Your thoughts are a police matter

A police ‘community cohesion officer’ visited Harry Miller at work and said: “I’m here to check your thinking.”

Humpty Dumpty, the prince of the modern world

This showed laudable self-confidence, for even neuropsychologists equipped with every manner of scanner are defeated by the task of monitoring the purity of human thought.

Yet the constable was undaunted. He scrutinised Mr Miller’s thinking for 34 minutes and allowed that it fell just short of a felony.

However, the tweets posted by Mr Miller will be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident”, which will tarnish his CV for ever. But he should count himself lucky: he could be doing porridge.

In fact, I’m amazed Mr Miller is at large. For he committed an offence against the very essence of modernity, sacrilege against the dominant secular cult.

Mr Miller obstreperously clings on to the outdated belief that a person’s sex is solely determined by a combination of chromosomes, not by consumer choice expressed through surgery and hormonal treatments.

Such thoughts are dangerous enough even if held in private. But Mr Miller had the gall to commit them to social media. He posted some doggerel accompanied by a satirical entreaty: “I was assigned mammal at birth but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me.” 

I feel slighted. For I’ve been cracking such jokes for years, and yet no policeman has paid me a visit yet. As they say in New York, what am I, chopped liver?

Actually, I’m glad I’ve been spared. For my temperament isn’t as placid as Mr Miller’s seems to be.

If a ‘community cohesion officer’ came to investigate my thoughts, I’d tell him to perform the contortionist feat that only an exceptionally well-endowed man could contemplate. Now, that would be an offence in itself, and I could be prosecuted even if my thoughts passed muster.

Anyway, Mr Miller got off easy. He even went so far as to sue the police force involved, along with the College of Policing. And – are you ready for this? – Mr Justice Julian Knowles found for the claimant, citing freedom of speech.

In his ruling His Honour said: “The effect of the police turning up at [Mr Miller’s] place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated… In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi.”

He forgot to tag on a key word at the end of his sentence: yet. It’s also indicative that he described Mr Miller’s opinion as political.

It strikes me as more aesthetic, commonsensical and, if you will, scientific. For any scientist uncorrupted by ideological afflatus will confirm that, no matter how many bits one has cut off or sewn on, one’s sex won’t change.

Actually, I’m behind the times here, for no structural alterations are necessary any longer. One can simply ‘identify’ as a member of a different sex and expect everyone to accept the new identity on pain of punishment.

While applauding Mr Judge Knowles for his wisdom and courage, I can confidently predict that before long judges will be instructed to treat indiscretions like Mr Miller’s as felonies.

The judge was technically right: we don’t have a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. Yet our ‘community cohesion officers’ are similar in their goals, even if different in their methods. All such types project state power – and all modern, post-Christian, states are tyrannical in their quest to enforce uniformity.

A state imposing tyranny by unrestricted violence is called totalitarian. One imposing tyranny by appeals to some contrived moral standards is called democratic. Yet the salient point is that they both impose tyranny.

I refer to the mechanism employed by democratic states as glossocracy, government by words, typically those used in any other than their dictionary definitions, or else neologisms.

For, proceeding at a steadily accelerating pace, our civilisation first loosened and then eliminated the previously unbreakable bond between word and truth, a bond made explicit in the opening verse of St John’s Gospel.

Starting modestly, with Occam’s 14th century nominalism, and culminating in Derrida’s 20th century deconstructionism, the West gradually pushed St John aside and replaced him with Humpty Dumpty, thereby testifying to Lewis Carroll’s prophetic genius:

“ ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

“ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

“ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all’.”

This is the essence of glossocracy laid bare. Carroll understood that whoever controlled language also controlled thought, thus becoming master.

His dystopic prophecy has come true. For modernity outpaces the darkest of fantasies and the bitterest of satires, as any reader of Huxley, Zamyatin or Orwell will confirm. To us, their books read as reportage.

Mr Miller’s post didn’t pack even a modicum of the punch to be found in the political cartoons by Gillray (d. 1815) or Rowlandson (d. 1827). Yet the government of George IV, himself often the target of savage satires, didn’t send out constables to check on the artists’ thinking.

Glossocracy might already have been making inroads, but it hadn’t yet conquered. Thus the state didn’t have to police words, nor the thoughts designated by words.  Such a victory had to wait until the arrival of our fully democratic state, practising what Tocqueville called “the tyranny of the majority”.

Actually, the majority doesn’t tyrannise. But it does make tyranny possible by acquiescing to the diktats of today’s Humpty Dumpties, who lord it over word and thought.

Is the imam Catholic?

At first, I rejoiced at the news that two Catholic Universities in Belgium, those in Leuven and Louvain, will offer imam-training courses. How wonderful, I thought, that imams will be trained to be good Catholics.

Future alumni of Belgium’s Catholic universities

My joy was premature. It turned out the two universities will train imams to be, well, good imams. Now, I’ve heard of ecumenism, but this goes too far even for my wokish liberalism.

One would think that Catholic universities would have a Catholic, or at least broadly Christian, slant to their curricula. Or perhaps Belgian academics confuse Belgium with 12th century Spain, where the three Abrahamic religions managed to get along, after a fashion.

One can just see the Jew Maimonides (aka Rambam) getting together with the Muslim Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes) and their Christian Cordoban neighbours to discuss the fine points of Aristotelian scholasticism.

The atmosphere was friendly, apart from Maimonides occasionally taking exception to the others’ chanting “Rambam, thank you ma’am”, and both him and the Christians holding Averroes personally responsible for the infidel tax they had to pay in Al-Andalus.

However, since then too much water has flowed under the bridge, and too much blood into the gutter, to make such academic fellowship a natural fit. Too many chaps indoctrinated by imams have had fun with AKs and suicide belts in Belgium and elsewhere for such cooperation to thrive.

Koen Geens, Belgium’s justice minister, defended the programme with rather specious arguments. “We are building a Belgian training program for ministers in the Islamic faith in order to reduce foreign influence,” he said. “It’s important that we know what they are studying.”

He may have a point in that it’s better for imams to matriculate at Catholic universities than at ISIS. Yet one doesn’t preclude the other, and Mr Geens will have no control over his students’ extracurricular education.

By day they may get credits for learning about Anselm, Averroes and Maimonides, while by night they may still be cramming for advanced degrees in The Meaning of Jihad, Bomb Making and The 72 Virgins in Heaven (Allah knows, finding as many in Belgium would be a losing proposition, this side of kindergartens).

Moreover, upon graduation they’ll be paid by the government, which is what Belgium does for ministers of all faiths if educated at accredited universities. So will they then be teaching Anselm, Averroes and Maimonides or some of those other courses I mentioned?

The Catholic University of Leuven and the Catholic University of Louvain are located in the same city, called differently by the Flemings and the Walloons. Hence the two universities used to be one.

However, acting in the spirit of unity fostered by the EU, they split up and are now located some 18 miles apart. But not to worry: the EU might have failed to keep two parts of a small country together, but we know it’ll succeed in homogenising, say, Bulgaria and Holland or Finland and Greece.

I can’t help wondering how the two universities will reconcile their ecumenical ambitions with their Catholicism. But not to worry: their allegiance to it isn’t as fervent as their commitment to multi-culti virtue.

A couple of years ago, the Catholic University of Louvain suspended a professor for his opposition to abortion. The administration closed ranks behind a ‘right to choose’.

“The Catholic University of Louvain recalls that, in the spirit of the law decriminalising abortion passed in 1990, it respects the autonomy of women to make this choice…,” ran the official statement.

The woke liberal in me rejoices. Yet the pedant in me can’t quite square the circle here. For abortion explicitly contradicts Catholic doctrine, even if secular doctrine sees nothing wrong with it.

One would hope that in case of a conflict between the two, a university calling itself Catholic would refrain from making anti-Catholic statements and punishing its professors for making devout ones.

Yet this hope is bound to be forlorn: Catholicism isn’t what it used to be. Then again, what is?

The Times is borderline genocidal

In a revolting, possibly illegal, display of racial stereotyping, The Times has seen fit to publish this photograph of the Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford (below).

Rage is constricting my throat, my unashamedly wokish consciousness is rolling on the floor frothing at the mouth, the overpowering sense of my world collapsing around me is driving coherent thoughts from my mind .

How can our broadsheets be unaware of the binary black-ape image every white person – which is to say racist – already has in his mind, without having it reinforced?

If Satan was the ape of God to Augustine (who himself was off-white), a simian can mean just one thing to a modern sensibility: a black man. This outrage is only partly mitigated by another fact self-evident to a modern sensibility, that originally we are all apes.

While congratulating those who don’t doubt this scientific fact on their capacity for frank self-assessment, I must still insist that no white person, which is to say racist, should be allowed to hide his racism under Darwin’s beard.

For this is the thin end of the wedge. The same editor who saw fit to publish this obscenity yesterday will tomorrow throw bananas at Afro-Caribbean persons, only to advocate and then perpetrate genocide the day after.

Hence, by registering this protest, I not only vent my virtue-signalling conscience but also, one hopes, prevent genocide. This may partly expiate the indelible sin of whiteness from which I’ve suffered my whole long life.

As to Marcus Rashford, I refuse to believe that an Afro-Caribbean person would pose for such a Nazi shot voluntarily.

Say it ain’t so, Marcus! Say they were aiming a gun at you from behind the camera! Say it’s a Photoshop job! Say you didn’t acquiesce in this raceploitation (I’m proud of having just added this new word to the glossary of righteousness).

Please say something along those lines before a build-up of virtue implodes my head. And do bankroll my forthcoming lawsuit against The Times. At £10.4 million a year, you can jolly well afford it.

“Yes, many conservatives aren’t very bright”

The other day I watched a video of Roger Scruton addressing an Oxford Union audience.

During the Q&A, one student asked him how to counter the widespread view that conservatives are stupid.

Roger replied with the words in the title and then suggested this isn’t a bad thing. After all, we all know how much harm intellectuals have caused.

I’d field the same question differently.

First, I’d say that this common perception isn’t supported by statistical evidence. However, even to begin to garner such evidence, one would have to define intelligence, which is no easy task.

After all, a functionally illiterate computer boffin may well have a higher IQ than Roger or me. Would that make him more intelligent? Not according to my definition.

If we narrow the concept of intelligence to a capacity for coming up with deep thoughts, which was Roger’s stock in trade, the task becomes easier. Since I like my tasks easy, these are the confines within which I’ll remain here.

I’d say that not only are people of the right deeper thinkers than those of the left, but that the left aren’t serious thinkers at all.

If we take economics as an example, let’s see how the conclusions reached by the two groups are justified by observable facts. How well, in other words, they wield the basic cognitive tool of induction.

Accepting for the sake of brevity Marx’s crude juxtaposition of capitalism and socialism, the facts are unequivocal.

Wherever they’ve been tried in earnest, the former has proved a spectacular success and the latter an unmitigated disaster. It’s a demonstrable fact that, the more capitalism and the less socialism in an economy, the better it’ll perform.

Now, how would you describe a person who, on the basis of this empirical fact, reaches the conclusion that a socialist economy is a desirable ideal? Not to cut too fine a point, I’d describe him as daft.

Proceeding from the simple to the complex, the starting point of left-wing anthropology is that the state can – and therefore must – mould human nature by legislative and administrative means.

Even socialists who’ve never read Rousseau agree with him vicariously that man is born perfect, a noble sauvage in all his primordial beauty, a clean slate on which [choose your own bogeyman: the church, monarchy, capitalism, conservatism, Roger Scruton] then writes a corrupting message.

It’s then the state’s job to write on that tabula rasa its own meliorative message, dictated by the current political vogue. When the vogue changes, so will the message. But the presumption of the state’s unwavering wisdom won’t change with it.

This contrasts with the conservative assumption of original sin, held, if not in so many words, even by agnostic conservatives. That sin, man’s manifestly imperfect nature, can only be counteracted not by fiat, but by a lifelong personal effort at virtue as it’s understood in our civilisation.

Again, tasting both slices of the pudding (and God knows, mankind has done plenty of tasting throughout its history) should produce two types of conclusions: one intelligent, the other stupid – words I use interchangeably with conservative and left-wing.

The taster is bound to notice that, whenever a state starts from the presumption of human perfection, it eventually gets bitterly disappointed: human nature holds firm. Out of its sense of frustration the state often decides that, since people have let it down, it has to kill them all.

How would you rate the intellect of a person who still clings to the underlying philosophy or even its close approximations? Quite.

Then there’s the notion of change, desirable or otherwise. Conservative thinkers from Falkland (“if it’s not necessary to change, it’s necessary not to change”) to Burke (“a state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation”) never opposed it as such.

They simply advocated prudence, especially if a planned change was irreversible. Even when it isn’t, any drastic change always produces unintended and unpredictable consequences, so care must be taken.

Again, how would you describe those who eschew prudence and advocate large-scale social experimentation, with millions of people as guinea pigs? This, in the knowledge that most such bold experiments have ended in disaster? Yes, I agree.

Morality also comes into this. Even an agnostic conservative is weaned on a culture shaped by Christianity. Hence he intuitively believes in the need for some outside moral authority, accepted as such by the whole society.

This, he realises, is an adhesive without which a society will fall apart. His supposedly smarter opponent, on the other hand, believes in his own moral infallibility – or, barring that, his own right to arrive at a voluntarist and arbitrary moral judgement, even if it goes against the grain of custom, consensus and common sense.

Which approach do you think is more intelligent? Indeed.

And so forth: take anything on which the right and the left disagree, and the conservative view will always be more sound and defensible.

As to the damage supposedly done by intellectuals, this myth is often repeated by many conservatives, including such brilliant ones as Roger. Yet this statement is meaningless if left unqualified.

For the history of the greatest civilisation ever is signposted by sublime minds who gave it structure, tone and a sense of direction. Many, though far from all of them, worked in Roger’s own discipline, philosophy, and Western civilisation simply wouldn’t have survived without them, at least not in any shape we’d recognise as Western.

Some people called intellectuals have indeed caused much harm, often of the carnivorous kind. But that gets me back to the original proposition: name some of those pernicious people.

Whether we come up with five names or fifty, we’ll find they are all of the left. That makes them pseudointellectuals, which is to say not very bright. (See above.)

It’s true that bad ideas can have destructive consequences if they appeal to a certain critical mass of humanity. It’s also true that stupid ideas are easier to encapsulate in a catchy slogan: they by definition lack the subtle nuances characterising deep thought.

But saying that stupidity isn’t so bad because intellectuals are responsible for blood-stained revolutions and collapsing economies simply doesn’t add up.

Obviously, the quick-fire format of a Q&A period wouldn’t accommodate such prolixity. In the same situation, I too would say something facile. But my facile would be different from Roger’s.

I’d probably suggest that, if we take the 50 top conservative thinkers and the same number of left-wing ones, the first group will be incomparably more intelligent. Or I’d simply say that the opinion implied in that question may indeed be widespread, but only on the left.

My purpose here isn’t to criticise the late Roger Scruton, whose invaluable contribution to conservative thought can’t be gainsaid. I only want to point out that conservatives shouldn’t accept the terms of debate imposed by their adversaries.

The truth is on our side, which should make our position easier to argue. Every core assumption of the left is intellectually weak, and we should never tire of pointing this out and proving our point.

God knows, Roger Scruton did more than his fair share. But perhaps not on that occasion.

We don’t want women in government

Neither do we want men, blacks, whites, Jews, Muslims, Indians, cripples, homosexuals and heterosexuals. Provided that, after each such undesirable category, we add the magic words as such.

The future is bright, Andrea. You can always get a job as diversity consultant

There’s only one characteristic that should entitle a person to a ministerial position: statesmanship. All else is irrelevant – or rather it would be if common sense hadn’t fallen by the wayside in our virtual reality of identity politics.

That’s why two cabinet members, one present, the other former, have cried bloody murder on hearing that Boris Johnson is planning to sack several women in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom was the first off the blocks, insisting that “gender equality should be the absolute norm”. Since it’s widely rumoured that Mrs Leadsom’s name is high on the sacking list, one might detect a touch of self-interest in that statement.

Diversity, continued Mrs Leadsom, should be the “watchword… not for its own sake, but because of the excellence that a diverse range of views bring to decision-making.”

I question the Tory credentials of anyone who uses the word ‘gender’ in any other than the grammatical sense. But I agree with the sentiment: a person’s sex shouldn’t be a disqualifying characteristic for any job. Yet, and this is what seems to escape the Business Secretary, neither should it be a qualifying one.

It’s also true that, generally speaking, “a diverse range of views” may indeed “bring excellence to decision-making”. Then again, it may not. It all depends on the calibre of the people enunciating the views, not on their sex.

I doubt that even the rankest misogynist would object to a cabinet fully staffed by Margaret Thatcher’s clones. Yet even the most passionate feminist would think twice before having even one Mrs Leadsom in a position of power, never mind a whole cabinet filled with her likes.

There can be no male or female perspective on government. There can be no male or female views. Views can be either sound or unsound, and never mind the source.

This is so blindingly obvious that even Amber Rudd, a disgruntled former Home Secretary, is familiar with the argument. “ ‘Surely we just want the best candidate for the job,’ ” she writes, “is the typical response when you point out the need for more women at the top of politics.

“Yet there’s another, rarely discussed, argument: that diversity is a good thing in itself. Diversity fosters a broader mix of experience and priorities, leading to better outcomes. Many private-sector studies have demonstrated that diversity improves business decisions. It is the same in politics. No one is going to fight for women like a woman.”

Every word in this statement is either false or idiotic, and most are both. A rarely discussed argument, Miss Rudd? We must read different papers, or indeed live on different planets.

All one hears these days is a demand for ‘diversity’ irrespective of other qualities, of the kind that, according to Miss Rudd, is “a good thing in itself”. And it pains me to remind someone who held cabinet-level positions for years that it’s not the government’s job “to fight for women”. Its job is to fight for the realm and its subjects.

Also, I’d like to see the studies that allegedly demonstrate the positive effect of ‘diversity’ on decision-making. I have, however, seen some brilliant studies by serious scholars like Thomas Sowell (himself, incidentally, black), showing that such considerations hardly ever come up in private enterprise.

I myself spent over 30 years in advertising, one of the most cut-throat industries. And never once did I see anyone hired or fired on the basis of any factors other than the ability to do the job.

This isn’t to say I never saw a single manager harbouring prejudices against various groups. In fact, I hardly saw one who didn’t.

But, as Dr Sowell demonstrated by his ground-breaking research, people running competitive businesses simply can’t afford to indulge their petty bigotry or, conversely, misconstrued ideas of social justice. The cost of doing so is too high.

Businesses compete not only for markets but also for competent staff. From my own experience, the difference between hiring, say, a good and bad creative team or account handler can be the difference between winning accounts and losing them. And the difference between winning and losing accounts is the agency thriving or going under.

Dr Sowell offered invaluable insights supported by a vast corpus of data. He found that the higher the stakes, the less likely would hiring and firing be dictated by extraneous considerations. That’s why, he showed, incidences of discrimination are much higher in the public sector, where the stakes are presumably lower.

Well, they may be lower for a paperclip counter in the lower reaches of the civil service, but at the level of ministerial, especially cabinet, positions they are as high as high can be.

Someone elevated to that tier just to satisfy idiotic demands for actuarial diversity can put the whole country, not just an advertising agency, out of business. So, no, diversity isn’t a good thing in itself.

It’s one of the cancer cells metastasising all over our body politic. Unless a powerful therapy is found, the disease will spread even further, killing every healthy cell along the way.

In search of the more visible symptoms, just look at Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd.

I must be out of my mind

A stand-up comedian has fled Russia after making tasteless jokes about Christianity and funny ones about Putin. He correctly surmised that his act might cost him his liberty or possibly even his life.

Sretensky (Candlemas) monastery, before it became a knocking shop

Those new faux-Christians in the Kremlin take blasphemy against either God or his earthly envoy Putin seriously, mainly because they feel the two have merged into one. Hence they enforce the concept of the Russian state tersely worded in 1833 by Education Minister Uvarov: “Autocracy, Orthodoxy, Folk”.

Since the three elements of the triad exist in organic unity, an attack on one is an attack on all. Thus a public expression of atheism, no matter how mild, constitutes sedition and therefore grounds for criminal prosecution.

Criminal courts are happy to oblige. “No one in his right mind would write anything against Orthodox Christianity,” declared a Russian judge in 2016, sentencing a man to punitive psychiatric care for writing “There is no God” online.

Allow me to clear up any possible linguistic confusion. The Russian term православие used therein does mean Orthodox Christianity, but it’s always used in a narrower sense to denote Eastern, especially Russian, Orthodoxy. Neither an anti-Vatican II Catholic nor a 1662 Anglican would be described as an Orthodox Christian in that sense.

I’m not sure I agree with the Russian judge that atheism really is a sign of mental instability. If it were, we’d have to regard as mad, rather than merely misguided, chaps like David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Francis Crick or the recently deceased Roger Scruton, and something in me balks at doing that.

Writing “anything against Orthodox Christianity” in Russia evidently betokens not so much madness as an understated self-preservation instinct. But here, in London, one can still find something wrong with the Russian church and expect to remain at large.

I’m not going to delve into the vital doctrinal differences between Western and Eastern Christianity. Suffice it to say they exist and, as I argue in one of my books, they produce distinctly different ecclesiastical and civilisational archetypes.

The Eastern archetype is embodied at its most extreme in Russia, where, since the time of Peter the Great (d. 1725), the church has acted as an adjunct to the state and, increasingly, its secret police.

Solzhenitsyn complained that the Bolsheviks forced priests to report secrets vouchsafed to them at confession. Yet this practice predated Bolshevism by some two centuries at least.

Alas, before the advent of universal equality and social justice, the church had attached itself to the wrong state and therefore had to share its demise. This was executed in the style traditionally associated with universal equality and social justice: mass murder.

Some 200,000 priests were killed in all sorts of imaginative ways during the first 25 years of Bolshevism, 40,000 of them when Lenin was still in charge.

Yet the church survived, thanks to Hitler. When the war started, Stalin found to his dismay that the people wouldn’t fight for the bright future of communism, underpinned as it was by its monstrous past and present.

Holy Russia had to be taken off the mothballs, in the hope that it would command more loyalty. It was then that the moribund church was restored to some subservient but extant status.

Its role was refined, compared to pre-revolutionary Russia. If then priests had to cooperate with the secret police, they now became its operatives. The church hierarchs were appointed by the Central Committee of the Party in partnership with the KGB.

Since Putin has created a state seeking legitimacy in a version of Uvarov’s formula, Orthodox hierarchs have become the state’s Portrait of Dorian Gray, but without the embellishments. When Vladimir Gundyaev was elected patriarch, not only he but also the other two candidates were career KGB operatives.

If under Stalin the church was seen as a necessary but marginal evil, under Putin it’s an almost equal partner in the ruling camarilla. As such, the church has acquired the same endearing traits, such as untrammelled greed and acquisitiveness.

Acting in their new mode, the hierarchs were granted the privilege of importing duty-free alcohol and cigarettes, which they parlayed into billions. His Holiness the Patriarch, for example, has amassed wealth estimated at $4 billion.

Yet that was only one money stream flowing into the church coffers. Others ranged from mighty rivers, such as an interest in oil-trading companies, to small but pleasant brooks.

Among the latter is the Sretensky Monastery in central Moscow that has been found to house a hard-working brothel, charging $35 a pop. One wonders whether the holy fathers confused missionary work with the position of the same name.

It’s good to see that the concept of monasticism continues to evolve in Russia, mostly in the direction of getting in touch with lay life, as it were. But then, as the Russian saying goes, “like priest, like parish”, with the state here acting in the capacity of the priest.

An interesting touch is added by the personalities involved. The vicar of Sretensky Monastery, Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), is Vladimir Putin’s confessor, while Patriarch Kirill is the monastery’s superior.

On balance, I don’t think I’m mad or, if I am, my feelings about the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox church aren’t among the symptoms. I’m only amazed that some honest Christians – and they do exist in Russia – can remain loyal to that affront to their faith. But then Russia is indeed a rather peculiar place.  

It’s called competition, Manny

Looking drawn and haggard, Manny Macron kindly illustrated the points I made the other day about the delusions plaguing the EU in general and France in particular.

His foster mother Brigitte should start feeding Manny better

Actually, I’m paying them an unwarranted compliment by assuming they are delusional, rather than duplicitous.

It’s the former if they think any British government could accept the despotic conditions the EU puts forth as preconditions for a trade deal. It’s the latter if they only put forth those conditions as a way of punishing Britain for what many Frenchmen see as treason and many others as apostasy.

Personally, I recall neither pledging allegiance to the EU nor being baptised in its holy water, but French people tend to have a different perspective on things European.

On Thursday I mentioned one shibboleth bandied about with maniacal persistence: ‘level playing field’. Evidently there are others as well, namely ‘dynamic alignment’ and ‘undercutting’, with the first designed to preclude the second.

A level playing field means that Britain won’t get a trade deal unless she maintains the same regulations and red tape that the EU enforces in such areas as workers’ rights, environmental protection and state aid.

Dynamic realignment means that, whenever EU bureaucrats decide to make the tape redder or the regulations tighter, Britain undertakes to follow suit in perpetuity.

Undercutting is self-explanatory. By submitting to such egregious tyranny, Britain must lose whatever competitive edge she might otherwise have.

Now, operating within the rarefied linguistic atmosphere Dubya once made famous, the French indeed have no words for entrepreneur or competition, not in our sense anyway. The letters of the words may exist, but the spirit evaporated long ago.

If England’s economic legislation, starting from the repeal of the Corn Laws, has generally aimed to encourage competition, the corresponding French laws have tried to stifle it.

It’s France’s restrictive labour, social and environmental laws that are responsible for her catastrophic levels of youth unemployment and the precipitous decline in industrial production. Hence Manny should really mind his own business, rather than ours.

He should step on the unions, make it possible for employers to fire (and therefore to hire), reduce taxes (both business and personal), replace untenable social commitments with something closer to the real world, abandon the profit-busting 35-hour work week – and in general communicate to the populace that words like entrepreneur and patron (boss) have been taken off the list of popular insults.

In fact, he could do worse than ‘dynamically aligning’ France’s economy with Britain’s, as it is now and will be in the future. That’s what he’d do if he were more decisive and less of an EU fanatic prepared to sacrifice his citizens’ well-being for an ill-conceived ideology.

However, one has to commend Manny for making a startling economic discovery, France’s greatest since Jean-Baptiste Say wrote in 1803 that supply generates demand (forgetting to add that sometimes it doesn’t).

Manny’s contribution is to stigmatise ‘undercutting’ as a tool of economic competition. As with most economic ideas emanating from the EU, this one is highly selective, applying to Britain only.

For example, France annually imports some $60 billion’s worth of goods from China, whose whole economy is built on using cheap, as near as damn slave, labour to undercut other producers.

However, just as Britain isn’t Canada according to that bird-brained Mme Loiseau (I resisted this pun the other day, but can’t contain myself any longer: l’oiseau is the French for bird), neither is Britain China according to Manny.

In fact, Britain is like no other country in the world in that she dared leave the confines of the EU, having first accepted them. Tyrannical states, such as the EU, hate to see their subjects break free, and they’ll do all they can to keep them in.

Perhaps the time has arrived for the EU to put the East German experience to good use by building a wall all along its borders – and, for the time being, use economic weapons rather than firearms to discourage escape.

Speaking of East Germany, Angela Merkel’s response to the Thuringian elections added a new touch to the EU’s concept of politics. Until now its common practice has been to treat voters in EU-related referendums as pupils sitting exams.

When they cast their vote the wrong way, they were made to vote again until they got it right. Yet Frau Merkel has shown that the same approach can be profitably used in strictly internal elections as well.

Because her own party, the CDU, won the minister-presidential elections by forming a bloc with the AfD nationalists, Angie simply overturned the result and told Turingia to have another go, this time concentrating better.

While largely sharing her dim view of the AfD, I still have a constitutional query. Is this sort of thing allowed under the Federal Republic’s constitution?

If it is, the constitution is flawed. If it isn’t, this act is tyrannical. I don’t know which is worse.

Yet such practices fit into the nature of the EU as snugly as does its attempted economic blackmail of Britain. An organisation erected on a foundation of lies is simply acting in character.

Another think coming

The more serious a problem, the more seriously should people think about it. Alas, one increasingly runs into people who are not only incapable of serious thought but also ignorant of what it is.

First, let’s agree on what serious thought isn’t. It is, for example, distinct from a feeling. No expression of a thought can start with the words “I feel”. A feeling doesn’t require any substantiation; a thought, before it’s regarded as such, does.

Neither is a thought identical to an opinion, for the same reason. An opinion may be introduced by “I feel…” or “I think…”, but unless it can withstand a rigorous intellectual test, it falls short of being a thought.

Especially relevant to serious discourse is the realisation that a thought also differs from a fancy. Such discourse has room for both dreams and thoughts, but a grown-up thinker will never confuse the two, though a child may.

Some dreams are less fanciful, while still not qualifying as thoughts. Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, if no one in the world were poor or ill?

A child might give this matter what he thinks is a thought, but a grown-up won’t. He’ll know that such an end is so divorced from any possible means of achieving it that he’ll dismiss the notion out of hand.

However, a serious person might say that, while the words ‘no one’ brand this notion as a pie in the sky, there’s a kernel of a thought in it. For it’s possible to make sure that fewer people in the world are poor or ill.

Would this be desirable? Of course. Would it be achievable? Definitely, for it was done before at times and in places. The embryo of a thought has thus been created, and it can be gestated to maturity by adding ‘how’ to ‘what’.

The means are essential to any end, but they are different from it. The desired end may be general and idealistic, but the means must be rational and realistic. Otherwise they can destroy the embryo of a thought with the brutality of a back-alley abortionist.

All this is elementary, yet many people – including some who run countries – are incapable of such rudimentary logic. They conflate ends and means to a point where the two merge into a seemingly indivisible entity.

Since most people are jealous of the few thoughts they have, they often claim that those who disagree with the means reject the ends. If the ends tend to be noble, then such naysayers are at best ignoble. They can be despised, perhaps even hated. But they don’t rate a serious debate.

You might think I’m describing a rare case of inadequacy. However, this is our modern political discourse in a nutshell, characterised as it is by much wing-flapping and spittle-sputtering, but little thought worthy of the name.

Take any oft-debated issue at random, say the NHS. Anyone arguing it’s a bad idea will be floored by a rhetorical punch. Don’t you want all people to have good medical care, you heartless bastard you?

This is the sleight of hand I mentioned: the irate imbecile identifies the end with the means. For it’s possible to be passionate about good medical care for all while still rejecting full nationalisation as the best way of providing it.

I’m not talking here about the merits of the debate, only about the quality of the thought that goes into it. The quality is abysmal.

Any issue will do as an illustration. Do you agree, asks a non-thinker, that the gap between the rich and the poor should be smaller? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that I do. Then what?

Well, then you must be in favour of taking more money from the rich and giving it to the poor. This isn’t fantasy land, but arguments one hears every day from politicians around the world, with much of the grateful audience nodding agreement.

Yet these aren’t thoughts, but infantile rants. For in theory the supposedly objectionable gap can be closed from either end: by making the poor richer or the rich poorer. In practice, however, only the first method works. The second one has produced economic disasters everywhere it has been tried.

Any other examples? Take free trade. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if goods were made cheaper by abandoning tariffs and duties? Yes, it would.

However, someone who’d rather pay a little more for his claret than live in a country whose sovereignty is dissolved in a foul-smelling melting pot isn’t an enemy of free trade. He has simply weighed the means against the end and found the balance unsatisfactory.

Or don’t you want people to breathe cleaner air? I do – a reply that isn’t compromised by my certainty that the means proposed to that end would deliver no tangible ecological benefit, while producing a tangible economic disaster.

i’m not arguing any particular issue. I’m only pointing out how childish most people’s thinking is on such matters.

And it’s ‘most people’ who decide such matters in conditions of universal suffrage. They do so by readily falling prey to demagogic slogans put forth by self-serving politicians.

This raises too many questions about the nature of democracy to answer, indeed to ask, in a short article. I’ve tried to do so in a book or two but, lest I be accused of crass commercialism, I shan’t mention the titles.

Level playing field à la française

Andrew Neil’s interview of French MEP Natalie Loiseau brought back fond memories of the past three-odd years, marked by the worst mess in British politics since the Stuart interregnum.

“Les Anglo-Saxons just don’t get ze EU”

The mess was caused by our vacillation ably assisted by the EU’s perfidy. The former component seems to be abating, but by the looks of it the latter one shows no such sign.

For Mme Loiseau clearly enunciated the EU stand on any possible trade relations with a post-Brexit UK. This stand rests on an immovable foundation: EU functionaries know that anything less than a disaster for Britain will spell more than a disaster for the EU.

Should Britain make an economic success of it (every other kind has already been achieved by the sheer act of leaving), the EU may suffer a domino effect. Other countries, previously prepared to trade sovereignty for prosperity, will realise they’re getting a raw deal.

They’ll feel they could regain sovereignty and gain prosperity in one fell swoop, by following Britain out. A few years of that and the EU will be reduced to a single Franco-German state, called Allemance or Francmagne or perhaps the Fourth Reich.

Whenever Mr Neil cited any facts and statistics, Mme Loiseau responded with the air of wounded superciliousness so characteristic of the French political class: “I am surprised zat a journalist doesn’t know zis…”

In that spirit, she maintained that the EU accounts for most of Britain’s foreign trade. Actually, replied Mr Neil pedantically, it’s only 45 per cent. Mme Loiseau didn’t say that 45 per cent means most if the EU says it does, but her expression conveyed that very message.

Yet the argument wasn’t really about statistics. The EU, the ventriloquist to this woman’s dummy, wants Britain to obey all its social, environmental, economic and legal diktats, while no longer having even 1/28 of a say in how those diktats come about.

She calls it a “level playing field”. I’d call it bullying, which is one of the reasons we left that political contrivance in the first place. 

The EU, like any other political contrivance, kneads political terminology (along with facts and figures) with a dexterity normally found only at Korean massage parlours. The meaning of the terms they use depends solely on expediency and often has nothing to do with exact semantics.

In this case, the “level playing field” Britain is expected to dredge as a pre-condition for free trade means we should accept all the stifling, stultifying regulations that are successfully driving EU economies into recession. And, should disputes arise, they must be settled by the European Court of Justice.

Mr Neil couldn’t understand why, say, Canada can have a trade deal with the EU without satisfying such tyrannical demands, and we can’t. The pundit was being slightly disingenuous there.

He knows perfectly well that the EU defines free trade in ways that would have confounded Ricardo or Guizot. It insists that any, even supposedly independent, country wishing to trade freely with the EU must obey every EU law.

This condition is applied arbitrarily: Britain is supposed to toe the line, while, as Mr Neil pointed out, Canada isn’t. Mme Loiseau responded with her normal “I’m surprised zat…” petulance.

First, she said that Canada doesn’t have a free-trade deal with the EU, to which Mr Neil responded with the datum that 98 per cent of trade between Canada and the EU is duty-free. Having been caught out, Mme Loiseau made a startling geographical discovery.

Britain, she explained, isn’t Canada. For once she said something so blindingly obvious that one wonders why that observation had to be made. Mme Loiseau happily clarified:

Canada wanted a trade deal because she wanted to associate herself with the EU, while Britain wants one for the purpose of dissociation. That sounded as if Canada was about to apply for EU membership, while Britain wanted to use trade as an act of war.

No doubt that kind of drivel makes sense to EU fanatics, but it bemused Mr Neil. One can understand his predicament: it’s possible to reply sensibly only to a sensible statement. Instead of waiting for crazy actions to follow crazy words, it’s best just to walk away.

But duty called, and Mr Neil didn’t walk away. Instead he briefly outlined the economic and social problems besetting the EU in general and France in particular.

He even had the gall to mention the strikes paralysing France – only for Mme Loiseau to cut him off in mid-sentence. She was surprised zat a journalist could be so ignorant as not to know zat ze strikes had ended.

Quite, said Mr Neil. But they persisted for two months, following in the wake of the year-long gilets jaunes revolt. So, considering the economic plight of France, Germany, Italy and so on, could the EU afford to risk a trade war with Britain?

Mme Loiseau performed a Gallic shrug meaning the question was irrelevant. If Mr Neil thought zat zere would be no consequences after Brexit, he was sorely mistaken.

In other words, the EU is ready to cut off its nose to spite its face if that’s what it takes to make a point pour encourager les autres. That was predictable, for reasons I outline earlier.

Its mendacious protestations apart, the EU is a political, not economic, construct. Hence politics will always trump economics.

I hope Boris Johnson has the guts (he certainly has the parliamentary majority) to up the stakes. He should announce that, if the EU wishes to play that kind of stacked game, we hold some of the aces.

Britain could turn herself into a haven for foreign business and capital, a sort of larger version of Jersey, by loosening regulations, cutting taxes across the board and pursuing free-trade agreements with the rest of the world.  

When all those Volkswagens, BNPs and Enis scream bloody murder, and France’s youth unemployment grows beyond the present, already catastrophic, 21 per cent, one wonders if Mme Loiseau and her ilk will remain deaf.

If they do, they may be reminded yet again that France hasn’t exactly lived down her DNA of a revolutionary republic. But not to worry: I doubt our government is capable of playing so tough. Pity.

Sharia goes feminist

Progress marches inexorably across the globe, leaving no corner untouched. It pleases me to inform you that it has now reached parts of Malaysia and also Indonesia’s autonomous Aceh province.

Not bad, but the technique could be improved

Aceh is ruled by Sharia law, which tends to fall somewhat short of our exacting standards of women’s equality. The gap between Sharia and Western feminism hasn’t been completely closed, but I know you’ll join me in celebrating the growing proximity between the two.

In Aceh, the religious law is getting not only more feminist, but also more lenient. This, however, is mainly due to intercession on the part of the central government.

The local officials felt that only beheading or, at a pinch, stoning was a fitting punishment for hanky-panky. However, because of the global reach of the Internet, Indonesia’s government felt that might besmirch Indonesia’s otherwise sterling reputation.

Hence it stepped in, and the locals had to settle for less terminal chastisement involving a rattan cane. As far as transgressors are concerned, this was definitely a step in the right direction.

Crimes thus punished include gambling, adultery, drinking, homosexuality and extramarital sex, and, this still being a remote corner of the world, women are held to stricter standards of probity.

I don’t know whether the Koran says “spare the rod and spoil the woman”, but in any case Muslim men jealously guard the morality of their womenfolk. Hence a woman can be caned not only for having sex with a man other than her husband, but also for sitting close to a man in a coffee shop – even at adjacent tables.

Yet this isn’t a case of one punishment fitting all crimes: the number of lashes varies from just a few to 150, with the higher number guaranteeing that the lesson will last a lifetime, which in this case may be measured in days.

Where’s the feminism in that? you may wonder, having been irresistibly intrigued by the title above. Thought you’d never ask.

You see, until now both men and women have been invariably caned by men. However, the innate Muslim sense of justice prevailed, and Aceh struck a blow (as it were) for equality.

Henceforth women will be lashed by other women, those belonging to the newly formed flogging squad of Aceh’s Sharia Implementation Unit. Actually, recruiting the necessary numbers took quite some time because some women were too infirm in their faith to take on the task with alacrity.

However, the vacancies were eventually filled, and the new recruits underwent rigorous training. An important part of it isn’t only physical fitness but also mental strength.

According to Sharia police chief investigator Zakwan, the floggers must be trained to “have no mercy for those who violate God’s law”. That taken care of, they can concentrate on mastering proper technique.

The first woman flogger has already practised her newly acquired skill, earning a compliment from Mr Zakwan. “Her technique was nice,” he said.

I agree. Her technique was indeed nice, but it could still be improved. Perfection, after all, is unattainable in this world, being the sole prerogative of Allah.

This is where I think I could help by offering unsolicited advice. For I couldn’t help noticing that the cane is wielded in a manner similar to the flat forehand in tennis.

So, defying the outdated notion of “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”, those devout female floggers should borrow a stroke from the infidel game of tennis.

Two words provide the key to achieving proper weight distribution and maximum cane speed at impact: kinetic chain.

In layman’s terms, this means putting all the relevant muscle groups to work by activating them in turn. The kinetic chain starts with the so-called unit turn: the flogger turns her shoulders, naturally taking the cane back, bends her knees slightly and loads up her back leg by putting most of her weight on it.

Having completed the backswing, she then steps forward, rotating her shoulders and hips in the same direction. As her weight is transferred onto her front leg, she starts the forward swing of the cane, keeping her wrist slightly cocked.

The speed at which the cane moves through the air should increase gradually, starting slow and reaching its maximum at impact. At that last moment, the wrist uncocks with a natural snap, guaranteeing most satisfying agony on the part of the target.

Since the stroke is essentially flat, there’s no immediate need to swing from low to high. However, at a more advanced stage, that element could be added for an extra slashing effect. Allah will rejoice, but the simpler technique will do to be going on with for the time being.

I’d offer my hands-on coaching services, but Penelope put her foot down. “Over my dead body,” she said. Not yours, dear. Over the bodies of those dissipated women who dare choose the wrong seat at a coffee shop.