Score one for the NHS

I’m both a heretic and a traitor. Or perhaps I should rephrase: I despise the NHS and everything it stands for.

Fancy watching the tube?

That’s as close as one can come to either heresy or treason in today’s Britain. I don’t know how this situation arose.

When I moved to London 35 years ago, the people had already been brainwashed to regard nationalised medicine as a distillation of virtue, both sacred and profane.

Everybody complains about the NHS being underfunded and therefore inefficient. I always say that the NHS is inefficient not because it’s poor, but because it’s socialist. Any giant socialist (which is to say bossy, megalomaniac and unaccountable) enterprise always ends up serving itself, not its proclaimed end user – to this law of nature there are no known exceptions.

Since I detest socialism in all its forms, I’d steer clear of the NHS even if it were the paragon of efficiency. Since it’s hopeless in that department, you can understand why I’ve been paying exorbitant amounts every year for private medical insurance.

But man proposes and the NHS disposes. Its good offices can’t always be avoided even by conscientious objectors like me. Hence, for reasons I won’t bother you with, I’ve had to get into the ring with NHS hospitals three times.

The first time was some 10 years ago, and that round went to the NHS: if it failed to finish me off, it wasn’t for any lack of trying (I wrote about it then: http://www.alexanderboot.com/how-the-nhs-tried-to-kill-me/). Let’s just say it beat me on points without quite landing a knockout blow.

Then, a couple of years ago I was delivered to the same hospital straight from Fulham Road, on whose pavement I had collapsed unconscious. That gave me an occasion to find out that ICU patients are treated much better than the general population. One round each then.

Yet today the NHS has moved ahead on the scorecard again.

In Britain, one needs a GP referral to see a specialist. Hence, when I felt a stone moving about my kidney yet again yesterday, I went to see my local NHS practice. Since I was in pain, I didn’t have to wait the customary week to get an appointment.

A very nice young doctor examined me and said I needed a blood test and a CT scan. I asked for a referral letter, but instead she said she could arrange those tests at that same hospital with one phone call.

Since she was young, competent and good-looking in spite (because?) of her face mask, I couldn’t say no. And what do you know: one phone call was all it took for her to make the necessary arrangements.

At 9 am today I presented myself as ordered to the Ambulatory Care unit – and almost felt like taking back all the nasty things I had ever said about the NHS in general and Chelsea & Westminster hospital in particular.

The receptionist could actually speak and understand English, which isn’t to be taken for granted. She instantly found my name on her list, ascertained with just two questions that I wasn’t an impostor and told me to wait. She also called me alternately ‘sir’ and ‘Mr Boot’, rather than the egalitarian ‘Alex’ NHS staffers tend to favour.

The wait took just minutes, and I had to rub my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. A nurse wheeled in a trolley, and went to work on my extremely fickle veins. Yet she was so good that she got in at first attempt and I hardly felt it. Brilliant, reassuring and unexpected.

She then inserted a cannula into the same vein for her colleagues to inject the contrast medium necessary for the CT scan. And – like wow, man, as my American friends used to say – another nurse took me to Imaging straight away, sparing me the trouble of negotiating the hospital’s labyrinthine corridors.

By then my eyes were red from constant rubbing, but things instantly went back to normal (which is the NHS for SNAFU). The imaging receptionist consulted her list, and I wasn’t on it. Not to worry, she said. It would take them up to two hours to get the results of the blood test anyway, by which time everything would have been sorted out.

For the next two hours I read my book, asking the girl every 15 minutes or so if there had been any progress. Every time, she patiently explained to me that a scan had to be requested by Ambulatory Care or a urologist, and no such request had been made.

I kept showing her the cannula sticking out of my arm. Ambulatory Care put it in, doesn’t that qualify as a request? No it doesn’t, was the courteous but firm reply each time.

Out of the kindness of her heart she agreed to ring Ambulatory Care and find out what was going on. Once she got through she was put on hold, waited for 15 minutes and hung up.

Would it help, I asked, if I went down to AC and posed the question in person? It might, she said.

Down I went, and all the nurses were apologetic and solicitous. They desperately wanted to help, but the system wouldn’t let them. Has my blood test come back at least?

Yes, it has, sir. But there’s a slight problem: the computer couldn’t read it. What on earth do you mean? My blood, unlike my handwriting, has always been legible.

The young lady didn’t say “shit happens”, but her facial expression did. Yet she didn’t have to prick me again: she could draw blood through the cannula. Another two hours’ wait then? No, they’ll do their best.

At about 1 pm a young urologist turned up, asked me a few perfunctory questions and promised to sort out the mess quickly. That he did, and half an hour later another nurse took me to another imaging department, not the one where I had already bored everybody.

There things went into high gear, and I was loaded into the tube within minutes. However, it turned out that the scan I needed didn’t involve any contrast medium, which meant I didn’t need the bloody cannula in the first place.

Another hour or so later, the urologist appeared bearing good news. Apart from the stone which I’ve had in my kidney for years, all my tests were reassuring. So what about my persistent pain then?

Oh well, he could get me in touch with the NHS clinic where I could be investigated properly. The wall clock was showing 2.30. I thanked him, walked out and rang my GP to ask for that private referral letter.

I spent five-and-a-half hours at the hospital. The two tests plus two chats with the urologist took about 15 minutes. The rest was, well, the NHS. Score another round for them then.

Cultural appropriation is hard to swallow

What do you call a black woman playing a white man in a Shakespeare drama? Progress, a blow for racial and gender equality.

Pukka dish, Jamie, But you’re nicked, sunshine, djamean?

What do you call an English chef cooking curry? Cultural appropriation, a whisker removed from racism.

If you think I’m putting you on, you’ve forgotten an essential feature of modernity. Everything about it is progressive, evidently including its madness.

Apparently, only someone native to the cuisine can produce recipes for it without giving offence. Anyone else, such as Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey, must learn how to negotiate the dire woke straits.

Ramsey can’t string two words together without effing and blinding in his TV show. That, however, doesn’t offend anybody. It’s his new Mayfair restaurant that leaves a bad taste in every woke mouth.

The restaurant is described as an “authentic Asian eating house” even though – brace yourself – it doesn’t employ a single authentic Asian cook. That’s cultural appropriation with a capital C, or rather, this being a Ramsey eatery, with a capital F.

I’d suggest that it’s easier for a British chef to whip up an authentic Asian dish than it is for a black actress to ham up an authentic Hamlet. But, being an inveterate cultural appropriator, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Gordon should follow the lead of his colleague Jamie and hire what the latter tags as “teams of cultural appropriation specialists.” I wonder how often this job description comes up when a little boy is asked what he wants to be when he grows up.

“Well, we don’t want to offend anyone,” Jamie explains. Specifically, he had to discontinue his popular Empire chicken, even though it’s a “bloody good recipe”. The dish is seasoned with turmeric, cumin, coriander and garam masala, and Jamie with his mockney accent demonstrably comes from none of the places known for such spices.

Raymond Blanc is another chef sensitive to the problem. That’s why he seeks advice from natives before cooking any ethnic dish. “It is for us professionals to do that in a manner that is not offensive,” he says.

These chefs speak from experience. Many of their colleagues have found themselves in the soup when offering dishes out of sync with their nativity. Customers get offended, which these days has to mean they seek legal recourse.

I know I sound like a broken record when talking about the madness of modernity, but I can’t find any other explanation. You mean, say, a Tuscan gets mortally offended when the ribolita he orders in a London restaurant isn’t quite like Mama used to make it? And then he reports the chef for cultural appropriation?

I’d say that chap should be served not by chefs but by the men in white coats, but then we’ve already established that no one cares about what I think. Modernity moves on with the inexorable momentum typical of natural forces, and no old reactionary can slow it down.

I remember eating in New York’s Russian Tea Room, only to find that none of its dishes even remotely resembled anything authentically Russian. Yet that was a cause for mirth, not offence.

Nor have I ever been able to get an authentic Tex-Mex meal in either New York or especially London. In both places they use rump steak rather than skirt to make fajitas, which is about as authentic as a young black actress playing King Lear.

And the bagels you get in London aren’t even close to the real NY thing. (Yes, I know one could get real bagels in Bethnal Green, but who wants to schlepp all the way to the East End?)

Should I be calling my solicitor to seek restitution for the multiple traumas I’ve experienced? And what about those poor Pakistanis who find out that so many of their supposedly native dishes actually originate from Birmingham? I weep thinking of the mental anguish they experience every time they order a Balti.

People often ask me if I enjoy cooking. The honest answer is that I cook not because I like to but because, being married to an English woman, I have to. And having done that for 35 years, I’ve become reasonably competent in the kitchen.

Now I shudder to think how many offences I’ve caused over this time. For, in spite of ever having lived in only four countries, Russia, US, Britain and France, I’ve also cooked dishes from Italy (different provinces), Spain (ditto), China (ditto), Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Georgia, Uzbekistan, the West Indies, Peru, Mexico – and I’m sure I’ve left a few out.

That must make me a serial offender, although I’ve never claimed either professional expertise or pristine authenticity. Should I hire a ‘cultural appropriation specialist’ or, alternatively, instruct a lawyer?

One wonders what modernity will throw up next. No use trying to second-guess it – nobody’s imagination is that good.

Putin’s shill is at it again

Peter Hitchens has been spreading Kremlin propaganda for so long that his writing on the subject has become rather formulaic, as his article Poke the Bear and This is What Happens shows yet again.

That poor baited Russian bear

The formula is simple. First, issue a disclaimer, such as today’s: Putin “is nasty, cruel, sinister, intolerant and many other things.” Really? I thought he turned Russia into the most conservative and Christian nation in Europe, which is another one of Hitchens’s mantras.

But never mind, a variation on the theme of Russia’s innocent goodness will come later. Now it’s time for the second part of the formula, branding those who are genuinely scared of Putin’s aggression as ignoramuses who “know nothing of the issue, could not find Odessa on a map and are joining the crowd because they feel safe doing so.”

Third part, preempt inevitable criticism: “For these days, if you don’t join such crowds you will be accused of being a ‘Putin apologist’ and worse.” Such as, well, Putin’s shill.

Then the actual propaganda, which never moves too far from the line peddled by Putin’s Goebbelses: “Putin… has no ideology, racial or social. He has been complaining for years, using every peaceful means, against the expansion of Nato into Eastern Europe. He has asked, quite reasonably, who it is aimed at.”

Had he posed that question to me, he would have received quite a reasonable reply. It is aimed at Russia, or rather against her expansionist ideology Putin and his lot enunciate and practise.

The ideology, far from being nonexistent, is Third Rome chauvinism based on Russia’s divine right to dominate in eternity what used to be her empire. This ideological hymn has been played, at an ever-increasing volume, since the 16th century reign of Ivan III.

Then comes a lie or two. Today it’s more like three.

Lie One: “Russia is not the USSR”. Quite. She merely inherited the entire nuclear arsenal of the USSR, which is what enables her to blackmail the West with an élan that puts even Khrushchev, and certainly Brezhnev, to shame.

That blackmail is an essential part of fulfilling the ideological promise to restore the Soviet empire, which Russia, according to Hitchens, isn’t.

Lie Two develops Lie One: “Nato was set up to deter aggression by the USSR, an empire which ceased to exist 31 years ago… Keeping Nato in existence is like maintaining an alliance against the Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman Empires, which vanished a century ago.”

Russia is not the USSR; she is merely acting like it. To distract observers unsullied by a passion for Putin’s kleptofascism, the likes of Hitchens play with grammar.

They talk about Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine either in the future tense or in the subjunctive mood. People like me, they snigger, claim the invasion of the Ukraine will happen or could happen.

This cunningly ignores the crude, physical fact that it did happen, in 2014, when Putin’s troops grabbed the Crimea and two vast provinces of eastern Ukraine. That act is now treated as a fait accompli, rather than a crime in progress, one that has already claimed 15,000 Ukrainian lives (Russian casualties are unrevealed, or possibly uncounted and therefore unknown).

Lie Three: Russia in her munificence “let go of vast tracts of Asia and Europe”, and in return “the then leaders of the West said they would not expand Nato to the east (a huge archive of documents at George Washington University in the US confirms this).”

No legal document containing such an undertaking exists in that or any other “huge archive”. The legal document that does exist is the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, signed by the US, UK and Russia. It provided “security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan” in return for those countries giving up their Soviet nuclear weapons.

Those terms have been heinously violated by Russia’s 2014 invasion. The two Western signatories hardly covered themselves with glory either. Their security assurances amounted to expressions of concern, rather mild sanctions against Russia and grossly inadequate supplies of arms to the Ukraine.

The summation of all these lies leads to a reiteration of the umbrella lie screamed by the Kremlin with monotonous regularity. Russia is supposed to feel threatened by what Putin’s shills, including Hitchens, call “NATO’s expansion to Eastern Europe” and what was in reality a just — and justified — response to a desperate plea for protection.

Even assuming that the Russians are paranoid, a British journalist shouldn’t be. He must know that NATO was, is and always will be a purely defensive barrier designed to contain Russian aggression.

It has never harboured any offensive plans against Russia. Nor can anyone in his right mind possibly imagine NATO launching a first-strike offensive. Screaming about it from the Kremlin’s towers, however, can be used as a pretext for further Russian aggression.

In 1956 the Soviets drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. I was only nine at the time, but I remember the rumours spread by the KGB and the press, to the effect that Soviet tanks moved in to preempt an invasion of Hungary by American and West German troops. Sound familiar?

Putin’s shills, such as Hitchens, even lack the imagination to come up with a new line. The criminal invasion of the Ukraine in 2014, they keep droning on, was a response to a NATO offensive, or the threat thereof. But those Western villains didn’t suspend their beastly plans. Hence another invasion may be an unfortunate necessity.

Hitchens concludes with a slight paraphrase of that sentiment: “If you poke a bear enough with a sharp stick, he will attack you. When he does, you should perhaps not blame the bear.”

No, of course not. It’s all NATO’s fault, m’lord. It’s America what done it.

Our hands-on government

It was only yesterday that I wrote about the innate bossiness of liberal governments. Hence I’m thankful to HMG for illustrating my point yet again.

Save the cyclists and win a valuable prize

According to a new entry into the Highway Code, drivers will be fined £1,000 if they or their passengers open the car door with the wrong hand. That is supposed to reduce the number of cyclists injured thereby from the current toll of 500 a year.

“Where you are able to do so,” says the Code, “you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. You are then more likely to avoid causing injury to cyclists or motor cyclists passing you on the road, or to people on the pavement.”

This is called ‘Dutch Reach’, after the nation that has pioneered so many modern perversions. Except that, as any visitor to Amsterdam will confirm, there this rule may not be quite as perverse as all that.

Amsterdam (and most other Dutch cities), especially around the canals, is ill-suited for cars. The streets are too narrow, and when a single car has to stop for whatever reason, drivers behind it can’t get to the red light district in time for the first show.

That makes cycling a natural alternative, and the country has developed a culture of moving on two wheels rather than four. Even their queen has often been photographed riding a bike, to reassure her subjects on her egalitarian credentials.

Our Queen, God bless her, rides horses, not bikes. Or else she drives or is driven. That serves as a useful reminder of the difference between England and Holland – and between the two countries’ urban environments.

Toy Dutch cities are beautiful, in a bijou sort of way. Yet little about them suggests that Holland used to be a mighty empire. London, on the other hand, is unmistakably an imperial capital, even though the empire is long since gone.

Many of its streets are wide enough for a driver to open his door with the nearer hand without risking anybody’s life and limb — especially if he uses the side mirrors God created partly for this use.

Moreover, Britain has a car culture of long standing, with most Londoners (unlike, say, New Yorkers or Parisians) owning cars and knowing how to use them safely. That’s why we have half as many road fatalities per capita as Holland, for all her love affair with the bicycle.

In any case, 500 cyclists a year injured by car doors doesn’t sound excessive, considering that London alone is cursed with almost a million bike rides every day. This, though it’s as unsuited to bicycles as Amsterdam is to cars.

Yet the bicycle isn’t just a mode of urban transportation. It’s an ideology, and many of its adherents smugly claim a high moral ground. The ideology is multifarious, including elements of class envy and ecofanaticism.

All socialist governments, which nowadays means all governments, have waged war on cars for decades. This goes back to the time when only the wealthy could own their Jags and Jensens, and they looked down on pedestrians and cyclists.

That’s no longer the case, as you can confirm by casting a glance at the car park of any council estate. From personal observation, you’ll see more pricey motors there than in some of Paris’s upmarket arrondissements. (That’s another cultural difference: unlike Parisians, Londoners love their cars and are prepared to pay more for them. Parisians, on the other hand, spend much more on food.)

But memories of class envy linger in the brain areas from which reason is barred. I’ve heard university professors make envious, and misplaced, noises about my wealth on the basis of the 3-Series BMW I drive, and such sentiments are encouraged by government officials.

Ecofanaticism is another constituent of the war on cars. Like most foolhardy initiatives, this one misses its declared mark by a wide margin.

Cars emit much less carbon when they move at a sensible speed, as opposed to crawling along or sitting in jams. That’s exactly what they do when traffic in our cities is suffocated by cycle lanes, bus lanes, traffic islands, speed bumps and punitively low speed limits.

Our government clearly sees car drivers as a cash cow to milk or, tautologically, to fleece. Taxes on cars outpace all others, and London drivers are hit with a £15 charge for driving into the city centre even on weekends. Moreover, owners of older non-electric vehicles have to pay daily charges in the vastly greater area within the circular road.

The door fine reflects all these aspects of anti-car despotism: class envy, ecofanaticism and extortion. But I do detect a silver lining there, shining bright through the clouds of liberal totalitarianism.

Things can’t be as bad as I think for the government to direct its attention to such trivial matters. Inflation rate going up, education heading in the opposite direction, the Treasury printing and borrowing promiscuously, healthcare approaching the level of Zaire, the system of collective security about  to collapse – none of these is evidently as serious as naysayers like me claim.

So why stop at mandating the door-opening technique? There’s so much more to be done.

For example, coupés should be banned because they have bigger doors than sedans, which puts cyclists and pedestrians in mortal danger. Windowsill flower pots should be another target: they can fall off, causing quite a few headaches. And don’t get me started on ambulances, fire engines and police cars which don’t have to obey speed limits. Out with all of them, I say.

Every day deepens my sense of unreality, as if I’m watching a sci-fi TV film whose plot I can’t quite follow. Where’s the red button on that bloody remote?

P.S. On the same subject, scanning the headlines the other day, I noticed that many of them screamed the DEATH OF MEAT LOAF. The news saddened me because I quite like that dish, especially with a spicy tomato sauce.

However, it turned out that gastronomy had nothing to do with it. Meat Loaf was some kind of pop celebrity, meaning that I’ve never heard of him. Do you ever get the feeling that life is passing you by? I do, all the time.

Biden gives Putin the thumbs up

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a US president utter anything quite so cretinous and subversive as Biden’s statement the other day.

How will America respond to Russia’s impending attack on the Ukraine? That was one of the first questions asked at the press conference, and surely it was entirely predictable.

Biden’s coaches must have drilled the appropriate reply into his mind, but their pedagogic efforts went to waste. For Biden effectively encouraged Putin to invade.

“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades,” he said. “And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.”

And who will judge whether the incursion is minor or major, Joe? For example, if the Russians annex Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city, would that qualify as minor? Compared to Kiev, it doubtless would be.

That sends an unmistakable message to Putin: Go ahead, Vlad. As long as you don’t occupy the whole country and hang President Zelensky off the steeple of Kiev’s Saint Sophia, you’ll get nothing worse than a gentle rap on the wrist.

Biden’s craven idiocy reminds me of the old communist dogma about the historical insignificance of any person running a country. History, you see, unfolds according to its own unbreakable laws, and no one can make it deviate from the course thus charted.

Like all Marxism (and any other secular determinism), this is demonstrable bilge. However, if pressed, I might accept that the personality of a leader doesn’t matter very much during an historical lull.

However, during a storm, especially one of hurricane strength, a strong hand on the tiller can make all the difference. If we fearlessly entered the subjunctive territory, we could perhaps suggest that the French Revolution might not have happened had France been ruled by Louis XIV, not Louis XVI.

Had England, France, Germany and Russia had different personages at the helm in 1914, neither world war might have broken out, and the two most satanic regimes in history might not have crawled out of the swamp. And if Churchill rather Chamberlain had been prime minister in 1938… well, you get the message.

It’s vital that a country, and especially an alliance of several countries, should be led by strong, intelligent, resolute men at critical historical junctures. We are at such a juncture at present, and we have a feeble-minded, weak-kneed leftie as the Leader of the Free World.

I’m surprised that only 47 per cent of Americans think that Biden is mentally unfit for the job. Half as many think he’s fine, with the others unsure one way or the other.

Chaps, even Joe’s mother, God rest her soul, would have told you her boy wasn’t especially bright even when he was still in full command of his faculties, such as they were.

Now he is so obviously demented that one has to hope he’s strictly a figurehead, with somebody more competent pulling the strings. A forlorn hope, I know, but dum spiro spero, as the Romans used to say, and the motto of South Carolina still does.

Those who think the Ukraine has nothing to do with them keep repeating Chamberlain’s philistine mantra about that faraway land that’s none of our concern. They, and also Joe, should remember the lines written by two great poets, one English, the other German:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man/ is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; /if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe/ is the less…”

And:

“Of freedom and of life he only is deserving/ Who every day must conquer them anew.”

Yes I know, Joe, one is a limey, the other a kraut, and neither nationality is on your list of favourites. But strain what’s left of your brain and try to understand that Putin’s aggression isn’t just the Ukraine’s problem. It’s not just her freedom that’s under threat, but also ours.

Our totalitarian liberals

Let’s follow the wisdom of Greek rhetoricians and agree on the terms of discussion.

It’s generally believed that the West has historically featured three types of governance: authoritarian, totalitarian and liberal-democratic.

The first is typified by all Western monarchies of old, various South American states and countries like, say, Franco’s Spain or Salazar’s Portugal. The second term usually describes Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and the Soviet Union along with all its satellites. And then there are the modern Western countries that all proudly wear the tag of liberal democracy.

Now, I don’t accept this taxonomy. My contention is that there really are only two types of states, not three. The true line of demarcation separates traditional authoritarian states from modern ones, either totalitarian or liberal. These two sub-types, different though they may be in variously important details, are closer than people think in their philosophical and, if you will, intuitive foundations.

Proceeding from terminology to observation, we all notice in today’s liberal West tyrannical practices that used to be associated with totalitarian states only. Suppression of free speech, banning of books, persecution of people for what they say and increasingly think, imposition of ideological uniformity, ever-increasing power of central government – you can extend this list at your leisure.

Yes, everybody notices such things. Yet most people believe they are perversions of liberalism, which is where I diverge from majority opinion. I regard liberalism and totalitarianism as Siamese twins separated at birth. This degree of kinship presupposes inordinate mutual affinity and an inclination towards ever-growing proximity.

In other words, because liberalism is close to totalitarianism, it reaches out to it by cultivating the totalitarian aspects of its own DNA that have hitherto been more or less suppressed.

Actually, we aren’t quite done with terms. I’d like to introduce another one, which designates the crosshatched area on which liberalism and totalitarianism overlap: anomie.

It derives from the Greek word nomos, the sum total of traditions, creeds, conventions, natural injunctions, customs, mores and morality that have been passed on from one generation to the next for centuries. Anomie thus signifies the abandonment and debauchment of all such things.

The traditional and only possible depository of nomos is the family, along with familial institutions patterned after it: parish, clan, neighbourhood, guild, township, village and so forth. Such bodies come together by free association, and they lie outside the political realm. In fact, they act as gaskets separating and protecting private individuals from political tyranny.

Thus there is a fair amount of organic, as opposed to political, pluralism built into authoritarian societies. The king (president, prince, duke etc.) neither has nor wishes to acquire control over nomos, which makes his control of the populace limited.

Authoritarian states monopolise central political power, but, as power radiates towards the periphery, it’s absorbed and attenuated by nomos. In such states of yesteryear, nomos had a mighty protector: the church, the guardian of the kingdom that is not of this world.

When Christ used that phrase, he effectively separated the political realm from his own, which in the West produced, protected or at least underpinned much of nomos. As long as people left national politics to the central state, the state was satisfied or at least had to act as if it was.

Liberalism appeared as a child of the Enlightenment, which misnomer designates a revolution against the church and the nomos intertwined with it. The revolt was merciless and all-encompassing, treading underfoot not just the church, monarchy and aristocracy, but also all institutions capable of claiming generational, dynastic, cultural or apostolic succession going back centuries.

That means that every sanctuary of nomos was ripped apart: revolutions are by definition mortal enemies of tradition. The West became anomic, with every synapse of the traditional ganglion snipped either immediately or over time.

Falling by the wayside was the established concept of man as a creature corrupted by original sin, whose purpose in life was to overcome that handicap by virtuous exercise of free will. Instead, the liberal state adopted a raft of variations on the Rousseauian fallacy of the inherent goodness of man. The ideal the liberal state sees in its mind’s eye is the noble sauvage, his slate clear of nomos, a tabula rasa readily inscribable with liberal messages.

Man was no longer driven by nomos. His supposedly innate goodness unleashed and encouraged by liberalism, he was ready to rebuild the world in its image. He was cast adrift and made to chuck overboard the ballast of nomos.   

Gone with it was the ancient separation between the realms. The liberal political state is innately expansionist, seeking to subjugate and eventually absorb nomos, whatever is left of it. One dire consequence of the Enlightenment was the thorough politicising of life, with the power of the central state usurping ancient localism.

That is a feature of all liberal states, and in fact the bloodiest conflict in American history, the Civil War, was fought to overcome residual resistance to runaway political centralisation. The liberal state is dirigiste by definition.

So of course is the totalitarian state. It too seeks to extend the power of the political realm ad infinitum (“Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state,” was how Mussolini expressed this aspiration). It too correctly identifies traditional nomos as its deadly enemy. It too concocts a bogus ideal that must by fiat supersede custom and convention.

That similarity of purpose between the liberal and totalitarian states overshadows the divergence of their methods. Both are equally anomic, but they tend to enforce anomie differently.

The totalitarian state is more impetuous and impatient. It wants everything and it wants it straight away. This is bound to produce resistance, and resistance is bound to produce violence.

The liberal state is a believer in natural and ineluctable progress, covering not just things like science and technology, but the very essence of man. If violence is the only way of making sure people don’t deviate from that straight path, then the liberal state won’t be above it. But by and large it prefers to seduce people, not rape them.

Both the liberal and totalitarian states are aware of their natural affinity, as they are of their shared enmity towards the traditional state with its nomos. That’s why an authoritarian state is hardly ever directly followed by a totalitarian one. Such states, be that Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, tend to come out of the liberal antecedent the way Eve came out of Adam’s rib.

It’s instructive to compare the liberals’ feelings towards, say, Stalin’s Russia and Franco’s Spain. When the heinous crimes of the Soviets became public knowledge (or rather when that knowledge could no longer be suppressed), the liberals feigned indignation, and some might actually have felt let down. But that was nothing compared to the visceral hatred they spewed on Franco’s authoritarian regime.

The former was a wayward friend gone awry. The latter was the devil incarnate.

I remember first hearing the term ‘political correctness’, back in the 1980s. The noun didn’t surprise me: everything liberals believed in was ipso facto correct. But why was it political?

Why was saying things like chairperson instead of chairman politically, rather than, say, morally, ethically or socially, correct? But of course my amazement was misplaced. Correctness is political as a part of the general tendency to dissolve and thereby expunge whatever is left of nomos in the political realm. It is political because everything is political, or should be.

What we are witnessing today is an accelerating convergence of liberalism and totalitarianism. The anomic twins separated at birth are coming back together. And while I tend to shy away from playing Cassandra, I can confidently predict that this convergence will be getting more and more pronounced. We are in for a rough ride.

How would you illustrate good and evil to a child?

Suppose you taught religious education to children. Personally, I wouldn’t because the subject is ill-defined.

I’d happily (if hypothetically) teach Christianity or Bible studies, but how on earth does one teach religion in general? No such thing exists. There are only separate, distinct religions, each with its own view of God, man or, as the case may be, God-man.

Comparative religious studies is a proper academic subject, but surely only for universities. Children should first be taught the religion that formed our civilisation.

Then perhaps the tail end of the curriculum, say 10 per cent, could be devoted to creeds that are as central to other civilisations as they are marginal to ours. I’d even go so far as to explain that our religion isn’t just different from others but better, but I do realise that such supremacism may well be a criminal offence in today’s climate.

That objection aside, imagine teaching RE to 11-year-olds. Sooner or later the subject of good and evil is bound to come up, and every teacher knows how useful visual aids can be.

What would be yours? No, don’t tell me. Both the mythology and history of Christianity provide enough illustrations to last Methuselah his lifetime, and I’m sure you’d easily find an appropriate polarity there.

However, I’d venture a guess that your two examples, whatever they are, wouldn’t be the same as those an RE teacher at Stoke-on-Trent offered his little pupils.

He showed them an animation, and so far so good. His charges were brought up on cartoons, and they could more easily grasp notions presented in that format.

Yet venturing another guess, I doubt the cartoons they watched at home were full of four-letter words – and I don’t mean ‘love’ ‘good’ or ‘evil’. This one was, though, to be fair, the teacher forewarned the tots in the style of film classifications: “strong language from the onset”.

The video then quickly went into Taoism, whose fine points any 11-year-old presumably must grasp to have any hope of cultural survival in Stoke. Hence there followed a juxtaposition of yin and yang as two complementary forces, although perhaps illustrating such an interaction by the person of Christ would have been more apposite.

In that Asian context, the children were asked to imagine the best and worst things in the world. Having given them a few seconds to ponder, the video then proposed its own, correct, version.

Cheese toast was given as the embodiment of absolute good, while absolute evil was illustrated with a picture of a dildo studded with razor blades.

In fact, about half of the four-minute video included images of sex toys, most of them less evil than the razor-studded one. Those sequences were interspersed with frames showing Jesus Christ reading Playboy (the picture above).

Every teacher knows that the best way of introducing new concepts is to build on the foundation of knowledge the audience possesses already. In this case, the working assumption must have been that those 11-year-olds were familiar with sex aids, in theory or perhaps even in practice. They could also be expected to be intimately familiar with Playboy and other similar publications.

Yet even supposing that today’s tots are as precocious as that, I’d suggest that perhaps such knowledge shouldn’t be encouraged, certainly not in RE classes. Anyway, judging by the reaction of the pupils and their parents, that visual material caught both groups unawares, causing quite some shock.

Protests ensued, the locum teacher responsible was reprimanded, and the school apologised for the offence caused. However, reports of the incident show that the protests were half-hearted, and the apology perfunctory.

One heard no demands that the teacher involved be imprisoned, and the school itself shut down for moral and intellectual fumigation. No one extrapolated beyond Stoke to cry civilisational havoc and let slip the dogs of war. The overall tone was that of regret, rather than rage.

We no longer have any dogs of war to let slip. We have, and put up with, other dogs, those to which the West is going. A civilisation in which that incident could be possible, or even imagined, may or may not deserve to survive. But it’s a dead certainty that it won’t.

P.S. A TV commentator described a tennis player at the Australian Open as ‘stylistic’, meaning stylish. Oh if only our schools taught English, rather than condom and dildo studies.

P.P.S. Speaking of Australia, say what you will about the draconian, liberty-defying measures imposed by the country’s government, but please don’t say they don’t work. Compared to Britain, Australia has suffered one-twentieth the number of Covid deaths per million.

Tell me who Johnson’s friends are…

…and I’ll tell you: “Sack him.”

We are waxing indignant about the unauthorised BYOB shindig at 10 Downing Street, and fair enough: that was an appalling lapse of judgement.

Having said that, even more appalling are our media with their never-ending parade of lachrymose diatribes from wronged Britons, along the lines of “I couldn’t even say good-bye to my dying mother, and there they were…”

We get the point, chaps, just one or two illustrations would have sufficed. The PM is crass, insensitive and divorced from the reality we common folk inhabit. A sacking offence? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. I’d sack him anyway, even if he had led a suitably monastic existence throughout the lockdown.

For me the issue of Boris Johnson became an open and shut case when he elevated to the Lords Evgeniy Lebedev, who co-owns, with his father Alexander, several British newspapers. Lebedev père bankrolled the purchases, with no one especially interested in the source of his wealth.

It wouldn’t have taken an extensive investigation to find out. Alexander is a career KGB officer, one in the long line of KGB gangsterish ‘oligarchs’ whose godfather sits in the Kremlin. His millions were a little stream in the mighty flood of Russian cash flowing into the veins of our body economic and infecting it with contagions much worse than Covid.

Many of these ‘oligarchs’ live in England; some, like Lebedev, even become citizens. All of them know how to cultivate useful friendships with politicians. Their methods are as old as the hills: lavish parties and even more lavish donations to the party coffers (I’m talking strictly about legal methods).

Their road to British respectability is paved with ill-gotten gold, and they seldom fail to get to that destination. Yet even I was surprised when Johnson conferred a peerage on the scion of a KGB spying family. That was it, I thought. I would have fired him there and then.

Now it turns out that two of his other Russian friends and, coincidentally, Tory donors, are in charge of the project guaranteed to make Britain even more dependent on foreign sources for her energy.

The friends in question are Alexander Temerko, who has donated £730,000 to the Tories, and Victor Fedotov (a mere £500,000). The two gentlemen are controllers of Aquind Limited, a company that is awaiting government approval on its £1.2 billion project to lay a power and communication cable plugging Britain into the French grid.

Both of them have links to the Russian oil and gas industry, which means to organised crime, which means the KGB/FSB, which means Putin. Temerko also used to head an armament company owned by the Russian government, which seldom supplies weapons to our friends.

I was particularly moved by the stories of the intimate friendship between Alexander Temerko and Boris Johnson, né Alexander. Apparently they call each other ‘Sasha’, which is the Russian diminutive of their name.

The deal with Aquind is wrong on more levels than one can find in an average skyscraper.

First, energy is a vital strategic resource, and a serious country must do her utmost to be strategically self-sufficient. If that’s not possible, at least foreign energy suppliers should be seen as our reliable long-term friends. France, which has already tried to blackmail Britain with EDF electricity, doesn’t quite qualify – and a company owned by Messrs Temerko and Fedotov definitely doesn’t.

Second, though I don’t know if Johnson has facilitated this deal directly, Temerko’s close friendship with the PM couldn’t have hurt. Or does Johnson think Temerko and his millions are drawn to his insouciant sense of humour and enviable erudition in matters classical? No ulterior motives, not even teensy-weensy ones?

To her credit, my favourite government official, trade minister Penny Mordaunt, is trying to stop the deal in its tracks. She correctly feels that this increased dependence on foreign suppliers will further jeopardise our energy security.

She doesn’t cite Johnson’s friendship with shady Russian characters as another reason for demurring. That’s understandable: he is, after all, her boss.

Since I don’t owe Johnson any such institutional loyalty, I don’t mind saying that I’d sack him just for such links – and never mind the odd ill-advised drink.

We don’t realise to what extent our institutions, both political and financial, are penetrated by foreign criminals. Pecunia non olet is the governing principle of our powers that be, but money, especially if originally denominated in roubles, does smell.

It reeks of criminal corruption, moral decay, intellectual myopia and enmity to everything Britain should stand for. Not exactly the qualities one would like to rub off on our leaders.

A stench of war is in the air

On 26 November, 1939, seven artillery shells hit the Soviet outpost at Mainila on the border with Finland.

The Soviets immediately blamed Finland for this act of aggression. Four days later Stalin’s hordes launched a full offensive, aiming to rape Finland the way they had already raped the three Baltic republics. These were the territories Stalin considered his own following his criminal Pact with Hitler.

The incident was the pretext the Soviets needed to add a veneer of legality to their international banditry. Hence they claimed that it was the Finns who had shelled Mainila.

Yet the evidence was incontrovertible: shell fragments disperse in the direction of the trajectory, which in that case came from the south, not the north. Moreover, the Finns didn’t have a single artillery position within range of Mainila.

That was a classic example of a false-flag operation, and the inspiration must have come from the Nazis’ attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, which they blamed on the Poles and used as the casus belli. The two allies freely exchanged ideas at the time, and it’s good to see that their spirit lives on.

Last week the US published a CIA report saying that the Russians are planning a false-flag attack on one of their cities as a prelude to their tanks rolling across the Ukraine’s border.

Typically, such reports are kept under wraps until after the event. Making them public at this point looked like a desperate last-ditch attempt to prevent the offensive. It was as if the Americans were saying to Putin: “We are on to you”.

Then in the early hours of last Friday, many Ukrainian government websites were hit by a coordinated cyberattack. After several hours the sites were brought back to life, but the attack had every look of a dress rehearsal.

The National Bank was among the targets, with the hackers issuing a personalised warning: “Ukrainian! All your personal data are uploaded on a single network. Once the data are wiped out, they aren’t restorable. All your personal information is now public – expect the worst and be afraid.”

I’m beginning to think that Putin wants more than just to blackmail the West into concessions. He wants war. Otherwise Russia’s demands to the West would have been couched in some sort of civilised terms, making it possible for Western appeasers to consider them.

As it was, the demands smacked, in both essence and style, not so much of diplomatic protocol as of a gangster’s ultimatum, along the lines of “if you ever want to see your children again…”.

The Russian dictator regards the West as his country’s existential enemy, and the world as too small for both. In case the West wasn’t quite getting the message, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry helpfully translated from diplomatic into colloquial. “The West,” he said, “should pack its bags and get back to the 1997 borders of NATO”.

The other day, Vice Speaker of the Duma Pyotr Tolstoy, a member of Putin’s United Russia party, put the overall strategy in a nutshell. Russia, he announced, must restore the erstwhile Empire within its borders. Annex a number of former Soviet republics for starters, he explained, and the Baltics and Finland will then realise their own “nullity” and “crawl in by themselves”.

The Winter War that followed the Mainila incident, which cost 500,000 Russian lives, should have disabused Putin’s mouthpiece of such grandiose plans. In fact, Finland is reversing her opposition to joining NATO, while the Baltics are already members. 

None of these countries will “crawl in by themselves”. They’ll fight to the last man, leaving NATO two options only. Either it stops the international gangster or disbands, eliminating the system of collective security that has served Europe so well since 1945, and leaving the continent at the mercy of Putin’s kleptofascist regime.

The signs that NATO may have to face that stark choice are multiplying every day. Russian heavy armaments are being moved westwards from the Far Eastern and Siberian areas – just as they were in 1941, when Moscow was about to fall.

Unknown drones have been overflying Sweden, and the country has reinforced patrols around her largest island, Gotland. Ann Lena Hallin, Director of Military Intelligence, says that “at the moment, Sweden’s safety situation is far from normal”.

Norway is feeling uneasy too. A few days ago one of the two underwater Internet cables connecting the mainland to the Spitsbergen archipelago was severed.

As a deliberate throwback to the 1962 Cuban crisis, the Russians are threatening to install ICBMs in Cuba and, this time, also in Venezuela. Even though the Americans are more inclined towards appeasement now than they were then, they promised to respond to that development in all seriousness, and for once I believe them. No US president will stay in office if he fails to react to that slap in the face of the Monroe Doctrine.

When Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was asked to clarify Russia’s position on another potential Cuban crisis, he left the matter open: “I will neither confirm nor deny anything.” Putin, he added, “has mentioned many times how, for example, the Russian navy may respond to America’s provocations and ratcheted military pressure”.

This is another case of a thief screaming “Stop thief!” as he runs away from his pursuers. There have been no American provocations, and no military pressure has been ratcheted up. Putin and his stooges are lying through their teeth.

The moment Eastern European countries shook off the yoke of Soviet tyranny, they came under pressure from Russia to come back into the fold. In response, they applied for NATO membership, hoping that would save them from new carnage.

By 1997 NATO agreed that 10 countries, including the Baltics, satisfied membership requirements. No one forced or bribed them into NATO – they desperately sought protection from their Eastern neighbour, and, unlike the West, they didn’t have much faith in Russia’s democratic transformation.

NATO only began to enlarge its presence in the east after Russia’s 2014 aggression against the Ukraine. That organisation has always been, and still remains, strictly defensive, set up to protect Europe and the West in general from predatory Russia.

Putin’s Goebbelses are meanwhile whipping up war hysteria, capitalising on the old Russian paranoia about being “encircled by enemies”. That too is a lie.

Only five NATO countries border on Russia, covering just about six per cent of the country’s perimeter. That hardly amounts to encirclement, does it?

People who really understand Russia have known all along that the empire President Reagan so aptly described as “evil” has never really gone away. Yet even those without such extensive knowledge ought to realise that, one way or the other, the evil empire is here now.

The world is on the brink of war, and only an immediate show of resolve and force can stop the evildoers. Westerners, including my readers, must realise that international fascistic gangsters always have designs far exceeding their ostensible claims.

When Putin’s regime pounced on Georgia and the Ukraine, the West merely responded with token sanctions and “expressions of concern”. The present situation fraught with mortal danger is a direct result of that craven acquiescence.

Should the West allow Putin to rape the Ukraine again, the turn of NATO members will come next. At some point a military response will become unavoidable, and God help us then.

Alas, history is a poor teacher – or rather people are truant pupils. All lessons fall on deaf ears, and we’ve learned nothing from Chamberlain’s “quarrel in a far-away country, between people of whom we know nothing”.

We are too ignorant and lackadaisical to realise that, if the Ukraine falls, the UK won’t remain safe for ever. History is screaming parallels, yet nobody hears the screams.

Is you is or is you ain’t our future PM, Angie?

That Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner denies the very possibility of social mobility is par for the course. As a raving socialist, she has to believe in an ossified class structure.

Northern lass, gobbing off

Anyone born working class remains working class for life – that’s an article of faith for her ilk. Never mind that we could all cite numerous examples of people moving up or down the social scale. When ideology barges in, reality flees.

What’s rather odd in a socialist fanatic is her utter contempt for comprehensive education, which is an icon for every left-thinking person. Comprehensive education, she believes, means comprehensive illiteracy. It don’t teach nothing to nobody.

To be fair to the self-described “fiery, ballsy, gobby Northern lass”, she didn’t express either belief in so many words. Both, however, can be inferred easily and ineluctably from what she did say.

Angie seems to regard illiteracy as a virtue, a badge of class honour. And she practises what she preaches.

The other day she launched another one of her vituperative (if not exactly unfounded) attacks on Boris Johnson. “Was you there or not at the party?”, she kept repeating. In fact, her insistence on that usage throughout shows that it wasn’t an unfortunate slip of the tongue. She really doesn’t have a clue about the conjugation of the verb ‘to be’.

Amazingly her consistent solecisms drew a lot of criticism. Since I can’t imagine any tweedy member of White’s watching Angie’s BBC interview, the Twitted criticism must have come from her natural constituency.

That in no way mitigated her indignant response in the same medium: “I wasn’t Eton-educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn’t mater [sic] how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.”

Now, integrity, honesty and decency aren’t recognised academic subjects. English is, and logic used to be. So it does ‘mater’ how you say it and spell it. Angie’s response is an illiterate non sequitur, even though I may agree with her conclusion.

As a gesture of geographical loyalty, Angie established her credentials by becoming a grandmother still in her 30s. She could use that fact to ward off any accusation of ‘poshness’ if she spoke grammatically. There’s no need also to sound like a Dickensian urchin.

Going back to my original two inferences, they seem to be unassailable.

First, Angie clearly believes that “growing up in Stockport” (that is, being working class) precludes any possibility of future advancement, social, cultural or educational. Second, she is effectively saying that no school below the level of Eton, and certainly no comprehensive school, can teach its pupils to say ‘you were’, rather than ‘you was’.

Now, I despise the very idea of comprehensive schools hatched by Angie’s ideological brethren. Yet even I have never launched such a scathing attack on this egalitarian nonsense. It’s true that most youngsters thus educated emerge as functional illiterates. But that doesn’t mean such an outcome is predetermined, inevitable or universal.

In fact, I know several Northern lasses who speak with faultless grammar, if with a slight regional accent. In fact, the husband of one of such lasses comes from a similar background, which doesn’t prevent him from speaking and writing some of the best English in these Isles.

I myself went to a school where most boys carried knives or knuckledusters and hardly ever had a square meal that would be recognised as such even in Stockport. Yet I knew how ‘to be’ conjugated when I was about 10. And oh, did I forget to mention that my school was quite a bit north of Stockport, in Moscow, where English was taught as a second language?

Here’s a harrowing thought: if a general election were held today, and if the current Labour lead in the polls were reflected in the number of seats, Angie would have a senior ministerial post. This obscenely illiterate class warrior would be in a position to decide how a great nation is to be governed.

Call me a reactionary, but when my wife Penelope was a little girl someone like Angie wouldn’t even have got a secretarial job in the City. This makes me question my previous sentence.

Just how great is a nation where such a nincompoop, long on ideology, short on brains, is allowed to get anywhere near Westminster as anything other than a tourist? Or, to rephrase perhaps more accurately, how long will such a nation remain great even assuming it still is?

Please don’t answer that. I don’t want to get any more upset than I already am.