Martin ‘Papa’ Schultz makes startling discoveries

collage_fotorMartin and his namesake Hans, the affable Nazi sergeant in Hogan’s Heroes, are different and similar at the same time.

They’re both bungling Germans, but Martin isn’t affable. Both are corrupt, Hans personally, Martin institutionally. Hans oversaw a POW camp, Martin oversees the European ‘parliament’, a setup founded on similar principles.

Hans’s stock phrase was “I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!” Martin, however, believes he knows everything. It’s in that spirit that he elevated political science to stratospheric heights.

The Brexit referendum, he declared, was divisive. He left it for us to extrapolate that exactly the same thing can be said about all elections. Extrapolation complete, one begins to comprehend the bottomless depth of Papa’s insight.

Whether the electorate chooses between two candidates or two propositions, the outcome will surely divide those who voted one way from those who voted the other. Only elections like those in Stalin’s or Putin’s Russia have no such detrimental effect.

Stalin’s elections featured only one candidate, ‘the bloc of communists and non-party members’, which guaranteed landslides. Putin bars meaningful opposition but employs hordes of volunteers to stuff ballot boxes just in case. A landslide again ensues, marginally more modest than Stalin’s but just as assured – with no divisiveness anywhere in sight.

No doubt Papa’s ideal of democracy gravitates towards one of those models, what with their unifying effect. Who’d argue that togetherness is better than alienation?

Having made that seminal contribution to political science, Papa doffed his philosopher’s hat and donned Sherlock Holmes’s deerstalker. In that new capacity he solved the murder of Jo Cox, the MP killed a week before the referendum.

The simpletons among us thought she was murdered by a madman, Thomas Mair, who gave his name to the magistrates as ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. But Papa would have none of that.

‘Death to traitors’ might have pulled the trigger, but he was acting as a humanoid robot. The real culprit was the “damaging and dangerous” rhetoric of the Brexit debate. It hardly needs saying that this outrage was committed by one side only, those wanting to leave. Jo Cox’s blood is on their hands, intimated Papa.

One has to congratulate Papa on his moderation. While confidently identifying the provenance of the homicidal animus, he kindly refrained from naming specific names.

Putin’s chief mouthpiece Dmitry Kisilev, affectionately described by some Russians as ‘Putin’s Goebbels’, wasn’t so reticent. He directly accused Dave Cameron of murder – and he converged with Papa by also accusing our then PM of divisiveness.

According to Kisilev’s investigation, Dave tried to prevent Brexit by “a sacral sacrifice: the murder of MP Jo Cox… And what now? He divided the country, even spilled blood, but lost ignominiously.”

The dummy to Putin’s ventriloquist didn’t clarify whether Dave murdered Jo personally or by proxy, Putin-style, but in either case it’s a shame that the British media failed to inform the public at the time that Russia was openly accusing the British PM of violent felony.

Emulating his Nazi namesake, Papa then issued some empty threats. Britain’s export of goods and hedge funds to Europe, he growled, would be vetoed should Theresa May be so bloody-minded as to limit the influx of foreign workers.

“There will be no à la carte menu,” thundered Papa. Go the whole hog or go hungry. No country can control its borders and still expect to trade with the EU.

One has to assume that, say, the US and China satisfy the free-movement requirement. After all, they export more to the EU than we do. And they don’t even have the good fortune of belonging to the single market. Surely Papa isn’t suggesting Britain should be singled out for punitive detail?

Papa’s animadversions were neatly harmonised with the background noise coming from different quarters. Some came from various European countries, especially those whose GDP would be severely dented if their nationals weren’t able to send home the money they make in Britain.

If Britain insists on being bloody-minded, they’ll block Brexit, they threatened. Even Papa didn’t go so far: he merely said the EU would block British exports.

One wonders how the recently communist chaps are planning to stop us leaving. Fences of electrified razor wire? Guard dogs? Watch towers complete with machine guns? The camp gates could be painted brown or red, but that’s the general idea.

Other noises sounded not so much threatening as threatened. They came from European manufacturers, many of whom live or die by exporting to Britain. Would the camp guards led by Papa be prepared to cut off their manufacturers’ noses to spite Britain’s face?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but we can’t be prevented from leaving. All we need to do is activate Article 50, then walk out in an orderly manner not at all reminiscent of a daring escape.

We could then negotiate with the EU all sorts of deals, covering trade, cooperative law enforcement, travel requirements and whatnot. All in good faith and with no divisiveness whatsoever.

Then we could get on with our life, gleefully watching from outside as Papa’s bailiwick falls to pieces. Nothing personal, Papa. Just business – in fact, very just.

Putin’s Ukrainian quisling welcome at The Guardian

PutinTVOne of my best friends has sent me a Guardian article by a ‘member of the Ukrainian Opposition Bloc’ who laments that “my country has not had the European breakthrough that was promised.”

He then lists some human rights violations, in which one journalist got injured. And the author is appalled by the state of the Ukrainian economy, which is indeed less buoyant than Norway’s.

The conclusion is predictable: “It’s high time the friends of Ukraine in the west disavow their support for those in the Ukrainian government who promote bigotry, intolerance and warmongering.”

If your Ukrainian’s a bit rusty, this means those who oppose Putin’s aggression and his clearly stated objective to return the Ukraine into Russia’s servitude.

The language could have come from Putin’s press: “Ukraine’s government relies heavily on continuing western support to stabilise the withering economy and assist the country in its confrontation with Russia.”

‘Confrontation with Russia’ means refusal to submit to naked aggression, you understand. As to needing Western support, the Ukraine isn’t alone. Since the introduction of derisory Western sanctions, Russia’s GDP has shrunk by 40 per cent (US GDP lost only about two per cent during the Great Depression).

My friend sounded worried, and not just about the Ukraine. We both know quite a few British Putinistas, and he probably thought the article would add grist to their mill. “What should we make of this?”, he asked. This is what I wrote back:

“Nothing, would be my reply.

“I keep repeating that no ex-communist country is ever wholly ‘ex’, and won’t be for generations to come, if ever. The corrupting effects of history’s most enduring evil penetrate the nation’s DNA, and it would take decades to purge the bloodstream.

“The strength of such effects and the time required to get rid of them are directly proportionate to the lifespan of the communist regime. Thus Poland has a better shot at it than Russia, and, say, Estonia a better one than the Ukraine.

“The Ukraine suffered horribly from communist oppression. Grandparents, millions of them, of today’s Ukrainians were deliberately starved to death in the early thirties. Previous and subsequent purges drowned the country in blood. Ukrainian culture and language were systematically oppressed. It’s not for fun that Ukrainian patriots fought the Soviets throughout the war and well into the fifties, when guerrilla warfare was incinerating the forests.

“That the Ukraine can’t be readily confused with Norway is God’s own truth. Its government is corrupt, though less so than Russia’s, and it’s run by people some (as opposed to all) of whom are typologically similar to their Russian counterparts.

“That point is worth making in many contexts, but not in the context of Putin’s aggression. Good, bad or indifferent, the Ukraine is an independent country that can run itself as it sees fit – provided it doesn’t endanger its neighbours or the world at large. The Ukraine answers this criterion. Putin’s Russia doesn’t.

“Ukrainian economy is indeed in dire straits (as is Russia’s), but one must remember that the country is at war. Wartime economies seldom thrive: witness the state of our own during the 1940s (and for several decades thereafter).

“Some of its less democratic practices are also caused by the war – as was the case in the US and Britain during the forties, when people of Japanese and German origin, respectively, were interned en masse.

“The same argument can’t vindicate Russia. For its massive army, the Ukrainian excursion is strictly a local conflict and a protracted training exercise. However, the Ukraine is fighting for its survival, with every sinew strained to breaking point. They had 70 years of satellite status in the Soviet empire, and they’re prepared to fight to the death not to return to it.

“Having said that, the Ukraine is much freer than Russia. Opposition papers are published, opposition TV programmes are shown – in stark contrast to Russia, where the controlled press has a higher emetic quotient than even in Brezhnev’s time.

“Dozens of Russian journalists, those who share our view of the world, are emigrating to the Ukraine fearing for their lives, with no one moving in the opposite direction. That fear isn’t unfounded: 250 journalists have been killed on Putin’s watch, many more roughed up, crippled or at least threatened.

“The author of this article is an MP from ‘the opposition bloc’, meaning a Putin fan or, putting it less kindly but more accurately, agent of influence. This doesn’t mean the facts he cites are incorrect – only that their selection is tendentious. The very existence of such a bloc is a ringing endorsement of the Ukraine, as compared to Russia, where no real opposition exists.

“We should support the Ukraine not because it’s paradise on earth but because Putin is turning Russia into hell on earth – and threatening to do the same to what he claims to be Russia’s sphere of influence, meaning the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European colonies.

“Hence we have a vested geopolitical, not to mention moral, interest in supporting the Ukraine as best we can, while lamenting some of its questionable practices.

“I hope this answers your question, as I understand it.”

The French and other barbarians

DelacroixBefore my French friends take umbrage, I hasten to disclaim that I’m using the newly offensive word in its original meaning, merely to denote someone from a different civilisation.

The Romans, who weren’t known for their heartfelt commitment to multiculturalism, used this Greek word to describe someone who didn’t have the good fortune of growing up in Hellenic culture.

There was an element of supremacism there as well, but not a huge one. If queried, those Romans who were vaguely familiar with, say, Persian culture would probably have acknowledged its good points, if only grudgingly. ‘Barbarian’ was mainly a differentiating, rather than pejorative, term.

It’s hard for me to put myself in the sandals of a Roman talking to a Persian, assuming that such discourse ever took place. But I suspect he must have felt that the chap with whom he was sharing an amphora of Falerno was interesting, in a quaint sort of way, but different.

That, I must admit, is how I sometimes feel when sharing a bottle of Burgundy with my French friends, all cultured, intelligent and superbly educated. Far be it from me to suggest that the French civilisation is weak or inferior to ours. At a kind moment, I’m even willing to admit it’s superior. It’s just different.

This I sense keenly even when we talk about things like art, literature or music, where the difference in our cultural baggage is slight, although not unnoticeable. However, when politics comes up, I feel like an SPQR Roman must have felt when talking to a Persian.

My understanding of political theory and practice was wholly shaped in the Anglophone civilisation, which in turn was formed by England. Rather than presenting a set of ready-made solutions to all quotidian problems, this background is like an intellectual edifice propped up by the three pillars on which, according to Edmund Burke, government should rest: prejudice, which is intuitive knowledge; prescription, which is truth passed on by previous generations; and presumption, which is inference from common experience.

The French have an edifice of their own, but theirs was designed by architects who had all gone to a different school. The resulting structure is almost as different from ours as a ziggurat is from the Parthenon.

Since we proceed from diverging assumptions, we naturally arrive at different destinations. They have no intuitive dislike of big central government; I do. They have no problems with laws being created by a few clever men and then passed down to hoi polloi; I have. They’re comfortable with the idea of the state being an active player in the economic game; I’m not. They only profess to detest the French Revolution; I really do detest it. They see only a few mechanical faults with the EU; I reject it as evil. And so forth, ad infinitum.

This, although both my friends and I broadly reside on the political right, if such terms have any meaning, which they probably don’t. Yet their right and mine differ as much as south of the Seine differs from south of the Thames.

We’re talking here about the political cultures of England and France, two countries 20 miles apart, whose histories have been not so much parallel as intertwined.

Parts of France used to belong to England, all of England used to belong to France. The two countries have the same religion and, for much of their histories, espoused the same confession. The two languages are closely related, with a vast corpus of shared vocabulary. French political emigrants tended to choose England as their refuge and vice versa. Though the countries used to fight each other a lot, they’ve been allies for 200 years.

And yet – the French come across as barbarians to us (in the Greek sense of the word), and they probably see les Anglo-Saxons as barbarians too (in every sense of the word). I’d like to re-emphasise that this isn’t the view of a Little Englander but that of someone who loves France, spends half his time there (just under, Mr Taxman, relax) and has as many French friends as English.

Now if the political cultures of two commonwealths as close to each other as England and France are well-nigh incompatible, what about creating a single political entity out of dozens of countries further apart by orders of magnitude?

Romania and Sweden. Poland and Holland. Italy and Germany. Bulgaria and Ireland. Portugal and Estonia. France and Slovenia… well, you get the picture. Whose fevered imagination could have conceived such a utopian abomination?

Chimera, a monster made up of parts of a lion, goat and snake, looks positively homogeneous by comparison. Figuratively, that’s what the European Union is, a chimera. One fears that before long it’ll start resembling that creature literally as well.

Homer described the monster as “snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire”. The EU is moribund, but it has no provisions for peaceful dissolution. When it explodes, as it surely will, there will be plenty of ‘terrible flame of bright fire’. One just hopes that by then we’ll be far enough away not to get singed.

Suicide by diversity

MuslimsMy yesterday’s post has drawn some bitter comments from New Zealanders and Australians who find it hard to stay in the UK.

This is what I replied to one man being kicked from pillar to post by the Home Office – although, in addition to a well-paid job, he’s blessed with a British wife and children:

“Denationalisation has taken on a whole new meaning in Britain. Rather than privatising the economy, it now means empowering the state at the expense of the nation, destroying traditional institutions and debauching national culture.

“Peter Mandelson more or less admitted to that, when explaining Blair’s immigration policy. Since then the policy hasn’t changed much because the state’s inner imperative hasn’t. Hence your predicament, with which I thoroughly sympathise. A New Zealander won’t serve the denationalisation objective, but a Muslim or, at a pinch, a Romanian will.

“This is all very sinister, and I don’t think it’s understood widely enough. The debate about immigration is waged between the denationalising state and, largely, the kind of people who don’t like Johnny Foreigner, regardless of where he comes from. The issue, however, is deeper than that – it’s not so much political or economic as existential.”

My missive sounded as if I believed in some sort of conspiracy theory, which in a way I do. However, I’m not thinking of a gang of evil-doers concocting dastardly plots in a damp cellar. The conspiracy I mean is much wider. It’s called modernity.

The conspirators don’t really know what they want to create, outside this or that madcap utopia no sane person would take seriously. However, they know exactly what they seek to destroy: the Western nation, defined not geographically but culturally.

Every civilisation needs a safe depository protecting its valuables. In the West’s distant past, it was Christianity that served that purpose, downgrading the nation to a secondary status.

Nationhood was then so fluid as to be irrelevant. For example, contrary to Voltaire’s typically facile quip, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was indeed holy, Roman and an empire. But it wasn’t one of ‘the German nation’, as we understand it today.

It covered today’s Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia (as it recently was), eastern France, northern Italy, Slovenia and western Poland. That Babel was loosely held together by one adhesive only: Christianity, with its culture.

Even when nations began to coalesce, they didn’t promote nationhood in today’s sense. For example, most subjects of Louis XIV weren’t native speakers of French.

Christianity was the cornerstone of Western identity, and it was knocked out by the revolt against our civilisation going by the misnomer of the Enlightenment. This had a divisive effect on a Europe already torn asunder by the Reformation.

Western man became extinct as the dominant cultural type. He was replaced by modern man, bearing only a superficial resemblance to his predecessor. It’s this new type that provides human material for the building of all modern states.

What was left of the Western cultural treasure had to seek another depository for safekeeping. It was then that the nation became paramount. As safety deposit boxes go, it was fairly flimsy. But it was better than nothing.

When the smallish cornerstone of nation was stuck into the giant hole left by religion, the structure became rickety and vulnerable. Yet at least it was still standing.

However, a battering ram was still attached to the front end of the modern juggernaut. It was now aimed at the new cornerstone, the nation. If nationhood preserved vestiges of Western culture, it had to be destroyed, an imperative viscerally understood by all post-Enlightenment governments.

They don’t need to conspire before pouncing on what’s left of our civilisation – any more than wolves need to conspire before pouncing on sheep. The urge to do so is coded into their DNA.

This – in my view only this – explains why all European governments have flung their gates open to millions of people doctrinally committed to destroying our civilisation or, at best, alien to it. Remove this inner imperative, and no one, not even European politicians, is stupid enough not to see suicide in the making.

If a hypothesis explains all known facts, it becomes an intellectual truth. Mine, I believe, explains all sorts of recent developments.

Such as modernity’s inordinate affection for creating international organisations and shifting more and more power their way. This reverses the traditional Western principle of subsidiarity, devolving power to the lowest sensible level.

While the EU has its critics, the rest of the alphabet soup of international bodies, from the UN to the WTO to UNESCO, get off too easily. But even the EU is often criticised for superficial reasons, rather than for being an existential threat to our civilisation.

For lack of other persuasive explanations, my hypothesis also accounts for our suicidal immigration policy, which loads the gun pressed to our collective temple. As a corollary, it also explains the plight of our cultural brothers from the Commonwealth.

Give them a generation or even less, and they’ll seamlessly fit into the culture they already share. That’s not what our governments, however they describe themselves, want. Divide and conquer is the principle they live by, wittingly or unwittingly. Or rather dilute and destroy.

Good-bye, Piccadilly

piccadillyThis morning’s short walk through London’s central street evoked unconnected thoughts, few of them joyous. But an observation first.

When in France, I often have traffic accidents, on foot. When someone is walking right at me in the street, my natural instinct is to move to my left. A continental just as naturally moves to his right, and I’ve often collided with a Frenchman, both of us profusely apologetic.

Par for the course, one supposes. But not, one would think, in England. Well, one would think wrong.

The human throng was moving through Piccadilly along the right side of the pavement, just like in Paris and other objectionably foreign places. That stands to reason: people who naturally move on the left make up a meagre 40 per cent of London’s population, and less so in Piccadilly: the place was crawling with tourists, each toting a shopping bag from a trendy London shop.

Being congenitally bloody-minded, I made a point of walking against the current on the left, bumping into people along the way. Some of them were unmistakeably English, complete with pinstripe suits clashing with striped shirts and I’m-English-and-I-don’t-give-a-damn ties. Traitors, I thought, leading with my shoulder and pushing hard with my feet.

Given my CV, I can hardly be accused of being a jingoistic Little Englander, but there’s something wrong in our capital having been house-trained to develop continental instincts.

When I’m in France, I’m often asked if I spend much time with English expats. No, I invariably reply, when I’m in France I want to be with the French. I can be with the English in England. Well, that doesn’t seem to be an option in Piccadilly.

That was merely an observation – now comes a thought inspired by the same walk. A new commercial building has just gone up on the northern side of the street, ready to receive its share of shops and restaurants.

I made a mental note that, while not being particularly interesting, the building was inoffensive, nothing about it jarred, which is rare nowadays. The shops and restaurants hadn’t yet moved in, their signs hadn’t been put up yet, and the building was part-wrapped in plastic bearing the builder’s logo.

In a month or two no one will remember the builder’s name, while everyone will know the building by the shops and restaurants housed there. Yet the builder’s name is the only thing that’ll never change for the building’s lifetime. In a few years the restaurants and shops will all be replaced by others, which then will establish the building’s new identity.

Yet again this illustrates the modern triumph of flighty over constant, changeable over immutable, transient over transcendent. Walking past several great bookshops in Piccadilly one gets another confirmation of this tendency. Their windows are full of books that won’t be remembered in a year’s time, but today’s merchandising experts aren’t about past grandeur. They’re after today’s sales. It’s transient over transcendent again.

Similarly, people insist in discussing Brexit strictly in economic terms. Never mind our constitution lovingly developed over 1,000 years. What matters is economic indicators, which everyone knows from experience will change next week, if not tomorrow.

Actually, my thoughts took a philosophical turn to take my mind off the dental appointment awaiting me at the end of the walk. Only a clean-up, but show me a man who cherishes dental visits, and I’ll show you a masochist.

I didn’t cherish mine, but neither did I dread it very much. My hygienist had something to do with mitigating the sense of foreboding: she’s a good-looking New Zealand woman, a year or two on either side of 30. Almost as important is her utmost competence and talent for going about her business without any sadistic excesses.

I was in for an unpleasant surprise: when I got to the practice, she was no longer there. Her work visa hadn’t been extended, and she had had to go back to New Zealand.

One would have thought that any decent barrister would argue that such banishment constituted cruel and unusual punishment, words first used in the 1689 English Bill of Rights. However, the Home Office could have argued back that, cruel though the punishment might be, it’s by no means unusual – they are merciless to professional immigrants raised in a culture similar to ours.

Now, mass immigration is in vogue these days, and one is allowed to voice dissenting views, provided they are expressed in arithmetical, rather than demographic, terms. But between us boys, it’s not just how many immigrants we admit that matters, but also what kind.

At the risk of having my disclaimer about not being a Little Englander overridden, I’d suggest that a New Zealander practising dental hygiene should be more welcome than a Somali practising female circumcision. Yet the reverse is true: it’s next to impossible to get rid of the latter, while disposing of the former is child’s play.

Amazing what kind of thoughts get into one’s head during a quiet walk on a sunny autumn day. No rhyme or reason, if you ask me. Just a bit of sadness.

Law and ordure

statueofjusticeHave our courts set out to undermine any residual respect for the law?

Manifestly unjust verdicts are guaranteed to achieve this end, and these are increasingly the type of verdicts our judges pass.

Two exhibits, if I may, Your Honour.

EXHIBIT A. The other day I watched a traffic policeman being interviewed about hogging the middle lane on a three-lane motorway. People have been known to incur fines of up to £1000 and get five points off their licence for this heinous offence.

The interviewer observed, and the cop conceded, that our roads are relatively safe. Actually, they’re the safest in Europe. For example, we have less than half the number of road fatalities than France, which has roughly the same population but 10 times the number of road miles per car.

The two then also agreed that it would be nice if we had no accidents in general and fatal ones in particular. Neither mentioned that it would be as nice as eliminating disease, and just as unattainable: millions of fallible people driving at high speeds are bound to cause the odd collision.

However, the underlying assumption was that making everybody drive in the slow lane would make that ideal a reality, though no supporting evidence was proffered. It went without saying.

Now the slow left lane on a British motorway normally moves at about 10 miles under the speed limit. Most people drive at 10 miles over, and the police usually let them get away with it.

If the motorway is empty, driving on the left indeed makes sense. But since our motorways are usually busy, a law-abiding motorist travelling at a normal speed would constantly have to weave in and out of traffic. How this would improve road safety escapes me.

But let’s say a conscientious driver sticks to the assigned lane and finds himself going at 55 mph in a 70 mph zone. A red-blooded motorist will then move into the middle lane to overtake. What if he sees no gap on the left into which he could then move back? For the next couple of miles he’ll drive in the middle lane, thereby breaking the law.

“How do you tell hogging from a long overtake?” asked the interviewer. The policeman smiled a gnostic smile suggesting that he possessed secret knowledge inaccessible to hoi-polloi.

“That’s subjective,” he said. In other words, it’s left to the discretion of the police to determine whether or not the law was violated.

However, ‘subjective’ is an inaccurate word. ‘Arbitrary’ would be closer to the mark. ‘Tyrannical’ is another possibility, as would be ‘cynical’ if the law had been introduced strictly as a money spinner.

I’m not a great admirer of speeding laws, but at least a radar provides an objective criterion. Obligatory wearing of seat belts isn’t my favourite law either, but there’s nothing arbitrary there: the belt is on or it’s off. ‘Subjective’ laws aren’t laws at all – they are tools of tyranny.

EXHIBIT 2. Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne used to be one of the best footballers in England. However, even his own mother would admit he has never been one of the brightest men in England. The words ‘daft’ and ‘brush’ spring to mind when describing Gazza’s mind – even before he became an alcoholic.

Nor would he have a profitable career in stand-up comedy, as the joke he cracked the other day proves. Gazza was unhappy with the dim lighting in the hall where he was addressing an audience. He vented that feeling by putting on his usual madcap smile and saying to a black security guard: “Can you smile so I can see you?”

Any normal, which is to say pre-PC, person would have said something equally unfunny in reply, like “I can see you all right, and what I see is a drunk moron”.

But the security guard is a modern, as opposed to normal, man. The next day he complained to the police, claiming he was so severely traumatised that he had cried through the night.

And – are you ready for this? – the Crown Prosecution Service charged Gascoigne with a hate crime. The case was concluded yesterday, and Gazza was made to pay the traumatised guard £1000 in compensation. He was also fined £1000 and charged another £800 in court costs.

District Judge Graham Wilkinson accepted that Gazza’s “off-the-cuff” remark didn’t make him a racist. However, “As a society it is important that we challenge racially aggravated behaviour in all its forms. A message needs to be sent that in the 21st century society that we live in, such action, such words will not be tolerated.”

Your Honour, what’s intolerable is for such sanctimonious idiocy to acquire tyrannical powers. A perpetually drunk ex-footballer with an IQ below room temperature (Celsius) cracked a joke, as silly as it was innocent. There wasn’t a trace of malice there, just the sort of banter Gazza grew up with, at a time when no one found such humour offensive, never mind criminal.

Can we please go back to another century? Back to sanity? For we’re coming precious close to invalidating justice, something that makes Britain British.

Russian writer on Russian character

kuprinAlexander Kuprin (d. 1938) is less widely known in the West than his friends Chekhov and Bunin. However, he’s still venerated in Russia, and in the early twentieth century Kuprin rivalled his friends’ popularity. His 1905 novel The Duel sold 45,500 copies, which was remarkable in a country most of whose 126 million denizens either couldn’t read or didn’t have Russian as their first language.

At about that time, Kuprin wrote a sketch of his visit to Finland, displaying a true writer’s ability to convey a compelling picture with a few fleeting observations and images.

Now, if someone wrote a sketch like that today, he’d be branded as an inveterate Russophobe. If English, he’d be accused of being a narrow-minded Little Englander. If Russian, he’d be castigated for venting his personal grievances. If he happened to be of Jewish descent, the accusers would have that smug say-no-more expressions on their faces.

Well, Kuprin was neither a Russophobe nor a Jew nor, definitely, a Little Englander. He was an immensely popular Russian writer, whose vision was sharpened by his talent for unerring observation and understanding of human nature.

In this case, Kurpin put those qualities to good use by outlining with a few masterly touches a Russian type that still exists, and has always existed. Moreover, expertly goaded and guided by middle-class revolutionaries, it came to the fore in 1917 and has been ruling the roost ever since, if in different guises.

Now imagine what would happen to England if all her educated and business classes were wiped out in a matter of months, either murdered or driven into exile (as Kuprin was in 1919). Taking over would be today’s tattooed louts, with their feral energies channelled into xenophobic and murderous conduits by people like Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingston.

Are you getting the picture of an instant catastrophe, social, cultural, moral and economic? With those people in charge, try to imagine the country’s evolution over the next century, try to fathom the genetic damage done to the nation, visualise blown up churches, mass nameless graves, ruined cities, fields overgrown with weeds, millions of children growing up in diabolical orphanages after their parents disappeared, decades of nauseatingly xenophobic propaganda…

Have you done that? Good. Now imagine all the same things happening in a country that has never had centuries of our legal tradition and intuitive civility to fall back on, one that for most of its history has been at war with its neighbours, has always discouraged business or cultural contacts with foreigners, treated as a crypto-traitor anyone who has as much as visited the West, had most of her population enslaved for much of its history.

Go through this exercise, and you’ll understand Putin’s roots and those of a Russia he’s moulding in his image. You’ll see the nature of his much vaunted public support that the likes of Trump and Hitchens dare highlight as proof of virtue.

Kuprin didn’t have to go through such mental exertions, nor was he necessarily capable of them. His job was to refract through his artist’s brain what he saw with his artist’s eye. That’s exactly what he did in this Finnish sketch:

“As I recall, some five years ago I happened to join the writers Bunin and Fyodorov for a day trip to Imatra. We were coming back late at night. At about eleven the train stopped at Antrea station, and we got out to have a bite.

“A long table was laden with dishes, hot and cold. There was freshly smoked salmon, fried trout, cold roast beef, some kind of game, very tasty tiny patties, things like that. Everything was incredibly clean, appetising and gorgeous. Along the edges of the table, bread baskets surrounded piles of small plates and heaps of knives and forks.

“Everybody picked whatever he liked, ate as much as he wanted, then went to the counter and of his own goodwill paid exactly one mark (thirty-seven kopecks) for his supper. No monitoring, no distrust.

“Our Russian hearts were overwhelmed by this mutual trust, used as we were to IDs, police stations, concierges forced to spy on us, universal thievery and suspicions.

“But when we returned to the carriage, we were treated to a lovely picture in the indigenous Russian genre. The thing was, we shared the compartment with two masonry contractors.

“Everyone knows this type of tight-fisted upstart from Meshchov county in the Kaluga province: wide, glistening, slant-eyed red mug, red hair curling from under the cap, thin beard, shifty eyes, a penny’s worth of piety, fervent patriotism and contempt for everything non-Russian – in other words, a perfectly familiar, truly Russian face. You should have heard how they mocked the poor Finns.

“ ‘Now that’s what I call stupid. Bloody idiots they are. Hell, add it all up, what I scoffed at those bastards’, that’d be three roubles seventy, at least… What scum! Haven’t been beaten enough, sons of bitches! Savages, that’s all I can say.’ ”

“And the other one agreed, gagging with laughter:“ ‘And I… smashed a glass on purpose, then went and spat on that fish.’ ”

“ ‘Way to go, with those bastards. Freedom, my arse. Must stamp on them good and proper!’ ”






What exactly did Henry Ford stand for?

naziantisemitismFord (d. 1947) has become an icon worshipped even by socialists, never mind chaps called conservatives in the US. One such socialist is Piers Morgan, who lost his editorship of The Daily Mirror because of a phone-hacking scandal and his American chat show because of poor ratings.

Having now repatriated to his native shores, he has published an article With One Crass Decision the Greedy Men Who Run Ford Have Betrayed Everything Henry Stood for.

The crass decision was proudly worded by Ford’s CEO Fields: “Over the next two to three years, we will have migrated all of our small-car production to Mexico and out of the United States.”

“Isn’t that, with 93 million Americans currently unemployed, an astonishing thing for the boss of a major U.S. company to boast about?” exclaims Morgan (he exaggerated the figure, but what’s an order of magnitude among friends?).

What follows is a panegyric for Henry Ford’s undeniable business acumen only matched by his patriotism. That, according to Morgan, was all Ford stood for.

This displays ignorance staggering even by Mr Morgan’s standards. For Henry too had factories all over the world, and he stood for all sorts of things, most of them hideous.

For example, he was a rabid anti-Semite whom Hitler cited as his inspiration. Ford was the only American mentioned in Mein Kampf, an honour he merited for his literary rather than automotive output.

Henry published his personal newspaper The Dearborn Independent, putting to shame both the earlier pamphlet Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the later magazine Der Stürmer, whose editor Julius Streicher was rewarded with a Nuremberg noose.

For 91 straight issues in 1920 the paper ran front-page stories highlighting Jewish evils. The most strident pamphlets were later collected into a four-volume set called The International Jew, the World’s Foremost Problem.

The pamphlets crystallised Hitler’s thinking on the world’s foremost problem, not that he needed much help of that kind. He needed money though, and Ford had been financing Hitler’s movement since before the Putsch, which the New York Times reported in December, 1922.

Hitler gratefully decorated his study with a portrait of Ford and in 1938 awarded him the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest Nazi decoration for foreigners (which incidentally had been turned down by Francisco Franco, much reviled by the likes of Morgan).

Let’s not forget Ford’s day job either. Contrary to Morgan’s belief, he had factories all over Europe. They all profited under the Nazis, largely thanks to extensive use of free labour supplied by Auschwitz and similar job centres.

In 1928 Ford merged his German holdings with I.G. Farben. That chemical cartel also financed Hitler from the start, and its product range later included the Zyklon B gas serving the needs of Germany’s growth industry.

Ford’s greatest reward was profits generated on both sides of the war. His European plants assisted the Nazis as much as his Detroit factories helped the Allies.

There’s evidence that the US Air Force spared Ford’s factories in Europe. Either the RAF Bomber Command wasn’t party to that arrangement, or else Sir Arthur Harris got carried away, but in March, 1942, the RAF hit the Ford Poissy plant. However, the Vichy government paid Ford 38 million francs in compensation, with apologies for their lax anti-aircraft defences.

Ford didn’t play favourites. In 1929 he signed an assistance agreement with another champion of democracy, Stalin’s Russia. This agreement culminated in 1933 when Ford’s plant was completed in Gorky.

Ford lorries carried Germans into Russia and Russians into Germany (later also into Afghanistan). Most of those vehicles were made abroad. Ford jobs thus went to Europe much the same way as they’re now going to Mexico.

Today’s situation isn’t quite the same, but it’s a distinction without a difference. Morgan is of course as deaf to such niceties as he’s ignorant of Ford’s biography. Moreover, he doesn’t understand the nature of modern economics.

Modern business isn’t always apolitical, but it’s always amoral. That’s the nature of what I call ‘totalitarian economism’, treating the economy as the axis around which life revolves. From Smith to Marx to Friedman, this has been promoted by thinkers spanning the whole political spectrum.

From the strictly economic viewpoint, it makes sense to export labour to where labour is cheap. ‘Conservative’ economists will talk your ear off explaining how outsourcing ultimately benefits the economy by benefiting the consumer. Lower unit costs mean lower prices, with the funds thus freed channelled into more productive areas.

Yes, but what happens to all those workers, millions of them, who lose their jobs as an immediate result of outsourcing? They don’t all retrain as systems analysts, do they?

Most of them go on welfare, paid for by the same consumers who were supposed to be in clover. Suddenly we begin to realise that the consumer benefits aren’t as straightforward as economists claim – even on their own terms.

In broader terms, while the economy may gain in the short run, society will lose in the long run. Yet modern ethos won’t allow modern businessmen – modern people – to think along those lines.

This takes a thinker to understand, not your average hack. Especially one as ignorant as Piers Morgan.







My friend Junk owns up to lies

J-C.JunckerJean Claude Juncker, or Junk, as he likes to be known to his friends, among whom I proudly number myself, put his finger right on it when he ascribed the Brexit vote to “40 years of lies”.

“On Europe there are so many lies, so many half-truths that are circulated around, that one cannot be surprised,” he told me the other day over a shared bottle of his favourite tipple, Glenfarclas malt whisky. Actually, sharing is a loose description, for I barely managed to have a couple of drinks before the rest of the nectar disappeared down Junk’s zinc-lined throat.

To digress, his detractors ascribe Junk’s eccentric views and behaviour to his inordinate fondness for that particular Scottish product. As someone who has seen Junk consume two bottles of the stuff in the course of a normal business day, I can testify that nothing can be further from the truth.

Junk holds his liquor remarkably well, and whisky has no appreciable effect on him. If Junk sometimes slurs his words, it’s because of the difficulty he at times has with constantly switching from one language to another, or rather from one mix of languages to another. And if at times Junk walks in zigzags, it’s his natural gait, as he once explained to a tactless, prying hack.

Anyway, I agreed with him avidly. “Right you are, Junk,” I said, nursing the few drops my friend left for me in the £120 bottle of Glenfarclas he had put on his EU expense account.

“More than 40 years actually. It was over 60 years ago that Jean Monnet outlined his plan for gradually duping Europeans into believing that the EU is a purely economic construct, rather than a systematic effort to create a single state.

“Since then every blatantly political step has been passed for an economic one. And don’t get me started on the European army, which the EU has always said it didn’t want. You know, the one it has now been announced they’re going ahead with…”

“No, tais-toi, Dummkopf, shut up, mein lieber ami,” shouted Junk, drawing askance glances from our fellow drinkers and emphasising yet again the multi-lingual ease of his self-expression.

“These aren’t the Lügen I mean! The mensonges I’m talking about are the lies les Anglo-Saxons spread about the EU! Himmelherrgott, those sales cons d’Anglais, no offence, Al, say we’re hell-bent on creating a single European state, complete with its own laws, army, taxation, currency and German government… Un paquet of bloody mensonges, jeden single lying mot!”

“Hold on, Junk,” I said, trying to get a word in edgewise. “Haven’t you just reaffirmed your commitment to further European integration, including a single European army? You know, when that hack asked you if Poland would be the first country the Euro army would invade?”

“What does that have to do with the prix of bread in Chine, mein lieber Freund?” asked Junk, clearly perplexed.

“Well, you’ve been saying for decades you wouldn’t do any of those things, without meaning a single word…”

Ta gueule, you Englisch Scheisse,” shouted Junk, making the barman pull out the baseball bat he kept under the bar. “You don’t comprend, do you?”

“So tell me what I don’t understand, Junk,” I said, gesturing at the barman to take it easy.

“What you don’t understand, with your Englisch-Russisch Gehirn, that Anglo-Russian half-cerveau of yours, is that everything said in favour of the EU is the truth, and everything said against it as a lie. By definition.”

“But Junk,” I protested, ignoring the insults with which Junk always masks the deep respect he has for your truly, “you lot did unveil plans to launch an EU army, something you said you’d never do, and you did say Brexit would throw the British economy into chaos, with Scotland heading for the door…”

“All God’s own vérités, every foutu one of them,” replied Junk, signalling for another bottle of Glenfarclas. “It’s just that you lot can’t get your têtes around the concept of dialectical, as opposed to wörtlich, literal, truth…”

At that point, Darren the barman approached our table and said “Sorry, Mr Juncker, can’t serve you another one. You’ve had enough, mate.”

So, I had to admit to myself with some mortification, had I.

English, such stuff as nightmares are made on

ShakespeareBusiness Secretary Greg Clark studied at Cambridge and got a PhD from the LSE. Yet his speech isn’t that of an educated man.

He stresses the third syllable, not the proper second, in ‘contributed’, and the second, rather than the proper first, in ‘comparable’. The second solecism is an Americanism; the first is demotic usage, expected from politicians who must sound prolier than thou.

When I complained about this, a friend mocked my pedantic nitpicking. At least, he smiled, you understood what Clark said. How about this locution from Hillary Clinton:

“My accomplishments as Secretary of State? Well, I’m glad you asked! My proudest accomplishment in which I take the most pride, mostly because of the opposition it faced early on, you know, the remnants of prior situations and mind-sets that were too narrowly focused in a manner whereby they may have overlooked the bigger picture, and we didn’t do that, and I’m proud of that. Very proud. I would say that’s a major accomplishment.”

Clearly, the aspiring president doesn’t use language to express thoughts, nor even, Metternich-style, to conceal them. She simply babbles on in the knowledge that her audience has no more respect for English than she does.

English is blessed with the largest vocabulary of all European languages, at least twice that of Russian for example. Thus most concepts are finely fractured into nuances, which allows for unmatched precision and concision.

This reflects the English mind, predisposed to mental rigour and laconic dynamism. The former produced the vast vocabulary; the latter, a grammar uniquely revolving around the verb.

A language able to convey a precise thought with a single word discourages long-winded musings. In fact, English used to punish loquaciousness like no other language.

Yet that punishment is no longer exacted. The English mind has enveloped itself in a fog, and the language follows suit. Hence this comparative calculation:

Pythagorean theorem: 24 words; the Lord’s Prayer: 66 words; Archimedes’s Principle: 67 words; the Decalogue: 179 words; the Gettysburg Address: 286 words; the US Declaration of Independence: 1,337 words; EU regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words.

“Language,” one hears so often, “is only a means of communication.” That’s not strictly true: if it were nothing but that, we wouldn’t have Shakespeare to savour. But, as the examples above show, even the face value of this sentiment no longer holds true.

Just like obtuse rationalism destroys reason, such dull utilitarianism destroys utility. The more language is seen strictly as a means of basic communication, the more the communication will suffer.

Advocates of this linguistic mayhem insist this is par for the course, for language develops. The assumption is that any change is for the better, which is as false in linguistics as it is in politics, culture, religion or anything else.

Not every development equals progress – much depends on what and who affects the development, and where it’s going. In this, English again reflects the national character, this time its innate pluralism and respect for all walks of life.

Our constitution was never codified in a single document. Our common law gradually evolved at the grassroots rather than being imposed by the state. Likewise, the English language has developed naturally, without any diktats from a central authority like l’Académie française.

Hence English has always been wide-open to numerous inputs, from different countries, classes, ages, professions, social trends. There’s a potential for anarchy in such openness, but it used to be kept in check by a hierarchy of cultural authority.

Formal speech came from the educated classes, with the lower strata adding colour and spice to keep English from turning into a linguistic eunuch. Free interaction between the language of the university and that of the street enriched the language, while preventing it from descending into chaos.

Then the hierarchical skeleton of the language disappeared and its body collapsed onto itself. The linguistic game began to be played without rules; it was Lord of the Flies time, with cultural children taking over and turning primordially feral.

Rather than developing under the influence of educated speech enlivened by informal infusions, English began to suffer the pernicious effects of bureaucratesque jargon, illiterate rather than colloquial usages of the newly dominant uneducated classes, unnecessary Americanisms, political correctness, electronic communication and whatnot.

Today one can’t open a broadsheet without seeing ‘affect’ confused with ‘effect’, ‘complimentary’ with ‘complementary’, ‘pour’ with ‘pore’, ‘masterly’ with ‘masterful’, ‘its’ with ‘it’s’, ‘nauseous’ with ‘nauseating’.

And our newscasters, if unprompted and unscripted, destroy whole grammatical categories, such as the subjunctive. What also comes out of their mouths is such ugly new locutions as ‘people were sat at the table’.

The new additions to the OED sound the death knells. These include such indispensable words as ‘gender-fluid’, ‘yolo’ ( ‘you only live once’) and ‘Fuhgeddaboudit’, a dreadful American dialectism, perceived as such even in its native habitat.

In addition to self-induced damage, English is suffering the effects of becoming the world’s lingua franca. ‘Everybody in Europe speaks English’, say home-grown ignoramuses with pride.

In fact ‘nobody in Europe speaks English’ would be closer to the truth, if not exactly true. What most Europeans speak is an ungrammatical, lexically impotent neuter of a patois, just sufficing to convey basic messages but falling far short of the glory that English used to be.

Given the most lamentable rise in global tourism and business travel, the newborn monster is exerting a reverse influence on native English. This hurries along the demise already rapidly progressing under its own steam.

Will Shakespeare, where are you when we need you?