It’s the ideology, stupid

Having had their Christmas ruined by the hours spent queuing up at the chargers, many drivers are cursing the day they opted for electric cars.

Since my own car is diesel-powered, no curses came to my mind. But the words in the title did, even though they were inspired by a Leftist politician.

Mapping the strategy for Clinton’s presidential campaign, James Carville famously instructed his staff to focus on the main thing. “It’s the economy, stupid,” he said.

Perhaps it is, in the free-for-all of US electoral skirmishes. Yet such econocentrism doesn’t easily extrapolate onto life in general.

For people aren’t always, and never merely, economic creatures. Belief that they are is Marx’s fallacy shared by both his followers and, bizarrely, many of his detractors. The two groups diverge in their conclusions but converge in their premise: Herr Marx, meet Herr Hayek.

In fact, the economy tends to play second fiddle to ideology. However, when the latter wreaks havoc on the former, it’s usually the economy that takes the blame.

Just look at the dire state of the economy today. Very little of its plight is self-inflicted; it’s various ideologies that are the culprits.

One of many examples: economists are attributing the soaring cost of energy to Putin’s war on the Ukraine. But Putin didn’t push the button because he thought he’d thereby improve the state of the Russian economy.

On the contrary, he knew there would be an economic price to pay, although he didn’t quite anticipate how steep the price would be. Yet even now, with the Russian economy lying in ruins and only a speedy retreat offering a sporting chance of revival, he persists. It’s the ideology, stupid.

But why did sanctions on Russian hydrocarbon exports hurt the West so badly? An averagely clever schoolboy could have predicted that an economy heavily dependent on importing a vital commodity would be courting disaster. Especially if the commodity is imported from an unfriendly power.

Now, while I don’t rate the intellectual faculties of our leaders very highly, I do give them credit for being as smart as an averagely clever schoolboy. So why didn’t they develop alternative sources of energy, ideally all the way to energy independence? It’s the ideology, stupid.

Actually, more than one ideology. The less culpable kind was their refusal to see Russia as a hostile power. Different factors contributed to that failure, ignorance being a prominent one. But wishful thinking based on the liberal ideology was even more damaging.

It proceeds from the innate philistine assumption that the whole world either is like us already or desperately wishes to be. That turns the West into a dupe ready to be fleeced by clever disinformation.

Assorted tyrants have learned that if they scream democracy loudly enough and often enough, the West will smile smugly and close its eyes on what they actually do. It’ll then start raining credits and technology on them faster than you can say ‘the end of history’.

Yet one would think that even if we weren’t aware of Russia’s strategic menace, it would have made purely economic sense to produce all of our own energy. Not only are the known reserves of uranium sufficient to keep us in nuclear power until the Second Coming (not that I presume to know its timing), but we also have huge deposits of oil and gas sloshing underfoot.

So why have we spurned the huge economic payoff of energy independence? It’s the ideology, stupid.

Nuclear power stations didn’t spread widely enough because we chose to accept at face value the scaremongering screamed by anti-nuke campaigns, including our own CND. Most such groups were financed by foreign powers with a vested interest in our reliance on hydrocarbon imports.

The Soviet Union, in particular, busily cultivated various anti-nuke front setups, such as the CND. They somehow managed to peddle the lie that nuclear power is as lethal as nuclear weapons – this though not a single Western life had been lost to an accident at a nuclear power station, and still hasn’t.

Having succeeded in degrading, and in some Western countries destroying, nuclear energy, the same group shifted sideways into the massive fraud going by the name of global warming. At the heart of their animus was the same hatred of what Marx so loosely termed capitalism. It’s the ideology, stupid.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Western governments, including our own, are racing one another to the altar of ideology at which they can sacrifice the economy.

Perhaps that metaphor is inexact. For those practising human sacrifice to pagan deities killed others, not themselves. By contrast, Britain and other ideologised nations are avidly committing economic suicide.

This gets us back to those interminable queues at the chargers, with electric car owners cursing Elon Musk’s name and nominating various portions of his anatomy as their preferred receptacle for charging nozzles.

The spread of electric cars is outpacing the proliferation of the infrastructure required to keep them on the road. And at present, Britain only boasts 500,000 such vehicles, or thereabouts.

The stated goal of our successive governments is to replace all internal combustion (IC) engines with batteries. Since there are over 33 million cars in Britain, it takes a morbidly credulous person to believe that the situation will ever improve.

Moreover, our grid is already straining at the seams, even with France’s EDF taking in some of the slack. What will happen if, say, 10 million cars are plugged in at the same time, which will be likely at peak times, such as at Christmas?    

True enough, transportation produces some 28 per cent of all anthropogenic carbon emissions. But percentages are often liars. So let’s deal in the more truthful absolute numbers, shall we?

Carbon dioxide makes up only 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. And 95 per cent of it comes from natural sources that have nothing to do with human activity. Thus anthropogenic CO2 accounts for 0.0016 per cent of the air we breathe. It’s a trace gas of a trace gas, having no effect whatsoever on climate change.

Yet even assuming against every bit of available evidence that ‘our planet’ is being shallow-fried by IC cars, electric vehicles aren’t the answer.

Quite apart from the burden they put on the grid and the infrastructure, they have intrinsic problems that appear unsolvable. These start with making such vehicles in the first place.

The typical battery in an electric car weighs about 500 kg. To make it, you need to process 10 tonnes of salt for the required lithium, 15 tonnes of ore for the required cobalt, two tonnes of ore to get enough nickel and 12 tonnes of ore to get enough copper.

Add all that mining and processing together, and they pollute more than an average IC car does in 20 years. And we seldom keep our cars for that long.

Since most of that mining is done in tropical regions, environmental groups are already screaming bloody murder about the damage being done to the rain forest.

Myself, I’m more concerned about the damage being done to the miners’, which is to say minors’, health. Many of them are children working in slave-like conditions for starvation wages, but when do ideologues ever care about such incidentals?

Then there numerous technical problems with electric cars, and I’m not qualified to judge whether they’ll ever be solved. Let’s just say that so far they haven’t been.

To begin with, electric cars are fair-weather vehicles. They either misbehave or quit altogether in extreme temperatures.

Most electric cars have a risible range between charges to begin with, but freezing conditions reduce it by up to 40 per cent, especially when the heater is on. That is, if they can be charged at all. One owner, for example, recently spent 15 hours trying to charge his car in a -7°C temperature, only to have the same 19-mile range still displayed.

According to experts, electric cars are like humans: they prefer moderate temperatures between 60F and 80F. Once the temperature drops below 40 or rises above 100, they fall far short of their peak performance.

Then there are safety issues. At present, an electric car is 50 per cent more likely to create an accident, but that’s the drivers’ fault: they aren’t used to the much greater acceleration, and much quicker response, of such vehicles.

Yet some problems are intrinsic. If an electric car is rear-ended, or scrapes its bottom (where the battery is located) over a speed bump, it can catch fire. And that fire is extremely difficult to put out. Fire brigades have been known to immerse burning electric cars in water for days – only to see them catch fire again the moment they are taken out of the tank.

Some of those problems will probably be solved eventually. Some won’t be, but our governments will still insist on pressing on with their economically suicidal policies.

Because it’s not the economy, stupid. It’s ideology that inspires modern countries to drive their electric cars all the way to catastrophe.  

My kind of priest

All Christians are called to be in communion with Christ, but very few are chosen to be in direct two-way communication with Him.

The Rev Bingo Alison, C of E vicar in Liverpool, is one of the chosen few. He had the rare privilege of being blessed with an appearance of Our Lord, as he (Bingo, not Our Lord) was reading the Book of Genesis.

Suddenly, the skies opened and Jesus materialised before Bingo. “Is this really thee, Lord, in all thy glory?” asked Bingo, trembling all over and falling down on his knees.

“It is I, God thy Lord,” said Jesus. “And I am glad thou got my prepositions right. Now, Bingo, let’s work on yours.”

“What dost thou mean, Lord?” asked Bingo. “What’s wrong with my prepositions?”

“What’s wrong,” explained the Saviour, “is that thou readest Genesis 1:27, but without understanding one jot or one tittle.”

“But it says clearly, black on white: ‘Male and female created he them,’”objected Bingo, both awed and perplexed. “What’s there not to understand?”

“Verily I say unto you, Bingo, thou art one dumb vicar. There is plenty to understand. For behold, I said ‘male and female’, not ‘male or female,” explained Our Lord. “What dost thou think I meant?”

“That we can be both at the same time?” asked Bingo tentatively, scales falling from his eyes.

“Bingo!” cried the Lord. “Thou art not as dumb as thou looks.”

Then He spake unto Bingo, saying: “Verily I say unto you, thou canst be both, either simultaneously or consecutively. The choice is thine own, but from now on thou art non-binary. And thy prepositions are they/them.”

Actually, I’ve had to fill in the blanks, for the Rev Bingo hasn’t vouchsafed the verbatim content of the exchange he had with Jesus. He has only revealed that the conversation indeed took place and as a result he – or rather they – now identify as ‘gender-queer’.

That part was easy, but, according to Bingo, breaking the news to his wife and three children proved “difficult”. After all, “obviously you marry what you think it a straight guy and obviously things are more complicated than that.”

Complicated is one way of describing it. For the Rev Bingo didn’t just identify as gender-queer. He went the whole hog, as it were and, as you can see in the photograph, developed quite a fetching cleavage.

Mercifully, the Church of England “was open to me coming out”, which says more about that institution than about Bingo. “On the outside you might think ‘oh, they’re quite a traditional church so they might have traditional views’, but I’ve always been treated as a person and as a priest.”

Traditional church? Traditional views? Perish the thought. No one who has ever seen today’s C of E in closeup would have formed that impression. Accepting non-binary priests is a logical next step from having female (and often lesbian) bishops.

The time when the Anglican Church was called the Tory Party at prayer is long since gone. These days it’s more like a combination of the Labour Party and PinkNews, ready to compromise on the prayer, but never on its commitment to woke perversions.

After that original tête-à-tête, Bingo’s chinwags with Jesus continued. In the aftermath of one such session, he (Bingo, not Jesus) posed a selfie with a caption saying Jesus “loves sparkly eyeshadow”. And by the sound of Him, He simply adores blasphemous freaks.

The Rev Bingo won’t hide his (their?) light under a bushel. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus expressly said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

In that spirit, the vicar travels the country, speaking to various panels on how to make the Church more inclusive. Christianity, he explains, has historically been guilty of favouring the views of “rich, white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical men”. 

One doesn’t necessarily get that exact impression from reading the Gospels, but then reading is one thing and getting the info straight from the original source is quite another.

Since I am no longer a communicant in the Church of England, I don’t think it’s my call to suggest that this sideshow be unfrocked. And in any case, should that garment be removed, I wince just thinking what we might find underneath.

But as a subject of His Majesty, the Supreme Governor of our established Church, I lament its plight. Rather than leading men and women to salvation, it does a good job leading lemmings to the precipice.

The only question I’ve got is whether the Rev Bingo is one of the leaders or one of the lemmings. A bit of both perhaps – after all he is (they are?) non-binary.

A pope crushed by modernity

When in 2013 Benedict XVI became the first pope in six centuries to resign, he made his resignation speech in Latin.

Many took that choice of idiom as a gesture of defiance, the pope’s parting shot at the modernising Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) he had always despised. Perhaps that’s indeed what it was.

Yet major thinkers like Benedict seldom make public gestures devoid of didactic significance. They don’t just speak, they teach. And the style of their lessons is sometimes as telling as the content.

Vatican II represented a triumph of modernity over tradition, which had implications going far beyond the internal politics of the Catholic Church. After all, contempt, often hatred, for tradition of any kind is the dominant feature of our time.

That is masked by pronouncements about progress, popular appeal, inclusivity and whatnot. Such things are seldom treated in this space with the reverence they tend to attract elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean they are inherently wrong.

Christian proselytism, for example, presupposes a steady widening of popularity, drawing more people in and keeping fewer out. Yet Christianity – or any other sublime celebration of God in man – should never buy popular appeal at the price of vulgarisation. If it does, the outcome may well become the opposite of the one intended.

For example, playing Benedict’s beloved Mozart the way he is so often played today, as a rococo trifle devoid of any spiritual content, may put more bums on concert hall seats. That would have a positive effect on the box office – but a shattering one on the music. And in the end people seeking light musical entertainment wouldn’t bother listening to Mozart at all.

Vatican II (1962-1965) is another case in point. It emphatically discouraged the Latin Mass, opting instead for the vernacular. The hope was that greater accessibility would encourage wider access, but that’s not how it has worked out.

The first, relatively minor, problem was the divisive effect of the vernacular Mass. If in the past a Catholic could have moved from Peru to Poland and still celebrated Mass in the same language, now he found himself at a linguistic disadvantage.

Then there were translation issues. Anyone who has ever attended vernacular services in different countries is aware of some scriptural passages coming across slightly modified, which may affect the meaning.

Off the top, in the KJV Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “The kingdom of God is within you,” and indeed the original Greek preposition entos can mean ‘within’ or ‘inside’. However, it can also mean ‘among’ or ‘in the midst of’.

The difference between ‘inside’ and ‘in the midst of’ is important: the former internalises God completely and unconditionally; the latter doesn’t. The kingdom of God could thus be within some people, but only among some others.

Which did Christ mean? Different translations of the scripture disagree – and that’s just within the same language. (Contextually, since Jesus was talking to hostile Pharisees, He was probably referring to Himself as the kingdom of God that was among them, but entos leaves room for interpretation.)

Yet vernacular Mass has more serious problems than linguistic variances. For a liturgical language different from one spoken in the street confers mystical grandeur on the service, lifting it high above the morass of daily life.

Conversely, biblical personages talking in everyday colloquialisms have a demystifying effect, which can turn off more people than it draws in. So yes, the Church must appeal to the masses – but only for the right reasons and in the right ways. Populism for its own sake can diminish popularity, and so it has proved.

Looking at the dire state of the Church in France, one of the core Catholic countries, one would find it hard to argue that Vatican II has been a success. In the provinces, one priest often has to cover 30 churches or more, making the Mass largely unavailable – and those looking for it increasingly fewer.

As a parish priest, Ratzinger had some leeway even after Vatican II: the Church practises the principle of subsidiarity, devolving power to the lowest sensible level. But as he climbed up the hierarchy, he found his freedom diminishing. And when Ratzinger became Benedict XVI, he really had to watch his step.

Even as cardinal and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), he could still describe pop music as “a vehicle of anti-religion” or homosexuality as “a tendency ordered towards intrinsic moral evil”.

But when, as pontiff, he dared to quote a Byzantine emperor’s uncomplimentary view of Islam (“Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”), Benedict faced such public outcry that he had to apologise profusely.

The walls of modernity were closing in, with Benedict pushing against them as hard as he could, but finding himself unable to keep the roof from collapsing. The Church he saw in his mind’s eye wasn’t one before his physical eyes, and the contrast eventually wore him down.

The greatest theologian among the modern pontiffs, Benedict wasn’t the most fleetfooted politician. But both outside the Vatican and increasingly inside, the demand for politicised wheeler-dealers trading in voguish platitudes far outstripped one for deep thinkers and upholders of tradition.

So Benedict stepped aside, citing his advanced age and failing health. Yet he was neither too old nor too infirm to be an outstanding pope. It’s only when he had to take on modernity that he had to admit defeat.

Thus not only the Church but indeed the whole world was robbed of another 10 years of Benedict’s spiritual leadership. Both are the less for it.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, RIP.