I’m sorry, comprehensive WHAT?

This little piece is dedicated to the cherished memory of Anthony Crosland, Labour Secretary of State for Education, 1964-1970.

Mowglis on the prowl

Early in his tenure, in 1965, he made a solemn promise: “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales, and Northern Ireland.”

To use Mr Crosland’s chosen socialist idiom, this spelled the dawn of a new era, that of comprehensive schools. As we speak, they make up 90 per cent of all schools in Britain, which means Mr Crosland fulfilled 90 per cent of his promise – a remarkable success rate for a politician.

Until then, Britain’s state education had been the envy of the world. Since then, it has become its laughing stock.

About 25 per cent of all children used to go to grammar schools, where they were educated very well. Some of the most erudite people I’ve ever met are grammar school alumni.

The second tier of schools were called secondary modern, and they mostly prepared pupils for the rough-and-tumble of quotidian life, equipping them with the essential knowledge and skills. The separation between the tiers was determined on the basis of 11+ examinations.

However, some children are late bloomers. In recognition of this observable fact, the system remained fluid, and the ablest secondary modern pupils were often promoted to grammar schools. Again, I know several quite brilliant people who made that shift to great effect.

Britain was then one of the best-educated countries in the world. However, good education that system might have been, but it was bad ideology. Mr Crosland and his fellow socialists hated it because it didn’t “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, to quote from the founding document of the first modern, which is to say incipiently egalitarian, state.

Since the socialists ran the show even more then than they do now, they merged grammar and secondary modern schools together in the name of “comprehensive education”. The designation is half-right: it’s indeed comprehensive.

Over half a century later, Britain has succeeded in breeding two generations of Mowglis, deracinated creatures as thoroughly divorced from civilisation as Kipling’s lad raised by a pack of wolves.

The other day some kind soul shot a video of random youngsters, late teenage to early twenties by the looks of them, being asked the kind of questions that shouldn’t unduly trouble any school leaver. The youngsters represented the demographic and ethnic cross-section of our population. None of them looked mentally retarded.

To let you judge how successful Anthony Crosland’s mission has been, here’s a sample of the questions and answers.

“How many countries in the UK?” “One. The UK.”

“When did World War II end?” “1974.”

“Name the continents.” “London.” “I don’t know what a continent is.” “Spain?”

“What is the official language of the USA?” “American, innit?” “There isn’t one.”

“What’s the capital of America?” “New York.” “I don’t really know. Detroit?”

“Who bombed Pearl Harbour?” “Is it America?” “Where?” “Osama Bin Laden.” “Russia.”

“Who did the Americans beat in the Revolutionary War?” “Russia.” “Was it like East America against West America?” “Germany?” “France.” “Japan.” “Vietnam.” “It was Americans, innit?”

“Spell ‘unnecessary’.” “Bro, I can’t even spell it, man. You spell it.”

“What’s three cubed?” “Seven.”

If we define success as achieving the desired objective, then we shouldn’t describe comprehensive education as a failure. The socialists have produced exactly the result for which their levelling loins ached: a malleable, brainwashable herd ready to be putty in their hands.

But you know the scary thing? All those youngsters were of voting age. The country’s future – yours and mine – is in their hands. If you’re curious to find out what this future will be, move from Kipling to Huxley and Orwell.  

We need a global quarantine

The world is being threatened by a blight, and the only salvation lies in isolating its source. No, I’m not talking about Covid. Everyone is aware of that threat, even though not everyone draws the same conclusions.

The deadly menace in question is Putin’s Russia, and the real possibility that she might plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust. This isn’t scaremongering but a sober attempt to analyse the situation.

To wit: last week Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov, an old KGB hand, threatened that Russia was ready to cut ties with the EU, and the West in general, should serious sanctions be imposed. However, Western commentators failed to pay due attention to the threat, especially its last sentence. This is what Lavrov said (the emphasis is mine):

“We do not want to be isolated from global life, but we must be prepared for this. If you want peace, then prepare for war.”

When the Russian government was asked to clarify the last sentence, Putin’s spokesman Peskov explained that Lavrov didn’t mean that the way it sounded. He simply meant Russia should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

That’s not giving Lavrov the credit he deserves: he uses words precisely and advisedly. His message is indeed a not-so-veiled threat of war.

When Russia dismissed contemptuously the EU’s threat of sanctions over the poisoning and then imprisonment of Navalny, she was sending a coded message that today’s Alan Turings failed to decipher.

They interpreted it as Russia’s movement towards self-isolation. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Putin’s Russia, just like Lenin’s and Stalin’s, doesn’t want to isolate herself from the world. She seeks to remake it in her own image.

To that end, Russia systematically undermines the post-war world order based on international law, respect for human rights and a lattice of treaties. This system is far from perfect, and it leaves much room for abuse. But at least it establishes a framework within which countries may be brought to account without resorting to military force.

As the unwarranted invasion of Iraq in 2003 showed, some Western countries may practise a rather selective approach to international law. Yet that’s widely seen as an aberration, a regrettable deviation from the norm. This implies that a norm exists.

But not for Putin’s kleptofascists. They strive to plant a bomb under the West, and they rate their chances of success quite high. Hence their new-found respect, not to say admiration, for Hitler and Mussolini I wrote about the other day.

Like those gentlemen, Putin wants to create a new world order, one cleansed of any commitment to legality, non-violence and human rights. His rhetoric resembles Hitler’s almost verbatim.

Hitler ranted about the humiliation of Versailles and how the plutocratic, decadent, soulless West stamped Germany into the dirt. Putin’s equivalent is a stock phrase he has been uttering for at least the past 15 years: Russia must get up from her knees.

The cause of said genuflection is identified as the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, “the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”, as Putin describes it. Worse, in other words, than the two world wars and the Bolshevik revolution that proceeded to murder 60 million people.

And the agent of Russia’s kneeling shame? Why, the plutocratic, decadent, soulless West of course. After all, historically all Western aspirations can be reduced to one: bringing Russia to her knees and keeping her there.

The logical reaction to such beastliness is counterattacking the West with the objective of blowing up its world order. To that end Russia is assuming the role of a schoolyard bully who abuses bespectacled teachers’ pets, brushing aside their protests with “Oh yeah? So what are you gonna do about it?”

What are you, Mr West, going to do about Russia turning into a global Mafia state? Laundering trillions through your own institutions? Corrupting your politicians and indeed political systems? Annexing, against every international law, the Crimea, along with large chunks of Georgia and the Ukraine? Conducting a brutal campaign in Syria? Poisoning and otherwise dispatching people, including Western citizens, on your territory? Using nuclear and chemical weapons to do so? Ignoring your international laws? Imprisoning anyone Russia wishes despite loud protests all over the world?

Nothing? Well then, that proves that the rickety world order so dear to you is tottering. One slight push and it’ll collapse altogether.

The nature of the push isn’t hard to predict. When Putin and his gang decide that the West is sufficiently enfeebled and demoralised, Russia will test the waters by attacking a Nato member, most probably one of the Baltics.

It’s possible that a one-off use of tactical nuclear weapons will act as a question posed to the West: Are you ready to risk an all-out nuclear conflict? You are not? Splendid. So this is how it’s going to be from now on. We say jump, you ask how high.

Such is the implicit message of Lavrov’s threat. And it’s important to understand that the Russians aren’t bluffing. Threats of nuclear war, which they issue with monotonous regularity (“We can turn America into radioactive ash” and some such), aren’t PR bluster. They are statements of geopolitical and military doctrine.

For, unlike Nato, the Russians abandoned the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) even before an obscure KGB colonel emerged as the Supreme Leader. Since the late stages of the Soviet Union, Russian strategists have believed that a nuclear war was possible to fight and win.

As a child growing up in a violent neighbourhood known as Russia, I learned that the only response a bully understands is a punch on the nose or, better still, a blow with half a brick. You can’t talk a bully into changing his ways. You can only force him to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and conclude that he’d be better off leaving you alone.

Extrapolating that childhood experience to the situation in hand, the West must send a message of strength. Yes, we may be plutocratic and decadent, but don’t test our resolve. We still have enough left to face up to geopolitical bullies.

The West in general and Nato in particular must issue an unequivocal statement of unity. As its essential part, they should put Russia in quarantine, a present-day cordon sanitaire, refusing to deal with her on any level until Putin’s kleptofascist junta has begun to behave in a civilised way.

Putin isn’t a gambler – he won’t embark on a military adventure unless sure of victory. It’s the crutch of that certainty that the West must kick away.

Worryingly, no hint of such a response is discernible. When the Russians curtly told the EU where it could stick its notions of human rights, the reply came in the shape of sanctions against four (!) Russian officials who hardly ever leave their country anyway.

Such meekness can only embolden the bully, encouraging him to escalate his assaults. When that time comes, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Help! I’m a victim of serial crimes

“Being offensive is an offence,” says the slogan inscribed on the banners of Merseyside Police. The statement sounds so tautological that it isn’t immediately clear why it had to be made. Of course being offensive is an offence, what else is new?

Somebody call the cops: I find this sight deeply offensive

But that’s not what they mean. The offence they have in mind is a criminal one – a crime, in other words.

Fine. The law is the law, and those Liverpudlian cops follow the guidelines laid down by the Crown Prosecution Service.

However, even though we must obey all laws, we should still be free to regard some of them as unjust. To avoid such an accusation, a law must as a minimum clearly define the boundaries of a proscribed crime.

Thus murder is an arbitrary taking of a human life, theft is stealing someone else’s property, rape is having sex without permission, perjury is lying under oath and so on. But what does “being offensive” mean?

Surely this crime can’t be defined objectively; an element of subjectivity has to creep in: one man’s offence is another man’s compliment. True, says the CPS. So, to eliminate all doubt, it helpfully defines an offence as anything anyone takes as such.

That’s where the word ‘injustice’ has to cross anyone’s mind. For this law leaves Her Majesty’s subjects powerless and rightless, while empowering law enforcement to a degree hitherto deemed an exclusive property of totalitarian tyrannies.

Potentially this law can criminalise every one of the 53 million adult Britons. After all, all of us may say things that could conceivably offend someone, especially at a time when even complimenting a female colleague on her appearance may be seen as a misogynistic attack on womankind.

Still, dura lex, sed lex, as the Romans used to say: the law is strict, but it is the law. But surely the fundamental principle of British jurisprudence is that any law, strict or otherwise, is the same for all.

Hence, my friends and I also have a right to feel offended, thereby finding ourselves on the receiving end of a crime. Well, this is a right I wish to exercise now, speaking for myself and most of my friends. Here, in no particular order, are the offences some or all of which I suffer every day:

Tattoos and facial metal; pop music of any kind, especially rap; pop music of any kind, especially rap, being performed in concert halls and at the Proms; conceptual art, especially Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin; Lang Lang, Yuja Wang and other such non-musicians; most of modern architecture; being frisked at airports, especially by men; actors playing women, actresses playing men and blacks playing whites in the theatre.

Strident atheism; insistence that all religions are equally good or equally bad; belief that Darwinism is anything more than a theory; strident feminism, championing of LGBT rights, environmentalism – in fact, strident anything; Greta Thunberg; anyone who takes her or ‘climate change’ seriously; materialism; the expression ‘our planet’; men born as women impregnated by women born as men; abortion; modern philosophers, especially if French; Richard Dawkins; most of current literature and all of current poetry.

Left-wing politics, philosophies, aesthetics – in fact, left-wing anything; unchecked democracy; tyranny of any kind; my life being affected by a state predominantly staffed with self-serving morons.

Belief that, if people are equal before the law, they are equal in every respect; the word ‘diversity’ as it’s currently used; feminism; contempt for spiritual and intellectual authority; belief that every opinion is equally valid, indeed egalitarianism of any kind.

Woke people and their beliefs; suppression of free speech, especially as enunciated by decent people; systematic undermining of Britain’s constitution and the English Common Law; Tony Blair and every member of his cabinet, especially Peter Mandelson; Jeremy Corbyn, every member of his shadow cabinet and every supporter he has ever had; John Major, David Cameron, Theresa May and other non-Tory Tory wets; the EU and everything its stands for.

Putin’s Russia and especially her Western ‘useful idiots’; jingoism or any other form of militant nationalism; London having become a giant laundromat for Mafia money, especially Russian; Britain’s strategic industries falling under foreign control, especially Chinese, Russian, Arab and EU.

I could extend this list tenfold, but this should suffice to get the point across. Which is that my friends and I are grossly offended countless times every day of our lives. And yet there’s nothing we can do about that.

The state first expands the boundaries of “being offensive” no end to enforce its woke despotism and increase its power, but then narrows them to constriction when it’s conservatives who are offended.

Personally, I’d rather be called a fatso (rude but accurate) than hear yet another diatribe against everything I hold dear or be unable to escape the degenerate din of pop excretions everywhere I go. And yet I may have some recourse against the former but none at all against the latter.

The CPS and other such setups don’t understand that debauching the law this way will render all laws inoperable. Laws don’t work when they are only feared, but not respected. And to be respected, they have to be respectable – which they increasingly aren’t.

Are you a racist or an anti-racist?

I grew up under a totalitarian regime I hated. I now live in a country I love. So much more upset I get when the latter starts to resemble the former.

Is Oxford University turning students into Mao’s Red Guards?

The nature of totalitarianism is often misunderstood. The word typically evokes images of execution cellars, torture chambers and concentration camps. And true enough, totalitarian regimes seldom fail to furnish such visual aids.

But these are their means, not their ends. Their most perfidious – and effective – work is done not with guns, truncheons and barbed wire, but with mass, unremitting propaganda. For totalitarians don’t just want to change politics. They want to change man.

Since we are all sinners, there is always room for change and improvement, that’s for sure. However, such latitude is normally found at the periphery of human nature. Its core remains stubbornly constant, which drives totalitarians up the wall.

They become bitterly disappointed with people, and killing them all begins to sound like an attractive idea. But that happens when totalitarianism reaches its peak. After that, down is the only way to go.

This is the common feature of all totalitarian regimes, but they all differ in the tempo of different phases. The more ambitious and impatient they are, the sooner does the final, violent stage arrive. Thus the Soviet and Chinese communists began to murder people en masse within days: their ontological objectives went so far against human nature that they got frustrated quickly.

By contrast, the Nazis took several years to realise they had to up the scale of their violence. Until then they relied mostly (though not exclusively) on inculcating their Weltanschauung through propaganda and education. To that end they conscripted all the media, educational curricula, public forums – everything they thought could help them change human nature irreversibly.

Totalitarian regimes usually fail, but they never fail, well, totally. Even if they can’t create the New Man, they can still invert the old certitudes. What emerges at the other end is any number of individuals with their moral sense numbed and their brains scoured of independent thought. This does a lasting damage to society, and it always survives the physical demise of the totalitarian regime.

My contention is that all modern regimes, whatever their self-identification, are innately if latently totalitarian, differing only in their means, not their ends. When a modern country identifies itself as a liberal democracy, totalitarians have to proceed more slowly, subtly and surreptitiously than they did in, say, Russia or China. But they do proceed.

Alas, most people miss the early tell-tale signs and, as with tuberculosis, when the symptoms become intolerable, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. One such symptom is a key difference between the demands imposed by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

The former demand passive acquiescence; the latter, enthusiastic support. They equate passive acceptance with active resistance and punish it accordingly.

This brings us to Oxford University, one of the world’s oldest and most venerable such establishments.

One can detect that it increasingly sees its role not as an educational institution, but as a hatchery of a New Man indoctrinated not just to accept totalitarian tyranny but to promote it with youthful vigour. In that it’s not markedly different from the Soviet universities of my youth.

A case in point is St Hugh’s College, the alma mater of Barbara Castle, Theresa May and Amal Clooney. As if that alone wasn’t enough to besmirch its reputation, St Hugh’s has introduced an unalloyed, clearly enunciated totalitarian agenda. (To be fair, Christ Church, Balliol and Somerville aren’t far behind.)

Students are “expected to make time” to attend the It’s About Race indoctrination event. There they are shown a slide show whose main point is that simply not being a racist is no longer enough. Students must be anti-racists, which presumably means fire-eating BLM activists.

The slides demand a “commitment to action” and ask point-blank: “What is your individual contribution/commitment/pledge to tackle inequality and racism?”

Not having attended the event, I don’t know if the slide show specifies the kind of contribution/commitment/pledge that would be deemed satisfactory. However, my Soviet experience standing me in good stead, I can make a few suggestions.

One contribution/commitment/pledge should be to take part in a BLM riot, or ideally organise one. Merit points may be awarded for each window broken, shop/car/cop set on fire, white pedestrian harassed or, better still, beaten up.

Another contribution/commitment/pledge could be to report to the police anyone making a racist statement, or one that can be interpreted as such. Special attention must be paid to anyone telling jokes that start with “An Irishman, a Jew and a black man walk into a pub…”

Yet another contribution/commitment/pledge could be to abuse verbally, or ideally physically, anyone caught reading such blatantly racist tracts as Huckleberry Finn, Gone With the Wind, The Merchant of Venice, Othello – or any other books failing to win the anti-racists’ approval.

The contribution/commitment/pledge might rate higher marks should such books be then tossed into a public bonfire.

The highest accolades should go to the contribution/commitment/pledge to drag the recalcitrant non-racists among the students and faculty before an anti-racist tribunal and force them to recant publicly, ideally on social media.

You may think I’m taking a bilious mickey, but in fact I’m dead-serious. I simply can’t imagine what other kinds of contribution/commitment/pledge would satisfy the flaming woke conscience of Oxford administration and trustees. I’m open to suggestions though.

Who could make you a better person in a couple of hours?

A tough question, that. Forgetting a religious Damascene experience, you’d be hard-pressed to name someone who could have a powerful meliorative effect in such a short time.

Yet Polly Vernon of The Times has been so lucky. She finishes a long interview by saying that her subject “leaves me with a truly unfamiliar emotional aftertaste: an urge to try to be a better person”.

Now, I have little interest in either Polly or The Times. I am, however, keenly interested in the times I live in, and this interview goes a long way towards telling me everything I wish to know.

Before I name the man possessing such magic powers, let me highlight some of the salient points singled out by Polly. To begin with, he is a thinking man’s role model, which has to mean he himself is a thinking man.

He is a vegan who drives an electric car and represents an “elegant strain of political activism” focused on LGBT issues and unlimited abortion.

He has introduced “a collection of clothes… all made from organic, recycled and/or repurposed materials and using transparent chains of production.”

He speaks in slangy clichés, “peppers his sentences with phrases like ‘bit and bob’.” [It’s actually bits and bobs, but then English isn’t his first language.]

He is in favour of “transparency, the ethics, sustainability…”

In general, he has “a strong moral stance” and he really “loves clothes”.

His musical tastes run towards “hip-hop”, whatever that is.

He loves Camden Town because “It’s so bohemian. And it’s so punk.” And also because “So many people not really caring, just wearing what they wanted and not listening to anyone else. I was like, yeah, I want to do the same.”

He thinks that “having a feminine side as a man is always so important in order to be happy.”

Polly wonders “if it all gets a little exhausting – all this caring, all this learning and all these deep, meaningful conversations…”

He’s well-informed, which has had a formative effect on his personality: “I used to do so many things before that I don’t do now, because I didn’t have the information.”

Oh well, I won’t keep you on tenterhooks any longer. The interviewee was Héctor Bellerín, the Arsenal right back Polly describes as “a thinking man’s footballer”.

Now, for the outlanders among you, The Times has traditionally been seen as the voice of the Tory establishment, perhaps a step closer than The Telegraph to the middle of the road.

I realise that Polly’s idiotic musings aren’t a statement of the paper’s editorial position. However, Times editors can’t be let off the hook quite so easily. They read the 3,000-word piece, found it good and interesting, saw fit to expose their readers to the views therein.

Hence the editors regard as intellectually valid Polly’s idea of a thoughtful man who can act as an agent of anyone’s self-improvement. They look at Héctor and that’s what they see.

I see something else. Standing before me is a heavily tattooed illiterate moron wearing pimp clothes, sporting two earrings and spouting woke rubbish on every subject dear to the hearts of our opinion-formers in Notting Hill and Islington.

If I had to spend several hours in his company, the effect would be not so much meliorative as emetic. He isn’t a human being; he’s a jukebox loaded with every woke platitude extruded out of the bowels of modernity.

Push the right button, and out comes ‘vegan’, ‘feminist’, ‘LGBT activist’, “women’s right to abortion’, ‘punk music’, ‘fashion sense’, ‘electric car’, ‘caring’, ‘sensitivity’, the lot – just look at the words I’ve highlighted.

In 1840 Lermontov published one of the best pieces of prose in the Russian language, the novel A Hero of Our Time. The eponymous hero, encapsulating the key aspects of his time, was a jaded, cynical, emotionally impotent aristocrat ready to hurt anybody and even risk his own life in search of elusive thrills.

I’d suggest that a book written on the same subject today should have Héctor Bellerín as its main protagonist. He is a true hero of our time – the ideal the Polly Vernons of this world see in their minds’ eye.

God save us from strong leaders

Our cretinous Putinistas (names available on request) cite the KGB colonel as the archetypal strong leader Britain desperately needs.

‘Brilliant man’ meets ‘top-class politician’

My stock reply to such longings is that we don’t need a strong leader. We need a strong society.

The two concepts are inversely proportionate: the weaker a society, the greater its need for a strong leader. A strong society will tick along nicely, and few people would even wonder whether their leader is weak or strong.

For example, I doubt that many Victorian Englishmen would even have been able to name their prime minister, never mind assessing his fortitude. Retrospectively, only professional historians would be able to judge today the relative strength of, say the Earl of Derby and the Earl of Aberdeen.

My guess is that few of today’s Englishmen have even heard of those two gentlemen. Yet most Russian schoolchildren know quite a bit about the two tsars reigning during the same period, Nicholas I and Alexander II.

They’d probably even tell you that Nicholas, who suppressed the December uprising, was stronger than Alexander because the latter was a weak-kneed liberal who loosened the reins and pushed the button for the revolution half a century later.

This isn’t because Russian children are better-taught than their English counterparts. The reason for the educational gap is that the personalities of Victorian PMs mattered much less than those of the Russian tsars. The English society was strong; the Russian one wasn’t.

If you accept this premise, then the Russian society today is as weak as it gets. Hence the growing public yearning for a strong leader, although the adulation of the present one is noticeably subsiding.

Pari passu, the nostalgia for strong leaders of the past is growing. For example, the typical assessment of Nicholas I and Alexander II above is strictly a new phenomenon. In my day, the former was regarded as the devil incarnate, while the latter was seen as marginally less evil than most other tsars.

The closer to our own time, the more revisionist do Russian homespun historians become. Thus Stalin is making a strong come-back in popular mythology. Rather than a monster who murdered tens of millions, Stalin is now seen as a Strong Leader (always implicitly capitalised).

He was a father to his people and, as such, sometimes had to spank them when they got out of line. But that was necessary, for without a strong hand on the tiller Russia couldn’t have stayed the course to imperial greatness. Other than that, Stalin was an administrator of genius and, above all, He Won the War (initial caps are again de rigueur).

Statues of Stalin, kept in warehouses until recently, are beginning to see the light of day all over the country, though as far as I know not yet in Moscow. Moscow is playing catch-up, but it’s about to narrow the gap.

The Duma is debating the possibility of restoring the Dzerjinski statue to its erstwhile place in Lubyanka Square, in front of the KGB/FSB headquarters. The Pole was the founder of that organisation’s precursor, the VCheKa.

In that capacity he was the architect of Lenin’s Red Terror, when the number of victims went into seven digits first, eight later. In addition to being a blood-thirsty ghoul, Dzerjinski was also corrupt: he took vast bribes to let some aristocrats, even a few minor members of the royal family, escape to Finland.

This combination of monstrosity and corruption formed a fine tradition that’s maintained by today’s heirs to Dzerjinski, emphatically including those in the government. Thus their posthumous affection for the Pole is understandable.

Stalin and Dzerjinski were the Strong Leaders Russia couldn’t do without – such is the official line. That’s more or less par for the course. However, the longing for such figures is now beginning to extend to Hitler and Mussolini.

Now that’s odd, in a country that lost the better part of 30 million people fighting the Nazis and the fascists. It’s even odder in a country that uses victory in that war as its redemptive ideology, superseding all others.

Hubris leads me to think I know all there is to know about Russia, and nothing that happens there can possibly surprise me. However, I must admit to being caught off-guard by some of the noises emanating from Putin’s principal propagandists.

Thus Vladimir Soloviov, whose talk show has monopolised the prime time on Russia’s main TV channel, recently praised Hitler for his bravery during the First World War, which just may offset some of the things he did in the Second.

Another major political commentator explained that: “We must distinguish the Hitler of before and after 1939. Had he stopped at the Anschluss of Austria, Sudetenland and Memel, he would have gone down in his country’s history as a top-class politician.”

This is consonant with the official reassessment of the Soviet-Nazi Pact, which until a few years ago was seen as rather embarrassing for Russia. Now it’s being portrayed as a great coup of Stalin’s diplomacy, buying the Soviet Union an extra two years to prepare for war.

Actually, time was on Hitler’s side, and the gap in armaments between Germany and the USSR narrowed dramatically between 1939 and 1941. Had Stalin bought another couple of years, and continued to supply Germany with vast quantities of strategic materials, the Nazis would have had an overwhelming technological superiority, probably including the atom bomb.

But the technicalities are now a moot point: the Pact has acquired a moral dimension. If Hitler was nothing but a great politician until 1939, then a treaty with him was indeed a masterstroke. Conveniently forgotten are little things like concentration camps, suppression of civil liberties, eugenics, Kristallnacht and the Nuremberg laws, but then who can remember such trifles.

Mussolini is faring even better. The same Vladimir Soloviov has made a film about the fascist dictator in which Il Duce emerges as, well, the Strong Leader Russia needs.

A review of the film pointed out that “Mussolini was a brilliant man who gave the world a third way, which Russia is partly following”. This last part can’t be faulted for factual accuracy – Russia indeed is following the fascist path, with an extra money-laundering aspect.

One might, however, argue with the moral assessment of that fact, but preferably not in Russia. Today’s heirs to the Strong Leaders of yesteryear take a dim view of dissent.   

No to racism, yes to anti-Semitism

The actress Seyi Omooba finally got her breakthrough in 2019. She was cast to star in the musical The Color Purple, based on the Pulitzer-winning novel by Alice Walker.

Alice Walker: The Color Brown mixed with the Color Red

However, the Curve Theatre in Leicester abruptly dismissed Miss Omooba when her 2014 Facebook post came to light. In it Miss Omooba, a devout Christian, said that homosexuality wasn’t “right” and she did “not believe you can be born gay”.

She sued the theatre for denying her religious freedom and recently lost the case. The theatre administration explained, plausibly, that irate homosexuals would have picketed the production – as a minimum. As a maximum… well, it was best not to contemplate what they might have done.

As a pragmatist myself, and one who has in the past received death threats from homosexuals scorned, I can understand that position. Moreover, I’m willing to accept, for the sake of argument, the right of sexual and racial minorities to express their grievances through riotous displays.

Where I’m beginning to have a problem is in the rather selective nature of such righteous outbursts. For, while Miss Omooba’s statement of Christian beliefs was deemed incompatible with her appearance in The Color Purple, no one seemed to mind the virulent public anti-Semitism of the novel’s author.

In 2017, three years after Omooba committed her crime against wokery, Alice Walker wrote a poem It Is Our (Frightful) Duty to Study the Talmud. [A note to Miss Walker: Stick to prose, dear. Your verse is pathetic formally, poetically and in every other way.]  

She must have dutifully undertaken such study, which led her to conclusions that, had he survived the Nuremberg Trials, would have won Julius Streicher’s effusive approval. Here are some choice excerpts:

Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.

You may find that as the cattle
We have begun to feel we are
We have an ancient history of oppression
Of which most of us have not been even vaguely
Aware. You will find that we, Goyim, sub-humans, animals
– The Palestinians of Gaza
The most obvious representatives of us
At the present time – are a cruel example of what may be done

With impunity, and without conscience,
By a Chosen people,
To the vast majority of the people
On the planet
Who were not Chosen.
Not chosen to receive the same dubious
“Blessing” of
Supremacy over the Earth,
Humans, and Beasts of this realm. As is
Stated plainly in the first chapter
Of the Bible we all read.
The Unchosen who, until now,
Were too scared of being
Called names
To demand to know why.

It is a “Blessing” Jesus did not want.
One that, risking crucifixion, he refused.
One reason he is loved
By those who recognize a good
And righteous person
When they encounter one.
Seen in this light he wasn’t even
A spiritual progressive, but a committed
Revolutionary: a Che Guevara
Of the ancient past.

… We discover this
To our enlightened grief
As we study
The Talmud,
Our own ignorance,
And the devastating impact of both
On our abandoned world.

The reference to Jesus as “a Che Guevara of the ancient past” shows that Miss Walker’s understanding of Christianity is as subtle as her grasp of Judaism is firm. She bolsters the latter accolade by wholeheartedly endorsing David Icke’s book And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which gave Streicher even a better run for his money.

According to Icke, Jews are “alien lizard people”. “A small Jewish clique” is responsible for the Russian Revolution and both World Wars. And if that wasn’t enough, it then “coldly calculated” the Holocaust to pave its way to the creation of the Jewish state, whose sole purpose in life is to oppress the Palestinians.

According to Miss Walker, this “brave book” isn’t anti-Semitic at all, and those who claim it is just seek to undermine the Palestinian cause. Yes, and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is scholarly commentary on indisputable historical facts.

Unlike Miss Walker, I hate to indulge in racial and ethnic stereotypes. However, it’s hard to ignore the open anti-Semitism of many American black leaders, such as Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and Andrew Young, along with a legion of their followers. More recently, the deafening BLM chorus also struck some consistent anti-Semitic notes.

One can’t escape the feeling that opposition to racism, both in America and Britain, can comfortably coexist with hatred of Jews. More generally, leftist and woke inclinations happily go hand in hand with the kind of anti-Semitism that’s hard to describe as anything other than Nazi. Our own wokest party, Labour, is a case in point.

Sanctimonious proponents of the dominant cancel culture routinely block appearances of Israeli scientists at international conferences. Conservative writers and politicians have their proposals of fellowships withdrawn at Oxford and Cambridge. Christians, black or white, find themselves ostracised for finding anything wrong with propaganda of homosexuality.

Yet no one ostracises Alice Walker and her ilk. She is solidly mainstream, a courageous champion of the Palestinian cause and a steadfast fighter against racial oppression – of anyone except the Jews.

This last qualifier doesn’t appear in the Oxford University Press’s blurb on Alice Walker. This is what does appear:

“Alice Walker’s work had already established her as an accomplished artist and activist. Her work explores race, gender, sexuality, and class, building on Walker’s observations and experiences as a child and young adult in the rural South… Like her work, which always offers the unexpected but necessary commentary, Alice Walker is an artist who has succeeded at remaining fresh.”

I beg to differ: Alice Walker’s commentary is neither necessary nor particularly unexpected. It’s hateful, bigoted, ignorant and Nazi-like. But then who am I to argue with Oxford University Press?

Texans are freezing in the dark

As I recall, during the 10 years I lived in Texas, it was scorching heat rather than freezing cold that made life difficult.

But then a few days ago climate change kicked in and, in open defiance of Greta Asperger, the change went in the wrong direction. Things got a lot colder and – again seemingly to spite Greta – the wind turbines froze and died of hypothermia.

Since, following Greta’s orders, wind farms now supply almost a quarter of the state’s energy, thousands of people in West Texas lost their electricity and suffered the fate I used as my title. The Yankees up north must be grinning with Schadenfreude. In fact, they may feel that justice was done.

Many years ago, New York experienced several grid breakdowns, except then practically all energy came from hydrocarbons, of which Texas was a major supplier. To thaw those shivering northerners the government tried to plunder Texas’s emergency reserves, but the locals were dead set against it.

With an astonishing speed their pickup trucks began to sport bumper stickers saying “Let’em freeze in the dark”. Well, what goes around…

Yet there I was, thinking that wind farms provide an inexhaustible supply of clean, planet-friendly energy bearing Greta’s seal of approval. Turns out those turbines can be pretty fickle.

If there’s too little wind, they don’t work. If there’s too much, they break. If it gets cold, they freeze. If it’s too hot, they may catch fire, as they did in Scotland a few years ago. Seriously, Greta must have a heart-to-heart with God and demand in her customary shrill voice that he guarantee just the right weather for ecologically responsible energy – or else.   

But even when the weather is ideally conducive to producing green energy, ‘our planet’ still groans from abuse, and it’s wind turbines that are some of the culprits. For, though it pains me to say so, those turbines are machines and sooner or later all machines go zonk.

This raises the problem of disposal, and so far no solution has been found, nor indeed sought. Recycling only works for the steel that goes into the construction of the blades, but not for the equally present fiberglass.

Now that the first generation of turbines have reached their expiry date, tens of thousands of blades are being dumped into landfills, and soon there will be hundreds of thousands. Considering that the blades are the size of Boeing 747 wings, an ecological disaster looms.

The staunch environmentalist in me feels that too much plastic in the soil can’t possibly be good for ‘the planet’. That looks like a problem, but this once I can’t offer a solution.

All I can think of are strictly palliative measures, such as turning some of the blades into conceptual sculptures, bearing names like ‘Green Earth’, ‘Bursting with Energy’ or, for that matter, ‘Greta’. However, even if every self-respecting museum exhibits one or two, that will only scratch the surface.

Whoever came up with the idea of wind farms in the first place must have been thinking in broad strokes, without being unduly bothered with trivial details. Such as too much or too little wind, a weather too hot or too cold, and fiberglass landfills covering ‘our planet’ more and more densely.

As a big-picture man myself, I can relate to that. And I’m looking forward to the time wind farms provide most of our energy. Or don’t, as the case may be.

What’s the woke for Der Führer?

I don’t often feel sympathy for the plight of the Germans, but this has to be one of those rare instances. For Duden, the German equivalent of our Oxford English Dictionary, has declared war on gender-specific nouns.

Given an explicit, ideally written, consent, a man may still embrace a woman in life — but not in grammar

Anglophone countries have it easy because English isn’t a gendered language. Our nouns all resemble neutered eunuchs in a harem, neither masculine nor feminine.

Hence the task facing our vociferous woke minority is simple: it only has a few personal pronouns to contend with, and perhaps also nouns suggesting masculinity, such as milkman, postman and, in due course I’m sure, the Royal Mail.

Replace a few singular personal pronouns with genderless plurals, ‘man’ at the end of words with ‘person’, convert all actresses into actors and hey presto – Bob’s your parent’s sibling, and so is Fanny. Even though English becomes less mellifluous, such progressive transformations fall short of wreaking total havoc.

Not so with gendered tongues. Romance languages have two noun genders, while Germanic and Slavic ones boast a whopping three. Thus, an English ‘table’ is a eunuch, a French one is a woman, and a Russian one is a man. (Parenthetically, Russian speakers like me often sound ludicrous in French when calling their guests to le table.)

The question remains: how do you castrate nouns in gendered languages? You can’t, not entirely, as German lexicographers admit ruefully. Personally, I think they give up too easily.

There are at least two avenues open to them. First, they can abolish their der and die nouns altogether and turn them all into das. That’ll take some getting used to, but, if ordered to do so, the Germans will manage.

The other possibility is abolishing the German language and switching to English instead, Singapore-style. Such linguistic appropriation would be the more radical option, but perhaps on balance the less painful one. After all, most Germans already speak English vell.

My German isn’t good enough to recommend specific morphological changes to nouns. For example, the German for Chancellor is Kanzler. However, at present that job is held by Angie Merkel, who’s all woman, as anyone who has seen her youthful nude photos will confirm. That’s why her job description is feminised to Kanzlerin.

I don’t have a clue how either word can be neutered, but I’m sure there must be a way. And what will happen if the Germans revert to their previous political system and acquire someone called der Führer? Oh well, I suppose we’ll have to blow up that bridge when we get to it.

One way or another, the problem facing German lexicographers seems insurmountable. They realise this too, which is why they set their sights slightly lower.

They see in their crosshairs what grammarians call the ‘generic masculine’, sometimes conveyed as ‘a man embraces a woman’. Thus words describing professions that may be practised by men, women or other are usually masculine in German, which is offensive beyond words.

I shan’t bother you with specifics of how the compilers of Duden corrected such egregious offences. However, I’d like to know exactly who is offended by traditional usages, and why.

In our globalised world, Germany can’t be all that different from the US or Britain. Hence German gendered words must only rankle a tiny minority ideologically predisposed to feel, or rather feign, such offence.

This allays the fear first expressed by Tocqueville and later echoed by Mill, that democracy may bring about the tyranny of the majority. They had no way of knowing that modernity is less John Stuart Mill than Cecil B DeMille.

Increasingly, our problem is a tyrannical minority lording it over a majority of lemmings, effectively powerless but mollycoddled with an elaborate spectacle of pluralism.

Driven by its pathological anomie and loathing of everything traditional, this elite made up of a few hundred semi-educated politicians, academics and hacks indoctrinates the majority in how to talk, think and feel. Following their cajoling we are all supposed to roll on the floor and froth at the mouth every time someone mentions a postman or refers to an anonymous doctor as a ‘he’.

Most people go along because they lack the elite’s passions. When told to say ‘postperson’, ‘fire fighter’ or, for all I know, Personhattan, they just shrug their acquiescence: well, okay, if it’s that important to you, mate.

The task of the tyrannical German minority is both harder and easier. It’s harder because German is a gendered language, and cleansing it of gendered nouns is like cleaning the Augean stables. It’s less Herculean, however, because the Germans are more conditioned than the Anglo-Saxons to take orders.

So perhaps Kanzlerin Merkel can just issue a decree that henceforth all collective gendered nouns are verboten. And there you go, alles in Ordnung, as they say in Germany. Ethnic cleansing is no longer in fashion, but lexical cleansing reigns supreme.

Nazi Germany was far better than Britain

To be fair, Prof. Kehinde Andrews didn’t say that in so many words. But it’s a logical deduction from what he did say during the debate at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Did the wrong man win the war? Ask Prof. Andrews

“The British Empire,” he argued, “was far worse than the Nazis.” Now, if A is far worse than B, then B is far better than A, which simple inference vindicates the title above.

Andrews is professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, funded out of the public purse. Evidently, the public purse must be big enough to sustain the teaching of Prof. Andrews’s time-honoured academic discipline.

I’m sure Plato at his Lyceum, Aristotle at his Academy and Albertus Magnus at his Paris University all devoted much time to black studies. That established a scholarly tradition lovingly maintained at Birmingham City University and other such venerable institutions around the world.

In awe as I am of Prof. Andrews’s academic credentials, I still wonder about the source of his affection for Nazi Germany in general and Hitler in particular, whom he has often compared favourably to Churchill.

Since he condemns the British Empire for its record in race relations, one has to believe the Nazis fared better in that respect. This view is neither shared by many academics nor supported by factual evidence.

It’s true that the Nazis didn’t commit too many atrocities against Prof. Andrews’s own race because, as sports commentators say, you can only beat what’s in front you. In front of the Nazis were some other races they regarded as inferior and therefore wished to exterminate or, at best, enslave.

However, had the war gone differently and the Nazis got hold of large swathes of Africa and Asia, there’s little to suggest they would have treated the indigenous races better than the British did. Even though, say, the Indians were the original Aryans, one doubts the Nazis would have seen them as their racial forefathers.

As to the African blacks, I’d bet £1,000 against a Reichsmark the Nazis wouldn’t have treated them any better than they treated Gypsies, never mind Jews. In fact, the few German blacks were covered by the same Nuremberg racial laws and, for example, were prohibited from fraternising with white women. Mixed-race children were forcibly sterilised in the Rhineland and other parts of Germany, which didn’t bode well for Africans should they have fallen under the Nazi rule.

A true polymath, Prof. Andrews happily strikes out into disciplines outside his immediate expertise. For example, he has shown a sufficiently firm grasp of psychiatry to diagnose “whiteness” as a psychosis. He has also described capitalism as “genocidal” and called for its overthrow.

Aren’t you happy your taxes are funding the work of such an accomplished scholar? I am.

After all, I often comment at length on what’s wrong with modernity in general and Britain in particular. Now I can dispense with prolixity and reduce the whole argument to two words: Professor Andrews.

At no other time in Western history could a man like him hold a professorship and command a wide forum for his rants. In the heyday of the British Empire, Andrews would have been enlarging on his views in a madhouse or perhaps off a soapbox in Hyde Park.

He probably knows that too, which may well be why he loathes the British Empire and indeed post-imperial Britain. His affection for Nazi Germany is harder to explain, but then, unlike Prof. Andrews, I’m not an expert psychiatrist.