French literary tastes are different

Michel Houellebecq, in his younger days, before dissipation left a mark of degeneracy on his face

First a disclaimer to reassure my French friends: when I say ‘different’, I mean just that. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

Before violating the old ‘de gustibus’ injunction, I must outline my starting point for aesthetic judgement of a work of art in general and a novel in particular.

Music illustrates it perfectly by merging form and content so thoroughly that they’re not only inseparable but indeed indistinguishable. Form is content, content is form, and this is a useful model towards which all true art strives.

The form is a like a bottle: without wine it would be just a piece of glass. The content is the wine, but without a bottle it would be just a puddle.

When a work in any genre, be it a poem, a novel or a painting, achieves the musical unity of form and content, it achieves greatness or at least touches upon it.

However, the deepest and subtlest of contents will fall short if defeated by inadequate form. Conversely, the most virtuosic of forms won’t produce great art if the content clashes with it.

By content, I don’t mean a communication of ideas or, God forbid, ideology. Other genres exist that are more suitable for that than, say, a painting, a poem or even a novel.

The content of a novel is a lantern that elucidates the human condition, whatever facet of it catches the writer’s imagination at the moment. Typically, it does so by shining a light on the human character, both within, in itself, and without, as it interacts with other characters and the physical environment.

The form of a novel is its structure, the skeleton fleshed out by language. The language, like music, has its own cadences, its own rhythm and its own tempo that may remain steady throughout or vary in a sequence of rubatos.

To produce a great novel, all those elements of both form and content must be in perfect balance. Dissonances may be useful, but disharmony will always be deadly.

Two pairs of great novelists illustrate these points well.

When Flaubert read the first French translation of War and Peace, he exclaimed with horror: “Il se répète! Il philosophise!

The difference between Tolstoy and Flaubert was that the latter, though the lesser artist, was happy to remain what he was, a great novelist. His Madame Bovary achieves that symbiosis of form and content that characterises sublime art.

Tolstoy’s own artistry was unmatched by any other great novelist, which is exactly what he was. But, unlike Flaubert, he also wanted to be something he wasn’t qualified to be: philosopher, social reformer, teacher of mankind.

So he put prolix and mostly silly asides into his novels, which so offended Flaubert’s (and my own) aesthetic sense. Any writer untouched by genius would have been destroyed by that, but Tolstoy managed to pull it off, just.

Another pair is made up of Dostoyevsky and Nabokov. In his Lectures on Russian Literature and elsewhere, Nabokov explains why he considers Dostoyevsky to be a mediocre writer.

Essentially, he thought, rightly, that Dostoyevsky wasn’t much of a literary craftsman. Hence, however deep his ideas and penetrating his insights, he didn’t qualify for literary greatness, although he just might have managed some other kinds.

Nabokov’s own form  was of course nothing short of virtuosic, especially in English, but in some of his novels that was more or less all there was.

This takes me back to my French friends, specifically to the humbling experience I suffered at their hands a few years ago. Two experiences actually, both involving somewhat lesser literary figures than the four gentlemen I’ve mentioned.

They once sought my view on that American novelist of genius, James Salter. I had to admit mournfully that not only had I not read Salter, but to my eternal shame I hadn’t even heard the name.

Now I did start my working life by teaching English and American literature, so in my younger years I was reasonably, if not excessively, well-read.

Admittedly, since then I’ve read mostly non-fiction, with only the odd novel here and there thrown in for variety’s sake. Still, I expected at least to have heard of any Anglophone literary genius, if not necessarily to have read him.

Suitably humbled, I got a couple of Salter’s novels and was instantly seduced by his stylistic virtuosity. Beautifully shaped sentences became stunning paragraphs, which in turn added up to brilliant pages.

Yet that seduction didn’t lead to consummation. Once, a hundred pages or so later, I got my breath back, I realised that I was looking at a gorgeous crystal decanter with no wine it.

The form was all there was. There was no content, at least none harmonised with the sumptuous style, all precisely shifted tempi and unexpected metaphors. There were, however, plenty of sex scenes erasing the line separating the graphic from the pornographic.

One got the impression that all that technical virtuosity was merely the author’s payment for the privilege of venting his sexual fantasies, or perhaps sharing his sexual experience.

My problem wasn’t with the eroticism, but with the gratuitous eroticism. No matter how beautifully written pornography is, it’s still pornography, meaning it’s not art. Put it into otherwise beautiful prose, and you’re served a glass of Meursault with a turd floating on the surface.

Suddenly Salter’s masterly prose began to look pretentious, a parody of art rather than art itself. I wish I had his artistic talent, but if the price of acquiring it is writing the way he did, I’d rather stick to my own modest devices.

Art is produced not for but by artists, and that floater made the Meursault of Salter’s prose unpalatable. I made a mental remark that French tastes must have changed dramatically since the nineteenth century, for Salter to have become the cult figure there that he never was at home.

Then my friends began to talk persistently and glowingly about Welbeck, making me wonder why they were so obsessed with Danny Welbeck, the English footballer.

My consternation betrayed my lowbrow essence. For they were in fact extolling Welbeck’s virtual homophone, the bestselling ‘serious’ novelist Michel Houellebecq.

Once burnt, I was twice shy to order the author’s books, putting it off until it was no longer possible or polite to do so. Finally, I succumbed and read two novels, written some ten years apart.

Then I made a startling discovery: James Salter came back as Michel Houellebecq. The same formal brilliance, the same perfect cadences, the same intricate yet plausible structures – and the same vacuity of content, with pornography its main constituent.

This, in spite of Houellebecq’s sharp intelligence, scathing wit and his insightful aesthetic judgement – at least when applied to other writers’ work. That same judgement not so much betrayed him in his own writing as killed it stone dead.

To illustrate both points, here are two lengthy passages, taken at random, that make it hard to believe they came from the same man. The first is a deliciously ironic, well constructed demolition of most university degrees in the humanities.

“The academic study of literature leads basically nowhere, as we all know, unless you happen to be an especially gifted student, in which case it prepares you for a career teaching the academic study of literature – it is, in other words, a rather farcical system that exists solely to replicate itself and yet manages to fail more than 95 per cent of the time. Still, it’s harmless, and even has a certain marginal value. A young woman applying for a job at Céline or Hermès should naturally attend to her appearance above all; but a degree in literature can constitute a secondary asset, since it guarantees the employer, in the absence of any useful skills, a certain intellectual agility that could lead to professional development – besides which, literature has always carried positive connotations in the world of luxury goods.”

But then comes another randomly picked passage, the likes of which densely populate Houellebecq’s narrative:

“He laid his head on her thigh and began to stroke her clitoris. Her labia menora began to swell… He fingered her clitoris faster as his tongue lapped her labia eagerly. Her belly began to redden and her breath came in short gasps… Bruno paused for a moment and then slipped a finger into her anus and another into her vagina as the tip of his tongue fluttered quickly over her clitoris. Her body shuddered and jolted as she came.”

This isn’t eroticism in the manner of Stendhal or Maupassant. In fact this sort of thing isn’t even erotic at all. It’s disgusting hardcore porn in the style of Screw magazine.

Being French, Houellebecq, unlike Salter, has to put this sort of stuff in the setting of ideas, mostly conveyed in dialogue. Many of them sound good and even conservative – unless one realises that collectively they don’t add up to much other than cold-blooded nihilism, a massacre of ideas, rather than their nurturing.

It’s all gratuitous ugliness of thought offset by the cleverness of prose. It’s that glass of Meursault again, but the French gulp it down with alacrity.

To be fair, it’s not just the French. Houellebecq has been translated into every conceivable language, and his novels become instant bestsellers everywhere. Nihilism plus pornography, gift-wrapped in pretty paper, equals sales.

Still, I can’t imagine a serious English novelist (we aren’t talking about Jilly Cooper types here) rising to fame by producing prose replete with pages upon pages along the lines of the second passage quoted above.

So what is it about the French, a nation who after all produced Stendahl, Flaubert and Baudelaire not so long ago, in historical terms?

The bigger they are, the harder they fall, goes the folksy saying. Could it be that French culture led the world for so long and scaled such great heights that, when it tumbled, it cracked its skull?

Could it be that Houellebecq is a natural and inevitable product of France’s laïcité? Of her constitution that states that France is “une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale”? But then which Western country these days isn’t secular and social democratic?

Or perhaps decadence, when shown off for decades so persistently as to become associated with the country, will eventually resolve into degeneracy with the certainty of natural forces?

Then again, I may be missing something. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Trouble with atheism

Dr Johnson, who doesn’t qualify as a rational person according to The Times

The real trouble with atheism is, well, atheism.

And I’m not talking about the posthumous destination of atheists’ souls, nor about the moral chaos predictably afflicting a predominantly secular society.

These could make for some lively discussion, but what interests me today is the brakes that atheism puts on the intellect. This isn’t to say that atheists are necessarily stupid in any everyday sense.

I know some exceptionally clever atheists who are capable, for example, of producing penetrating social commentary. But one can detect that they’re aware of their intellectual limitations.

That’s why they shy away from metaphysical subjects, allowing instead their intricate intellects to stay close to the ground. Nor does it ever occur to them to make a case for their atheism.

When one points out to them the gaping intellectual holes in the intellectual trousers of any atheist who tries to argue in favour of his atheism, they nod understandingly.

What do you expect? Of course someone like Richard Dawkins is a strident ignoramus who wouldn’t know a sound argument if it came up and bit him on the… well, you know.

An exceptionally clever atheist knows better than to broach metaphysical subjects. He knows that physics is impossible without metaphysics but, since he can only think on the low empirical level, he chooses to ignore it. We can’t possibly understand such things, he says, so it’s best to leave them alone.

The atheist realises that, by saying that, he dismisses not only theology but also any philosophy worthy of the name. But hey, life’s too short for everything.

When I suggest he read Jacques Maritain’s cogent explanation of why theology is a higher science than philosophy, and philosophy higher than any natural science, he smiles politely and says he might. We both know he won’t.

Fair enough, we can remain friends. It takes all sorts. Actually, having written that, I remembered my Texan friend who once said: “It doesn’t really take all sorts. We just have all sorts.”

True. And the sorts we have, alas, include few really clever atheists like a couple of my close friends.

Most atheists are incapable of putting together an argument that would pass muster even at the lowest intellectual level. But they do try, and the more they try, the more inane and ignorant they sound.

G.K. Chesterton once described Thomas Hardy as “the village atheist talking to the village idiot”. Things have moved on since then, and the two categories have neatly morphed into one.

I was reminded of this by James Marriott’s article We Need to Take the Arrogance Out of Atheism.

Mr Marriott’s photograph makes him look like a pre-teenager with learning difficulties. His prose then dispels the notion that appearances are deceptive.

The trouble starts with the title. One can no more take arrogance out of atheism than scrub the spots off a Dalmatian.

What can be more arrogant than refusing to submit one’s intellect to the absolute, supreme mind?

If faith is an act of self-sacrifice at God’s altar, then the mind is perhaps the greatest offering, especially for people with the greatest minds. But giving one’s mind to God doesn’t mean that the believer becomes mindless as a result.

Quite the contrary: God accepts the sacrifice and rewards the donor by giving him his mind back, having first cleansed it of everything extraneous, scoured it of everything dreary.

Thus purified, the mind acquires the freedom it never had before, because, just as no content is possible without its form, no freedom is possible without discipline. The greater the mind, and the more sincere its original sacrifice, the greater God’s reward, the higher the mind can soar.

In the absence of such a sacrifice, the mind remains for ever shackled to the earth with its mundane concerns – the mind itself remains mundane.

Thus prideful refusal to submit one’s reason to God’s is punished by a diminished power of the reason. For, when looking at the world, the mind can see so much more by rising above quotidian problems than by staying mired in their midst.

But that’s taking Marriott way out of his depth. What troubles him isn’t our all-pervasive atheism. It’s that its most vociferous mouthpieces are too strident.

And why is that a problem? After all, people should shout off the rooftops if they’ve found the truth.

Oh well, you see, “Troublingly, this aspect of new atheism would develop into an ugly Islamophobia. (Try this recent Dawkins tweet: “Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great medieval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding ‘Allahu akbar’.)”

And, “Dawkins’ provocative tweets about Islam have done nothing to advance his cause. Now a whole generation thinks of him as an angry racist from Twitter rather than the lucid thinker his early science books show him to be.”

If the new generation believes Dawkins ever was a lucid thinker, that generation is even dumber than I thought. And if Marriott believes Dawkins wrote “science books”, rather than anti-religious propaganda, he’s even dumber than the new generation.

I’ve never thought I’d come to Dawkins’s defence, but obviously some people can sink even lower than him.

What’s Islamophobic about what he wrote? It sounds like an accurate aesthetic judgement. Or does Marriott think that “Allahu akbar” is nicer than “the lovely bells of Winchester”? Perhaps he does at that.

Marriott laments the dwindling number of atheists in Britain. Mercifully, “the survey reported in The Times showed that while the number of people saying they believe in God remained steady, more people reported a belief in ‘some sort of spiritual power’. You can see this in the rise of millennial interest in astrology and tarot and the Canadian psychologist and speaker Jordan Peterson’s invocations of God and Judeo-Christian ethics”.

One has to be amused by this gibberish – and especially by the fact that its author is deputy literary editor of The Times. On this evidence, he isn’t qualified to edit the What’s New In Our Kindergarten bulletin.

First, he doesn’t realise that belief in “some sort of spiritual power” is perfectly consistent with atheism or, at any rate, is certainly not its antonym. What abstract spirituality is an antonym of is religious faith.

Second, he lumps Christianity together with astrology and tarot, which is akin to grouping Dante, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky with obscene graffiti on the wall of a public lavatory. They’re all literature, innit?

Third, he equates those neurotic, puerile perversions with “God and Judaeo-Christian ethics”. Surely even he must have heard vague noises about the role those tarot equivalents have played in our civilisation? No? What a shame.

Fourth, he seems to think that the neuropsychologist Jordan Peterson is the only one who eccentrically dares to invoke such things.

I can believe that Dr Peterson, what with his huge presence in social media, is the only such daredevil Marriott has heard of.

But I don’t know of any serious thinkers, including, oxymoronic as it sounds, atheist ones, who eschew such “invocations”. It’s simply impossible to swipe them off the table if one wishes to sound cleverer than a pre-teenager with learning difficulties.

There I was, thinking we were taking arrogance out of atheism. Yet Marriott’s ignorance and inanity go beyond arrogance, entering the domain of offensive effrontery.

“All rational people should be disturbed when society drifts away from reason towards foggy superstition,” he continues, nudging the reader towards the conclusion that atheism is a sine qua non of rationality.

Arguing against this nonsense would be unsporting, like taking a full swing at a baby. Let’s just mention that the ranks of believers include such rather rational people as Newton, Maxwell, Mendel, Einstein, Planck – and, by the mournful admission of Lewis Wolpert, another propagandist of atheism, more than half of today’s scientists.

Now you know why I never sully my hands with a copy of The Guardian. If a staffer of a supposedly conservative paper operates on this level, one can imagine what leftie papers are advocating.

Human sacrifice? Necrophilia? Don’t tell me if you know.

Who’s British (French, American etc.)?

It giveth and it taketh away

The case of Shamima Begum raises interesting questions about citizenship in general, and its links with other aspects of nationality.

Home Secretary Javid has stripped Begum of her British citizenship, though I’m not solipsistic enough to claim he was following my recommendation.

I did argue in favour of this measure (http://www.alexanderboot.com/welcome-back-miss-jihad/) a week ago, but I shan’t insist on a causative relationship.

However, some good men disagree with Mr Javid’s decision and by inference with my recommendation. One such good man is Stephen Glover, who sums up all the arguments contra in today’s article.

Its title is so long and so clear that the subsequent text seems almost redundant: “The Jihad Bride Is a Monster, But She’s OUR Monster And Must Return Home to Face British Justice”.

What makes Begum OUR monster is the little booklet that enabled her to travel the ISIS way: the British passport, to which she was entitled by birth.

“She is as British as I am,” writes Mr Glover in his typically thoughtful piece. “Mr Javid can’t change that.”

In arguing against this respectable but in my view mistaken position I may belie my earlier repudiation of solipsism. For Mr Glover touches on issues that involve me personally.

Like Mr Glover and Miss Begum, I’m a British citizen (or rather subject, which is my preferred term). Unlike them, I wasn’t born in Britain, even though I’ve lived here more than twice as long as Miss Begum, if not quite as long as Mr Glover.

Yet I maintain, perhaps presumptuously, that I’m as British as Mr Glover. More to the point, I’m British and Miss Begum isn’t.

That gets us back to the title of this article, implicit in which is the belief that the issue isn’t quite as simple as all that.

Now I have first-hand knowledge of four countries that can be divided into two groups: Britain and Russia in one, the US and France in the other.

In the second group, there’s no semantic distinction between ethnicity and political allegiance; in the first group, there is.

In the case of Russia, this distinction doesn’t come across in English, but it exists in Russian. An ethnic Russian is called russkiy, a Russian citizen is called rossiyanin. Both words are translated as ‘Russian’, but they mean different things.

One either is russkiy or not, that’s just an accident of birth. However, one can become a rossiyanin even if born, say, Scottish (although I can’t for the life of me imagine why any good Scot transplanted to Russia would want to be eternally mocked for wearing a ‘skirt’).

Similarly, one can’t become English – one either is or isn’t, and I’m not prepared to discuss every possible ethnic admixture an Englishman might have acquired over the millennia.

However, contrary to what Cecil Rhodes thought, one can become British and “win first prize in the lottery of life” even without being born in the British Isles.

In the US and France the semantic distinction doesn’t exist. The same word describes all Americans, whether native-born or naturalised, and this is the case in France too.

But connotations are just as important as denotations. The two words, ‘American’ and ‘français’ imply both political allegiance and cultural affinity, but that’s where the similarity ends because these nations put a different emphasis on the two components.

An American must hold not only an American passport but also American beliefs. The concept is thus defined mainly politically and ideologically, with culture a distant third and ethnicity even further down.

One often hears the phrase “Americanism isn’t a race; it’s an idea”. Therefore accepting that idea and pledging allegiance to its political embodiment make one an American even in the absence of any other qualifications.

Hence it’s possible to become an American and yet speak only rudimentary English, know next to nothing about American history or culture and prefer slow to fast food.

In fact, if memory serves, the US citizenship exam asks no questions at all about American culture. It’s all “How many states are there?”, “What are the three branches of government?” and “Who was the first president?”

By contrast, the French nationality test includes at least 60 questions on French culture and history. For the French, the linguistic and cultural aspects of their nationality are at least as important as the political one, perhaps even more so.

Thus, watching French TV one often hears described as français Francophones from, say, Senegal or Algeria who aren’t French citizens. However, one never hears a former British colonial, say a Nigerian citizen, described as British even if English is his mother tongue.

And a foreigner in America may sound like John Wayne, but, unless he’s a citizen, he won’t be regarded as American. The political component is much stronger in ‘American’ and ‘British’ than in ‘French’.

So let me reiterate that, while it’s impossible to become English, it’s possible to become British.

When that honour was bestowed on me by a magistrate who happened to be a friend, I pledged allegiance to the Crown and sang God Save the Queen in its entirety, including that egregiously reactionary verse (Oh Lord our God arise,// Scatter our enemies,// And make them fall// Confound their politics// Frustrate their knavish tricks,// On Thee our hopes we fix// Oh save us all.)

That was a deeply emotional experience, I’m man enough to admit, because I actually believed every word I sang, including the politically incorrect verse. I felt British, and I always will.

On that day I entered into a bilateral contract with Her Majesty’s realm, and so far both parties have followed its terms and conditions. Most of the other British subjects may enter into the same compact at birth, but they do enter into it.

Yet every contract includes, implicitly at least, cancellation terms providing for situations under which it could be declared null and void. Hence it stands to reason to suppose that, if British citizenship can be given, it can also be taken away.

In other words, there’s more to British citizenship than that little booklet – even if it’s not stated in so many words.

As I understand it, the implications go beyond political allegiance, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition. There’s also a raft of meaning hiding behind a simple personal pronoun: we.

Who’s the person’s ‘we’? Again speaking for myself, Britain is the third country whose citizenship I’ve held. Yet the British are the first people to whom I refer as ‘we’.

I won’t go into the numerous cultural, linguistic and family ties I have with Britain. Suffice it to say that I feel British – emotionally, intellectually culturally, linguistically. I pass the Tebbit test with flying colours.

Why, I’ll even go so far as to say that I’m as British as Mr Glover, if considerably less English than he is. And I’ll go even further and say that, while Mr Glover and I are British, Miss Begum isn’t – regardless of where she was born.

Would she include my wife Penelope, my friends Peter and Tony, or for that matter members of HMG into her ‘we’? No. Does she have any cultural affinity for Britain? No. Does she maintain political allegiance to Britain? No. Would she mourn the deaths of British soldiers more than the deaths of their enemies? No.

In Mr Glover’s eyes none of that matters. To him Miss Begum is British because she holds that little piece of paper. Sorry, but it takes more than that.

Thank goodness for anti-Semitism

Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your Jews!

Before you gasp with wrath, let me reassure you that anti-Semitism doesn’t figure on my list of virtues. Anti-Semitism in general, that is.

However, in particular, we have to be grateful for Labour anti-Semitism. It’s thanks to that charming bias deeply felt and avidly fostered by Corbyn and his entourage that we just may be spared the most evil government in British history.

Eight Labour MPs have left the party in disgust, and more will doubtless join the independent group they’ve formed. Even though three Tory MPs, all dripping wet and Remainers, have followed suit, Labour will probably suffer greater attrition.

Then, much to Tony Blair’s fear and my delight, Corbyn’s wicked party may well become unelectable for a generation.

Though I rejoice, I can’t add my voice to the dithyrambic chorus about the magnificent eight, with Daniel Finkelstein as both soloist and choir master.

First, their action had an element of jumping before being pushed – all those moderate MPs (moderate by Labour standards, that is) were about to be deselected anyway.

But that apart, I’m amazed that anti-Semitism seems to be the only thing they dislike about Corbyn’s party.

By inference, they don’t mind the class war the Corbynistas are trying to conflagrate. They are happy with their economic policies, which aren’t just likely but absolutely guaranteed to beggar the country in a matter of weeks. They have no objections to Corbyn hating all our friends and loving all our enemies (as a kind man, I shan’t give you the list of the latter so close to night-time).

They may be a bit unhappy about Corbyn’s dislike for the EU, but that by itself wouldn’t have made them leave the party and scupper its electoral chances. Only the virulent and burgeoning Labour anti-Semitism could do that – so thank goodness for Labour anti-Semitism.

Another thing I find astounding is that so many people are surprised at this little trait rearing its head within the ranks of a socialist party. They wouldn’t be so surprised if they understood the nature of both socialism and modern anti-Semitism – and how the two enjoy a symbiotic relationship.

The most immediate link comes from the socialists’ deeply held belief in the intrinsic injustice of capitalism. Since Jews manifestly succeed within that system better than just about any other group, they have to be seen – and hated – as transmitters and propagators of injustice.

Moreover, pushing that logic to its extreme, a success within an unjust system can only be achieved by unjust means. Hence the Jews do so well because they collude to trick everybody else, cheating them out of their birthright.

This is roughly what Marx, the patron saint of socialism, preached, and he did use the words ‘Jew’ and ‘capitalist’ interchangeably. Such is the most immediate impulse to Jew-hatred, which naturally flows out of the very essence of socialism.

(I’m specifically talking here about modern Jew-hatred, the most virulent form of anti-Semitism. Many other forms exist too, such as the petty snobbery often displayed by clubbable gentlemen, or the contempt exponents of other religions feel for infidels.)

Yet there are also deeper, less obvious impulses, those that explain why in modern times the worst anti-Semitic atrocities have been committed by socialists, of either a national or an international hue.

All such ideologies see mankind collectively, as an agglomerate of friendly or hostile groups. The key word there is neither ‘friendly’ nor ‘hostile’, but ‘groups’. International socialists define these by class; national ones by nation or sometimes race.

Both presume homogeneity within each group, or at least enough commonality to reduce any individual differences to trivial idiosyncrasies. Both swear by the good of a strong state, sometimes reduced to the personality of the leader.

Reduction, in this and many other cases, spells seduction. Ideologues of collectivism (or populism, which is its variant) use simple slogans to overcome the resistance of potential recruits.

For resistance can be fierce. Western civilisation lives and breathes an entirely different ethic, one based on the unique, sovereign value of each individual, no matter how meek and insignificant, or how rich and strong, or how foreign and alien.

Collectivists’ survival then depends on their ability to introduce a different ethic, which is impossible to do without consigning the other one to oblivion.

That other, formative ethic of our civilisation rightly goes by the name Judaeo-Christian. It was vouchsafed to Jews who then, after some essential Christian refinements, spread it all over the world.

Hence zoological hostility to Judaeo-Christianity, especially the first part, is a collectivist’s quest for survival. He knows – or simply senses instinctively – that, for his ethic to live, the other ethic has to die.

That’s why when Jews become socialists, they have to renounce their Judaism. Marx’s anti-Semitism was thus nothing but logical, and he isn’t the only example.

During the Russian civil war, a delegation of Russian Jews begged Trotsky, as a Jew himself, to stop the pogroms being perpetrated by the Reds. “I’m not a Jew,” replied Trotsky, “I’m a Bolshevik”. He too was logical. One precluded the other.

This doesn’t mean that people who vote Labour or even belong to the party are all anti-Semites. Far from it. But it does mean that the inner logic of their ideology escapes them.

Most of them don’t think their politics through. They just respond to some vague signals emitted by Zeitgeist-shaping propaganda.

To their thoroughly scoured minds, socialism equates general share-care-be-aware goodness, a condensate of Christian virtue, mercifully minus Christ. They may be good people, but they’re bad socialists.

Of all schools of political thought, only conservatism, tightly defined and properly understood, is incompatible with anti-Semitism. Scratch an anti-Semite, and you’ll always find a collectivist.

For example, though I defer to no one in my admiration of Belloc and especially Chesterton, their anti-Semitism was directly linked to their politics of distributism, a sort of vulgar Christian socialism.

However, when the evil of anti-Semitism can stop the evil of Corbyn, one is perversely grateful. Small favours indeed, but favours nonetheless.

Shut up, Meghan

A fine catch. But is it a good match?

Members of the royal family should know better than to marry American women of an eventful past and objectionable politics.

Or, to be on the safe side, any American women full stop. It may be impossible for an American to fathom the ethos of an institution going back many centuries.

Some 80 years ago one such marriage caused a constitutional crisis and almost put paid to the British monarchy.

Given the choice between his country and lurv, Edward VIII chose the latter. He abdicated and married a twice-divorced American woman who tickled his naughty bits with a virtuosity honed in Chinese brothels.

To be fair, it wasn’t just sexual compatibility but also political commonality that lay at the foundation of that luv: both HRH and Wallis shared admiration for the wonderful things Hitler was doing in Germany.

Unlike Wallis, however, HRH had – or rather should have – imbibed with his mother’s milk a sense of royal duty. He should have known that kings’ lives aren’t entirely their own.

Realms no longer belong to their monarchs, but monarchs do belong to their realms. Their undivided loyalty is pledged to their country, their people and their dynasty.

Hence lurv shouldn’t be a primary consideration in their choice of bride, nor even a secondary one. The only criterion should be the extent to which the marriage would contribute to the duty of service.

Prince Harry’s marriage can’t be as potentially damaging to the monarchy as the Duke of Windsor’s was – for the simple reason that, barring some catastrophe, Harry will never be king.

But, regardless of how low he is in the succession pecking order (Harry is currently sixth), he’s still the Queen’s grandson – and his wife is Her Majesty’s granddaughter-in-law. Hence their marriage has far-reaching ramifications for the realm and its constitution.

Our constitution blended with custom limits the extent to which royal personages can vent their political views – to my occasional regret.

I’d dearly love to know, for example, how Her Majesty felt in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty set her on a path at the end of which she was going to become Elizabeth Windsor, EU citizen. But she won’t tell us because she can’t.

Prince Charles is rather more loquacious, but he too limits his public self-expression to marginal matters, such as the horror of our architecture or the plight of our environment. He steers clear of hot political issues and, though one could guess what his politics are, one can’t know for sure.

With the Duchess of Sussex, there’s no doubt whatsoever. She’s an American actress who, in common with most of her colleagues, subscribes to every hare-brained ‘liberal’ fad – without realising how crushingly illiberal they all are.

And being a celebrity, particularly an American one, she feels entitled to share her views with a public still drooling over her steamy scenes in Suits.

Hence, when visiting City University of London, the freshly baked duchess felt duty-bound to suggest that its curricula be “decolonised”. Implicit in that suggestion is her disapproval of the British Empire.

She is of course entitled to her opinion – as a private person. But as a very public member of the family that presided over that empire, she should keep that view to herself.

But what exactly does she mean by decolonisation? Well, for one thing, she wants British universities to devote as much attention to black studies and some such as American universities do.

Universities, said Meghan, should “open a debate” to avoid “continuing with the daily rote” because “sometimes that approach can be really antiquated and needs an update.” By inference, she’s the one to update it.

Meghan, do you have a feeling you’re not in Hollywood anymore? Academic affirmative action, shoving down students’ throats subjects of dubious academic value, has wreaked havoc on American universities, devaluing most BA degrees to a status of, at best, high school diplomas of yesteryear.

The same trend is under way in Britain, if at a slightly slower pace. We have an ample supply of our own intellectual saboteurs, thank you very much.

Given her background, Meghan may not realise this, but our civilisation has been predominantly created by white men – at least they are the ones who have made visible contributions to it. Women and non-white races have had a role to play, but, to put it in Meghan’s language, those were mostly support roles and often walk-ons.

If someone wants to study, say, African culture, he should be able to do so, and I’m sure we can all learn quite a bit about the human condition that way. But such courses belong at the margins of academic curricula in a Western university.

The worst was still to come. When shown the demographic breakdown of British professors, Meghan gasped “Oh my God!”

That religious utterance came straight from puerile tweets and it reflected a puerile emotion. To her horror Meghan realised that only 8.5 per cent of British professors are black or minority ethnic (BME).

Considering that blacks make up about 3.5 per cent of the population, that proportion doesn’t strike me as particularly unjust, even though the overall BME proportion is higher. But that’s not the point.

For lying behind Meghan’s OMG are two notions that, out of chivalry and respect for the royal family, I’ll only call misconceived.

First, in the good tradition of her profession and her ideology, she clearly believes that the demographic makeup of any institution should faithfully reflect the demographic makeup of the population.

Second, in the same fine tradition, she also believes that any disparity has to be caused by discrimination, in this case of the racial kind. In other words, BME persons only occupy 8.5 per cent of academic positions because bigoted whites keep them out.

The picture she has in her mind’s eye is that of a brilliant black academic losing a job to a less qualified white because the university administrators are all honorary Ku Klux Klan members who hate blacks.

Now if Meghan thinks for a second that something like that can happen at a British (or for that matter American) university often enough to affect the statistics, she’s away with the fairies.

She should really study this at greater depth than that of a Hollywood sound bite. This endeavour would take some time and effort because the issue impinges on numerous disciplines, such as history, sociology, culture, philosophy, political theory etc.

Meghan could do worse than begin by reading the books by the American sociologist Thomas Sowell (himself incidentally black). Perhaps then she’ll learn that no institution in the world ever mirrors the overall population demographics – disparities are always present.

In today’s West these are hardly ever caused by bigotry and discrimination. On the contrary, employers bend over backwards trying to attract as many BME employees as possible.

But then, like all her co-ideologues, Meghan isn’t against discrimination as such. She’d be perfectly happy even if it could shown convincingly that the proportion of BME dons could only be increased by discrimination against better-qualified whites.

But even if she were to study the complex issues involved and then undergo a Damascene experience, she should still follow the advice in the title above.

She’s not a Hollywood starlet anymore. She’s a member of a vitally important institution and should act accordingly.

Sing if you like high taxes

Thou shalt pay higher taxes for I am the State thy Lord

It’s refreshing to see how ecclesiastical and secular lefties agree on most things, these days even including the nonexistence of God. And they talk nonsense on most things, most emphatically including the economy.

Starting with ecclesiastical drivel, last month the Archbishop of Canterbury established an ironclad link between taxes and happiness: the higher the former, the greater the latter.

In his previous life in the oil industry, His Grace must have met multitudes who tossed and turned through the night because their taxes were too low.

My experience is rather different. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who desperately wanted to pay more tax, while I wished I had a tenner for each person I’ve known who moaned about taxation.

But we aren’t talking empirical evidence here. We’re talking ideology, and neither facts nor economic theory applies.

Trying to elucidate the issue, His Grace only succeeded in obfuscating it: “Prosperity depends on the security and quality of work, and the balance of work and life, the quality of our relationships, and not just about the amount of income we receive… .”

One would expect our prelates to phrase more precisely. Prosperity is indeed all about money, that’s what the word signifies. What Welby means is quality of life, which indeed isn’t all about prosperity.

But let’s not be pedantic: the man is speaking from the heart, so his semantics gets blurred. But how would higher taxes contribute to a better quality of life and hence happiness?

Funny you should ask: “Public safety and security, clean air and beautiful natural environments, public parks and spaces, arts and culture, the sense of belonging to a community – these are all important contributors to individual wellbeing…?”

Amazing what things the state can achieve by extorting even more money from people. I’m particularly interested in how high taxes would improve arts and culture.

Looking at the kind of art the government finances through the good offices of the Arts Council, one gets the distinct impression that the arts would benefit tremendously if all state funding were withdrawn – especially since most of it promotes things like rap, ‘conceptual’ art and multi-culti effluvia.

Then again, the people who contribute most to the Exchequer are already robbed of over half of their income. What proportion would satisfy the Archbishop’s quest for happiness? Eighty per cent? A hundred?

Here he gets hit by the Laffer Curve that shows that higher tax rates don’t necessarily produce higher tax revenues. If our eudemonic government raised the marginal rate to the 100 per cent His Grace apparently prays for, it would derive the same income as with a zero per cent rate: zilch.

Anyway, re-enacting the Sodom story, could His Grace produce one righteous man who’s desperate to see his taxes going galactic, as opposed to merely stratospheric? If he can, I may spare Lambeth Palace sulphuric destruction.

Now as far as I know, Oliver Kamm hasn’t yet been ordained. That doesn’t prevent him from writing gibberish with the same air of ex cathedra authority.

There’s good news and bad news about Ollie. The good news is that he has stopped writing about grammar, which puts a smile on the face of those who take English seriously. The bad news is that he’s now writing about business instead, which puts a scowl on the face of those who take economics seriously.

This time Kamm spies with his little eye that the housing market has slowed down, which means that “far from assisting an efficient economy, the British housing market is an impediment”.

If a 3.3 per cent annual growth is seen as an impediment to an efficient economy, our whole economy is an impediment to itself because it hardly ever grows at that rate.

However, Kamm’s beef is about the plight of young professionals who can no longer afford houses because housing prices outstrip incomes. That confuses me no end.

Why is he then upset about the slower growth in the housing market? The slower it grows, the faster young people’s salaries will catch up. There, problem sorted. And negative growth would be best, wouldn’t it, Ollie?

If he’s at sea over the problem, he hits the rocks at full speed over the solution. That, according to Kamm, would be to charge a capital gains tax on the sale of the primary residence.

This measure would cure the economy of all its ills because it would promote “intergenerational equity”. Translating it into the language even I can understand, the wrinklies have it too easy.

They buy their two-up-two-downs dirt cheap, then sell in their dotage 50 years later and roll in clover on the huge proceeds. Hit them with, say, a 20 per cent CGT, and young people will no longer be priced out of the market.

My confusion deepens. A CGT would make selling a house less lucrative, wouldn’t it? If my understanding of human nature is correct, some crumblies who would otherwise want to sell would then refrain from doing so.

That means fewer, rather than more, houses will go on the market. Since Ollie hasn’t yet repealed the law of supply-demand, housing prices will then go up, making them even less affordable for the struggling Yuppies.

I wonder if Ollie has ever wondered why property inflation has outstripped money inflation by a factor of 10 over the past 70 years or so. It does pay to look at historical trends if one seeks understanding.

Logic suggests that people have more trust in property than in money as a guarantor of their future.

That hasn’t always been the case: money used to be quite reliable. A baby born in 1850 with a solid middle-class income of £500 a year, could live his whole life in reasonable comfort even if he never made a penny of his own.

That’s because £100 in 1850 equalled £110 in 1900, a negligible inflation of 10 per cent over half a century.

Conversely, £100 in 1950 equalled £2,000 in 2000 – a wealth-busting inflation of 2,000 per cent. To take another currency as an example, in the last 100 years the US dollar has lost 95 per cent of its value, a marginally better, though still abysmal, performance.

That means that most baby-boomers had to invest their earnings aggressively, not to see them turn to dust. Hence the huge demand for bricks and mortar, with a concomitant rise in prices. It’s that law of supply-demand again that Ollie still hasn’t got around to repealing.

So money inflation promotes property inflation. But what promotes money inflation?

In his book The Time of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan put it succinctly: “[Prof. Arthur Burns of Columbia University]… went around the room asking, ‘What causes inflation?’ None of us could give him an answer. Prof. Burns… declared, ‘Excess government spending causes inflation!’.”

This is actually axiomatic. But where does the government get the wherewithal for its excess spending? Three sources: printing, borrowing – and taxation, all of them inflationary.

Hence the higher taxation that Welby desires and Kamm proposes will achieve exactly the opposite purposes to those they claim to yearn for. Seems incongruous, doesn’t it?

Well, yes. But only if we forget that, when the lefties demand higher taxation, their purposes aren’t ameliorative but punitive. They want to punish those who seek greater independence from the state’s tender mercies.

Whether they wear cassocks or suits is immaterial. They’re all cut from the same cloth.

How cartwrights become Luddites

Progress, when pursued without prudence

Siegbert Tarrasch (d. 1934) was a great chess player who loved his paradoxes.

One of them was that there’s no such thing as an unequivocally good chess move because, to take control of new squares, a piece has to relinquish control of some old ones.

Could this be a cautionary tale about not just chess but any kind of progress? For nothing in this world comes free, and progress is no exception.

I’m specifically talking about scientific and technological progress because, unlike any other kind, it’s real and observable.

Nineteenth century Luddites certainly felt that the price of progress was too steep. Those textile workers had spent years learning their craft – only to be replaced by machines serving the god of productivity better.

Quite a bit of violence followed, and one can understand both sides. Nor was the problem limited to textile workers and England – in fact, the etymology of the word sabotage goes back to a similar conundrum in France at the same time.

The god of productivity is athirst, and his thirst must be slaked. Since greater productivity usually involves more product being produced with less effort, it stands to reason that the higher the productivity, the lower the demand for workers.

A Ford assembly line in Dagenham produces more vehicles per unit of time than the number of carriages crafted by cooperatives of cartwrights and wainwrights of yesteryear.

Thus the latter two crafts were first marginalised and then wiped out. So what did those newly unemployed tradesmen do?

What did chandlers do after most candles had been replaced with light bulbs? What did all those people do after their jobs had fallen victim to progress?

Let’s just say that their plight was eased by the slow tempo of change. Cars didn’t replace carriages overnight; it must have taken at least a generation.

That was enough time for an old cartwright to tell his son that perhaps now wasn’t a good time to pursue the family trade. People won’t be riding in carriages for much longer, lad, they’ll be getting into those new-fangled noisy and smelly things. Let’s think what else you could do.

Also, all such changes happened at a time of unprecedented industrial expansion, when more and more hands were needed to perform myriads of simple operations. So whatever pain was caused was mitigated.

What’s happening now is altogether different. To mention but one small thing, technology, in the shape of kitchen appliances, washing machines, answerphones, vacuum cleaners has well nigh destroyed a major source of living for the lower classes: domestic service.

In the past even middle-class families routinely employed several servants, and such service wasn’t just a job but actually a career. A man could work his way up from groom to valet to butler to steward; a woman, from scullery maid to cook or from chambermaid to housekeeper.

That whole industry has practically faded away since the First World War, although technological progress wasn’t the only, perhaps not even the main, reason for it.

Where technology is the sole culprit is in the demise of millions of low- to medium-skilled jobs that can now be done more efficiently by machines. The problem isn’t just that such jobs disappear; it’s that they disappear instantly.

It’s arguable whether life has become better, but it has definitely become faster. A factory owner may buy a computerised system that makes hundreds of workers redundant overnight. Where will they go?

Or else a country may decide that in our global economy some commodity, say coal, is cheaper to buy abroad than to produce at home. Thus it took Margaret Thatcher what in historical terms was an instant to close the coal mines.

But what happened to all the miners? Where do such cast-offs of modern economies ever go?

They can’t go to another factory because exactly the same thing is happening there. They can’t go to another mine because it too is closed. In fact, there are hardly any jobs in the market that don’t require extensive training and education.

So what will happen to those people? Are they all going to become fund managers, systems analysts and computer programmers? Most won’t. Some may – but not straight away. Retraining will take years, but they don’t have those years.

They haven’t had the luxury of adapting to changes that take decades to come about. Last week the computer system came in; this week they’re out in the street.

Hence they’re left with only one option: going on the dole. This is an individual problem in each case. But, when welfare rolls swell to bursting, it becomes a huge social problem.

In some European countries, a quarter of young people are unemployed, and overall unemployment figures are kept down only by statistical chicanery. At the same time, people in work have to pay half of their income or more to provide for those out of work, which is neither just nor conducive to social health.

The inestimable effects of a vast dependent underclass are destructive economically, socially, morally and in every way imaginable. And, as progress rolls along like an unstoppable juggernaut, this time driven not by a man but by artificial intelligence, things will only get worse.

At some point they’ll come to a head, and post-industrial Luddites will start doing to computers what their ancestors did to those textile machines.

In this dystopic scenario, much featured in literature and on film, progress will destroy itself – and this isn’t the worst that can happen.

Let’s not forget that killing technology has also progressed beyond tanks and machineguns, and in the next world war more people may be killed in one day than the two previous world wars managed altogether.

The only thing that can prevent such doomsdays is the same thing that could have prevented every catastrophe in history: prudence and wisdom.

A measure of restraint has to be applied to our appetites – we may feel like gorging ourselves on the goodies delivered by progress just like we may feel like scoffing three pounds of chocolates or drinking three bottles of whisky. But we must check our appetites in the first case just as we do in the other two.

To paraphrase John Muir, I’m advocating not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress. But for such opposition to become effective, it requires sage and farsighted leaders, especially in government.

Thus Margaret Thatcher, arguably our best post-war prime minister, should have closed the pits gradually, perhaps over 10-20 years, while investing into retraining and relocation. The immediate economic effect would have been less beneficial, but the long-term social effect would have been much better.

Alas, the very nature of modern unchecked democracy run riot precludes foresight and planning for the future. The only future our politicians can plan for is the next election – and even that they don’t do very well.

The economic benefits of instant change will come during their tenure; the resulting social – and ultimately economic – erosion, during someone else’s. Easy choice, isn’t it?

Speaking specifically of Britain, the cumulative effect of the social alienation produced by blithe commitment to progress may soon bring to power the ultimate Luddite party that hates not so much the technological progress delivered by capitalism as capitalism tout court.

The resentful, uneducated, corrupted underclass votes, and it tends to vote as a bloc. So hold your breath – and risk suffocation by holding your nostrils as well.

Words can kill

“No, my name isn’t Dr Mengele. Vy do you ask?”

Back in 2009, a Hungarian doctor practising in England misread a label and injected a boy with a near-lethal dose of carbolic acid, leaving him crippled for life.

Dr Rakoczy knew his medicine but he didn’t know his English, which he proved by consistently failing the language exam. Yet he was finally suspended only last year, making one wonder how on earth he was allowed to practise here in the first place.

Surely free movement of people shouldn’t be interpreted as a licence to kill? Yet this thought is clearly too simple for the EU to understand, and the same problem keeps recurring.

In fact, I first wrote about it seven years ago, and doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun. Since there’s little I can add, I’ll plagiarise myself and recycle that piece, changing only a few words:

In the judgment of his peers, my friend Boris was one of the most brilliant neurosurgeons in Houston, Texas. That was no trivial accolade, considering that at that time, some 40 years ago, Houston was to neurosurgery what Paris is to haute cuisine.

Boris’s colleague at the hospital readily admitted that my friend’s skill was much superior to his own. Dr Thomson was modest, but his income wasn’t – he made well in excess of $1,000,000 a year. Boris made $22,000.

You see, Boris was from Russia and, though a genius with a scalpel in his hand, he had no linguistic ability whatsoever. Alas, the qualification exam for foreign-trained doctors in America consisted of two equal parts: medicine and language.

Sitting the blasted thing year after year, Boris would sail through the first part and, with the certainty of night following day, fail the second. After a few years he gave up trying and accepted his humble role as surgeon’s assistant, though his million-a-year colleagues had no reservations about letting Boris operate every now and then.

One day he showed me the examination papers, with several hundred questions designed to test the prospective doctor’s English. Until then, my impression had been that the test would merely determine the doctor’s basic ability to understand and be understood.

That impression turned out to be wrong. For the test covered the kind of grammatical and stylistic subtleties that would defeat most native speakers.

I recall one example. Choose the right word: He is one of those people who [a) demand, b) demands] attention. I have no doubt whatsoever that you’ve unerringly picked the right answer, which is a). But I’ll bet my $1,000,000 against your $22,000 that you know many Englishmen who wouldn’t.

Now imagine many similar questions together, and you’ll probably agree that only a small minority of even native Anglophones would pass such an exam.

You may think this is going a bit too far, and I may agree with you. You may further think that, to keep foreigners out of a highly lucrative field, the test was designed partly as a sort of protectionist tariff – and I may agree with you again.

But there’s no doubt that, since a doctor’s ability to communicate with patients can be a matter of life or death, this ability must be an essential part of his qualifications.

That’s where the EU comes in.

Its laws mandate free movement of labour throughout the ‘zone’, a desideratum that apparently allows foreign doctors to treat the English test as merely an advisory statement of intent.

The EU gauleiters feel so strongly about this law that they’ll defend it to the death – though naturally not their own. They’ve already defended it to the death of the pensioner David Gray, who died after wrongly receiving an industrial dose of dimorphine (heroin, in common parlance) from a Germany-trained locum.

Equally deadly may be nurses who, like a foreign godfather, make you an offer you can’t understand.

If you’ll forgive another personal recollection, some years ago I was in hospital, receiving about 40 drugs at the same time. In addition to intravenous dimorphine (in the right dose), one of them was a cocaine mouthwash, brought to me by a nurse twice a day in a 50 ml tub.

One of the nurses could speak very little English and, my propensity for infantile jokes enhanced by boredom, I asked her if I should drink the mouthwash in one gulp.

“Trink?” she asked, obviously perplexed. “Trink in vun gulp? Yes, trink in vun gulp.” Had I followed that medical advice, you wouldn’t have the dubious pleasure of my company.

Perhaps, if we let our fantasies run away with us, a time will come when not just doctors, but anyone serving the public will be expected to do so in comprehensible English – in Britain, that is.

In fact, I’ve met many waiters and shop assistants in France who can’t speak English – but have yet to meet one who can’t speak French, and that includes those who manifestly aren’t French.

Would it be too much to ask for something similar in Britain? Yes, it would, if we let the EU have its way.

That’s another reason, one of many, big and small ones, to leave and bang the door on the way out. And I still have to hear of a single reason to stay.

Welcome back, Miss Jihad

Shamima, prophetically depicted by Caravaggio

Four years ago, Shamima Begum of Bethnal Green, London, 15, was your typical rebellious teenager.

Except that she didn’t express her rebellion by smoking the odd spliff, listening to rap and telling her parents to shut up. Instead she went to Syria to fight with ISIS.

As far as she was concerned, the world was strictly binary: there were the righteous (Muslims) and the infidels (everyone else). Since her native Britain was still predominantly infidel (even though her part of London wasn’t), she knew whose side she was on.

Her side blew up public transport, raped women, burned people alive, tortured them, tossed them off tall buildings, cut off their heads. That was just fine with young Shamima. In fact, “When I saw my first severed head in a bin, it didn’t faze me at all,” she says.

“I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.” What would that be? And who was the late possessor of the head in question?

Western soldiers don’t typically rape and eviscerate Muslim women, and was she even sure the victim was a soldier? As opposed to an intrepid tourist? An aid volunteer? One of those Doctors Without Frontiers?

Shamima didn’t know and didn’t care. All she needed to know was that the murdered man was white, quite possibly her British countryman.

We, on the other hand, would like to know something else. Was Shamima by any chance the one who had beheaded the victim? She’s a big girl, strong enough to swing a machete and obviously undeterred by any scruples.

I especially like the word ‘first’ in her chilling admission. How many more severed heads did she see? How many did she cut off?

Shamima is rather reticent on such details. Then again, Arafat once said, and the Algerian president repeated, that Islam’s best weapon is the womb of every Muslim woman.

It was that demographic weapon, rather than machetes and AKs, that Shamima verifiably wielded for Islam. In short order she produced two children, and don’t youngsters grow up fast these days.

Alas, postnatal care in ISIS isn’t quite up to even NHS standards. Both her children died, which didn’t prevent Shamima from getting pregnant with a third.

When recently, now 19, she realised that ISIS was being smashed to smithereens, and the chances of enjoying the sight of more severed heads were slim, Shamima decided she now wanted to come home (to Britain, that is), give birth in an NHS hospital and “live quietly with my child”.

My hearts’ strings are properly tugged, and I’m not the only one. A lively debate is under way as to whether Britain should welcome Shamima and other jihad brides back.

Those in favour argue that Shamima was only 15 at the time, and she was brainwashed. That doesn’t quite explain why she stayed with ISIS until its end, when she was already legally adult.

As to brainwashing, that argument is often used indiscriminately. Implicit in it is the denial of both free will and the demonstrable fact that some people are irredeemably evil.

I doubt that a youngster good at heart could be swayed to any cause by pictures of torture and mayhem, which abound on Islamic websites. And if she was so swayed, she isn’t good at heart.

Nevertheless Philip Collins of The Times is in favour of the red carpet. This even though he deplores what Shamima did and acknowledges she isn’t a nice girl.

Moreover, “she has not yet reached a state of repentance”. ‘Yet’ is a short word long on meaning. It suggests that in due course Shamima will reach such a blissful state, especially if “offered the counsel of the various rehabilitation programmes sponsored by the government”.

Mr Collins’s faith in such programmes is touching, unsupported as it is by any significant corpus of evidence. But when it comes from the heart, true faith is impervious to facts.

Since my faith is somewhat different, I’d be more open to a different possibility. Such as that, once Shamima’s child is taken care of, she’ll start blowing up other women’s children.

To his credit, Mr Collins acknowledges this risk, and agrees it should be assessed. He doesn’t seem to realise he has already done that, by admitting that Shamima remains an unrepentant jihadist:

“The only time that Ms Begum uses the language of shame it is about her own decision not to stay resolute in support of the caliphate. She is explicit that she does not regret going to Syria.”

However, she is a British citizen, argues Mr Collins. Therefore not letting her come back would violate the law and, when all is said and done, the rule of law is what separates us from ISIS.

I wonder, with all humility and respect, how well Mr Collins understands the English Common Law. I’m specifically referring to citizenship – and to one key precedent that elucidates the issue.

In 1946, William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, was hanged for treason, the last (I secretly hope the latest) person to suffer that fate in the UK.

Before the war this US-born Irishman led the National Socialist League, competing with the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley. Shortly before the war, he cheated his way to a British passport and slipped off to Germany.

There he became Goebbels’s leading English-language broadcaster, torturing British ears with his put-on toff accent: “Jahmany calling…”

After the war, he was charged with treason in Britain, but the case was far from clear-cut. Since Joyce had obtained his British passport on false pretences, his citizenship was null and void, argued the defence.

He was thus still a US citizen and as such couldn’t be guilty of treason to Britain because he owed no allegiance to it.

What hanged Joyce was a technicality springing from the ancient legal principle invoked by the prosecution: protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protectionem (protection entails allegiance; and allegiance, protection).

Joyce might not have been entitled to a British passport, but he did use it to travel to Germany. Therefore he was under the protection of the British crown and owed allegiance to it.

That case is relevant to the Shamima situation because it establishes an unbreakable link between protection and allegiance, fully equating a British passport with protection.

That document, in other words, is a bilateral contract. One party exchanges its protection for the other party’s allegiance. Either party’s failure to comply with the terms of that contract thus constitutes forfeiture.

Since Shamima has manifestly withdrawn her allegiance from this infidel realm, the realm is within its right to withdraw its protection, otherwise known as citizenship.

Hence if she were to return, she should be charged with treason and spend the rest of her life in prison. Otherwise, harsh as it may sound, she belongs in that refugee camp or else Guantanamo. We can’t have too many jihadists here.

P.S. Ben Jaffey QC, acting for the Department of Health, told the High Court, “being a mother is no longer necessarily a gendered term… a man can be… a mother”. Just shows how backward the British are. Americans have been calling men ‘mothers’ for decades.

 

Churchill was just awful, wasn’t he?

St John MacDonnel, the ultimate arbiter of morals

Shadow Chancellor McDonnell, Corbyn’s cardinal rouge, described Winston Churchill as a villain for his role in the Tonypandy riots.

Many people took issue with that, instead describing Churchill as a hero for his role in saving Europe from Hitler.

Weighing these two positions in the balance, I have to assume an uncharacteristically relativist stand by suggesting that Churchill can be regarded as either hero or villain. It all depends on one’s frame of reference.

Clearly, in a parliamentary career spanning the reigns of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II and comprising a number of cabinet posts, including the highest one, Churchill didn’t quite manage to avoid sin altogether.

Then again, his defenders only ask that he be respected, not canonised. People are fallible, and politicians tend to be more fallible than average. Hence, when pondering whether to place Churchill into the villain or hero category, one should weigh his sins against his achievements.

Since neither side seems willing to consider his whole career, they, in the person of McDonnell, reduce the dichotomy to just one sin, the Tonypandy riots, or just one achievement, making sure that Trafalgar Square isn’t called Ludendorffplatz, or some such.

Since the latter hardly needs further praise and gratitude, let’s concentrate on the former.

In 1910 coal miners in South Wales went on a go-slow strike, or so the management thought. The miners objected they had only slowed down because the new pits were harder to chip away at.

Now miners have always gone on strike so readily that one is tempted to think the explicit grievances have largely been mere pretexts. Their real problem – and here I sympathise wholeheartedly – is that they have to do just about the worst job imaginable.

Few of us would fancy spending our working lives in back-breaking, claustrophobic subterranean toil, breathing coal dust and dying of silicosis at a young age. Anyone doing that can be expected to display heightened sensitivity to any real or imaginary injustice.

It could be the working conditions, hours, pay or for that matter their misreading of the law penalising sex with minors. Whatever the face value of the dispute, colliers tend to be a hairbreadth removed from strikes, often violent ones.

In that case, the management responded by closing the site down to all 12,500 workers, not just the 70 most vociferous protesters. A real strike followed, and riots after that. Shops were smashed up and looted, and even the houses of the owners and managers came under attack.

The police fought back with baton charges, and violence escalated – on both sides. Responding to pleas from the police, Churchill, at that time Home Secretary in a Liberal government, reluctantly agreed to send in a couple of army units.

The aim was to moderate excesses on both sides, and it worked. The army never opened fire, nor had been instructed to do so. But its sheer presence quickly put an end to the strike, keeping the casualty count down. Altogether, 500 rioters and 85 policemen were injured and one miner died after being hit on the head with a police truncheon (not a bullet).

I’d suggest that Winston Churchill ought to be praised more readily than rebuked for his role in the affair. But I did say that my frame of reference here is relativist.

By contrast, Mr McDonnell’s clearly proceeds from some absolute moral standards. Applying them to the issue at hand, he feels that Churchill’s 1910 villainy, such as it was, outweighs his wartime heroism (I assume McDonnell sees it as such, though one never knows).

Since we differ so sharply, I feel justified in examining Mr McDonnell’s frame of reference in light of what he considers villainous or commendable.

Mr (Comrade?) McDonnell identifies Marx, Lenin and Trotsky as his “most significant” intellectual influences. On numerous occasions he has expressed admiration for the state created to those gentlemen’s specifications.

Hence it’s apposite to see how that state handled a similar situation, if only to admire the high moral ground from which Mr McDonnell looks down on Churchill’s villainy.

In 1962 workers in Novocherkassk (in whose garrison my uncle was an officer at the time) went on strike protesting the unaffordable food prices that had put them on the verge of starvation. Unlike the Tonypandy riots, the protests were peaceful: no shops or private residences were molested in any way.

In response, KGB troops were summoned to the North Caucasus city and fired several salvos of live rounds at the crowd. The official death toll (the unofficial one was several times higher) was 26 killed on the spot with machine-gun fire, 87 wounded (of whom three later died).

Then the trials began, with seven death sentences passed and immediately executed – none of that American shilly-shallying with years on death row. Many others went to concentration camps for up to 15 years.

Considering that McDonnell’s role models murdered over 60 million in the Soviet Union alone, mentioning such a small episode may sound churlish. I’ve only done so because of the obvious parallel with Tonypandy.

Now I consider Churchill a hero even before we start drawing such obvious comparisons. But then I did admit to being a relativist.

However there’s nothing relative about the dread I feel at the possibility that McDonnell may well be our next Chancellor. Then we’ll learn all we need to know about villainy – actually quite a bit more than we need to know.