Banknotes are fool’s gold

Having finally bothered to look up my Wikipedia page, I found out they had made me a year younger than I am. This is most welcome, unless of course it’s their subtle way of saying that, when one reaches a certain age, a year here or there doesn’t really matter.

When money was real

Then I discovered one sentence that calls for an explanation: “He has also proposed that a return to the gold standard would restore monetary rectitude.”

This goes to show how silly ideas may sound if taken in isolation, outside the philosophical context into which they fit. Thus, I’ve never proposed any such thing: that would be like proposing to turn back the whole course of modernity.

However, I do think that a currency pegged to an objective equivalent creates a better society, if not necessarily a more dynamic economy. In the good tradition of Aristotelian induction, this belief takes off from a verifiable fact.

In Britain, the last 50 years of the 19th century produced a combined inflation of 10 per cent. For the last 50 years of the 20th century, the corresponding figure is 2,000 per cent. Hiding behind these numerals is a sweeping existential shift, not just an economic one.

Since inflation is mostly caused by government overspending, a question arises. Why do governments spend more than they take in if they know that such profligacy will turn money into wrapping paper (or, in our days of electronic transfers, not even that)?

The only logical answer is that they want money to lose value. They must feel that they thereby advance their objectives.

The most imperative one is a steady increase in their own power, which these days comes out of the money purse more often than out of the barrel of a gun. The mechanism involved seems intricate but is really simple.

By reducing the purchasing power of a monetary unit, the state makes people seek a greater and greater number of such units to make ends meet. Apart from producing wage slavery, this increases state control at both ends of the economic scale.

Winners and losers alike have to be wholly committed to economic activity to stay afloat. This commitment has to be expressed not only in working halfway around the clock but, whether or not they are so able or inclined, also in taking a gambler’s risks with investments.

Those who fail will have to fall back on the government’s largesse in order to survive – this is self-explanatory. But even those who succeed will also depend on the government, if less directly and more negatively.

After all, a quick pull on the printing press lever can usher in, say, a 15-percent inflation rate. A few years of that, and a nest egg lovingly hatched over a lifetime is broken, with no omelette anywhere in sight.

Inflation, be that of money or assets, thus sends a message to the people: a half-hearted commitment to the pursuit of money won’t get you even a half-decent life. You can’t swap a modicum of discomfort for more freedom to pursue what really matters to you. No gentlemanly sinecures await; it’s all or nothing.

You must barter your soul in order to survive (in the sense in which survival is now understood). Ostensibly you may be working for your own well-being, but in fact the state, swinging the double whammy of taxes and inflation to claim much of what you earn, will make sure you toil mostly for its benefit. Nothing short of a Faustian transaction will do if you don’t wish to tumble into the clutches of the social services.

If you were prepared to take such a fall, that would be fine too – your dependence on the state would become even more total and direct. One way or the other you sit white-knuckled on a non-stop rollercoaster speeding so fast you can’t jump off.

To keep inflation going governments have to spend more than they collect in tax revenues. Hence, if they wish to use inflation for crowd control, they must be able to increase the money supply as they see fit, with no constraints to curtail this ability.

And if governments can arbitrarily issue any amount of paper currency they fancy, then such currency can have nothing but virtual value. Real money has to be replaced with the fake variety. Ignoring the legalistic casuistry for a moment, governments have to get into the counterfeiting business.

The only way of keeping money real would be to limit the state’s ability to counterfeit it. Traditionally this used to be achieved by pegging paper currency to a precious metal, usually gold.

Step by step, Western governments adopted a system whereby the paper money they issued was backed up by their gold reserves. Every banknote was redeemable in gold, and both the paper and the metal were equally real and tangible. This introduced stability, enabling people to plan for their future with confidence.

All major Western economies eventually went on the gold standard. Britain did so in 1717, the USA in 1834 (de facto), Germany in 1871, immediately after her formal unification. It was, however, understood that a rigid monetary system based on the gold standard would be hard to maintain during major wars, when deficit spending was unavoidable (“Unlimited money is the sinews of war,” wrote Caesar).

Thus Britain suspended the gold standard during the Napoleonic Wars, the USA during its Civil War, and most countries during the First World War. But in that distant past they inevitably relied on the post-war return of the gold standard to bring some deflationary sanity to the crazy inflation caused by wartime promiscuity.

This was the case before modern governments realised that inflation could be a useful power tool – before they became fully aware of their inner imperative. Once that realisation sank in, the gold standard had to go. Wishing to bind its citizens hand and foot, the state itself had to slip the tethers of fiscal responsibility.

To be fair, the gold standard isn’t without its downside. For one thing, it limits the government’s ability to increase the money supply as a means of combatting recessions.

However, the gold standard limits not only the state’s flexibility but also its ability to increase its own power by using inflation for redistributive highway robbery, the way Robin Hood used his bow.

We don’t want the modern state to have the short-term flexibility to steer the economy into safe havens, for we know that in the long term the state will steer it into dire straits.

As a matter of fact, we must do all we can to reduce modern governments’ flexibility to meddle in the economy. As Burke wrote, “The moment that Government appears at market, all the principles of market will be subverted.”

Hence the attraction of the gold standard, at least to those who value their freedom above the ability to ride the economic rollercoaster through hair-raising climbs and dips. It puts people, as opposed to the state’s whim, in control of their own pecuniary destiny.

The gold standard may make an economy less upwardly mobile, but in return it will definitely make it more stable and free. For that reason, it is anathema to any modern government.

That’s why they have all seen fit to devote much energy to waging a sustained war of extermination against the gold standard. Finally the right tool for the job was found.

It was perhaps partly for the purpose of phasing the gold standard out that the quasi-independent Federal Reserve system was created in 1907: the US government wanted to abrogate some responsibility for what was bound to follow. And in 1913, the year the Federal Reserve Act came into effect, the Sixteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was passed, empowering Congress to levy federal income tax as it saw fit.

In due course, the gold standard disappeared everywhere in the West, and the power tools of runaway taxes and inflation were plugged into the mains. That two-prong strategy was to be used by modern states over and over: the shock of one blow can affect the people so deeply that they may hardly notice the second one.

Yesterday’s eccentricities become today’s orthodoxies. Since the gold standard was phased out, people have learned to regard both exorbitant taxation and inflationary public spending as simply a fact of life, like hurricanes or for that matter death.

A few generations of that conditioning, and they no longer realise how those two evils affect not only their economic behaviour but indeed their lives in general. More and more they have to strain every sinew just to acquire the necessities of life, becoming more dependent on the state, one way or another.

I cited one telling comparative fact earlier; let me end on another. The side streets around me are lined with small two-up-two-down houses built in the late 19th, early 20th century. At the time, they cost roughly the average annual income, which is why they are still called workers’ cottages.

Today they cost about £3 million, which is greater than the average income by two orders of magnitude. This is a small tessera in a vast mosaic. Using it you can reconstruct the whole picture – and perhaps appreciate the virtual world created by the debauchment of real money.   

Crime problem, solved

There isn’t a government in the world that doesn’t promise to do something about the soaring crime rate. Most of such promises fall by the wayside, only to be renewed close to the next election – with the same effect.

Prescient, or what?

Not so in Britain. As a British subject, I’m proud of my country for leading the world in crime-fighting ingenuity.

As a nation prone to intellectual inquiry, the British first established a philosophical premise. It started with a question: What is crime? Many answers are possible, but the logical British mind boiled them all down to a crystallised essential: Crime is doing something illegal.

Neither you nor I would know where to go from that seemingly self-evident definition. But then neither you nor I possess a keen legal mind with a philosophical bent. Our powers that be are so endowed, which is why they came up with an idea as simple as most inventions of genius appear to be at first glance.

If nothing is illegal, then, as follows from the above definition, there is no crime. Or put another way, there are no lawbreakers if there are no laws to break. Hence the solution to the delinquency problem offers itself: legalise crime.

Now, legalising all crime would be a bit extreme. Murder, for example, has to remain outside the law, for now. But practically everything short of it can be classified as ‘low-level crime’ and left uninvestigated, unprosecuted and unpunished.

Fine, if you insist laws against such crimes can remain on the books, no harm in that. But as long as those books remain unread and indeed unopened, they are left gathering dust on the shelves. They have nothing to do with real life.

In real life, only 3 per cent of assaults without injury result in criminal charges, 1 per cent of thefts from vehicles, 2 per cent of thefts of vehicles, 4 per cent of burglaries, 1 per cent of bicycle thefts – and so on, ad infinitum.

Victims of such crimes no longer even bother to report them: they know the police have more important things to worry about, such as hate crime, saying something someone takes exception to, as reported by The Guardian. First things first, eh?

Such reticent resignation is understandable. Last summer, for example, 751 bicycle thefts were reported to Hampshire police alone. Criminal charges? None – even though the thieves mostly cut through bike locks with angle grinders in broad daylight.

Also in Hampshire, 288 people were pickpocketed. No charges. During the same three months, Thames Valley had 340 cases of blackmail. No charges. Gwent reported 391 cases of non-life-threatening arson. No charges. Warwickshire, 66 burglaries. No charges. So why waste time reporting ‘low-level’ crimes? No reason at all.

If you cast your eye over the list of crimes our legal minds regard as low-level, you’ll see they are all committed against the person or against personal property. That’s basically the same thing: crime against property are actually crimes against the owners of property.

One would be justified to conclude that the government is lackadaisical about enforcing criminal laws in general. Yet I can refute that conclusion with two words: Boris Becker.

Last April the former tennis champion was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after being found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act, hiding assets in a bankruptcy case. Becker served eight months in HMP Wandsworth and Huntercombe Prison, where he was “surrounded by murderers, drug dealers, people smugglers”.

“The British justice system is brutal,” complained Becker. In no way condoning what he did, one has to agree, especially if one were to compare his transgression with burglary, theft, assault and arson that have for all intents and purposes been decriminalised.

Becker left out a crucial word. He should have said that “the British justice system is selectively brutal”. It decides which crimes are low-level, to be left unprosecuted, and which are high-level, to be punished with maximum severity.

Hence stealing a bike from a man who might have had to save up for a year to buy it is just a little innocent fun. However, anyone withholding funds from the Exchequer, be that tax evasion or violating the Insolvency Act, will be pursued to the ends of the earth. He’ll then be thrown into prison, where he may or may not survive contact with “murderers, drug dealers, people smugglers”.

And now the real conclusion: our state’s justice system is increasingly designed to look only after number one, which is the state. Originally instituted to protect the individual, the state has evolved to protect itself – first and foremost.

In 1948 Vittorio de Sica made the film Bicycle Thief, about a poor man who can’t look for a job because his bike has been stolen. He goes to the police, who tell him there is little they can do.

De Sica gets top marks for prescience. What’s going on now is a striking case of British life imitating Italian art.

Not for all the tea in China

Such was the gist of President Zelensky’s response to China’s 12-point proposal on ending Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine.

A friend in need

He didn’t openly question China’s credentials to mediate the conflict, which is understandable. Zelensky is bound by diplomatic protocol and the general presumption of civility among heads of state.

Since I’m bound by no such constraints, I can point out how monumentally unfit communist China is to act as a peacemaker. Before I proceed to the actual 12 points, which range from platitudinous to downright wicked, a few general comments are in order.

Mutatis mutandis, China is Russia’s natural ally, not to say typological twin. Just like Russia, she is ruled by an evil totalitarian regime covered in blood. That creates a moral kinship that transcends short-term economic interests or even foreign policy strategies.

Both countries are parts of what George W. Bush so aptly called the “axis of evil”, although Dubya didn’t include either country into that bloc. And it’s not just the moral aspect of it either.

For ever since the bandit raid started, and I go back to 2014, not 2022, China has supported Putin’s fascist regime politically, by refusing to go along with any UN resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression.

Just a few days ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. Seven countries – Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Mali, Nicaragua and Eritrea – voted against. (The Russians must be proud of such a select circle of friends.)

Yet China coyly abstained, which didn’t really fool anyone. For all her protestations to the contrary, she remains Russia’s ally and, as such, refuses to support what the Russians would see as defeat.

Fair enough, the United Nations isn’t capable of any other than symbolic gestures, but far be it from me to suggest that symbols don’t matter. Had China come out in support of the resolution, that would have been symbolic too. But the whole geopolitical map would have changed as a result.

Nor is it just moral and political support. China has been using third countries, especially but not exclusively other members of the new axis of evil, to bypass international sanctions on Russia. All sorts of gear that the Russians are incapable of producing themselves follows a meandering route from China straight into Putin’s arsenal.

The Chinese claim their exports to Russia are non-military, but that’s a lie, or at least an evasion. When a country is at war, even a jar of condensed milk has a military application. And let’s not forget that the same electronic components are used in your car’s Satnav and a missile guidance module.

In any case, drones are unquestionably military, and Russia is negotiating with the Chinese company Xian Bingo to buy 100 prototypes of its ZT-180 drones, each capable of carrying a 35-50 kg warhead. Moreover, the company is planning to build a production site in Russia capable of churning out 100 drones a month.

Such is the preamble to China’s proposal, which, amazingly, many people take seriously. By way of introduction, the proposal said something that’s demonstrably untrue: “There are no winners in conflict wars”.

I don’t know exactly what they mean by ‘conflict wars’. Since few wars in history have been conflict-free, I suppose they just mean wars. And most of those end in victory for one side and defeat for the other – unless, of course, the Chinese have in mind some nebulous metaphysical concept of Taoist origin.

To have a war that produces no winner, the Chinese suggest that: “all parties should maintain rationality and restraint … [and we should] support Russia and Ukraine to meet each other, resume direct dialogue as soon as possible, gradually promote the de-escalation and relaxation of the situation, and finally reach a comprehensive ceasefire.”

What follows from that meaningless bien pensant statement is that both sides are equally at fault, and it’s up to both of them to come to an accommodation. But that’s a lie: Russia is the savage unprovoked aggressor in this war, which she has turned into a war of genocide.

How are the Ukrainians supposed to show “rationality and restraint”? By surrendering? Agreeing to trade territory for the kind of ceasefire that will enable the Russians to regroup, rearm and start afresh?

The Chinese started as they meant to go on, mouthing vague ideas that could even remotely make sense only if Point 1 of their proposal said: “Immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops to the pre 2014 borders”.

But we’ve already seen that China doesn’t support any such solution. So what are those famous 12 points?

1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries. 

Does that mean the Russians leaving? It doesn’t? So it doesn’t mean anything other than an inane banality.

2. Abandoning the Cold War mentality. 

The Cold War was fought between the West and the communist bloc, mostly the Soviet Union. So does that mean the West shouldn’t oppose Russia, that self-declared heir to the USSR?

3. Ceasing hostilities. 

“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions…,” explain the Chinese.

How is the Ukraine supposed to exercise restraint? By capitulating? Anything short of that would continue to fan the flames. 

4. Resuming peace talks. 

“Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis… China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.”

President Zelensky has said a thousand times if he has said it once that no negotiations can take place while the Russians continue to occupy parts of the Ukraine. It’s that point missing in the Chinese proposal again. But China’s intention of shoring up her global strategic position by mediating the conflict is clear enough.  

5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis. 

Good idea, and every step in that direction would be welcome. But all such steps would have only minimum significance as long as the Russians continue to bomb Ukrainian cities, murder, torture, loot and rape Ukrainian civilians and in general adhere to the behavioural pattern typical of evil regimes (of which China herself is one).

6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war (POWs). 

“Parties to the conflict should strictly abide by international humanitarian law, avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities, protect women, children and other victims of the conflict, and respect the basic rights of POWs. China supports the exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine…”

I’m not aware of the Ukraine “attacking civilians or civilian facilities” or jeopardising women and children. Only Russia is doing that, so talking about “parties to the conflict” is another lie. And again China promotes her strategic objectives by volunteering to supervise POW exchange.

7. Keeping nuclear power plants safe. 

Out of interest, which nuclear plants has the Ukraine made unsafe? Yet again China is talking about “both sides”, which is yet another lie.

8. Reducing strategic risks. 

“Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. China opposes the research, development and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances.”

Is China conducting no such research? She is? Then that’s adding hypocrisy to mendacity. And only one side is capable of using nuclear weapons in the on-going war. So why not say “Russia must not use nuclear weapons in this war. And if she does…”?

9. Facilitating grain exports. 

“The cooperation initiative on global food security proposed by China provides a feasible solution to the global food crisis.”

Yet again China is the world’s saviour. Admittedly, she is an expert on food crises, having created quite a few herself, with millions of victims.

10. Stopping unilateral sanctions.

“Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems.” That’s the only proposal with any meat to it.

China wants the West to stop all sanctions on Russia, so China wouldn’t have to look for circuitous routes to export war material to her friend. But the Chinese are right: sanctions do create problems – for the aggressor. So let’s stiffen them.

11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable. 

Do I detect a modicum of self-interest there?

12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction. 

“The international community needs to take measures to support post-conflict reconstruction in conflict zones. China stands ready to provide assistance and play a constructive role in this endeavour.”

This means China is opposed to any reparations imposed on Russia after the war ends. The Chinese seem to suggest they’ll be happy to underwrite reconstruction, but I’ll have to see it to believe it.

In all likelihood the burden will fall on the West’s shoulders, and it can only be lightened by confiscating all Russian assets held in the West and forcing Russia to make up the deficit out of her coffers.

We mustn’t forget that China is looking to do to Taiwan what Russia is doing to the Ukraine (and what the Chinese themselves are doing to the Uighurs). Every proposal they make about the war is a trial balloon – they test the West’s response trying to gauge its possible reaction to a potential amphibious operation across the Taiwan Strait.

Their 12 points should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. A war waged by one evil regime shouldn’t be mediated by another.

The Church of England goes rogue

As that great adman Bill Bernbach once said, “a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.” If this is an ironclad definition, then Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, satisfies it in spades.

His staunch adherence to principles has indeed cost him something: the Church of England is no longer recognised as the mother church of the Anglican communion. A statement to this effect was released by the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GFSA), an organisation representing some 75 per cent of the world’s 120 million Anglicans.

The problem is that the principles to which His Grace adheres staunchly have nothing to do with Christianity. Quite the opposite, they make mockery of Christian doctrine.

Under his tutelage, the old definition of the C of E should be revised from “the Tory Party at prayer” to “The Guardian editorial board cum social services, and never mind the prayer”.

His Grace, along with most other bishops, has never seen a secular woke fad he couldn’t love, nay worship. The one especially dear to his heart is the agony of homosexual couples who can’t have their marriage officiated in an Anglican church.

Not on my watch, declared His Grace, that ecclesiastical answer to Dave Cameron. He then tried to build a consensus to push homomarriage through the Synod, but fell just short.

However, his ally Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London [!] brought a modified motion that passed. If the church still can’t officiate homomarriages, at least it can now bless them.

The logic of it escapes me, or rather it would if I still thought the C of E hierarchy had any interest in Christian doctrine. Since it manifestly doesn’t, it chooses to ignore the fact that said doctrine unequivocally regards homosexuality as a sin – not the worst one, but a sin nonetheless.

And, as a matter of general principle, a church shouldn’t be in the business of blessing sin. Its core remit is to damn or perhaps propitiate sins, not bless them.

So no matter how painfully His Grace’s loins ache for woke rectitude, the motion – and notion – that he championed shouldn’t even have crossed his mind. If it did, he isn’t fit for the job. And if the C of E insists he is, then it’s not fit to lead the Anglican communion.

That irrefutable chain of thought came naturally to GFSA (and other orthodox) bishops, who mostly represent Anglicans in the low-rent parts of the world. Those unsophisticated people still take Christianity and its doctrine seriously, for old times’ sake.

They, along with Pascal, believe in “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars…” – and certainly not of the louche denizens of Notting Hill, Hampstead and Islington, Welby’s real parish.

On Monday, these Christian throwbacks accused the Church of England of “taking the path of false teaching” and going against “the historical biblical faith”.  “This breaks our hearts,” they added.

I’m sure it breaks Welby’s heart too, but only because he can see a redundancy notice flashing before his mind’s eye. That would be richly deserved: his ideological wokery has succeeded in the unlikely feat of creating a major schism in the world’s third largest Christian communion – the first ever such cataclysm within it.

Formed in 1867, the Anglican communion was a vital extension of England’s cultural proselytism in the Empire. You know, that awful setup that, if you believe popular mythology, did nothing but exploit and abuse British colonies and dependencies.

If you believe historical facts, however, then you’ll know that whatever exploitation existed was offset by the spread of civilised institutions: political, legal, administrative, medical, educational — and religious. Modelled on their English antecedents, those institutions survived the fall of the British Empire and are still shaping life in most of its fragments.

Britishness has proved to be more resilient than the British Empire, and it remains the glue holding the Commonwealth together, quite apart from the more fragile political ties. Hence Welby’s doctrinal subversion can have far-reaching ramifications that go even beyond matters ecclesiastical.

Even in its native habitat, the C of E is haemorrhaging communicants, all in the name of inclusion. I have news for its hierarchs: the Guardian types aren’t going to flock to the altar no matter what, however egregiously the church perverts doctrine. But real Christians will be leaving even faster. Inclusion is the new exclusion.

I don’t know how Anglicans manage to contain the emetic impulse when watching all those freshly minted female bishops in action. Ever since they were first consecrated in 2015, in direct contravention of church tradition and theology, those ladies have been mostly devoting their boundless energy to debates about the personal pronouns befitting God.

Since ‘He’ is clearly out for being symbolic of male oppression, the options under review must include ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘they’ and possibly ‘ze’. As the temperature of that debate rises, I am amazed it has taken real believers among the Anglicans so long to disavow the Church of England and Welby personally.

Theirs aren’t the splinter churches – they didn’t split away from anything. It’s the C of E that has split away from them, and the rift is growing wider by the minute. Is the Archbishop actually Christian? I rather doubt that.  

Why pop is evil

“Music is a moral law,” wrote Plato. “It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Plato and Aristotle, musicologists

Some historians dispute the attribution of this statement, but it sounds as exactly something Plato would have said. It also rings true.

For music is more than just an aesthetic arrangement of sounds, in the same sense in which language is more than just an arrangement of words, painting an arrangement of colours or a house an arrangement of stones. Plato knew it: music is the eternal, ineffable form of beauty and therefore of virtue.

Music breaks out of its physical shell and travels from the transient to the transcendent in a route more direct than any other earthly vehicle could ever possibly travel. Music doesn’t let man forget that, an animal though he may be, he isn’t just an animal.

That’s why even atheists, at least those endowed with an aesthetic sense, hear God in music, although they may refuse to use that word. They feel elevated beyond any quotidian height to a new sphere, for them indefinable but none the less real.

Music shows a man how infinitely high his soul can soar, and in this sense music isn’t just inspirational but also aspirational. It seems to be showing that, and how, it’s possible to become better. Hence it’s indeed a moral law, Plato was right about that.

What was the case in the Hellenic civilisation is a hundred times so in Christendom. By showing that God and man can be one, our civilisation internalised man and privatised his spirit. That’s why music, that most internal and private of all arts, became the purest and deepest aesthetic representation of our civilisational essence.

It also took off from its Hellenic antecedents to reach incomparable intricacy and sophistication. Alone among all arts, music steadily developed to a stratospheric level Plato and his contemporaries couldn’t even imagine.

Looking at a Praxiteles sculpture, watching a Euripides play, reading a Virgil poem or even admiring those Graeco-Egyptian funereal portraits, it’s hard to argue persuasively that those art forms have advanced beyond recognition since antiquity. That, however, is definitely the case with music, which is perhaps an indirect proof of the special place it holds in our civilisation, that of its aesthetic fulcrum.

However, the dialectician Iago is whispering into the ear of the Platonist Othello: if music “is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful”, then it can also be antithetically the essence of disorder, and lead to all that is bad, unjust and ugly.

In other words, music can not only raise man to heavenly heights, but it can also push his face into a putrid swamp. Music can show that man is more than just a human – but also that he is less so.

It can convey the noblest and most sublime of feelings, but also the basest, the crudest and the most stereotypical. Music can raise love to a divine ideal, but also lower it to the level of a lowly brothel reeking of cheap perfume.

When it does the former, music is a force for good. When it does the latter, it’s a force for evil. And I don’t think anybody who has ever attended a pop concert, that seamless blend of an orgy and Nuremberg rally, will argue it does much to promote the goodness of this world.

The actual musical content, if it exists at all which it increasingly doesn’t, would have struck even Plato, never mind Bach, as too primitive even to rate the term ‘music’. All they would have heard would have been a feral, sub-human rite, complete with the ritual sacrifice of everything good in man at the altar of unrestrained, aggressive vulgarity.

Not only Plato but also Aristotle would have diagnosed the condition unerringly. For Aristotle devoted much space in his Politics to the social effect of music. Music, he insisted, improves moral health and develops better judgement. It can thus turn people into better members of society.

Or, if music is too sensual and self-indulgent, it could also have the opposite effect. Aristotle was particularly wary of the Phrygian mode, whose carnality, he feared, could compromise reason and virtue. He also warned against wilful musical innovation, which Aristotle saw as the anteroom of political subversion.

Little could any great mind of any period anticipate that eventually music would become an extension of the pharmaceutical industry catering to amorphous minds and underdeveloped feelings in search of a quick fix. Just like drugs, pop catches them young and makes them addicted to the most dehumanising kinds of cheap titillation.

Also like drugs, pop has become a spinner of billions. As such it attracts the most expert of serpentine seducers, all those promoters, marketing consultants, advertising and PR gurus. They perpetuate the addictive evil of pop, showing the same disregard as drug pushers do for the youngsters’ future and the damage done to society.

As long as money keeps rolling in, no one minds that whole generations grow up with their aesthetic – and therefore moral and philosophical – sense atrophied or at least reduced to a shockingly primitive level. A little innocent fun, that’s all.

Yet already millennia ago, history’s greatest minds knew there was little innocence to that kind of little fun, and much evil. And it’s social and eventually political degeneration that’s the wages of evil – but never mind what they thought. We know better.  

Brigitte’s pet flunks Russia

Flying home after the Munich Peace Conference, Manny Macron delivered himself of a speech that shows how much work his teacher Brigitte still has to do.

M et Mme Macron

Oh well, a woman’s work is never done, as they say, which may explain why they get paid less. Still, as a former teacher myself, I think I can discern a few areas colleague Brigitte should focus on, logic being the prime one.

But judge for yourself: “I want Russia to be defeated in Ukraine,” said Manny, “… but I am convinced that the end will not come militarily.”

How else, out of curiosity? Defeat and its dialectical antithesis victory are, in the context of war, strictly military concepts. Most wars end with the victory for one side and defeat for the other. Sometimes the warring parties fight to a draw followed by negotiated peace, but in that case the word ‘defeat’ doesn’t apply.

I do hope the fence Manny is trying to sit on is wide enough, for otherwise he may develop proctological problems. He did, however, come off the fence to attack those who prefer more comfortable intellectual seats.

“I do not think like some people that Russia should be totally undone [and] attacked on its own soil. These observers want above all to crush Russia. That has never been France’s position and never will be.”

First, I’m not aware of any Ukrainian politician, nor of any Eastern European ones Manny seems to have in mind, who see their war objective as marching into Moscow. The Ukrainian government clearly defines victory as kicking every Russian soldier out of every inch of Ukrainian soil. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

For Putin that outcome would indeed constitute a defeat, a crushing one. And, as we’ve already established, Manny wants Russia to be defeated. That means he wants it crushed, except that he doesn’t.

Time for Brigitte to give him six of the best… on second thoughts, pause that suggestion. Manny might like it.

Then Manny clarified his position, or rather didn’t, by explaining that he supported a decisive – though evidently not crushing – Ukrainian offensive, but only to “disturb the Russian front in order to prompt a return to negotiations”.

You can return only to something that has already taken place, which no negotiations so dear to Manny’s heart have. Here his deficit of logic is exacerbated by intellectual vacuity and moral turpitude.

He doesn’t understand, or rather chooses not to, that for as long as Putin is at the helm he’ll never accept the existence of a sovereign, West-leaning Ukraine. For losing the Ukraine would put paid to Russia as a once and future empire.

Russia can no more be an empire without the Ukraine than Britain could be without India. Except that Britain can retain her functioning polity without an empire and Russia can’t. Imperial ambitions are her primary, increasingly sole, legitimising claim.

Hence, even assuming for the sake of argument that Putin will agree to some sort of negotiated peace, even Manny should realise that he’d only use it as an operational pause. The moment he has caught his breath, replenished his arsenal and recruited a new army he’ll march again, with renewed strength.

However, even if Manny doesn’t realise that, the Ukrainians certainly do. But it’s not just such pragmatic considerations that will make them treat any peace offer from Putin like a gift of syphilis.

I can explain the far deeper reasons in but a few words: Bucha, Irpen, Mariupol, Borodyanka, Gostomel, Izyum. You know, all those places the Russians occupied and turned into torture chambers and charnel houses.

You want more words, Manny? Then how about genocide of the Ukrainian people? An attempt to turn the Ukraine into a Russian colony? The kidnapping of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children, with their subsequent ‘re-education’ in Russian camps? The systematic rape of Ukrainian women as a way of humiliating their men?

Anyone who thinks that Zelensky or any other Ukrainian president will be happy to negotiate with Putin knows nothing about the situation – and understands even less about human nature. Not every nation is prepared to swallow its honour and dignity to play footsies with a fascist invader, Manny.

But perhaps he means that for negotiations to take place Putin will have to go? Not at all.

Manny is opposed to regime change in Russia because many attempts to engineer that sort of thing in other countries have failed. That’s true, although some have also succeeded, especially in the wake of a military defeat. That’s something Manny desires for Russia, as long as the defeat isn’t so crushing as to drive Putin out.

Because, you see, all other options could be even worse. “Do we seriously think that a democratic solution will emerge from Russian civil society… in the middle of a conflict? I strongly hope for it but I do not really believe so. And all the other options to Vladimir Putin in the heart of the current system seem worse.”

Actually, I don’t believe so either, for reasons I outlined yesterday. And, unlike Manny, I’m not even holding my hopeful breath. But I like the disclaimer in the last sentence.

That seems to imply a logical conclusion, except that by now we know that Manny doesn’t do logic. If the current system offers no hope of improvement, then surely we must do all we can to make sure the system is changed?

But that can’t happen without Russia’s military defeat, something Manny both wants and doesn’t want. What he definitely wants is that: “… the regime change in Russia occurs in a democratic way according to the wishes of civic society.”

I wonder if Manny still believes in Father Christmas, the tooth fairy and little elves. Where with his myopic mind’s eye did he see a civic society in Russia? The mildest of anti-war statements is worth years in prison – and yet a vast (if possibly dwindling) majority of the people support the war and adore Putin.

Then there’s that logical dissonance again. For something like that to happen, a sweeping – indeed crushing – revolution has to break out in Russia. That means, as the first order of the day, a regime change, which Manny doesn’t really want because… well, just replay the earlier tune.

Let me tell you, Brigitte’s pedagogic skills must be getting rusty. She has been out of that gig far too long, and it’s a case of use it or lose it. I know, I used to be a teacher myself.

The problem with Russia is Russians

Disliking Putin and his regime is good; understanding it is even better. In today’s article Bill Browder scores the highest marks for the former but only so-so ones for the latter.

Having first milked the devil for all it was worth, Browder is now on the side of the angels. Ever since he was kicked out of Russia in 2005, one step behind the millions he had made there, Browder has since been one of the most vociferous opponents of Putin in the West.

Back in Russia he had established a successful investment fund, capitalising on a close working relationship, not to say friendship, with Putin.

Browder may have used his family history to ingratiate himself to Russia’s KGB government. For his grandfather Earl was one of the founders of the American Communist Party and, more to the point, a career KGB (or NKVD) agent codenamed ‘Helmsman’.

That kind of lineage must have appealed to Putin, and Browder was allowed to operate in Moscow. But then a falling out occurred, and I’d rather not speculate why. Browder’s version is that he courageously fought against corruption and for shareholders’ rights, thereby enraging Putin.

I can’t offer any facts contradicting that story but, being by nature an incredulous sort, I suspect some of the reasons were less heroic. One way or another, Browder left with his money and his life intact, which is more than can be said for his legal counsel Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested and tortured to death in prison.

Credit where it’s due, since then Browder has put his boundless energy to good use. He has campaigned tirelessly throughout his native America and adopted Britain for sanctions against the Russians, especially those directly involved in the Magnitsky case.

His efforts are most welcome – better late than never. Though he wouldn’t admit to this, Browder probably blames himself for Magnitsky’s death, and such feelings are commendable. But feelings, however praiseworthy, do not analysts make, and this is the role in which Browder casts himself in today’s article.

His conclusions are uncompromising and absolutely correct: there are only two possible outcomes to the ongoing war, and a give-and-take peace treaty isn’t one of them. Either the Ukraine wins or Russia does, and the latter possibility may well set up a cataclysmic scenario.

Hence the West must do all it can to give the Ukraine the tools to finish the job, although Browder has nagging, and justified, doubts about the West’s ability to sustain such exertion in perpetuity.

Yet the background to the story Browder sees in his mind’s eye is both shallow and platitudinous. The Russia he imagines had every prerequisite for success, and was only pushed back into squalor and violence by Putin and his fellow kleptofascists. This is a variation on the traditional theme of great-people-bad-tsar that has been played ad nauseum both by the Russians and their Western friends for centuries.  

This is Browder’s take: “Russia shouldn’t have ended up this way. When Vladimir Putin was first elected, Russia had the support of the Western world, an educated population with a higher literacy rate than that of the United States, enormous natural resources, a fully built industrial base, and a rich cultural history.

“If Russia had been properly governed, it might now have a modern and large economy on a par with those of Germany or Japan. Instead, Russia’s economy has been hollowed out and is equivalent in size to the state of New York’s.

“This is because Putin and about 1,000 cronies have stolen at least $1 trillion from the Russian state over a 22-year period.”

The most essential quality an analyst can have is the ability to ask the next question, to plunge the spade another inch beneath the surface. In this case, the next question is: why? Why has that richly endowed population tolerated a government like that for 20-odd years? In fact, why did the people elect it in the first place?

I don’t wish to ascribe ulterior motives to Browder, but I do detect an element of self-vindication there.

Browder established his fund in 1996, during the Yeltsyn years, when Putin had just moved from Petersburg to Moscow to a relatively lowly post. At that time his future presidency wasn’t even a twinkle in Yeltsyn’s eye, but Russia had already been stolen blind.

The ruling elite formed by a confluence of KGB and Mafioso types was already in place, and Russia’s national resources were already being converted into foreign estates, palaces, yachts and offshore accounts. Arguments about the size of different pie slices were routinely settled with bullets, and Chicago c. 1925 had nothing on Moscow c. 1995.

Hence for all their literacy and the wealth of the whole Periodic Table under their feet, the Russians didn’t have a hope in hell. They lacked the one indispensable precondition for civilised government and prosperous economy: the rule of law or indeed a history of it.

This is the condicio sine qua non trumping all other conditions, including literacy and natural wealth. In its absence, free enterprise becomes gangsterism, democracy becomes anarchy, and people become feral, with nary a trace of civilisation among them.

Such was the pre-Putin Russia in which Browder landed, but I can understand his urge to ascribe all the subsequent troubles to Putin. Otherwise he’d have to own up to either not having understood Russia properly or else seen its plainly visible and monumental corruption as an opportunity.

In the first case, questions could be asked about his intelligence. In the second, about his morality.

Having been abused and impoverished by Yeltsyn’s parody of Western-style governance, the Russians yearned for what they knew and loved: a strong hand on the tiller – and to hell with democracy along with other Western perversions. And if Russia’s history had taught them anything, it was that the hand on the tiller must prove its strength by bashing in heads.

Putin, in whose person the streams of KGB and organised crime converged, gave them what they wanted, which Browder confirms:  

“Shortly after taking power in Russia, he carpet-bombed the Chechen capital Grozny, killing 50,000 civilians. After that, his approval ratings shot through the roof. In 2008, he invaded Georgia. 

“Again, his approval ratings sky-rocketed. In 2014, following a rigged election and Putin’s widely perceived illegitimate return to the Russian presidency, he illegally annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. 

“Again, his approval ratings shot up.”

How come? Why, for example, do the ratings of American presidents tend to go down whenever the country embarks on a foreign foray, and Putin’s ratings go up each time? Whose fault is it? Just Putin’s?

In the early 19th century, having spent some 15 years as Sardinian ambassador to Russia, Joseph de Maistre offered a Gallic shrug: “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

Russia certainly does, which was already plain in 1996 and was getting plainer throughout Browder’s activities there. Did he realise that? Did he care? These are the questions for his priest (or therapist) to pose and for him to answer.

For us it’s important to understand that the current troubles didn’t start with Putin. They didn’t even start with Yeltsyn, Gorbachev or for that matter Lenin. All those problems can only be understood in the context of the country’s entire history and its formative effect on the national character.

Starting from afar, in 1755 Italy had 35 universities, most of them with a long academic pedigree. How many did Russia have at the time? Well, in round numbers one, University of Moscow, founded in that very year.

Russia thus had to compress her entire intellectual history within a couple of centuries, not the millennia it had taken the West. Meantime, the Russians had to sustain themselves with cultural and intellectual hand-me-downs from the West, and borrowed clothes seldom fit well.

From the early 18th century, the tsars tried to plug the most obvious holes by importing hordes of foreign warriors, engineers, scientists and administrators. That eventually turned Russia into a great military power, while at the same time earning her such soubriquets as “the gendarme of Europe” and “the prison of nations”.

Nowhere in Europe was the chasm separating the rulers from the ruled as wide as in Russia. The two groups even spoke different languages, with the rulers preferring French or German, and sometimes even unable to express themselves in Russian.

The people were kept in bondage, poverty and ignorance. They kept their heads down most of the time, only occasionally rising in what Pushkin described as a “Russian revolt, senseless and merciless”.

The rulers tried to channel that destructive energy into an endless succession of foreign wars. When the Marquis de Custine visited Russia in 1839, he gasped: “This country is always on a war footing. It knows no peace.”

If Disraeli thought England was two nations, then Russia was that a thousand times over. The people’s moans were muffled by the rattle of the drums and the whining of the bugles. Eventually all those sounds formed a unity in the national psyche.

The Russians fixed in their minds a model of perfect rulers, and it was high on savage brutality, tyrannical autocracy and martial glory. That’s why bloodthirsty tsars like Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, especially the latter, have always been seen as harsh but fair rulers.

Others, such as ‘False’ Dmitry, Peter III, Paul I, Alexander II and Nicholas II, were somewhat influenced by Western liberalism and Christian morality. They believed in giving hoi polloi some breathing space, while softening the inhuman treatment traditionally meted out by other tsars. This broke the familiar pattern, and the would-be liberators were – respectively – ripped to pieces, strangled, torn in half by a bomb and riddled with bullets (together with his whole family).

In the same vein, Stalin, who outdid all his predecessors in savagery, is still seen in Russia as a successful administrator who only had to murder millions of Russians out of necessity. In the words of the left-wing historian Isaac Deutscher (quoted from memory), “Stalin found Russia with the wooden plough and left her with the atom bomb.”

A state deriving its legitimacy from the brawn based on high-yield weapons has to act accordingly or risk losing the loyalty of the people. They in turn have to be sufficiently primed to accept guns as a satisfactory replacement for butter.

This is a constant process – when you ride a tiger, the most dangerous thing is to stop. Hence Browder correctly observes that Putin can’t survive an unsatisfactory end to his bandit raid. His physical, not just political, survival is at stake. Yet Browder’s apparent belief that Putin is the root of all Russian evil is definitely wrong, and possibly disingenuous.

This is neither just academic criticism nor an ad hominem. For clear understanding of truth is essential to forming correct policy. And the view of simon-pure Russians led astray by bad governments is so far from the truth as to be politically detrimental and strategically compromising.

Had Western chancers, waving the banner of the peace dividend, not rushed into Russia with their billions in subsidies, loans and technologies to wean the post-communist monster to its current kleptofascist maturity, we wouldn’t have today’s mayhem.

Said chancers thought (or pretended) they were legitimate businessmen and consultants. In fact they were a combination of a Mafia consigliere and a possibly unwitting KGB operative. The chickens they hatched have now come to roost, covered in blood.

It’s good to see Browder touting the good fight. However, when linked to a false interpretation of the situation, I’m not sure his efforts will do more good than harm.

Subtlety, thy name is English

Russian is more poetic than English, German weightier, French more elevated, Spanish more sensual, Italian more mellifluous.

But when it comes to conveying subtle nuances of thought, no language I’m even cursorily familiar with comes anywhere near English. Partly, that proves that size really matters.

The size of vocabulary, that is. Put simply, English has more words than any other European language, three times as many as Russian, for example.

None of those words is just ballast, something a language can safely jettison only to become the better for it. They are all there for a reason, which is enabling the user to turn a concept this way and that, letting the appropriate facet, no matter how tiny, shine the brightest.

Every word has what linguists call its own ‘paradigm’, the whole cluster of its meanings. And no two words can possibly have exactly the same paradigm. That’s why no perfect synonyms can ever exist: even if two paradigms may overlap over a facet or two, others will always stick out.

Yet near-synonyms abound, and the more of them a language has, the finer tool it’ll be in the hands of a master stylist or a nuanced thinker alike. It’s in this area that English pulls way ahead of other languages, especially when it comes to expressing abstract concepts.

For example, my French friends, even those who are fluent English speakers, struggle to grasp the difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’. Yet it’s vital.

The first word comes from an Old English word of some Germanic provenance, the latter began life in Latin. From there it migrated to most European languages, becoming liberté in French. Yet no equivalent of ‘freedom’ exists there, with liberté having to do both jobs. That means a nuance of thought goes missing in French. Yet it’s a useful nuance.

Yes, in some meanings the two words overlap. When Patrick Henry screamed, somewhat hysterically, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”, he could have said ‘freedom’ instead without changing the meaning much, if at some cost to the rhythm.

But compare the whole paradigms of the two words, and you’ll notice that in some usages ‘liberty’ just wouldn’t work. Think of ‘freedom of choice” or “freedom of conscience”, and you’ll see what I mean.

The profound difference between the two words is that ‘freedom’ is ontological and ‘liberty’ is existential. Freedom is an inseparable inner property of human nature, which can be assaulted and curtailed by outside sources, but neither extinguished nor, for that matter, granted by them.

Liberty, on the other hand, is an outer, not inner, condition. Thus a political prisoner may have his liberty taken away from him, but not his freedom. Conversely, cause-hounds who cheerfully join mob marches for whatever political fad is making hay at the moment have plenty of liberty, while showing a distinct lack of freedom.

Since ‘freedom’ has a wider paradigm than ‘liberty’, it can be not only ontological but also sometimes existential (as in the Patrick Henry example above). Yet ‘liberty’ is always existential only.

Another pair of words that often draws my attention is ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-esteem’. The problem is that the latter is increasingly used to mean the former, whereas in fact they are closer to being antonyms than synonyms.

Again, ‘self-respect’ is ontological and ‘self-esteem’ is existential. The former doesn’t have to be earned because every human being is entitled to it for being just that, human. Self-respect can only be asserted and protected, not claimed.

On the other hand, no automatic entitlement to self-esteem exists. No group, nor individual, can claim it as of right. Self-esteem has to reflect some achievement or a superlative character trait, and that’s where the word is perverted in modern psychobabble jargon.

Many people complaining about low self-esteem would be stunned and offended if told truthfully they don’t deserve it. The nuanced difference between self-esteem and self-respect is lost upon them.

Again, French isn’t quite so precise. The nearest equivalent of self-respect there is respect de soi, literally ‘respect of oneself’ (three words instead of one). And ‘self-esteem’ is usually translated as amour-propre, literally ‘self-love’. Neither expression is as exact as the corresponding English words.

Amour-propre first appeared in the 17th century, but was later popularised by Rousseau. He used it in a sense that fell somewhere between our ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-esteem’. It meant liking oneself because others do, a sort of outside-in feeling. Rousseau distinguished it from  amour de soi, which is strictly self-esteem in our meaning. Neither term had the ontological significance of ‘self-respect’.

It would be fascinating to establish how different languages reflect the national character and thought patterns of their users. For example, unlike the French, the English tend not to hide the light of their verbs behind the bushel of other words, many of them sheer parasites.

The English sentence revolves around the verb which propels it to the point much more directly and dynamically. Partly, this is made possible by the lexical richness of the language, where one precise word can do the job of several in French (or Russian). That enables an English writer to peel off the outer shell of extraneous verbiage, making his sentences shorter and punchier.

None of this is to suggest that other languages can’t accommodate precise, and concise, thought. They can and do, as anyone familiar with the works of Pascal or La Rochefoucauld will confirm. But French thinkers have to work harder at it. They get less free help from their language than we do.

A similar observation, by the way, applies to English and Russian verse. Russian is naturally conducive to poetic technique, English isn’t. Russian versification is helped along by its cavalier treatment of sentence structure and also by its morphological variety.

That enables a Russian poet to find interesting rhymes easily and also to shuffle words around painlessly to fit the chosen metre. Thus even poets of understated talent can churn out very good verse, which in English is a house inhabited only by great poets, such as Shakespeare, Donne or perhaps Keats.

In a way, a very small way, one could say that Russians write good verse because of their language while the English do so in spite of theirs. The French fall somewhere in between the two, but woe betide any outlander who says anything critical about any French poet.

As far as the French are concerned, all their poets only range from superb to sublime simply because they are French, with no area whatsoever existing underneath that gamut. But that observation takes us beyond comparative assessment of the two languages.

Language is a sure antidote to the poison of the lazy thought that all peoples are essentially the same. At a most basic level, they are: the same number of limbs, the same internal organs, the same physiological needs.

But start peeking into the areas that really matter, and only language gives you the key to unlock those doors. People who speak differently think differently, perhaps even feel differently.

Exactly how language correlates with thought and feeling has never been established, and probably never will be. We can’t even be sure of what came first, man, thought or language, although materialists, who deny that in the beginning was the Word, insist they know.

What is evident is that the two, words and thoughts, are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. And, just as no two languages are exactly the same, neither are the pathways any two nations take to thought. Vive la différence! as they say in that smaller, but still lovely language.

A spectre is haunting Europe…

…a spectre of gender dysphoria. Replace ‘gender dysphoria’ with ‘communism’ and this becomes a belated tribute to The Communist Manifesto, a document that inspires the current pandemic, if at a few removes.

Forget Covid. Don’t even think of flu. Tuberculosis, what tuberculosis? Gender dysphoria has become today’s answer to the Black Death, mercifully in scale only, not mortality.

The number of sufferers has increased by several orders of magnitude in a single generation, and it’s still growing at a dizzying pace. Governments are duty-bound to respond to the pandemic as decisively as most of them responded to Covid, though ideally without incarcerating the whole population and shutting down the economy.

Yesterday I wrote about Nicola Sturgeon’s noble effort that turned out to be her undoing. But the scalpel of sex-change surgery that fell out of Sturgeon’s fins… sorry, I mean fingers, was picked up by her Spanish counterparts.

Spain’s parliament has passed the Trans Law to allow anyone aged 16 or over to change sex without parental consent. It’s the same bill that forced Sturgeon to fib “I’m a human being” on her way out of politics.

To be fair, Spain has led the race from the beginning. Men identifying as women have been sent to women’s prisons since 2006 as a matter of course even without legislative approval. But the law turns a practice into an institution.

And of course Spain is one of the few countries that allow people to change sex on their identity card with a simple declaration. That’s like a bearded chap asking a Home Office clerk to change the ‘male’ in his passport to ‘female’ and receiving an obliging “Right you are, madam.”

Spanish media have seen how a similar bill ended Sturgeon’s career and identified the reason: the Scottish bill was too restrictive. It didn’t go far enough.

Clever people learn from silly people’s mistakes. Hence Spain’s Trans Law will also allow children aged 14 and 15 to change sex legally without medical evaluation, if with the minor inconvenience of having to get parental consent. Those aged 12 and 13 will lamentably still need judicial authorisation.

Correctly realising that this pandemic unfolds in close proximity to others, the same law also bans conversion therapy, imposes fines for attacks on LGBT people and allows lesbian couples to register children under both parents’ names. Olé!

Until now Spanish adults couldn’t change sex without a medical certificate of gender dysphoria and proof of hormonal treatments for two years. Minors needed a court’s permission. But then progress quickened its march.

Spain’s far-left government is justly proud. According to Equality Minister Irene Montero, “Spain is a country that can be proud today because it advances rights and becomes a better society. This law recognises the right of trans people to self-determine their gender identity, it depathologises trans people. Trans people are not sick people, they are just people.”

Quite. Look at transsexuals and you’ll instantly know there’s nothing wrong with them. Just ordinary folk, like the rest of us.

Even though the Trans Law indisputably makes Spain a better society, certainly by Marxist standards, it has run into some opposition.

A few members of the ruling coalition don’t think the law goes far enough – why do 12-year-olds have to seek judicial authorisation? What are they, chopped hígado? And what about children under 12? They are people too, you know. They have their rights.

Others are deeply concerned about women’s rights, including such basic ones as not getting raped by men in prisons, dressing rooms and public lavatories. Oh well, soldiers’ chances, I say.

Women are free not to use those facilities, prisons apart. But once they’ve made their free choice to go in, they have to accept the risk of running into a burly, well-endowed ‘woman’ with a five-o’clock shadow.

All those gasps were gagged by parliamentary whips with a ruthlessness typical of a nation whose favourite sport is watching livestock tortured and then killed. A socialist deputy PM was fined a large sum for abstaining. I dread to think what would have happened to her had she voted against.

The conservatives did say that the law treats “basic principles of human dignity… as a joke”. Nonetheless their only substantive objection is that other countries (presumably Scotland) have had to backtrack because they moved too fast. Making a mockery of “basic principles of human dignity” should have proceeded at a more leisurely pace.

This isn’t the first time Spain’s parliament redefined basic human dignity. In 2008 it passed a resolution enshrining full human rights of great apes including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos.

The immediate inspiration came from Princeton professor of ‘bioethics’ Peter Singer, who founded the GAP project, a campaign for apes to receive full human rights. He espied that chimps and people are almost the same genetically, which had to mean they should be almost the same in every respect.

Singer himself displays the sexual power of his convictions by insisting that humans and animals can have “mutually satisfying” sexual relations because “we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.” Therefore such sex “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.” I wonder what poor Mrs Singer has to say about that.

I referred to the immediate inspiration for the judiciary vandalism widely practised throughout the West, with Spain laying a strong claim to leadership. Yet the Marxist paraphrase in the title is there for a purpose.

The specific contents of Marx’s turgid notions have been shown for the graphomaniac bilge they are everywhere they’ve been tried in earnest. But epoch-making writings don’t succeed because they are intellectually irrefutable and empirically vindicated. They succeed because they tweak the right bits of the masses.

Every page of Marx’s oeuvre spouts subversive hatred of, well, everything. The West in general. Capitalism in particular. Religion, especially Christianity, that “opium for the people”. Monarchy. Republicanism. The idiocy of rural life. Jews. Slavs. Colonialism. And so forth, all the way down the list.

That hatred is Marx’s real legacy for the generations to come, his delayed-action cluster bombs, different parts of which have been going off ever since. Where they are planted doesn’t really matter. Anywhere will do nicely.

Bringing down all those hated institutions is the overall strategic task. Everything else is just tactics, and they vary depending on the situation.

It could be anti-nuke campaigns; various anti-war movements; current eco-zealotry; campaigns for the rights of women, assorted sexual perverts, transsexuals, apes; dismissing the whole of history as nothing but monstrous displays of racism and colonialism; shaping schools, universities and the media accordingly – it doesn’t really matter.

Whatever works towards the overall objective Marx established with his characteristic prolixity. Scratch a zealot, whatever his zealotry, and you’ll find a Marxist underneath.

Since the Marxist light shone on them from far back, reflecting and refracting along the way, many zealots may not even be aware of its original source. But it’s always there all right, shining through as bright as ever. And it’s Marxism that reigns in Spain.

Sturgeon tossed aside

Out of the blue, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, announced her resignation.

It’s hard to pinpoint the reasons for it. That’s not because no reasons are obvious, but because there are too many of them.

She herself cited the mounting pressures of work and her increasingly irresistible urge to spend more time with her nephews and nieces. “I’m a human being,” she explained, a declaration met with incredulity by her fans and detractors alike.

For the former, she existed in the ultra, demiurgic range above mere humans. For the latter, she inhabited the infra range underneath Homo sapiens (she certainly isn’t sapient). Yet members of either group or none saw right through the reasons she cited.

I’ll mention a few real ones later, SNP’s defeat in the independence referendum in particular, but I’d suggest that the most important one is cultural dissonance between Sturgeon and the people. Oh sure, they’ve voted for her SNP in overwhelming numbers, effectively turning Scotland into a single party state.

But that was their way of cocking a snook at the English. The very name of the Scottish National Party rings so many bells, awakening the spirits of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, if only as portrayed by Mel Gibson and Angus McFadyen respectively.

(Contrary to a popular misapprehension, the Scots don’t wish to see an essential part of Catholic liturgy renamed Angus Dei.)

The words ‘Scottish’ and ‘National’ resound through their hearts, but that’s more than can be said for Sturgeon’s attempts to turn Scotland into the wokiest country in Europe.

The Scots are a hardy lot who don’t throw cute frisbees in manicured parks. Their national sport is caber toss, throwing wooden poles weighing upwards of 150 pounds.

Such raw masculinity (in both men and women, who do caber toss too) is at odds with having transgender rights thrust down their throats. Haggis and deep-fried Mars bars, yes. Whisky, definitely. Sturgeon’s inhuman Gender Recognition Reform Bill – not in my mouth you don’t.

That wasn’t the first fiasco of Sturgeon’s eight-year reign, but it contained that last straw that broke the back of her tenure with a deafening crack. And the name of the straw was Adam Graham, about whom I wrote the other day.

That thug brutally raped two women and, when arrested, declared he now identified as a woman himself. As a result, he was put into a women’s prison, and Sturgeon obligingly referred to him as ‘her’.

The Scots can wear kilts, ideally with nothing underneath, but they wouldn’t wear that. An outburst of public indignation followed, and Sturgeon had to perform a volte-face. But the way she did so offended the Scots’ intelligence, which isn’t inconsiderable.

After all, it’s not only great cutthroats that Scotland has fed into the cultural stream of Europe, not only the cocktail Rob Roy named after one of them, but also great scientists, philosophers, writers and musicians – including the greatest living composer James MacMillan whose name will eventually be mentioned side by side with Bach’s.

Their logical faculty intact, they were dumbfounded when Sturgeon announced that thenceforth all rapists would be put into men’s prisons even if they identified as women. That made a mockery of her own bill.

Its essence is that a woman is a person identifying as such. That’s it. No legal or God forbid moral difference exists between that person and a woman endowed with the right set of chromosomes.

Fine. But if that’s the case, then how can such a newly dainty creature be sent to a men’s prison? Is she or isn’t she a woman? Does that mean that ‘she’ is actually a he?

Putting such questions to ideology-mongers like Sturgeon is both tactless and futile. Especially since the Scots felt the right answer in their bone marrow: she wasn’t up to the job.

That, as I said, was the last straw, but Sturgeon’s back was already half-broken by the referendum caber the Scots had tossed at the SNP in 2014. She was Salmond’s second-in-command then, and became the leader immediately thereafter. But her time was borrowed.

Sturgeon’s lifelong passion is the reversal of the 1707 Acts of Union that created the United Kingdom. The two crowns had already been united since 1603, with the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne as James I.

In theory, the Scots like the idea of independence – they profess hatred for the English, even though I’ve never met a single Scotsman who genuinely feels that way. But then they put their celebrated pragmatism to work and realise that they’d rather not become an impoverished province of the EU.

After all, the British parliament sends £41 billion a year to Scotland as much-needed subsidies. The Scots correctly feel that the EU wouldn’t be so generous. So, when the question of independence was put to them in 2014, 55 per cent voted against.

Since then Sturgeon has been campaigning for a second referendum with the passion of a maniac. I suppose she had absorbed the culture of the EU she loves so much. There, if people vote the wrong way, as they did in Ireland, Norway and Denmark, they are made to vote again and again until they get it right.

But in the UK things are different, a fact communicated last November by the Supreme Court that voted unanimously that no second referendum was on the cards, not without Westminster’s approval at any rate.

Sturgeon was incandescent. “Scottish democracy will not be denied,” she screamed, which was rich coming from a woman who had spent every minute of her tenure stamping out any dissenting views within her party.

She then tried to do her utmost to eliminate the anti-independence lead in the polls or at least to narrow it, but, if anything, it has widened. Neither her wokery nor her burning affection for the EU hit the right notes with the Scots. Instead they sounded alarm bells.

Then there was the minor matter of the £600 million that had gone missing from the party funds. The Scots abhor even a hint of fiscal impropriety, especially when it’s not their own.

Experienced political mechanic that she is, Sturgeon knew her time was up. So she wisely chose to bow out before being tossed out on her ear. I wish her every failure in private life.