Why theology?

Many sincere believers don’t see the point. Why bother reading recondite tracts? Pondering the deep meaning of, say, transfiguration isn’t going to make their faith any purer.

True. In fact, St Anselm (d. 1109) agrees wholeheartedly: “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

But let me ask a different question. Why bother learning the basics of musical theory? It wouldn’t make one enjoy music more, would it?

In fact, it could even mean less enjoyment. Some people get so deeply engrossed in decorticating musical structure that they lose sight of why they listen to music in the first place. The analytical English mind in particular runs that danger, which was astutely observed by Chopin.

“The English,” he said, “love music. They just hate listening to it.” His eye was of eagle-like sharpness.

However, that danger notwithstanding, it doesn’t follow from there that learning about musical structure is useless. By analogy, we can still enjoy a bœuf bourgignon even if we know its recipe – and are aware of the perils of overeating.

It’s just that the greatest products of man’s genius live on multiple planes. Thus, someone who likes, say, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor without knowing anything about counterpoint, may still perk up when hearing the familiar tune on Radio 3 no matter how well or badly it’s played. In fact, he may not even know the difference.

Yet a musically literate listener, while enjoying the piece on the same emotional level, may also appreciate, for example, the subtlety of the opening passages rushing down from the top to the bottom, with a diminished seventh chord awaiting.

That appreciation may not be conscious at the time the music is played. It’ll only take a precise mental shape afterwards, as post-rationalisation. Yet, although the educated listener may not be aware of it, even at the moment of listening his understanding will deepen his enjoyment by adding new planes to it.

Content and form are like a bottle of wine. The bottle without the wine can be used criminally, for hitting someone on the head, or responsibly, for recycling. But by and large it’s useless. However, the wine without the bottle isn’t a delicious drink. It’s an unsightly puddle.

Raising our sights a bit, we realise that form and content are inseparable. They have a different provenance and possibly a different final destination, but when they come together they form a unity, to be perceived as such.

From there, it’s but a short step to theology, starting from the understanding of Christ as both fully divine and fully human. Any church-goer has heard this phrase so many times that he doesn’t stop to contemplate that unity in duality. Yet the church took several ecumenical councils and some five centuries to understand the deep meaning of that confluence.

Many deadly heresies had to be defeated in the process, many battles won. Some of them weren’t just rhetorical. For example, St Nicholas is reported to have punched Arius in the face during the First Council of Nicaea in 325. But then Arius could try even the patience of a saint.

Understanding the true nature of Christ or any other doctrinal concept, such as the Holy Trinity or the Transfiguration or anything else, won’t make one’s faith purer. But it may make it deeper, add new levels to the edifice of belief.

Yet even a non-believer may still find much intellectual pleasure in studying scriptural sources and commentary on them. For the theological science sits at the top of the intellectual hierarchy, just above philosophy.

If a man has no religious predisposition, perusing De civitate Dei or Summa Theologica won’t make him a believer. But it will make him more intelligent, more capable of acquiring the mental discipline essential to grasping subtle and intricate points. That, in turn, can stand him in good stead throughout his life.

Not everyone has the capacity for such exploits. But those who do would be cheating themselves of the higher reaches of pleasure they could ever attain if they let that ability go to waste. For pleasure too exists on many different levels, with more and more appreciation boosting enjoyment as one climbs up.

Of course any talk of a hierarchy of pleasure or appreciation or whatnot goes against the grain of modern egalitarianism, the unshakable conviction that all men aren’t just created equal but stay that way in every respect. This is an interesting paradox.

For the grossly misnamed Age of Reason produced gradual yet ineluctable diminution of reason. The attempt to replace divine wisdom, Sophia, with its putative superior, common sense, has produced much that is common but little that is sensible.

The study of disciplines that used to be seen as the bedrock of knowledge, such as theology, philosophy, logic, rhetoric, music, classical mathematics, has fallen by the wayside like so much rubbish dumped into a skip. Modern man has no time for abstractions – he has more important things to worry about.

Oh well, more power to his elbow. But he shouldn’t complain when I find him excruciatingly dull, as a collective entity. Whatever I may think of each man individually.

Go, Morocco!

Suppose – and I know this is a stretch – you are a football fan. Then further suppose your national team wins a match against all odds.

How do you celebrate? You can punch the air and scream “Yes!!!”. You can shout “You’ve got to see this!” at the wife who is hiding in another room because she thinks your love of footie is pathetically infantile.

You can then crack a bottle of something bubbly or, for the sake of stylistic integrity, pop open another can of lager. Or, if you are a gregarious type, you can meet your mates down the pub and sink a pint or two toasting your team. A choral rendition of “Ere we go, ere we go, ere we go” may be slightly annoying to other patrons, but hey, no real harm done.

All of the above? Some of it? And that’s it? In that case, let me tell you: you are one boring, possibly anally retentive, git who either has no sense of joy or doesn’t know how to express it with real exuberance. Moreover, I’d venture a guess you aren’t Moroccan.

For Moroccan residents of the Low Countries (and they don’t call them ‘low’ for nothing) know how to rejoice, especially when they have something to celebrate. And do they ever have that, in this case.

For at the on-going World Cup the lowly Morocco team wiped the pitch with mighty Belgium, ranked second in the world. The Moroccans, I’ll have you know, are a sizeable minority in both Belgium and Holland, so their presence is always felt, if not always in a positive way.

Legally, there are about 500,000 of them in Belgium and just under 400,000 in Holland, but the outnumbered Moroccan diaspora punches well above its weight, and I use the verb advisedly. In Holland, for example, Moroccans commit 10 times as many crimes as the native-born Dutch.

Some of this activity is organised: the Moroccan Mafia is a dominant force in the drug trade throughout Europe, but especially in the Low Countries. Most crime, however, is sheer individual initiative: some mugging, some burglary, some rape, the odd bit of murder, that sort of thing.

Far be it from me to suggest that Moroccans, or Muslims in general, can’t be properly assimilated in Europe. But one thing for sure: yesterday the Moroccan ‘community’ (have you noticed that any group is now a community, such as a ‘transgender community’, an ‘animist community’, a ‘MeToo community’, you name it) definitely failed the Tebbit test.

Conservative MP and former minister Norman Tebbit had his doubts about any possible assimilation of millions of arrivals from Third World countries. A true measure of success, he suggested, would be to see which cricket team the Pakistani ‘community’ in Britain supported when England played Pakistan in a Test match.

There is no hiding from the fact that the Moroccan ‘community’ didn’t pass that test yesterday. That’s upsetting enough, but not nearly as bad as the manner in which it celebrated the footie triumph.

Riots broke out in Brussels, Antwerp and Liege, with the Moroccan ‘community’ in Amsterdam, the Hague and Rotterdam also pitching in out of solidarity. Cars were torched, shop windows smashed, metro stations shut, bus shelters vandalised, cities sealed off, water cannon and tear gas deployed by the police trying to ward off attacks by hooded youths – and great fun was had by all.

If that’s how those people express their joy, I wonder what they’d do if they were unhappy. I can just see explosions rocking Belgian and Dutch cities, with ornate gables falling into those cute canals. What I refuse to see is “the River Tiber foaming with much blood”, remembering the trouble another Tory MP, Enoch Powell, got in for quoting that line from Virgil.

I also wonder what this outburst of unbridled joy will do for interracial relations in Belgium and Holland. I have a gnawing fear that the cause of multiculturalism, so dear to my heart, may suffer. And it’s already not doing especially well, as I’ve had many occasions to observe.

Every time I drive to Amsterdam to see our close friends, I park at a garage run by some genial Francophone Arabs, who I assumed were Moroccans. I always chat to them in French, which effort they reward with slight discounts.

That amity was almost destroyed when I asked them how long ago they had left Morocco. They were mortally offended: “We are Algerians, not bloody Moroccans!” However, they graciously accepted my profuse apologies.

Amazing how one little exclamation can speak volumes, isn’t it? What upsets me is that I suspect many Dutchmen or, for that matter, Belgians may be as ignorant about the salient differences as I was. Why, some may even feel that no differences exist, salient or otherwise.

P.S. I’m happy to report that, though I’m still the founder and chairman of the Charles Martel Society for Multiculturalism, I’m no longer its only member. Brian C. of California has met all the exacting entry requirements, and I’m pleased to welcome him to the swelling roster.

Welfare state is no charity

As many Western states are getting beggared by promiscuous social spending, their rhetoric on the subject becomes particularly emetic.

Rather than honestly describing the welfare state as the power mechanism it really is, they rely on claims shoplifted from Christendom and scoured of their original meaning. Granted, all new civilisations build on the foundations of the old ones even as they replace them.

Christendom in particular was an asset-stripping civilisation: it borrowed numerous aspects of philosophy, aesthetics, jurisprudence and statecraft from Greece and Rome, imbuing them with a new meaning. Yet widespread institutionalised charity was a uniquely Christian concept, based on the new understanding of the nature of man.

Every human being was to be cherished not because of any towering achievement or superior character but simply because he was indeed human. In fact, people short of achievement or incapable of it, like those frail boys routinely drowned by the Spartans or those unwanted baby girls left to die in the woods by the Romans, began to be seen as God’s creatures to be loved before all others.

Though some people may have been wicked, some weak and some moribund, none was useless. They all had redeeming qualities because they had all been redeemed.

Hence the institutions for the care of the old and infirm, widows and orphans, lepers and cripples that rapidly spread already during Constantine’s reign. In fact, the emperor Julian the Apostate (d. 363), who had switched from Arian Christianity back to his beloved paganism, reluctantly praised the “Galileans” for looking after the weak and needy, “not only theirs, but ours as well,” so much better than the pagans did.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” taught Christ. His followers understood: charity, especially if offered anonymously, not only materially helped the recipient, but also spiritually elevated the donor.

In many countries individual charity was supplemented by local administrations. They carried some of the burden either of their own accord or because they were obligated to do so by the Crown.

In Tudor England, there existed an unequivocal law on that subject: “All Governors of Shires, Cities, Towns, Hundreds, Hamlets and Parishes, shall find and keep every aged, poor and impotent Person…”

In other words, people who are unable to support themselves must be supported by their neighbours because Christians don’t stand by and watch human beings starve to death out in the cold. However, “unable” was the key word in that edict.

The parameters of inability were precisely defined to communicate the valid distinction between ‘cannot’ and ‘will not’. The implication was that those capable of sustaining themselves weren’t entitled to any such assistance.

To avoid any misunderstanding of this point, in 1536 Henry VIII passed The Act for Punishment of Sturdy Vagabonds and Beggars. “Sturdy” meant both physically sound and persistent mendicants, what we today would call ‘professional beggars’.

Though the letter of that law didn’t survive for long, its spirit defined institutionalised charity  throughout the lifespan of Christendom in England. The ‘deserving poor’ needed help; the undeserving ones were supposed to help themselves.

When the modern state barged in, it gradually yet systematically eliminated that distinction. Charity was shifted into the domain of an increasingly centralised, faceless state, which eliminated at a stroke any spiritual payoff for the donor.

That wasn’t the only thing it eliminated. For unrestrained powerlust is the genetic imperative of the modern political state. If in the past the central state was kept in check by an intricate network of local government and voluntary associations, the modern state has slipped such annoying tethers by a long series of incremental steps.

Since power in modern democracies is acquired by putting blocs of voters together, modern politicians will stop at nothing to trick, scare, cajole or – more to the point in this context – bribe people into voting right. And what better way of doing so than offering whole swathes of the population something for nothing.

The modern state has nothing to lose and all to gain by creating a vast underclass of freeloaders beholden to the state as its chattels and dependents. Nothing to lose politically, that is. For economically, socially and morally the burgeoning welfare state is an unmitigated disaster.

Yet when modern politicians push through yet another welfare appropriation, they don’t care about the long-term social and moral damage they do. Their term in office is all they care about, and its years are usually measured in single digits, not decades.

Even the economic consequences may not rebound on modern politicians within the few years they can hope to stay in power, especially when trillions can be borrowed at negligible interest rates. Hence they toss billions after billions into the bottomless pit of the welfare state with nary a thought for even immediate future, never mind any deferred calamities.

However, when the economic cards fall differently, the situation changes. Soaring inflation and interest rates make runaway social spending unsustainable and, just as damaging, the economy begins to suffer from a suffocating shortage of labour.

Lack of jobs, that traditional malaise of struggling economies, has given way to a glut of jobs left untaken. At this point, the state discovers that the welfare merry-go-round is easier to jump on than off.

The lumpen underclass created to prop up political power won’t be budged. Yesterday’s faux charity has become today’s real entitlement. Unlike the deserving poor of the past who humbly and gratefully received help in the name of Christ or simple decency, today’s ‘sturdy vagabonds’ demand their unearned living as of right.

The links in the chain of causality clasp together to throttle the country. When several generations of the same family have lived off social handouts, each subsequent generation has no incentive to develop marketable skills.

As for jobs that require little education or specialised training, they don’t pay as well as the sum total of all welfare benefits – not just cash on the nail, but also such extras as housing, food stamps, single-mother benefit and whatnot.

Hence the welfare state has an effect diametrically opposite to that of Christian charity. Rather than elevating both the donor and the recipient, it corrupts them both. Exponentially and, one fears, irreversibly.

However, although the moral content of Western charity has bitten the dust, the language of sharing and caring perversely persists. And our sturdy vagabonds keep laughing all the way to the ‘social’, while the rest of us weep.

P.S. While we are on the subject of language, two recent bloopers have caught my eye.

The first one reinforces my belief that the use of long words must be licensed and restricted to those qualified. A World Cup commentator the other day praised a defender for a “vociferous tackle”, even though the chap hacked his opponent down silently. Full-blooded? Strong? Borderline criminal? Who knows. Words mean whatever today’s Humpty-Dumpties want them to mean.

Then I saw an ad for a “£5 claret”, which is a glaring oxymoron. Contrary to a popular misapprehension, a claret isn’t any old red wine but specifically a Bordeaux. And not any old Bordeaux either, but a top one. These, I’m afraid, tend to cost considerably more than five quid. Stick to lager, lads.   

Happy anniversary, Vlad

The congratulations may be a little premature: the Wannsee Conference is still two months short of its 81st anniversary. But what’s a month or two among friends?

Reinhardt Heydrich, Putin’s role model

On 20 January, 1942, Reinhardt Heydrich called a conference at Wannsee to coordinate the work of various services involved in the Final Solution, the wholesale extermination of Jews. That was the first time in modern European history that a major country expressly identified genocide as its policy. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t the last time.

Speaking through his dummy Lukashenko the other day, the ventriloquist Putin enunciated in short, punchy words that, unless the Ukrainian people surrendered, they’d all be annihilated. Not their army routed. Not their ministers arrested and tried. No – for the second time in modern European history genocide was explicitly enunciated as the strategic aim of state policy.

To his credit, Vlad is as good as his word. Though he didn’t specify his preferred genocidal expedients, with nuclear and chemical weapons widely mentioned in this context, his immediate stratagem involves destroying the Ukraine’s infrastructure.

That would have the most satisfactory effect of having the whole population freezing and starving to death during the inclement Ukrainian winter. It has to be said that Russia has form in the same type of genocide in the same place.

Holodomor, the man-made famine deliberately engineered by the Soviets to educate Ukrainians in the benefits of collectivised agriculture, killed 3.5 million of them, conservatively estimated. The actual number was probably twice as great, plus as many again in Kazakhstan at the same time.

Really, when it came to genocide, it was the Nazis who learned from the Soviets, not the other way around. Even the use of exhaust fumes pumped into locked vans full of people was a Soviet invention, which their Nazi disciples gratefully borrowed, adding their own embellishments later.

After the war, all the Germans not directly involved in the mass murder claimed they didn’t know it was going on. Daniel Goldhagen’s 1996 book Hitler’s Willing Executioners proves most of them were lying. But at least, what with mass media still embryonic at the time, the Germans’ denials had a modicum of plausibility.

In our Internet age, the Russians haven’t got that. Every one of them knows exactly what kind of mass atrocities their army is committing in the Ukraine – and what kind Putin is planning to commit soon.

He, his generals and everyone who has followed this criminal war knows Putin’s hordes are incapable of defeating the Ukrainian army on the battlefield. Hence the Russians have switched from warfare to terrorism, with genocide their ultimate and stated aim.

The whole country of 140 million souls knows about this, yet their reaction varies from enthusiastic support to passive acquiescence to shoulder-shrugging indifference. They seem to be re-enacting the last line in Pushkin’s play Boris Godunov: “The people remain silent”.

It’s obvious they have been either scared or, more likely, brainwashed into silence. The question is, how. What strings in their hearts did Putin’s propaganda tug on so expertly and successfully?

One line taken by Putin’s Goebbelses is that, since Ukrainian fascists were planning to attack Russia, his genocidal war was a last-ditch preemptive strike. I’m sure some especially feeble-minded Russians believe that lie, but their numbers can’t be sufficient to ensure overwhelming support.

Another falsehood was that Putin had to liberate the fraternal Ukrainian people, especially their Russophone part, from the yoke of their fascist rulers. Again, each Russian missile hitting a Kherson block of flats, a Kiev hospital, a Kharkov school or a power station anywhere in the country unmasks that lie for what it is.

Yet neither lie would have resonated in the Russian soul en masse. The two lies can function as a starter, but not as the meat and potatoes. It’s another propagandistic ploy that delivers enough stodge to sate that restless soul.

This is how it goes. The Ukraine is only a proxy for Nato. It’s not the Ukraine that heroic Russians are fighting, but “the collective West”. That dastardly collective entity has devoted its entire history to the single-minded conspiracy to conquer Russia, dismember her and plunder her natural resources.

Now, any adman will tell you that the best campaigns succeed by appealing to the audience’s innermost beliefs and feelings. Once such triggers are credibly identified, it’s all down to the resources committed to the campaign. Throw enough money and time at it, and a throng of lemmings will flock to the product advertised.

That’s the case here. For Putin didn’t invent that effective line. The notion of a saintly Russia being surrounded by Western enemies wishing her ill is a core concept resident in the Russian psyche, implanted as it was when Russia was still a patchwork blanket of separate and mutually hostile principalities.

What united them was their shared repudiation of the West, starting with its religion. In fact, that was probably why the Kievan Grand Duke Vladimir rejected numerous attempts by the Catholic West to bring Russia into the fold.

It was in the reign of his grandmother Olga that Bishop Adalbert had arrived in Kiev to baptise all her subjects. The bishop failed, but not, according to the Primary Chronicle (the source of much information about ancient Russian history), “for any lack of industry on his part.”

Instead Vladimir baptised Russia in the Byzantine rite in 988. There were many reasons for that choice, including those mentioned in the Primary Chronicle. But the principal one had to be Vladimir’s rejection of the inchoate liberties already evident in Western Christendom.

The Byzantine confluence of autocracy and theocracy in the person of the ruling Basilisk appealed to Vladimir and his subjects much more. And the eventual demise of Kievan Rus’ did nothing to mitigate the inherent occidentophobia of the Russians.

They fought tooth and nail against every Western adversary, while their propaganda elevated even victories in minor skirmishes (such as those won in 1240-1242 by their hero Alexander Nevsky) to the status of historic triumphs. At the same time, they put up only token resistance to the Mongols who conquered most of Russia at the time Alexander was raiding Swedish caravans, and then lorded it over the country for the next 300 years.

In the reign of the second Romanov tsar Alexey Mikhailovich (d. 1676), Patriarch Nikon introduced a Westernising church reform, trying to bring Russian Orthodoxy closer to Greek Catholicism. That created a great schism, for the peasant population regarded “the collective West” as a collective Antichrist.

When Alexey’s son Peter (the Great) embarked on a whole raft of Westernising reforms, he himself was widely (and suicidally) portrayed as the Antichrist. Hence both Nikon’s and Peter’s reforms only succeeded, after a fashion, by most egregious violence. Thousands of surviving Old Believers immolated or buried themselves alive, preferring horrible death to Western heresy.

Hence anti-Western sentiments have been deep-rooted in Russia throughout her whole history. Tapping into that reservoir of hatred has been an easy task for even tsarist propagandists, never mind Soviet and post-Soviet ones.

Under Stalin, a casual praise for, say, a Western car or film could get the perpetrator charged under the “Worship of the West” law and sentenced to an automatic tenner (if he was lucky). Under Khrushchev, young people wearing conspicuously Western clothes were routinely roughed up by the police and often arrested. Under Brezhnev, reading and disseminating banned Western literature was covered by Article 70 of the USSR Penal Code. The maximum punishment was seven years of hard labour, plus another five of internal exile.

The people kept silent then too. They had their own reasons to hate the Soviets, but hostility to the West wasn’t one of them.

The Russians aren’t a civilised nation. But that alone wouldn’t have turned them into perpetrators or at least supporters of sadistic, genocidal violence. It’s just that the KGB junta ruling the country has used its professional expertise to perform an op of collective recruitment.

I do hope the actual anniversary of the Wannsee Conference on 20 January will be widely celebrated in Russia. That at least would be honest.       

Don’t you just love multi-culti?

As the founder, chairman and so far only member of the Charles Martel Society for Multiculturalism, I’m fascinated by Sharia law.

Those Muslims certainly don’t proceed from the namby-pamby premises of Western jurisprudence. This is especially noticeable in their laws concerning sexual morality.

The Qatar World Cup currently under way (go, Ingerland!) has brought this divergence in matters legal into focus. One case that has caught my eye in particular involves Miss Paola Schietekat, 28, from Mexico.

She travelled to Qatar in June last year to work for the World Cup organising committee, but got more than she had bargained for.

A Qatari colleague broke into her flat and raped her, an incident Miss Schietekat reported to the police. An arrest ensued immediately – only she was the one arrested.

Miss Schietekat was charged with extramarital sex, which is against the law in Qatar, a country that obviously sets the moral bar much higher than we do in the decadent West. That crime is punishable by up to 100 lashes and seven years in prison.

The charges against her rapist were dismissed because the attack hadn’t been caught on camera. The charges against Miss Schietekat, however, remained in place. She bitterly protested, but Qatari judges couldn’t quite see what she was on about.

She didn’t deny she had had extramarital sex, did she? Fine. So the circumstances under which she had transgressed were irrelevant, as far as Islamic law is concerned. Dura lex, sed lex, as those degenerate Romans used to say. That’s what the rule of law is all about.

Miss Schietekat’s lawyer advised her that the only way she could avoid being flogged to mincemeat and spending the next few years in prison was to marry her rapist. The jurist was sure the man wouldn’t mind: what’s one wife more or less.

However, Miss Schietekat found a different way: escaping from the country. Really, not only do Western whores have their wicked way with Arabs by inflaming their passions, but they also have no respect for the law.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, a barrister specialising in violence against women, is aghast: “Shockingly, everyone has been incredibly silent on Qatar’s horrific sexual assault laws. Qatar’s strict Islamic code outlaws all sexual contact between unmarried couples – making it an offence even if the woman has not consented.”

That’s a neat summation, if somewhat lacking in verbal precision that used to be the hallmark of the legal profession. Surely she meant “sexual contact between unmarried” people, not “couples”? Sex between couples would be a throwback to those degenerate Romans, or else a reference to the current practice colloquially called ‘dogging’.

Anyway, following that incident, Qatar’s laws have been modified ad hoc for the duration of the World Cup, bringing them in line with the customs of the decadent West. Police in Qatar have been told that, contrary to every traditional notion of decency, rape victims shouldn’t be treated as criminals.

And if an unmarried pregnant woman seeks medical help, that’s what she should get, rather than the good flogging she so richly deserves. Oh well, even the last bastions of morality come tumbling down like the walls of nearby Jericho. What’s the world coming to?

I wonder what our champions of diversity, those who don’t belong to the Charles Martel Society, think of such aspects of Sharia law. Or rather what they’d be willing to state publicly.

Two pieties seem to be in conflict here. On the one hand, anyone who finds anything wrong with diversity in all its manifestations is guilty of racism (in this case Islamophobia), one of the two worst crimes imaginable. Yet those who condone violence against women and, even worse, treat victims as criminals are guilty of the other one of the two worst crimes: misogyny.

If diversity comes packaged with misogyny, what’s anyone whose virtue is in urgent need of signalling supposed to say? All I can say is that, much as I sympathise with the problem, I can’t offer a ready solution. Either way you go, you get… well, what Miss Schietekat got.

Meanwhile, large boroughs of several British cities have declared that, as far as their denizens are concerned, Sharia takes precedence over the English Common Law. Local police express their disagreement, but hardly ever translate it into punitive action.

The champion of diversity in me rejoices; the inveterate traditionalist weeps. But then I remember the Society of which I’m the founder, chairman and so far only member, and stamp out those traditionalist notions.

If diversity presupposes the stoning of adulterers, execution of homosexuals, dressing women in Halloween costumes and flogging rape victims, then so be it. Take the rough with smooth, I say.   

This spells trouble

“Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw said, demonstrating his capacity for stating the blindingly obvious.

And all change, according to his ilk, is for the better. Such as, for example, Shaw’s pet idea that every 70-year-old unable to make a persuasive argument for his continuing usefulness to society should be culled.

Like many of his nightmarish dreams, this one shows every sign of coming true. Euthanasia is rapidly gaining traction in the West, although we still balk at the idea of making it mandatory at a certain cut-off age. Oh well, progress moves slowly at times, but we must be happy in the knowledge that it does move.

GBS also adored socialism in all its manifestations, both national and international. When he was an old man (the 70-year ideal was something he preached but not practised), he made a rousing speech to the effect that he’d die happy that the future of the world was safe in Stalin’s hands.

In the same spirit, he founded the English Spelling Society (ESS), dedicated to the noble cause of making life easier for the illiterate classes. Shaw wasn’t – and isn’t – alone in that quest. Any society dedicated to the advancement of the common man strives to drag the world down into the common man’s comfort zone.

Hence committed egalitarians often direct their attention towards spelling (another fruit by which we shall know them). The traditional version formed over centuries, they claim, is by its nature discriminatory because the broad masses find it hard to master.

Thus the ostensibly different egalitarian regimes in America, Russia and China all set out to reform spelling after they grabbed power. In America this process took a few decades, in China a few years and in Russia a few months, but the ultimate outcome was similar, as was the motivation.

Real literacy was replaced with the virtual kind, as if to remind people yet again that all egalitarianism can only ever be vectored downwards.

ESS is still going strong, and now its members around the world have voted to introduce a universal system called Traditional Spelling Revised (TSR), and I hope you aren’t confused by acronyms piling up.

According to it, language should be based not on rules but on usage. It’s the latter that should determine the former, not the other way around. In other words, all spelling should be strictly phonetic.

But English is pronounced differently throughout the Anglophone world, including within each country. There exist 50 major dialects in Britain alone, and God only knows how many minor ones. So should we spell no as ‘ner’ to reflect the Scottish pronunciation? Or ‘fried’ as ‘froid’ for some Londoners not to feel left out? Or, crossing the ocean, ‘my’ as ‘mah’ (South) and ‘bird’ as ‘boid’ (Brooklyn)?

And what about the ‘r’ at the end of words like ‘motor’ and ‘mother’? In America, it comes across as the retroflexive sound heard in educated speech and omitted in some dialects. In Britain, it’s exactly the other way around: that end sound is a hallmark of dialectal or uneducated speech.

Many regional differences are a result of the Great Vowel Shift that took place between 1400 and 1700, changing the pronunciation of the long vowels. The very length of that process, and the absence of mass communications at the time, explains why different regions and countries proceeded at their own pace.

Before the Shift, the word ‘meat’ was pronounced as ‘met’, while ‘mate’ sounded more like ‘maht’. And Shakespeare pronounced words like ‘path’ in what today is perceived as the American way, even though I don’t think he was a Yank. (Much of the Anglophone migration to America came from regions not yet touched by the Shift.)

Spelling has kept up with phonetic usage as best it could, but at some point people had to agree on a certain uniform standard. Spelling, at least within the same country, became codified, and little tots have since had to toil trying to avoid censure for spelling ‘might’ as ‘mite’ or ‘sleigh’ as ‘sley’.

And what do you know: before the united egalitarians of the world took the sledgehammer to our school system, most tots managed rather well. Some didn’t, but they tended to be the kind of people whose life didn’t depend on spelling one way or another.

If you read, say, police reports from a century ago, you’ll hardly ever see a misspelled word. Today’s equivalents aren’t a patch on that level of literacy, but then cops are now beneficiaries of laudably equal comprehensive education.

“Down with redundant letters”, proclaim Shaw’s disciples, which I suppose is an improvement on “Down with redundant people”. Thus ‘right’ will become ‘rite’, ‘knight’ will get a new lease on life as ‘nite’ and, presumably, both ‘weight’ and ‘wait’ as ‘wate’.

That, according to ESS, will eliminate illiteracy at a stroke, thereby improving the economy. To my reactionary eye their proposal will lead to illiteracy being not so much eliminated as chiselled in stone. However, to keep my mind fashionably open, I’m prepared not only to accept the underlying egalitarian principle, but also to extend it into other areas.

For example, Newton’s laws of motion must all be replaced with one: “Fings move, innit”. That’s all the educationally underprivileged need to know when they are chased by cops. And the first law of thermodynamics can be comfortably reduced to a simple statement: “U get nakkered vever u run or fite.”

This approach easily lends itself to wider extrapolation. If abolishing literacy is going to eliminate illiteracy, then why not apply the same idea to criminal law? Repealing all laws against murder, rape and robbery will at a stroke eliminate any chance of those laws being broken. And legalising shoplifting will offset the growing cost of living, while saving shops money otherwise spent on security.

It’s true that it takes an effort to learn English spelling. But it’s an effort worth making.

For the purpose of education isn’t only or even mainly cramming pupils’ heads with information but also equipping them with mental structures, a sort of skeleton they’ll be able to flesh out by their own efforts over a lifetime.

This requires training in essential mental skills, such as concentration, perseverance, memory, ability to differentiate and also to detect commonalities. That’s why subjects like Latin, for all their lack of any practical payoff, are essential. I’ve also long advocated chess as a compulsory school subject for it develops logic and an understanding of causality.

Spelling is much simpler than those disciplines, and I’d say learning it is the absolute minimum that any child must be made to acquire. And if that will take some precious school time away from advanced condom studies, then so be it.  

P.S. After Russian missiles hit a maternity ward in southern Ukraine, killing a baby, the European parliament voted to designate Russia as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. I emphatically disagree. Russia is a perpetrator of terrorism, not a sponsor thereof. May I suggest a ‘terrorist state’ instead?

Truth of consequences

In 1948, Richard M. Weaver published a hugely influential book Ideas Have Consequences in which he showed the devastating effects of nominalism, rejection of absolute truth, on the West.

The book largely shaped the subsequent development of conservatism in general and American conservatism in particular. The case Weaver builds for his self-explanatory title is irrefutable. Indeed, denying the existence of ultimate, absolute truth eventually seeps through the intellectual cracks down to the level of even smaller, derivative truths that all fall prey to petty relativism.

But things are even worse than that. For in parallel people lose track of the very notion of consequences, including those resulting from simple actions, not just involved ideas.

Societies at large suffer the cerebral trauma of not recognising causality any longer, like our distant ancestors who were unaware of the connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Yet elementary causality is one of the first things we learn.

A child knows that if he touches fire he’ll get burnt, if he sticks his fingers into an electric outlet he’ll get a shock, and if he tells his mother to shut up he’ll get spanked. As he grows up, he never loses the notion of basic causality. But these days most grown-ups find it hard to extrapolate to a higher level.

The most obvious example comes from personal finances. In the past, most of Dickens’s readers lived by the simple maxim of his protagonist Wilkins Micawber: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Today we routinely spend more, sometimes much more, than we earn. Thus, over the 20 years leading up to the 2008 crisis, the expenditure of an average American household was three times its income.

People, and Americans certainly aren’t the only ones, have clearly lost the ability to correlate their appetites with the likely consequences of fiscal promiscuity. They live according to the old ad, “Take waiting out of wanting”, but along with waiting they also take out their future.

If people can’t grasp the causal link between incontinent spending and bankruptcy, they have no chance of grasping wider issues, those that affect the whole country. That makes them incompetent voters who create incompetent governments in their own image.

And the latter simply ignore any long-term consequences of their policies – the very nature of modern democracy conditions politicians to have little interest in anything that happens beyond the next election.

Like an irresponsible man who borrows huge amounts to go on holidays or buy luxuries, only to find out years later he has no pension to retire on, our governments think on the scale of the current term in office only.

Take the current shortage of labour in Britain. Our educational system doesn’t produce enough people able to function in a modern economy, and our welfare system encourages inactivity.

The most obvious solution is to import labour by relaxing restrictions on immigration, and many European governments have followed that route. Our TINO government (Tory In Name Only) is planning to do just that, hoping to get our sclerotic economy going in time for the 2024 election.

If they do that, they may well succeed – in the short term. But by pulling the economic blanket all the way up to their chin, they leave society’s social and cultural feet freezing cold.

The idea that the superficially attractive economic measure of mass immigration is likely to prove disastrous in every other respect isn’t something they consider and reject. It simply doesn’t cross their minds.

One could cite hundreds of examples, all pointing to the conclusion that the notion of causality has fallen by the wayside. There it’s piled up on top of the discarded concept of absolute truth, a development that worried Richard Weaver so gravely and justifiably.

In fact, the two are so closely connected that, to all intents and purposes, they are one and the same. Both tragedies are themselves consequences, with civilisational collapse being the cause.

For the best part of two millennia, people imbibed from ambient air the understanding that they’ll be held to account in eternity for everything they do in this life. They’d be rewarded with eternal bliss for everything good they did and punished with the fire of hell for everything bad.

That understanding didn’t necessarily deter even many of those who accepted it as fact. And far from everyone ever believed in the underlying spiritual system. But a robust civilisation shapes even infidels and laggards – they may reject the dominant assumptions consciously, but they can’t escape their osmotic power of persuasion.

Many shoved the underlying faith to the back of their minds, while pushing earthly concerns to the front. But any overarching system affects all its derivatives. Hence even those who rejected the spiritual basis of Western civilisation couldn’t help applying its intellectual principles to even the seemingly unrelated aspects of daily life.

When Western civilisation was ousted by another, modern one, new people moved into the old house, discarded its furniture and moved in their own stuff. Yet some of the old furniture was worth keeping, for life became increasingly uncomfortable without it.

Having thrown out the concept of absolute truth, the newcomers gradually lost the notion of any immutable truth whatsoever – everything became relative, negotiable, up for grabs. And when the understanding of the eternal consequences of one’s actions ended up in the dumping ground, it took with it the derivative notion of all causality.

I mentioned uncontrolled immigration as one toxic result of that intellectual calamity, but there exist uncountable others. We bemoan the effects, but, having lost sight of the causes, can’t do anything about it.

Taking that same issue, why do we have a shortage of labour? Because too many Britons lack the marketable skills essential for functioning in a modern economy.

Any why is that? Because nine million of them are illiterate, and twice as many as near as damn.

How did that come about, in a country that just a few decades ago had one of the world’s most effective educational systems? Because that system was destroyed.

How come? Because enforcing socialist ideology became more important than having an educated population. All pupils, whose parents couldn’t afford to pay the exorbitant cost of private education, were lumped together in the name of equality – to have their heads crammed full of useless ideological waste at the expense of real knowledge.

But why did socialist ideology become so powerful? Because it’s so consonant with the post-Enlightenment world that it has more or less vanquished all its competitors.

What makes it so consonant with modernity?.. And so on, with the chain of causal begets becoming longer and longer.

A wise man will form his view of life by grasping the chain and understanding how its links clasp together. A wise government will be staffed with statesmen capable of not only following the chain but also of acting sagely according to that understanding. A wise civilisation will never forget the truth of consequences.

That kind of wisdom is lost, on every level. That people en masse no longer believe in God is self-evident. That as a result they no longer believe in consequences is less obvious. But no less true.   

Red Hair Day in Qatar

FIFA president Gianni Infantino feels the pain of Qatar’s slave workers, prosecuted homosexuals and unloved disabled people.

In his speech on the eve of the World Cup, Mr Infantino ascribed that empathy to his own experience of egregious suffering: “As a child I was bullied because I had red hair…”

Mercifully, as the photo on the left suggests, that pain didn’t persist into Mr Infantino’s adulthood. However, in spite of the shared experience of woe, he felt obliged to vouchsafe to his listeners the helpful information that: “I am not Qatari, Arab, African, gay, disabled or a migrant worker.” Could have fooled me.

Having clarified his identity, Mr Infantino got to the point. The point is that Western football players and administrators who bellyache about the abuse of human rights in Qatar are being hypocritical.

When I read that, I cracked a smile of recognition. Here was a kindred soul, a man as disgusted as I am at the signalling of woke virtue that has attracted the divided attention of so many ball-kickers and their managers.

Driven by the commercial prods wielded by their agents and PR consultants, footballers parlay their fame based on expertise in one narrow area into a presumed right to pontificate on every faddish theme they fancy. Strikers come out in support of Black Lives Matter. Defenders lecture ministers on racism. Midfielders champion LGBT rights.

As a direct result, their following on social and other media goes through the roof, as do their endorsement opportunities and the size of their contracts. PR chaps and agents are happy, while the ball-kickers joyously launch themselves into photo ops and public engagements, even if that reduces their time on the training pitch.

Qatar, whose selection as a World Cup venue pushed corruption in sport beyond its already cosmic level, provides a useful focus for exertions of remunerative social conscience. It’s a country ruled by Sharia law that takes a dim view of such icons of our modern morality as buggery and equal rights of men and women to have abortions.

Also, since Qatar isn’t known as the hub of the world’s football activity, it had no stadiums in which to hold the event. And neither could the World Cup be held in summer, the traditional season. Summer temperatures in Qatar reach 50C, which would have turned matches into bowling alleys, with the players as ninepins.

The second problem was solved by moving the Cup to colder months. And modern stadiums had to be built in record time, a task for which native Qataris lacked both skills and numbers. The problem was solved by importing migrant workers, whose working conditions made them differ from slave labourers only legally but not substantively.

Many died in the process, with the exact number either uncounted or at least unreported. At a guess, it was somewhere between the 37 that the Qatari government acknowledges and the 30,000 serfs who died constructing Petersburg’s hideous St Isaac’s Cathedral in the mid-nineteenth century.

All things considered, sniping at Qatar’s human rights record from the commanding height of Western probity tinged with wokery is almost unsporting. It’s like using high-calibre machine guns to spray the woods crawling with wild boar.

The best way to express revulsion at Qatar’s inhuman practices would have been to decline participation in the World Cup. The world of sport has boycotted major sporting events, such as Olympics, for similar reasons before. So why not this time?

Conversely, if football federations or their employees have no guts or desire to do that, their only other decent option is to shut up and play footie, while respecting the laws of the host country. No matter how reprehensible these may be.

The England team doesn’t have to go as far as did their ancestors at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when our players greeted Hitler with the Nazi salute. All that’s required now is passive acquiescence, not active endorsement.

No rainbow armbands, for example, and ideally no genuflecting in commemoration of a drug-addled career criminal killed in a scuffle with the police. Yet even this seems to be beyond our ball-kickers who like taking their social conscience all the way to the bank, and from there to Bentley and Lamborghini dealerships.

Long story short, Mr Infantino’s charge of hypocrisy is irrefutable. When reading it, I was about to applaud, but then my palms stopped in mid-air. For he proceeded to illustrate one of my pet ideas, that it’s not enough to say the right things. One must also say them for the right reasons, which Mr Infantino’s aren’t.

“I think,” he went on to say, “for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.”

Mr Infantino must be commended for being able to think on such a lofty historical scale. He starts from the period when the Celts were the dominant European tribe and sweeps over 6,000 years from there.

By the middle of that timeline, Europeans had committed their full complement of atrocities, which now leaves them another 3,000 years to indulge in penitentiary rites. Yet the previous 3,000 years have invalidated any moral judgement any European can ever make.

Finding something morally wrong with, say, cannibalism or Russian brutality or, more to the point in this context, the throwing of homosexuals off tall buildings and the stoning of adulterers is preempted by Mr Infantino’s take on European history.

He didn’t specify the exact crimes committed during that awful period, but there is no need. The mantra is guaranteed to be the same as that mouthed by all progressive people everywhere: colonialism, homophobia, misogyny, slavery – you’ve seen that hymn sheet enough times not to need me to sing from it.

Well, I’m not about to apologise for the millennia during which the greatest civilisation known to man was created. Instead, I’m proud to be part of it.

But there is something I would like to apologise for: my own spineless hypocrisy. Even though I find the whole World Cup show quite disgusting (and made even more so by Mr Infantino’s remarks), I’ll still be watching many matches, including all involving England.

I wish I had the courage of my former colleague who announced on social media his decision to boycott this World Cup – but I’m honest enough to admit that I don’t. So I’ll leave you here: England vs Iran will be kicking off shortly.

In your Sharia face, Qatar!

Those Islamic perverts don’t know what they are playing with. They think they can ban the sale of beer at or near World Cup stadiums and get away with it.

We’ll see about that, say England’s fans. Not letting an Englishman drink his regulation ten pints during a football match is like not letting a Muslim face Mecca at prayer. A sacrilegious slap in the face.

But not to worry. England fans, such as those in the photograph, are too smart to be thwarted by a bunch of goatherds. They may have to modify their sacred football ritual, but that only means taking a different route to the same destination. They’ll get there one way or another.

The match day ritual, as practised in the absence of Third World constraints, is as rigid as the Order of the Mass, except the spirits involved aren’t exactly holy. This is how it goes.

Get up early in the morning, say around noon, have a restorative half and a bacon sarnie. Ring all your mates, those you think may be already awake. Agree on the choice of pub for the pre-match warm-up session.

Go to the chosen location some two hours before kick-off. Have four or five pints and perhaps a shot or two. Spill out onto the pavement, one hand on the half-empty glass, the other assisting public urination.

Cast a quick glance around, zip up, wave at the cops looking on with an expression of avuncular indulgence. Scan the area for any stray fans of the other team, in the knowledge that their self-preservation instinct will probably keep them away from your usual haunts.

Walk to the stadium, your arms around your mates, your mouth belting out the team song and some stock chants, such as “We win home and away, we win every fucking way” or any other, provided they each contain at least one F-word.

Don’t be a stickler for tune and key – they don’t matter. What does matter is that you and your mates walk in quadruple file, pushing non-football pedestrians out of the way. As you do, say things like “Oi”, “You what, mate?”, “Watcha lookin’ at?” or “Watch where you goin’, you [install your favourite obscenity]”.

Once in the stadium, start on the sacramental ten pints, spacing them evenly through the 90 minutes of regulation time, plus a 15-minute interval at halftime, plus however many minutes the ref (whom you loudly identify as a wanker throughout) adds for the players rolling on the grass in faked agony to get an opponent sent off.

Some five minutes before the final whistle join your mates in pointing at the opposition fans with your arm outstretched in the manner of the Nazi salute, but with the index finger stuck out. Start edging towards the exit to make sure you have the choice of the best battlefield for the subsequent hostilities.

Once you and your mates have closed ranks and vomited excess weight on the ground to make yourselves more mobile, you are ready to engage the opposition fans as they come out.

However, the clash may be delayed by mutual consent, as you agree to proceed to another location where there’s less danger of the ‘filth’ breaking up the fisticuffs. One way or the other, have a nice punch up, leaving blood, teeth and residual vomit on the ground.

Retreat to a pub or, better still, an Indian restaurant. Have another couple of pints and a vindaloo, call the waiter a ‘Paki’, break a plate or two, pay your bill and try to get out before the ‘filth’ arrive. If you are still mobile, that is.

Admittedly, your Qatari hosts (remember to refer to them as either ‘Muzzies’ or ‘towelheads’) have maliciously disrupted your standard routine with their Sharia extremism. But they don’t know what they are in for.

Yes, you’ll have to introduce some changes. Specifically, you’ll now have to tank up fully before the match and top up after it, while staying dry (except inside your trousers) in between.

However, that means you’ll have a score to settle with the locals before the match, and, after a dozen pints or so, you’ll be in the right condition to do so. If the locals hide in coffee houses along your route to the stadium, you can draw them out by tossing outside chairs through the windows.

This knowing that you may be outnumbered in the subsequent mêlée. But the English were also outnumbered in the battles of Crécy and Agincourt, which didn’t prevent their victory. You may not have heard of those clashes, but the same indomitable spirit lives on in your breast.

There the English relied on the longbow, a weapon that caught the French unawares. In your turn, you’ll be able to flummox those coffee drinkers by throwing punches with a clenched fist, a technique rare in the Arab world.

Win, lose or draw, you can wipe your bloodied nose and proceed to the stadium. Once there, start chanting “If it wasn’t for England, you’d all be Krauts”, and – since England’s first opponent is Muslim Iran – “Get your face out for the lads” or “You’re Shiite and you know it”. Don’t forget “Ref’s a wanker”, treat it as a refrain after each new verse.

Then walk back beyond the red line separating the dry area from the boozy one. You may be shedding bodies along the way, lost to drink or scuffles with the locals and the towelheaded filth. But nothing will diminish your pride, patriotism and capacity for beer, even at a tenner a pint.

Go, Ingerland!

Article 5 and Catch 22

The text of Article 5 of the Nato Charter is unequivocal: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…” and punished with military force as deemed necessary.

Russian or Ukrainian?

That means that three days ago, when two Russian Kh-101 cruise missiles hit the Polish village of Przewodów, killing two, it wasn’t just Poland that was attacked. The other 29 Nato members, including the US, Britain, France and Germany, were on the receiving end too.

Such was the crime, but the punishment is slow in coming. So slow, in fact, that one gets a distinct impression it isn’t coming at all.

For, rather than choosing an appropriate retaliation, Nato leaders banged their heads together trying to figure out the most credible way “not to provoke Putin”, thereby “escalating” the conflict. A little legerdemain, a couple of aces dealt to themselves from the bottom of the pack, and a solution was found.

They decided to tell the world that there had been one missile, not two. And even that missile was Ukrainian, not Russian. Actually, it was an S-300 AA rocket Ukrainians had fired at an incoming Russian missile, but missed.

Joe Biden, speaking with his customary senile vagueness, played along. A Kh-101 missile, he told a credulous world, didn’t have a “trajectory” to hit Przewodów. The world was so credulous that it didn’t ask the natural question: “How come then that those same missiles have the trajectory to hit targets in the west of Ukraine, just a couple of miles east of Przewodów?”

Yet even if that question had been asked, Nato leaders could have been trusted to sweep it under the carpet. Anything less could have ‘provoked’ Putin into an ‘escalation’.

Actually, it’s not just that trajectory thing. You see, when an S-300 rocket misses its aerial target, it self-destructs and breaks down into fragments, none of which can produce a crater the size of the one visible in Przewodów.

Yes, it’s possible, if unlikely, that the self-destruct mechanism of the S-300 failed. That does happen occasionally, but usually when the rocket is used to do a ground-to-ground job, something it isn’t designed to do but, in extreme circumstances, does.

However, there are no Russian troops within hundreds of miles of the Polish border. Hence there were no targets for such misused Ukrainian rockets to hit – unless some bright Nato spark thinks the Ukrainians aimed at Przewodów specifically. Moreover, no S-300 systems were sited in that part of the Ukraine.

Then of course the S-300 is radically different from a Kh-101 in design, size, type of engine. Even a rank amateur, never mind the Nato experts supposedly investigating the incident, ought to be able to tell the remnants of one from the other.

In any case, no such incidentals are allowed to interfere with the ingenuous Nato narrative. Putin wasn’t ‘provoked’, the conflict didn’t ‘escalate’. The show is over, the audience goes home happy.

Except for one minor detail. That obstreperous, not to say provoking and escalating, Zelensky is refusing to play along. He keeps insisting that there were two Kh-101 missiles, not one wayward S-300, and they were fired by the Russians.

Moreover, that spoilsport has the gall to complain that no Ukrainian experts were given access to the site. We are certain the missiles were Russian, Zelensky maintains. But if you think we are wrong, let our people join yours in examining the site.

Now that really gets the biscuit. Nato has accepted magnanimously that the Ukraine isn’t to blame for that wayward S-300. After all, no missiles would have been launched by anyone in the region had the Russians not invaded the Ukraine.

So no one is planning to drag Zelensky before the Hague tribunal, and neither is he asked to compensate the families of the deceased. So what’s his problem?

The FT has quoted an anonymous diplomat from one of the Nato countries as saying, “This is becoming silly. The Ukrainians are undermining our trust. No one is accusing them of anything, and yet they are lying brazenly. That’s more destructive than that missile.”

Stoutly put. Some Nato countries are clearly running out of patience with Zelensky, the leader of a Western-leaning country subjected to the most brutal attack seen in Europe since 1945. Instead of rolling over and playing dead, the Ukrainians had the audacity to fight back, thereby conceivably provoking Putin into an escalation.

So fine, Nato is prepared to arm the Ukraine, up to a point. The country is like a bull in the ring: it’s allowed to fight, but it’s not allowed to win. Nato is prepared to supply it sufficiently for the former, but not for the latter. Otherwise Putin might feel provoked into unleashing a nuclear Armageddon.

I shan’t comment on the unfathomable rudeness of that comment, nor its craven cowardice. Instead I’ll propose a much more likely version of the incident.

Provocation is Putin’s stock in trade. That’s what KGB officers are trained to do, and not only Putin himself but some 80 per cent of his government cut their teeth in that organisation, the most diabolical the world has ever known.

If you look at the whole history of Putin’s tenure, he has always probed, dipping his toe in the water to see how far he could go. That happened in Chechnya, where he sought accommodation when faced with staunch resistance. It happened in Georgia, twice.

It also happened in the Crimea, where he tested the West’s response to that blatant land grab. Having been hit with nothing heavier than token sanctions and expressions of deep concern, he felt emboldened to launch a full-scale offensive on the Ukraine.

That, he kept saying, wasn’t an attack on the Ukraine. It was a preemptive strike against Nato, which is committed to conquering and dismembering Mother Russia. But not on Vlad’s watch.

Now that his war machine is falling apart in the face of the Ukraine’s heroic fightback, he is talking cease-fire, while looking for easier marks elsewhere.

Hitting a Polish village with missiles bears every hallmark of a little test. Nato bigwigs keep talking about Article 5, but do they have the guts to act on it? Or will they come up with a Catch 22, some cowardly excuse not to act?

If they do, perhaps they’ll respond in the same way to another full-scale attack, say on Estonia or Latvia. And tomorrow, the world.

If that indeed was the test, then Nato failed it. I realise I may be wrong in this assumption, as Zelensky may be wrong in insisting that the missiles involved were Russian. But, considering Nato’s refusal to let Ukrainians examine the fragments of the rocket, the scenario I propose looks more plausible.

P.S. The Chancellor’s budget is a poignant and eloquent obituary for the Conservative Party. RIP.