New York crime shoots up

According to an NYPD report, shootings are up 82.1 per cent and murders, 30.2 per cent. Most of both murderers and victims are black or Hispanic.

Governor Cuomo: “It’s all the police’s fault”

In 2019, these groups provided 96 per cent of suspects arrested for shootings, with 57 per cent of murder victims being black. And the present NY Governor Cuomo admits that more than 90 per cent of the victims “are black and brown”. 

One gets a distinct impression that black lives matter only when one of them is taken by a white cop. When hundreds of blacks are murdered within their own ghettos, no one really minds.

However, some people, such as Cuomo and NYC mayor de Blasio, claim they do mind. Yet they steadfastly refuse either to acknowledge the reasons for the surge or revert to the proven methods of putting an end to it.

The most important reason is therefore Messrs Cuomo and de Blasio themselves. The magnitude of the crisis shows that these gentlemen have successfully defanged the police, even if they haven’t yet complied with the BLM demand to defund it.

Actually, even though Cuomo grudgingly admits that policing is necessary, he has threatened to defund the NYPD should it fail to establish a meaningful dialogue with racial communities. He directly blames the surge on either the absence of said dialogue or at least its insufficient eloquence.

The subject of the mandated dialogue is the nitty-gritty of police reform, which, judging by Mr Cuomo’s ideas, is bound to convert the NYPD into an extension of the social services. For sensitive dialogue is the stock in trade for such services. Conversely, the business of police is, well, policing.

That mainly includes investigating crimes, arresting criminals and making good cases for the prosecution. Sentiment, and especially woke sentimentality, should play no part in that process. Yet now, rather than kneeling on criminals’ throats, cops will be expected to kneel before them, and not just metaphorically.

Any sensible politician genuinely concerned about black and other lives lost would look at history and see what has worked and what hasn’t in reducing crime rates. Thankfully, New York City provides a perfect basis for such a retrospective.

When I lived there (until 1988), the city was crime-ridden. New Yorkers used to heave a sigh of relief each time they got home safely and threw multiple locks on. Walking after dark even in some parts of Manhattan, never mind such hellholes as Bedford Stuyvesant, was all one’s life was worth.

Then in the 1990s Rudolph Giuliani took over as mayor, and things began to change. Violent crimes dropped by more than 56 per cent in NYC, twice the decline in the country as a whole – all thanks to the unsentimental ‘get tough’ policies carried out by the mayor’s administration.

Because Giuliani’s heart didn’t bleed, neither did the bodies of New Yorkers. Crucially, the mayor understood that crime rates have an escalator built in. If low-level infractions are tolerated, the law is neither respected nor feared. That encourages other crimes, including violent ones.

As Giuliani explained in 1998, “Obviously murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes. But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other.” Hear, hear.

Giuliani and his successor Bloomberg were aware of the inverse proportion between arrest rates and crime. Enacting their zero-tolerance policies, they filled the prisons to the gunwales, and the crime rate went down even in the absence of racially sensitive dialogue.

Governor Cuomo talks a very different language: “You want to talk about social justice? You want to talk about civil rights? You want to talk about social equity? How do you explain that [violent crime in racial areas]?” It’s the deficit in criminal justice, Mr Mayor, rather than social justice, that explains it. 

Social justice is the modern for social injustice, giving some people more, and others less, than they deserve. The underlying ‘liberal’ belief is that the wrongs historically done to the blacks can only be righted by throwing billions on welfare programmes, while in parallel cultivating a climate of white guilt and black entitlement.

Children growing up in a family where no one has ever done any work, and where fathers have gone walkabout for generations, aren’t just likely but guaranteed to turn to crime in vast numbers. The ‘liberal’ response is to throw good money after bad, which is akin to treating syphilis by HIV injections.

In parallel, the police are widely portrayed as bigoted troglodytes out to do the Ku Klux Klan’s job. Each time they rough up a black suspect resisting arrest, screams of “Racists!!!” reverberate through the air. And when a black criminal is killed even in a shootout with the police, never mind accidentally, the rioting season kicks off.

Because Lady Justice is blindfolded, she has to be colour-blind. It’s as reprehensible to give blacks a special dispensation as it is to discriminate against them. Until that realisation sinks in, and New York reverts to Giuliani’s methods, the guns won’t fall silent.

We ought to remember that the lessons of New York are just as useful for London or any other major Western city. “Tough on crime, tough on causes of crime” was Blair’s campaign mantra. Alas, because the likes of him, Cuomo or de Blasio refuse to understand the true causes of crime, they are powerless to get tough on it.

There’s no culture in multiculturalism

As children, we all played the silly game of endlessly repeating the same word until it lost all its meaning. That was quite innocent, but it’s not innocent when grown-ups do it, especially with words that denote ideas leading to actions.

Cultures may be so different as to render the word meaningless

Newly meaningless words always denote feeble ideas, and indeed may be responsible for enfeebling ideas in the first place. Any subsequent action is then guaranteed to fail, sometimes on a socially destructive scale.

Culture is one such word. It’s repeated ceaselessly, and its meaning is constantly broadened, to a point where the word stops denoting anything at all. It thus becomes useless as a building block for ideas, but a regular boon for any ideology. Ideologies thrive on words that have lost their meaning, if they had any to begin with.

People forget to follow Descartes’s advice to agree on definitions first. That’s why they talk about things like pop culture, black culture, white culture, women’s culture, drinking culture, Asian culture, drug culture – you name it.

Culture becomes the common denominator at which all the diverse numerators equalise, making multiculturalism not only acceptable but inevitable. Such mayhem comes from a word so inflated that it bursts like a balloon with too much hot air pumped in.

What is culture? Since the question may be too difficult to answer, let’s simplify it. What is a cultured man? If we agree on that definition, the definition of culture will follow, for a cultured man is one who possesses culture. So what kind of animal is he?

I’d suggest he is defined by three attributes: manners, learning and aesthetic sensitivity. A cultured man has to possess all three. If he doesn’t, he isn’t cultured.

By manners I don’t just mean using the right fork or taking one’s hat off indoors, although such things are important. Cultured manners are above all defined by consideration for others, an intuitive or acquired sensitivity to other people’s feelings, comfort and security.

Thus a man who has read everything of note and can tell a Vermeer from a de Hooch at a glance is still not cultured if he beats his wife, breaks wind in public or, through his neglect of personal hygiene, makes other people in the room pinch their nostrils.

By the same token, an impeccable English gentleman who can’t tell Bach from Beethoven may be a very good man, but not a cultured one. Nor will the same chap qualify if he can tell the Goldberg Variations from the Diabelli Variations after the first note, but confuses Emily Dickinson with Emil Durkheim and thinks George Eliot was a man.

We may argue about the odd particular here or there, but in the end we’ll agree that this triad of manners, learning and aesthetic understanding defines a cultured man, not to be confused with a good one. A cultured man may or may not be good, and vice versa.

As a by-product of this exercise, we’ve stumbled on a workable definition of culture, as an aggregate of those three components. However, each of them differs from one place to another.

A cultured Englishman may not have heard of, say, de Vigny or Batyushkov, whereas, respectively, a cultured Frenchman or Russian will know their work, while being ignorant of William Cowper’s.

However, the behavioural, intellectual and aesthetic components of culture differ little from one Western country to another, and practically not at all within each country. Cultured people everywhere in the West behave in more or less the same way, and share more or less the same corpus of book knowledge and aesthetic understanding.

How culture is acquired is too complex a subject. All sorts of factors of nature and nurture combine: genetic predisposition, intelligence, upbringing, education – above all, a lifelong effort to develop one’s mind, hone one’s senses and cultivate proper behaviour.

However, as we move farther and farther from the West, known formerly and more appropriately as Christendom, we’ll notice all our three components assuming a different, often unrecognisable shape.

We notice that an Iranian, justifiably regarded as cultured at home, mistreats his wife (wives) and knows nothing about de Vigny, Batyushkov or Cowper, although he can recite every line by Saadi or Hafiz. A cultured Chinese sees nothing wrong in asking strangers how much money they make and thinks all Western music sounds like marching tunes. And a cultured African may horoscope every step he takes and only respond emotionally to percussive music.

The difference has nothing to do with race. Provided they are innately intelligent and sensitive, the same Iranian, Chinese or African will become cultured Englishmen if born, raised and properly educated in England – and provided they set their minds on becoming cultured Englishmen.

Where does all that leave multiculturalism? Especially if it gets to imply, as it does these days, some fundamental equality among all cultures?

In the same place where all useless concepts are kept, I’d suggest. No matter how cultured an Iranian, Chinese or African may be in his native habitat, his culture won’t be recognised as such in a Western country unless he meets the conditions I’ve specified.

Now, cultural tolerance is a different matter. A cultured Englishman by definition can’t despise a cultured (or for that matter any decent) outlander, nor especially persecute him for his culture. Yet the very word ‘tolerance’ implies grudging acceptance of something alien and potentially suspect.

No tolerance is required when one meets a cultured Englishman, and very little when one runs into a cultured Frenchman or Dutchman. One doesn’t tolerate them; one just feels intuitive Mowgli-style cultural kinship: We be of one culture, ye and I (sorry about the paraphrase, Mr Kipling).

Multiculturalism, some kind of crucible in which all kinds of alien elements can be boiled together to produce an edible stew, is a figment of an ideologically inflamed imagination. The stew is bound to come out tasteless, lacking in nutritional value, perhaps even toxic.

Sooner or later our champions of multiculturalism will choke on it. The problem is, they may take us all with them.

Minsk, 2020, meets Budapest, 1956

As a Soviet child appropriately indoctrinated at school, I took interest in politics. My main, or rather only, source of information was Pravda, the paper my parents read.

This is Minsk, yesterday

In the autumn of 1956, Pravda was screaming about the imminent sword of Damocles hanging over the head of communist Hungary. West German troops were poised at the border, ready to take advantage of the mutiny staged by some anti-communist vermin.

It went without saying that the mutiny was instigated by the West German neo-Nazi government and the CIA, along with MI6 and every other body the Soviets didn’t like very much. Therefore it was the USSR’s moral duty, and also in her national interest, to help the fraternal regime as best she could.

All that was missing was a formal plea from the fraternal regime, and on 23 October Hungarian communist leader Ernő Gerő requested Soviet military intervention “to suppress a demonstration that was reaching an ever greater and unprecedented scale”.

The Soviets obliged by invading, drowning the Hungarian Revolution in blood and managing to prop up the evil regime for another 35 years. Sorry we had to do that, explained the grown-ups to me, but otherwise those neo-Nazi panzers would have rolled.

Replace Hungary with Belarus, Gerő with Lukashenko and Khrushchev with Putin, and today’s situation is eerily similar.

Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians are out in the streets, staging peaceful protests against the blatantly rigged elections and chanting “Leave!”. Though every exit poll showed a roughly 70 per cent majority for the opposition candidate, the final ‘count’ delivered an 80 per cent majority for Alexander Lukashenko.

Having had the pleasure of witnessing, as one of the British observers, Lukashenko’s first electoral triumph in 1995, I must compliment him on the giant strides in rigging elections he has made since then.

In 1995 the process was unnecessarily encumbered by a whole bag of time-honoured tricks: denial of TV time to the opposition, withdrawing dangerous opponents from swing ballots, stuffing the ballot boxes and so on. By now, however, Lukashenko has taken on board Stalin’s maxim: “What matters isn’t how votes are cast, but how they are counted.”

Or not, as the case may be. Why bother with involved calculations, when it’s so much easier to decide in advance on a desirable majority and then declare it has been achieved?

Alas, Lukashenko has discovered that his innovation isn’t universally popular with the people. Forgetting about the fatherly care he had provided them for 26 years, those ingrates felt cheated. Incensed, they took to the streets.

Lukashenko responded like any caring father does when faced with his offspring’s unruly behaviour. He sent in his police and special forces to maul, kill and imprison the peaceful demonstrators.

At least 7,000 of them were arrested – which in Belarus also means being savagely beaten up, tortured and threatened with truncheon rape. Of course truncheons also saw the light of day in their primary function, leaving hundreds writhing on the ground in their own blood.

The situation was reminiscent of the 2014 revolution in the Ukraine, but with one salient difference: Putin’s Ukrainian stooge Yanukovych didn’t dare do a Gerő, whereas Lukashenko has no such compunctions.

The other day he went on TV, saying that the events in Belarus threatened not just his rule, but “the whole post-Soviet space”. The choice of words is telling.

The “post-Soviet space” is another term for the former Soviet Union of 15 republics run from the Kremlin. Today’s ruling KGB junta is committed to restoring it to its past grandeur, thereby undoing what Putin honestly called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

The trouble is that the inhabitants of the “post-Soviet space” aren’t quite so nostalgic about the good old times. Specifically, one doesn’t detect any worry on the part of, say, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that the rebellion against Lukashenko can have a domino effect on them.

They, on the other hand, are being portrayed in the Russian press exactly as West Germany and the US were depicted in the Pravda of my childhood. The Baltics are Nato members, and the Russians have been expertly indoctrinated to believe that Nato, along with the EU, is the instigator and abetter of any opposition to any post-Soviet regime Vlad Putin doesn’t favour.

Thus I’ve heard from even educated young Russians that the naked aggression against the Ukraine in 2014 was prompted by the dire necessity to preempt Nato and EU aggression. Those Dutch and Italian tanks were as ready to roll as the West German panzers had been in 1956.

Wary of a similar threat to Belarus, Lukashenko emulated Gerő and asked Putin for help. Should external military threats be deemed imminent, “Putin and I,” he declared yesterday, “have agreed that, on our first request, Russia will provide comprehensive assistance in protecting the security of the Belarus Republic.”   

Specifically, Lukashenko is concerned about the military threat of the Nato exercises taking place in Poland and Lithuania. Their only possible aim has to be a frontal attack on Belarus and the rest of the “post-Soviet space”, emphatically including Mother Russia.

I don’t know to what lengths Putin will go to honour the putative agreement. His own popularity slipping in Russia, he may want to flex his muscles again – even at the risk of making his country even more of an international pariah than she is already. Then again, he may hope that the mere threat of a Russian invasion may suffice to quell the rebellion.

One way or the other, the situation is fraught. One can only hope Western governments can show more resolve in dealing with this threat than they did over Hungary (c. 1956), the Ukraine (c. 2014) and for that matter Czechoslovakia (c. 1938).

That last example ought to have taught the West the awful consequences of appeasement. Alas, like all such lessons, it’s unlikely ever to be learned.

Don’t let’s be beastly to the French

“Don’t let’s be beastly to the Germans,” wrote Noel Coward, and I disagree. If we can’t be beastly to the Germans, whom else can we possibly be beastly to?

Eric Blom, the Francophobe

Well, the French, wrote the Swiss-British musicologist Eric Blom in his brilliant 1928 book The Limitations of Music. That is, he didn’t call for beastliness to the French in so many words. He just practised what he didn’t preach.

Before I cite some of the appropriate excerpts, I wish to issue a disclaimer for the benefit of my French readers: I emphatically and unreservedly disavow every Francophobe remark Blom saw fit to make. In fact, if I were French, and he hadn’t died in 1959, I’d sue him for libel.

Actually, since I know for a fact that some of my French readers are lawyers, perhaps they may want to investigate the possibility that Blom’s estate may still be liable. If it is, I volunteer as witness for the plaintiffs, the entire French nation.

I’m only publishing Blom’s diatribes to illustrate the depths to which even a naturalised Briton can sink in denigrating that great country and its wonderful inhabitants. Portraying them, as Blom did, as facile, humourless, obtuse nationalists with a short attention span is so inexcusable that I hate myself for even bringing those libellous remarks to your attention.

With that in mind, here comes:

“The typical Frenchman, though more than intelligent enough to see another point of view, is rendered incapable of doing so by a perverse cleverness which always infallibly puts him in the right. You cannot argue with him, or if you do, there are but two possible results to the discussion: either he is victorious or you have been tactless.”

“The French are too keenly cognisant of their national virtues to possess as much as a vestige of what we understand as a sense of humour, though of course they have a highly developed sense of fun and of ridicule. Voltaire, typical Frenchman…, is the very archetype of Gallic humourlessness, which the musician may find summed up with unconscious accuracy in a letter from Bizet to his mother: ‘Or, tout en aimant beaucoup à blaguer les autres, je ne pas supporter qu’on se fiche de moi.’ [Now, although I love making fun of other people, I cannot stand other people mocking me.] But the composer who illustrates it with more immediate relevance to the present issue is Debussy when he styles himself musicien français on the title pages of his last works. We dare hardly smile, ever so indulgently, at a great composer’s deadly seriousness in performing so utterly naïve a piece of self-appraisement.”

“France produces the greatest amount of poor music admirably presented.”

“The school which is most sensitively aware of the difference between innate and superficial nationalism is the French. France has always been a country artistic to the point of artificiality, and the art of revealing life has always been of negligible importance there compared with the art of concealing art. Hence the crudity of the French naturalist school of writers…”

“On listening to composers brought up in the school of delicious frivolity that is called Paris, we readily understand that a French audience soon grows weary of a Symphony by Brahms or Elgar, in fact of any art that takes thought more seriously than the manner in which it is uttered. One even sympathises with this attitude if one takes the trouble to understand a nation which objects to nothing as much as to being bored, even if the boredom may be more due to the attitude of the listener than the nature of the work heard.”

Now, I was going to thank my posthumous guest columnist for helping me out on a slow news day, but anger constricts my throat and paralyses my two typing fingers. So I’d better say à bientôt and sign off.

Lunatic fringe is the new mainstream

Some 35 years ago, I was strolling through Manhattan with my friend Dan, a poet whose work showed Emily Dickinson’s influence. Somewhere in the East Side we passed by the building housing the Poetry Society of America.

I bet Stormzy plays video games too

“It’s an establishment place,” explained Dan. “They are all modernists. And when modernists become the establishment, you know it’s the end of the world.”

It wasn’t, Dan. It was only a harbinger of doom. For, objectionable as those modernists might have been, they still championed what they thought was good poetry. They might have been corrupting their art, but at least they still hadn’t replaced it with woke obsessions.

We’ve since lost touch, but I wonder what Dan would think today, looking at, say, the field of music criticism. The other day I wrote about Dr Philip Ewell of Hunter College who describes himself as “an activist for racial, gender, and social justice in the field of music theory.”

At the time Dan and I enjoyed our stroll, that statement alone would have consigned the good professor to the loony bin – this even before he opined that the only reason Beethoven is considered a genius is that he’s a white male.

That was typical of today’s academe, I wrote, hoping that the pandemic of madness hadn’t spread to the media that have more influence on public tastes than the blog of a Hunter College academic. That hope was forlorn.

Those who haven’t lived in the US may not realise the influence The New York Times music critics have on both performers and listeners. In my day, the paper’s Harold Schonberg, Bernard Holland and Donal Henahan could make or break careers with a flourish of the pen.

They practically decreed what and how musicians should play and evaluated performances on the basis of compliance or noncompliance. They then indoctrinated the public in the same vein, and I knew concert-goers whose tastes never deviated one iota from Schonberg’s prescriptions.

I don’t know if the NYT still acts as the oracle of music tastes, but I’m sure it still has a massive influence. There’s no musical god other than the NYT chief music critic, and musicians are his messengers.

That lengthy aside was necessary to communicate the singular importance of that post, which at present is held by Anthony Tommasini. And what do you know? Mr Tommasini spouts the same gibberish as Dr Ewell, if in marginally less strident tones.

The other day he vouchsafed to his panting readers his assessment of Beethoven’s sonata in A flat major, Op. 110. For those who have wisely cultivated more productive interests than classical music, this is one of the greatest works in the piano literature – which is to say one of the greatest achievements of the human spirit.

Not so, according to Mr Tommasini: “Looking back, I can’t believe how much I bought into the masterpiece mystique surrounding the Beethoven sonatas. Today, the word masterpiece itself is problematic. Wasn’t the good-humored Haydn sonata I played a masterpiece? Or Chopin’s stormy ballade? (To say nothing of too often overlooked works by composers beyond these white, male totems.)”

The word ‘masterpiece’ only becomes problematic when it’s preceded by the words ‘the only’. If it isn’t, anyone other than a clinical moron will assume that music accommodates numerous masterpieces, including Haydn sonatas and Chopin ballades. That they too are masterpieces means neither that Op. 110 isn’t nor that the word itself is invalid.

But of course it’s Mr Tommasini’s parenthetical phrase that’s the crux of his paragraph. That’s what he really wanted to say.

So who are those off-white and female composers who take Beethoven et al. down from their totem poles? Samuel Coleridge Taylor? Clara Schumann? Esperanza Spalding? Stormzy? Tommasini and Ewell will probably shrug and say “Why not?”

You say Beethoven is better than Stormzy, he says you only think that because you are a racist, sexist troglodyte, who’s to say who’s right? Certainly not one of the most influential formers of music tastes in the US.

Lest you may think I’ve got it in for America, the pandemic of ideological lunacy has spread to Britain as well. Here it’s not just musical education, but education as such that has been shoved into the domain of psychiatry.

Thus a study by the National Literacy Trust (NTL) suggests that playing video games is the best thing for youngsters’ education. That finding, which will definitely be accepted as a call to action, falls into the same clinical category as Mr Tommasini’s and Dr Ewell’s pronouncements.

But let’s not be too hasty. Let’s find out what, in the view of that august organisation, the study actually means.

“We know that video games are a part of everyday life for so many children, young people and families across the UK,” says Jonathan Douglas, NTL’s chief executive.

“So it is exciting to uncover the opportunities that video game-playing can provide for young people to engage in reading, stimulate creativity through writing, enhance communication with friends and family, and support empathy and wellbeing.”

Sounds good, if ever so slightly counterintuitive. But exactly how do video games exert such a welcome effect?

Turns out that nearly 80 per cent of those who play video games also read materials relating to gaming, such as fan fiction, reviews and blogs. That encourages reading and, since they occasionally text their fellow players with LOL and How R U messages, also communication.

In other words, the entire intellectual and cultural world of those youngsters is circumscribed by video games. They either play them or read up on them or talk about them monosyllabically. I can’t imagine a more effective assembly line of cretins than that.

But then we need such assembly lines for the Ewells and Tommasinis of this world to have an audience. They are the roosters in the hatcheries of barbarism.

Who said Muslims can’t integrate?

Kipling wouldn’t have written “never the twain will meet” had he known Farah Haque. East and West form an organic unity in her soul.

Farah, proving her British credentials

Originally from Bangladesh, Miss Haque eventually moved to England. There she has acquired every signature trait of her new countrymen, while still staying in touch with her indigenous culture.

As a peripatetic Briton, Miss Haque travelled to Thailand where for the past few months she has been teaching – not her native Bengali, but English.

Yesterday she flouted the Muslim injunction against alcohol and got roaring drunk (or “shitfaced”, as she’d probably say). In that state Miss Haque displayed a feat of British athleticism by climbing onto a Buddhist shrine, while still holding on to a can of beer.

From that vantage point she screamed abuse at passers-by, displaying native command of her acquired language, at least the part of it that’s nowadays used most widely. The integrated Miss Farah showed she was au courant even with increasingly popular Americanisms by frankly describing her grateful listeners as “mother****ers”.

As one does, she also screamed “whores the whole lot of you”, “get the f*** out of here you f***ing paedophile” and “ugly c***”. If that isn’t typical of a Briton relaxing in a foreign land, I don’t know what is.

However, to prove that she hasn’t quite renounced her Islamic roots, Miss Haque also chanted “Allahu akbar!”, although eschewing the self-detonation that frequently accompanies that cry.

Actually, everyone present could ascertain that she wasn’t wearing a suicide belt. For, striking another blow for integration, Miss Haque was wearing nothing at all.

That shows that, while still espousing Islam, she isn’t beholden to its misogynist strictures. For not only did Miss Haque neglect to cover her face, but she left the rest of her body uncovered as well. One detects a welcome rebellion against male tyranny, along with a proud upholding of another newly popular British trait: casual exhibitionism.

Nowadays Britons, especially women, happily drop their clothes and prance about naked. Moreover, they then take selfies of their bodies and post them on the Internet for our delectation.

Now, since Adam and Eve committed that little indiscretion in the Garden of Eden, those whose culture has biblical antecedents (otherwise known as civilised people) have been covering their nudity in public. Women who casually removed their clothing for all to see used to be considered decadent at best, loose at worst.

Even a couple of decades ago, naked women posed for National Geographic, not public media this side of girlie or pornographic magazines. All that has changed.

Girls whip their tops off at office parties, university students stage naked demonstrations against things they don’t like, celebrities routinely pose nude, middle-aged women produce a nude calendar of themselves and become celebrities as a result. But it gets worse.

Indecent exhibitionism, like just about everything else today, is elevated to an ideological tenet, a valid expression of rebellion against convention. Even worse, exhibitionists like to pontificate on public indecency in didactic tones. They are joyously, proudly anomic.

Ulrika Jonsson, another thoroughly integrated Briton (she arrived here in 1979, aged 13), says: “I have no problem being naked. I’ll happily walk through the house without a stitch on, and wouldn’t feel uncomfortable being seen naked by family or friends…”

It’s her house, and she can do whatever she likes in it. But she then takes nude selfies and collects countless ‘likes’ on the net. In her youth, Miss Jonsson’s exhibitionism could have at least opened up some commercial possibilities, but her tattooed body has lost its saleable appeal in her 50s. So what’s that all about?

“I’d posted it as an illustration of personal and physical freedom,” says Miss Jonsson. “To me, a naked human body, male or female, is nature in its rawest form.” Absolutely. So is killing. So is theft. So is public copulation. The purpose of civilisation is precisely to curb “nature in its rawest form”.

Lest you might think Miss Jonsson betrays her Swedish heritage, impeccably British Kelly Brook, Liz Hurley, Helen Mirren and countless others not only do nude scenes in films (this is an ironclad career requirement these days), but also pose for snaps that leave little to imagination in the after hours.

Since celebrities are role models for our comprehensively educated masses, exhibitionism has become a popular sport in Britain. So I’m proud of Farah Haque. The odd ‘allahu akbar’ notwithstanding, she has adapted perfectly to the culture of her new home.

A few dinghies can do what Philip II, Napoleon and Hitler couldn’t

If you don’t count the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, which aren’t part of the UK anyway, 1066 was the last time the British Isles were invaded.

Sir Francis Drake, where are you when we need you?

Some rulers tried, others wisely didn’t, much as they wanted to. Even though their armies vastly outnumbered the British forces, both Napoleon and Hitler could only eye the white cliffs wistfully from afar. They correctly surmised that the combination of the Channel and the Royal Navy presented an insurmountable obstacle.

Evidently it no longer is. Thousands of illegal aliens from the less desirable countries have managed to sail their dinghies to Britain, and our officials only sigh and say there’s nothing we can do about it.

Perhaps they are right, and I don’t have at my fingertips enough information to argue against their conclusion. However, my olfactory sense is still strong enough to discern dissembling, especially when it’s not particularly clever.

This morning a portly middle-aged gentleman in charge of such matters was interviewed on Sky News, and he got the softest ride possible this side of a full-sized American car. Nothing he said made much sense, and any interviewer worth his salt would have taken him to task.

For example, the portly official explained, unimpeachably, that the Channel is only 20 miles wide from Calais to Dover. True.

However, it’s not appreciably narrower than it was in 1806 or 1940, when both Napoleon and Hitler deemed it too wide to cross. Why, it wasn’t even much wider in 1588, when the last attempt was made to come to England uninvited.

I’m not saying that the Royal Navy should do to the dinghies what Sir Francis Drake did to the Armada, although some of my strident friends may think it would be a good idea. I’m only pointing out that the argument from width doesn’t wash.

Then the official tugged at our heart strings by saying that all those poor people, even if they are only economic migrants, come from awful places where their lives are likely to be unpleasant.

My heart responds on cue: I sympathise with them. Since I myself grew up in a murderous, impoverished hellhole, I know how they feel. So the argument from sympathy is unassailable. It is, however, irrelevant.

It’s a fair assumption that at least half of the world’s population of 7.6 billion would rather live in Britain than in their home countries. And their reasons for that preference would be as valid as those of the dinghy mariners.

However, neither Britain nor Western Europe nor even the West at large can possibly accommodate such numbers even if we wished to. Some restrictions must therefore be imposed.

Hence, much as we sympathise with those poor people, we could do worse than remember the words of John Quincy Adams. Speaking of America, he said: “She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

(Those Channel-farers aren’t really ‘poor’. When I left Russia, I had $100 in my pocket, and a $650 debt for the visa money I had to borrow from a friend. By contrast, these people pay £4,000 to £5,000 each for their crossing. So whatever they are in any other sense, they aren’t poor economically.)

Then the interviewee resorted to the time-honoured British sport: he blamed the French, who, according to him, do little to stamp out the organised crime behind such crossings. That’s probably true: France’s ardour is doubtless dampened by her experience of admitting vast numbers of culturally alien refugees. Let’s just say that the experience hasn’t been an unqualified success.

France’s desire to palm off those migrants, mostly Syrians and Iranians, on us is understandable. What’s less so is the migrants’ desire to risk their lives for preferring Britain to France or Belgium.

After all, the traditional practice (if not an ironclad legal obligation) is for refugees to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach. They clearly must know something I don’t if they believe Britain is much safer than France or even Belgium.

That issue never came up in the interview because Sky’s Niall Paterson was careful to avoid any potentially controversial angles. Thus Niall nodded compassionate understanding when his mark rued HMG’s utter impotence in stopping the crossings or sending the surviving sailors back.

They have the right to apply for asylum, he said, even if they are strictly economic migrants. And even should their applications be rejected, we can’t really deport them. If France doesn’t agree to take them back, which she won’t, they stay.

I have a couple of problems with that, one of which is lexical. Words like ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ refer to the legal status of those who have entered the country legally and are then granted the permission to stay.

If they enter the country illegally, they are law-breakers. And, when an official of HMG admits there’s nothing we can do about law-breakers, we are in deep trouble.

Such impotence is of recent vintage. For example, during the war, all refugees from Nazi Germany – including, incongruously, Jews – were treated as undesirable aliens and interned on the Isle of Man.

Have we forgotten how to do that? How willing would those mariners be to risk their lives in a dangerous crossing if they knew they’d end up in an internment camp, not at the Social Services? Not very, is my guess.

Then surely the Royal Navy still must have the capacity to stop those boats without resorting to violence, à la 1588. I don’t know how, but I sleep better at night hoping we have some people who do.

One thing we should have done was not play poodle to American neocons who in 2003 set out to bomb the Middle East into democracy. In that undertaking they predictably failed, succeeding only in sending wave after wave of refugees to engulf Europe.

That, however, is a separate subject. Today’s subject isn’t the past but the immediate future – when the population of Britain will hit 70 million, mostly due to culturally alien migration.

Problem with Beethoven, he wasn’t a black woman

Some of the stuff published these days forces me to do extra research. I have to make sure the pieces are bona fide, rather than vicious spoofs or else excerpts from psychiatrists’ case studies.

Esperanza Spalding of the 19th century

One such piece is by Philip Ewell, explaining why Beethoven was barely an above average composer, and the only reason he’s considered a genius is the domination of music theory by white males.

Even reading his article twice left me undecided whether the author is a madman or a satirist of Swiftian proportions. To be fair, these days it’s hard to tell the difference; actuality outpaces any satire, no matter how mordant or grotesque.

However, it turns out that Dr Ewell isn’t a satirist at all. He’s Associate Professor of music theory at Hunter College, New York, which used to be a reputable institution. That narrows down the diagnostic options for his condition.

Having listed his academic credentials on his blog, Dr Ewell then describes himself as “an activist for racial, gender, and social justice in the field of music theory.” That self-identification should by itself justify a call for the men in white coats.

However, I have no interest in Dr Ewell’s problem, be that innate or cultivated insanity. What does interest me is the insanity of an era in which academics can write, and their readers take seriously, manifestly deranged gibberish.

It’s tedious to analyse Ewell’s output on merit because it has none. However, because the statements he makes add facets to a clinical picture of modernity, bear with me for a few paragraphs. The first one is unadulterated Ewell:

“‘Master,’ and its derivatives (masterwork, masterpiece, masterful), carries both racist (master/slave) and sexist (master/mistress) connotations. In music theory “masterwork” is generally applied to compositions by white males. But Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is no more a masterwork than Esperanza Spalding’s 12 Little Spells. To state that Beethoven was any more than, say, above average as a composer is to state that you know all music written on planet earth 200 years ago when Beethoven was active as a composer, which no one does. Beethoven occupies the place he does because he has been propped up by whiteness and maleness for two hundred years, and we have been told by whiteness and maleness that his greatness has nothing to do with whiteness and maleness, in race-neutral and gender-neutral fashion. Thus music theory’s white-male frame obfuscates race and gender, one of its main goals.”

As an aside, I suggest that, before Dr Ewell puts pen to paper again, he learn the difference between ‘masterful’ and ‘masterly’. Also, when the word ‘Earth’ designates a planet, it’s capitalised, something a chap ought to know long before he has earned an advanced degree.

Yet Dr Ewell makes up for his ignorance of basic English by the refreshing gall of his pronouncements. For example, it’s commonly believed that the purpose of music theory is scholarly study of how music is made, its history, processes and principles.

That, according to Dr Ewell, is a misapprehension. Music theory is there to enable “white males to obfuscate race and gender.”

Dr Ewell insists that “even terms such as … ‘fin de siècle’ can be considered euphemisms for whiteness and white framing… [because] the mapping of time itself is white racially framed in the Gregorian calendar.”

Hence, even saying that Beethoven was an 18-19th century composer, never mind a great one, is blatant racism because Pope Gregory XIII, for whom the Western calendar is named, was a white male. That unfortunate nativity invalidates our calendar, leaving us without any time reference at all. After all, the alternative Julian calendar was also named after a white male, Julius Caesar.

Having thus solved the philosophical problem of time, Dr Ewell then destroys the very concept of aesthetic judgement by ridiculing its premises. Since it’s impossible to know every note of music ever written everywhere in the world, we can’t judge Beethoven’s greatness.

Greatness is relative. Thus, Beethoven may legitimately be considered above average only against the background of the composers we know. If, say, we take Hummel and Weber as representing the average, then yes, Beethoven may be marginally above that level.

But do we know every chant sung by an African shaman or a Tasmanian aborigine? No? Then how can we know Beethoven is any better than they are? We don’t. And if we insist we do, we are racists and misogynists.

To prove that no absolute standards exist, Dr Ewell cites the example of Esperanza Spalding, whose 12 Little Spells is to him easily a match for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The only reason this fact isn’t universally acknowledged is that Miss Spalding is neither male nor white.

Here I have to own up to a glaring gap in my musical education, which indirectly proves Dr Ewell’s point. Until I read his article I hadn’t had the foggiest who Esperanza Spalding was. However, thanks to YouTube, that hole was plugged.

She’s a young double bass player, who composes and performs pretentious pseudo-spiritual jazz songs of no musical value whatsoever. There, I might as well have had “racist and misogynist” tattooed on my forehead.

I’m only dissing Miss Spalding because she’s a black woman, and I’m neither. I must have forgotten what century we live in, and now that both the Gregorian and Julian calendars have bitten the dust, I’ll never learn.

The sheer insanity of Dr Ewell’s pronouncements is rare even by the standards of whatever century we live in (choose your own calendar). But the general thrust is quite widespread.

Every white male composer (which more or less means every composer) represents a burr under the blanket of modernity. Where are the black female Bachs and Beethovens?

Discounting, at the risk of sounding bigoted, young Esperanza, I can think of only two female composers of note, Hildegard von Bingen (12th century, by the racist calendar) and our contemporary Sofia Gubaidulina. And even they can’t quite match, well, Bach and Beethoven.

Therefore, since ideology always trumps such incidentals as reason and taste, Ewell and his ilk have to debunk our whole aesthetic frame of reference and shift it into their political comfort zone. There composers are regarded as masters only because they are white men: music theorists have formed a cabal designed to marginalise black women composers who are as masterly (or ‘masterful’, to Dr Ewell) as the men.

Recently, when it was discovered that Easter Sonata, wrongly attributed to Felix Mendelssohn, was actually composed by his sister Fanny, the Ewells of this world perked up. You see? Fanny was every bit her brother’s equal. Well, judging by that strictly mediocre piece, she wasn’t.

And Clara Schumann supposedly could compose rings around her husband, him of an overblown reputation. Alas, Clara, one of the best pianists of her time, only ever composed little nothings catering to popular tastes at her recitals. Neither Robert nor, more to the point, Clara herself considered her a composer.

But at least both Fanny and Clara could produce genuine, if not great, music, which is more than one could say for Esperanza Spalding. Dr Ewell really pushed the envelope there.

However, the important thing to realise is that it’s illiterate, tasteless, ideology-crazed morons like him who set the tone at our formerly reputable universities. They are the ones who form public tastes (most comments on Ewell’s blog are glowing).

To paraphrase Chesterton, those who believe in nothing, will believe in anything.

Ennobling the ignoble

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, the freshly minted lord, Evgeny Lebedev, takes a broad swipe at those who, like me, take exception to his elevation to the House of Lords.

What’s wrong with this picture?

“Anyone who thinks I am a Boris-crony or a Putin-stooge,” he says, “obviously isn’t one of the 28 million online readers of The Independent in this country.”

Guilty as charged. Actually, the official reach of that online publication is 22 million, but let’s not haggle about pennies. In substance, Lebedev is correct: yes, I do think it’s patently obvious he’s a Boris crony and a Putin stooge. And no, I’m not one of however many Independent readers there are.

Lebedev accuses his detractors of “a racism that considers the House of Lords to be no place for someone such as me”, singling out The Guardian “where stories invariably describe me as ‘Russian’ or ‘Russian-born’ in their first sentences”.

I know exactly how he feels; I too detest being described in that fashion. But there’s a difference between Lebedev and me. I relinquished my Russian (then Soviet) citizenship in 1973, seven years before Lebedev was born.

He, however, remains not only a British subject but also a Russian citizen, which means dual allegiance and a right to dual protection. The link between the two was established in the ancient legal principle “Protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protectionem”.

Hence, while tarring me with a Russian brush betokens lazy and inaccurate thinking, thus describing Lebedev is a simple statement of fact. But one has to compliment him on the masterly use of fail-free tricks: anyone called a racist nowadays is expected to crawl back into his hole, tail between his legs.

Another term he casually drops into his narrative is McCarthyism – whatever the context, that can’t fail to push the right, or rather left, button. Again, compliments are in order.

Lebedev clearly learned his disinformation tradecraft at the knee of his father Alexander, a career KGB officer. (Not ‘agent’, as his son describes him. If I were his daddy, I’d chastise little Zhenia for his ignorance: an officer is a fully employed master spy who runs a network of agents. It’s the same difference as between an editor and a freelance hack.)

As part of that tradecraft, he knows how to deceive without lying. For example, he describes himself as “a first-generation immigrant, who came to this country when I was eight”. Quite. Except that he came to Britain at that young age not as an immigrant, but as the son of a KGB officer working under diplomatic cover at the Russian embassy.

Another tradecraft gem: “… together with my father [I] have invested more than £120 million to save two great national newspaper titles…”. I especially like that “together” business: an innocent reader may get the impression of some kind of equal partnership.

In fact, Evgeny, who was 29 at the time and had never made any serious money, simply acted as a front for his father, who in turn acted as a front for his lifelong employer. Alexander Lebedev, incidentally, is still listed as a co-owner of the papers, even though his son refers to them as “mine”.

Then Lebedev describes The Independent as “a global publishing giant”. Every word there, except “a”, is dubious. Since few people outside the UK have ever heard of The Independent, the “global” claim must be based on the Saudis who own 30 per cent of the title. “Publishing” is only tangentially appropriate for a strictly online publication. And “giant” is misleading in the absence of information on paid circulation.

Continuing in the same vein, Lebedev is “proud of the fact that this title is one of very few in Britain with no political alignment whatsoever”. Again, this is another example of deceiving without lying.

It’s true that The Independent isn’t the official organ of any political party. But it’s definitely a mouthpiece of an ideology.

Its listing identifies its political alignment as “liberal”, which, translated from the modern, means left-wing. The Independent supports the republican cause, which makes its editor’s presence in the House of Lords rather incongruous. It was also in the Remain camp, campaigning tirelessly for a second referendum.

Then Lebedev complains that “ardent believers in the narrative of omnipresent Russian influence in the UK see my interactions with the British elite as some sort of Kremlin influence mission.”

Perish the thought. Newspapers owned de facto by a KGB officer, made rich by his alma mater, toeing the Kremlin line? Surely not.

I’ve said it a thousand times if I’ve said it once: it’s impossible to make a Lebedev-like fortune in Russia without being some kind of Putin agent. The nature of the agency may differ: it could be money laundering, influence peddling, propaganda, espionage, disinformation or any combination thereof. But one way or another, all those ‘oligarchs’ are the puppets to Putin’s wire-puller.

Lebedev brags of his large donations to charity, which is commendable by itself. But in his case that activity isn’t by itself. It’s in no way inconsistent with the role of an agent of influence. If you had millions and wanted to rise to the pinnacle of British society, wouldn’t you spread your largesse around?

And the primary source of his money, the Putin camarilla, isn’t naturally driven by charitable impulses. Its every expenditure is always aimed at pursuing its interest, whatever that might be. Infiltrating its men into the upper echelons of Britain certainly qualifies as such a worthy cause.

Boris Johnson’s picks for ennoblement range from nepotistic (his brother, a man of modest attainment) to ill-advised (Claire Fox, recent communist and IRA fan) to downright subversive (Lebedev). Just the sort of thing we’ve learned to expect from our leaders.

What’s the worst word in English?

In 1965 a line was crossed: theatre critic Kenneth Tynan was the first to say ‘fuck’ on live TV.

I bet the culprit isn’t smiling any longer

Since then the line has been crossed so often that it has become smudged. Words beginning with just about every letter of the alphabet have flooded the airwaves, drowning the stultifying norms of public decency.

That proved yet again that the march of progress is unstoppable, while also adding a facet to our current understanding of progress. Take technology out of it, and progress is essentially mass brainwashing in the severing of all traditional roots of morality, reason, decency and etiquette.

Since television, now abetted by social media, has effectively replaced education, Tynan’s pioneering effort has borne rich fruit. These days obscenities are ringing throughout the land, and one can routinely hear even little tots describe one another in a language that suggests intimate familiarity with genital anatomy and the more recondite sexual variants.

As a result of overuse, words that used to act as shockers and intensifiers have lost the power to either shock or intensify. Their inappropriate use in public (I’ve forfeited the right to object to their use in private) only serves the purpose of branding the speaker as a tasteless, ill-mannered boor. Or else, depending on the audience, as a free-thinking rebel who can soar above convention.

Still, flouting convention is what progress is all about, and the sewer of torrential obscenity never gets plugged on our TV. However, our media watchdog has hypocritically banned swear words before the 9 PM watershed – pretending that today’s children dutifully go to bed at that time and have no TV sets or computers in their bedrooms.

Having paid perfunctory lip service to propriety, our TV networks can safely continue to ignore it in every way that matters. A new world has no room for old morality.

Instead new morality has barged in to take up the slack. Its rules are enforced fanatically, and deviations are punished cruelly.

The new line was drawn on the football pitch in 2011, when one player, John Terry, called another a “fucking black cunt”. The only word in the triad that isn’t an obscenity is the middle one, and yet it was only that word that got Terry banned. Had he limited his self-expression to the two outside terms, he wouldn’t have even drawn a caution, nor raised an eyebrow.

The message was clear. It was acceptable to insult people in the foulest possible way, impugning the sexual behaviour of their mothers, accusing them of having oral or anal intercourse with their fathers – whatever. And the offended parties could have no recourse.

But any reference to their race, even without using overtly pejorative terminology, and the offender will have to face the slings and arrows of outraged modernity. As to real racial slurs, they will draw not just slings and arrows but the executioner’s axe, at this point still only metaphorically.

Our media regulators responded with decisiveness hitherto associated with rather unsavoury regimes. Their laisser-faire attitude to post-watershed obscenity remained in place, but racial insults were banned at any time – whatever the mitigating context.

Stricter standards are now applied to racial slurs than even to homicide, where extenuating circumstances may be taken into account. To our progressives, racism, however contextual or tangential, or however broadly defined, is a worse crime than murder.

What makes the new morality more tyrannical than any traditional Western tyranny is that it’s mostly imposed not by the state but by the people themselves. They’ve been brainwashed into enthusiastic self-policing. Before too long they’ll be sufficiently indoctrinated to arrest themselves, rough themselves up and then put themselves in prison.

The BBC’s social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin got a taste of it when reporting a vile racist attack of two thugs setting upon a black man. They deliberately drove their car at the victim, leaving him with a broken leg, nose and cheekbone.

In the process they hurled racist abuse at the man, which Miss Lamdin reported. She told her ideologically sensitive viewers: “Just to warn you, you’re about to hear highly offensive language… Because as the men ran away, they hurled racial abuse, calling him a nigger”.

That didn’t violate the injunction issued by watchdog Ofcom in 2016, to the effect that, though the word was “highly unacceptable at all times”, it could be used when “strong contextualisation is required”.

‘Contextualisation’ could hardly have been stronger than that, but Miss Lamdin’s viewers weren’t into such nuances. They knew they had been ordered to be offended by that word, however used, and offended they obligingly were.

The BBC received 18,656 complaints, of the kind that in the country of my youth were called denunciations. The Corporation explained that the decision to include the criminal word was taken “by a team of people including a number of senior editorial figures”, but that only made matters worse.

Yet for once, those senior BBC figures were right: the word made the report even more poignant – just as saying that the thugs broke the victim’s leg was more effective than saying that they caused grievous bodily harm.

Just compare these two sentences: “They screamed ‘nigger’ as the man tried to run away” and “They screamed racial invective as the man tried to run away”. Which one condemns the thugs more strongly? Which one represents accurate reporting, as opposed to wishy-washy woke waffle?

These are moot questions as far as our morbidly sensitive public is concerned. The OFFENCE toggle switch has been implanted into their minds, and each time it’s flicked they are offended on cue.

Well, they offend me no end. Can you suggest where I should post my complaint?

P.S. Wearing face masks, especially on a hot day, has one definite advantage: it enables a man to concentrate on what’s really important in a woman. Her soul, that is, and what did you think I meant?