Finally, Dark Ages precisely dated

Yesterday I wrote about the clash between our own Andrew Neil and Ben Shapiro, contrasting the former’s civility with the latter’s savagery.

The end of the Dark Ages and the arrival of dazzling progress

Alas, I got so hung up on matters of style that I overlooked the great historic discovery Andrew Neil made casually, if possibly unwittingly.

For since the 1330s, when the term ‘the Dark Ages’ was first used, historians have been arguing about the temporal boundaries of that period.

Some applied the term to the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the heyday of the Holy Roman one, say from 400 to 800 AD.

Others accepted the first date but argued against the second. The Dark Ages extended well into the fifteenth century, as far as they were concerned.

Thus it was out of darkness that all those Gothic cathedrals shot up, to the accompaniment of Hildegard’s music and words scribbled by Anselm, Albert the Great, Aquinas and Dante.

Still others saw nothing but darkness still enveloping the world in the eighteenth century, when it was finally and irreversibly pierced by the dazzling light of the Enlightenment.

Do you see what I see? This remarkable absence of consensus invalidated the whole concept. I mean, if some historians said that Shakespeare lived in the reign of Elizabeth I and others insisted he was a contemporary of Elizabeth II, we’d be justified in believing that Shakespeare never existed at all.

That’s why we should all be grateful to Andrew Neil for his chronological breakthrough – this, though he never actually mentioned a single date. His discovery, I believe, places Andrew next to such giants of the historical science as Herodotus, Thucydides and Simon ‘Sickbag’ Montefiore.

Trying to nail young Ben to the wall of obscurantism, Andrew slyly inquired about his victim’s thoughts on the new Georgia law, making abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy.

To stimulate young Ben’s thought process, Andrew opined that the new law “takes us back to the Dark Ages”. There it was, the great historical discovery – and nobody, not even Andrew Neil himself, realised its magnitude.

For Andrew implicitly equated the legalisation of abortion with the end of the Dark Ages. The inference is indisputable, isn’t it?

Since the Dark Ages are coextensive with the criminalisation of abortion, and since we know exactly when abortion was legalised, we must doff our hats to the Herodotus of the BBC, Andrew Neil.

Thus the Dark Ages in Britain ended in 1965, when abortion was legalised, while in Northern Ireland the Dark Ages are still in full swing because abortion is illegal there.

The US had its epiphany in 1973, Italy in 1978, France in 1979 and so forth. Hence not only can we date the Dark Ages approximately for all of the Western world, but we can now pinpoint them precisely for each country.

Andrew Neil missed a great opportunity to make this abundantly clear by wording his question differently: “Doesn’t the Georgia law take us back to the Dark Ages, which in America ended in 1973?”

One wonders how that whippersnapper would have handled this. Judging by the way he fielded the actual, imprecise question, he probably would have stuck his pen into Andrew’s jugular vein, thereby depriving us of new insights doubtless coming in the future.

If I were Ben, I would have answered Andrew’s question differently. Yes, I would have said, the Georgia law does take us back to the Dark Ages. However, legal abortion takes us back to the even earlier ages of pre-Christian paganism.

In those olden days, children had a strictly utilitarian value. The concept of any human life being valuable as such was alien to the Hellenic world.

Thus the first known letter written by a Greek soldier to his pregnant wife says: “If it’s a boy, keep him. If it’s a girl, get rid of her.” Since in those days it was impossible to determine the baby’s sex before birth, what the chap meant wasn’t just abortion but infanticide (frankly, the moral and physiological distinction between the two is rather blurred anyway).

Romans routinely left unwanted babies, mostly girls, by the roadside, to be devoured by wild animals. Compared to that practice, abortion was child’s play – and fun was had by all.

And then that herald of the Dark Ages, Jesus Christ, appeared and turned out to be a real spoilsport. Any human life, he said, is sacred and the lives of the unwanted, poor and downtrodden even more so.

It took the West the better part of two millennia to debunk that subversive notion, and well-done, ‘right-leaning’ Andrew Neil, explaining it in so few words. Do they give Nobel Prizes for history? I don’t think so, but if they did, I know who I’d vote for.

P.S. I’ve heard of aptronyms, but this is ridiculous (an aptronym is a person’s name appropriate to his occupation). Chromatography was invented by the Russian scientist Mikhail Tsvet (d. 1919). ‘Tsvet’ is the Russian for colour.

What happened to America?

A few days ago, BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil interviewed Ben Shapiro, the hugely popular US pundit, who is seen in his country as a conservative paladin laying all about him in his battle against the pernicious left.

Ben Shapiro, barbarian at Andrew Neil’s door

The interview ended badly: the two parties admitted to not having heard of each other before that exchange and, by the sound of it, both would have preferred to keep it that way.

I must admit I’ve never heard of young Mr Shapiro either, which, considering that he’s followed by millions of Americans, goes to show how out of touch one can get in 30-odd years out of the country.

What I can glean from the interview only reinforces my view that, while conservatives are rare in Britain, they are nonexistent in the US.

That is, conservatives as I define the breed: those who are committed to conserving what little is left of Western civilisation, otherwise known as Christendom. If you believe as I do that civility is the desired social by-product of that civilisation, then Mr Shapiro isn’t a conservative.

Not only is he incapable of conducting a civilised discourse, he doesn’t even seem to know what that is. Speaking nineteen to the dozen in a fast, nasal monotone devoid of any lightness of touch, he refuses to make natural pauses enabling his interlocutor to get a word in.

If the latter still tries to say something, Mr Shapiro just turns the volume up a couple of clicks and continues to talk over the other chap, creating a jarring polyphonic effect.

Civilised people don’t talk that way and, when someone does, I for one instantly lose interest in the content of his pronouncements and, to my shame, tend to say something nasty, which admittedly undermines my own claim to being civilised. My only excuse is a rather childish “he started it”.

Mr Neil is to be commended on being more civilised than me, for he never once lost his temper with the rude, brash youngster (both he and, alas, I probably regard a 35-year-old as one such).

His aim was to interview Mr Shapiro on his recent book about American politics, and he tried to stick to it by using the time-honoured interviewing technique: asking adversarial questions.

One adversarial question, about four minutes into the 16-minute interview, queried Mr Shapiro’s position on the Georgia law banning abortion past six weeks into pregnancy. He supports the law, although he’d prefer banning abortion altogether.

This is indeed a conservative position, and one I share. But conservatism isn’t really a sum total of its positions, for it’s not an ideology. Above all, it’s an attitude of mind, a trait of temperament and a matter of style. A philosophy of life follows, but it’s derivative.

Thus, though people who don’t hold conservative positions clearly aren’t conservatives, those who do may not be either. Now, judging by the way Mr Neil worded the question (he suggested that the Georgia law “takes us back to the Dark Ages), he isn’t a conservative.

Yet judging by the way Mr Shapiro reacted to it, neither is he. For any substantive conversation stopped at that point. Every question posed by Mr Neil thenceforth elicited a hysterical, spittle-sputtering rant.

Every time the interviewer asked Mr Shapiro to elucidate his position on a divisive issue, the latter came back to that abortion question, saying – nay, shouting – that there’s no point talking to someone who’s left-wing.

After first hearing that accusation, Mr Neil reacted like the grown-up he is. He chuckled and said: “If you only knew how ridiculous that statement is you wouldn’t have said it.”

Mr Shapiro clearly didn’t know how ridiculous that statement was, which is why he repeated it several times before abruptly ending the interview that, to him, was a “waste of time”.

Now as far as I could gather from the substantive scraps that crept into his hysteria, Mr Shapiro enunciates many ideas with which I’m in sympathy.

For example, he said about President Trump what I always say, that he likes many of his policies, while finding him personally repulsive (I’m paraphrasing). Mr Shapiro also supports Israel in its confrontation with Hamas, as do I.

However, it’s not the substance of Mr Shapiro’s polemic that I find unfortunate but its style, which, for me, invalidates the substance. In fact I was quite shocked, especially since I still remember those great American conservative pundits of the ’70s and ‘80s.

If you Google the old Firing Line talk shows with William F. Buckley, you’ll know what I mean. Buckley was at the time the mouthpiece and figurehead of American conservatism (that is, as the term is understood there, which is closer to what I’d describe as a blend of political libertarianism and economic liberalism. Buckley himself was closer to my definition of a conservative, but in his public persona he gravitated closer to what was then called the ‘conservative movement’).

He routinely interviewed people on the left, sometimes extreme left, of American politics and thought. Chaps like Noam Chomsky and John Kenneth Galbraith were his regular guests (the latter also his friend).

Buckley was never reticent in voicing opposition to his guest’s statements, but he always did so with intellectual integrity, perfect manners and good humour. They, leftie pundits, socialist economists, pseudo-philosophers and even the odd Black Panther, responded in kind – all much to the benefit of the viewers and indeed the conservative cause.

In fact, much of the debate in American highish-brow circles tended to be conducted in that spirit, if not always with Buckley’s élan and erudition. Even now I could name offhand a dozen or more figures on both right and left, who sometimes failed to put forth a cogent argument, but never for any lack of trying.

I don’t watch American television now, but I occasionally read the odd article, mostly pro- or anti-Trump. What amazes me isn’t that America seems to be divided, but that on either side of the divide all one hears is hysterical shrieks, vile invective, ad hominems and puerile arguments – all liberally lubricated with bile and spittle.

Rating the level of debate on a one-to-ten scale, if Buckley et al inhabited the region of eight to ten, today’s lot bring it down to minus one. This certainly isn’t exclusively an American phenomenon, but nowhere else I know does one observe such a catastrophic collapse in rhetorical skill and general civility.

British commentators were amused by Mr Shapiro’s description of Mr Neil as ‘of the left’. How could he be, was the outcry. After all, Andrew Neil is a “right-leaning Spectator chairman”, who used to work for the Conservative party. If that doesn’t make him conservative, what can?

This only emphasises the gross inadequacy of our political taxonomy. These days an association with The Spectator or especially the Conservative party is no badge of conservatism. Mr Neil certainly isn’t entitled to pinning it to his lapel.

But his dispassionate, adversarial yet polite style of interviewing stands in contrast to Mr Shapiro’s barbaric shrieks – much as I’m closer to his views than to Mr Neil’s.

Free scientific inquiry, RIP

Explore the genetic component of IQ at your peril, as sociologist Dr Noah Carl found out.

Freedom of speech, Cambridge style

The Cambridge don has been sacked for slaughtering the same sacred cows that his predominantly left-wing colleagues like to milk.

His dismissal was prompted by a letter from 586 academics who accuse Dr Carl of ‘racist pseudoscience’. His critics specifically held Dr Carl responsible for the use to which extremist groups put his work in their own xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Applying the same logic to rather better-known thinkers, Nietzsche was a Nazi, Hegel a Bolshevik and Darwin a bit of both – after all, their work was often cited by those rather disagreeable political movements.

Even closer to home, I’m a mass murderer because Anders Breivik quoted from my books in his diaries – and as to some of my friends, who were quoted much more widely, they have to be out and out monsters.

I’m not familiar with Dr Carl’s work, but I really don’t have to be to know what’s going on. The same brouhaha always ensues whenever a scholar as much as hints at the possibility that IQ may be genetically affected, never mind determined.

Dr Carl isn’t the first victim of such hysteria, nor will he be the last one. For it’s an indisputable fact that different races have different median IQs, and sociologists are paid to study mass trends.

Somehow we don’t demur when research shows that Orientals consistently outperform whites on IQ tests – even when taking such tests in English, their second language. (This goes a long way to refuting the insistence that IQ tests are culturally biased towards white people.)

However, when the same studies show that whites have a higher median IQ than blacks, we not only rip up the message but kill the messenger.

The scholarly integrity of such studies doesn’t matter, and neither do their scale and depth. Every hare-brained modern piety is a priori God’s own truth, meaning that anything that contradicts it isn’t just wrong but blasphemous.

Modern sensibilities crave uniformity, which is routinely confused with equality. It’s seen as an affront to everything modernity holds sacred when a research shows that the differences between the sexes go beyond their primary sexual characteristics, or that those among the races aren’t exclusively chromatic.

Truth is intellectually irrelevant if it’s ideologically offensive, which brings back the fond memories of my school days in the Soviet Union. In 1960, for example, my physics textbook defined the atom as “the smallest and further indivisible particle of matter”.

This was 43 years after Rutherford showed that the atom was indeed divisible, and 15 years after that discovery was put to such an explosive use in Japan. Our teachers knew it wasn’t so, as did we. We also knew that genetics wasn’t just a ‘bourgeois pseudoscience’, but that’s what we were taught.

Such was the education in one of the worst tyrannies the world has ever known, and it’s reassuring to observe how Cambridge University has chosen that obscurantism as a model to follow.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that, while the genetic component isn’t the only one in IQ, it’s extremely significant. They’ve also shown that IQ is the most reliable single predictor of future practical success in life.

Therefore IQ testing has important practical applications, for example in offering career advice to children or determining applicants’ suitability for certain jobs. (My own glittering career as insurance salesman in Houston 44 years ago lasted only a fortnight because an IQ test showed I was overqualified for the job.)

As to racial IQ differences, they are largely genetic, but not exclusively so. For example, studies in the US show that, when blacks move into the middle class, a generation or two later they show no statistically significant IQ differences from the middle-class whites.

Also, IQ measures not intelligence, but the potential for developing it, and some potentials are realised more fully than others. A child with an IQ of 110 who devotes his life to intellectual pursuits will grow up more intelligent than one with an IQ of 180 who pursues nothing but ‘happiness’.

In any case, who cares? Median numbers mean nothing when we look at individuals.

Statistical differences between groups numbering billions may be of academic interest, but they give no clue to the intelligence of a particular Chinese or Nigerian gentleman we meet at a party. Whatever the median IQs of their races, the former may well be less intelligent than us, and the latter considerably more so.

But that’s hardly the point, is it? The issue isn’t judged on merit, one way or the other. A mere suggestion that genetic differences exist and that they may not always favour the groups favoured by the bien pensants is sufficient grounds for persecution – if not quite yet prosecution.

I hope you’ll join me in a choral rendition of the Beatles’ song Back in the USSR. That’s what it feels like, and it’s not a feeling I cherish.

P.S. As myself a lifelong champion of equality, I’m pleased to observe that mass idiocy affects all racial groups to the same extent. For example, when 120 American secondary school pupils were given a test that in my father’s generation wouldn’t have baffled an average 10-year-old, 6 out of 10 was the highest score:

Turkey is ready for EU membership

Naysayers point out that only five per cent of Turkey’s territory is in Europe, which geographical handicap is supposed to be a barrier to the country’s entry into the EU.

Well-done, Tayyip, you’ve captured the true spirit of the EU. Atta Turk, as they say in your country.

Those pedantic sticklers simply fail to understand what the EU is all about. First and foremost, it unites nations on the basis of shared values, not just shared geography.

Hence it doesn’t matter if a country is only five per cent European geographically as long as it’s 100 per cent European spiritually. Regarded in that light, Turkey qualifies with room to spare.

For one thing, she’s committed to upholding democracy, as the EU defines the term. And one must admit that the EU definition raises the concept to a vertiginous height.

Its essence has a solid grounding in academic principles and practices. Just look at the process of sitting exams.

Having contemplated the problem posed by the examiner in the form of a multiple-choice question, students freely choose the answer reflecting their knowledge and intuition. Similarly, all voters are given a multiple choice of candidates, and they are free to choose the one that appeals most.

The parallel is working so far, isn’t it? Yes, but what happens if the answer chosen by a student is incorrect? Any formally educated person knows it: the hapless youth is made to resit the exam and keep doing so until he gets it right.

The EU applies the same principle to elections, thereby making them truly fair. For outside the EU, say in the US, democracy parts ways with the academy in that the result of any election is irreversible – this regardless of whether or not it’s right.

If applied to exams, such rigid formalism would be tantamount to what Americans would describe as ‘one strike and you’re out’ – while even baseball allows three. Applied to politics, such intransigence means sticking obdurately to the letter of democracy, while violating its spirit.

The EU, devoted as it is to true democracy, will have none of that. Neither will Turkey, proving that her political heartbeats are fully synchronised with the EU’s.

Thus President Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to rerun the mayoral elections in Istanbul may be seen as a veiled application for EU membership, and it must be considered seriously and positively.

Whenever European students… sorry, I mean voters, have failed to vote the right way, the EU has always stepped in and kindly given them a second chance to pass. This generosity has invariably led to reversal everywhere, in France, Portugal, Ireland, Holland – and it’s about to succeed in Britain.  

Extending the educational metaphor, Turkey has learned its lesson. On 31 March the denizens of Istanbul failed their exam by returning the opposition candidate. Proving how thoroughly President Erdogan has absorbed the EU spirit, he declared that a new vote would be held on 23 June.  

“We see this decision as the best step that will strengthen our will to solve problems within the framework of democracy and law,” he said, making one wonder if his speech had been written by Jean-Claude Junker, who absorbs a bottle of the EU spirit every lunchtime.

The re-run, added Mr Erdogan, would constitute “an important step to strengthen our democracy” – and to reaffirm the democratic principles the EU holds sacred, he could have added.

Turkey’s EU approach to popular vote isn’t the only reason she should fit snugly into the European ethos. Let’s remind ourselves of the EU’s unwavering commitment to multiculturalism (otherwise known as ‘free movement of people’).

Admitting Turkey, with her 82 million Muslims, would strike a powerful blow for this sacred principle, especially if closely followed by the admission of Bosnia and Kosovo.

As founder, chairman and so far the only member of the Charles Martel Society for Diversity, I’d welcome this step with both hands (and feet, when the time comes).

Not only is Turkey fully aligned with the EU politically, she also marches in step with it economically. Her economy is in recession, which seems to be the standard towards which all EU economies seem to strive.

Fiscally, Turkey even marches ahead of the EU: unlike the euro, her currency has lost 30 per cent of its value in the past year. While this is highly commendable in principle, such a tempo of progress may create problems akin to those of an army vanguard advancing too fast and losing touch with the bulk of the force.

With sage foresight, however, the EU anticipated the potential for such problems and preempted them by introducing the euro. All Turkey has to do to stay in sync with her European partners is replace the lira with the euro and never look forward. Sorry, I mean back.

The case for admitting Turkey into the EU has become so compelling as to be irrefutable. Why, I’d even be prepared to sacrifice Britain’s membership to make room for that true champion of European unity.

Fascism isn’t just a swear word

When a word is used as a generic term of abuse, its original meaning is often lost. The word gets to mean so much as to mean nothing.

Two stooges to Yanks and Zionists, in-coming and out-going.

Yet ‘fascism’ denotes at least two specific phenomena, one anchored in history, the other timeless.

In its narrow, strictly historical meaning, fascism describes the politics and philosophy of Mussolini’s Italy, and also of regimes similar to it.

In its broader meaning, which is the way I often use it, fascism represents the state’s total victory over society. The victory is so absolute that the state can do or say to the people anything it wishes.

Fascist leaders can talk utter nonsense on purpose, knowing that most people have been so thoroughly brainwashed that they don’t realise it’s nonsense – and those who do will shut up for fear of reprisals.

George Orwell was the first to make this perceptive observation, in reference to fascist Italy. It’s as if the fascists were saying, he wrote, that we know we’re ridiculous, and we know that you know. But so much greater is our power over you because, ridiculous or not, we can make you listen, nod and obey.

Understanding this stratagem makes it easier to identify as fascist those regimes that pretend not to be, trying to trick the outside world into accepting them as just different, not evil. Putin’s regime is one such.

That’s why I sometimes translate the pronouncements of its key figures, those meant for internal consumption. My hope is that Western admirers of Putinism will see it for what it is. The hope is often forlorn: ideology is like love or hate. Once it has taken hold of a mind, it’s hard to dislodge.

However, those who aren’t pro-Putin ideologues may appreciate this excerpt from an article written by the political scientist Sergei Glaziev, one of Putin’s closest advisers. In that capacity, he also acts as dummy to Putin’s ventriloquist.

So this is what Putin makes his dummy say about the recent presidential elections in the Ukraine, won by Volodymyr Zelensky who happens to be Jewish:

“The Russian World has suffered catastrophic losses, having surrendered to its geopolitical enemies, almost without a fight, its significant and, I’m not afraid to say, on many counts best part… The five-year occupation of the Ukraine by US intelligence services under the guise of the puppet Poroshenko regime was the final stage of the systematic subversion they had been conducting with Russia’s acquiescence for 25 years. There’s no doubt that this success will inspire them to use this beachhead grabbed in the historic centre of the Russian World to complete its conquest…

“It’s obvious that the top three candidates in the first round of the presidential ‘elections’ didn’t include a single one who hadn’t pledged allegiance to the American occupation force.

“Of course, however, the American puppeteer’s choice is based on the fine nuances in their interests. It’s possible that their bet on Zelensky, made long before these elections, is linked to the Trump administration’s general leaning towards the extreme right forces in Israel. They’ll probably give the Zelensky regime new tasks.

“Thus I don’t discount the possibility that, once the territory of the Southwestern Ukraine has been purged of Russians, it will be repopulated with Israelis, tired of the permanent war in the Middle East, and also with Christians fleeing an Islamised Europe.”

An outsider might think that this is the delirium of a severely delusional patient. It’s indeed hard for an outsider to read this text in any other way.

For this is what Glaziev is actually saying:

The Ukraine has no legitimately independent status outside the mythical Russian World, a sort of Pax Russica run out of Moscow. Putin and his henchmen arbitrarily define this entity to include all the constituent republics of the former Soviet Union and also, for good measure, anything else they fancy.

The Ukraine in particular is not a sovereign country, but only a part of Russia illegally detached from her.

The breakup of the Soviet Union, which Putin once called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”, is illegitimate and reversible. Hence the Ukraine gaining her de facto independence in 2014 represented an attack on Russia’s integrity.

The attack was launched not by the Ukrainian people, but by the US intelligence services. The success of the attack has led to American occupation of the country, not its independence.

Thus every democratically elected government of the Ukraine is by definition a stooge to an American occupation regime, and every Ukrainian president is a Quisling who has taken a pledge of allegiance to the US.

In other words, it’s not Ukrainian people who elect their leaders; it’s US administrations that appoint them.

The Trump administration is in hock to Israel and its extreme right-wing government. That’s why, given the choice of three Quislings, the Americans settled on the Jew Zelensky.

The dastardly plan seems to involve deporting all Russian speakers out of parts of the Ukraine and repopulating those parts with Israelis fleeing from the Muslims’ Soviet-made rockets, and indeed European Christians fleeing from the creeping Islamisation of their continent.

This penetrating analysis comes from a political scientist, a member of the Russian Academy (an equivalent of our Royal Society). Now how would you describe a regime that thrusts this version of current events down their people’s throats?

Check the text against the definition of fascism above, read the Orwell article mentioned, and the word ‘fascist’ will cross your lips as if by itself.

You’ll also recognise some unmistakeable traces of anti-Semitism, of the kind that preaches a Jewish cabal running the world. The funny thing is that it’s the post-2014 Ukraine that’s tagged as anti-Semitic in the Russian media.

Then how, I hear you ask, is it that they elected a Jewish president by a landslide? How very naïve of you.

Can’t you see? All those millions of Ukrainians casting their ballots for Zelensky acted on direct orders from the Yanks and right-wing Zionists.

Trust Putin’s Goebbelses to explain the facts of life to an ignorant world.

The royal treatment

As a passionate monarchist, I gobble up avidly any news about the royal family, and the past few days have been most rewarding.

Heartiest congratulations to the happy Anglo-American couple

Naturally, the birth of baby Sussex takes pride of place on sentiment alone, but his granddaddy Charles caught my eye first.

HRH is urging politicians to protect Britain’s historic bond with Germany, which ought to pique the interest of anyone passionate about both politics and history.

The first group has taken the pronouncement as a reference to Brexit, which HRH clearly wants to be soft enough not to loosen the historic bond. Fair enough, he’s entitled to his view, though I’m not sure to what extent the constitution allows him to voice it publicly.

But the word ‘historic’ intrigued me, for history covers such a long time that it can justify just about any statement. It all depends on what fragment is placed into focus.

Which history are we talking there? Granted, both the Angles and the Saxons were Germanic tribes. However, at the time they settled the Tin Island, no bond between Britain and Germany was established since neither existed.

For the same reason, when Britain was already Britain, she used to enter into ad hoc alliances with various German principalities, but not with Germany qua Germany.

Germany as such was born only in 1871, and since then the bond has been more in the nature of a garrotte. I suppose it’s possible to talk about a bond annealed in the fire of the Somme, Verdun, Jutland, the Blitz, the Battle of the Bulge and so forth. However, ‘violent hostility’ rolls off the tongue more easily.

Prince Charles might have meant the dynastic links between Germany and his own House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Alas, much to my regret and doubtless his, these days dynastic bonds are matters of strictly antiquarian interest.

They certainly didn’t prevent the royal cousins George, Wilhelm and Nicholas from sending their subjects into the bloodbath of the Great War. As millions were dying, the Kaiser and the Tsar were exchanging ‘dear Nicky’, ‘Dear Willie’ letters – in English, which language they also used to communicate with ‘Georgie’.

None of this is meant as criticism. It’s just that I’d like to have some clarity on the historical background to HRH’s evident yearning for a soft Brexit. That’s all.

Now to more joyous matters: the birth of Harry’s and Meghan’s son. One can understand the happy father’s elation, even as one may wish he had found better words to express it.

As it was, Prince Harry first uttered an old cliché, saying he was “over the moon”, and then, considering that the delivery wasn’t without problems, an inappropriate one: the baby was “absolutely to die for”.

The prince’s eloquence reached a new height when reporters asked him the question keeping us all on tenterhooks: what will be the baby’s name. Harry spoke from the heart:

“That’s the next bit, but for us I think we will be seeing you guys in probably two days’ time as planned as a family to be able to share it with you guys and so everyone can see the baby.”

It appears that HRH is taking his wife’s American heritage close to heart, while jettisoning the ballast of his own expensive education.

Meanwhile, the media guys are knee-deep in conjecture, trying to guess the forthcoming name. The bookie guys have waded in too, with two names, James and Alexander, currently their favourites at 7/2.

James must be struck off the list immediately, lest all those ugly – and groundless! – rumours about Harry’s paternity might be stoked up. As to Alexander, much as I appreciate the royal couple’s intent to name their son after me, I hope they’ll go for something more imaginative.

By all accounts, had Harry and Meghan produced a daughter, they would have named her Diana in honour of her late grandmother. Personally, I see no reason to deny the same name to the son, thereby keeping his ‘gender’ identity open until he’s old enough to choose for himself.

That would be a nice New Age gesture, and Meghan is nothing if not New Age. Then again, she never tires of saying how proud she is of her Americanism.

As a reflection of that pride, the young couple are planning to saddle their son with a male American nanny, to make sure he grows up speaking like Meghan’s co-stars in Suits.

Such locution would go nicely with an American name like Gus, Butch or Wayne. HRH Prince Butch has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say?

No, scratch that: the baby is unlikely to get a royal title, and there are indications that, even if one were offered, Meghan would reject it because her son is half-American and an amendment to the US Constitution bans titles of nobility. Harry’s family managed to shove a title down her own throat, but that’s where Meghan draws the line.

There’s a part of me that hopes that the couple will eschew all those tired, overused names in favour of something modern and upbeat, such as Arlen, Cosmo or Brando. And let’s not forget another part of Meghan’s heritage of which she’s proud: her semi-negritude.

(I’ve never been able to understand how it’s possible to be proud of an accident of birth, even if that means what Cecil Rhodes called “winning first prize in the lottery of life”. But these days one is supposed to uncover all sorts of things to be proud about.)

This dovetails neatly with the royal family’s intent to tuck Harry’s family away in Africa for a few years or, better still, permanently. That would suggest names like Kofi, Daewon or Kwame, though perhaps this is taking multiculturalism too far.

I have an idea: the name Clarence can reflect the mixed heritage of baby Sussex – it’s both black American and British royal, although admittedly not New Age.

Sorry if I can’t be more creative this morning. The trouble is, I’m still recovering from viewing a long segment on Sky News, in which an independent midwife offered expert opinion on the royal birth.

Speaking in a robotic monotone for some 10 minutes, she explained that the woman’s and child’s safety is important in delivery, which was a real eye opener. She then reassured us that pregnancy isn’t a disease, and childbirth is perfectly normal. In fact, she should have added but didn’t, all of us followed this road into life.

Mind like a steel trap, as they say in Meghan’s native land.

A great deal to be desired

Poor Theresa May, I really feel for her. She’s buried neck-deep under an avalanche of deals, and only her carefully coiffed head is sticking out.

Mrs May, if she follows my advice

No one else has to handle so many of those bloody things at the same time. A casino croupier is also busy with deals, but never more than one at a time.

Perhaps a manic asset stripper may be involved in two or three simultaneously, but not more than that – even if he takes an appropriate amount of cocaine, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

English folklore talks about hitting two birds with one stone, but that proverb came into existence before Mrs May did. She’s trying to hit not two but five birds, and she doesn’t even have a stone.

Deal No. 1, with the EU, is the hardest of all for the simple reason that neither party really wants to make it. Moreover, this deal is contingent on the other four, none of which has been made yet.

Deal No. 2, with Corbyn, is one of the culprits in holding back Deal No. 1. Lacking even a semblance of parliamentary majority, Mrs May has to come to an agreement with Corbyn, but he’s dealing from the bottom of the pack.

As a price of his support, Comrade Corbyn demands that the Queen abdicate, Britain be declared a soviet socialist republic (BSSR), the ownership of all factories be transferred to the workers, all the wealth of the top five per cent of the population be repossessed, and the deal with the EU stipulate that we remain a member, but one without a vote. Also, he wants to nationalise everything, including Mr and Mrs May.

She may be inclined to accept those terms, or at least to bargain for a compromise, such as being allowed to keep Mr May privately owned. But first she must conclude the remaining deals, and none seems to be on the cards.

Deal No. 3 is with Jacob Rees-Mogg and other spoilsports in Parliament. This agreement is theoretically easier to conclude than Deal No. 1 because one party, namely Mrs May, desperately wants to do so.

Yet in practice it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference because the kind of MPs John Major used to call ‘bastards’ simply won’t deal – certainly not on Corbyn’s terms and not even on Mrs May’s proposed compromise wherein Mr May remains privatised.

Mrs May’s partner in Deal No. 4 is the entire Tory parliamentary party that wants to negotiate the date of Mrs May’s departure from 10 Downing Street. Since her starting position is “when hell freezes over” and theirs is “before sundown”, no common ground has so far been established.

Deal No. 5 is with the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, who’re hinting they’ll fly the coop the moment Deal No. 1 is done. Their recalcitrance jeopardises the other four deals, even though Mrs May is ready to offer generous terms.

She’s prepared to move the Queen into Edinburgh Castle, all government departments to Cardiff and all law enforcement services to Belfast. She also undertakes to make Mr May switch from gin to Scotch – and to stop making unfunny jokes about the method by which Nicola Sturgeon managed to produce a baby.

But they, especially Scotland, are demanding full independence, with all their laws coming from Brussels. It’s safe to say that Deal No. 5 has also hit a snag.

All things considered, Mrs May finds herself in quite a pickle. Normally I’m quite generous with advice, but in this case I’m at a loss.

Perhaps Mrs May ought to try a little visual trick: have a portrait of Margaret Thatcher silkscreened on a brown paper bag and wear it over her head next time she tries to deal. She may be pleasantly surprised how pliant and respectful her opponents will become.

Aulde Lang Lang Sign

What are the tell-tale signs of a great pianist? Or especially one of genius?

Lang Lang seems seems happy happy with with himself himself

Artur Schopenhauer, one of only two German philosophers who could write intelligible prose (Nietzsche is the other), produced the best explanation of the difference between talent and genius:

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Applying this adage to pianists, I’ve heard quite a few extremely talented ones. Why, I’m even married to one of them.

But, in about 60 years of listening to music, I’ve heard only one pianist – actually only one instrumentalist – who always hit targets no one could see: Glenn Gould.

Some sublime pianists (one could think of Schnabel, Gieseking, Yudina, Richter, Gilels and a few others) could occasionally approach that level at their best.

However, Gould lived on that level and never descended from it. His playing was never short of genius – even on those rare occasions when he played badly, which all serious musicians do from time to time. However, as another great pianist, Sofronitsky, once said: “You can play badly by accident, but you can’t play well by accident.”

In other words, playing well – and Sofronitsky’s ‘well’ meant near-genius – involves more than just a flash of inspiration. That alone wouldn’t raise a mediocrity into the rarefied atmosphere of genius or even sublime talent.

Obviously there are many physical and physiological skills that go into playing well, this goes without saying. Playing the piano to any reasonable standard is perhaps one of the most physiologically taxing tasks.

Watching my wife practice, she has to coordinate at the same time both arms and hands, all ten fingers and both feet, while her eyes follow the score and the keyboard, and her mind races several bars ahead of the notes she’s playing.

Her mind also has to make sure that structural integrity is observed with minute accuracy, while her ears and fingers combine to make the piano sing, delivering cantabile that all concert pianists could produce in the past, and so few can at present.

Yet real talent, never mind genius, goes well beyond just those devilishly difficult things. For music is the highest manifestation of Western culture – a statement that can’t be credibly made about any other culture.

Unless a pianist, no matter how lavishly gifted in physical and physiological skills, lives his life immersed in that culture, he’ll always remain nothing but an epigonic Peeping Tom, spying on serious musicians and then trying to reproduce what they do.

He won’t be able to. Playing to the standard of the pianists I’ve mentioned requires permanent residence in Western culture. Any Peeping Tom or even a short leaseholder will forever remain an interloper.

Is it possible to play Western music well without being on intimate terms with the culture that alone could have produced that music? But of course – provided we define ‘well’ in a different way from Sofronitsky’s aphorism.

Apparently, however devilishly difficult the physical and physiological aspects of piano playing seem to me, millions of people take those things in their stride. China alone has a million professionally trained pianists at present, and they can all get around the keyboard with reasonable competence.

They can play well in the sense of hitting all the right notes in the right sequence, displaying virtuosic digital fleetness whether it’s required or not. Then again, a computer can be programmed to do just that, and even better.

If that’s all that today’s public requires, then suddenly pianists like Yuja Wang, who in my day would have struggled to gain admission to Moscow Conservatory, never mind having a successful career, can become international stars. Especially if they, like Yuja, are pretty girls performing semi-nude.

When music is played that way, it’s no longer the apex of our culture. It’s soulless entertainment activating the same mechanisms of appeal as pop or rap.

That’s why I’m always incensed when some modern barbarian says he likes both classical and pop. “If you can listen to pop at all,” I once said to a lovely young girl, “you simply can’t understand real music.” She was upset, and I had to offer profuse apologies for my rudeness. But I meant what I said.

This brings us to the undisputed leader of the Sino pack, Lang Lang, whose parents loved him so much they named him twice.

I’ve had the misfortune of hearing some of his robotic, mindless, deracinated performances, and each time I thought he could have a brilliant career as a circus performer. But he doesn’t need to: he rakes in millions playing non-music to gaping audiences of non-listeners.

Every audience gets the kind of performances it deserves, and modern audiences weaned on pop excretions don’t deserve any better.

It’s in that spirit that I read a recent Lang Lang interview, which started the emetic impulse that could have been brought to gushing fruition had he also played, not just talked.

Here are some choice bits:

The instrument I wish I’d learned. The guitar… You can take the guitar everywhere. It would be amazing to play guitar like a rock star. [Why, Lang Lang? You already play the piano like one.]

My favourite author is Shakespeare. His works are basically screenplays. [Why not TV adverts?]

The music that cheers me up is my friend Pharrell Williams’s song Happy… Listening to it makes you just want to be together and have a good time. [And what else can one expect from music? A couple of pints would go down nicely too, to make the time even better.]

The book I wish I had written is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. [Not The Divine Comedy? The Iliad? War and Peace? Well, at least he didn’t say Fifty Shades of Grey.]

The place I feel happiest is on stage. If you play music by yourself it’s OK but when you share it that’s when it becomes really powerful. By yourself, you’re just a computer. With other people you become the internet. You’re connected. [Yes, with internet listeners. But I appreciate his honesty in admitting his playing is computer-like.]

I’m having a fantasy dinner party, I’ll invite these artists and authors…Mozart, Pavarotti, Lady Gaga and Michael Jordan. These are my favourite musicians and my favourite sports star. I would love to see how Mozart plays the piano. [Yes, but he wouldn’t have played in this company. Pearls before swine and all that.]

A composer who is underrated… Carl Czerny… and there’s another incredible composer I love called Clementi. [Both of these men wrote mostly technical exercises for budding pianists – not much cultural attainment is required for playing their music.]

Overrated…  If you are a famous classical composer then you’ve earned it. [Penetrating insight, that.] Even really popular composers like Chopin and Rachmaninov are not overrated. Their music has stood the test of time. [Really? And there I was, thinking Chopin only wrote funeral music for marching bands.]

I don’t mean to be nasty to Lang Lang or other Oriental musicians. Granted, they are all without a single exception cultural barbarians who understand the music they play at the level of an average rave-goer. But at least they have the excuse of having been raised outside our culture.

Alas, many Western pianists flash the signs of barbarism with equal gusto. What’s their excuse? What’s ours, for launching them to stardom at the box office? Well, don’t blame me: I voted Glenn Gould.

Putin, please unite Left and Right

Back in the 1930s, the Bolsheviks and the Nazis had their admirers in the West. However, not many people this side of George Bernard Shaw admired both at the same time.

The fisher of men

Putin is in that sense a unique figure because swarms of his fans can be found at either extreme of the political spectrum. Assorted ‘right-wing populists’ love the Russian chieftain, but then so do such undeniably left-wing figures as Corbyn.

Even people called conservatives in America, Pat Buchanan to name one, adore Putin, as do their British counterparts, such as Peter Hitchens and Christopher Booker. It’s as if some present-day Paul proclaimed “there is neither Right nor Left for you are all one in Vlad.”

Why do most people outside the political mainstream, and even some within it, fall over themselves to extol Putin’s non-existent virtues?

Some of it may be ignorance, although that’s often too simplistic an explanation. Sometimes it isn’t: I’ve talked to Putin admirers who knew shockingly little about Russia.

But surely the gentlemen I’ve mentioned know enough about the crimes committed by Putin’s regime, inside and outside Russia. They may be aware that the Russian economy is criminalised from top to bottom, that money laundering is the only growth industry there, that elementary civil liberties have been suppressed, that Russia is waging hybrid war against the West and so forth.

One suspects that even many on either political extreme know such facts, and yet their panegyrics for Putin lose none of their volume. Why?

The simple answer is that both the Right and the Left admire Putin because the former believe his propaganda and the latter don’t.

The propaganda is balm to a Right-leaning soul. Putin’s Goebbelses position Russia’s kleptofascist junta as a champion of conservative values, strong government, the vital importance of the Church and all those lovely things.

The music is so beautiful that it’s impossible to turn the radio off, and who cares about the false notes – it’s the intent that counts. The listeners either don’t realise or refuse to accept that false notes are all there is.

Traditional values are only as good as the tradition. Putin’s Russia packages Stalinism with the worst features of tsarism and calls it conservatism. So it is, but this isn’t the conservatism of Burke or Chateaubriand, nor even of Pat Buchanan.

The same goes for strong government: it all depends on how it uses its strength. Margaret Thatcher’s government was strong, so was Fidel Castro’s – can we agree that strength isn’t good ipso facto? As to Putin’s religiosity, this is indeed Pauline.

Overnight KGB officers and Party secretaries treating faith as a criminal offence became pious Christians who cross themselves before government meetings.

When I see videos of that travesty, I strain to find somewhere in the background the horse they fell off when they heard the voice of God. Taking that obscene spectacle seriously takes not just suspension but elimination of disbelief.

Forgetting Putin’s gang for a second, it’s useful to remember that when a Russian talks about the Church, he means something different from what the word connotes to a Westerner.

I’m not going to talk about filioque and other doctrinal differences between Eastern and Western Christianity, crucially important though they are. What’s relevant here is the existential difference between the civilisations the two Churches have produced, and what place they occupy in each.

If Christendom appeared at the confluence of Jerusalem and Athens, for the Russian Church these are only two of the feeding tributaries. The others, more relevant to my theme, are Byzantium and the Golden Horde.

The Byzantine Church was an aspect of absolutist government, and its important function was to sacralise the power of the Caesar. Political power, religion and wealth were so organically fused together as to become one.

Had Russia got her Christianity from the proselytising Catholic orders, her history might have taken a different course. As it was, her religion came courtesy of Byzantine theocaesarism, and her politics came from the same source, with a later admixture of Mongol absolutism.

Hence every attempt by the Russian Church to get out of the state’s clutches led to savage suppression, reaching its height under Tsar Alexis and his son Peter (the Great). Under the latter, the Church was placed under the auspices of a secular government department, the Holy Synod.

Still, under the tsars the Church was able to attend to its main business and even produce outstanding thinkers: though its supervisors were laymen, they were still Christians who had to pay spiritual fealty to the Church.

In their impetuous youth, the Bolsheviks set out to wipe out the Church altogether. Some 40,000 priests were murdered in all sorts of imaginative ways on Lenin’s watch, and that was before Stalin got going.

However, destroying the Church proved easier than destroying the religious yearning that has been with man since before he learned to build houses. As Stalin’s empire was being overrun by Nazi panzers, Lenin’s heir realised that his power could do with some sacralisation too.

The Church was brought back into the fold: it agreed to be used lest it might be abused. It then suffered the indignity of being placed not just under the government, but specifically under its secret police, which was responsible for bolstering Russian patriotism.

This fine tradition perseveres. The current patriarch Kirill (ne Vladimir Gundiaev, aka ‘Agent Mikhailov’) is a career KGB operative – as were his only two rivals for the office.

Rather than having undergone a spiritual catharsis, Putin and his jolly friends have prostituted the Church to make it serve their propaganda ends, both at home and abroad.

The propaganda sways the Western Right, who accept as real the lies peddled by Russian media. They’re so starved of Christian or any other virtues in their own governments that they are willing to believe in the Emperor’s clothes.

The left-wingers’ eyesight is better: they see that all this talk about tradition is just propaganda. Realising that Putin’s regime is a direct heir to Stalin’s, its reincarnation in different clothes at a different time, they’re prepared to overlook all that conservative camouflage woven out of a tissue of lies.

The old truism about extremes converging seems to be vindicated. But a truism is different from truth. In this case the underlying supposition is that the two extremes set out to be different and then somehow drift together.

But that’s not true: if they drift together, they weren’t that different in the first place. It’s just that their similarity lies deeper than any superficial divergences in policies and pronouncements.

Both extreme worship power as such, which is pointed out often enough. But underneath this is the same religious yearning I mentioned earlier, a craving for an ideal kingdom not of this world.

Except that modernity has trained people to accept the purely physical boundaries of this world, with nothing beyond it any longer imaginable. Hence that ideal kingdom has to be found not in heaven but elsewhere in earth.

Looking at our politics, Westerners of all political hues despair. Those on the Right and on the Left may hate their governments for different reasons, but hate them they do. Yet, as Cicero put it, dum spiro spero.

No longer capable of investing their hope in God, people are ready to invest it into any fraudulent pyramid scheme, including what Nietzsche called “brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non-brothers.”

Both the Right and the Left, bereft of any realistic hope of bliss at home, look at Putin’s criminal regime and see brothers where only enemies exist. They want to believe so much that they’ll believe anything.

At least Trump doesn’t want to kill us

Mr – or, to use the honorific he doubtless prefers – Comrade Corbyn has snubbed the Queen’s invitation to attend the state dinner in honour of President Trump.

“I’ll never sit down to dinner with a man who doesn’t hate Britain and Jews.”

Perhaps it’s worth pointing out to Corbyn that a state occasion at Buckingham Palace is different from dinner at a friend’s house. Thus in my private capacity (which is the only capacity in which I can act), I’ve been known to decline dinner invitations if I didn’t like the company.

For example, I’d probably not attend a dinner where another guest would be Corbyn, whom I find sufficiently revolting to put me off my food. However, in the unlikely, nay impossible, event that such an invitation was issued by Her Majesty, I’d feel duty-bound to attend – whatever the guest list.

Being rude to one’s friends is par for the course: that’s what friends are for, though not all they are for. However, being rude to the Queen means disrespecting her realm, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Such rudeness goes beyond bad manners even if manifested by an ordinary subject. But when the Queen’s invitation is thrown in her face by a high official, it shows instantly and undeniably that such a person isn’t fit to be a high official.

Admittedly, Mr Trump isn’t the kind of man I’d welcome at my own dinner table. We’re all God’s children and all that but, if a particular God’s child is a narcissistic, functionally illiterate vulgarian, I, my wife and our other likely guests wouldn’t enjoy his company, and neither would he enjoy ours.

But this is neither here nor there. For when Trump is on a state visit to Britain, it doesn’t matter how narcissistic, illiterate or vulgar he is. What matters is that he is the head of state in a country friendly to ours, and allied with it for some 200 years.

In any case, since Corbyn is every bit as narcissistic, illiterate and vulgar as Trump, this can’t be the reason for his boorishness. And I do hope he didn’t turn down the Queen’s invitation because he didn’t expect to have a good time.

Apparently, the last time he attended such an event he described it as “one of the most boring nights I have ever had”. That may well be, but state occasions aren’t attended for their entertainment value. They are among those things that come with the territory for leaders of Her Majesty’s Loyal (in Corbyn’s case glaringly disloyal) Opposition. You do it not because you want to, but because you have to.

Perhaps, rather than trying to second-guess Corbyn’s reasons, we should listen to the man himself. So here are his own words: “Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a president who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”

Now “racist and misogynist rhetoric” doesn’t belong here at all, for if Trump ever indulges in such affronts to Corbyn’s sensibilities, he does so in private. I’m not aware of a single racist or misogynist word Trump has uttered ex cathedra in his capacity of US president – and it’s in that capacity that he’s visiting Britain.

As to ripping up “vital international treaties”, which ones would they be? The only treaties Trump has ripped up are one that was guaranteed to turn Iran into a nuclear power, with deadly consequences for America’s and Britain’s allies; and also the Luddite Paris Accords, penalising the West for the environmental damage largely perpetrated by the Third World.

This dovetails neatly with “climate change denial”, which is among the most serious crimes against New Age pieties. Corbyn is obviously unhappy that Trump refuses to let his knee jerk whenever yet another fad makes a claim, especially if both the fad and the claim are bogus and anti-Western.

All this means is that Trump’s politics differ from Corbyn’s, as if we didn’t know that already. Hence Corbyn refuses to break bread with a leader whose political convictions clash with his own.

Splendid, glad we’ve established that. But logically the opposite must also be true: Corbyn has to see nothing wrong with the politics of those leaders with whom he has happily sat down to dinner.

Hence a quick scan of such kindred souls will provide an optically perfect insight into the convictions, and personality, of our likely next PM. So here goes, in no particular order:

Corbyn has attended a state dinner with Xi Jinping, president of a communist country running what effectively is a slave economy, suppressing free speech and murdering or imprisoning dissidents.

Comrade Jeremy has described as his friends members of Hamas and Hezbollah, murderous terrorist organisations that mysteriously fail to activate Corbyn’s revulsion at racism and misogyny. As he put it: “It will be my pleasure and honour to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking.”

Clearly, he doesn’t regard as racist a heartfelt commitment to murdering Jews, accompanied by regrets that Hitler didn’t quite finish the job – even though the Holocaust never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews’ own fault. As to the Muslims’ treatment of women, if that’s not misogyny, I don’t know what is.

Incidentally, Trump is perhaps the best friend Israel has ever had among US presidents, which alone would suffice to make Corbyn detest him – hatred of Israel, ideally as an expression of virulent anti-Semitism, seems to be an ironclad criterion for membership in his Labour party.

Who else? Oh yes, Comrade Jeremy never had any compunction against sharing a meal with IRA murderers, including Gerry Adams himself. In fact, he timed such friendly get-togethers to coincide with IRA atrocities.

He met Adams in the 1980s, when the IRA was waging a war of terror against Britain. A fortnight after the IRA blew up the Tory conference, killing five people, Corbyn had tea at Westminster with two convicted murderers. And he did the same in 1996, the year of the bombings in Manchester and the Docklands.

Corbyn also went to Syria to meet Assad, with his trip funded by the Palestinian lobbyists who also organised an event at which Jews were blamed for the Holocaust. I wonder if afterwards Jeremy described Assad as a gas.

And of course he’s a self-proclaimed friend and admirer of Maduro, a communist who is equally good at bankrupting a previously rich Venezuela and driving armoured cars over those who object.

Clarity is beginning to emerge. Corbyn’s criteria for selecting his dinner companions include a propensity for mass murder, anti-Semitism, hatred of Britain and her allies, communist ideology and general criminality.

President Trump should be proud he doesn’t qualify.