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Pussy Riot against the Russian church and state

You must feel proud that the Russian punk-rock group, now on trial in Moscow, has chosen such an elegant English name for itself. This shows how generously the Anglophone world shares its cultural achievements with all nations.

In February this year, as if to prove that they had absorbed the spirit of our pop culture, not just its form, three Pussy Rioters delivered a disgustingly blasphemous performance at the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Penetrating the area reserved in the Orthodox church for the clergy only, the three girls performed a mockery of the hymn Sanctus, begging the Virgin to ‘kick Putin out’. They also referred to the Patriarch as ‘a bitch’ (the Russian word suka can be profitably used to describe a member of either sex) and, instead of ‘holy, holy, holy, Lord God’, sang what Wikipedia wrongly translates as ‘shit, shit, shit of Lord God’. In fact, the Russian word sram only means ‘shame’, with no faecal implications whatsoever. Still, the act was indisputably blasphemous both to the church and to the national leader it venerates. The three women are now on trial, facing a maximum sentence of seven years in a concentration camp.

On general principle, I’m in favour of locking up all pop ‘musicians’ and, if they have committed blasphemy, throwing away the key. But such principles don’t apply in this instance, for the trial raises graver issues.

The prosecution has declared that the Pussy Rioters ‘undermine the state’s spiritual foundations’, presumably meaning Christianity. Here I have to disagree. Putin’s KGB state is founded, spiritually, not on religion but on thievery and money laundering. In a show of hypocrisy infinitely more offensive than anything perpetrated by the Pussies, Putin and his gang these days attend church services with the same pious expressions they sported at party rallies not so long ago. But their Father isn’t in heaven: he’s at KGB headquarters and in offshore banks, where the gang keeps its ill-gotten laundry.

The church hierarchy, ably led by Patriarch Kiril, KGB codename ‘Mikhailov’, belongs to the same gang. His Holiness, a lifelong KGB agent, recently won a court case against his neighbour whose refurbishment work had allegedly caused $1.7 million worth of dust damage to the Patriarch’s flat. As a monk, ‘Mikhailov’ took a vow of chastity and poverty, which doesn’t prevent him from sharing his palatial quarters with a woman who was at first described as his ‘sister’, then became his ‘cousin’, then his ‘distant relation’. He gets away with such ill-concealed cynicism because the upper echelons of the church are his moral twins. For instance, both priests who contested the patriarchal elections against Kiril were KGB agents too.

While the KGB represents a modern phenomenon, the Russian church has been an extension of the state since at least the reign of Peter I (1682-1725). Moreover, it has always enjoyed a cosy relationship with the secret police. A law Peter’s Synod passed in 1722 obligated all priests, on pain of death, to report to the authorities any suspicious statement vouchsafed at confession. The penny dropped, and priests (with many exceptions, to be sure) continued to inform on their parishioners for the next two and a half centuries.

In fact, looking at Russian history, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the church has always been probably the most reactionary, and certainly the most anti-Western, estate. It has always toed the line drawn by the government, but it has done so with particular fervour whenever the state pursued rabid anti-Western policies.

Thus the church was more than ready to seek the protection of heathen Mongol invaders against the Western Christian orders. Its relationship with the doctrinally godless but refreshingly anti-Western Bolshevik regime was also ambivalent to say the least. Thus its adoration of the increasingly anti-Western Putin government follows a time-honoured trend.

Putin loathes the West not just viscerally, but also pragmatically. Having established his kleptocratic regime by larcenous means, he knows that any serious liberal opposition invoking legality can unseat him. That’s why Putin has to appeal to the reactionary masses spearheaded by the church. And reconfirming his anti-Western credentials is an essential part of that appeal.

It’s mostly for this reason that the kleptocracy consistently champions any regime in conflict with the West, including the most hideous ones. Putin knows, for example, that Assad is a lost cause, but he’ll continue to support him until the final fall of the axe. The kleptocrats sense their spiritual kinship with Assad, and fear that his demise could lead to their own, one domino knocking the others down.

Such fears too have historical roots, best exemplified by Peter’s father, Tsar Alexei, responding to the execution of Charles I in England. When the English Muscovy Company, which had enjoyed a near monopoly on Russian trade since Elizabethan times, applied for an extension of its licence, it was floored by the short uppercut of the tsar’s ukase: ‘Inasmuch as the said Anglic Germans have slaughtered their own King Carolus to death, we hereby decree that none of the said Anglic Germans shall henceforth be admitted to Russia’s land.’

It’s not just the ‘Anglic Germans’, but the West in general that Russian rulers variably, and the Russian church invariably, have always wished to keep out. This includes the West at its best and also at its worst, the end so pathetically represented by Pussy Riot.

Much as I find the ladies highly objectionable, I think we should all campaign for their release – the months they’ve already spent, and will spend, in custody until the end of the trial is punishment enough. A state truly committed to the protection of Christianity would have the moral right to impose a harsher sentence. But Putin’s murderous thugs have no such right – any verdict they pass is unjust because they’re the ones who pass it.

 

 

 

 

The freak show called the Olympics – it should be Pharmolympics, really

The Greco-Romans held their Olympics to celebrate the beauty of the human form, in the hope that a sound body will produce a sound mind. Mens sana in corpore sano, was how Juvenal put it, adding that this was a prayer, not a confident expectation.

The sideshow created in modern times celebrates the deformity of body and mind. The only intellectual attainment on display is that of chemists and pharmacologists serving the debasement of man, as practised by immoral states.   

In that regard, I was extremely impressed by the 16-year-old Chinese girl who swam her 50m freestyle faster than the male gold-medal winner in the same event. In doing so, she beat her own best time by a full five seconds.

Ye Shewen then passed the obligatory drug test, and more power to her. Yet experts in the sport have nonetheless suggested that the poor girl’s achievement wasn’t just physical but also chemical. If that’s so, and China has form in that sort of thing, then all I can do is congratulate the Chinese pharmacologists involved in developing the substance that can produce such sporting excellence while remaining undetectable.

In general, chemists, pharmacologists and drug companies are the unsung heroes of the Games, and I do hope they’ll get the acclaim they deserve. I mean, anyone can build a girl up on steroids, then pump her full of speed, break an ampoule of amyl nitrate under her nose and point her in the direction of the swimming pool. But that sort of thing would be instantly found out by the simplest of tests. Something much more sophisticated may have been concocted, so three cheers for modern science in the service of excellence.

Such pharmacological achievement goes back a long time. I remember those East German swimmers, females with male bodies and voices to match. When this was pointed out to their coach, he responded wittily that his girls were swimmers, not singers. In fact they were neither. They were actually freaks created by totalitarian Frankensteins to further their propaganda objectives.

Another recollection: star female gymnasts, such as Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci, were as flat as washboards while they competed, only to grow to what I’d estimate as a respectable Size 34C a couple of years after retiring at age 20 or so. Somehow I don’t think their previously masculine physiques were shaped entirely by diet and exercise.

Sound bodies? Just look at the freaky weightlifters, especially the female ones. Or how about the cyclist Robert Forstemann’s thighs, each thicker than his waist and five times as thick as his calves? If this is testimony to beauty, then modern aesthetic standards need revising. Or read the harrowing stories of those East German girls disabled for life by steroids, unable to have children (one of them, a perfectly normal girl, actually turned into a man and had to have a transsex operation).

As to the sound minds, the poor creatures, especially those coming from totalitarian countries like China, have no chance of developing them – even assuming that they possess the requisite ability and motivation. They train day in, day out, going through a body-breaking regimen and being force-fed like geese supplying foie gras. At least in reasonably free countries the children and their parents have the choice of opting for normal development. In China and North Korea they don’t.

But it’s not just the evil regimes that are to blame for this obscene spectacle. We all have a charge to answer to – that of agreeing to play the game by the rules set by monsters.

For we too encourage and finance children to turn into professional freaks at a time when they ought to be learning how to read decent books, listen to real music and replace x and y variables with numbers. We seem to accept the standards of achievement first laid down by Nazi Germany in 1936 and then pushed to foul extremes by the Soviets and their spawns.

What do you do all day, little Vania? I jump over a plank and train to be able to set the plank higher. All day? Yes, of course, for if I waste an hour or two on books, a capitalist will jump higher, making my country look bad and depriving my family of their flat in a prefabricated block.

What a miserable, dehumanising existence that is. And the only way to put an end to it would be for all supposedly decent governments to refuse to subsidise potential Olympians, as India has done. If parents want to fund the budding javelin-thrower, then by all means they should do so, in the knowledge that they’re consigning their child to a lopsided existence, retarded development and extremely uncertain rewards.

Tennis parents do that sort of thing, hoping that the child will eventually earn a decent living on the professional circuit, where even a Number 70 or 80 can become wealthy. What about a Number 80, or even Number 2, javelin-thrower? That poor child would have to sacrifice normal life for his country’s success, not his own. And any half-decent country should tell him in no uncertain terms that it neither needs his sacrifice nor will pay for it.

The greatest show on earth? More like the most corrupt, the most mendacious, the most dishonest. I mean, you don’t believe the hundreds of thousands US ‘college’ athletes receive really are ‘scholarships’, do you?

Let’s return the Olympics to the pre-Nazi, pre-Commie, pre ‘college’ days of true amateurism. And if the likes of China still insist on cheating and turning children into ghastly dehumanised automata, then let them have their own Games and compete against North Korea. Good luck to them. 

 

 

 

Bums and beach bums: let the Games begin

All of us sports fans are bitterly divided. Which Olympic event is the most exciting of all? Cycling? 100m finals? Heavyweight boxing?

I say balls to all that. Volleyballs, to be exact. Beach volleyballs, to be even more exact. Beach volleyball gets real sports fans excited the way no other sport does, if you get my meaning.

It’s all about the technical brilliance and deep strategic insights demonstrated by practically naked girls throwing themselves on the sand and then patting each other on their jutting assets. The sport becomes especially exciting when, in a dazzling demonstration of their athleticism and a couple of other things, the girls fling themselves sideways towards the fans, their mastery of the sport for all to see.

The British Olympian Denise Johns claims that the uniform consisting of two narrow strips of fabric is intended to be ‘sexy’ and to draw attention. How little she understands her own sport – off with her head. What does ‘sexy’ have to do with anything? It’s all about the triumph of… well, you know what I mean. 

And how appropriate it is that, like Aphrodite out of the sea foam, this most exciting of sports should emerge out of clouds of marijuana smoke at Santa Monica, California, and migrate to Horse Guards Parade. At this ideal venue it can be watched not only by panting fans but also by the stone eyes of Field Marshals Kitchener and Roberts, looking on from their plinths. They too achieved something in their day; now it’s the girls’ turn. It’s as if a relay baton has been passed from the backward past to our shining present.

But why are we talking about girls only? You may think I’m sexist, and if sexism isn’t an imprisonable offence yet, it will be soon. Before my collar is felt, I hasten to add that men play the sport too, and many people, among whom I regretfully can’t number myself, find the male version even more exciting. It was largely thanks to the beach-volleyball sequence that the 1986 film Top Gun became a ‘gay icon’, and don’t you just love this word combination?

Remember the scene? Tom Cruise misses a hot date with a beautiful girl because he’s too engrossed in fondling the glistening muscles of his partner each time the chap spikes the ball into the golden sand. In an inspired bit of casting, a notorious lesbian played the role of the temporarily jilted girl, thus adding a background hint, nudge and wink for those slow on the uptake.

Citius, Altius, Fortius – Swifter, Higher, Stronger – says the Olympic motto. Why such limitations? What’s wrong with ‘bigger’, ‘rounder’, ‘firmer’? And why did the IOC have to wait until 1996 to make beach volleyball an Olympic sport? Those dinosaurs are behind the times, and something must be done to drag them into our beloved 21st century.

To their credit, they do add new sports to the Games all the time. Curling, for example, is a relatively recent valuable addition – where would the winter Olympics be without it? In the doldrums, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

But this time the IOC missed a trick. They failed to include two international sports rivalling beach volleyball for sheer excitement: mud wrestling and pole dancing. Appropriate venues would have suggested themselves: the Cenotaph in Whitehall or, more daringly, the flag on the roof of Buckingham Palace could function as the pole, while St Pauls’s Cathedral would be a perfect site for the mud pit.

Moreover – are you ready for this? – not only could these sports provide an arena for displaying individual brilliance, but they could all come together with beach volleyball to form a new, truly progressive triathlon. Admittedly some details would need to be worked out, for the two proposed sports tend to be played as singles, while beach volleyball is a doubles game.

Perhaps, and I welcome your suggestions, the two new sports can be doubles as well. We already have synchronised swimming, why not synchronised pole dancing? No reason at all. And who’s to say that four naked girls rolling in the dirt wouldn’t be twice as exciting as two? In a purely athletic sense of course? Nobody.

That’s the problem with members of the Olympic Committee – they don’t possess the same imagination our own Danny Boyle displayed in masterminding the glorious opening ceremony. It wouldn’t have occurred to them, as it did to Danny Boy, to have Her Majesty, her petticoat flapping in the wind, parachuting in upon the Games. So all right, everyone knew it wasn’t really the Queen doing the skydiving, but ingenious make-believe can be more real than reality. And nothing like jumping out of a chopper to bring a monarch, and monarchy, down to earth. It’s this famed British humour, see? Foreigners just don’t get it.

But forget about humour for now. My suggestion of adding two new sports (actually three, if you include the triathlon) is as serious as they come. Oops, wrong choice of word. Call it a Freudian slip.

 

 

 

 

My foray into shameless plagiarism

This morning I sat down to write about the opening ceremony of the Olympics. As I was contemplating the choice between ‘tawdry’ and ‘vulgar’ in the first sentence, an e-mail arrived from my beloved friend Peter Mullen. To my horror, I realised that my thunder, such as it is, had been stolen most blatantly. Peter said all the things I was going to say – and no one can match his verve.

I’m not even going to try. So here he is, Peter Mullen at his scathing, passionate best, plagiarised by yours truly:

“… The latest emetic was that Olympic ‘ceremony’ in all its tawdry glamour, its misrepresentation of British history – agrarian England was not ‘a rural idyll’ and the industrial revolution brought tremendous benefits. (In any case, when Blake referred to ‘those dark satanic mills’ he was talking about the universities, the Deists and the Enlightenment intellectuals, not the Lancashire cotton towns). The whole socialist theme park of the ‘ceremony’: the sacred cow of the (failed) NHS; the glorious ‘liberation’ of the amoral 1960s followed by a tribute to punk rock.

“Naturally, this gets ecstatic reviews worldwide. It was universally described as ‘witty’. But it was the antidote to wit: that is cliché. It had the one thing modernity regards as a virtue in its technological slickness. Gimmicks. But no quotient of gimmicks can conceal a massive vulgarity – to which one must also add sentimentality and a general infantilisation. All under a relentless barrage of that ubiquitous modern Leitmotif – rock music. And drumming, drumming, drumming… I find it particularly objectionable to hear this trashy paganism described as ‘iconic.’

“It is intolerable to discover that this gaudy fraud of propaganda and tastelessness is thought by all my contemporaries to have been admirable. It is excruciating to find oneself the only one out of step. One feels as if one is the churl who has turned up to spoil the party, forever criticising, not a good word to say about anything – not even that schmaltzy desire for ‘togetherness’.”

My only points of disagreement are in the final paragraph. Not all of Peter’s contemporaries find this sick-making spectacle admirable, and he isn’t the only one out of step. For joining him in his cri de coeur of desperate disgust are his (and my) friends, correspondents and readers. We too are spoiling for a scrap, we too realise that our civilisation is reeling under heavy blows.

This isn’t a fight we’re going to win: the odds are too heavily stacked against us, the opposing numbers are too overwhelming. But someone has to tell all those Daves and Borises that their subversive, ideological vulgarity isn’t going to enjoy a free run. Some people still haven’t been turned into plastic cut-outs, some of real Britain is still alive – and Peter’s is her voice.  

 

Should we restore Tyburn Hill to its former glory?

Footballers Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Kim Little demonstratively refused to sing the national anthem in Great Britain’s first match at the Olympics. In a parallel development, Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins publicly responded with a four-letter obscenity to Her Majesty’s letter of congratulations.

The athletes are clearly soft in the head. But the rest of us are soft, full stop.

Just imagine how any Tudor or Stuart monarch would have responded to similarly pig-headed infantilism. The churlish athletes would have been dancing the Tyburn jig to the accompaniment of the cheering multitudes – had they been lucky. For fear of spoiling your appetite, I’d rather not describe what would have happened to them had their luck run out.

Something like that would these days perhaps be seen as a bit of an overreaction: we live in liberal times after all. But liberalism shouldn’t be a suicide pact, and a nation that fails to defend her honour will soon have no honour left.

The silly brats deserve Tyburn Hill, not a rational argument. But, with the former unfortunately no longer an option, it’s the latter they are going to get.

Giggs and Bellamy are Welsh, and both have played for Wales internationally. Personally, I think that our country being represented by four different teams is ludicrous, but this is the way the cookie crumbles – although one finds it hard to imagine the USA fielding 50 separate teams. Now, when Giggs and Bellamy play under the Welsh flag, they sing the Welsh anthem, God Save the Leak or Attention, Iceland Shoppers or whatever else it may be.

In these Games, however, they play under the flag of Great Britain, which ought to limit their options to two. One, they show respect for this flag and sing God Save the Queen, the musical answer to it. Two, they stand on principle – risible though it may be – and refuse to play for Great Britain. They chose the third, profoundly dishonest, option of playing and spurning.

At least the two superannuated footballers, one of whom actually captains the team, refrained from proffering explanations for their idiocy. Kim Little, who plays for the GB women’s team, went them one better. She refused to sing the national anthem, she explained, because she’s Scottish. Her cherished ethnicity didn’t prevent her from accepting funding from the British Olympic Association – it’s only when it came to showing respect for the country she represents that she demurred. Her grandfather Calvin also got his five minutes of fame by dotting the T’s and crossing the I’s. ‘It’s the national anthem of England, and she is Scottish,’ he declared.

Now it’s true that the regular heading of a football is a frequent cause of brain damage, so Kim’s action could perhaps be seen in that light. But her grandfather, as far as I know, isn’t a professional footballer, so what’s his excuse? Surely he must have heard somewhere that Scotland and England have been the same country since 1707? And that God Save the Queen is the national anthem of Great Britain, not of England? Actually, unlike Scotland and Wales, England has no national anthem of her own.

Granted, as an SNP voter, the Little patriarch has strong feelings on the subject. But, as they are totally irrelevant in this instance, he should keep them to himself. Have a wee dram, Calvin, and wait for your chance to vote for independence. Until then, just shut up, at least publicly.

That brings us to Bradley Wiggins, Britain’s first ever winner of the Tour de France. Her Majesty graciously sent him a congratulatory note, and his response? ‘F… the Queen.’ It mattered more to him, he said, to have been congratulated by Robbie Fowler, the former Liverpool footballer known as God to the less intelligent Scousers, and also by some pop ‘musician’ whose name escapes me. Amazingly, in commenting upon this moronic outburst, some newspapers spoke of Wiggins’s ‘irreverent sense of humour’. Perhaps after he retires from pushing the pedals he could become today’s answer to Evelyn Waugh, whose humour has been similarly described.

It’s all society’s fault, to use the fashionable excuse. First we ascribe undue significance to sporting success, which is in fact totally trivial on the scale of human achievement. Then we encourage the primaeval tribalism involved in setting successful athletes at the top of the neo-pagan totem pole. And third, we are too weak-kneed to punish them when they indulge in the kind of swinishness that, when Britain still stood for something, would have been treated as treasonous.

Alas, Tyburn Hill has been taken over by all those upmarket flats. But the very least we can do is throw the miscreants off the team, banning them forever from representing the country they so clearly despise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave et al are the disease, the recession merely a symptom

As Britain is about to tumble into an economic precipice, with the GDP down 0.7% in the second quarter, who’s going to keep her from going over the edge? Obviously, those immediately responsible for HMG’s economic policy, specifically Dave, George and Vince.

Alas, the attention they’re paying to the economy is rather divided. Dave ‘feels passionately’ about homomarriage (it should be ‘passionate’, Dave, didn’t they teach grammar at Eton?), George is planning the strategy for the 2015 election (I wouldn’t bother), and Vince wants to ‘send an important message’ by taxing wealth producers out of Britain.

The country is going to the dogs, and yet Dave finds the time to host a Number 10 reception for ‘members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community’ and, silly me, I didn’t even know such a ‘community’ existed. His promise? Not to get the economy out of the doldrums but to legalise homomarriage by 2015.

The election strategy devised with George’s help is clear: upon hearing that the institution of marriage has been debauched, the average voter will happily leave his place in the soup-kitchen queue and run to the polling station to cast a ballot for Dave. Good to know we’re governed by astute chaps who have their priorities right.

Now let’s imagine in a flight of fancy that we’re governed not by spivs with learning difficulties but by real statesmen. What would they be doing?

First they would establish the immutable, cast in iron, chiselled in stone objective – something to which everything else is either secondary or derivative. At this time of impending catastrophe this can only be getting the economy to grow again, the faster the better.

Sure enough, Vince talks about the need to combine what the spivs call ‘austerity’ with ‘a growth strategy’. But he doesn’t mean growth; he means printing even more worthless paper for the government to throw at the least productive strata of the population. George Orwell would have a field day with this use of English: Vince’s ‘growth’ actually means expanding the same policies that caused the recession. In Vincespeak, ‘to grow’ means ‘to contract’.

The way to promote growth is to leave more money in the hands of productive individuals and businesses – this is so elementary that anyone with an IQ above room temperature (Celsius) would see it even without the wealth of empirical evidence from all over the world. But if he actually looked at the evidence, he’d find it incontrovertible.

A government can only affect the economy positively by not affecting it negatively. Every (and I mean every) attempt by any (and I mean any) government to channel huge amounts of money from wealth producers to wealth consumers has sooner or later resulted in the sort of debacle we have now. The reverse is also universally true: the more money remains in private hands, the better these hands work, the faster the economy grows.

Nothing short of halving the state’s take from the economy would save us from disaster. Ergo, a statesman would decide, this must be done to achieve the immutable objective. No ifs, no buts, no fears for the next election. A whole raft of derivative measures would then have to be taken, the most immediate one the halving of the annual welfare budget of £207 billion.

Granted, such a step would have unpleasant consequences, but nothing statesmen wouldn’t be able to handle. Corrupted by decades of undeserved handouts, the mob would hit the streets, rioting, burning cars, smashing shop windows. Such mayhem would have to be stopped decisively and, if need be, ruthlessly. But then mollycoddling rioters isn’t what statesmen do at a desperate time.

Just as victory is the objective to which everything else is subjugated at wartime, so should be economic growth at a time when the very existence of Britain as a sovereign land is being threatened. We have a national emergency on our hands, something that real statesmen would recognise and then act accordingly. As a result, not just the nation’s economy would improve in short order, but also her morale, which will act as an important building block of future prosperity.

All non-essential expenditure would have to be either cut or, better still, eliminated. This would emphatically include Britain’s contributions to the EU and the IMF. The likely result would have to be our departure from at least one of those organisations, and probably from both. Real statesmen would regard that as a side benefit, not as a problem. They would realise that foreign trade means exchanging our goods for those of other countries, not swapping our sovereignty for membership in a trade-stifling protectionist bloc.

Well, let’s extricate ourselves from this fantasy world. Nothing of the sort will ever be done in the real world shaped by our spivocrats. At most, George will be thrown to the LibDem wolves, and Vince will take his place, sending yet another subversive ‘message’ to productive people to go and produce somewhere else.

And Dave? He’ll continue to ‘feel passionately’ about homomarriage, hoping idiotically that this will get him another term in office. Business as usual for the spivs. A disaster as never before for the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony and Cherie: a family that prays together, sways together

The come-back trail has led Tony Blair into the lion’s den of a Daily Telegraph interview. Except that the lion, as represented by Charles Moore, has lost its teeth and claws.

Even though he shares his name with Schiller’s robber, Mr Moore displayed none of the latter’s audacity in tossing interrogatory creampuffs at Tony. Then again, such docility may have been a precondition set by Blair. The other precondition must have been that he be allowed to talk in non-stop platitudes without being called to account. But then Tony has this way with words, rendering each one platitudinous, including ‘I do’, ‘people’s Princess’ and ‘I don’t cross the street for less than fifty grand’.

In the subsequent article Mr Moore describes Tony as ‘the nation’s most famous Catholic convert.’ Right. Charles II, Dryden, Newman, Chesterton, Waugh – and Tony. He’s the most famous of the lot. And a good Catholic he is too.

Jesus Christ is to him ‘a man who was prepared to challenge conventional wisdom when he thought it was wrong.’ He was also something else on top of that, but mentioning this wouldn’t be inclusive enough for the come-back kid who has ‘always been more interested in religion than politics’ because in religion ‘there is so much that is still unexplored’.

That’s true, or rather a truism. But religion also has quite a few things that have been not only explored but settled, such as that Christ wasn’t just a man ready ‘to challenge conventional wisdom’, contextually like Tony.

Tony accepts ‘the doctrine of the Catholic Church’, but he’s ‘not a doctrinal ideologue’. For example, he supports ‘gay marriage’ – can’t let Dave claim that one for himself. This is a bit like a Muslim supporting the happy hour at his local. Far from being ‘a doctrinal ideologue’, Tony makes up his own doctrine as he goes along.

Why then convert to a confession that still takes dogma seriously? Tony’s explanation ought to give all family men and persons a nice, warm feeling. Tony ‘didn’t really analyse a great deal.’ He converted because Cherie is a Catholic, and so Tony ‘just felt more at home’ at a Catholic church.

But Cherie was a Catholic throughout Tony’s tenure as PM. Why wait until its end? I hope you’ll forgive my incredulity bordering on cynicism, but the real explanation is surely less cosy and much more arithmetical.

When pursuing his political career in Britain, where there are more Anglicans than Catholics, Tony was an Anglican. When he thought he could become president of the EU (‘I would have taken the job if they had offered it to me, but they didn’t’), where there are more Catholics than Anglicans, he became a Catholic. Tony is constitutionally incapable of uttering a thought worthy of the name, but he can do sums. And he can sway from one confession to the other with the worst of them.

Now that he’s the Middle East envoy for the Big Four (or rather the Big One: Tony), he loves the Koran: ‘It stands in the great prophetic tradition of trying to return people to the basic principles of spirituality. Taken for its time, it was an extraordinarily progressive declaration of principle… there are more references to Mary than in the Gospels.’

That makes Islam in some respects more progressive and more Catholic than the Church of England, for which, however, Tony feels ‘no great revulsion, quite the opposite.’ The arithmetical wind returneth again according to his circuits. Tony wants to get back into domestic politics, so he loves the Anglicans, the Muslims and the Catholics with equal fervour.

But for the time being, Tony is devoted to his job of bringing peace to the Middle East. In this undertaking he is as successful as he was in bringing success to the British economy. Yet again it’s not his fault: ‘The West is asleep on this issue’, that is sectarian Islamist extremism, and Tony is the West’s wakeup call.

‘We must engage, but also challenge,’ suggests Tony with his usual decisiveness. The Middle East ‘won’t achieve democracy unless it understands that democracy is a way of thinking as well as voting.’ I would have said ‘The Middle East won’t achieve democracy’ and left it at that. But then Charles Moore isn’t going to interview me in any foreseeable future. Actually, I’m beginning to think that his placidity was the right way to interrogate Tony: no point trying to hang a man who can do the job himself every time he opens his mouth.

Take Tony’s firm stance, astride the fence, on the economy: ‘We’re not against wealth, but we are in favour of social responsibility.’ In that spirit, we shouldn’t  ‘hang 20 bankers at the end of the street’. It’s wrong to think that ‘liberalisation, beginning under Mrs Thatcher… is what caused the financial crisis.’

But this isn’t at all what we think. The crisis was caused by Tony’s government with its recklessly self-serving overspending, all in the name of ‘social responsibility’. Then again, being in denial and on the come-back trail, he wouldn’t acknowledge this.

Tony Blair represents the dominant sociocultural type of modern times: the important nonentity. But, as Joseph de Maistre observed, every nation gets the government it deserves. We deserved Blair once, and I fear we may deserve him again. He can clearly smell it, and what a sweet smell it is. Beats incense any day.

 

 

The Gospel according to Dave

Seeing the multitudes, Dave went up into Westminster: and when he was set, his Ministers and the multitudes came upon him:

And Dave opened his mouth and taught them, saying,

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; but I say unto you that whosoever payeth cash shall be in danger of hell fire.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit tax evasion: But I say unto you that whosoever committeth avoidance hath committed evasion already in his heart; his is hell fire.

And if the State will sue thee at law for avoidance, and take away thy money, let it take thy house also.

Therefore when the State doest thou out of thine alms, verily I say unto you, Give it its reward.

Blessed are the poor in mind for they shall inherit Westminster.

Blessed are the poor in money for they shall inherit the social alms.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst for the dole as they shall be filled.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For the State knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Blessed are the fatherless for they shall be called the wards of the State.

Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap; yet your State feedeth them.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the State shall take thought for things of itself.

Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is thy reward from the State.

The State is the light of the world. A mountain of debt cannot be hid.

So forgive the State its debts as It shalt not forgive thine.

Let the State’s light so shine before men that they may see its good works, and glorify Him which is in Downing Street, and his number is ten.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise remain in thy pocket, till all are poor.

And when the State doest alms, let thy left hand be tied to thy right hand, and thy left foot to thy right foot.

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife shalt be smitten for murder, but I say unto you that marriage is in no wise righteous save for marriage betwixt two men, and two women also.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye. But I say unto you that whosoever punisheth an unrighteous man cannot be my servant.

Give to George that he asketh thee, and to him that would borrow a mountain turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Though shalt love thy neighbour. But I say unto you, Love thy State, bless them that ruin you, be good to them that take thy country away, and pray for them that persecute you.

That ye may be the children of thy State which is in Westminster, for it decideth what is good for you and samewise what is bad.

For your State knoweth what things ye have need of, and what ye have no need of.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your State which is in Westminster is perfect.

Lay up for yourselves treasures upon the State, where thieves break through and steal.

For where your treasure is, there will your State be also.

Ye cannot serve the State and God.

I am the State, thy God.

 

Wagner’s Lying Russian

Just as the baritone Yevgeny Nikitin was about to become the first Russian to sing the lead role in a Wagner opera (The Flying Dutchman) at Bayreuth, a scandal broke out. Alas, the elaborate pattern of tattoos covering most of Mr Nikitin’s body included a swastika with a superimposed emblem of the SS.

It has to be said – and I realise that there exist notable exceptions – that in musical circles singers vie with percussionists for the honour of being the most stupid musicians of all. Mr Nikitin happens to be both a singer and a drummer, so the poor lad never had a chance.

Even considering that, the apology he offered is remarkable in its sheer daftness: ‘I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth given the context of the festival’s history.’

Really? How daft does one have to be not to realise this? As a brush, is the answer to that one. Bayreuth organisers are understandably sensitive about any open manifestations of pro-Nazi sentiments. It’s not just that some of their predecessors, such as Winifred Wagner, were out-and-out Nazis – let bygones be bygones and all that. But Wagner himself, both in his writings and his music, exerted a formative influence on Nazism.

Jumping backwards, Wagner, this ‘Puccini of music’, leapfrogged two millennia of Western culture, landing in the middle of Germany’s pagan past. His sylvan world full of hobgoblins, magicians and witches was filled with pagan images and sounds. Profoundly anti-Christian, his music not so much contradicted as complemented his writings that were one contiguous anti-Semitic rant.

The quality of this music is in my view grossly overrated. Though undoubtedly gifted, Wagner relied heavily on emotional manipulation, which made his work highly seductive. So much so that even people with decent taste are often seduced by it, though those whose taste goes beyond decent usually see through Wagner well enough and tend to stay immune to his emotional blackmail.

Hitler and his friends found in German Romanticism in general and particularly in Wagner the aesthetic and philosophical justification for their monstrosity. The Nazis, including der Führer himself, would weep at Bayreuth and, thus inspired, would go off to murder millions. That doesn’t mean Wagner’s music shouldn’t be played, and Israel’s near-ban on performing it is in my judgment wrong. But neither should the link between Wagner and Nazism be dismissed as post hoc ergo propter hoc.

That explains why the current organisers of the festival are touchy about the swastika, and why Nikitin, jumping before he was pushed, had to pull out of his engagement in all haste. Personally, if I were the organiser, I would have withdrawn his invitation simply because his body is covered with tattoos, regardless of their content. This doesn’t just betoken but positively screams affiliation with a culture that’s not merely different from ours but aggressively hostile to it. A creature like Nikitin doesn’t belong in classical music any more than rap lyrics would belong in a Shakespeare sonnet. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day and then carve thee up, thou bitch’ somehow doesn’t ring possible.

Nikitin himself dismisses the Nazi tattoo as a youthful indiscretion. As a young lad, said the 38-year-old singer, he belonged to a heavy-metal band. It was then that he indulged in a bit of body art, and now his tattoos play no role in his life.

He’s lying through his teeth, as any Russophone can find out for himself by looking up Nikitin’s interviews on Russian television. For he still runs a heavy-metal band, performing naked to the waist, his tattooed torso for all to see. The multi-talented musician plays the drums as he sings unmusical songs with his own frankly cretinous lyrics. These suggest that the feelings that inspired the swastika are still bubbling somewhere in the far recesses of what passes for Nikitin’s mind.

His big hit is called Warrior. We must all be warriors at heart, preaches the song. Presumably even those of us who have supposedly devoted their lives to classical music, if opera falls into that category. One can see why Wagner is close to Nikitin’s heart. So fine, we must all be warriors, but must we also all wear brown shirts? Or should we be content with psychedelic T-shirts, battle fatigues and army boots that Nikitin usually wears in the after hours?

‘How do you make the transition from classical singing to heavy metal?’ asked the sympathetic interviewer. ‘No transition is necessary,’ answered Nikitin, this time truthfully. For the likes of him indeed there’s no gap to bridge. Our own Nigel Kennedy or Freddie Kemp could have given the same answer. This explains the general level of our musical performances – the present crop of performers have mastered the physical aspect of their art, after a fashion, while remaining deaf to its spiritual content.

Actually, as far as our polymath is concerned, there is a difference. Heavy metal opens up all sorts of new possibilities for self-expression. ‘We’ve already said everything that could be said through classical music,’ he explains. ‘I can say a lot through this new sound.’ He certainly can. About the same things he says through his swastika. ‘I’m a mystic,’ adds Nikitin. So was Wagner. So was Hitler. So was Himmler. Pagan mysticism is the soul of Nazism, just as concentration camps are its body.

A singer, drummer and poet, Nikitin is also a painter. In his interviews he proudly displays his canvas depicting a desert scorched by the sun. ‘This is how the earth will look in a million years,’ explains the musician cum artist cum mystic cum philosopher, cum prophet, ‘when our tiny sun explodes into a huge one, making life on earth extinct.’ With him and his lot around, the prospect isn’t all that frightening.

‘Everything belongs to us,’ bellows Nikitin, banging his drums. I’m afraid he may be right. Run for the hills.

 

 

Tony, Nick, Vince and Dave – sit back and enjoy the show

Tony wants to be back, Vince wants to lead the LibDems, Dave wants to hang on and Nick wants to be a European Commissioner. And we, having realised we’ll never be governed, just want to be entertained.

Take Tony, for example. He clearly thinks he ought to be where the Milibandits are now, and the way back is paved with statesman-like appearances. A real statesman, unlike all those Milibandits, is above petty vanities. He’s man enough to admit he was wrong once or twice, a little dark lining on an otherwise silver cloud.

Keeping that in mind, yesterday Tony accepted a teensy-weensy part of the blame for the current state of the economy. That’s awfully big of him, considering that he inherited a healthy economy (one of the few times in history when that was the case) and then in a couple of short years managed to run it into the ground. Moreover, he did it in such a way that no subsequent government can possibly dig it back up.

So where did it go wrong, Tony? Well, you see, explained the come-back kid, we underestimated the extent to which the economy was global. Oh well, that’s all right then. An easy mistake to make. Back in 1997 it was easy to confuse Britain with Japan circa 1800. The country showed every sign of living in isolation from the world, running a totally self-sustained economy and describing anyone foreign as gaijin.

And then, shock, horror, who could’ve thunk, turns out the British economy is integrated with others. It’s like those dominoes – when one falls, they all do. A hurricane sweeps through the world, rendering every government helpless. It doesn’t really matter who’s in power or what policies he’s implementing. Force majeure happens. So it wasn’t really, like really, Tony’s fault. But hey, he’s a statesman, isn’t he? He’s not like those Milibandits who’ve usurped his crown. He happened to be in power at the time, he was the captain of the ship, and even if the ship was torpedoed by an enemy U-boat, the captain still has to be man enough to accept some of the blame.

‘In respect of the economy, yes, of course, everybody who was in power in the period bears a certain responsibility.’ There, Tony put it into a nutshell. Nobody does spivocracy as well as Tony, not even Dave, though he’s trying. It would be sheer ingratitude and churlishness if we didn’t return Tony to his old house at Number 10.

Meanwhile, Tony is beefing up his foreign-policy credentials, for a Number 10 spivocrat can’t live by economy alone. He has been a resounding success as a Middle East envoy for the ‘Big Four’: the UN, the US, the EU and Russia. How resounding a success? Just follow the news: Tony has been doing his best, just as he did domestically. It’s not his fault that yet another hurricane blew through his bailiwick – those Muslim ingrates insist on murdering one another, even though Tony told them not to. What’s a great statesman to do with that lot? Perhaps he’ll accept a particle of responsibility in a few years. Yes, that’s a good idea.

In the meantime, Tony is going to buck the trend of Labour staying out of power for a long time after losing it. ‘I think it is possible in these circumstances to re-write that traditional script,’ he said, adding ‘I know those people who are leading the Labour Party at the moment are desperate to do their best for the country.’ By inference, their best isn’t good enough. It’ll take Tony to get Labour back in power.

I do hope Ed is listening. If I were him, I’d start digging up some dirt on Tony before it’s too late. Perhaps some odd things Tony did at university, when he looked more like a girl than a boy. Or else something naughty Cherie might have done.

Like securing the Olympics for London. Remember, we were in competition with France, we lost and got the Games. Hold on, that’s not naughty at all. Tony says, proudly, ‘my wife played a really big part in this.’ That’s indeed something to be proud of: selling to a nation going bust the idea of wasting £2.5 billion on a tasteless and utterly corrupt extravaganza, knowing full well that the real price tag will be five times as much. This bears every hallmark of a grandiose Blairite project, Millennium Dome writ large. So the spouses did this together? What a family.

Nick hasn’t been idle either: he’s ready to form a coalition with Labour that’ll presumably be led into the next election by Tony (unless Ed has by then dug up enough dirt to bury him). Except that it won’t be Nick forming a coalition with Tony but rather Vince, the only man in history whose age is going in reverse. Born in 1943, Vince was too old to lead the LibDems in the 2010 election. He’ll be much younger in 2015, a sprightly youngster ready to fill the vacancy formed by Nick’s impending elevation to EU Commissioner. A smart career move, Nick: the money’s better, and responsibility is nonexistent.

Mind you, by that time Labour may well be in a position to win the election outright. Having achieved the improbable task of failing to beat cleanly the worst government in British history, Dave has set out to prove that worst can get worse. He’ll be a sitting duck by 2015, easy pickings for Tony.

Aren’t you proud to be governed by this lot? I know I am.