Say no to the A-word

The F-word, the C-word and even – as a tribute to our American friends – the compound M-word are more or less standard fare on TV.

This is a simian or a primate. Call it ‘ape’ and kiss your job good-bye

But let the A-word, as in ape, cross your lips and you’re in deep trouble, as ITV news anchorman Alastair Stewart has found out.

In a spat with a (black!) man on Twitter, he had the gall to quote the (white!) playwright William Shakespeare: “But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority. Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d, his glassy essence — like an angry ape.”

His correspondent justifiably complained that he had been called an ape, and as a result Mr Stewart had to tender his resignation, accompanied by regrets about his “misjudgement”.

He clearly has a firmer grasp of classic literature than of modern realities. Otherwise, he would never have fallen into that racist trap. His excuses sounded feeble and meaningless, even though Mr Stewart showed that he had used the same quote before when arguing with a white man.

He ought to have known that certain words are to be avoided on pain of dire consequences – regardless of any absence of racial connotations.

As a lifelong fighter against racism and for diversity, I’m pleased to offer a short, by no means exhaustive, sample of such objectionable words, and also put forth some suggestions on how they can be circumvented.

You’ll find that in some instances such detours make the sentence longer, but that shouldn’t put you off. Think of it as taking side roads to avoid a motorway gridlock. Yes, your new route may be longer, but that wouldn’t bother you, would it?

In that spirit, here are my choices. Make them yours and you just may be able to hang on to your job for a while longer.

Ape (or monkey) should never be used. Simian is a good substitute noun, and imitate is a safe alternative for ape as a verb. A woman may thus discourage a man by saying “no simian business”. A “simian puzzle tree” will take some getting used to, but time is on our side.

Banana is off limits. When shopping at a greengrocer’s, just ask for a pound of curved yellow tropical fruit, making sure he understands you aren’t asking for a homosexual hunchback from Burma.

Black may be acceptable in some situations but, to be on the safe side, is best to avoid. BlackBerry mobiles can be just as easily described as AfroCaribbeanBerry mobiles.

Boogie-woogie is a wrong name for that style of jazz. Call it jitterbug: what you lose in accuracy, you gain in job prospects.

Coconut is a fruit of the palm tree. Why not call it just that to avoid trouble?

Coon, as in raccoon, is so offensive that, if you have to talk about American mammals, call them rac-youknowwhat.

Jig may have been an appropriate name for that dance in 16th century Britain, but in the 20th century you’d be lucky to get away with merely a sacking if you use the word. You can’t go wrong with reel, though it’s not quite the same thing.

Jungle is a tropical rainforest. Avoid the word like the plague in all uses, such as j=music or j-bunny. Ideally, you should campaign for Kipling’s Jungle Book to be renamed Tropical Rainforest Book.

Niggardly and niggling are strictly taboo. Exercise caution even with phonetic associations appearing in words like renege and sniggering. Nigeria and Niger are hard to avoid, although it’s worth trying circuitous routes like West African country with Lagos (or, in the latter case, Niamey) as its capital. Better safe than sorry.

Sambo is a Russian martial art. Use the word in any other meaning, and unemployment beckons.

Spade is grossly pejorative, a sacking offence no matter how it’s used. Say shovel instead, as in “call a shovel a shovel”.

Never say spear. Always say javelin, even if it means quoting from Shakejavelin.

Watermelon is a Cucurbitaceae, in botany. A much safer word, that, but don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

Oh well, this will do for a start. The important thing is for you to get into the general spirit of things, for which the poncy word is Zeitgeist. Whenever you open your mouth in public, think of a minefield, where one wrong step can reduce you to red spray.

If you’re careful, you just may negotiate your way safely and get on the right side of the racially sensitive people, among whom I proudly count myself. I hope this little glossary has been helpful. Good luck, and watch your step.

Oxbridge goes flat

Middle-class students will be squeezed out, as Oxford and Cambridge Universities want to increase ‘deprived’ admissions, while keeping the overall number of students constant.

Let’s pull down those dreaming spires while we’re at it, shall we?

My immediate reaction is that they ought to rename their post-graduate degrees PD, to accommodate an influx of students who drop their aitches.

Such petty, vituperative snobbery aside, this gives me a warm feeling of nostalgia, for I grew up in a country where ideology overrode reason. That created a twilight zone of virtual reality, enforced as actual.

Or perhaps the feeling isn’t exactly warm, for I hated life there. Hence, when still a youngster, I flew like a moth towards the light of the West – only to be singed by the realisation that twilight descended there too.

An essential feature of it is rampant egalitarianism, the urge to flatten out human peaks and troughs so they all converge into an amorphous mass of mediocrity. It’s especially painful to observe this at two of the world’s most venerable universities, whose remit is to create intellectual elites.

They ignore that the world is organised vertically, not horizontally. This applies to every aspect of life: social, cultural, economic, intellectual, or moral.

Hierarchical pyramids exist, and they can only be truncated at the top. This is possible to do, what with the state wielding a whole set of hacksaws designed for that purpose. But the consequences of such an operation are invariably catastrophic.

Oxbridge seems to proceed from the assumption that most people, and all classes, are equally capable of academic attainment.

Hence, if they don’t achieve equally, social injustice is at work, which can be corrected by political or administrative action. If the lower classes are underrepresented in a student body, then this has to be put down either to discrimination or to poverty.

That’s simply not the case at a level of large numbers, and Oxbridge is talking strictly in numerical terms. No other considerations seem to apply.

Yet they are vital, and here I have to mention some hard truths that no mass publication would ever accept. For different classes do differ in academic ability.

These days we are expected to define class distinctions as variations in wealth only, with wealth seen as some random force majeure. Yet human factors are usually both the cause and function of wealth differences.

How did the middle classes earn their money in the first place? The answer is, by intelligence, drive and self-discipline.

Logically then, the poor lack such qualities, for if they didn’t they wouldn’t remain poor in an economy seldom short of opportunities. Once again, we are talking not individuals but averages here, which is never my preference where people are concerned.

But these are the terms chosen by Oxbridge, and just about every modern institution. None of them speaks about attracting outstanding or even deserving women and members of lower classes or ethnic minorities. Percentages are all that matters.

Alas, when a family has consecutive generations of underachievement, especially of the kind fuelled by state handouts, each subsequent generation finds itself at a greater disadvantage.

For middleclass incomes tend to promote middleclass values. One such is commitment to self-perpetuation, to which end many middleclass families try to inoculate their offspring against the more toxic aspects of modernity.

They help their children learn to read at an early age and practise that skill, even in occasional preference to video games. They then send their young to good schools, thereby often sacrificing their own pleasures.

Above all, they set a good example, by reading the odd book, going to the odd museum, attending the odd concert of real music and leading reasonably sober lives.

Moreover, middleclass men and women tend to marry their own kind, creating solid inputs into their families’ gene pools. That’s partly why, for whatever it’s worth, children growing up in middleclass neighbourhoods have higher IQ scores than children raised on council estates.

All things considered, for good universities to retain their status, most of their students should indeed come from middleclass families. Provided, and this is an important proviso, capable children from the lower classes aren’t left behind.

Whenever that happens, a problem exists that must be solved. And the solution starts with treating people not as numbers on statistical charts, but as individuals.

No country is so blessed with a surfeit of talent that it can afford to let gifted children fall through the cracks. After three generations of comprehensive non-education, Britain must dedicate every effort to identifying and fostering capable youngsters, whatever their walk in life.

The question is, how? Well, certainly not by introducing faceless statistical quotas owing their existence to ideologies proved destructive everywhere they’ve been applied in earnest.

Egalitarian comprehensive ‘education’ has failed to achieve its manifest purpose – quite the contrary. By destroying grammar schools, our socialists destroyed opportunities for clever children from poor families to be admitted to our best universities on merit.

The two-tier system of the past assured that some 25 per cent of the alumni were well-educated, and the rest still adequately prepared to fend for themselves in the economic rough-and-tumble.

This was perhaps the world’s most successful system of public education, and the world sighed enviously. Now, seeing that thousands of our youngsters leave secondary schools functionally illiterate, the world smirks contemptuously.

That’s where the first steps towards a more diversified social mix at Oxbridge should be taken. Reinstating grammar schools wouldn’t lower the academic standards at universities and would probably improve them.

What’s being proposed, however, will turn our universities into workshops for social engineering. The educational value of a university degree has already fallen under the level of the grammar school diploma of yesteryear. Now Oxbridge is trying to pull it down even lower than that.

A PD degree, anyone?

McEnroe should curb his attacking instincts

At times I think that freedom from speech should be considered a fundamental human right – especially when celebrities pontificate on subjects outside their immediate expertise.

Mrs Court as Margaret Smith (before she became a criminal)

John McEnroe was an inspiring tennis player who has become the best tennis commentator I know. I’m willing to hang on to his every word when he talks tennis because there’s much he can teach me.

That’s where my admiration for him begins and ends. I don’t think a chap who has largely spent his life outside tennis doing drugs, playing pop music and hanging out on the celebrity circuit has earned his right to a public audience when the subject matter goes beyond sliced serves and drop shots.

McEnroe clearly disagrees because he saw fit to deliver himself of a nauseating rant aimed at Margaret Court.

The on-going Australian Open marks the 50 anniversary of Mrs Court’s 1970 season, when she won all four majors in a single year. Considering she’s one of only five players of either sex ever to have done so, that achievement is worthy of a celebration.

McEnroe and other woke tennis players beg to differ. For Mrs Court has offended everything progressive mankind holds dear by lamenting that the women’s tour is “full of lesbians”.

Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs took exception to that observation, and rather aggressively at that. Considering that all four are lesbians themselves, one struggles to understand what their problem is.

Do they think Mrs Court’s observation is inaccurate? If so, that’s like pub crawlers insisting that Britain has no drinking problem. So no, that’s not the nature of their objection.

You see, Mrs Court has openly expressed her opposition to homomarriage and, truth be told, to the prevalence of homosexuality in general, not just in women’s tennis. There she proceeds from a solid starting point.

For, after she stopped playing, Mrs Court became a Pentecostal pastor. Now I regard all such Protestant sects as more heretical and neo-pagan than Christian, but that’s neither here nor there.

What matters is that Mrs Court sees herself as a missionary acting on Jesus’s commandment to spread the word (“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…”). And it so happens that, in spite of being a sectarian, she enunciates the ecumenical Christian position on this issue.

The trouble is that, to the woke majority, any Christian position is ipso facto offensive. When it challenges their cherished ideology, it becomes downright criminal.

Hence McEnroe’s rant, disguised with his chatty, smiley bonhomie. Mrs Court, he shouted, holds revolting homophobic views and therefore her grand slam deserves no celebration.

He then let the cat out of the bag by peculiarly citing Mrs Court’s approval of South African apartheid as proof of her homophobia. The secret he thereby revealed is that, like Greek philosophers, the woke brigade also has its ‘transcendentals’.

If Plato and Aristotle regarded beauty, truth and morality as inseparable ontological properties of man, this lot cast racism, homophobia, misogyny and so on in the same role. Since they are all aspects of the same whole, an affront to one interchangeable virtue is an affront to all.

Thus someone who trembles with fear whenever a homosexual enters a room may just as well be described as a racist, while a chap who screams “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack!” may be tagged a homophobe, misogynist or global warming denier.

To McEnroe, Margaret Smith is a “crazy aunt” who “uses the Bible to say what she wants”, as opposed to the woke-proof practice of shoving a gram of coke up one’s nose and then strumming one’s guitar and screeching gibberish to some stupefyingly monotonous beat.

Mrs Court is a ventriloquist, explained McEnroe, and the Bible is her dummy. If he insists on this metaphor, then surely it ought to be the other way around? I’m confused, even though I’ve never snorted cocaine.

The next day, McEnroe and Navratilova unfurled a banner at the Australian Open, calling for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed. That act of vandalism was too much even for Tennis Australia.

Even though allowing that Mrs Court’s views “do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion”, the federation issued a statement saying that “two high-profile guests” had breached their protocols.

Translated from Australian, McEnroe and Navratilova should mind their own business and shut up. A sound suggestion, that, but the Aussies should dream on: this lot will never shut up.

Navratilova in particular has solid family reasons to pursue this matter ad nauseam: “My wife Julia said you’re complaining about it, but what are you going to do?” Why, mouth off and wave banners, of course. Why?

The unbridgeable gap is very much in evidence. Martina’s ‘wife’ is named Julia; Margaret’s husband is named Barrymore. Both women are too vociferous for my taste, but only one of them is deeply offensive. And it’s not Mrs Court.

Gretinism is genocide

I owe this apt neologism to the Russo-American commentator Andrey Illarionov, who correctly identifies ecofanaticism as potentially the deadliest ideology that has ever afflicted mankind.

The face of inhumanity

As presidents and prime ministers listen in rapt attention, that deranged child outlines plans for a genocide exceeding by orders of magnitude everything red and brown socialists have managed so far.

Or rather those craven, deluded grown-ups listen without hearing. If they actually heard and, better still, pondered what Greta is demanding, one would hope they’d be horrified.

Let’s not be so negligent and concentrate on what Greta had to say for herself at Davos a few days ago:“We don’t need a ‘low-carbon economy. We don’t need ‘lower emissions’. Emissions must be stopped… we must forget about ‘net zero’. We need actual zero… We don’t want it to be done by 2050, 2030 or even 2025. We want it now.”

Considering that fossil fuels provide 85.5 per cent of world energy, acceding to Greta’s demand would spell an economic and social catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen – complete with mass famines, deadly epidemics and even deadlier violence all over the globe.

Scientists estimate the death toll of that exercise at somewhere between one and two billion souls. Messrs Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot must be turning green in their graves.

Yet we should exhume their memory and realise that a propensity for mass murder wasn’t the only thing they have in common with the gretins. Those monsters each had their pet hates, but one they shared was hatred of ‘capitalism’, a term they all gratefully borrowed from Marx.

Greta too inveighs against capitalists and their profits every chance she gets, but it takes likeminded adults to put such juvenile tantrums into an ideological nutshell.

Thus Chistina Figueros, the UN climate supremo (and let’s not forget that it was the UN that first screamed that the end of the world was nigh): “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

That offensive model of economic development brought unprecedented prosperity; scientific, technological and medical progress; the end of both hunger and dependence on the whims of nature. The only places unable to boast such accomplishments are those where this ‘model’ was ignored, expunged or introduced belatedly.

Now the gretins wish to plunge the whole world into the same misery, citing in their support the kind of flimsy scientific evidence that would never pass muster in a less politicised area.

Facts that contradict their inhuman ideology are either hushed up or falsified. For example, they’ll never acknowledge that in the 30 years between 1946 and 1976, when little attention was being paid to reducing carbon emissions, the average world temperature dropped by 0.1 degrees centigrade – and it remained constant over the next 40 years or so.

What the gretins describe as a crisis is in fact a normal process observable throughout history. At times it used to be more vigorous than now, including during the periods long before mankind began to burn hydrocarbons.

That’s not to say that no anthropogenic input into climate exists. It does, but it’s immeasurably minuscule as compared to such natural factors as solar radiation, volcanic activity or cloud cover.

However, it’s useless to engage gretins on a rational level. They are driven neither by reason nor by empirical evidence, but by ideological, politicised hatred (see the photo above).

Arguments won’t defeat fire-eating ideologues consumed with hatred – they can only be stopped by political or even, in extreme cases, coercive action. Instead, all those prime ministers, presidents and captains of industry nod their agreement, while shielding their faces from Greta’s spittle.

They don’t realise, or more likely don’t care, that, by acquiescing to the gretins’ shrill demands for misconstrued political reasons, they are courting a global genocidal disaster. And I’m not talking about global warming.

I was born in the wrong body

It was the bane of my existence. Hardly a minute went by that my body didn’t feel like a dungeon in which the real me languished.

That’s me on the left, fighting the demons of lavatorial prejudice

People looked at my squat frame, broader than it was tall, without realising that what they were seeing was a torture chamber in which my true body was being broken on the rack of wrong identity.

As years went by, things got worse. If in the past my constricting shell resembled an inverted pyramid, albeit one only 5’7” tall, eventually the midriff caught up with the shoulders, making my wrong body look more like that of a panda with a drinking problem.

God knows I tried to shed that offence to my true self. I played all sorts of sports, mostly tennis, only to find that didn’t offer an escape route. I cut down my alcohol consumption to a mere three times the BMA recommended allowance. I reduced the size of steaks I was eating from 16 to 12 ounces.

Nothing worked. The warder in my corporal prison wouldn’t unlock the door.

As my wrong body continued to expand, so did the trauma. The thought of suicide crossed my mind, but I chased it away, realising that thereby not only would my dead body keep its offensive shape, but it would also smell foul.

Obviously, I thought of getting psychiatric help, the more Freudian the better. Maybe, just maybe, my real body was imprisoned by my subconscious desire to bonk my Mum, kill my Dad and gouge my eyes out.

However, one look at the analysts’ price lists slammed me back into my solitary confinement. Despair set in. All hope fell by the wayside, as I tried, yet failed, to prepare myself to life without hope.

But then a miracle occurred. It was a secular miracle, naturally, for no others exist. Yet the effect was as liberating. My spine straightened out, gloom left my mind, scales fell off my eyes.

I realised that all I had to do was identify as one with the body of a Hellenic God, Apollo this time, not my customary Bacchus. The prison gates were instantly flung open, and my true self strutted out, bristling with muscle and self-confidence.

To be sure, I still look like my old self to the outside world. But that can change. The world can be forced to see me as I see myself.

All it takes is a smart political campaign proclaiming my right to identify as anything I please. Today I choose to identify as Apollo, tomorrow I may decide that Venus offers greater opportunities for social advancement, especially in the entertainment industry. And the day after tomorrow I may switch back.

In fact, if such is my wont, I may become a pendulum constantly swinging between Apollo and Venus, and the world will have to accept me as what I am each day (even if I myself may become somewhat confused).

That means that, among other things, I’d be entitled to go into any public lavatory, whether marked as A (for Apollo) or V (for Venus). In fact, the best solution would be to eliminate such yoke-like restrictions and turn every such facility into a uni-divine AV.

We must put an end to lavatorial separatism, which discriminates against people who, like me, fight for AV rights. And if you disagree, you’d better hire a burly bodyguard, for I’m coming after you, you antediluvian fossil.

The C of E finally did something right

Anglican bishops have declared that, since sex outside marriage is a sin, couples living in civil partnerships (heterosexual or otherwise) should remain celibate.

What the Hell is Amanda Platell talking about?

To paraphrase, the Church simply said that Christians should observe all ten Commandments, not just those they find painless.

For it to say that the nuptial bed is the only acceptable arena for sex is no different from reminding us that murder and theft are sins. Thus the Anglican bishops were simply doing their job, for once.

However, our pundits would rather the Church shied away from its core job and instead did the job of other institutions, such as social services, the entertainment industry or amusement parks.

This preference has come across in numerous comments in the press, and Amanda Platell’s rivals any for sheer ignorance. Since Miss Platell calls herself “a paid up Christian”, her ignorance of basic doctrine is as lamentable as it is, alas, widespread.

“Bejesus,” she writes, “where does that leave me, a woman who isn’t married… but one who, whisper it, occasionally shares her bed?”

Then, in the very next sentence, she answers her own question: “In one sense the Church is right: the Bible is clear that sex outside marriage is a sin.”

What other senses are there for bishops? Their latitude in commenting on this issue is narrower than that of, say, lifestyle columnists. But do let Miss Platell continue:

“Yet half of all couples with children are not married. Are the bishops condemning them all to the fires of Hell? Doesn’t sound very Christian to me.”

Since Miss Platell is a self-admitted regular churchgoer, either she hasn’t asked her vicar to clarify what is and what isn’t Christian or, which is possible, the vicar wasn’t up to the task. If so, I hereby appoint myself to take up the slack.

Miss Platell’s demographic statistics are both correct and catastrophic, accompanied as they are by another related datum: almost a quarter of British families with dependent children are made up of single mothers.

Miss Platell evidently believes this situation is just part of nature, like the rain. And, since the Church wouldn’t comment on the elements, neither should it bemoan the aforementioned social and cultural disaster.

She isn’t good at discerning causative relationships. Otherwise she’d realise that the general debauchment of marriage is a direct consequence of the Church being too feeble, rather than too forceful, in resisting the more objectionable aspects of modernity.

Bishops should have been screaming the message that so vexes Miss Platell every day for decades, rather than debating the delights of civil unions and same-sex marriages.

Here Miss Platell commits a rhetorical fallacy known as argumentum ad populum: because many people do it, it has to be right.

If any Christian institution functioned according to that logic, one would wonder what it’s for. After all, many people don’t just have a bit of how’s your father out of wedlock. They are equally cavalier about the other commandments too: they kill, steal, bear false witness and so on.

Shouldn’t the Church remind them every once in a while that such behaviour is wrong? Not according to Miss Platell.

Since she grudgingly accepts that the Bible regards sex outside marriage as a sin, perhaps she should remind herself that the second part of that book is even stricter on that subject: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Before you get red in the face and cast a furtive look at your wife, let’s ponder what was really said there.

If any adult male with a palpable pulse, regardless of his religious convictions, looks into his own heart, he’ll find that during his daily ride to work he commits that brand of adultery every time a good-looking woman gets on the train.

And given the easy availability of flattering clothes, cosmetics, healthy diets and exercise regimens, most women whose locomotion isn’t boosted by a Zimmer frame can look good enough to consign our commuter to an eternity in hell.

Since no one could possibly observe that Commandment as rendered by Jesus, then no one will be saved; everybody is a blasphemous law-breaker to be consumed by the fire of hell (I know I am). At least that’s what Miss Platell thinks.

But Jesus clearly thought otherwise, for such blanket cruelty would go against God’s loving essence. What we are witnessing here is a veiled reference to the Christian dialectic of yes-no-yes.

Jesus was saying that by all means, do try to observe the law (the ‘yes’ thesis). But without God’s help you’ll never succeed (the ‘no’ antithesis). Therefore you can’t be saved by your own efforts only. You must seek God’s help, which means putting God first (the ‘yes’ synthesis) – exactly the message of the first and most important Commandment.

Miss Platell’s take on this is so ignorant and vulgar that one wonders exactly what makes her a Christian. For Christians aren’t just supposed to believe; they must also understand what they believe, and why.

To traditional theology, hell isn’t a giant frying pan on which Miss Platell could be cooked to the desired degree of rareness. In fact, that utensil isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Hell means being left to one’s own devices, imprisoned in one’s own conscience outside God.

A church isn’t a court of justice meting out punishment, nor is a sin a regular crime to be punished. Christianity treats sin as a wound that can fester into separation from God. Hence a church isn’t a prosecutor, but a doctor – someone who offers a cure for a disease.

Miss Platell further demonstrates her deafness to causative relationships by observing that most Anglican churches are quite empty. That’s true. But does she think that’s because the Church is too Christian or not Christian enough?

Evidently the former. For otherwise she’d mitigate her indignation, if not necessarily her behaviour. But at least she’d be able to put her occasional tendency to “share her bed” in a proper Christian context.

Liberators or occupiers?

Putin took full advantage of one of his rare opportunities to pontificate on a world stage. The stage was kindly provided by Israel, hosting a forum to celebrate the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago.

The Nazis didn’t own exclusive rights to genocide

Though attended by many world leaders, including our own Prince Charles who had sorted out the climate problems en route, one such leader was conspicuous by his absence.

President of Poland Andrzej Duda chose to boycott the event because he didn’t want to hear Vlad playing world leader on this particular occasion. The truculent Pole still insists that Stalin’s Russia was, along with Hitler’s Germany, responsible for the war and, by inference, the Holocaust.

The Poles, along with some other sore losers, such as the Balts, always remember the First of September, when Germany attacked Poland from the west. However, they also remember the 17th of the same month, 1939, when the Nazis’ Soviet allies stabbed Poland in the back from the east.

Nor are they prepared to forget the Nazi-Soviet Pact that divided Europe between the two predators. They even still mention that, after the first few days of the war, most of the ordnance the Nazis rained on the Polish army was of Soviet manufacture (the same, incidentally, goes for the Luftwaffe bombs falling on London).

What makes matters even worse is that the EU at large went along with this view of history and passed a resolution daring to mention Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the same breath.

Vlad, who is busily putting together an ideological cocktail including equal measures of Stalinism and Russian Orthodoxy, is incandescent. How dare those bastards “rewrite history”! Why, he’s going to “shut their filthy mouths” if that’s the last thing he does.

However, while the filthy mouths still remain defiantly open, he has subtly changed his propaganda. Until the present attempts to “rewrite history” in agreement with historical facts, the Russian mantra was “we liberated Europe from fascism”.

Alas, every time this refrain is sung, the aforementioned filthy mouths demur. The Soviets, they say, simply replaced the brown hue of fascism with the red variety. That scarcely qualifies as liberation. It’s more like substituting the rock for the hard place.

Fine, says Vlad. We’ll sort out those naysayers later. Meanwhile, here’s one fact no mouth, however filthy, will dispute. Stalin saved the remaining European Jews from certain death, by liberating Auschwitz and other such hellholes.

To reinforce that message, he out of the blue referred to Poland’s forgotten ambassador to Nazi Germany  as “scum” and “anti-Semitic swine”, thereby claiming virtue by dissociation from sin. The implication was that the Poles provoked the German attack because they wanted to enlist the Nazis in the cause of slaughtering Jews.

By boycotting the conference, President Duda communicated his refusal to buy that message. He isn’t the only one.

The dichotomy of the philo-Semitic Stalin saving Jews from the anti-Semitic Hitler may work marginally better than the image of Soviet liberators, but not well enough.

For, once liberated, those Nazi camps weren’t decommissioned. The Soviets continued to use those purpose-built facilities for the purpose they had been built for.

Many skeletal inmates, those who didn’t pass ideological muster, stayed put. Many others were shipped to the Soviet equivalents. How many of them were Jews, I don’t know. Definitely some.

After the war, that philo-Semitic Stalin planned a final solution of his own. The Doctors’ Plot trial of 1952 was a prelude to the wholesale deportation of all Jews to Siberia, where new camps were being built to accommodate the influx.

The doctors, most of them Jews, were accused of planning to murder the entire leadership of the Soviet Union. Most of them, unable to withstand diabolical torture, admitted their guilt. Some died before trial.

The plan was to hang the doctors publicly in Red Square, after which the Soviet government would kindly step in and save the Jews from the ensuing outburst of public wrath by shipping them far out of sight.

The trial was accompanied by the kind of anti-Semitic propaganda that would have made Julius Streicher turn green with envy, had he lived to see the day. In parallel, similar campaigns were under way in the newly liberated Eastern Europe, where many Jewish leaders were executed on trumped-up charges of Zionism.

Soviet Jews were saved by Stalin’s timely death, after which they had no more cause to fear for their lives than the rest of the enslaved population. But the Soviet Union remained virulently anti-Semitic.

Percentage quotas were introduced in universities, varying from three to zero per cent (the latter at the more prestigious institutions). A whole raft of jobs were off limits to Jews, whose ethnicity was specified in their identity papers. Outbursts of spontaneous anti-Semitic violence went unpunished.

For today’s heirs to Stalin et al. to claim the mantle of saviours, they must as a minimum repudiate Russia’s communist past, naming, shaming and punishing the surviving perpetrators of Soviet crimes. As part of that cleansing experience, they should ban from government any members of oppressive, blood-stained organisations, such as the KGB.

Eastern European countries have done just that, with variable success. But at least they’ve made an honest attempt to atone for their sins. The Russians not only have made no such attempt, but they are governed by a group 82 per cent of which – including you know whom – have KGB links.

In Putin’s Russia, Stalin isn’t so much exonerated as glorified, with his genocidal peccadillos glossed over and put down to the vicissitudes of history. And that’s genocides that actually happened, those of Poles, Finns, Chechens, Russian Germans and many others, never mind those that were merely planned, such as that of the Jews.

Well done, President Duda. I wish others followed suit, but they won’t, will they?

“To get the best results, you must talk to your vegetables”

Prince Charles expressed this sentiment quite some time ago, and he manifestly practises what he preaches. After all, if one talks to vegetables, one must expect that at some point they will talk back.

“Before long, dear, Harry may be looking for another wife thingie…”

In that spirit, HRH had a long conversation with Greta Thunberg, for whom and for whose cause he feels unbridled admiration.

Perhaps it’s unkind to refer to Greta as a vegetable, but she might not mind. After all, she feels such close affinity to all things biological that she’d probably be proud to be described in such botanical terms.

On a more metaphorical level, Greta merits that taxonomic tag thanks to her impressive array of mental disorders, including Asperger’s, bipolar depression and, by the sound of her, perseveration (the urge to repeat the same thing over and over again), along with her inability to cope with the intellectual demands of secondary school.

Yet the poor thing beamed from ear to ear when listening to HRH talk about the vital need for a “paradigm shift” to sustainability and planetary concerns.

If pushed to its logical extreme, that of reverting to a world both pre-industrial and largely pre-agricultural, said shift would make us all march to the soup kitchens, singing in chorus “Brother, can you paradigm?” (If you don’t get the pun, you’re too young for your own good.)

However, neither Greta nor, regrettably, her grownup interlocutor gave much thought to the likely consequences of the desired paradigm shift. Their shared sense of impending doom overshadowed all else.

Greta’s subsequent opinion of Uncle Charlie has gone unrecorded. But HRH was effusive: “Well, she’s remarkable, she represents one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make all this effort all of these years, because, as I said, I didn’t want my grandchildren to accuse me of not doing something about this in time.”

All these years? The time element doesn’t seem to be working out, unless of course some star, invisible to others, guided Charles to Greta when she was still a babe in arms. But it’s true that he has been preoccupied with that climate thingie for a while.

In common with all partakers in that particular Damascene experience, Charles could never understand why some others were blind to the light shining so brightly into his eyes. Once, for example, he said: “It is baffling, I must say, that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we accept what science tells us about everything – until, that is, it comes to climate science.”

This lament sounds as if it had indeed come from a babe in arms. For few people have ‘blind trust’ in science, certainly not in every hypothesis science concocts.

Thus physicists argue passionately about such thingies as the string theory, the existence of parallel universes or schizophrenics being able to predict the future because they are actually envoys from those other universes.

When a chap I know was waxing ecstatic about that last possibility, I wondered why in that case schizophrenics never won the lottery. Such facetious remarks aside, arguments about recondite scientific theories are best left to the experts.

Most people do just that, unless the theory has far-reaching political implications. Darwinism is one such hypothesis, for it overturns – on flimsy to nonexistent evidence – the intellectual, spiritual and religious certitudes Darwinists detest.

Climate science is indeed another such politicised area, where the reliability of evidence isn’t even an issue. That’s where blind trust is mandated by anomic activists who detest just about the only arguably good thing modernity has produced: scientific and technological progress.

Notice that Greta and her ilk don’t just protest against carbon emissions per se. They rail against the profits energy companies derive from fuelling our comfortable lives. If that weren’t the case they wouldn’t be opposed just as hysterically to nuclear energy, which leaves next to no carbon footprint.

(The zealots’ usual argument is that nuclear power stations are too expensive to build. That may be so, but it doesn’t explain why they force European governments to shut down the stations that already exist.)

Climate change to them is what the Judaeo-masonic conspiracy is to another batch of fanatics, and fanaticism is mostly the lot of immature, often deranged, youngsters with minds more gonadic than cerebral.

To see our future king talking earnestly to one such prepubescent zealot is most disconcerting. I realise that he is constitutionally prevented from taking political sides, which is why HRH only ever pronounces on things like architecture and organic produce.

I only wish he were bright enough to realise that the issue he has now inscribed on his banners is as political as they come. And he has chosen the wrong side.

No faith in education

Those di- words are clashing all over the place.

Isn’t modernity fun?

As we know, DIVERSITY is a social virtue than which nothing greater can possibly be conceived. Conversely, DISCRIMINATION and DIVISIVENESS are the gravest of sins because they undermine DIVERSITY.

If you accept this premise, then you’ll be ready to overlook the sheer inanity of Rachel Sylvester’s diatribe in The Times. She argues against Boris Johnson’s plan to create state-funded faith schools.

The plan isn’t sacrosanct. One could easily come up with several valid arguments against it, starting with ‘faith’ being so inclusive as to be nebulous.

Valid, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean correct. It only means sound enough not to engender serious concerns about the enunciator’s mental health.

Miss Sylvester’s arguments, however, fail even such a rudimentary test. Faith schools, she writes, are DIVISIVE. For our society to be properly integrated, all schools should be the same for everybody.

After all, “Nobody would dream of setting up a hospital that catered only to Christians, Muslims, Jews or Hindus…” That’s right, nobody would. Yet many people would, upon reading that sentence, be tempted to call for the men in white coats.

Most humans, regardless of their faith, are born with one head, the same internal organs and the requisite number of limbs. Therefore segregating hospitals on the basis of faith would be pointless – therapies and surgical procedures are blind to the contents of people’s heads.

Education, however, isn’t. The Christian view of the world is as different from Muslim, Judaic or Hindu as they are different among themselves. Such differences may affect the teaching of certain subjects, such as history, literature, philosophy, politics, biology and so on.

This distinction escapes Miss Sylvester, which is worrying. For the sake of the august paper that employs her, I hope her problem is psychiatric and therefore treatable. It’s unfathomable that a compos mentis writer would come up with statements that could be instantly debunked by an average pupil of a faith school.

While we’re on the subject of The Times’s hiring practices, its sports columnist Matthew Syed generously allows that Margaret Court shouldn’t be banished from attending the Australian Open.

Mrs Court (an aptonym if I ever saw one) won more Grand Slams than any other tennis player, male or female. However, her views on homosexuality have poured a pot of black paint on that feat.

In broad strokes, Mrs Court, who’s a Christian, believes that homosexuality is a sin, and marriage is a union of one man and one woman, rather than any other combination of mammals.

While laudably insisting that Mrs Court’s achievements should still be acknowledged in spite of her “antediluvian views”, Mr Syed, less laudably, puts forth a narrative of moral relativity that again treads the fine line between inanity and insanity.

Morality, opines Mr Syed, is shifting sands, and a good job too. What was considered moral five minutes ago is seen as bestial now, and we must all march (more appropriately, run) in step with this race towards amorality.

Alas, “One of the ironies of moral education is that many children are taught to consider ethical norms as absolutes.” Perish the thought. Moral absolutes accepted by a whole civilisation as inviolable are anathema to Mr Syed and the vandal counterculture called modernity.

“It is possible, for example,” he writes, “that eating meat will be considered the genocide of our time.” I’d suggest it’s not just possible but guaranteed. What’s merely possible, though perhaps not guaranteed, is that heterosexuality will be considered the sin of our time.

Margaret Court, who dares enunciate views that went unchallenged for millennia and have only become “antediluvian” within the latter part of Mr Syed’s not particularly long lifetime, is to be pitied, not ostracised, as far as he’s concerned.

Mr Syed is prepared to treat her with compassionate understanding. You see, there are “the psychological ironies at play when the moral sensibilities of a society evolve faster than the moral sensibilities of its (ageing) members.”

Hence Mrs Court is allowed to get off with her head. Her fault isn’t inherent evil, as many would aver, but only a lamentable inability to keep pace with the minute-by-minute changes in public morality.

Mr Syed doesn’t answer, nor even ask, the question of what happens when my relative morality is different from yours, ours is in conflict with his, and his with theirs.

How do we settle such disagreements in the absence of absolute moral norms? Brute force seems the only realistic option, but that doesn’t occur to Mr Syed, for reasons either intellectual or psychiatric, I’ll let you decide which.

When I get on my hobby horse of modern insanity, there’s no dismounting. In that vein, a history textbook produced for France’s Grandes Ecoles has this to say about 9/11: “This world event was undoubtedly orchestrated by the CIA (secret services) to impose American influence on the Middle East…”

I especially like the “undoubtedly” part, appearing as the word does not on a madcap conspiracy website but in a textbook to be used by Science Po, l’Ecole d’Administration and other top universities acting as hatcheries of the French elite.

I wonder if their students are also taught to hail every overnight change in morality, while regarding faith schools as a threat to society. I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Paris or London?

I have it on Dr Johnson’s authority that I’m not yet tired of life. For, after 32 years’ living in London, I still haven’t grown tired of it, and nor am I ever likely to.

Human mind at work

Yet, truth be told, Paris has never really grown on me, even though I’ve always made a concerted effort to love it as much as I love the rest of France. That has never quite worked, other than with some of the Left Bank.

So what does London have that Paris doesn’t? Many writers have tried to compare the two cities, either in the form of a novel (Dickens), memoir (Orwell) or essay (Chesterton).

Chesterton singled out the street names in central Paris as compared with those around the Strand in London.

Many Paris streets are named after key historical dates, revolutionary events or Napoleon’s victories, which too were revolutionary events in some ways. On the other hand, the streets around the Strand are mostly named after aristocrats, such as the Earl of Essex, the Earl of Southampton or Lord Burleigh.

Some noblemen rate two such names: Norfolk Street and Arundel Street both honour the same man. And London is even more generous to the favourite of James I and Charles I.

George Street, Villiers Street, Duke Street and Buckingham Street all pay tribute to his Christian name, surname and title. And the latter two used to be linked by the prepositional Of Alley, until it was renamed York Place after another patrician.

That’s five street names for one nobleman, which shows where British priorities are. Nothing like those Parisian thoroughfares called 18 June, 11 November, 25 August, 8 February or whatever.

Then again, London’s – and England’s – history was never diverted by a revolutionary upheaval, not permanently at any rate. The city and the country developed organically, which makes it impossible to signpost their history by a compendium of dates.

When did the English state begin? We don’t really know. It just is. Yet any schoolboy will know that Israel started in 1948, united Germany in 1871, the USA in 1776 – and France, in its republican incarnation, in 1789. And a road that has a definite starting point demands numerous landmarks along the way.

However, whatever aristocratic character London had in Chesterton’s time, now, 100 years later, it has lost it to modern – which is to say aggressively plebeian – architectural vandalism, ably assisted by city councils and the Luftwaffe. Paris’s eyesore quotient is much lower, although its present socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo is doing her best to catch up.

This isn’t to say that central Paris was spared modern vandalism. It wasn’t. But in its case the vandals came earlier, starting in 1789 and continuing throughout the 19th century. The revolutionaries got the ball rolling, and Baron Haussmann used it for wrecking purposes, reshaping the right bank of the Seine to agree with the Zeitgeist.

But even discounting London’s modern monstrosities, and in spite of Haussmann, Paris is still the more beautiful city, one blessed with more aesthetic highlights. And even comparable sights, such as Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey, both Gothic, are incomparably more beautiful in Paris.

However, cities aren’t exhibitions. They are living organisms and as such can’t be judged on aesthetics alone.

Thus a Greek statue of Aphrodite is more beautiful than most women I’ve ever met. Yet, however much people admire statues, they, Pygmalion apart, don’t fall in love with them. Love slides off the cold marble and reaches out for warm flesh.

Chesterton also wrote that an alien falling into Paris from the moon would instantly know it was the capital of a great nation, something that wouldn’t be as immediately apparent in London.

I agree. That’s why I admire Paris, but love London.

Whenever art reminds me that it’s a cognate of artifice, it leaves me cold; and cities are partly works of art too. As such, they should have an emotional impact, leaving no room for rational decortication. Afterwards, having caught one’s breath, one can ponder the masterpiece and try to figure out how it was made.

Paris doesn’t do that. The first thing one sees are the workings of the human mind, informed by a rational idea of how cities should look, how people should live, and how they could be prevented from obstructing rational ideas.

One can almost see Haussmann and his underlings looking at the city plan and saying: “Bien, let’s have a small roundabout here, with five straight streets running into it in such a way that, standing in the geometrical centre one could see all the way to the bottom of each street.

“No, Monsieur, five would work much better than either four or six. I wouldn’t want to pisser on a roundabout with anything other than five streets. And l’Etoile? Now there nothing less than 12 streets will do.”

Statist modernity strives for perfection, which, it was assured by one of its midwives, Rousseau, is achievable. That is reflected in the design of Paris, with its wide, straight avenues, ideal for marching troops and mostly treeless, not to provide a hide for those wishing to snipe at the troops.

Modernity also strives for uniformity, which is why all those avenues look identical, each lined with massive apartment houses built in the same style of the same stone. The ground floors are mostly commercial, with many Parisians (as opposed to few Londoners) living above shops, banks or cafés.

Unlike Paris, London is flawed because it reflects human nature which, contrary to Rousseau’s musings, is never flawless. And London thinks small.

While Paris architects were at their best operating on a large scale, especially with institutional buildings, their London colleagues were at their most expressive with small-scale, mostly residential construction.

When circumstances forced them to act out of character, they often fell flat. Sir Christopher Wren is a prime example. I can never understand how the same man who built the sublime, yet smallish, Royal Hospital Chelsea could also design the hideous St Paul’s Cathedral, which must have inspired the equally awful Panthéon in Paris.

That’s why, whenever I offer tips to visitors, I always suggest they go first to London’s residential areas, which in my view display the English genius at its most poignant.

The architecture there is eclectic, with at least half a dozen different styles forming a visual potpourri in stone, brick, terracotta and stucco: the Regency of Belgravia, the Georgian of Chelsea, the Victorian of Knightsbridge, the neoclassical of Covent Garden and so on.

Little there screams “this is architecture to admire”. Everything whispers “this is the city to love.”  Oh well, vive la différence.