Footballers are heading for trouble

Hacks have uncovered a staggering scoop, to much self-congratulatory din: regular heading of a football can cause neurological disorders. Professional players are 3.5 times more likely than average people to suffer conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s in later life.

Now let’s talk about the danger of football headers

This is one of those startling discoveries that have been common knowledge for yonks. When I played footie for my school, a friend’s mother told me never to head the ball. “You’ll scramble your brain,” she said with solicitous disdain, “provided you have one”.

Even if common knowledge were lacking, common sense would take up the slack. For it stands to reason that repetitive impacts can have a detrimental cumulative effect.

During his career, a footballer hits between 50,000 and 100,000 headers in training and matches. Each time the jelly-like mass inside his cranium is shaken, if not stirred. This can’t be good for the ganglion of nerve cells and synapses – any rank medical amateur could tell you that.

That established, pragmatism for which the British are so widely known demands the posing of the lapidary question: “So what are we going to do about it?”

Since these days we all seek immortality through ‘elf and safety, answers come in a steady stream. Ban heading altogether and penalise it like a hand ball. Do so only in training. And perhaps only for children. Make footballers wear mouthguards. Or headguards. Or helmets.

And finally, the measure actually being put into effect by the FA and the Premier League: no more than 10 high-force headers per week’s training. This in the knowledge that many players hit some 100 such headers per day, not 10 per week.

One wonders how this rule will be enforced. A new coach will have to be hired whose sole responsibility will be keeping the count of headers hit by every player in every training session. Or else an honour system could be introduced, with each player keeping his own count and then refusing to go for corners whenever he has filled his week’s quota.

I can just see a central defender letting a corner kick float by him and then telling the manager, “Sorry, boss, it does me ‘ead in”. Decorum prohibits citing the manager’s likely response.

An unenforceable law does more harm than good, and not just in football. So perhaps the lapidary British question I asked earlier is wrong or at least premature.

As is almost always the case, the first question should be not pragmatic but philosophical: “Should we do something about it?”

After all, no one has suggested banning head blows in boxing – this though the damage there can be both catastrophic and instant. While a footballer may get the shakes in his old age after having headed the ball 100,000 times, a single boxing blow can paralyse or even kill. Moreover, while producing concussions is only a by-product of football, in boxing it’s the deliberate objective.

In most bouts there’s a rule that a boxer knocked down three times loses the fight by technical knockout. Though it’s called the three-knockdown rule, the more appropriate name would be ‘the three-concussion rule’ – a fighter suffers a concussion each time he hits the canvas after a blow to the head.

So should boxing be banned? Or turned into a non-contact sport, like exhibition karate contests? Should points be awarded for artistic impression, like in figure skating?

Palliative measures don’t really work. For example, amateur boxers have been wearing headguards for decades, with only a marginal reduction in the number of concussions.

Even the three-knockdown rule is a half-measure. A boxer may remain upright, while still suffering the cumulative effect of hundreds of blows.

This isn’t an exaggeration: the great boxer Manny Pacquiao once landed 474 blows in one title fight, without knocking his opponent out. How many of those blows had a concussing effect? Ask his opponent’s neurologist.

There are only two logical solutions to this problem, one authoritarian, the other libertarian.

The authoritarian solution in any sport where neurological damage is possible or even, as in boxing, almost certain would be a partial or total ban. For example, boxers could be penalised for a head blow the way they are now penalised for a headbutt. Alternatively, boxing could be banned altogether, on the assumption that the human body deserves enough respect not to be used for gratuitous pummelling.

Bans at various levels could also solve the problem in football. Here one could even argue that eliminating ‘high-force’ headers could make the game more watchable by encouraging the more attractive skills.

The libertarian solution would be no solution, or as near as damn. Youngsters choosing a career in football, boxing or any other high-risk sport are free agents entitled to make their own choices in life. Once they’ve been informed of the risks, the decision is up to them.

They can choose a potentially lucrative career offering the kind of rewards they can’t realistically hope to get in any other occupation – knowing in advance that they may be in for an early and miserable old age.

One could also argue that a concerted effort to eliminate all risks may dilute the human strain, producing generations of wimps unfit to survive in life’s rough-and-tumble. One could argue all sorts of things without arriving at a definitive conclusion.

Proceeding deductively from the general to the specific, neurodegenerative diseases were a factor in 42 per cent of the deaths among top-flight footballers playing in England in the 1965-66 season. And by the looks of them, most boxers suffer from Dementia pugilistica in their old age.

The problem is real, but is it worse than in many other sports, such as car racing, mountain climbing, sky diving? You know the old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, sky diving isn’t for you.” At least a footballer is unlikely to be killed by a single headed clearance.

Flippancy is often used to hide vacillation, as it is, I’m afraid, in this case. The argument has at least two sides, each further fractured into multiple fragments.

My tendency would be to go all out either way: let people be or ban headers altogether. Patently unenforceable and useless solutions, like the one mandated by the FA, may have a good PR effect, but no other.

LSE lives down to its heritage

Students at the London School of Economics, one of our most exclusive universities, have issued a manifesto that must have been inspired by Mao’s Red Guards.

The Webbs’ spirit lives on

The manifesto, put forth by the LSE Working Class group, demands a full raft of radical measures. These include, inter alia:

  • A ban on all students educated at independent schools
  • Eradication of a student society devoted to the study of Friedrich Hayek (HyekSoc)
  • No-platforming of speakers who “are harmful to marginalised students”
  • Introducing minority quotas for the faculty, with an accent on hiring more black professors (this is called “decolonisation”)
  • The right to review the directors’ salaries

They stopped just short of a call to smash their professors’ “dog’s heads”, as their Chinese counterparts did. However, on the positive side, they also demanded that the LSE “install a David Graeber lecture series, to celebrate the life of the revered professor.”

Graeber, who died last year, was an anarchist activist who inspired the Occupy movement. Both he and Occupy may indeed be revered, but perhaps not as universally as LSE students would wish.

What I like about the manifesto is its laudable honesty. Those students haven’t yet learned to camouflage their diabolical views with quasi-liberal verbiage. Perhaps they should learn less from David Graeber and more from Herbert Marcuse or, closer to our own time, Tony Blair.

Now, you might think that no university listing economics as its main field of study could abolish Hayek, Mises and other Austrian champions of free markets. Think again.

As the manifesto explains, “HayekSoc promotes free market fundamentalist views which outwardly call for the oppression of working class people.”

Now, I’ve read most of what Hayek wrote, but – and it pains me to harbour such suspicions about students of this august institution – I wonder if they have. For nowhere does Hayek call, outwardly or otherwise, for such oppression.

This great champion of libertarian economics believed that, on the contrary, free markets promote upward social mobility by creating endless opportunities for social advancement. Moreover, his ideas have been empirically vindicated everywhere they’ve been tried (or rather approached) by indeed spreading prosperity wider than any other economic system ever has.

But I did compliment those students for their honesty, didn’t I? Hence they made a pronouncement that not many socialists have ever dared to make, even though most would agree with it tacitly:

“LSE Class War is opposed to the concept of ‘social mobility’. As we have noted before, social mobility means that only a few of the working class can transcend their class position. We want all working class people to rise together.”

In other words, there should be no working classes at all. All proletarians must ascend to middle-class comfort together, leaving a social and economic vacuum behind them.

One would be interested to know which historical economic model those youngsters see as a precedent to follow. For every society where similar ideas were proclaimed ended up enslaving the working classes, starving them to death and mowing them down with machineguns when they protested.

Here we come to the LSE’s heritage coded into its DNA. For its founders were outspoken champions of precisely such societies.

The LSE was founded in 1895 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb on behalf of the socialist Fabian Society, and the university was explicitly devoted to spreading socialist ideas.

The Webbs visited Stalin’s Russia in 1932 and produced two gushing books extolling what they called a “new civilisation”. They thus joined a small army of Westerners whom Lenin ungratefully called “useful idiots”.

The Webbs admired the Soviet prison system and especially Stalin’s secret police OGPU (KGB’s precursor), featuring a “strong and professionally qualified legal department”. I won’t insult your intelligence by describing how that body demonstrated its legal qualifications.

I’m confident that such facts are known widely enough. The point is that they were just as widely known then. Malcolm Muggeridge, who was related to Beatrice Webb, visited Russia at the same time, at the height of the artificially created famine that starved at least 10 million to death, mostly in the Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Unlike the Webbs, he was appalled by what he saw – and reported it in The Manchester Guardian, a Fabian paper. That piece of reportage put Muggeridge’s journalistic career on hold for decades, and he had to scrape a living by writing novels.

No such problem for the Webbs. They could have repeated the words of Lincoln Steffens who wrote, after a similar visit, “I have been over into the future and it works”. G.B. Shaw, perhaps the most revolting of the Fabian useful idiots, denied that a famine was killing millions, citing by way of proof the feast to which he had been treated at the Kremlin.

Such is the heritage of the LSE, and no nurture has been allowed to interfere with its nature ever since. For appearances’ sake, it has always had the odd token conservative among its professors, such as Michael Oakeshott and my late friend Ken Minogue. But its overall course has never changed, and it’s still steered with a firm hand.

In the late ‘80s my son did a semester at the LSE as an exchange student. On his first day he was regaled with the sight of a poster advertising an upcoming debate: “Resolved: this house shall assassinate Thatcher”. It’s always good to see an academic tradition lovingly maintained.

Today’s LSE students don’t yet call for violence against those who cling on to sanity. But give them time: I have every faith in our higher education.

Is “Gas the Jews” anti-Semitic?

Not according to Twitter.

It never happened

When the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) cited hundreds of anti-Semitic tweets similar to the one in the title above, Twitter ruled that such posts didn’t breach its guidelines.

If so, that platform sounds remarkably permissive at a time when using a word like ‘niggardly’ may stigmatise the offender as an unemployable bigot. So, being an inquisitive sort, I actually looked up those guidelines, that putative last oasis of unrestrained speech.

And what do you know, the company states unequivocally that: “Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service.”

Righty-ho. The line is drawn. Now we find ourselves in the area of subjective interpretation. Which tweets overstep that line, and which don’t?

When it comes to “gas the Jews”, one can’t help detecting some ill will towards Jews communicated thereby. Since, in the generation previous to mine, gassing was one of the methods by which half of the world’s Jews were murdered, some Jews may take exception to such a cri de coeur for a repeat performance.

In fact, I doubt that tweet can ever be interpreted as either philo-Semitic or even neutral. Unless, of course, Twitter insists that the author merely wished for all Jews to have a good supply of fuel gas to their homes, especially in winter.

Then there’s the oft-repeated “Hitler was right”. Here Twitter has more latitude to argue that there’s not a trace of anti-Semitism to be found in that tweet. After all, the author didn’t specify where exactly Hitler was unerring.

He might have been referring to Hitler’s affection for his dog Blondie. Or he might have praised the Führer for the autobahn network built in the 1930s. Or else he might have been extolling the Nazi chemical industry that created the Zyklon B gas… No, not that, but the possibilities are endless.

Then there is this worthy attempt to place modern politics within a historical continuum: “Wow. Biden’s now over 81 million votes? It’s like the Holohoax: you can just keep making up numbers.”

‘Holohoax’ is a portmanteau neologism, displaying the kind of linguistic ingenuity that’s regrettably missing in most tweets. However, I’d like to see how Twitter would argue its way out of this one.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that Holocaust denial should be criminalised. Yet it’s indeed a crime in some European countries, and frowned upon in all others. Yet, playing Twitter’s advocate, perhaps one could point out that the author doesn’t deny that the Holocaust actually happened.

He is only implying (not very subtly, it has to be said) that the commonly accepted figure of six million victims is exaggerated. For example, one likeminded individual made use of his advanced university degree to argue that no more than four million were murdered.

Oh well, that’s all right then. Nothing to get worked up about. The CAA should get its knickers out of a twist.

Now, “fake Jewish Holocaust”, another popular phrase, is more problematic. Rather than merely quibbling about the numbers, the author flatly denies that the Holocaust happened at all, which seems to defy historical evidence.

However, I find it impossible to imagine that a responsible individual (I’m sure no other kind appear on Twitter) would make such an assertion without being able to support it with a corpus of data. Perhaps, if Twitter asked him to cite his sources, the conflict could be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.

What I find baffling is that anyone could take exception to this statement: “Jews control our government, mainstream media, social media, Hollywood [and] financial institutions”.

The compliment paid to the Jews therein may be undeserved, but it’s definitely sincere and it’s indeed a compliment. Alas, Jews clearly don’t control Twitter, but that may be portrayed as the sole exception to their otherwise complete domination.

Yet a naysayer might look, for example, at some of our banks and argue the impeccable gentile credentials of their chairmen, such as Lord William Waldegrave (Coutts) Sir Howard Davis (NatWest), Nigel Higgins (Barclay’s) or Lord Norman Blackwell (Lloyd’s).

But the author may argue, and Twitter would agree, that hiding behind those assumed names may well be Waldstein, Davidson, Horowitz and Schwartz. And even if that’s not the case, he didn’t say Jews own or run all those institutions – only that they control them. And control can be exercised by all sorts of means, subtle, invisible or even non-existent.  

When reached for a comment, a Twitter spokesman categorically denied the CAA’s accusations of anti-Semitism. “Speaking for myself,” he said, “some of my best friends are Christ killers.”

Sorry, I made that one up, as I sometimes do. But I promise to give up that habit: these days there’s no need for fabricating evidence. Straight reportage will outpace the most fecund imagination any day.

Mum Teresa and Dad Brown, anyone?

By winning an Olympic gold medal, swimmer Adam Peaty momentarily blinded us all with a ray of sunshine.

His mum and dad are well chuffed too

That temporary disability was welcomed by the aesthetically sensitive souls among us. For that fleeting moment at least, we were spared the sight of Peaty’s arms, densely tattooed from the shoulders all the way down.

However, having regained my eyesight, I was left feeling sorry that my hearing remained intact. For the English language suffered yet another defeat in the aftermath of Peaty’s victory.

When interviewed by the BBC, Peaty, still struggling for breath, explained how he got his triumph and what it meant to him: “It’s the best person on the day, who’s the most adaptable – and really who fucking wants it more. It just means the world to me. I knew it was going to take every bit of energy and I’m just so fucking relieved.”

This isn’t the first gold medal Peaty has ever won, and he is used to being interviewed. Hence one would think that by now he should have learned to refrain from the use of that intensifying expletive on live TV.

Such a hope is naïve. He should have, and could have, learned to express his joy less obscenely – but he doesn’t feel he has to. Nor does the BBC evidently feel the need to bleep out four-letter words. After all, Peaty has made us all proud, and the lad has earned the right to use his natural idiom.

But that’s not the affront to the English language I felt most acutely, although it’s offensive enough. What came later was worse, much worse.

After all, while being ubiquitous in everyday speech (sometimes even mine, I have to admit), crude terms for sexual intercourse, sex organs and certain Oedipal practices are still relatively rare in journalism, if not in films.

And, while wholeheartedly sympathetic to those of my friends who cringe on hearing swearwords, I am not particularly shocked by them. I know I should be, but I am not. And nor am I going to pretend otherwise, hypocritically.

What really did shock me was Kate Burley’s programme on Sky News. She interviewed Peaty’s parents, trying to get to the bottom of their proud elation. Both the mother and especially the father were rather monosyllabic in their replies, although there was no doubting their joy.

However, never once did Miss Burley refer to the parents as ‘mother’ and ‘father’. It was always ‘mum’ and ‘dad’.

Now, the obscene intensifier hasn’t yet ousted others, such as ‘very’, ‘extremely’ or, in a more rarefied social atmosphere, ‘jolly’. But have you noticed that nobody says ‘mother’ and ‘father’ any longer?

‘Mum’ and ‘dad’, or the more upscale variants ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’, aren’t grown-up speech. No one whose age has reached double digits should use such words to describe his or anyone else’s parents, even if he addresses them in that fashion.

Yet the grown-up, stylistically neutral and time-proven ‘mother’ and ‘father’ have practically disappeared from English. Medics talk about care for expectant mums, social services about dads’ disappearance, hacks apparently feel that anything other than coochy-coochy-coo mawkishness would bespeak gross insensitivity.

Christians still refrain from praying to “Holy Mary, Mum of God”, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all major denominations were to switch to such usage. Modernity is like God; it must be obeyed.

Now, regular visitors to this space know that I regard many manifestations of modernity as emetic. But few are more stomach-churning than its inexorable tendency towards creeping infantilism and cloying sentimentality.

‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ ousting ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ is an embodiment of both. Could it be that Britain is suffering from some sort of aesthetic Covid, whose principal symptom is loss of taste?

Good taste is to me the most lamentable casualty we have suffered, worse even than the pervasive deficit of intellect and morality. Or perhaps it’s wrong to separate them.

Taking their cue from Aristotle, Western thinkers have regarded the transcendentals (beauty, truth and goodness) as coextensive ontological properties of man. The deficit in one would lead to a shortage of the others, and the subject in question is a good illustration.

No grown-up using ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ as neutral descriptors can possibly have good taste in anything. Nor can he approach any kind of truth – and I’d even go out on a limb by questioning his moral sense as well.

That’s what reverting to childhood does: children typically haven’t yet developed their taste, mind and morality. And with the adult world around them eager to meet them halfway, chances are they never will.  

The spy who wheeled in from the cold

The latest news brings to mind the old Soviet joke about an intrepid American spy.

He was trained at the CIA (officially military) language school in Monterrey, Ca, to sound authentic in any Russian dialect. After years of intensive study, he was deemed to be ready to go into the field.

Parachuted into rural Russia, he walked through a forest for days before emerging at the outskirts of a village, where an old woman was getting water out of a well.

“Grandma,” said the spy in his perfect peasant accent, “could you spare a sip of water?” “Get away from me, you dirty American spy!” shouted the woman. “Grandma, how did you know?” “Coz you’re black, that’s how.”

That little story perhaps communicated more contempt for Western intelligence than it merited, but make no mistake about it: it did merit some contempt. Neither the CIA nor SIS managed to predict a single major change in Soviet policy during the decades of the Cold War.

Even the death of the Soviet Union caught them off guard, as did the subsequent realisation that the Soviet Union came back as Putin’s Russia. (Which I, and just about everyone else who knew and understood Russia, saw coming – this without spending billions on intelligence.)

There was a problem there somewhere, but it took Richard Moore, the new chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, to identify it. Having landed the job only nine months ago, Mr Moore has unerringly put his finger on what’s wrong with our intelligence gathering: not enough diversity.

The impelling force came from his blind wife, and trust women to guide their men through life. “Married as I am to an inspiring blind woman,” tweeted the new C, “I feel particularly strongly about making #SIS #MI6 a better place for disabled people.”

A worthy goal if I’ve ever seen one, but, being a natural spoilsport, I have to mention that a disability like blindness might have held James Bond back. This isn’t to suggest in any way that Mrs Moore isn’t a paragon of fortitude and good cheer.

Nor is it to say that people with disabilities, be that blindness, cerebral palsy or shortage of limbs, can’t be great servants to their country. If Homer could write the Iliad without being able to see his handwriting, then there’s no reason disabled people can’t have desk jobs at Vauxhall Cross.

However, call me an unimaginative cripplophobe (a neologism whose time has come), but I still can’t quite see some people with some disabilities as field operatives evading FSB spy catchers. For example, I doubt Mrs Moore, formidable though she undoubtedly is, could service dead drops, photograph the top secret documents left there or indeed establish their value.

That only goes to show how antediluvian my outlook on life is. Why, I even think it’s outrageous that everybody knows the name of our top spy.

The general public didn’t know the name of the first C, Sir Mansfield Cumming, until he died. That gave Ian Fleming an opening for an inside joke: he named James Bond’s boss M, rather than C. The latter was based on his surname, the former on his Christian name, but no one outside SIS got the joke.

Mr Moore has decided to do away with such secrecy. As far as he is concerned, since we are all Facebook friends, there can be no secrets among us. Hence he has embraced social media, including Twitter.

It’s through that medium that he has signalled his virtue, as the word is nowadays defined. Mr Moore is “keen to see even greater diversity of skills and backgrounds”. That determination has drawn much praise from his employees who seem to know which side their bread is buttered.

One such source said: “Richard Moore arrived at MI6 like a breath of fresh air. Everyone in the intelligence community is very pleased that he has said this. But you might ask why it has taken so long for a head of MI6 to take this stance.”

Even though I’m a rank amateur in such matters, I may attempt to answer that seemingly rhetorical question.

Such tardiness on the part of SIS might have been caused by its erstwhile preoccupation with other tasks that at the time took priority, but evidently no longer do. Such as keeping the country – the whole damn lot of us – safe.

MI6’s website states that its “core belief [is] that any person with a disability is capable of achieving their ambitions.” Note the woke usage: a singular antecedent “any person” is followed by the plural pronoun “their”.

But never mind that gust of zeitgeist. For I’ve always cherished the hope that the core belief of MI6 staffers was that they must uncover our enemies’ fiendish plans before they could carry them out. However, they have more important things to worry about.

Anyway, why should the SIS be any different from its counterintelligence equivalent, MI5? That organisation can’t keep our vital services safe from foreign spies and hackers, but, on the plus side, it can restate its commitment to diversity.

That dedication was celebrated by a valuable accolade last year: MI5 won a Business Disability Forum Smart Award for Workplace Experience. First things first, eh?

Like any instructive story, this one has a moral. Anyone who says, “That’s it, thing can’t get any crazier,” must be hanged, drawn and quartered, if only metaphorically.

In fact, I ought to perform that triple procedure on myself for uttering those silly words every now and then. Mea culpa: we live at a time when madness is boundless.

Humpty Dumpty rules, okay?

Democracies. Monarchies, constitutional or otherwise. Autocracies. Totalitarian regimes. Dictatorships. Did I leave out any other mechanisms of power?

“What did you just say?”

I did. For no such list is ever complete if glossocracy isn’t on it: controlling the masses by controlling their language.

No glossocrat inherits his throne, no one votes glossocracy in, no one marches in its support, few even realise it’s there. But it is, and it can be more effective than any other form of power for being more pervasive and perfidious than any of them.

Philosophers, such as Wittgenstein, knew glossocracy was a danger, even though they didn’t use the term I might have coined. But, as is often the case, an artist got to the truth before philosophers did.

The artist in question is Lewis Carroll, who made Humpty Dumpty conduct this dialogue with Alice: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

That was nothing short of prescient for it’s Humpty Dumpty who is beginning to wield real power. He can force his warped phraseology on anyone, especially those who have to worry about jobs, posts or careers. In due course, he then gains power over people’s thoughts.

Humpty Dumpty has his own police, working through most media and a growing number of volunteers and snitches. Utter one word that Humpty Dumpty doesn’t countenance, and you have a case to answer.

The latest example is Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons. He was dragged before a Humpty Dumpty tribunal for using a perfectly inoffensive figure of speech.

Inoffensive, that is, to any normal person. But normal persons don’t seek to impose their rule on all and sundry, and Humpty Dumpty does. As far as he is concerned, Rees-Mogg is a criminal.

During a parliamentary debate he described the Liberal Democrats, whose logo and rosettes are yellow, as the yellow peril. This is what linguists call metonymy, describing something by referring to something else associated with it.

In no way did Mr Rees-Mogg try to suggest that his political opponents all come from China, Japan or Southeast Asia, nor that there’s anything wrong with the natives of those places.

Mr Rees-Mogg correctly identified every policy ever mooted by the LibDems as a peril to Britain, which peril he described by their party colour. It’s true that his metonymy got its currency from a racial slur, but that’s certainly not what he had in mind.

But Humpty Dumpty doesn’t care what Rees-Mogg or anybody else has in mind. Anybody’s words mean what Humpty Dumpty decides they mean because he is to be master. He issues his own Miranda warning: anything you say may brand you a racist.

Humpty Dumpty’s loyal servants immediately ganged up on poor Rees-Mogg. The Shadow Commons leader by the unlikely name of Thangam Debbonaire accused him of racism and demanded an apology – even though she acknowledged magnanimously that Mr Rees-Mogg committed his crime unintentionally.

Labour MP Sarah Owen, who is half-Chinese, then provided a helpful chronological frame of reference by saying: “It’s 2021 not 1821”. Yes, when England was ruled by George IV, not Humpty Dumpty.

She then added, displaying a command of English that must have come from her mother’s side: “There is simply no excuse for it and it was made worse by the fact the only two MPs of ESEA (East and South East Asian) descent were sat on the front-benches as the words ‘yellow peril’ left his mouth.”

Leave his mouth though they did, there was no putting them back. Sensing that his political career was about to be sacrificed at Humpty Dumpty’s altar, Mr Rees-Mogg pleaded ignorance and offered grovelling and profuse apologies.

Since he is an educated man, he must be familiar with the ancient legal principle of ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is no excuse). He might have got away with his offence that time, just. But there’s now a black mark on his CV, guaranteed to scupper any loftier political ambitions he might harbour.

Although I doubt he harbours them: everything about Rees-Mogg is offensive to the new masters: accent honed at the best schools, breadth of cultural references, Catholic piety, Savile Row suits, wealth, double-barrel name. Actually, it’s amazing he has got this far.

Mr Rees-Mogg is perfectly capable of telling Humpty Dumpty where to stick his diktats, and I bet he desperately wanted to. But since he has his political career to worry about, he was suitably contrite.

I have no such limitations, which is why, whenever someone takes exception to my defiance of Humpty Dumpty, I invariably reply with a three-word colloquialism, where the first word is Go and the third one is yourself.

That’s in speech. In writing, I may cite the endless list of words and expressions that may conceivably be proscribed by Humpty Dumpty for being racially offensive.

For example, calling someone a blackguard or ascribing a black heart to him may imply that evil is uniquely a characteristic of the black race. Speaking of the red menace may be offensive to American Indians. (In fact, calling them ‘American Indians’ is offensive in itself. Repeat after me: NATIVE AMERICANS.) Stigmatising someone as a yellow-belly implies that all ESEA persons are cowardly.

It’s a game Humpty Dumpty will win every time because he’s the one who sets the rules. And then we’ll all become one collective loser, the worst kind, one who no longer even realises that there was a game played, and he lost.

Earlier I described Humpty Dumpty as perfidious because he spreads his evil designs over such a broad and seemingly nebulous area that focused resistance is difficult to marshal.

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, the enemy was there for all to see: the communist authorities. Every decent person resisted them as best he could, which was both easy and hard. Easy, because they were clearly identifiable. Hard, because they could kill you.

Humpty Dumpty doesn’t yet possess the power of life and death, but he speaks in such a multitude of tongues that one doesn’t know how, or whom, to resist. I do anyway, but I can’t in good conscience recommend my methods to anyone who has something to lose.

I make a point of correcting woke usages wherever I hear them, and you already know how I respond to anyone, and I mean anyone, who corrects my diction for not being woke enough. But I do realise that not everyone is as truculent as I am, and that middle-class people (and who’s not middle-class these days?) are mortally scared of giving offence.

So let me just quote the American thinker Harry Jaffa who wrote the line that lost Barry Goldwater the 1964 presidential election: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Or in other words, if we don’t get Humpty Dumpty, he’ll get us.

A military coup is about to break out

The danger is real. The military, egged on by right-wingers, is plotting to suspend Parliament, behead Boris Johnson and impose martial law.

London, 2011: Welfare state at work

So says William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative Party. Or at least that’s what I inferred from the title of his article, The Real Danger Is Insurgency on the Right.

To my relief, the body text explained that Lord Hague didn’t quite mean that the way it sounded. People like me, those cursed with literal minds, didn’t realise he meant it figuratively. Politicians mean everything figuratively.

“Conservatism,” explained Lord Hague, “is being redefined. That is unavoidable.” Like death and taxes, I suppose.

But fair enough. Everything in life, including conservatism, is in flux. Things change and every change is for the better, goes the principal premise of progressivism. Lord Hague seems to swear by it. Hence he welcomes the evolution of British conservatism that “is redefining itself to create a more interventionist state…”.

Creating a state more interventionist than we have already may be desirable to some and deplorable to others. One way or the other, it has nothing to do with conservatism, however redefined.

The overarching political conflict of modernity is one between those who wish a state that’s as small as sensible and those who want one that’s as big as possible. The former are called conservatives, the latter socialists.

Therefore, we can paraphrase Lord Hague’s observation to say that British conservatism is redefining itself as socialist. This is an oxymoron, but not to Lord Hague.

Still, where does “insurgency on the right” come in? You’ll notice that I ended my previous quote with an ellipsis, leaving the tail end out. Here it is: “…and it is feeling the internal tension of doing so.”

It’s clear now. Some members of the party insist on taking its name at face value. Lord Hague doesn’t stigmatise those ‘insurgents’ the way Lenin did. He doesn’t call them ‘scum’, ‘prostitutes’ or ‘noxious insects’. But if he were less civilised, he would.

Lord Hague was a Thatcherite when it suited him, but it no longer does. Hence he writes: “Free market philosophy triumphed in showing how to create prosperity but it struggles with how to make that prosperity more equitable, sustainable or resilient.”

The last two adjectives are disingenuous. For even a cursory glance at world economies will show that free markets are perfectly capable of not only creating wealth, but also of making it sustainable and resilient.

It’s the word “equitable” that’s the crux of Lord Hague’s argument. “Without government intervention,” he explains, “a globalised economy leads to clusters of great wealth while other places decline.”

This is economic thinking at its most ignorant and fatuous. For the implication is that some places, and presumably people, get poorer because others get richer. Tossing aside verbal chicanery, this premise is unvarnished Marxism – as is the proposed curative of an omnipotent state reducing the inequitable gap.

I’m sure Lord Hague could cite reams of statistics showing that the gap between rich and poor regions (and people) is getting wider. Yet such statistics are mostly larcenous.

The larceny starts with the definition of ‘poor’ and ‘rich’. Usually it’s expressed as the top and bottom percentiles, say 10 per cent in each case. Even discounting the fact that today’s British ‘poor’ would be solid middle class not only in most other countries but also in relatively recent British history, such percentages are meaningless.

Since we agree that everything in life is fluid, so is our economic status throughout life. Youngsters just entering the market may well find themselves in the bottom 10 or five per cent. However, as they gain wisdom and experience, their incomes grow.

Within a year or two they may climb out of their percentile and steadily approach the top 10 per cent. (For example, 95 per cent of Americans have been in that group at some age.) Few people are frozen in the same income category, high or low, they find themselves in at the moment economists whip their calculators out.

There’s another problem with overemphasising income gaps. What should matter is that we have enough money for our needs – not that others may have more.

Let’s say we compare two families of four. One earns £20,000 a year; the other, £200,000. The second family is comfortable, while the first struggles to pay even essential bills.

What if both families triple their income? The ‘rich’ family is now on £600,000, and the ‘poor’ one on £60,000. The income gap between them has grown from £180,000 to £540,000. However, the ‘poor’ family is no longer poor by any definition.

I wonder if Lord Hague can name a single period in history when incomes were distributed ‘equitably’ among or within countries. I certainly can’t – too many factors go into income production to be homogenised across the board.

However, I could name countless examples of governments trying to ‘level up’, to use Johnson’s phrase, and only managing to level down. Yet they never learn, and neither does Lord Hague.

There was a flaw in my calculations above: I was talking about people who act in the market. Yet some don’t, and their number is growing exponentially.

About 30 per cent of British families derive more than half of their income from welfare, and 64 per cent receive some kind of benefit. That’s 20.3 million families, of whom only 8.7 million are pensioners.

That’s why, writes Lord Hague with palpable approval, “Ministers are reported to be discussing a new tax to pay for the estimated £10 billion a year cost of social care.” Actually, social benefits currently cost the Exchequer £212 billion, so I assume he only means some subset.

Shining through the article is Lord Hague’s conviction that a Leviathan of a welfare state is as inevitable as death, taxes and the Conservative Party converging with Labour – and that it’s self-evidently a Good Thing.

Well, that had better be self-evident, for it’s not borne out by any empirical data. These show that, both in Britain and the US, the welfare state has done incalculable harm both to the target group and to society at large.

Before the advent of the welfare state, the poor lived in modest but dignified housing. Today they live in the hellholes of ghetto estates, hotbeds of crime covered with graffiti and full of drunk, drug-addled single mothers, each with several feral, illiterate children by several absentee fathers.

This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the entitlement culture churning out several generations of families in which no one has ever had a job, nor sought one. By way of illustration, a recent study compared the school test performance of low-income whites with that of African and Bangladeshi immigrants in the same bracket.

The latter groups met the required standards 60 per cent of the time; the former, a mere 30 per cent. That same group used to score close to 80 per cent before the state got to look after the less fortunate by dispossessing the more fortunate.

This systematic creation of a lumpen underclass has equally disastrous consequences for the whole society. For example, the welfare state is directly responsible for the uncontrollable growth in crime rates.

In both Britain and the US, crime rates had been going down steadily for years, only to rise stratospherically in the second half of the 20th century – when the welfare state got going in earnest. In 1954, when firearms were readily available, there were 12 armed robberies in London. In 1991, when strict gun controls were in place, there were 1,600.

The cost of the welfare state goes way beyond the public funding it requires. We are all paying it not just through our taxes, but also through the misery visited on our cities by crowds of alienated youths taught no respect for decency and indeed humanity. “We are showing the rich people we can do what we want,” said a young rioter interviewed by the BBC in 2011.

The culture of share-care-be-aware is driven not by facts, and certainly not by genuine compassion, but by ideological biases fostered in the past only by the left and bearing no relation to reality, morality or common sense.

But left and right have now converged, and Lord Hague is living proof. So, if there is indeed an insurgency under way, count me in.    

P.S. Government intervention so beloved of Lord Hague is about to deliver a lethal blow to the construction industry by criminalising wolf whistling and catcalling. Those building sites are guaranteed to run out of staff in short order.

Shakespeare was a woman, and she was a black trans

You know why scholars are still arguing about the identity of William Shakespeare? Because they are trying to cover up the fact first revealed in the title above.

Neither a man nor a woman be, whatsoever thy bare bodkin

Misogyny, racism and transphobia had to come together to create a fake Bard, a white male. And his marriage to the Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway is pure fabrication: same-sex interracial marriage wasn’t yet allowed in those backward times.

You may think I’m rewriting history to kowtow to woke fads. Perhaps I am. So what? Why should Shakespeare’s biography be off limits if people take liberties with his plays?

One case in point is Ian McKellen’s production of Hamlet at the Theatre Royal Windsor, which has gone sour because Polonius fell out with Laertes. As a result of that generational conflict, both quit the show with much rancour.

As stand-ins are being rehearsed (with a woman playing Polonius this time), one has to marvel at the play’s imaginative original casting. It starts with Sir Ian himself in the eponymous role.

Sir Ian is a great actor, and the Hamlet he played 50 years ago was by all accounts a tour de force. But, at the risk of sounding ageist, he is now eighty-two – a vigorous eighty-two, but, well, eighty-two. And numerous references to Hamlet’s life strewn throughout the play pinpoint his age at about thirty.

I’m sure Sir Ian can still do seventy, sixty or, with award-winning makeup, perhaps even fifty, although that would be a stretch. However, his time of playing young men is long since gone. Yet, comparatively speaking, this bit of casting is as traditional as they come.

This gets us back to the tiff between Polonius and Laertes, or rather the actors playing those roles. Actually, calling them both actors is a concession in itself.

Steven Berkoff, playing Polonius, is indeed an actor. But the thespian playing his son would be miscast even as his daughter. For, as the photo above shows, Emmanuella Cole’s profession must be properly described as an actress, and she is black.

Miscegenation could theoretically have happened in the sixteenth century. Though it’s highly unlikely for Polonius to have produced a half-caste son, it’s not beyond the realm of the possible. But I still can’t for the life of me imagine Laertes identifying as a woman, getting the requisite hormone treatments and then competing in the Tokyo Olympics.

The reports I’ve read fail to mention who plays Ophelia but, if Sir Ian failed to cast Sidney Poitier in that role, he missed a trick. Mr Poitier, a sprightly 94, could upstage everybody as Hamlet’s love interest with suicidal tendencies. Moreover, such casting would cater to Sir Ian’s natural proclivities, if not Mr Poitier’s.

What’s the artistic intent behind casting an octogenarian as Hamlet, and a black actress as his textually white male nemesis? Is it to communicate that art transcends such incidentals as sex and age? That Shakespeare’s line “And I a maid at your window, to be your Valentine” would lose none of its poignancy if delivered by, say, Sidney Poitier?

An intent does exist, but it’s not artistic. It’s political. Artistically, there’s only so much suspension of disbelief that an audience can take. We are already asked to accept that a room has one wall removed for us to follow the action on stage. Or to forget that just the other day we saw a Lady Macbeth as a TV policewoman pointing her gun and screaming “Freeze!”

Now we aren’t supposed to notice that Hamlet is well past the pensionable age, Laertes is a black woman, or, hypothetically, Ophelia is a nonagenarian black man. Or rather first we must notice all that for the sake of multi-culti diversity – only then to stop noticing it for the sake of artistic integrity.

As a result, what starts as a Shakespeare tragedy ends up as a farce, and a schizophrenic one at that. His head spinning like a top, the spectator leaves the theatre yearning for the good old days, when the immortality of Shakespeare’s lines was conveyed by properly cast actors delivering them with good diction and sound understanding.

Perhaps it was that insanity that caused the clash between Miss Cole and her superannuated co-stars, or else it was mainly their superciliousness and her irascibility. One way or the other, she accused them, especially Mr Berkoff, of “belittling and disrespecting” her.

Apparently, the old actor continued to ignore Miss Coles’s deep insights into Shakespeare, leaving her feeling rejected, dejected and, presumably, ejected. Dissed, in other words.

Consequently, she stormed out of the production and lodged an official complaint. Reports omit to mention whether she also contacted the police, but such an action would seem natural. Jumping off the stage before he was pushed, Mr Berkoff quit too.

This unfortunate incident denied lovers of freak shows the perverse pleasure of watching Sir Ian cross swords with Mis Cole. In that scuffle, my money would be on Miss Cole – in the interest of racial and gender equality, she’d skewer Hamlet and walk away unscathed.

Yes, that would be playing fast and loose with Shakespeare, but what else is new?

P.S. Staying topical, do you think, if Oscar Wilde lived today, he’d describe Covid as “a triumph of whoop over expectoration”? 

Pope Francis tries suicide

No, not his own. His Holiness has neither jumped off his balcony nor put a soaped noose around his neck.

“In the name of Luther and of Calvin and of modernity…”

The suicide the Pope has attempted is that of his Church, known in some quarters as the Bride of Christ. If so, then Jesus is coming precious close to being jilted at the altar.

On the surface of it, the step Pope Francis has taken is almost trivial. He has espied with his eagle eye that some Catholics still don’t share his enthusiasm for kowtowing to modernity, in all its variously perverse manifestations.

And wouldn’t you know, some dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries still whinge about the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, which was only marginally less subversive than Luther’s little escapade in 1517.

Vatican II introduced many liturgical reforms that made the Church look and sound uncannily similar to some Protestant denominations. In fact, the Council was blessed with the presence of several Protestant observers, although I’m not sure they had veto powers.

The most visible reform concerned the liturgical language, which until then had tended to be Latin. Completing the work started by Luther, Vatican II effectively mandated a switch to the vernacular. Celebration of the Latin Mass wasn’t banned but only discouraged, but in such strong terms that it was as near as damn.

As a result, finding a London church celebrating the Latin Mass has become as difficult as finding an Anglican one still using the Book of Common Prayer. The reasons for this are the same in both cases. The church hierarchies of both denominations are infected with the modernising virus – and give me Covid any day.

Yet difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Searching high and wide, one can still find Catholic and Anglican churches retaining respect for tradition. This though such respect must be presupposed by definition, for the Church is inherently a conservative institution.

Yet the hierarchs, including the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, evidently believe that their churches must swing with the times. And, defying physics, the swing is monodirectional: always towards the cheapest and most condescending populism those gentlemen can muster.

Acting in that spirit, Pope Francis reversed his predecessor’s decision to ease restrictions on the use of the Latin Mass, and introduced draconian measures enforcing compliance. Henceforth, any groups defying Vatican II and clinging on to the Latin Mass may be kicked out of their churches.

You want to say Ave Maria, gratia plena instead of Hail Mary, full of grace, do it someplace else. A garage perhaps. Or else the reception room at the social services. Anywhere, as long as you keep your retrograde mugs out of the churches.

As objectionable as this move is, the explanation proffered for it is even worse. The Latin Mass, says the Vatican, is divisive. It’s a tool in the hands of liturgical terrorists conducting guerrilla warfare against Vatican II.

The Vatican here follows its beloved modernity by choosing words denoting the exact opposite of truth. In this case, what they call ‘divisive’ is actually unifying.

For that’s exactly what the Latin Mass is, bringing together as it does parishioners from all over the world. A Pole can go to a church in Argentina and worship in the same language he has heard from childhood.

The argument that most people don’t know Latin is nonsensical. Anyone used to the Latin liturgy from an early age will know exactly what every word means. In any case, it’s easy to provide bilingual prayer sheets. Give them to even a slow learner for a couple of years, and he won’t be looking at the vernacular translation any longer.

Many Russians don’t know Church Slavonic either, many Muslims aren’t fluent in Arabic, and many Jews don’t know much Hebrew outside Shema, Israel. However, they somehow manage to get their heads around the difference between a liturgical and a spoken language.

Exactly the same arguments as Catholic modernisers use against Latin are used by Anglican subversives to banish the KJB and the Book of Common Prayer. All those ‘thee’, ‘thou’ and ‘betwixt’, no one talks that way.

That’s right. But then nobody talked in the language of poetic Biblical imagery in 1617, when the King James Bible came out. Few even talked that way in 1526, when William Tyndale produced his translation. But then even the fire-eating reformers and popularisers knew the difference between the sacral and the profane.

The switch to the vernacular was a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of the Reformation, the anteroom of atheism. It was also the anteroom of the Enlightenment, with its similar quest to empower every individual, no matter how unqualified, all the way to complete self-sufficiency.

The principal idea of the Reformation was to remove, at least partially but ideally altogether, the mediation of the Church from a personal relationship with Christ. The Holy Spirit was all it was supposed to take to enable any believer to understand and interpret the word of God.

Alas, an average untrained parishioner can interpret Christian theology no better than he can sit down at the organ and interpret a Bach chorale. He’ll end up producing gibberish in the first case and cacophony in the second.

Guided by Luther, and especially Calvin who reformed the Reformation, every man became his own priest, the first step on the path towards becoming his own God. Wanton voluntarism replaced humble obedience, and Protestantism predictably began to fracture into hundreds of sects almost immediately.

Many became closely intertwined with, and dependent on, secular politics. In fact, Luther’s animadversions succeeded, and he himself escaped punishment, only because the local lords desperately wanted their bailiwicks to gain independence from the Holy Roman Emperor. Abandoning the Emperor’s religion could be a useful political step, and Luther did nicely. However, intimacy with secular authorities usually leads to dependence on them.

The Catholic Church has always been organised on the basis of doctrinal centralism but organisational localism, called subsidiarity. Its episcopates are autonomous, both structurally and politically. Conversely, like Icarus flying too close to the sun, most Protestant denominations get too close to secular politics to remain independent of them. Secularism was built into Protestantism from the start.  

Then again, many people found the demands of the Catholic Church too onerous. Any real religion asks for a proof of humility through service (other than of the lip variety), and humility became a rare commodity in a world increasingly inhabited by self-deifying ignoramuses.

Calvinism in particular encouraged a focus of remunerative toil, for it treated wealth as a sign of divine benevolence and a hint that the person was predestined for salvation. And Catholicism, with its plethora of days put aside for devotions every year, wasn’t conducive to a lifelong pursuit of riches. (Even today, Protestant countries are 30 per cent more prosperous than Catholic ones.)

Initially happy to receive the Scripture and the liturgy in their everyday language, Protestants gradually reduced the time devoted to reading the former and attending the latter. And then mass atheism was just around the corner.

It may be my pride talking, and I may well burn in hell for it, but I find it hard to see many Protestants as brothers in Christ. Even the less insane sects smack of paganism too much for my liking. Many more smack of atheism.

For it’s largely thanks to the Reformation that many baptised Christians put their denomination down when required to fill a questionnaire, and then attend services only at Easter and Christmas, if then.

The closer the Catholic Church gets to Protestantism, the more it’ll promote atheism – the more it’ll betray its remit. The vernacular Catholic Mass is already barely distinguishable from its High Anglican counterpart, but at least conservative Catholics can seek refuge in the few churches that still celebrate Mass the old way.

The Pope’s decree is bound to shut the few doors still open – opening instead the doors to Protestantism. Ecumenism is all fine and well, but any proximity between Catholicism and Protestantism can only spell the triumph of the latter and the gradual demise of the former.

I wonder if His Holiness understands this.

Joe wakes up to the delights of communism

It took a kiss to wake up the Sleeping Beauty. It took public unrest in Cuba to wake up Sleeping Joe, making him sit up and notice that there’s something wrong about communism.

“Nein, Joe, that’s not what communism means”

Speaking at a press conference he shared with Angela Merkel after their meeting, Joe stated his position in no certain terms: “Communism is a failed system, universally failed system. And I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute.”

I don’t know what exactly aroused Biden from his slumber. Until the press conference he hadn’t referred to the Cuban regime as ‘communist’, choosing the misnomer ‘authoritative’ instead.

Now, some will take exception to the notion that in the beginning was the word. Few, however, would deny that the word is at the beginning of speech.

If so, the word must have the same meaning for both the speaker and his audience. Let’s agree on the terms first, as an ancient philosopher said.

Alas, when it comes to semantics, a newly awakened Joe leaves terra firma and finds himself all at sea. To begin with, he confuses authoritative with authoritarian.

The former is desirable; the latter, less so. Authoritative means having authority, and surely no government can survive without it. Authoritarian, on the other hand, describes a government that not only has political authority, but monopolises it.

A government that monopolises not just political authority but also all others is called totalitarian, and that word would be a useful addition to Biden’s vocabulary.

If even such simple words defy the president’s grasp of political realities, it’s no wonder that he seems uncertain about the meaning of socialism and communism.

To be fair, he isn’t the only one, for the way these terms are used nowadays, they have a Marxist provenance. In other words, they were laid down in the works of history’s most muddled and disingenuous thinker.

Marx attached ironclad inevitability to political and economic history. Capitalism was bound to be ousted by socialism, and socialism by communism.

To Marx, capitalism was private ownership of the means of production (which is to say the economy), socialism was public ownership, and communism was abolition of property altogether.

Starting from the end, no government called ‘communist’ has ever claimed it was indeed communist, in the real sense of the word. Communism was to them not current reality but a shining light somewhere beyond the horizon. Hence most communist leaders refrain from pinpointing a definite timeline for communism to arrive.

Khrushchev was an exception. He declared in 1961 that “The current generation of the Soviet people will live under communism.” Since a generation is normally believed to comprise 20 years, eternal bliss was to arrive by 1981, but Khrushchev didn’t live to see the day that never arrived.

But what does public ownership of the economy actually mean? That everybody in the country owns a share in everything: industry, agriculture, utilities and so on? If so, we’re looking at a pie in the sky as indigestible as communism.

For ownership implies control and management. However, I may technically own some of the NHS, but I’m manifestly incapable of running it, and nor do I decide how it’s run. Only the state can do that, if only badly.

So in reality public ownership means state ownership. And the state must be sufficiently big and powerful to appropriate everything in the country.

Therefore, peeking through the fog of bien pensant phraseology enveloping socialism, we realise that it’s not about such beautiful things as universal equality and charity. It’s about a big and powerful central state.

Hence all modern governments are socialist, albeit to various degrees. And all of them seek to increase their power, thereby becoming more socialist.

They differ mostly in their methods, not their inner imperative. Extreme socialist regimes can rely on violence more widely than the moderate ones, which can’t easily nationalise the whole economy at gunpoint.

They have to act surreptitiously, mainly by gaining gradual control over more and more of the nation’s money. Biden’s signature under an annual budget of $6.5 trillion is tantamount to a pledge to do just that, as is his commitment to an increasingly nationalised healthcare.

At its extreme end, socialism becomes totalitarian, with the state concentrating all power in its hands, and some such regimes are loosely described as communist. The only ones springing to mind today are China and Cuba, although there must be others.

According to Biden, they’ve failed, but we must define failure. To me, the word means missing the desired target. If so, then neither regime has failed.

Just as the real purpose of mass murder is to murder masses, so is total power the real of purpose of totalitarianism. On these terms, Cuba’s regime is a qualified success, and China’s a spectacular one.

But that’s not what Awake Joe means. He means Cuba has failed to achieve American objectives, defined by another Democratic president as “two chickens in every garage” or some such.

That’s illogical. Cuba has her own goals, not Biden’s. Has it ever occurred to him that the American yardstick may not work in the metric system of totalitarian states?

And China is no longer failing even by American standards. If in the mid-1990s the 75 million diaspora Chinese produced more wealth than the billion people in the home country, today’s China boasts a per capita GDP of $10,500, 20 per cent higher than in Cuba. And in absolute terms, considering the number of Chinese capita, the country is an economic and geopolitical giant.

Something is terribly wrong with Biden’s platitudinous taxonomy, as it would be with any other that defines the world by purely or mostly economic criteria. Ronald Reagan emphasised this by describing the Soviet Union in moral, not economic terms. He called it an evil empire, not a failing one. It’s not just the economy, stupid.

But can you imagine Awake Joe saying that the Cuban regime is evil, which is why the United States is committed to helping those protesters? I can’t, even though he doesn’t want the Republicans to carry Florida again, as Trump did in two elections.

More than 1.5 million anti-Castro Cubans living in Florida are a powerful electoral force, and these people know totalitarianism not by hearsay. Those chaps won’t be won over by vaguely anti-communist noises, especially those that miss the mark.

They want deeds, not words, and Awake Joe doesn’t seem to know the difference. Then again, he’s a professional politician, isn’t he?