Ever wonder why we have so much crime?

West Ken, this morning

As I write, a key railway line in London has been out of service for almost two days, with trains between Shepherd’s Bush and Clapham Junction suspended and many other trains diverted.

This is a major inconvenience that I’m sure can be expressed in a monetary equivalent, and not a small one. At the same time, a street in West Kensington, an upmarket area between those two terminals, has been blocked off by police.

All this mayhem has been caused by one young man who at 4.20am yesterday climbed on the roof of a residential building, displaying nothing short of acrobatic agility. He then started breaking off TV aerials and masonry, such as chimney pots, and hurling them into the street and on the railway tracks.

Police negotiators and other officers immediately arrived at the scene and tried to talk the man down. They are still there, and he is still on that roof, one hopes running out of chimney pots.

A Met Police spokesman said that the “incident remains ongoing” and – pay attention for here’s the crux of the matter – “Officers are trying to speak to him following concerns for his welfare”. 

Since the intrepid pot-thrower himself doesn’t seem to share such concerns, the situation is at an impasse. The perp refuses to listen to reason, and he has no concern for his safety or for rail traffic in West London that he is holding hostage.

This, though I’m certain that Met negotiators are well-trained in appealing to the better parts of criminals’ nature. If the wrongdoer happens to belong to a socioeconomically disadvantaged and historically oppressed minority, as this one does, Met officers doubtless feel his pain. They know that such standoffs call for extra sensitivity on their part, with their milk of human kindness never going sour.

So how can they get that criminal – sorry, that victim of racial, economic and social inequality – down from that roof if he wishes to stay where he is? There seems to be no solution to the conundrum, at least none that the Met can think of.

This is where I come in, ready to offer my services to the cause of public safety. My solution is guaranteed to be effective, and it’s so simple that it can be explained in three letters: SAS.

That unit is trained in handling situations involving criminals and tall buildings. This they proved in 1980, when they stormed the Iranian Embassy taken over by six terrorists (also victims of colonialism and institutional racism). SAS got 25 out of 26 hostages out alive and killed all the bandits. Job done.

If they could do that half a century ago, surely they’d know exactly how to handle a single pot-thrower who has no weapons other than whatever he can break off from the roof. Their commander would explain that no “concerns for his welfare” applied any longer, and they certainly didn’t take priority over concerns for the wellbeing of local residents and train passengers.

After that, the SAS soldiers would get the chap in their crosshairs and, speaking in simple words even he could understand, tell him he has one second to stop his barrage and 10 to descend. If he failed to do that, he’d be shot.

Too radical? Well, my second option would be for the officers to climb onto the same roof and Taser the criminal, or subdue him using another one of the dozens of techniques they know how to use effectively and quickly.

That nothing like this has been done for two days should answer any questions you might have about the reasons for our steeply climbing crime curve. Our police aren’t allowed to do policing any longer – just as our teachers aren’t allowed to teach.

They, both policemen and teachers, may get their pay from their immediate employers, but in their hearts they are supposed to see themselves first and foremost as social workers cum therapists.

Cops are expected to mollycoddle even murderers, never mind a chap who merely causes thousands in damages by paralysing a railway line. I wonder what they’d be instructed to do if the same man were raining bullets rather than chimney pots on the street. Would they then be allowed to summon a weapons unit or the SAS? Or would they first ring the psychologist and social worker on their speed dial?

Tocqueville wrote that in America all political problems became legal sooner or later. With us, it’s the other way around: all our legal (and crime) problems sooner or later become political. And the politics of the land are solidly woke, with both major parties insisting that a criminal’s rights supersede those of his victim’s.

It’s a good time to embark on a criminal career in Britain. Chances are such a novice wouldn’t be caught. Or if caught, he wouldn’t be prosecuted; if prosecuted, he wouldn’t be tried; if tried, he wouldn’t be convicted.

If you contemplate retraining as a felon, I recommend burglary. In most cases, cops even refuse to investigate such crimes, correctly realising that a burglar does the same thing as our government: redistributing wealth. Burglary is still rather lucrative, and the risk is close to zero. Best of luck!

Ice Age is upon us

June has been unseasonably cold, making the conclusion in the title irrefutable. True?

Not quite. You’ll object that we shouldn’t jump to far-reaching conclusions on the basis of such a small sample, and you’ll be right. That’s the difference between weather and climate: the first is short-term, the second can only be judged properly over a long time.

Events in any country, and certainly one as hard for Westerners to understand as Russia, is the same way. Only a panoramic historical look can enable one to see clearly what’s really happening there and why.

That’s the look that precious few Western commentators can cast. Hence Western politicians are so often caught off-guard, eyeing yet another twist in Russian politics with genuine bemusement on their faces.

They can barely understand what’s happening in Russia at any historical moment, and they certainly have no clue about why it’s happening. That means our governments can only respond to each Russian threat with a spasmodic kneejerk, which tends to be too little too late.

If they were capable of detecting an historical continuum between, say, Lenin and Putin and everything in between, they’d be forewarned and forearmed. As it is, our governments have to play catch-up, with Russia always acting and the West reacting.

This is, briefly, what we should know and appreciate.

Once the Bolsheviks took over Russia and won their Civil War, they decided to act on their global doctrine and conquer the West in one fell swoop. In 1920, shouting “Onwards to Paris and Berlin!”, the Red Cavalry rode in the general direction of the Channel, but got only as far as Warsaw where Marshal Pilsudski’s horsemen chopped their historical enemies into mincemeat.

Clearly, the Red Army, useful as it eventually proved to be, was too blunt a weapon for what was developing into a delicate task. More perfidious subtlety was required, and perfidious subtlety was something only the Cheka (currently FSB) had.

Thus the first few years of Bolshevik rule saw the formulation of two Cheka policies which, mutatis mutandis, Russia has been alternating ever since: Military Communism and New Economic Policy (NEP).

The purpose of the former was to rape first the country and then the world into submission; the chief objectives of the latter were to mitigate the effects of the former, back-pedal a bit, let some steam off, put the West’s fears at rest and set up the next round by attempting to present to the world a picture of ‘change’, ‘liberalisation’, Khrushchev’s ‘thaw’, Stalin’s ‘perestroika’, Gorbachev’s ‘glasnost’, Yeltsyn’s ‘democracy’ and so forth.

Sudden shifts in Russian policy can never surprise anyone who is familiar with this alternating pattern: the bloodthirsty collectivisation followed by Stalin’s caution against ‘vertigo from success’; post-war Walpurgisnacht followed by ‘the thaw’, which was bound to adumbrate Brezhnev’s reaction, which in turn set the stage for another NEP binge. 

But it’s not enough to execute this policy of two steps forward, one step backwards domestically. The West’s support, or at least acquiescence, is a sine qua non. That means disinformation and strategic deception don’t just lie at the heart of Russia’s policy. They are Russia’s policy – and that’s really why Lenin called the Cheka “the essence of bolshevism”.

That organisation has shown it’s not only willing but also eminently able to string the West along. Its strategic debut in the early 20s was an auspicious event: Operation Trust. The OGPU, as it then was, created a bogus anti-Bolshevik network inside Russia and dropped a few telling hints in the West that the regime was about to collapse – given inactivity on the West’s part and a little financing.

The West swallowed the bait and was immobilised at a time when the demons were at their most vulnerable. Cheka ‘ops’ were being financed by their targets, and, as an additional benefit, the Trust lured some prominent émigré leaders into Russia, where they were murdered.

The history of the Cheka/KGB/FSB (I’m leaving out a few of its monikers) is one continuous string of such successes.

An extremely abbreviated list would include the post-war peace movement, as a result of which Western atomic scientists felt called upon to share their secrets with the Russians; the bogus anti-communist guerrilla movements in the forests of Lithuania and Latvia in the late 40s-early 50s, which pre-empted any real resistance; the detente and ‘SALT process’ of the 70s, enabling the Russians to embark on an unprecedented military build-up that put them in a position of strength vis-a-vis NATO; the ‘Prague Spring’, a perestroika rehearsal possibly designed to test the West’s reaction; the Solidarity movement, probably run by the KGB from the very start; and – at the risk of angering some of my Russian friends – even to a large extent the dissident movement of the 60s and 70s which was infiltrated by the KGB, and many of whose leaders are now known to have been KGB informers. 

That all those operations duped not only their ultimate targets but also many of their rank-and-file participants is neither here nor there. Let’s doff our hats to the memory of the self-immolating Czech students, Lithuanian peasants riddled with Cheka bullets and Russian youths dying in Kolyma – but let’s not allow tears to impair our vision or sorrow to cloud our judgement.

The KGB’s most outstanding figure was Andropov’s mentor Lavrentiy Beria who led that organisation from 1938. After Stalin’s death, which Beria welcomed and, according to strong circumstantial evidence, might have accelerated, he proposed to his Politburo colleagues a glasnost and perestroika programme which anticipated the ‘op’ of the 80s in such details as the introduction of private enterprise, abolition of collective farms, withdrawal from Germany and a greater accent on the production of consumer goods.

The objective was all-familiar: presenting a human face to the West, luring it into disarmament, blackmailing it into a massive transfer of funds and technology, finlandising first Europe and then the rest of the world.

Yet the more cautious Party apparatchiks, led by Khrushchev, thought the Chekists were moving too fast. Beria was killed, but the Cheka, in the decaying shape of Yuri Andropov, won the next round. When Andropov’s protégé Gorbachev took over, the Russian language made the most important contributions to the OED since ‘disinformation’: ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’.

People who warned that the triumphant shrieks over the 1991 collapse of communism were premature were dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Can’t they celebrate with the rest of us the triumph of liberal democracy, which is tantamount to what a particularly inane commentator described as “the end of history”?

I was writing articles at the time, describing the ‘collapse of communism’ as a thermodynamic event of evil changing its form, not its essence. Russian post-communist history, I wrote, is a fusion of NEP and Operation Trust: a successful attempt to curry favour with the West by flashing a kindly smile rather than a lupine scowl. A version of Military Communism is bound to follow.

Conservative journals would publish my Cassandra impersonations, but with the condescending smile of a grownup observing a frolicking child. They knew what I was saying was just fear-mongering, but generously chose not to stop my saying it.

In fact, the period from Gorbachev to Putin represented Beria’s posthumous victory over Khrushchev. It was a transfer of power from the sclerotic, ossified Party apparat to the new ruling elite made up of the more forward-looking members of the Party nomenklatura fused with organised crime and led by the KGB, first as the éminence grise and later, with Putin’s advent, directly.

Throughout the 90s, the KGB were pulling the strings from backstage. Its Active Reserve officers were attached to every sizeable commercial concern, every government office. That, incidentally, was the role Putin played in the entourage of Petersburg’s mayor Sobchak.

The West either failed to realise that the new ‘democratic’ elite was made up of high-ranking Party nomenklatura and the KGB, or didn’t attach much importance to that fact. Would you have felt the same way, I kept asking, if the post-war West German government included nothing but NSDAP functionaries and SS officers? No reply.

Gradually the KGB, the most dynamic and savvy member of the new class, began to move into the foreground. The time came to take the reins overtly, and Yeltsyn got his arm twisted into appointing a KGB officer as his successor. And once Putin’s – which is to say the KGB’s – tenure turned into an outright dictatorship, it became possible to initiate a new aggressive policy in the style of Military Communism, while trying not to eliminate NEP altogether.

The structure I’ve built here is stripped down to its bare bones, with many nuances and parallel developments left unmentioned. An element of entropy is ever-present, and not every subsequent step was a controlled development of a strategy. But it’s foolhardy to deny that a strategy has always existed, even if its path at times resembled zigzags more than a straight line.

The Bolsheviks weren’t aliens from another planet; they were a natural, though not inevitable, development of Russian history. By the same token, Putin’s Russia is a development of Soviet history. We’ll ignore the historical continuity at our peril – it’s impossible to pre-empt a threat if you don’t understand its nature. Sun Tzu said something to that effect.  

Take this, you Foucault Kant

Philosophers at London’s Soas (formerly the School of Oriental and African Studies) think there is something fundamentally wrong with the ways their subject is taught at our schools and universities.

Specifically, they take exception to a curriculum requiring the study of Plato, Hume, Russell, Locke, Descartes and Wittgenstein. I have to agree: this list is grossly inadequate.

There isn’t a single Christian thinker there, and only Plato has a valid excuse of a chronological nature. For example, I don’t see how it’s possible to omit Aquinas – as a theologian, he baptised Aristotle; as a philosopher, he modernised him. Then again, Aristotle himself is left out – possibly on the assumption that, if you put him in, you’d also have to add Aquinas, who is a bit too… well, white.

Then again, no book has influenced subsequent modern philosophy as much as Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and there were better political philosophers than Locke even in England, not to mention other countries. In short, one can quibble about who should and who shouldn’t be on the list till the peripatetic philosophers come home. In any case, Soas’s concerns strike me as legitimate…

Just as I wrote this, I decided to take a closer look at their gripes, to see whether their problems are the same as mine. Well, let me tell you – they aren’t. My concerns and theirs are like chicken salad and chicken dung (I promised Penelope I’d stop using the ruder word).

Those Soas scholars feel that our philosophy curricula are in urgent need of “decolonising”, ridding them of the toxic influence exerted by dead white men. To my amateur way of thinking, the chromatic accent could be mitigated by adding Augustine and Tertullian to the syllabus, but these aren’t the names those professional philosophers see in their mind’s eye.

They’ve compiled a universal toolkit designed to build curricula heavily slanted towards sublime Asian, Middle Eastern and African philosophers, those who have enriched the world with such seminal contributions as Knowledges Born in the Struggle; Conceptualising Epistemic Oppression; On Being White: Thinking Towards a Feminist Understanding of Race and Race Supremacy; and Knowledge Sovereignty among African Cattle Herders.

I must admit to woeful ignorance of all these titles and, judging by the passion with which the toolkit authors promote their curriculum, many philosophy professors everywhere are just as illiterate. I suspect that even when Wittgenstein himself taught at Cambridge he ignored the unique perspective on logic and the philosophy of language offered by African cattle herders.

There’s only one way to fill this embarrassing gap, and the toolkit authors kindly tell us what it is. Teachers should stop teaching and start learning. This takes the trans principle out of the smutty sex arena to make it truly universal. For it’s not professors who should teach students, but vice versa.

However, before those colonising academics are ready to absorb new knowledge, they should understand the evil role they play in “racist systems”. It’s only after repenting their sins that they can open their hearts to virtue. Only then they’ll be able to soak up the valuable knowledge imparted by African cattle herders.    

The authors of the toolkit express this idea much better than I can ever aspire to:

“Without this intellectual insight, it is impossible to even find the root of the problem, let alone begin to address it. The teacher in a decolonial classroom must learn to learn from the perspectives and knowledge systems of the students and to unlearn their own colonially mediated assumptions and background knowledge.

“Unlearning means stopping oneself from always wanting to correct, teach and enlighten. Rather, the teacher should be prepared to forgo a singularly authoritative role and be a facilitator of, and participant in, good learning.”

Reactionaries among you may think that “correcting, teaching and enlightening” is a useful definition of a teacher’s job. And to be able to do it, a teacher indeed must perform a “singularly authoritative role”. To my shame, even I stuck to that view throughout my short teaching career and thereafter.

But the toolkit authors explain that my understanding has little to do with education. It’s nothing but pernicious power play. Teachers, like I used to be and so many still are, seek to maintain and widen social divides, which is a “reductive capitalist notion”.

To that end those reductive capitalists insist on using such known weapons of class oppression as tests, exams, essays and incomprehensible philosophical texts. Anyone can see that your average African cattle herder must feel lost and disadvantaged in such a classroom. He’d be much more comfortable with media commonly used by African cattle herders, such as blogs, texts and podcasts.

If essays are still required for old times’ sake, then students themselves should create the topics. And it’s students rather than teachers who should then assess and mark the works they’ve submitted to themselves. Straight A’s all around, no one is culturally disadvantaged, the noxious effects of colonisation lie in smouldering ruins.

It’s natural that academics working at a university specialising in Oriental and African Studies should wish to see philosophers from those parts better represented in the curriculum. If their intention were to expand their students’ minds by the study of, say, Lao-Tze or Avicenna (Ibn Sina, if you’d rather), I’d doff my hat and possibly toss it up in the air.

However, first, they propose their toolkit as a panacea against “colonising” thought not only at their specialised institution but at philosophy departments everywhere. Granted, no such department should ignore non-European thinkers, but they should be treated as merely a footnote to the intellectual foundations of our own civilisation.

Second, works like Feminist Understanding of Race and Race Supremacy have nothing to do with philosophy and everything to do with the urgent desire to destroy what little is left of our civilisation. It’s just woke propaganda couched in pseudo-academic cant.

Third, the toolkit authors want to replace education with indoctrination, and they clearly take their cue from the Red Guards of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Those feral youngsters were also told they should instruct their professors, not the other way around. And if the academics proved to be slow learners, the Hóngwèibīng were given a carte blanche to smash their ‘dog heads’ – and I don’t mean figuratively.

Then again, I have it on good Soas authority that there would be nothing wrong with that scenario if played out in our universities. The Red Guards were Asian, weren’t they? That means they knew the ultimate philosophical truth better than all those big fat Kants. And if they shared that truth by smashing a few older heads, then good riddance to bad rubbish. What’s there not to like?

I admire the Russians’ honesty

Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s deputy in the Security Council, has let the cat out of the bag, ending once and for all any doubts about the Kremlin’s plans for the West.

Russia’s former president spelled it out so exhaustively and eloquently that all you need is a translation not interpretation. So here’s the road map of Russia’s hybrid war on the West:

“We must every day try to cause maximum damage to the countries that imposed sanctions on our country and all its citizens. Damage to everything that can be damaged. Damage to their economies, their institutions and their rulers. Damage to the well-being of their citizens. To their confidence in tomorrow.

“To that end, we must continue to look for critical vulnerabilities in their economies and hit those weak spots everywhere, paralysing the work of their companies and government departments. We must find problems in their most important areas and strike at them mercilessly. We must literally annihilate their energy supply, industry, transport, financial and social services, creating a panic over an imminent collapse of the whole critical infrastructure.

“They are afraid we’ll supply weapons to the West’s enemies? We must give them every possible type of arms, except nuclear (for the time being)!

“They fear anarchy and a surge of crime in large cities? We must contribute to creating chaos in their municipal councils!

“They are scared of war in space? So that’s what they must get. Let’s makes sure all they’ve got stops, breaks down, goes to hell!

“They are scared of social unrest? Let’s set it up! We must saturate their media space with the most sinister midnight horrors, taking advantage of every awful phantom pain. No more sparing their psyche! Let them tremble in their cosy houses, let them shake under their blankets.  

“They are bleating about our use of fake news? Let’s turn their life into a continuous crazy nightmare, where they won’t be able to tell the most insane lie from reality, infernal evil from daily routine.

“And no more rules of engagement with the enemy! Let them get their just and most painful comeuppance for the harm they’ve caused Russia. Everyone can do his bit!”

Thank you, Dmitry, for making it unnecessary for me to read between the lines, trying to figure out what this or that message from the Kremlin really means. That’s one good thing about totalitarian chieftains: they can say exactly what they mean without fearing any public backlash.

All we have to do is follow Cranmer’s advice and “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest”. For Putin’s acolyte and spokesman has issued an open-ended claim of responsibility for any bestial attack on any Western country, be it cyberwar, sabotage, arson or terrorism. Now we’ll know exactly who supplies weapons (“for the time being”, not nuclear) to the terrorists and who provokes social conflicts.

Is there any chance now that our governments will finally acknowledge that we are at war and act accordingly? After all, if one side is waging war, and the other side pretends nothing is happening, which side do you think is going to win?

Those of us who go to church must pray for the Ukraine’s victory and light a candle for those heroic Ukrainians who have died not only for their freedom, but also for ours. And do let’s put as much pressure as we can on our governments to make sure they stop vacillating and give the Ukrainians whatever they need to stop this fascist juggernaut in its tracks.

And also let’s not forget to have a drink to Medvedev and his laudable honesty – as long as we don’t try to match him glass for glass. If half the stories I’ve read about Dmitry are true, we’d definitely be on a losing wicket there.

Meanwhile, the G7 countries have agreed to raise £50 billion for the Ukraine, using for that purpose the interest accrued by the Russian assets frozen in the West. My preference would be not to freeze those assets but to confiscate them, and use the money to reconstruct the Ukraine after the war. But, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “half a loaf of bread is better than none.”

Putin, this time bypassing any intermediaries, called this development “cynical and criminal”. He also vowed an “extremely painful” retaliation. If you wonder what he means by that, just re-read Medvedev’s speech.

An ideology goes up in flames

Some anniversaries are celebrated, others, such as the one yesterday, are mourned.

It was seven years ago that London’s Grenfell Tower, an exemplar of social housing, burst out in flames. The fire claimed 72 lives, sacrificed to a pernicious ideology (is there any other kind?).

There were multiple technical reasons for Grenfell Tower to have turned into a death trap. For example, once a kitchen fire started, a fire-resistant window was supposed to stop it from spreading, but didn’t – the window didn’t really resist fire.

Even if flames had broken out, they weren’t supposed to ignite the fire-proof cladding, but did – the cladding turned out to be inflammable.

(I can’t resist myself: all the commentators on this tragedy eschew the adjective I’ve just used. They say ‘flammable’ instead, on the woeful but correct assumption that many people are so ignorant that they may think ‘inflammable’ means fire-proof. In fact, the correct adjective derives from the verb ‘to inflame’, as in ‘such illiteracy further inflames my contempt for modern education’.)

If the fire had ignited the cladding anyway, other flats were supposed to be protected by their own fire-resistant windows, but weren’t – those windows didn’t resist fire any better than the original one did.

As residents escaped, the front doors were supposed to close behind them, thereby preventing poisonous smoke from engulfing the single staircase, but didn’t – the system malfunctioned, and the staircase turned into a gas chamber.

The fire brigade should have realised that their ‘stay put’ command was inappropriate because the fire was spreading rapidly, but didn’t – one wonders if our firemen are trained to be not only heroic but also smart.

They were supposed to fight the fire and rescue people by using a wet riser delivering water to the top floors, but couldn’t – there was no such wet riser.

The Fireman’s Lift was supposed to assist the rescue effort, but didn’t – it didn’t work because it hadn’t been checked.

It’s obvious that the building was jerry-built, with little attention paid to the residents’ safety. If we were to assign blame, we’d point the first accusing finger at the local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Much of it includes some of the world’s most upmarket neighbourhoods, but North Kensington, where Grenfell Tower sits, ranks among the 10 per cent of most deprived areas in the UK. One would think that the Council would treat all its flock as equally as the zeitgeist demands, but this would be misunderstanding the nature of our socialist modernity.

Here we are encountering a problem that goes beyond Kensington and Chelsea. For socialism indeed treats all people as equal, the same way a cattle farmer treats all his livestock as equal. They are a herd made up of numbers, not individuals.

Individuals are those who live in the more southerly areas of that Borough, doubtless including members of the Council. Those in North Kensington are a faceless herd expected to obey the master’s prod. If they can’t afford a Chelsea mansion, they should shut up and be thankful for the crumbs tossed at them by the powers that be.

Even as cows aren’t housed individually, the human herd has to be bunched up together, living out the socialist fallacy of collectivism. Thus council housing in Britain isn’t just bricks and mortar, or more commonly cement and rebar. It’s an embodiment of an ideology. It’s a statement of how people should live.

It was in 1628 that the lawyer Sir Edward Coke formulated a pre-socialist legal principle that has since become proverbial: “For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].”

‘Castle’ was a figure of speech – Sir Edward didn’t expect every Englishman to live in one. He did, however, expect every house to be an individual dwelling over which its owner had complete sovereignty and where he felt safe.

An apartment block of any kind, even a decent one, is a residential idea that runs contrary to the history and national character of the English. Urbanisation run riot makes such structures a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless.

Most residents of upmarket blocks traditionally see their accommodation as a stopgap measure, something to bear until they can afford to move into a private house. This craving for one’s own ‘castle’, however cramped and remote from civilisation, is a distinguishing feature of Britons, making them stand out among other urban Europeans.

Yet Grenfell Tower residents, and most other people living in social housing, aren’t on an upswing of a mobility curve. They are what used to be called ‘the deserving poor’, or perhaps undeserving ones, to borrow G.B. Shaw’s quip.

They are the material on which socialist ideas can be tested, putty in the hands of ideologues. And the ultimate residential idea of socialism is a prison.

Just think: everyone there lives in identical cubicles, wears identical clothes, goes to bed and wakes up at the same time, follows the same daily routine, does the same work or none – everyone is equal, except of course the warders who oversee the facility and control its populace.

A council tower block approximates that ideal as much as the law allows. Its denizens are free to walk out and roam the city, but they must always return to the grim, ugly structure they struggle to call home. In fact, they often express their contempt for it by breaking what can be broken and spraypainting the rest with graffiti.

As far as the socialist ‘warders’ are concerned, the structure doesn’t have to be good-looking and comfortable, and neither does it really have to be safe. Just slap it together on the cheap out of some pre-fab blocks, herd hoi-polloi together and expect them to be thankful for the state’s largesse. That’s all our poor deserve. And if a few of them burn to death, there are more where those came from.

I’m sure no member of the Royal Borough Council ever enunciates such ideas or even harbours them. When queried on the Grenfell Tower tragedy, they’d all blame the contractors, the builders, the compilers of specs – everyone but themselves.

Yes, they realise how shabby such quarters are, but they are better than none. We Thought of the People, is the ubiquitous mantra. One wonders how poor Londoners lived in the old times, before those monstrous tower blocks disfigured the city’s topography. Did they sleep rough?

They didn’t. They lived in houses – tiny, poorly furnished, inauspicious-looking, but their own. They couldn’t afford anything better, but they could afford to keep their human dignity. This is something they aren’t allowed to have under socialism, and it’s that ideology that plonks veritable death traps in the middle of our cities.

Concrete, that awful material beloved of socialists and fascists alike (M. Le Corbusier, ring your office), has replaced bricks and mortar, and undignified ant-heaps (M. Le Corbusier, are you there?) have replaced human habitation.

So yes, the immediate reasons for the Grenfell Tower tragedy were technical. But the real, underlying reason was ideological. An ideology is an ogre that’s always athirst, and those 72 fell its victims.

Who really won EU elections

Zelensky at the Bundestag yesterday

Conservative people, including some among my friends, are rejoicing. Social democracy, dominant throughout Europe, got a bloody nose.

People have had enough of swarms of aliens suffocating their countries. They’ve had it up to here with wokery, the real religion of the ruling parties. They are sick of diktats on what they can and can’t say, what they should and shouldn’t believe, what pronouns they must and mustn’t use.

So they came out in force and voted for conservative – okay, populist – parties to shout a resounding no into the smug snouts of Eurotrash bureaucrats. In France especially, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National got 31.5 per cent of the vote, with Macron’s lot only managing a paltry 15 per cent. In Germany, AfD did better than the ruling SPD.

Macron got such a shock that he called a snap national election, and most observers believe it’ll go the same way. Le Pen’s party will get a parliamentary majority, her boy wonder will become the new PM, and Macron will hang on to his office, but not to his power.

Nor is it just France and Germany, the axis around which the EU revolves. Similar parties made huge gains in Holland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia – you name it. The right, which is to say right-wing, side has either won or is winning or at least advancing. Joy all around.

Now, at the risk of my friends disowning me, I have an admission to make. Given the choice between the woke social democratic establishment and the so-called right-wing populism of the victorious parties, I would have voted for the former if Britain were still a member of the EU.

Do I like social democracy? No, I detest it. Do I think wokery has a beneficial effect on society? Quite the contrary. I think it’s destroying what little is left of our civilisation. Do I support large-scale immigration of aliens? No, I don’t. I’d happily let the air out of those rubber dinghies to make sure they never sail, and ground all the planes carrying illegal migrants to the continent.

So am I refuting myself? No, I am not. I see the problems that worry my conservative friends as clearly as they do, perhaps in some cases even more so. However, grave as those problems are, they aren’t the deadliest and most immediate. That distinction goes to Putin’s fascism threatening to conquer Europe or at least finlandise it, turning it into his puppet.

And all the so-called populist (in fact, borderline neo-fascist) parties are either Putin’s clients or his allies or at least his sympathisers. They are the subversive groups Putin’s security services have cultivated, funded and in many cases run to emasculate any possible resistance to Russian expansion.

Not all such parties are right-wing. All, however, are marginal and extremist. For example, in Germany both the right-wing AfD and the populist left-wing BSW are actively pro-Putin. In France, the same goes for Le Pen’s ‘populists’ and Mélenchon’s Trotskyists. Putin doesn’t play ideological favourites. He just wants to secure their support and use them as dry rot in the political and defence foundations of Europe.

The latest demonstration of that successful recruitment strategy was served yesterday, when President Zelensky made a speech in the Bundestag. Both AfD and BSW boycotted the speech, calling Zelensky a “beggar president”.

It’s true that the Ukraine, heroically fighting to stem the tide of Putin’s fascism, desperately needs Western supplies. What shows how successful Putin’s KGB tradecraft has been is that Zelensky has to beg for weapons, rather than the West being happy to give him the tools to do its job, not just the Ukraine’s.

That’s not how AfD sees it, and it beat the ruling party in the EU elections in spite of the on-going scandal with allegations that Russia has paid several AfD members to spread Kremlin propaganda. Such little emolument, plus the kinship German neo-fascists doubtless feel with Putin, explains why the party is demanding that all assistance to the Ukraine be stopped.

In a touching show of unity, the extreme Left BSW led by Sahra Wagenknecht echoes the sentiments verbatim. “By staying away, we are also sending a signal of solidarity with all those Ukrainians who want an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated solution instead of being forcibly recruited by President Zelensky as cannon fodder for an unwinnable war,” said the party spokesman.

My German is weak, but I can still offer my translation services: the BSW on the Left and AfD on the right are “sending a signal of solidarity” with the Kremlin and Putin’s plans to annihilate the Ukraine and then move on. And the Ukraine’s war can only become “unwinnable” if Putin’s client parties have their way.

Things aren’t looking unequivocally promising for the Ukraine on the other side of the Atlantic either. Biden’s administration’s approach to aid veers between vacillation and sabotage. It’s only in the past few weeks that American weapons again began to trickle over to the Ukraine after a six-month moratorium.

Biden is clearly trying to use this aid as an election booster, contrasting his generosity with Trump’s ‘pragmatic’ view of Putin, NATO and NATO’s efforts to defeat Putin’s aggression.

In that spirit, Trump declined to condemn Putin for the murder of Alexei Navalny and, in a CNN interview last May, he refused to say which side he hoped would win the war. Instead, Trump promised to end the war on his first day in office: “I’d get Putin into a room. I’d get Zelensky into a room. Then I’d bring them together. And I’d have a deal worked out.”

Someone forgot to tell Trump that this isn’t like building gaudy monuments to bad taste in Atlantic City. This is our ally fighting to the death against another fascist blight threatening to infect all Europe. Trump’s numerous statements on the subject leave one in no doubt what kind of “deal” he has in mind.

So, no, I haven’t become a woke champion of social democracy, unlimited immigration and transsexuality. But yes, I deplore the results of the EU elections because they make the main and most immediate threat to Europe even more threatening. It’s a question of priorities, and mine are beyond doubt.

Up with allyship, down with acephobia

You can expand your vocabulary no end by reading newspapers. The other day, for example, I added two new words to my lexicon: ‘allyship’ and ‘acephobia’.

I have Exeter University to thank for this lexical enrichment, or rather reports on some astounding developments at that particular grove (grave?) of academe.

Exeter advertises itself as “probably the best university in the world”, having borrowed the line from Carlsberg, “probably the best beer in the world”. Now, Carlsberg has always been a mediocre swill, but Exeter used to be good, if not quite the best. It does belong to the Russell Group of 24 top UK universities, which used to mean high academic quality.

Well, not any longer. Last week that venerable institution demanded that its staff sign an “inclusive practitioners commitment” to demonstrate “allyship” with transgender students. (It should have been practitioners’, but you can’t expect our top universities to mind their apostrophes.)

That spelled the first addition to my vocabulary, and the second one wasn’t long in coming. For lecturers were expected to swear off not only transphobia but also “acephobia”. Meaning discrimination against asexual students.

Every Exeter academic had to undertake to be “the kind of person that LGBTQ+ people can confide in and feel safe around”. If I taught there, I’d be halfway there already because, though I doubt such people would want to confide in me, they wouldn’t have to fear for their lives in my presence.

Then again, that’s probably not what “feel safe” meant. These days simple disapproval (or even lack of enthusiastic approval) is seen as a factor jeopardising safety that’s more, shall we say, metaphysical than physical.

Actually, there wasn’t just a single pledge expected from the lecturers but six different ones, all under the same umbrella. These included a promise to “affirm trans staff and students” by using their chosen names and pronouns.

Thus, if Sean was happy to be known as such in September but decides in October he, or rather she, is actually Sian, his/her teachers are supposed to “affirm” him/her. I’m sure no slips of the tongue are allowed. For want of the right pronoun a career could be lost.

Another point is baffling. Staff were told to seek LGBTQ+ people’s contributions to their teaching subject.

If I taught, say, quantum mechanics, I might find it hard to understand how Sian, as she now is, could contribute specifically as an LGBTQ+ person. Should Sian be expected to assign gender to quarks? Anyway, I’m sure the university administration will be happy to elucidate the issue.

Then the lecturers were supposed to “educate” themselves on the irreparable damage that can be caused to LGBTQ+ people by “micro-aggressions, dog whistles and talking points”. I find the injunction against “dog whistles” especially fascinating.

Call me a snob, but I’ve always associated that activity with building sites, not university halls – and certainly not university professors. Those chaps can usually find subtler and more refined ways of expressing their appreciation of female, or in this case trans, beauty.

I can get “micro-aggression”. It’s an attitude that’s not really aggressive, but can be treated as such by someone encouraged to be extra-sensitive. But what on earth is “talking points”? Beats me.

According to the university spokesman, “This initiative is entirely voluntary”. That’s good to hear – academic freedom is in no way imperilled. Lecturers have a perfectly free choice between signing the pledge document and finding themselves at a career dead end, with the possibility of being blacklisted for life beckoning.

This isn’t just about Exeter University, as you no doubt know. Nor is it just about the UK. This sort of fascism through the back door is plaguing all – well, most – educational institutions worldwide.

Just a few days ago, I talked to an American friend (I almost qualified her as ‘conservative’, but there’s no need – I have no other kind among my friends), whose daughter teaches computer science at a top US university.

The girl was told recently that her conservative views, specifically on the subject of the heroic people of Palestine being massacred by Israelis, might cause her terminal problems with getting a tenure. Now, if an academic career can be destroyed by support of Israel, having pronoun problems with transsexuality must be grounds for summary arrest.

Since Penelope is from Exeter, I felt duty-bound to tell her about my subject today, for her to keep abreast of developments in her native city. She asked a perfectly natural question: “How many trans students does Exeter University have?”

Natural though this question is, it misses the point. Numbers should never affect a principle, and it wouldn’t matter if there weren’t a single Sian at Exeter who used to be Sean. That’s not how fascism works.

The point isn’t to protect vulnerable people from “micro-aggressions, dog whistles and talking points”, and it’s not even for them to “feel safe”. It’s for the fascists to slam their collective jackboot down, right on the face of that jumped up intellectual who won’t toe the line.

This isn’t about kindness, compassion or concern for minorities. It’s about a totalitarian exercise of naked power designed to stamp out even passive resistance.

That’s why you can be sure that before long the few recalcitrant academics would be deprived of their freedom, not just their tenure. When fascism is on the march, it never slows down – it always accelerates. A normal person can’t co-exist with it: the only choice is between fighting and fleeing.

In my youth, I first fought and, when that was no longer possible, fled. But those Exeter academics don’t have the second option: they have nowhere to run away to. The fascist rot has set in on campuses everywhere, and it’s rapidly spreading to those so far immune.

That’s what I mean when I say to the politics junkies among my friends that the deadliest problems of our civilisation have no political solution. It doesn’t really matter who wins elections in the EU, US or UK.

The sores will continue to fester no matter what, until a massive revolt breaks out, with laws falling silent and guns doing all the talking. Take it from someone who grew up in a post-revolutionary country: this is a frightening prospect.        

Of apes and men (and ape/men)

The other day I read an insrtuctive article about the attempts to create a perfect warrior by mating a human and a chimpanzee. The attempts failed, although looking at Vlad Putin one is tempted to think it must have been a partial success.

The idea was first mooted at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which by the end of the 19th century had been taken over by Russians. After its founder died, Ilya Mechnikov, future Nobel laureate, got to head the Institute, and he had several other Russian scientists working there.

One of them, Ilya Ivanov, was fascinated with creating chimeras, animal hybrids. In fact, he succeeded in breeding a zeedonk (zebra/donkey) and a zubron (bison/cow). Allowing his creative juices to pump at a high rate, Ivanov then deduced that, if it was possible to mate a bison and a cow, it also had to be possible to mate a human with his evolutionary simian cousin.

He had no moral or, God forbid, religious obstacles in the way of trying to prove that hypothesis experimentally. By that time, Darwin’s slapdash theory had acquired the status of orthodoxy, and it was widely seen as a debunking of religion. The simian origin of man, for example, was no longer in doubt.

However, some residual scruples still survived, and Ivanov couldn’t find any backing for his pioneering efforts. He had to wait until Stalin succeeded Lenin in Ivanov’s native country.

In 1925 Ivanov touched the innermost chords of Stalin’s soul by seducing him with the idea of breeding an ape-man, a fierce warrior who can’t be side-tracked by compassion. The idea appealed, even though, as Stalin’s descendant Putin is proving, the same result can be achieved with purely human material.

Ivanov was granted $10,000, a princely sum in those days, to travel to French Guinea, find some apes and pay local women to take part in his experiments. The assumption was that Africans were somehow more simian than Europeans, which view has since then been rather discredited.

To his surprise, Ivanov failed to find any African women willing to take part in that little project. They rejected the traditional method of procreation outright, and even balked at the somewhat less offensive idea of artificial insemination.

However, on his return Ivanov had more luck in the Soviet Union, where five women agreed to the less distasteful method for the sake of scientific progress. The experiment didn’t work, and Ivanov eventually died in prison (I’m not suggesting a causal relationship there).

However, the idea didn’t die with him, and I can understand why. Should a human ape be bred, that apparition could be held up as proof that man was created not by God but by Darwin. And our contemporaries see nothing wrong with achieving such coupling the old-fashioned way.

One great champion of interspecies relations is Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics, whatever that is. In 2001 he allowed 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.”

As far as I know, Prof. Singer doesn’t insist that such liaisons can produce progeny, but others do, and many experiments have been conducted along those lines. In the West, the objective has been not to create a killing machine but to find Darwin’s ‘missing link’.

That the link continues to be missing is quite embarrassing for that lot. Fossil records stubbornly refuse to yield evidence of any intermediate species, a Pithecanthropus or some such. Early humans, yes, take your pick. Apes, galore. But, alas, nothing in between.

Now, if finding or breeding a Pithecanthropus was supposed to prove Darwin’s point, then surely an inability to do so must disprove it? Dream on. Darwinism has left the domain of science to enter one of ideology, and there no defeat is ever admitted.

A pseudoscientific ideology is never wrong. It just hasn’t been proved yet. The Origin of Species was published in 1859, getting on for two centuries ago, but so what? What’s your hurry? Give it another few centuries and that elusive proof will be found.

Just look, say the Singers and Dawkinses of this world. Humans and chimps share 99 percent of their active genetic material, and the genetic distance between them is a mere 0.386. What further proof do you need?

Yet the smug expressions on their faces are premature. For physical likeness between apes and humans creates problems for their ilk.

Biology can’t explain why, given such close proximity, apes still look rather different from humans, even those as flawed as, say, Peter Singer. Anything near the same biochemical closeness produces virtual twins in other animals. For example, even though they are 20 to 30 times further apart, some species of squirrels or frogs are practically indistinguishable.

Moreover, and here we get to the heart of the matter, in other species such genetic and biochemical proximity presupposes the possibility of mating so dear to Singer’s heart. After all, we know of numerous examples of interbreeding not only among different species within one genus, but even among different genera or sub-families within one family, where the biochemical compositions are quite different and the genetic distances are tens of times greater than those between humans and chimpanzees.

And yet these two putative twins can’t produce common progeny, for all the highly publicised scoops in the press some years ago. Another mating experiment is under way, we were told, and soon a ‘Pithecanthropus’ will be produced, proving that Darwin was right all along. The experiment failed – so do they acknowledge Darwin was wrong all along? A rhetorical question.

No other scientific theory has been given such generous latitude. If a hypothesis isn’t proved within 30-40 years, it’s usually consigned to history and only ever remembered as a curious archaism. But the special status of Darwinism is rooted not in science, but in ideology.

Hence it has been amply proved at a metaphysical level, no matter how miserably it has failed in the dull world of facts. Mr Darwin, meet Messrs Marx and Freud. You have a lot in common.

P.S. Speaking of zoology, here’s a title in today’s Times: “Farage is a snake, but if we were being honest on migration, he’d have no fangs.” I got an instant nightmare of imagining myself being torn apart by a snake’s fangs and stung by scowling wolves.

Empire? Nation state? It doesn’t matter

Bucha, Ukraine, 2022

The ongoing war in the Ukraine has inspired commentary by the tonne. Thousands of trees have had to be felled to produce the requisite amount of paper, but they’ve died in vain. Overall clarity remains elusive.

Some particulars, however, are clear enough. There is no doubt, for example, that Russia is committing a crime against humanity, which in the end may endanger humanity’s survival. Hence all decent people, a category that doesn’t seem to include certain columnists and politicians, must do what they can to defeat the Russian aggression.

The Ukraine’s cause is just and in this conflict she represents the forces of good fighting against evil. Those pundits who dispute this binary assessment show a lamentable lapse of logic, and that’s before we even mention their moral sense.

Their most typical arguments are that the 2014 revolution deposed Putin’s puppet Yanukovych in an undemocratic fashion (true), that there’s much corruption in the Ukraine (true), and that some Ukrainians are unreconstructed Nazis (also true). One may get the impression that Putin attacked the Ukraine as part of an anti-corruption and pro-democracy drive, not to stamp out her statehood and wipe out her culture.

It’s possible to object that the puppet Yanukovych regime had legal but not moral legitimacy, that the Ukraine is no more, indeed much less, corrupt than Russia herself, or that there are more Russians than Ukrainians voting for neo-fascist parties by an order of magnitude – and that’s even if we don’t list Putin’s party as fascist. And every Ukrainian election since 2014 has been free and fair, something Russia has never had in her entire history.

But any such objection would miss the point in a classic example of a non sequitur. It doesn’t matter whether the Ukraine is good, bad or indifferent. What matters is that she is a sovereign nation and as such has a right to conduct her internal affairs in any manner she sees fit.

Therein lies the crux of the matter or rather the whole matter. Many commentators, including quite a few anti-Putin ones, refuse to see the Ukraine as a sovereign nation, one boasting its own history, culture, language and unquenchable thirst for freedom.

Even most ‘liberals’ forced to flee Russia on pain of arrest still describe the conflict as a civil war, one between two brotherly peoples within the same traditional empire, whether tsarist, Soviet or post-Soviet.

Such would have been Solzhenitsyn’s view, had he lived to see the day. He always insisted that, unlike all the other constituent republics of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine was not just Russia’s brother but her Siamese twin that could only be detached by life-threatening surgery.

Judging by the ferocity with which the Ukrainians are fighting against Russian invaders, they don’t share that view. They insist, rightly, that their own history has produced a civilisation distinct from the Russian one, and they are prepared to die defending it. I’d suggest that anyone with any knowledge of history – and of the thoroughly evil nature of Putin’s Russia – has no choice but to root for the Ukraine. That to me goes without saying.

Yet whenever the debate veers into the area of political theory, my interest is piqued. Because again I think that both sides, the imperialists and the self-determinators, miss at least some of the point by a large margin.

The idea of ethnic self-determination is relatively recent. The empire was the dominant political arrangement throughout most of Western history. Some empires, such as the Carolingian and Holy Roman, were rather loose; others, such as the Russian and Austro-Hungarian more close-knit. The British Empire is difficult to pigeonhole because since the Hundred Years’ War it had no possessions in Europe worth mentioning.

In the Middle Ages ethnic differences existed linguistically, culturally and folklorically, but not politically, and wars were strictly dynastic affairs. All such differences were minor compared to the overarching unity in religion. I often cite Thomas Aquinas in this context. He was born in Aquino (Italian?), his family was closely related to the Holy Roman Emperor (German?), he lived most of his life in Paris (French?).

The idea that every ethnic group is entitled to its own statehood is a child of the Enlightenment, and the inspiration behind it was destructive. That great misnomer, the Enlightenment, was animated by an expertly fomented hatred of Christianity and the desire to annihilate the civilisation it created, Christendom.

The break-up of traditional empires and their replacement with ethnically defined nations, whatever its intrinsic merits, was part of this systematic frontal assault, and it can only be properly assessed in that context. Victorious Modern Man didn’t rank various traditional empires by their qualities. They were all equally abhorrent to him specifically because they were traditional.

Modern man had to wait until the mid-20th century for the last European empires to bite the dust. A few decades later the semi-Asian Soviet empire vindicated the laws of thermodynamics by rechannelling its evil energy into the conduit of Putin fascism.

These days the idea of every nation being entitled to self-determination can’t even be discussed, and it certainly can’t be disputed. Water is wet, table wine is dry, every ethnic group is entitled to its own state – such is life.

We have lost the art of moral differentiation and dispassionate analysis, having abandoned it in favour of generalised convictions or, worse still, ideologies. Like Orwell’s animals, we bleat “Nation state good, empire bad”. We just can’t agree on the number of legs.

In fact, there have been good and bad empires, and likewise good and bad nation states. The Habsburgs had their empire, and Hitler had his – but what a difference. Mussolini’s Italy was one kind of nation state, contemporaneous Norway another.

Some empires treat their constituent nations as equals, some as inferiors, some as slaves. For example, Finns did much better culturally within the Russian Empire than within the Swedish one. Having been added to the Empire, Finland became such a small part of it that Russia felt secure enough to allow the Finns to develop their own ethnic culture based on the Finnish language, a leniency Sweden hadn’t shown. In fact, a Norwegian historian once accused the Russians of having manufactured the entire Finnish culture, including its great epic poem Kalevala.

Some other parts of the Russian Empire didn’t do as well, and the Ukraine is definitely one of them. That’s partly why the desire for independence always smouldered there and sometimes flashed into a bright flame.

The Russians have always treated Ukrainians with paternal condescension, like an ever so slightly retarded stepson. The Ukrainian language was regarded as a Russian dialect; Ukrainian culture as strictly inferior. Ukrainian schools, publications and theatres were routinely suppressed, the way their Finnish equivalents weren’t.

The general feeling among the Russians was that the Ukraine was a backward place. In fact, the Ukraine is the most eastern of European nations, whereas Russia is the most western of Asian ones.

Ukrainians have always been independent-minded people, largely devoid of the Russians’ slavish meekness. Ukrainian agriculture resembled European farms more than it did Russian peasant communes. Ukrainians were always more industrious and thrifty than Russians, and their villages were seldom as dirty and dilapidated as Russian villages are even today.

It’s true that the Ukrainians haven’t produced vernacular writers of the calibre of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (Gogol, Ukrainian by birth, became a great Russian writer because his mother tongue was suppressed). However, the Kiev-Mohyla Academy was producing great religious thinkers and reformers long before such institutions even existed in Russia.

When Peter I decided to westernise the Orthodox Church, he had to import Ukrainian  theologians and clergy to do so. The most prominent of them were Theophan Prokopovich and Stefan Yavorsky, who were followed by crowds of priests. By the middle of the 18th century the Russian Orthodox Church was mostly headed by people from the Ukraine.

I’d suggest that until the 19th century the Ukraine had been culturally superior to Russia, mainly because it was more European. That’s why Russian rulers treated the Ukraine with remarkable cruelty: European meant dangerously alien to them.

When most of the Ukraine was incorporated into Russia after the partition of Poland, Catherine II introduced serfdom there, something that went against the grain of the national character.

And when the Bolsheviks took over, enslavement was augmented with mass murder, including the infamous punitive famine of 1931-1932, when millions were didactically and deliberately starved to death. That was the punishment for the Ukraine having used the Civil War to declare independence and fight all foreign invaders, including the Russians.

The Soviets went even further than their predecessors in suppressing Ukrainian culture where it existed and nipping it in the bud where it was just being born. That’s why during the Second World War Ukrainian nationalists fought against their Soviet oppressors and continued to do it heroically well into the 1950s, dying in their thousands with the words “Glory to the Ukraine” on their lips.   

Putin’s savagery is a continuation of that Russian policy by brutal means, approaching in that regard the Soviets and outdoing the tsars. The upshot of it is that all this talk about the relative merits of empires and nation states is pointless in the Ukrainian context.

A world of nation states is a reality, and it can’t be changed – for all the attempts by the EU. If any nation in the world deserves her sovereignty, it’s the Ukraine. And if any empire in the world doesn’t deserve her imperial privileges, it’s Russia.

Let’s leave political scientists to argue about the generalities. It’s not that empires are bad and nation states good or vice versa. It’s just that the Ukrainian nation state is good and the empire Putin wants to create is evil. Simple, isn’t it?  

NHS isn’t the only thing in Starmer’s DNA

He came back as Keir Starmer

Yesterday’s debate between Sunak and Starmer wasn’t the most exhilarating political show I’ve ever seen. Thoughts of drying paint and growing grass kept lazily wafting through my mind.

Mr Sunak said a few good things but, since everyone knows he has exactly one month left of his tenure, the urge to jump up, punch air and shout “Yes!” was rather understated. Sir Keir said no good things, but that didn’t matter either, for the same reason.

But one of Sir Keir’s statements set new standards of mendacious hypocrisy, which is a noteworthy achievement. Until then he had been answering every question with vacuous platitudes, but suddenly he pushed equivocation aside.

Asked if he’d ever use private health, Sir Keir said “No!”, evoking the memory of Martin Luther and his “Here I stand, I can do no other” (Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, for the Germanophones among you.)

But what if his nearest and dearest were stuck on a long waiting list? Still no. “I don’t use private health,” repeated Sir Keir. “I use the NHS… it runs through my DNA.”

Pull the other one, Sir Keir, it has Big Ben bells on. Let’s see. Your child (wife, mother, father, sibling) has been diagnosed with cancer. The sooner the treatment starts, the better the chances of survival. However, the waiting list for chemotherapy runs to six months or longer (not a random example), which is tantamount to a death sentence. Not even then?

By and large, I have boundless respect for a man prepared to sacrifice everything, even himself and his family, for the sake of a principle – provided it’s a principle so noble that it merits such a sacrifice.

But sacrificing one’s loved ones for a certain method of funding medical care, one of many possibilities, strikes me as falling short of such a lofty ideal. A man claiming he’d make such a choice is either bad or mad or, most likely, a liar.

I once worked with, or rather for, a man who made similar pronouncements. Then he developed gall stones, which is an extremely painful condition (take it from me) that requires an immediate operation.

Yet when my boss made the appropriate inquiries with the NHS, he found out that the waiting list for such procedures was close to a year. That spelled the end of his principled commitment to the NHS. He delivered himself apostatically into the hands of private medicine and thenceforth refused to discuss his principles, at least with me.

Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson once said that “the NHS is the closest thing the English people have to a religion”. I had read that statement while still living in the US, but I took it as a figure of speech. It was only after moving to Britain in 1988 that I realised that Mr Lawson, as he then was, knew what he was talking about.

Since I had private medical insurance, shortly after arrival I used it to get a routine surgical procedure at an excellent hospital. My co-workers wondered how I had managed to get such speedy service. When hearing that I had gone private, they explained that I ought to be ashamed of myself. Legally speaking, I hadn’t committed treason, but in every moral sense I had.

This is beyond idiotic. Even if you think that wholesale nationalisation is the best way to keep the population healthy, raising that belief to the level of religious faith, as practised in less tolerant times, defies anyone’s definition of sanity.

And clinging to that belief in the face of mounting evidence that the NHS is about the worst idea of all available suggests that this isn’t about public health at all. It’s about the feel-good factor of mouthing socialist shibboleths, a statement of bogus virtue made with phony conviction.

Unlike real faith, this ersatz version doesn’t allow exegesis and it’s impervious to doubts. Unwavering affection for the NHS is another example of today’s dominant quasi-spirituality: bypassing the supernatural in a quest for the superpersonal.

It’s also a sine qua non of the woke arsenal, and Starmer’s reply is another way of promising to use those weapons to their full destructive potential. In essence, he didn’t risk much making that statement: no one seriously thinks that he or his relations wouldn’t be able to jump the NHS queue. That’s not how socialism works: penury, squalor and having to wait for surgery are for hoi polloi, not for socialist mandarins and other fruits.

If you still doubt that the incoming government will welcome and reinforce a woke offensive on our civilisation, then you should recall the answer Sir Keir offered to another probing question a year ago. The question was whether a woman can have a penis, and the very fact it was posed is enough to diagnose a psychiatric social disorder afflicting the whole society.

That time Sir Keir evaded a direct answer. He only allowed that 99.9 per cent of British women don’t have penises. That meant that 0.1 per cent did, and I did the necessary calculations to translate percentages into absolute numbers. It turned out that, according to our future PM, 34,000 British women are blessed with the appendage in question.

I wonder if he’d stand by that assertion if the question were worded in such terms. “Sir Keir, do you really believe that 34,000 British women have penises?” If the answer is yes, he is mad. If it’s no, he is a liar. In either case, he isn’t fit to hold any public office, never mind one at 10 Downing Street.

Starmer isn’t just vile. He’s also not bright enough to conceal his moral failings by offering noncommittal statements that have the advantage of not being manifestly moronic.

DNA does work in mysterious ways, and it has done Sir Keir no favours. I wish it were just his problem, or one of his next of kin whom he’d calmly watch die waiting their NHS turn. Alas, in a month’s time it’ll become the country’s problem. Ours, in other words.