The destructive myth of equality

To the American founding fathers the ‘truth that all men are created equal’ was ‘self-evident’. It’d better be, for it certainly can’t be proved.

True equality can only exist in heaven; in earth, the belief that all men are created equal is wishful thinking. For men are created unequal in strength, intelligence, character – well, in everything. Earthly inequality is thus a natural order of things, and it can only be distorted by unnatural means. Even then it won’t disappear; it’ll be replaced by a worse type of inequality or else camouflaged by demagoguery.

For example, most egalitarians acknowledge that equality of result is a pie in the sky. However, they insist that equality of opportunity is a laudable and achievable goal. In fact, it’s the other way around. Equality of result can indeed be achieved by levelling downwards (the only direction in which it’s ever possible to level). It’s possible to confiscate all property and pay citizens barely enough to keep them alive. It’s possible to create dumbed-down schools that’ll make everyone equally ignorant. It’s possible to provide equal healthcare for all that has little to do with either caring or health. What’s absolutely impossible is to guarantee equality of opportunity. A child with two parents will have better opportunities in life than a child raised by one parent. A child growing up surrounded by books will have a greater opportunity to develop intellectually than his coeval growing up surrounded by crushed beer cans. The son of two tennis pros will have a greater opportunity to learn the game than the son of two accountants.

An important thing to remember about egalitarianism is that levelling downwards isn’t just the only possible direction but, for its champions, the only desirable one. To Burke ‘compulsory equalisations,’ could only mean ‘equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary.’ To modern egalitarians they are the shining beacon. But any true equality is anathema to them, and it’s amusing to watch them pretend it’s not, against both empirical evidence and common sense.

Progressive income taxation highlights this by setting up a conflict between two pieties. On the one hand, redistributive taxes strike a blow for ‘equality’ as they push high earners down to a lower level. On the other hand, they are a flagrant violation of the principle of equality under the law.

Obviously, someone who makes twice as much as someone else must pay twice as much tax in absolute terms. But making him pay three or four times the proportion of his income makes all believers in justice cry havoc and let slip… well, they have no one to let slip. Their cause isn’t supported by anyone, save for a few eccentrics.

But for egalitarians the choice is clear: they are prepared to sacrifice justice, fairness and even utility (flat tax rates would make the economy healthier) at the altar of ‘equality’. The results of such urges are best shown by the example of the USA: 50% of all Americans pay no income tax; over 50% of all taxes are paid by the wealthiest 3% of households; 90% are paid by the wealthiest 10%. In Western Europe the situation is even worse. Thus in any reasonable sense, when applied to this levelling run riot, the word ‘equality’ is a misnomer.

Yet it’d be wrong to say that equality is a pipe dream. In fact, every country in the world has achieved it, if only in small enclaves. There people’s clothes, food, lodgings and indeed rights aren’t merely equal but identical. Their medical care and education are free, and things like TV sets and sports facilities are equally available to all. These perfectly egalitarian places are called gaols, and indeed prison is the epitome of egalitarian aspirations, the ideal towards which they strive.

This is an illustration of an immutable truth: the relationship between freedom and equality can only be inverse. The more of one, the less of the other. Total tyranny is a precondition for total equality (that is, below the level of the tyrant, who stands above the equal masses the same way the unequal prison warder stands above the equal inmates). What’s more, egalitarians know this, as they are aware of the dubious provenance of their animadversions. They know that any other than a half-hearted attempt to equalise people will only succeed in impoverishing them. In that event the modern megalomaniac state would renege on the only real (as opposed to virtual) promise on which its legitimacy rests: prosperity.

People’s minds, normally numbed to accept make-believe as real, will wake up with a jolt when the physical trappings of their lives are threatened. They may have been brainwashed to sing hosannas to equality, but the songs will turn to screams of rage the moment people are made to move out of their suburban houses into communal hellholes. That would be an inevitable result of attempting equality for real. For it’s extreme inequality that’s the end of a lifelong ‘pursuit of happiness’ canonised in America and everywhere else. It couldn’t be otherwise: The road to economic growth has to be infinitely long, but our earthly lives aren’t. Different people will stop at different points along the way.

Striving for equality – other than before God and the law – is thus a structural defect of our society. Let’s pray it won’t bring it down. Let’s fear it may.

And speaking of Christmas messages…

…wasn’t the Queen’s speech inspiring? One tiny quibble: Her Majesty said that members of the Commonwealth family retain their ‘individualism’. Surely she meant ‘individuality’? What for the Queen was probably a slip of the tongue, God bless her, is for society a slip in standards. Individualism isn’t the same as individuality — more often it’s its denial. For example, tattooing ACAB on one’s knuckles, or even a flower on one’s ankle, betokens an individualism overblown at the expense of individuality. Let’s hear it for semantics.

Rowan Williams wins on points

‘Dr Williams is right’ aren’t words that cross my mind regularly, if ever. Practising the art of English understatement, something to which I’m privy only vicariously, I can safely say I haven’t always been Dr Williams’s most devoted fan. The Archbishop consistently gravitates towards the modernising agenda within the Anglican church, which I regard as a shortcut to atheism. And when he ventures outside his immediate expertise, he tends to express views somewhat to the left of the Guardian‘s editorial policy, which I regard as harebrained as it is destructive.

But comparing his Christmas message with the Archbishop of Westminster’s, I have to hand it to Dr Williams: the points he made are more telling. Vincent Nichols expressed episcopal sympathy for the 50 Palestinian families losing their land to Israeli ‘expropriation’. It would have been more in keeping with his mission to mention hundreds of Christians losing their lives to Muslim terrorism. The bomb murdering 35 worshippers in Nigeria provided an awful postscriptum to the Archbishop’s PC platitudes (something to which he is increasingly given — comes with the territory, one supposes).

By contrast, Dr Williams said, ‘Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop… or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost… in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.’ Appalled by the parallel between smelly rioters and aftershaved City chaps , the Tory party, in the person of Gary Streeter, responded immediately: ‘The Archbishop of Cantenbury is on safer grounds when he sticks to moral and spiritual issues.’ The implication is that finance never overlaps with such issues, which these days is doubtless true. But this truth is toxic, and the Archbishop was absolutely right to point this out.

Dr Williams’s form in this area suggests that he has not just specific but general misgivings about ‘capitalism’. Whenever I hear this word mentioned, I always think it would be worth a try. Under no circumstances can an economy in which the government spends nearly 50% of GDP (closer to 75% in the outer areas of the UK) be termed capitalist. But whatever the economy is, when it’s ripped off its ethical underpinnings, it’ll be cast adrift into the sea of virtuality. Nor can an economy be morally self-regulating: to expect this would be to deny the imperfect nature of man. For the suits not to join the anoraks in the devil’s work of atomising society, the morality governing business has to come from outside, from an authority so much higher than man that we all fall under its umbrella. Whatever you believe personally, you have to recognise that, given our history and constitution, such a unifying authority can only come from Christianity.

When financiers and businessmen claim they are driven by their own conscience, what they really mean is that their morality is elastic enough to allow opportunism under all circumstances. When they feel responsible only to their own or secular rules, they indeed create a virtual world  — one where banks don’t hesitate to accumulate bad debts 100 times their total capitalisation; where High-Frequency Traders can dispose of their total holdings in hours, which frantic trading creates share prices bearing no relation to any underlying value; where the combined value of the world’s outstanding derivatives equals 15 times the world’s GDP combined (this bomb is yet to go off); where financial institutions create surrogate money in the form of default swaps and other mechanisms; where personal indebtedness has replaced personal income throughout the West. When the unifying reality of our civilisation falls by the wayside, we indeed sink into a virtual world — in which we live on virtual money.

Remove God as the unifying principle, and money acquires sole redemptive value. The sociologist Max Weber pointed this out back in 1904: ‘Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life,’ He forgot to mention that, when this is the case, real money will eventually be replaced by its virtual caricature. 

Remove reality from life in general and money in particular, and society is indeed reduced to atoms, spinning every which way and occasionally smashing into one another. The anoraks at St Paul’s join the suits from further east in their common assault, and the Archbishop stays entirely within his realm when pointing this out. There’s nothing wrong with capitalism, provided its entrepreneurial freedom is exercised within a moral discipline. But, though godless capitalism is more attractive and less cannibalistic than godless communism, it’s ultimately just as destructive.

For once, Archbishop Williams has done his job. Yet again, Archbishop Nichols hasn’t. Will there be a rematch?






Christmas isn’t just for Christians

According to the PC consensus, non-Christians have nothing to celebrate tomorrow. Moreover, they are expected, indeed encouraged, to feel insulted whenever the word Christmas is mentioned. For atheists, agnostics, deists, Muslims and exponents of assorted eastern creeds, the birth of Christ is just any old bank holiday, whereas for Jews it’s time for thousands of Happy Hanukkah cards. One wonders if Hanukkah would be celebrated with as much pomp if it fell on any other month. After all, one doesn’t see too many Happy Purim or Merry Sukkoth cards for sale.

What one does see all over the place is Happy Holidays! replacing Happy Christmas! as the greeting of choice. ‘Thou shalt not offend’ trumps all other commandments, although no one in his right mind could possibly be offended. Even the supposedly pious Tony ‘Anthony’ Blair, whose religious faith matches his political principles in courageous fortitude, expunged the offensive allusion to Yuletide from his Chri… sorry, holiday cards. The fashion started in America and, as most perversions of the same provenance, took a few years to reach our shores. But now it’s firmly entrenched.

Yet while tomorrow Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the rest of the West should join them in celebrating the birth of our civilisation, the greatest the world has ever seen — or will ever see. For every Western achievement we recognise as such can be traced back to that humble birth.

Our music, towering over anything produced by any other culture, has direct church antecedents — and few other. So does our painting. So, largely, does our architecture. Translations of the Scripture, most emphatically including our own Tyndale and King James Bibles, had a formative effect on every Western language and therefore literature. The church was the sole source of education, and the principal influence on government, for many critical centuries of Western history. Our most important laws are derived from scriptural injunctions, as are our binding moral principles.

This much is widely known and commented upon. What receives less attention is the unique contribution Christianity made to Western science, the foundation of our material wealth. Can you name a single great scientist ever emerging from a non-Christian country? I know I can’t, not offhand. However, I can name many ignorant atheist fanatics who claim that Christianity somehow hindered scientific progress (Richard Dawkins, ring your office). What utter nonsense!

No religion is just worship; they all excrete and wrap around themselves a cocoon of intellectual premises that are more or less conducive to various pursuits. Judaeo-Christianity made scientific exploration possible for reasons unique to it. Unlike the Greeks who had a multitude of gods, each responsible for its own realm, Judaeo-Christianity teaches that God, and therefore the world, is one. That means that scientific and mathematical laws apply universally, and unity can be inferred from variety. Christianity also teaches that the material world was created by a rational God. It is therefore rationally constructed and rationally knowable, a realisation that never existed in either the classical or Eastern world. And finally, that event 2011 years ago established the sanctity of the material world, not just of the spirit. Uniting in his person God and man, the physical and the metaphysical, heaven and earth, Christ not only encouraged us to know and subdue the earth (that was done in Genesis), but he also made this possible.

You may or may not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. However,  those who lovingly nurtured our civilisation to splendour believed just that, and it was in his name that they toiled. Let’s say a word of thanks to those giants — and above all to their inspiration.

Happy Christmas to all, believers or not.





It’s not firecrackers that are going off in the Middle East

Democracy seekers in Syria have just murdered 30 more people with car bombs. Christians and Jews are being abused and killed, with their churches and synagogues torched, and their freedom of worship denied all over the Middle East — including Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, all traditionally tolerant lands (by the standards of the region). Bombs are going off in Iraq and Lybia, while Iran is building somewhat bigger bombs, ignoring threats from the Americans. The newly Islamised Turkey is engaged in verbal war against France, while threatening a real war against the Kurds.

All in eight-years’ work — congratulations to the neocons and other framers of foreign policy in the USA, along with their acolytes in other Nato countries. These consequences of their monumental obtuseness and Trotskyist bellicosity may have been unintended, but they were hardly unforseeable. They were indeed forseen not just by many commentators but also by their readers endowed with common sense and a basic knowledge of facts. The dire consequences may even have been forseen by the culprits themselves, but their ideology got the better of them.

Now is a good time, chaps, to think of your souls or, in the absence of such, just to think — in as dispassionate a manner as you can. Hard-boiled hearts, half-baked minds and flambée emotions aren’t good premises from which to contemplate serious matters, especially those involving multiple deaths and, potentially, a global conflict. Better still, look for a different line of work. May I suggest grave-digging in the Middle East? Plenty of business there already, and more to be had soon.

Consider this possibility while you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, or — more likely — simply raid shopping malls with nary a religious thought crossing your underdeveloped minds. Happy Christmas (please, not ‘holidays’) and a thoughtful New Year to you.




Fairness, and why it’s grossly unfair

Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, has a thought-provoking article in today’s Times. These are some of the thoughts it provoked in me.

First the good news: unlike so many other top clergymen, what Bishop Richard says about our financial troubles is mostly right: the nature of the present crisis isn’t just economic but primarily moral. I admit to a personal interest in this subject. In fact, in the spirit of unbridled capitalism divorced from any moral substance, I’d like to commend to your attention my book on this very theme (The Crisis Behind Our Crisis, SMP 2011). The Bishop correctly says that, at a time of crisis, society will never emerge unscathed and whole in the absence of a moral and spiritual adhesive, which, in the West, can only come from Christianity. He’s also right in predicting that things will get worse, and massive social unrest is likely to follow. In order to survive the coming period of austerity, ‘we shall have to relearn… the story of the birth of the infant king in a poor family.’ Again he’s absolutely right, and this is a rousing pastoral message, especially considering whose birthday we’re about to celebrate.

Now the bad news: like so many other top clergymen, Bishop Richard has yielded to the sin of equating Christian values with ‘fair distribution of awards’, which is to say economic egalitarianism. And it is ‘the Occupy protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral…[who] show how impossible it is to live as if finance and ethics are unconnected.’ This, for me, destroys the otherwise powerful call to arms. What those protesters show is something else altogether.

Fairness implies just desserts, payment in proportion to the value of one’s work. Hence if ‘awards’ were indeed distributed fairly, those Occupy protesters would starve. According to St Paul, a source Bishop Richard probably regards as unimpeachable, ‘this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.’ It’s not fairness that those cathedral befoulers demand, but gross unfairness: taking a lot out without putting anything in. Sensing that this bonanza will soon have to be curtailed for lack of funds, they pitch their smelly tents as a way of blackmailing the state, all too eager to be blackmailed.

When a beggar asks for a coin, we give it to him not out of fairness but out of mercy. But when a strapping youngster fraudulently collects his ‘sickie’, he’s on the receiving end of neither fairness nor mercy. He is a subject in a giant social experiment that’s ruining us all — not just financially but morally as well. Jesus talked about ‘a labourer worthy of his hire’, not a freeloader, malingering with the state’s acquiescence, worthy of his social benefits. Antisocial, is more like it.

The Bishop probably doesn’t realise that he has become party to the great larcenous shift of modernity, whereby Christian values are pilfered from the rightful owner, shifted into the secular domain and perverted. Thus Christian expansiveness was transformed into modern expansionism, Christian introspection became modern obsession with psychology, understood in a materialistic way. And thus Christian charity turned into materialistic egalitarianism of a most vulgar and pernicious kind.

Our governing spivs use ‘fairness’ for self-perpetuation; they buy their votes with our money by creating an army of dependents who’ll never vote for a party favouring small government, real justice, hard work. So far the stratagem has worked, after a fashion. But all those free chickens are springing out of pots and coming to roost. A realisation is sinking in that capitalist production can’t support socialist (‘fair’) distribution — not indefinitely. If we are to survive as a free nation at all, the gravy train has to be derailed; we simply can’t afford to keep it rolling along. But three generations of people have already been irredeemably corrupted by ‘fairness’ — they want their handouts, and if they don’t get them, they’ll take to the streets and build barricades, not those foul tents.

‘We are still borrowing £400 million a day,’ laments the Bishop, without realising that this suicidal borrowing proceeds apace precisely because the spivocrats feel they have to go on paying for ‘fair distribution of awards’. They are quaking in their boots at the thought of riots, compared to which the summer disturbances will look like innocent fun. They know they’ll be helpless: their own MPs are screaming that the use of plastic bullets and water cannon would be ‘indiscriminate and dangerous’. Yes, live rounds would work better, but this option isn’t on the table, is it?

The government ministers are stuck in the corner they themselves have painted. And the top Christian minister of London should use his moral authority to remind them of another Christian virtue: courage. They already know the ‘fairness’ bit, Your Lordship. That’s precisely the problem.




Kicking football racism into touch

In parallel develoments, the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Chelsea’s John Terry were charged with racial offences, the former by the FA, the latter, earlier today, by the CPS. Suarez has been banned for eight games and fined £40,000. Terry’s offence carries a maximum fine of £2,500 but, if convicted, he’ll have a criminal record. Let’s look at the two cases.

Even by the standards of his profession, Suarez can hardly be confused with an altar boy. When signed by Liverpool from Ajax last season, he was serving a seven-game ban for biting a defender. I don’t know what line of defence he pursued in Holland, presumably that he was feeling peckish, but whatever it was it didn’t work. Earlier this month, while awaiting the FA’s verdict, he saluted the terraces with an outstretched middle finger. Among other things this testifies to his insufficient sensitivity to the British cultural idiom: in this country, Luis, we do it with two fingers. This isn’t America, you know.

In fact, it’s Suarez’s poor command of English that seems to have caused the offence. He, in common, incidentally, with Chambers English Dictionary, doesn’t realise that the word ‘negro’ is pejorative. In his native language it isn’t; in fact, said Suarez, it’s almost affectionate, used to mean ‘mate’. And he doesn’t remember saying it anyway. Neither does anyone else who was on the pitch at the time. The only one who seems to have heard the word is the accuser, the ManU defender Patrice Evra. He heard the ‘n’ word, considered it offensive, and that’s all there’s to it. Chambers can go suck an egg.

Many have accused Mr Evra of hypersensitivity, and in fact he is known to have made similar accusations in the past, without justification. Now, if Suarez indeed used that word, stylistically neutral though it may be, he probably didn’t do so out of affection. And though he may not know this, in today’s Britain an insult is anything the victim considers it to be. Some may even be insulted by the acronym FA.

As to Evra’s sensitivity, he’s entitled to it: after all, many Africans were brought to Europe as slaves. Genetic memory of en masse humiliation and brutality lives long, though perhaps in Britain it ought to have attenuated a bit. If my black friend in Texas still remembers having to ride in the back of a bus in the 60s, England’s Chief Justice Holt ruled as far back as in 1702 that ‘as soon as a negro [the word hadn’t been PCfied yet] comes to England, he is free; one may be a villein in England, but not a slave.’ Be that as it may, Evra has a right to feel aggrieved, and would have been justified in insulting Suarez right back, calling him say a Uruguayan, possibly preceded by an obscene modifier. Instead he chose to demand institutional justice and, pending an appeal, won his case — even though it was his word against Suarez’s. You decide whether justice has been served.   

Now John Terry wouldn’t have his photograph in the dictionary next to the word ‘decorum’. The man has had a few brushings with police, one for using a bottle as an offensive weapon. However, the chap on the receiving end was white, so the issue of racism didn’t come up. This time, it has. Upset with an opponent, Terry, being unlike Suarez a native speaker, used the PC adjective ‘black’. But he inserted  it between two sexually oriented obscenities. You know, the words you heard used together the other day, when walking through High Street? When the chap (or was it a girl?) who said it didn’t even get a reprimand? In such cases, few are overly bothered these days. Words several clicks below on the insult scale would have been grounds for a different response in the past: ‘You, Sir, are a bounder and a cad, and I am at your service.’ These days we don’t believe in duels, and we really don’t mind insults. Unless, of course, they are preceded or followed by a chromatic adjective.

Unlike Suarez’s, Terry’s affront was filmed, and under the weight of evidence provided by numerous lip readers he had to own up. ‘I did use the words,’ he allowed. ‘But only after the other guy accused me of using them when I hadn’t. I replied “How dare you say that an upstanding man like me could have possibly called you a […]. That’s when I was filmed.” ‘ Quite. Terry’s lawyers must have worked overtime on that one.

I’m defending neither Suarez nor, especially, Terry. They aren’t gentlemen; they are thugs. So are those who scream, in public, the kind of words that until Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been unprintable in Britain. Standards of public behaviour must be upheld, but one can’t help noticing that while hypersensitivity in one instance is aggressively encouraged by the government, hyposensitivity in the other is promoted by the whole ethos of modernity. For purely aesthetic reasons, I’d be happy to see not just the book but the whole library thrown at Terry. But I can’t help noticing that state interference in private squabbles tends to foster exactly the kind of behaviour it’s supposed to expunge. Creating a mighty mountain out of a trivial molehill is going to push races further apart, not bring them closer together. The law of unintended consquences has never been repealed.



Nick Clegg vs. England

Her Majesty’s second minister wishes to replace the existing House of Lords with a mostly elected Senate. The Lords, he says, ‘is an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy… [it is] perhaps the most potent symbol of a closed society.’ That this is drivel ought to become clear to any averagely educated person in five seconds flat. Another second or two, and the destructive enormity of the drivel sinks in.

Deprive a nation of its most prized possession, something without which it’s unthinkable, and you destroy its soul. Without its music Germany wouldn’t be Germany. France wouldn’t be France without its cathedrals. And England wouldn’t be England without its constitution.

This unique gift England gave mankind has been steadily pushed into a coffin for quite a while. And now Clegg, ably assisted and hardly ever resisted by cross-party ignoramuses, wants to drive the last nail in.

At least I hope, for Clegg’s sake, that it’s ignorance that animates him. Though unpardonable in a cabinet minister, this failing is correctable (if asked, I could recommend a few gap-filling books on our realm). If, however, he’s driven by cheap opportunism, as many suspect, then the case is hopeless. However, I’m willing to give Clegg the benefit of the doubt and point out a few salient points he ignores.

Political philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Machiavelli and Montesquieu (and British thinkers too numerous to mention) were united in their prescription against the deadly malaise of tyranny: checks and balances. The hereditary power of the monarch must be checked by unelected aristocracy – and both balanced by the power of the commons wielded through an elected body. Upset the balance, and tyranny beckons. Too much royal or aristocratic power would mean that the people might not have their interests properly represented. Too much power to the people, and what Tocqueville called ‘the tyranny of the majority’ becomes a serious threat.

What remained a theory to the philosophers was gloriously put into practice in England. The issue of unchecked royal power was settled in 1649, final touches applied in 1688, and England had her balanced constitution, the envy of the world. To be sure, it wasn’t perfect – in this world we aren’t blessed with perfect institutions. But it’s as close as mankind has ever got.

Contrary to what many Americans claim, a written constitution is like a prenuptial agreement stipulating the frequency of sex: if you have to write it down, you might as well not bother. England’s constitution wasn’t written on paper; it was written in the hearts of Englishmen. And that organ isn’t a stone tablet: when appropriate, it allows change. ‘A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation,’ as Burke famously put it. To him, prudence was the key. Having observed how imprudent changes had ripped the soul out of France, Burke devoted his life to preventing a similar disaster in the country he loved.

Our constitution has indeed undergone some changes, few of them for the better. At first the focus of the realm, its monarch, was divested of executive power. Then, step by step, the Lords was debauched by Clegg’s likeminded precursors who were ignorant enough to believe that government is all about a show of hands, or else an exchange of favours among appointees. Gradually, what has emerged is for all intents and purposes the dictatorship of the Commons, barely checked by the Lords. Now Clegg wants to remove even those feeble checks.

His hysterical rants against the unelected chamber show he simply doesn’t understand that this is its whole point. Man being fallible and indeed fallen, those who lovingly nurtured our constitution over centuries understood that elected representatives might sink into demagogic politicking and come under the pressure of party politics. To balance that, the Lords was to be filled with those who owed their position to birth and would therefore be beholden only to their conscience, not to any political entity. However, with the theological basis for this understanding on its way out, spivs in all three parties saw their opening: reduce the Lords to an elected extension of the Commons, and spivocracy is perpetuated.

The so-called Conservatives proceed from the same ‘principles’ as Clegg and only disagree on the timing. And if he, an EU commissioner in the making, probably gets his ideas of a Senate from France, the Tories are more likely to be inspired by the American model. But the USA is a revolutionary country that split away from Britain to pursue its own destiny. One of the first acts of the new republic was to abolish all titles of nobility, thus eliminating estates and consequently any need to balance their interests. The senators and representatives there are drawn from the same pool that also feeds the executive and judiciary branches. This isn’t the place to judge how well the system works in America. Suffice it to say that what is meat to the Americans may be poison to us. Superficial similarities notwithstanding, Americans are fundamentally different from the Brits, and we mustn’t try to import their politics the way we’ve already imported fast food, baseball caps and verbs made out of nouns.

Does Clegg realise that our head of state is also unelected? How long before he proposes we do something about that? What a sight for sore eyes it would be to watch Nick stand against the Queen in an election. The smart money would be on Her Majesty. 


Iran’s nuclear bomb less than a year away

So claimed the US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta in a CBS interview. For once, he was unequivocal about America’s position: ‘The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon… We will take whatever steps necessary to stop it… There are no options off the table.’

Well, there are some options that have fallen off the table, if only by default. Such as diplomatic pressure: the chap whose name sounds like ‘I’m a dinner jacket’ seems to be impervious to it. Or else a quick surgical strike: by now Iran’s nuclear facilities are buried so deep underneath rock and concrete that it’ll take something apocalyptic to get at them from the air. But it does sound as if the USA is committed to do whatever is necessary. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Much as the invasion of Iraq was foolhardy, the destruction of Iran’s nuclear capacity is a matter of life or death, not only Israel’s but ours as well. For one thing, should a nuclear war break out in the Middle East, its consequences would be unpredictable. A strong line of thought among strategists says that a nuclear exchange anywhere in the world, and certainly close to Europe, could precipitate a doomsday scenario. And then, should the spirit move ‘I’m a dinner jacket’, Iran would be able to deliver a nuclear charge — to any Mediterranean country in a rocket or to any country in the world in a suitcase.

This proves the danger of shilly-shallying, if any further proof is necessary. The Nazi war machine, for example, could have been taken apart on numerous occasions before the whole world caught fire. This could have been done in 1936 after the Germans occupied the Rhineland — a couple of French divisions would have sufficed. Or even in 1939, when Germany was getting bogged down in Poland and didn’t have a single tank on its own western border. The French and the British had more than 1,500 tanks there, and they could have reached Berlin practically without a shot. Instead, the ‘phoney war’ was being waged, with a catastrophe just round the corner.

Had the Americans refrained from their ill-advised ‘nation-building’ in Iraq, they could have nipped Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the bud years ago. Then a few sorties of a US-led Nato airforce could have put paid to the cascade-building effort in Iran, or at least delayed it either indefinitely or at least until ‘I’m a dinner jacket’ shuffled this mortal coil (one hears there’s no dearth of Iranians who’d be happy to hurry him along). Now, having suffered much erosion of public support for any military action, and wasted a trillion dollars, not to mention 4,500 American lives, the US will have to consider starting  yet another major war (possibly with a bit of nation-building thrown in at the end), and one it can’t afford to lose. If that’s what they’ve decided to do, the decision is right. Shame about the delay.

The upshot of it all is, if you’re planning a holiday anywhere in the Middle East next year, I’d put it off. It may get too hot there, in more ways than one.


I agree with Dave on gay marriage

Dave ‘David’ Cameron is absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with gay marriage. Who wants a dull union of a morose man and a grumpy woman? Marriage, to be successful, should be full of laughter, every day a joyous… Excuse me? This isn’t what he meant? Oh well, never mind, how silly of me.

I only mentioned Cameron’s utterly subversive stand on homosexual marriage because he has seen fit to make pronouncements on the Authorised Version and Christianity, a religion he admits he practises only ‘vaguely’. In case you don’t speak political, allow me to translate: it means not at all. In general, it’s not speeches but policies that offer a reliable clue to a politician’s beliefs or, as in Dave’s case, the absence thereof.

But one can sympathise with his predicament. The few but bolshie real Tories remaining in his party, and some even on his front bench, would dearly love to see his head on a platter (figuratively, for the time being). Those dinosaurs need to be mollified, but not at the risk of offending our partners, in the coalition (who are known for their hypersensitivity) or in Europe (Sarko doesn’t count) or, for that matter, any group of voters. Sitting on the fence isn’t an option: do it for too long and, apart from courting a possible rectal problem, you’ll have people saying you stand for nothing. No, it’s better to come out fighting, with either foot firmly planted on opposite sides.

Toss a bone to the bolshie Tories by saying marriage is the core unit of society, then another bone, with a bit more meat on it, to those like Dave’s estranged brother Nick, who’d like to see the concept of marriage broadened beyond any old Mum-and-Dad. Abortion? It’s best to stay off the subject altogether, except hinting obliquely that a woman has a right to choose in all sorts of areas, preferably unspecified. Then on to the Archdruid of Canterbury, to tell him to get his finger out of his cassock and appoint female bishops ASAP, thereby going Jesus one better.

And then deliver the big speech on Christian values. Again, one has to charter a safe course through a veritable mine field. You put your right foot in by saying a few things with which anyone would agree regardless of his religion, things like ‘responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love…’, but then you put your left foot out by hinting that you regard Christianity as but one of the world’s ‘four biggest religions’. Equality, right? ‘I am not in any way saying that to have another faith — or no faith — is somehow wrong.’ Yes, that’ll do. But in case the point didn’t come across, those ‘different faith communities… do so much to make our country stronger’. Especially if they vote the right way and refrain from blowing up public transportation, but Dave wouldn’t put things so crudely.

The mine field safely negotiated, let’s emphasise the main point about religion: it should be ‘at the heart of modern social action’. Let those who know something about Christianity, especially those who practise it more than ‘vaguely’, scream ignorant twaddle all they wish. Let them quote the one about Caesar and God till they’re blue in the face. Let them point out that ‘modern social action’ has been systematically destroying Christianity and, specifically, driving the King James Bible out of all but a handful of churches. There aren’t enough of them to make a dent at voting time. They’re just fanatics who aren’t with it. Being with it, unless you’re Richard Dawkins, means acknowledging grudgingly that Christianity has some social value, even if it’s an obsolete superstition. Now put on a finishing touch about ’emancipation of women’ (Get it, Archbishop? Emancipation all the way to bishops’ palaces, is the point), and Nick’s your brother, Rowan’s your friend.

Aren’t our politicians clever? Would you be able to put together a speech with so many intersecting messages, explicit and implicit? I know I wouldn’t.