always have a noble reason for any military action.

Enter the neocons, so many Iagos whispering into Othello’s ear. You have a mission in life, Mr President. The Middle East is being run by dictators, the Saddams, Mubaraks and Gadaffis of this world. And yet their people are gagging for US-style democracy, the acme of political virtue and sagacity.

We must get rid of those undemocratic tyrants and bring democracy to every goatherd and Bedouin out there. They’ll become our friends once they’re exposed to the delights of a bicameral legislature elected by universal franchise. That’ll be our response to 9/11.

Er… yes, well, but do we have any proof that Saddam is responsible for 9/11? Oh, Mr President, that’s not the point. The point is that he’s a nasty dictator and has to go. Enter 2003.

I remember talking at the time to a British copycat neocon who has since become a media star specialising in anti-Islam invective (in his case largely inspired by personal resentments). He was all fired up about the attack on Iraq, while I spoke along the same lines as I am here.

“You may be right,” said the copycat. “But let’s just poke the hornet’s nest and see what happens.” Well, we’ve seen it now. The nest has been poked and murderous insects are flying all over the world.

The tyrants were indeed contemptible, but they more or less kept the wild-eyed fanatics under control. Once they were ousted, it immediately turned out that those goatherds and Bedouins didn’t want a bicameral legislature and independent judiciary. They wanted a free hand to kill anyone they didn’t like: Jews, Christians, Europeans, Americans, one another – whatever today’s appetite craved.

The Middle East was aflame, and it instantly became blood-soaked. Millions have died, millions more have fled, mostly to Europe, where they are encouraged to see themselves not as immigrants but as colonisers. And blood is gushing all over the region.

Suddenly the US presence, while criminally idiotic in the first place, has become essential to contain tribal and religious enmities that have been bubbling just under the surface for 14 centuries.

Americans manifestly failed to follow the wisdom of De Niro’s tough character in the film Ronin: “I never go in if I don’t know how I’ll come out.” They went in, and now they are stuck.

In the process, Americans have developed an intricate – and fluid – set of alliances they can’t afford to abandon for fear of a global conflagration. Also, the chaos largely of their making has drawn in major strategic players, such as Russia and now Turkey, both run by quasi-fascist regimes with far-reaching objectives.

Given that situation, simply withdrawing US forces is tantamount to a massive strategic shift not just in the Middle East but all over the world, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

That takes us back to the title above as the only, albeit feeble, reply I can give my reader. There’s no satisfactory end to this situation, barring what sociologists call a paradigm shift in the way our leaders and opinion formers think about the Middle East.

That, as we know, will never happen: the weight of ideology cum piety would be too crushing even for stronger intellectual shoulders than those possessed by Mr Trump et al. Hence, with an apology to my inquisitive reader, I don’t have the same clarity now as I had in 2003.

“We deserve perdition, yet God might have mercy on us,” he concludes. I’ll pray for that; the best I can do.

Turkish march

I thought it would take about a week, but I was wrong. Just a couple of days after President Trump withdrew US forces from northern Syria, Turkey launched an offensive designed to rout the Kurdish militia – as a prelude to an orgy of ethnic cleansing.

Trump helps Vlad flex his muscles

Vastly outnumbered Kurds need every man they can find, which is why they’ve had to withdraw their troops from guarding ISIS prisoner camps. Hence the immediate effect of Trump’s action will be thousands of ISIS fanatics re-joining the fight in the Middle East – or, as a safer option, bestowing their attentions on Europe.

But that’s only the immediate effect. Turkey’s certain victory in this conflict is guaranteed to be followed by genocide that may well outdo that of 1915, when the Young Turk government oversaw the murder of 1.5 million Armenians.

Trump’s action constitutes a shameful betrayal of the Kurds, who have lost 12,000 men fighting side by side with Americans and their allies. But ethics aside, the US finds itself in a precarious position.

For Turkey is America’s ally too, a fellow member of NATO. In that capacity she’s open to the kind of invective Trump reserves for America’s friends.

In this case, Mr Trump justified his decision to abandon the Kurds by threatening to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if she went “off limits”. He demanded that Turkey “not do anything outside of what we would think is humane”.

If he thinks such threats will cut much ice with Turkey, he doesn’t know much about the country’s history, people and government. In any case, even if Erdogan heeds the warning, he won’t necessarily be able to contain the enthusiasm of Turkish commanders and their men.

However, should Trump’s administration indeed try to hurt Turkey economically, her northern neighbour, Putin’s Russia, will happily step in to make up any shortfalls. And that, speaking in coldblooded strategic terms, will be the worst consequence of Trump’s action.

No doubt his friend Vlad Putin is grinning like the Cheshire Cat: well-done, Donald. Yet again. Knew I could count on you.

Ever since joining the war in Syria, Putin has been playing dozens of ends against the middle, trying to become the dominant player in the region. To that end, Russia has been cultivating both Iran and Turkey, whose feelings for each other lack excessive warmth.

Should the Turkish offensive develop as clearly planned, Turkey would act as Putin’s proxy, his battering ram in the Middle East. And Vlad has been running Erdogan in the best traditions of the KGB/FSB, his sponsoring organisation.

Back in July, Turkey took delivery of Russia’s state-of-the-art AA missile systems S-400, brushing aside NATO’s objections that the weapons weren’t compatible with NATO’s. It’s certain that Russian armaments will now flow into Turkey in a mighty stream.

This development threatens to compromise NATO’s southern flank more than it’s already compromised – but then again, Mr Trump rarely makes an effort to conceal his contempt for that organisation. And of course his friend Vlad hates it with an unmitigated passion.

After all, it was NATO that was instrumental in what Putin calls “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, the breakup of the Soviet Union, which Vlad is desperately trying to reverse.

Southward expansion, gaining a foothold at the Straits, has been the strategic objective of the Russian empire since the 18th century at least. After all, the possibilities of expanding eastwards are limited and northwards, non-existent.

Catherine II (now featuring in a staggeringly awful TV series) explained why. “It’s good that we have the Arctic Ocean on our north,” she once said. “Otherwise we’d run out of soldiers.”

The west is another promising direction, and Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine again follows an imperial pattern of long standing. But it’s southward expansion that’s seen as the most immediately promising move towards the restoration of the Russian Empire, this time run by its secret police.

I’m not going to speculate on the nature of the friendship between Trump and Putin. It’s immaterial whether Trump acquiesces in Putin’s policies willingly or under duress. What’s vital is that he does acquiesce in them, and that – as a minimum – he doesn’t see a KGB-run Russia as the global threat she is.

One thing to be said for Trump is that he didn’t create the current mess in the Middle East. That honour belongs to George W. Bush, with his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Egged on by his neocon advisers, with their incendiary rhetoric about nation building and bringing US-style democracy to every tribal society on earth, Bush stirred up a hornet’s nest, and the hornets flew out on cue, stinging millions.

That madness had to end somehow, but the trouble was that no sensible exit was immediately obvious. However, there’s nothing sensible about Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds. It’s at best ill-advised and at worst it can be catastrophic.

Bring back water cannon?

That was one columnist’s advice on how to handle the 30,000 Extinction Rebellion fanatics who have shut Central London down for two days – and promise to do so for a fortnight.

One warning burst would do it

All progressive people responded to that recommendation with spittle-sputtering indignation. I share their wrath unreservedly: live rounds would work much better.

Oh well, since unlike, say, China, Britain is civilised, machine-gunning those zealots will have to remain a cherished fantasy. Fair enough, indiscriminate firing at crowds of unarmed protesters would be an overreaction.

However, we run the risk of throwing away the baby of reaction with the bathwater of overreaction. For let’s make no mistake about it: Britain is under an existential threat. Unless we respond forcefully, the country won’t remain civilised for long.

Goethe once wrote that: “Only he is worthy of life and liberty who fights for them every day.” By that standard, we aren’t worthy.

The police made a mere 321 arrests, which didn’t make the situation any better. All the roads and bridges around Westminster were blocked, and patients at St Thomas’ Hospital, across the river from the Houses of Parliament, were stranded.

Ambulances couldn’t get in or out, which put lives at risk. One woman suffering from lung cancer had to wait for more than an hour because a taxi couldn’t reach her. But hey, what’s a life or two compared to the great cause?

The prime minister reacted to the situation with his customary verbal flair, calling the fanatics “the denizens of the heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs that now litter Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park Corner”.

But, rather than proposing a solution, Mr Johnson showed he himself was part of the problem by contrasting the ‘denizens’ to Margaret Thatcher, described as a “true feminist green revolutionary” who took greenhouse gases “seriously long before Greta Thunberg”.

The logical inference is that their cause is noble, but they serve it the wrong way. All the papers reacted in a similar vein, regretting the plight of London and describing the protesters’ demands as overambitious, while dignifying the cause behind those demands with virtue-signalling respect.

They all miss the point: the cause is but a pretext. When a mugger pulls a gun and demands £10, he realistically expects you to give him £10. But if the gunman demands a billion pounds, he’s not out to get your money. He’s out to kill you.

This analogy is accurate. For the ‘denizens’ are agitating for zero carbon emissions and no petrol and diesel cars by 2025. And while we’re at it, all of Britain must go vegan by the same time. They know and we know and they know we know that’s not going to happen.

Hence it’s not what they really want, strategically. Their febrile screams about ‘the planet’ are just a tactic, one among many, but one on which they’ve chosen to concentrate their satanic energies at the moment.

Their real animus isn’t love of nature but hatred of the West in general and Britain in particular. Since they don’t have the minds to understand the complexities of such hated entities, those infernal youths reduce them to one: capitalism, naturally understood in the Marxist sense.

That’s why that poor insane Greta froths at the mouth every time she opens it about the fat cats who profit while ‘the planet’ burns.

“We probably don’t even have a future anymore,” she once screamed. “That future has been sold so that a small number of people can make unimaginable amounts of money.” Get rid of those bloodsuckers, and everything will be hunky-dory, and where have we heard this before?

She and other callow revolutionaries know that without fossil fuels and nuclear energy (their previous, but at the moment secondary, target) ‘capitalism’ will crash, taking Western civilisation down with it. QED.

Should they get their way – and our government’s cowardly, dishonest response suggests they might – the consequences would indeed be unimaginable. The only civilisation that has managed to make decent life available to most people would collapse, burying millions under the rubble.

There would be endless famines, medicines would run out, darkness would descend on our cities, and people would be too hungry, weak and cold to resist the young oppressors, lording it over them with time-proven revolutionary cruelty.

Lacking the energy to survive, the world would have to reduce its population to pre-industrial levels, when all energy was produced by water and wind. Britain’s population in 1800 was 10 million, and that’s what it would be again should those possessed youths get their way. Subtract that number from the current 65 million, and you’ll get the human cost of ‘saving the planet’.

The first batches of victims would fall in the same Third World these pimply ‘denizens’ profess to worship. Those countries already struggle to feed their people or to give them clean water – what’ll happen to them when they have no power stations, tractors or canning factories?

The infernal youths don’t care; such people never do. They’re not out to save anybody or anything – they are out to wreak chaos and destruction, inevitably culminating in mass murder, even if that’s not the original intent.

Rather than spouting nonsense about the “feminist green revolutionary” Margaret Thatcher, Mr Johnson, who prides himself on his knowledge of history, should cast a retrospective eye over every country where gonadic youngsters were given the run of the place.

I’d suggest countries like Russia, China and Cambodia as the most obvious models because all those young Bolsheviks, Red Guards and Khmer Rouge were cut out of exactly the same cloth as this lot.

If we don’t stop them, they’ll ruin everything they hate so much about the West, which is the West. So… well, as I write, the idea of strategically placed machine-guns is becoming more and more attractive. Hypothetically, of course.

Outvandal the vandals?

One can only ever disagree with David Davis, MP, respectfully because he’s widely, and deservedly, respected.

Think again, Mr Davis

Hence I’ll only describe his article Brexit Is the Writing on the Wall for Our ‘Constitution’ as ill-considered.

According to Mr Davis, last month’s outrageous decision by the Supreme Court is “the latest indication that Britain’s so-called unwritten constitution is now failing to deliver either effective or democratic government.” Right. So our constitution is only so-called, not real.

And then: “That centuries-old system, a fluid interpretation of codes, customs, conventions and case law, operated in a way that respected the realities of the day… [and] it worked better than the most elegant legal constructs of other nations.”

That our ‘so-called’ constitution has worked better than any written document produced by other nations is a matter not of opinion but of fact. Yet our constitution has been so successful not because it “respected the realities of the day”, but specifically because it didn’t.

Instead it brought to the fore timeless values that transcended quotidian concerns: common sense, restraint, justice, equity and respect for tradition – which happen to be the defining aspects of the British national character.

Both the character and the constitution have developed in parallel, overlapping so much that almost nothing sticks out: Britain, unlike any other European nation, is defined by her political dispensation. Take that away, and not only British politics will no longer be British, but the British will no longer be British.

Our constitution, incorporating both the monarchy and the Church, is a factor of organic continuity; it’s a bond tying together generations past, present and future. No nation can survive without some such bond, but, of the great European nations, only in Britain is it provided by a constitutional settlement.

Yet Mr Davis is right: at present, our constitution is indeed “failing to deliver either effective or democratic government”.

I especially like this “either… or”. Surely Mr Davis doesn’t believe our government has to choose between efficacy and democracy? He probably doesn’t, but I do – in the sense in which democracy is now used.

A successful constitution usually has enough margin built in to accommodate the odd influx of mediocre guardians, such as politicians, judges and civil servants. But no constitution can succeed when such people either don’t understand it or don’t like it or, especially, actively seek to undermine it.

Hence one test of a sound constitution is its ability to elevate to government those whose intellect and character make them fit to govern. Our constitution has been failing that test over the past decades, and the key problem comes from letting democracy claim the exalted ascendancy to which it wasn’t traditionally entitled.

That’s why sage people have over centuries lovingly nurtured a constitution able to prevent tyranny by both minority and majority. To that end all the elements of our constitution, including the democratic one, have been carefully balanced against one another.

After all, only responsible voters can elect a responsible government. Edmund Burke estimated the number of those fit to vote in his contemporaneous eighteenth-century England at 400,000, which then constituted about eight per cent of the country’s population.

These days we clearly can’t impose the same qualifications on suffrage that were normal in Burke’s day. Yet that shouldn’t mean that no qualifications should be imposed at all. The most obvious one is that of voting age, which has been creeping downwards – to a point where the head of politics at Cambridge University has called for children as young as six to be given the vote, and he was being serious.

In fact, constitutional vandalism has been gathering pace precisely in the decades following 1969, when voting age was lowered to 18. For a broad swathe of the electorate began to vote – and consequently exert upward pressure on the government – with their gonads, rather than their immature minds.

The entire political spectrum began to shift leftwards at an alarming speed, creating a conflict between ‘liberal’ policies and an inherently conservative constitution.

At roughly the same time, the education system fell victim to egalitarian zeal, making sure that even many of those who could develop a political intellect were denied the opportunity to do so.

That has led to intellectually feeble and morally corrupt individuals ascending to government en masse. Once there, they attack our constitution, while claiming undying devotion to democracy.

One can see self-interest at work there. Rather than being just one element in the constitution, democracy now sabotages it by corrupting all the other elements. And only a sabotaged constitution can perpetuate the emerging elite of pygmies.

Mr Davis doesn’t seem to understand the aetiology of the malady he sees. And as to the treatment he proposes, any doctor following the same logic would become a mass murderer unless he were struck off first.

He doesn’t suggest measures undoing the damage of the recent decades, such as restoring the now politicised Lords to its traditional constitutional role, getting rid of the equally politicised and superfluous Supreme Court, preventing parliament from rendering the executive impotent, introducing stricter qualifications on voting and so forth.

Instead Mr Davis would like to destroy the greatest constitution in history altogether by replacing it with a US-style written document.

Now, I often use the same simile when talking about written constitutions, likening them to a prenuptial agreement stipulating the frequency of sex: if you have to write it down, you might as well not bother.

Clearly this applies only to old, organically developed nations, not revolutionary governments that draw up their constitutions when they’ve existed for merely 20 years – like the United States, which Mr Davis sees as our role model.

Such governments may indeed require a written document, and more power to them. But throughout history they’ve looked up to Britain in framing their constitutional thought, not the other way around.

Mr Davis is free to admire whomever he finds inspiring, such as “Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, the great American constitutionalists who authored The Federalist Papers”, but he must realise that what was America’s meat would be our poison.

Mr Davis calls for creating yet another quango, and one would think we have enough of them already. The one he proposes is a royal commission set up to put together a written constitution “not unlike” the one drawn up by his idols.

They expertly fused English common law with new-fangled Enlightenment dogmas to create a document that has succeeded on its own terms. Yet Mr Davis himself acknowledges that our terms are different:  

“Madison’s seminal contribution was about limiting any tendency to populist demagoguery creating a majoritarian dictatorship and also protecting the rights of the minority – an idea that has been implicit in British common law for centuries.” [My emphasis.]

I’m confused. If this idea has been implicit in English (not, in this context, British) common law for centuries, what’s so seminal about Madison’s contribution? What is it we have to learn from the American founders – especially since many of them were horrified when observing the chicken hatched by the egg they had laid?

In 1806 John Adams wrote, “I once thought our Constitution was a quasi or mixed government, but they had made it… a democracy.” And in 1811 he rued, “Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation of the human race and the whole globe ever since?”

Thomas Jefferson echoed Plato by observing that: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one per cent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

That’s why Hamilton, aware of the democratic tendency to convert appetites into new rights and ancient rights into anachronisms, campaigned tirelessly against the introduction of the Bill of Rights.

“A new codified constitution,” writes Mr Davis, “would have to incorporate those common law traditions, resettle the balance between the executive, parliament, the courts and the people, address the needs of devolved nations, reform the Lords and secure basic rights.”

Incorporate common law traditions into what? A piece of paper that spells out surrender to our rampaging paedocratic modernity? One that would enshrine every perversion and every act of sabotage?

The whole point about common law traditions is that they are based on a careful accumulation of precedents over millennia, not a sweeping brainstorm of some mythical royal commission.

What Mr Davis proposes, unwittingly no doubt, is the ultimate constitutional sabotage that would implode the entire political history of the country. Blown up sky high would be, inter alia, such institutions as the monarchy and the established Church – they manifestly don’t “respect the realities of the day”.

Following them into oblivion would be not just our constitution but our country – as we know it. This isn’t the outcome Mr Davis desires. But it’s one his proposals would deliver if acted upon.