As I recall, during the 10 years I lived in Texas, it was scorching heat rather than freezing cold that made life difficult.
But then a few days ago climate change kicked in and, in open defiance of Greta Asperger, the change went in the wrong direction. Things got a lot colder and – again seemingly to spite Greta – the wind turbines froze and died of hypothermia.
Since, following Greta’s orders, wind farms now supply almost a quarter of the state’s energy, thousands of people in West Texas lost their electricity and suffered the fate I used as my title. The Yankees up north must be grinning with Schadenfreude. In fact, they may feel that justice was done.
Many years ago, New York experienced several grid breakdowns, except then practically all energy came from hydrocarbons, of which Texas was a major supplier. To thaw those shivering northerners the government tried to plunder Texas’s emergency reserves, but the locals were dead set against it.
With an astonishing speed their pickup trucks began to sport bumper stickers saying “Let’em freeze in the dark”. Well, what goes around…
Yet there I was, thinking that wind farms provide an inexhaustible supply of clean, planet-friendly energy bearing Greta’s seal of approval. Turns out those turbines can be pretty fickle.
If there’s too little wind, they don’t work. If there’s too much, they break. If it gets cold, they freeze. If it’s too hot, they may catch fire, as they did in Scotland a few years ago. Seriously, Greta must have a heart-to-heart with God and demand in her customary shrill voice that he guarantee just the right weather for ecologically responsible energy – or else.
But even when the weather is ideally conducive to producing green energy, ‘our planet’ still groans from abuse, and it’s wind turbines that are some of the culprits. For, though it pains me to say so, those turbines are machines and sooner or later all machines go zonk.
This raises the problem of disposal, and so far no solution has been found, nor indeed sought. Recycling only works for the steel that goes into the construction of the blades, but not for the equally present fiberglass.
Now that the first generation of turbines have reached their expiry date, tens of thousands of blades are being dumped into landfills, and soon there will be hundreds of thousands. Considering that the blades are the size of Boeing 747 wings, an ecological disaster looms.
The staunch environmentalist in me feels that too much plastic in the soil can’t possibly be good for ‘the planet’. That looks like a problem, but this once I can’t offer a solution.
All I can think of are strictly palliative measures, such as turning some of the blades into conceptual sculptures, bearing names like ‘Green Earth’, ‘Bursting with Energy’ or, for that matter, ‘Greta’. However, even if every self-respecting museum exhibits one or two, that will only scratch the surface.
Whoever came up with the idea of wind farms in the first place must have been thinking in broad strokes, without being unduly bothered with trivial details. Such as too much or too little wind, a weather too hot or too cold, and fiberglass landfills covering ‘our planet’ more and more densely.
As a big-picture man myself, I can relate to that. And I’m looking forward to the time wind farms provide most of our energy. Or don’t, as the case may be.
I don’t often feel sympathy for the plight of the Germans, but this has to be one of those rare instances. For Duden, the German equivalent of our Oxford English Dictionary, has declared war on gender-specific nouns.
Anglophone countries have it easy because English isn’t a gendered language. Our nouns all resemble neutered eunuchs in a harem, neither masculine nor feminine.
Hence the task facing our vociferous woke minority is simple: it only has a few personal pronouns to contend with, and perhaps also nouns suggesting masculinity, such as milkman, postman and, in due course I’m sure, the Royal Mail.
Replace a few singular personal pronouns with genderless plurals, ‘man’ at the end of words with ‘person’, convert all actresses into actors and hey presto – Bob’s your parent’s sibling, and so is Fanny. Even though English becomes less mellifluous, such progressive transformations fall short of wreaking total havoc.
Not so with gendered tongues. Romance languages have two noun genders, while Germanic and Slavic ones boast a whopping three. Thus, an English ‘table’ is a eunuch, a French one is a woman, and a Russian one is a man. (Parenthetically, Russian speakers like me often sound ludicrous in French when calling their guests to le table.)
The question remains: how do you castrate nouns in gendered languages? You can’t, not entirely, as German lexicographers admit ruefully. Personally, I think they give up too easily.
There are at least two avenues open to them. First, they can abolish their der and die nouns altogether and turn them all into das. That’ll take some getting used to, but, if ordered to do so, the Germans will manage.
The other possibility is abolishing the German language and switching to English instead, Singapore-style. Such linguistic appropriation would be the more radical option, but perhaps on balance the less painful one. After all, most Germans already speak English vell.
My German isn’t good enough to recommend specific morphological changes to nouns. For example, the German for Chancellor is Kanzler. However, at present that job is held by Angie Merkel, who’s all woman, as anyone who has seen her youthful nude photos will confirm. That’s why her job description is feminised to Kanzlerin.
I don’t have a clue how either word can be neutered, but I’m sure there must be a way. And what will happen if the Germans revert to their previous political system and acquire someone called der Führer? Oh well, I suppose we’ll have to blow up that bridge when we get to it.
One way or another, the problem facing German lexicographers seems insurmountable. They realise this too, which is why they set their sights slightly lower.
They see in their crosshairs what grammarians call the ‘generic masculine’, sometimes conveyed as ‘a man embraces a woman’. Thus words describing professions that may be practised by men, women or other are usually masculine in German, which is offensive beyond words.
I shan’t bother you with specifics of how the compilers of Duden corrected such egregious offences. However, I’d like to know exactly who is offended by traditional usages, and why.
In our globalised world, Germany can’t be all that different from the US or Britain. Hence German gendered words must only rankle a tiny minority ideologically predisposed to feel, or rather feign, such offence.
This allays the fear first expressed by Tocqueville and later echoed by Mill, that democracy may bring about the tyranny of the majority. They had no way of knowing that modernity is less John Stuart Mill than Cecil B DeMille.
Increasingly, our problem is a tyrannical minority lording it over a majority of lemmings, effectively powerless but mollycoddled with an elaborate spectacle of pluralism.
Driven by its pathological anomie and loathing of everything traditional, this elite made up of a few hundred semi-educated politicians, academics and hacks indoctrinates the majority in how to talk, think and feel. Following their cajoling we are all supposed to roll on the floor and froth at the mouth every time someone mentions a postman or refers to an anonymous doctor as a ‘he’.
Most people go along because they lack the elite’s passions. When told to say ‘postperson’, ‘fire fighter’ or, for all I know, Personhattan, they just shrug their acquiescence: well, okay, if it’s that important to you, mate.
The task of the tyrannical German minority is both harder and easier. It’s harder because German is a gendered language, and cleansing it of gendered nouns is like cleaning the Augean stables. It’s less Herculean, however, because the Germans are more conditioned than the Anglo-Saxons to take orders.
So perhaps Kanzlerin Merkel can just issue a decree that henceforth all collective gendered nouns are verboten. And there you go, alles in Ordnung, as they say in Germany. Ethnic cleansing is no longer in fashion, but lexical cleansing reigns supreme.
To be fair, Prof. Kehinde Andrews didn’t say that in so many words. But it’s a logical deduction from what he did say during the debate at Churchill College, Cambridge.
“The British Empire,” he argued, “was far worse than the Nazis.” Now, if A is far worse than B, then B is far better than A, which simple inference vindicates the title above.
Andrews is professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, funded out of the public purse. Evidently, the public purse must be big enough to sustain the teaching of Prof. Andrews’s time-honoured academic discipline.
I’m sure Plato at his Lyceum, Aristotle at his Academy and Albertus Magnus at his Paris University all devoted much time to black studies. That established a scholarly tradition lovingly maintained at Birmingham City University and other such venerable institutions around the world.
In awe as I am of Prof. Andrews’s academic credentials, I still wonder about the source of his affection for Nazi Germany in general and Hitler in particular, whom he has often compared favourably to Churchill.
Since he condemns the British Empire for its record in race relations, one has to believe the Nazis fared better in that respect. This view is neither shared by many academics nor supported by factual evidence.
It’s true that the Nazis didn’t commit too many atrocities against Prof. Andrews’s own race because, as sports commentators say, you can only beat what’s in front you. In front of the Nazis were some other races they regarded as inferior and therefore wished to exterminate or, at best, enslave.
However, had the war gone differently and the Nazis got hold of large swathes of Africa and Asia, there’s little to suggest they would have treated the indigenous races better than the British did. Even though, say, the Indians were the original Aryans, one doubts the Nazis would have seen them as their racial forefathers.
As to the African blacks, I’d bet £1,000 against a Reichsmark the Nazis wouldn’t have treated them any better than they treated Gypsies, never mind Jews. In fact, the few German blacks were covered by the same Nuremberg racial laws and, for example, were prohibited from fraternising with white women. Mixed-race children were forcibly sterilised in the Rhineland and other parts of Germany, which didn’t bode well for Africans should they have fallen under the Nazi rule.
A true polymath, Prof. Andrews happily strikes out into disciplines outside his immediate expertise. For example, he has shown a sufficiently firm grasp of psychiatry to diagnose “whiteness” as a psychosis. He has also described capitalism as “genocidal” and called for its overthrow.
Aren’t you happy your taxes are funding the work of such an accomplished scholar? I am.
After all, I often comment at length on what’s wrong with modernity in general and Britain in particular. Now I can dispense with prolixity and reduce the whole argument to two words: Professor Andrews.
At no other time in Western history could a man like him hold a professorship and command a wide forum for his rants. In the heyday of the British Empire, Andrews would have been enlarging on his views in a madhouse or perhaps off a soapbox in Hyde Park.
He probably knows that too, which may well be why he loathes the British Empire and indeed post-imperial Britain. His affection for Nazi Germany is harder to explain, but then, unlike Prof. Andrews, I’m not an expert psychiatrist.
Blaming American implants for undermining France’s national identity is a time-honoured sport of the French. Yet now it’s being played by new rules.
Traditionally, the Americans were held to be guilty of poisoning France’s sacred body with dog-eat-dog capitalism, frantic commercialism, fast food, pop music, Coca-Cola and wholesale rejection of progressive shibboleths.
Now that the Americans have seen the supposed error of their ways, they are being blamed for “out-of-control leftism and cancel culture” that exerts a ruinous transatlantic influence on France.
So claim prominent French intellectuals, politicians and academics in their letter to the New York Times. They lay the blame specifically at the doorstep of American universities, which infest the world with obsessive attachment to issues of sex and race. The latter especially is getting out of hand after last year’s BLM riots.
Manny Macron, facing elections and hence wishing to woo the Right, chimed in with warnings against “certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States”. Now which theories would they be?
Those of statist dirigisme, with the central government amassing vast power at the expense of local institutions? The welfare state? A Marxist craving for a single world government, now being partially realised through the EU? Institutionalised atheism? A culture of rights riding roughshod over both tradition and common sense? A tendency to use barricades as a redress for grievances?
No, none of those. They are all homespun phenomena appearing in the rubric of France’s exports, not imports. What then?
In fact, the signatories’ principal concern is race, which a new book describes as a “bulldozer” rolling all other issues into the dirt. It’s American campuses that are fanning the fires of racial strife, with tongues of flame scorching the blessed soil of France.
Why, some of those leftie Yanks in the grips of hatred for the West’s “white civilisation” even justify acts of Muslim terrorism. France saw three of them last autumn, and Allah only knows how many over the years.
Considering the growing toxic influence of American theories, before long the country will see an open season on white Frenchmen, including intellectuals, academics and politicians. That won’t do, will it?
Now we’ve dug through a pile of rhetorical manure to uncover a pearl of truth. Those French intellectuals aren’t really concerned about the phenomena I enumerated above, things like dirigisme, socialism and an obsession with universal human rights stamping out tradition.
And they don’t see a direct link between any of those and what does justifiably worry them: seditious Muslims playing with knives, firearms and explosives.
All European countries, including Britain, have similar concerns. But the severity of the problem is proportionate to the number of Muslims in the country. And France’s is higher than anywhere in Western Europe, twice as high as in Britain.
I bet those French intellectuals see no connection between LaDéclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen and those AKs firing in the streets of Paris. Yet a connection exists, and it’s more fundamental than the one between American universities and French violence.
Those intricate minds honed at France’s Grandes Ecoles reject faith in God and, by extension, the Old Regime. That’s lamentable. But neither do they seem to believe in consequences, and that’s catastrophic.
The Enlightenment, more appropriately to be called the Twilightenment, set out to crush Christendom and replace it with a new ethos of purely secular rights, universal equality, democracy and progress. The crushing part has turned out to be easier.
A tectonic revolutionary shift always produces a multitude of unintended consequences, most of them even worse than the intended ones. When the genie of mass discontent escapes from the bottle of tradition, it acquires a life all its own, and this life is lived according to its own laws.
When the bien pensant ethos of the French Enlightenment was imported to England’s American colonies, the Founding Fathers were sage enough to see the dangers. That’s why they sought to introduce into their constitution all sorts of safeguards against the populist egalitarian mania gripping France.
But, predictably, they too failed to control the newly liberated genie. Years after the American Revolution they looked at what they had created and were appalled.
In 1811, America’s second president John Adams rued: “Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation of the human race and the whole globe ever since?”
A few years earlier, he wrote: “I once thought our Constitution was a quasi or mixed government, but they had made it… a democracy.” Thomas Jefferson echoed the sentiment: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
Hindsight is better than no sight at all, but it seldom helps to undo the damage done. What the Founders realised is that a new ethos is a multifaceted entity, with all facets coming as a package tied with the strings of causality.
The Founders didn’t lack intelligence, but they did lack experience of such massive tectonic shifts as the American and French Revolutions. That’s why they failed to identify a series of ironclad ‘begats’ ensuing irrespective of their wishes, designs and plans.
Specifically, they didn’t realise that any republic constituted on Enlightenment principles is bound to beget a virtually unlimited democracy, which will in its turn beget mob rule exerted through politicians dependent on the mob for their livelihood.
They couldn’t foresee that the more they expanded the notion of rights, the more widely would the rights be replaced with appetites passing as rights. They couldn’t anticipate that the implosion of the universally accepted absolute will spray deadly shards of petty relativities, with no legitimate defences limiting their spread.
The French heirs to les philosophes suffer from the same misapprehension. They seem to think they can cherrypick things they like about the society begotten by the Enlightenment and toss aside things they dislike. Alas, things don’t work that way.
The French are rightly appalled by the intellectual and social venom spread by American ‘liberal’ academics and media, but they are incapable of looking at the problem diachronically. They should really look at their own history of the past 250 years and then ponder this passage from the book they ignore:
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
When I was a tiny Muscovite, all children were supposed to intone “Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood.”
I hated that even as 5-year-old, and I still loathe effusive public displays of gratitude to anyone other than God. But in this case I’m willing to make an exception.
For, in addition to saving us from the Chinese virus, the NHS spares no time and effort to save the English language from being ossified in its obsolete form. It has fallen upon the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust to blaze the trail.
Leading the way is its maternity services department, henceforth to be known as ‘perinatal services’. You see, the word ‘maternity’ has an offensively feminine ring to it, which is bound to traumatise trans persons for life. It’s good to see the Trust taking seriously the Hippocratic oath of “do no harm”.
In the same vein, the gender-appropriating word ‘breastfeeding’ must now be replaced with ‘chestfeeding’. This, I feel, is a bit less clear-cut: after all, that part of the body may be described as ‘breast’ or ‘chest’ for both men and women. However, perhaps the plural of ‘breast’ does sound more gender-specific and therefore potentially injurious.
The Trust must be commended for its consistency: banning a word would be useless without also banning all its derivatives. Thus ‘breastmilk’ will now give way to ‘human milk’, ‘breast/chestmilk’ or ‘milk from the feeding mother or parent’… Oops! I’ve just commended the Trust for its consistency and then the offensive word ‘mother’ creeps in. More work needs to be done, clearly.
I’ll be quoting densely from now on because no paraphrase could do justice to the lexicological breakthroughs effected by the Trust. But before I go on, it’s essential we all appreciate the epic efforts of our medical professionals to advance the fields ostensibly outside their remit.
Actually, I don’t think it’s medical professionals proper who deserve our admiration for this. Being too focused on such trivialities as treating patients, those boffins can’t devote much time to lexical nuances.
No, the kudos must go to those who are more indispensable than doctors and nurses to the core business of the NHS. They are called ‘facilitators of optimisation’, ‘optimisers of facilitation’ and, especially relevant to today’s theme, ‘directors of diversity’.
It’s these tireless, dedicated professionals who can devote all their energy, unused in medicine as such, to creating within the NHS a virtual Lexical Trauma Unit. After all, it’s not just physical problems that can bring a person down, but also the psychological wounds caused by the obscenity ‘woman’.
The Trust’s policy paper phrases this desideratum more elegantly than I ever could: “Gender identity can be a source of oppression and health inequality. We are consciously using the words ‘women’ and ‘people’ together to make it clear that we are committed to working on addressing health inequalities for all those who use our services.
“As midwives and birth workers, we focus on improving access and health outcomes for marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Women are frequently disadvantaged in healthcare, as are trans and non-binary people…
“We also recognise that there is currently biological essentialism and transphobia present within elements of mainstream birth narratives and discourse. We strive to protect our trans and non-binary service users and healthcare professionals from additional persecution as a consequence of terminology changes, recognising the significant impact this can have on psychological and emotional wellbeing.”
When people teach others how to use English, their own style must establish their credentials for providing such a service. The Trust meets this requirement with flying colours: seldom does one see thoughts of such vast import expressed so trenchantly yet gracefully.
Sensitivity to minority feelings is vital to majority rule. As a champion of one vote for every man, woman, other and child, I applaud the Trust for upholding this sacred principle.
But exactly how small is the minority so lovingly protected in Brighton? According to statistics, about one per cent of Britain’s population are trans, not that I would have known.
One in 100? In all my lamentably long life I must have met tens of thousands of people, of whom only two have been transsexual. So the official data got me thinking.
Since such data are always right, thousands of those I’ve met must have been trans without my – possibly even their – knowing. Suddenly, a jolt went right through me. What if I myself am a transsexual without realising it?
What if I’m a pregnant woman? After all, I have every clinical symptom of pregnancy: a prominent belly and no periods. No, that can’t be. Or can it?
I’d go to Brighton to find out, but I can’t: the lockdown is still in place. I’ll just have to wait and see, and you’ll be the first to know if I give birth.
Meanwhile, I hope you’ll join me in thanking the Trust for educating us all. Thank you, Trust – and thank you, NHS.
In December, I wrote about the case of Will Knowland, the Eton master who was summarily sacked for committing a heinous crime.
Mr Knowland dared to upload on YouTube a 30-minute lecture whose chief point was that men and women aren’t exactly the same physiologically, psychologically, emotionally and intellectually.
He thus denied, if only implicitly, a truth known to every progressive person, that the minor and rapidly disappearing differences between the sexes are caused only by stereotyping and social indoctrination. Remove and, better still, reverse those shameful survivals of medieval backwardness, and men and women will be not just equal but the same. Or else they will reverse roles.
Men will then become lachrymose; women, aggressive. Men will wield crocheting needles at home; women, pneumatic drills at roadworks. Men will go shopping; women, off to work. Both men and women will close ranks in a fight against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism, religion, the ghost of Margaret Thatcher – and toxic masculinity, which seems to be on the Eton curriculum.
This universally acknowledged truth isn’t just a matter of academic interest. It has far-reaching ramifications, going a long way towards becoming the ideological focus of our society. It is the crystallisation of modernity’s religious, moral and intellectual essence.
Hence dissenting against it is a crime worse than mugging or burglary, if not quite yet worse than murder (although that may yet come). Such dissent is as offensive as teaching pupils at a madrasa that there is a god other than Allah, and Mohammed isn’t his prophet.
Any ruling elite will try to stamp out sedition against its cherished essence, as I can testify from personal experience of life in the Soviet Union. I was sacked from my job for teaching youngsters that it’s not enough for a writer to be a member of the communist party – he must also have skill and talent.
Mr Knowland’s offence is similar, mutatis mutandis. That’s why it stands to reason that, over the objections of the pupils, other teachers and sponsors, and despite the video having been watched by 100,000 viewers, he was sacked – for starters.
One sponsor, a club of 45 fossilised Old Etonians clinging on to obsolete notions, has put on hold plans to give the school £2 million in funding, but Eton stuck to its woke guns. A principle isn’t a principle until it has cost you something, as that great adman Bill Bernbach once said.
Now Eton, known as the bastion of the Tory establishment, has referred Mr Knowland’s case to the Teaching Regulation Authority, which is likely to hit him with a lifelong ban from teaching.
He got off lightly, as did I way back then. A mere dismissal was a blessing, considering that I was threatened with an extended stay either at a concentration camp or a psychiatric institution. The threat was far from empty and the punishment would have been just: I dared to go against the Ethos.
So did Mr Knowland, and he should count himself lucky that he committed his crime now and not, say, 10 years down the road. If things progress (I use the word advisedly) naturally, he could then indeed suffer the punishment I mentioned in the title.
Or, even more to the point, he could be subjected to an enforced transsex operation, to emphasise yet again that a simple surgical procedure is all it takes to expunge the difference between the sexes… pardon me, genders.
Some may object to my equating the Soviet Union with Britain, and true enough, there are substantial differences. Yet they are fading away, in a process called convergence in political literature (Andrei Sakharov was a great proponent).
That’s why both Mr Knowland and I were only punished lightly for the same crime. The difference was that I lived in a society that was losing the nerve to mete out tougher punishments for speaking out of turn, whereas Mr Knowland lives in one gradually acquiring such nerve.
The Soviet vector was in the 1970s pointing downwards; the British one in the 2020s, upwards.
Had I poisoned my students’ minds the same way even 10, never mind 20, years earlier, I would have lost my freedom and possibly life, not just my job. If someone delivers a lecture similar to Mr Knowland’s in 10, never mind in 20, years, he may indeed lose his manhood, not just his job.
For, whichever direction it’s vectored, the brutalisation of public morals and intellect always has an accelerator built in. No one in 1971 could predict what would happen to the Soviet Union 30 years later. Likewise no one has a clue what will happen to Britain 30 years from now.
Yet it wasn’t hard then, nor is it now, to discern a distinct tendency.
I have an admission to make: I’m always curt and sometimes rude to cold callers. Yes, I do know that’s shamefully boorish, ungentlemanly and socially unacceptable.
And whenever I forget, Penelope is always there with a helpful reminder of noblesse oblige. Easy for her to say. She wasn’t brought up in the mean streets of Moscow, where a growing lad either ran with the gangs or from the gangs (mostly the latter in my case).
That sort of background makes one naturally confrontational and not always – well, never, to be honest – soft-spoken. Over my almost 50 years in the West, the last 35 of them in Penelope’s refined company, I’ve made some progress in living down my past, but evidently not yet enough.
However, I have an excuse to make. During the period I mentioned I’ve received thousands of cold calls from people seeking to make my life better by selling me something. Yet not once have I bought anything as a result, nor even heard the whole proposition out.
One would have thought the blighters would get the message, but they don’t. Those intrusive calls keep coming with metronomic regularity, and usually at the most inopportune moments.
Once, I recall, I was working on my book, trying to shape an involved thought. First, the logic of it didn’t add up, then, when it did, the phrasing was cumbersome and inelegant. And every time things were about to click into place, the phone rang with yet another intrusion.
The third time it happened, I heard the words “ISA investment”, lost my thread yet again, told the chap to perform an act that only exceptionally well-endowed men can attempt, and hung up. The phone was on speaker for some reason, and Penelope overheard the exchange. She realised that the caller was our personal banker, on whose good graces we often depended. Terrified, she instantly rang him up with a grovelling apology about her uncouth husband, who had tragically mistaken him for someone else.
Chaps, I don’t want to change my gas supplier. I’ll happily live out my days in the tender care of the same electrical company. If I want to buy double glazing, I’ll call you. No, I haven’t considered any healthier options to anything, and I bloody well won’t. I don’t give a damn about my financial future and, even if I did, I wouldn’t discuss it with strangers on the phone. Please leave me alone.
But they don’t, do they? Society seems to accept that salesmen have a sacrosanct right to disturb people at home, interrupting whatever they are doing at the moment, making them rush to the phone just as Glenn Gould is about to cut off that final fugue in mid-phrase.
It’s their job, they have a right to make a living, I’m told. Fair enough. But what about my right to privacy and peace? I may be reading, writing, cooking, eating, watching TV, listening to music or… whatever. Don’t I have a right not to jump out of the shower and leave wet footprints on the tiles as I rush to the phone?
Commercial activity seems to be off limits for any such criticism. Those poor underachievers at the other end of the telemarketing line have an inalienable right to pursue happiness at my expense. Our civilisation has been reduced to salesmanship, which is inevitable when a social and cultural hierarchy collapses.
Any society dedicated to the advancement of the common man will end up being dominated by market transactions. Crude people are empowered to impose a crude ethos because they are both numerous and equal enough to call the social shots. And to call me at odd hours.
However, the society they dominate lacks consistency. Thus, while encouraging telemarketing, it frowns on obscene phone calls, with a panting chap seeking an audience for his lonely exertions. One would be entitled to conclude that money is held in higher esteem than sex.
However, a man who kills someone for money usually draws a stiffer sentence than one who does the same thing out of sexual jealousy. Crime passionnel, and all that.
Now one may draw a different conclusion, that sexual love is higher on the list of extenuating virtues than love of money. One can get terribly confused about that dread word, values.
Still, I am making progress. Yesterday a disembodied NHS voice rang me up to discuss a “care plan”, whatever that is. Instead of telling her where she can stick that document, I politely explained that I’m happy with my medical care as it is, but thank you very much for ringing.
We parted friends. Penelope gave me a thumbs-up sign. There’s hope for me yet.
I know some readers and writers may disagree with the bold sentiment in the title. That’s to be expected – after all, most of those who write, read or especially both are kneejerk liberals.
Thus their response to serious issues is viscerally emotive, rather than rational. Yet for those who don’t merit the liberal soubriquet, the rational, legal, cultural and moral case for reclaiming India is strong.
After all, India was part of the British Empire for 190 years, from 1757 to 1947. It was during that period that India made her first tentative steps towards the Western ethos, complete with industrialisation, legality, inchoate democratic institutions and even the English language.
It’s tempting to accuse Britain of looting her colonies for her own gain. Such accusations aren’t totally unfounded, considering that Britain first colonised India through the good offices of the East India Company, a purely commercial venture.
However, that’s how civilisation often arrives in faraway lands, through the blood and toil of adventurers seeking riches. Every successful empire, from Rome onwards, testifies to that. And of course colonisation is never free of conflicts and uprisings, usually suppressed by brute force. Yet the net positive effect can’t be gainsaid.
The American westward expansion wasn’t motivated by charitable impulses either. Yet today’s denizens of, say, Colorado or Texas miss neither tribal Red Indian societies nor Mexican rule. If queried, they’ll agree that, on balance, the initial brutality of the white settlers was justified by the subsequent centuries.
To begin with, it was the British who created the political and administrative union called India. Until the Empire, the subcontinent was fractured into autonomous and warring provinces.
Had the Hindi and Muslim politicians been able to strike an accord, the subcontinent would remain united to this day. The subsequent separation and the bloody civil war were tragic, but they weren’t caused by anything the British Empire had done.
Yet even today India herself remains united, and her influence in the world is steadily growing, largely thanks to the British legacy. The splendours of New Delhi, the Gothic architecture of Mumbai (Bombay to you), cricket, a professional and largely incorruptible civil service, democratic institutions, and a thriving economy interlinked by the railways built by the British all testify to Britain’s moral right to reincorporate India.
Let’s not forget that large swathes of India’s population are English speakers, culturally close to the birthplace of the language they love, regard as their first and speak better than most Britons. In private conversations they bemoan that fateful day of 15 August, 1947, when Indian nationalists succeeded in severing the ties with the metropolis.
They would welcome rejoining Britain, even if such incorporation were to be enacted by military force. And those Britons who are uninfected by the liberal virus curse that left-wing prime minister, Clement Attlee, who was unwilling and unable to prevent the separation of India from her cultural home. We do hope that one day we’ll get a strong leader ready to do what it takes to correct that historical wrong…
Have I convinced you? No? Is it because you found my arguments specious, my historical references selective and my disregard for the geopolitical realities too obtuse for words?
Good. In fact, I was being facetious. My aim was to show how history can be twisted and revised to justify even demonstrably unjustifiable claims. And yes, my arguments were indeed weak.
Yet they were much stronger than those Putin and his stooges put forth in favour of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea. Such acolytes can be found among Russian nationalists and Western ‘useful idiots’, such as, well, Peter Hitchens, a frequent guest in this space.
In his today’s column he again flogged his favourite horse, not realising it’s dead. Speaking of Navalny, he wrote: “He has also spoken in favour of Russia’s repossession of the Crimea, saying ‘the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia… Crimea is ours’ – a view I think reasonable, but which is hated by the BBC and liberal types who currently laud him.”
That view is considerably less reasonable than my facetious arguments in favour of the reannexation of India. Yet those who hold it make similar points.
The Crimea, they say, is historically Russian. It may be, but less so than India is British.
Prince Potemkin conquered the Crimea in 1783, and it was in 1954 that Khrushchev shifted it under the administrative aegis of the Ukraine. Hence Russia owned the Crimea for 19 years less than Britain owned India, and during almost exactly the same period.
The peninsula had Greek, Roman and Byzantine roots, but for 334 years before the Russian conquest it was part of the Crimean Tartar Khanate. The Tartars gave the peninsula its name, Quirim, and have a stronger claim than the Russians to being the indigenous population.
Yet on 18 May, 1944, the Soviets deported the entire Tartar population to the deadly steppes of Siberia and Kazakhstan, where half of them perished. That action was yet another genocidal peccadillo in the long list of similar atrocities committed by the Soviets, who passed arbitrary sentences on whole nations and then executed them with singular brutality.
After that ethnic cleansing, the Soviets shipped many Russians to the Crimea as a replacement population, but some Tartar survivors and their descendants eventually made their way back to the land they consider theirs.
In 1954 the Soviets indulged their passion for gerrymandering and transferred the Crimea from the Russian Federation to the Ukraine. Unlike many other such actions, this one was administratively logical: the Crimea isn’t contiguous with Russia, as it is with the Ukraine.
Hence for once the Supreme Soviet had a point when its decree cited “the commonality of the economy, the proximity, and close economic and cultural relations between the Crimean region and the Ukrainian SSR”.
Getting back to my parallel with the Raj, Crimeans, along with the inhabitants of East Ukraine, do speak Russian. Yet every unofficial poll (as opposed to the official ones, supervised by Putin’s AK-toting thugs) shows that even the ethnic Russians among them detest the 2014 occupation.
Among the Tartar population the preference for the Ukraine over Russia is universal. It’s easy to see why.
Last year, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a bill calling on the UN to recognise the deportation of the Crimean Tartars as genocide. Under the Russians, however, the Tartars aren’t even allowed to commemorate that tragic day on pain of up to 20-years’ imprisonment.
The view “the Crimea is ours” that Hitchens finds “reasonable” is shared in Russia only by the dim-witted fascisoid Stalinists from whose ranks Putin draws his core – increasingly only – support. The reasons behind it are a great deal less justifiable than those I put forth above, when talking about India.
History has seen hundreds of revolutions, but only four that succeeded in destroying Western civilisation or, if that sounds too cataclysmic, at least bringing it to the brink of destruction.
In chronological order, these are the Reformation, the Enlightenment with its culmination in the French Revolution, socialism with its culmination in Russia, and – not as sanguinary as the others but culturally just as devastating – leftie post-modern sanctimoniousness.
The Reformers rose against what they saw as a corrupt Church; the Enlighteners revolted against Christianity, with its whole cultural, social and political ethos; socialists united against capitalism and social injustice; our woke contemporaries seek redress for the supposed wrongs of every imaginable type of discrimination.
I’ve always pointed out that all those movements have much in common. Yet one similarity is more salient than the others: hatred of history and vandalism towards its relics and mementos.
That’s why the façades of the great French cathedrals (and most of the world’s great cathedrals are French – even if built in other countries) exhibit empty niches where statues of saints, martyrs and kings used to live.
Stigmata of revolutionary evil are everywhere, as if to remind us that vandalism is the real desideratum of all revolutions, whatever their ostensible aim.
In the West, statues first found themselves on the receiving end of revolutionary zeal during the Reformation, especially as preached by Calvin and Zwingli. They invoked the commandment about graven images to launch an attack on idolatry.
That animus sprang from a basic theological error going back to Byzantine iconoclasm. The Decalogue proscribes worshipping idols, but Christians adore not statues, icons and religious paintings, but what they represent.
The Incarnation, with God appearing as a man born to a woman, should have settled that issue once and for all. So it would have done, had the iconoclasts and Reformers been driven by reason, rather than rabid hatred. As it was, enraged mobs destroyed and disfigured statues throughout Europe.
When a century later similar fanatics perpetrated the English Revolution and subsequent Civil War, a bullied Parliament passed an ordinance against superstition and idolatry. That meant Catholicism, even in its semi-Calvinist Anglican version.
That injunction produced a frenzied attack on religious symbols. Priceless stained glass was smashed, religious paintings were slashed, statues were beheaded or annihilated altogether.
By contrast, the Enlighteners’ hatred lacked any denominational aspect. They loathed all Christianity and everything about it, without discriminating among various confessions.
Statues again began to fall like ninepins, or else only survived in a decapitated and amputated state. As a new and promising touch, it wasn’t just sacred statues that were targeted, but also those of any historical figures who fell short of the Enlighteners’ morality, best exemplified by the guillotine.
Thus the equestrian statue of Louis XV in the Place de la Concorde had to be taken down and melted, preparing the square for the execution of the king’s grandson – and for a name change to the Place de la Révolution.
The tradition of assault on both sacred and secular history was lovingly maintained and enhanced in the Soviet Union. The statues and relics of saints were smashed, often together with the churches that housed them. Statues and pictures of the tsars followed, with Chekists using them, along with icons, for drunken target practice.
Bolshevik vandalism exceeded the previous models in fervour and scope, but essentially it developed the formative essence of modernity, a period brought to life by slogans of love and acts of hatred.
However, I can’t recall any incidents of vandalism being championed by the prelates of Christian confessions claiming apostolic succession. Hence, as Her Majesty’s subject, I’m pleased to see a pioneering British archbishop putting his hand on the tiller of modernity.
The Most Rev Justin Welby suggested last year that his seat, Canterbury Cathedral, be stripped of statues evoking slavery (so far the Cathedral has refused to comply). His Grace made that comment as the BLM mob was toppling the statue of Edward Colston and disfiguring that of Winston Churchill.
Specifically in the crosshairs of His Grace’s woke outrage are the statues of Isaac Bargrave and George Stanhope, both former deans of Canterbury – along with that of Richard Hooker, one of the greatest Anglican theologians ever.
All such statues should, according to His Grace, be removed and replaced with information plaques that “provide context”, that is explaining how far from today’s woke standards those historical figures fall.
I don’t think I’ll be divulging any state secrets if I describe His Grace as an intellectually challenged leftie whose grasp of theology is closer to the statue of Hooker than to Hooker. Much as he loves contexts, I doubt he is capable of discerning the one of his own pronouncements.
Yet this context is more horrible than the text. The Archbishop has volunteered to fight in the modern war on history that has been raging for at least 500 years.
Treatment of history has always had an aspect of retrospective warfare fought with falsifications and attempts to use modern pieties as a hammer shattering ancient memories. Yet what’s going on in today’s West is unprecedented, this side of the Soviet Union and its spinoffs.
We are witnessing a war of mass annihilation, with nations indoctrinated in the ideology of unstoppable progress. Each epoch is seen as a vast improvement on all its predecessors, with today’s standards representing the ultimate achievement in moral goodness.
Acting in this belief with consistency, which luckily isn’t modernity’s core strength, would mean destroying the memory of just about every historical figure, with the possible exception of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.
All others failed to live up to the standards formulated centuries after their lifetime. At least Britain and other ancient European nations can still scrape the bottom of the barrel and find a few unsullied titans to celebrate.
The US is in real trouble: just about every signatory to the Declaration Of Independence either owned slaves or at least saw nothing wrong with slavery. Should the Jefferson Memorial be blown up? It may still come to that.
Vandalism is a prominent feature of modernity. I just hope I won’t be around when it becomes the dominant one.
A British woman, 31, living in Dubai argued with her Ukrainian flatmate over the use of the dining room table during lockdown.
The argument was conducted over WhatsApp, which is odd. Why not face-to-face? Whenever Penelope and I have an argument, we do so without resorting to electronic media. That way I can watch her facial expressions and know when a punch is coming.
Then again, the Dubai flat may well be much larger than ours. No one would wish to walk across a dozen rooms to sort out the use of furniture items.
Anyway, it was WhatsApp that provided a battlefield of cultural war. And, in keeping with her culture, the British woman concluded the dispute with “fuck you”.
Outlanders among you may not realise this, but this largely desemanticised locution is a popular greeting throughout Her Majesty’s realm. To emphasise the friendly nature of the expression, it’s often accompanied by the salutation ‘mate’, which highlights British commitment to universal camaraderie.
If you plan to visit Britain, be prepared to find yourself on the receiving end of this idiom each time a stranger you’ve accidentally jostled wishes to befriend you. And whatever you do please don’t be offended. Your interlocutor may take that as a rejection of his friendship and respond with physical chastisement.
The Ukrainian woman was deaf to such cultural nuances. She did indeed take offence, and then acted according to the imperatives of her own culture – by reporting the Briton to the police.
You see, the Soviet Union has left its former constituents a rich legacy of civic responsibility. All citizens were encouraged to report crimes, even minor or nonexistent, to the authorities. Depending on the severity of the crime and regardless of whether it was real or imaginary, the authorities would then mete out just punishment.
The system’s output proved its efficacy: millions of people ended up in labour camps, sometimes over trivial arguments similar to the one in question. This approach to legality proved so successful that Britain is introducing a similar system, with children encouraged to inform on their parents, friends on one another’s tax irregularities, and everybody on lockdown violations.
However, in Britain the system of universal snitching is only making its first tentative steps, while in the Ukraine it’s unfathomably on the way out. However, as our example shows, it hasn’t quite reached the exit yet.
So there we have it, two cultures clashing. Yet the conflict wouldn’t have led to a dramatic denouement had it not occurred within the domain of a third culture, that of the UAE.
Muslim lands are now the last unconquered bastions of morality and probity. Spare the rod and spoil the visitor seems to be the guiding principle of Islamic jurisprudence.
For Muslims insist that foreigners follow Islamic moral and legal dicta even in their own countries, not just Muslim ones. As a champion of decency, I can only regret that so far they lack the means to enforce compliance in Britain. Polygamy, for example, would be welcome, although the stoning of adulterers may be premature at this time.
Compared to some other lands, Dubai is unconscionably liberal in its laws. Even alcohol consumption doesn’t incur beheading, stoning, defenestration or caning, as it may elsewhere. However, a line has to be drawn somewhere.
Hence cybercrime, including the use of abusive language on electronic media, is punishable by a hefty fine or even up to two years at the Emir’s pleasure. That added an interesting twist to the trilateral clash of cultures.
The swearing incident occurred in October, but the offender didn’t realise she was in trouble until last week, when she decided to go home after a two-year stay in Dubai. She shipped all her belongings to Britain and tried to board a plane, nostalgically looking forward to that first bite of Cornish pasty.
However, she was arrested upon arrival at the airport and is now awaiting trial. The defendant-to-be tried to plead with her accuser, begging her to withdraw the charge. But the law-abiding Ukrainian held firm. “It’s now a criminal matter,” she explained. Dura lex, sed lex, as they say in Kiev.
There’s much we can learn from this tale of woe. First, we must all hone our cultural awareness, reminding ourselves that all cultures are equally worthy and most of them are superior to ours. Second, we must consider the efficacy of snitching as a moral regulator.
In the past, disputes were settled by duelling. Now we don’t have to risk bloodshed any longer. All we have to do is report an offender to Customs & Excise. Even if a subsequent audit reveals no irregularities, the old adage comes into play: you can beat the charge, but you can’t beat the hassle.
And third, don’t even think of going to Dubai or any other Muslim land. No matter how culturally aware you are, you may still find yourself in deep… well, trouble of course. What did you think I was going to say?