The day the music died

This photograph of a looted Steinway shop in Philadelphia is full of symbolism.

That a piano shop should be targeted for righteous wrath is natural. With a little imagination classical music performed on Steinways can be easily seen as the distillation of white culture and therefore white oppression.

A Steinway is only half a step removed from another symbol of white supremacy, an overseer’s bullwhip at a cotton plantation. But even the Steinway family of tyrannical instruments isn’t homogeneous: racial distinctions exist there as well.

Thus it’s easy – nay, inevitable – to surmise that white Steinways, though less numerous, oppress black ones. Hence a white piano must be abused as a manifestation of commitment to justice and racial equality.

Then again, participants in that spontaneous reaction to what Democratic politicians are calling “an open season on blacks” came equipped with black, rather than white, spray paint. Hence it would have been a waste of good paint to write FUCK on a black piano. A white one provides a more natural canvas for that genre of artistic expression.

Sound like nonsense, doesn’t it? Yet this little vignette is the acme of reason compared to some of the statements made by the likes of Joe Biden and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Displaying his well-documented oratorical skills, Joe drawled in a monotone unassisted by any facial expression: “Black lives are under threat every day.” And the good mayor contributed an unassailable insight: “Being black in America shouldn’t be a death sentence.”

An existential philosopher may argue that blacks aren’t unique in that respect. Everybody’s life is under threat every day, and each life ends in a death sentence, in this world at any rate.

But that’s not what those venerable gentlemen mean. They are suggesting that white people in general, and white policemen in particular, are homicidal maniacs out to kill blacks for fun.

This belief is an ideological sine qua non of the dominant ‘liberal’ ethos, and as such it’s impervious to any contrary facts. (I cited some yesterday.)

In the same vein, Black Lives Matter is a slogan, not a thought. One can argue against a thought, but slogans are argument-proof.

What are you going to say? That all lives matter? That specifically black lives are mostly lost to black violence? That when a black criminal is shot by a policeman (white or black), it’s usually the criminal who either fires first or is about to? That a lot more policemen are killed by black criminals than vice versa? Don’t – anything you say can be used against you, as proof of inveterate racism.

Also, the riots are a good time to score political points off Trump. Professional Trump haters can now draw on volunteer amateur support.

The president is accused of being divisive, saying and doing all the wrong things. Now I do find Trump an unpleasant and vulgar man. That, however, doesn’t mean he can do no right.

He’s trying, rightly, to elicit a tough response to violence from individual states, involving the National Guard and the army, if need be. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump said, to thunderous gasps in all the usual quarters.

Instead, they claim, he should reason with the rioters, try to understand their concerns, pour balm on their bleeding hearts. So what should he say to the scum who looted the Steinway shop? “You are right in principle, if not in every detail”?

And how should justice be served in the Floyd case? After all, it’s not all white Americans who killed Floyd, but just one of them – and he’s going to prison.

So what do they think a proper president would do? Tell policemen not to shoot black criminals, even as they are cocking their guns? Ideally not to arrest them at all? Ban kneeling on black people’s throats? But cops already know that, and the one who didn’t may never come out of prison.

Trump is also accused of hypocrisy. He’s talking tough, but he ran to his bunker like a rank coward when justice-seekers appeared to be attacking the White House.

Those who say that are ignorant of basic Secret Service protocol, or rather pretend to be. When a president is perceived to be in danger, Secret Service agents have authority over him. They don’t ask him if he wants to go down to the bunker; they tell him to go. And if he won’t, they are authorised to drag him there kicking and screaming.

If firing at looters is the only way to prevent American cities from turning into an inferno, then I say don’t spare the ammunition. Trump obviously understands this, even though he can’t say so in as many words. Anyway, so far the shooting hasn’t started, which is why Steinway pianos are being thrown out of the windows of vandalised shops.

The less violent but more emetic aspect of the riots is their attendant dianafication of the world, if you’ll pardon the neologism. Morons of the world are united in going down on one knee to signal their virtue. This response is mandated by the ‘liberals’ and inculcated into many a susceptible mind.

In Britain such practices go back to the death of Diana, which everyone was ordered to mourn visibly and vociferously on pain of ostracism. When the Queen reacted to the tragedy with her usual dignified restraint, the mob outside Buck House brayed: “Ma’am, show us you care!!!”

If police had descended on that mob with truncheons, I would have cheered – as I now cheer for the American police, the National Guard and perhaps the army.

Show the scum, so they understand, that you care for justice, order and social tranquillity. And for Steinway pianos, come to that.     

Modernity is revolting

One can’t read today’s newspapers without first having to wade through spread after spread of riot stories complete with lurid pictures, eyewitness accounts and editorial moaning along the why-oh-why lines.

Some papers take a neutral stance, others are scathing about the rioters, still others are broadly sympathetic to them. But that’s in England. In France, most papers stay, well, not exactly silent, but reticent.

Remarkably little space is devoted to the worst racial upheavals since the 1960s, as if the papers wished to communicate the message that, yes, merde happens, but it’s no big deal and in any case it’s none of France’s concern.

It’s not as if French journalists can’t see the importance of a story that has ousted Covid from front pages. They can. The trouble is, they can see it too well.

They just fear, with good reason, that the rocks thrown at American policeman have the range to fly across the ocean and shatter France’s glass house, already showing a spiderweb of cracks. They don’t want their own potential rioters, whose name is legion, to get any inspiring ideas.

Riots happen throughout the West, and even Britain isn’t exactly immune to them. But no Western country can match US riots in scale, nor French ones in frequency.

One can’t help feeling that the two nations, despite their professed disdain for each other, are somehow umbilically linked. They seem to share some common DNA, specifically those genes that predispose to mob violence.

So they do. America and France are the first commonwealths of rebellious modernity, its revolutionary flag-bearers. Both were born, in their present forms, as revolutionary republics, mob violence their birth cries. To this day words like ‘revolution’ and ‘rebellion’ have more positive connotations in those countries than, say, in Britain or Holland.

The link between the two revolutions isn’t instantly obvious. It certainly wasn’t to Edmund Burke, whose genius betrayed him in this one area. While ripping the French Revolution to shreds in one of history’s seminal texts of political philosophy, he welcomed the American Revolution as “a revolution not made but prevented”.

Burke failed to detect familial kinship between those two children of the Enlightenment, both having equality chiselled into the stone tablets of their founding documents. Some 20 years later the link was blindingly obvious to John Adams, America’s second president.

Writing with the benefit of hindsight, he remarked ruefully in 1811: “Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation of the human race and the whole globe ever since?”

Both America and France have since reaped a rich harvest of the culture they sowed. And they continue to reap it, each in its own way. The flag they originally unfurled is still flying high.

This was, or should have been, predictable. For there was one slight problem with their founding promise of equality: it was impossible to keep, not as they defined it.

With the legerdemain larceny so characteristic of modernity, the Enlightenment stole the term ‘equality’ from its rightful owner and turned it upside down. That fooled the masses for a while, partly because they were inured to the term.

As it used to be understood, equality was strictly a Pauline, which is to say metaphysical, concept: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Victorious modernity consigned Christ Jesus, along with the great civilisation he founded, to the status of antiquarian curiosity at best, an object of hatred more typically. Hence equality had to lose its sublime metaphysical meaning, acquiring instead one of social and economic levelling.

Understood that way, equality runs contrary to human nature and therefore can only function as a destructive, divisive force. Striving for it automatically presupposes turning most people into envious, resentful brooders, each feeling hard done by both individually and as a member of some social, economic, racial or ethnic group.

That creates a tinderbox ready to ignite at any moment. All it takes is someone striking a match, and such helpful individuals are never in short supply.

I don’t know who performed that service to set off the present conflagration. Various cabals are mooted as possible culprits, including some extreme political groups, Muslims, Russians, Chinese, anarchists, Trotskyists – the list of eminently possible suspects is long.

Yet who really is at fault ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is the ever-present tinderbox created by that greatest misnomer in history, the Enlightenment.

The modernity it inspired isn’t confined to America and France. Masses everywhere have staged a revolt, so eloquently described by Ortega y Gasset. But few other Western countries have rioting so integrally interwoven into the fabric of society as the two revolutionary republics that got the ball rolling – all the way towards the precipice.

The French cross their fingers, hoping that their own country won’t explode and knowing it very well may – wouldn’t be the first time. Yet few of them cringe, as I do, when seeing the slogan Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité prominently displayed on every public building.

Neither do Americans cringe when reading The Declaration of Independence, the first political document of the Enlightenment. Perhaps now they’ll begin to understand what it really means.

Justice, ‘liberal’ style

What’s a proper reaction to a white cop killing a black suspect in America? Why, looting shops in Manhattan and Beverly Hills (such as Alexander McQueen’s) of course.

Following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, America is aflame. Whole neighbourhoods are being set on fire, along with shops, restaurants and police cars (some with policemen still in them).

The whole country is densely covered with rioting mobs waving Black Lives Matter posters, looting, burning, screaming and fighting the police. Lives have already been lost, to say nothing of property. Also lost is any sense of perspective.

Floyd’s friends and family are interviewed non-stop on every TV network, and all of them unfailingly describe him as a “gentle giant”. This is par for the course: a violent thug, especially black, always undergoes a miraculous transfiguration if killed by a policeman, especially white.

Well, a giant Mr Floyd definitely was, but I wonder how gentle he appeared to the Texan woman he robbed at gun point and then pistol-whipped in 2007. He certainly didn’t seem very bright, considering that he and his accomplices then escaped in his own car whose number was noted by neighbours.

In the subsequent trial, Floyd’s sentence was plea-bargained down to five years for “aggravated assault stemming from a robbery”. That wasn’t his first brush with the law, nor his first stint in prison.

Floyd’s CV featured at least 10 convictions, five of them resulting in custodial sentences. The charges involved theft, possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver and so forth.

Then, according to his friends, Floyd moved from Houston to Minneapolis and turned over a new leaf. He even got a real, non-robbing and non-pushing, job.

One could get the impression that the gentle giant was employed as milkman or social worker. In fact, his leaf-turning job was that of a bouncer, a position in which propensity for violence is a non-negotiable qualification.

In any case, the leaf wasn’t turned all the way, considering that the fatal incident resulted from Floyd trying to pass a counterfeit $20 note at a local shop. The police duly answered the call and managed to handcuff Floyd.

Yet the gentle giant put up a mighty fight even with his hands cuffed behind his back. He wouldn’t let the officers put him into the squad car, screaming that he was claustrophobic. Yet that condition evidently didn’t hamper his ability to drive a get-away car in his earlier life.

This in no way vindicates what Officer Derek Chauvin did. Kneeling on the prone man’s neck for almost nine minutes until he died was unnecessary, brutal and probably criminal.

I say ‘probably’ only because Chauvin, though charged with third-degree murder, hasn’t yet been convicted, and I still harbour some nostalgic feelings about the presumption of innocence. However, if he is as guilty as the videos suggest, I hope he gets 25 years, the maximum sentence for that crime in Minnesota.

No decent person can fail to condemn Chauvin’s action; yet no sensible person can fail to understand it. For a beat cop faces death every time he steps out into American streets, which must tighten his nerves to snapping point.

Studies show that a white policemen is 18.5 times less likely to kill a black man than to be killed by him. And yes, twice as many blacks as whites are killed by US policemen.

This is indeed a glaring disproportion – considering that blacks account for 85 per cent of all violent crimes. Yet one doesn’t see many rallies, never mind riots, protesting against those heinous crimes.

Nor does anyone mourn too vociferously the 324,000 blacks killed over the past 35 years by people of the same pigmentation. Black lives do matter – though evidently not so much to other blacks.

But then surely none of us thinks that the killing of George Floyd is the real reason, as opposed to pretext, behind the riots? If justice is what the rioters want, then the US has plenty of proper mechanisms for administering it.

One of those mechanisms has been activated in this case, with Officer Chauvin facing a quarter-century in prison. That’s how justice is served by civilised people in civilised societies.

It’s not justice the rioting mob wants, but mayhem. The riots are a way of venting pent-up hatred, expertly if subtly whipped up by the ‘liberal’ media and the whole ‘liberal’ Zeitgeist.

There it’s taken as Gospel truth that all whites, other than those avidly mouthing ‘liberal’ shibboleths, are racists committed to keeping the blacks in conditions of virtual slavery and violent oppression.

Those awful whites are described as ‘the establishment’ and every means is deemed acceptable in resisting its encroachments on the liberal Zeitgeist. Hence the compassionate, acquiescent, if not downright encouraging, tone of commentary on the on-going pandemonium.

Yes, those poor people might have gone too far in their pursuit of justice (and also, by the looks of it, of Alexander McQueen clothes). But what do you expect? After all, we all know they are striking out against unjust oppression.

Not only they, I dare say. We all suffer from oppression, that imposed by ‘liberal’ modernity run riot. Literally, in this case.

Another alternative lifestyle

Do you ever get the feeling that real excitement has passed you by? I do, each time I read short articles at the bottom of newspaper pages.

Support your local KEBB worker

Every little titbit opens my eyes to possibilities so tragically missed over a long life and reminds me yet again that one shouldn’t impose one’s own – or indeed any other – standards on others.

Alas, my cognitive ability not being what it used to be, I often feel like a straggler on the march of progress. No sooner had I learned, marked and inwardly digested the newfangled acronym, LGTBQIA2S+, than new demands are being imposed on my learning capacity.

This morning, for example, I read a tiny article implicitly emphasising the need for more initials to be introduced into the lexicon of alternative lifestyles.

Apparently an Australian chap paid two men to help him enact an amorous fantasy. The men were hired to break into his house at knifepoint, tie him up and stroke his, presumably naked, body with a broom. Oh well, different strokes for different folks, as Americans say.

I don’t know how widespread this practice is in Australia and elsewhere. I suspect not very. Nevertheless it deserves its place inside the ring fence protecting all alternative lifestyles against attacks launched by fossilised troglodytes (like I used to be before I accepted the moral validity of every conceivable set of initials).

First, it needs its own nomenclature, ideally made up of initials that will then easily go before -phobia. For the time being, let’s settle on KEBB (Knife Entry Broom Body).

I plan to start a worldwide campaign against kebbophobia, defined as finding anything wrong whatsoever with this alternative lifestyle. In the meantime, however, the first recorded case of KEBB went awry.

The KEBB workers got the wrong house and therefore the wrong man. The house-owner mistook them for his friends, opened the door and was treated to the sight of two knives and, supposedly, a broom.

The article left it unclear how far the mix-up went. Did the intruders fulfil their contract by stripping the house-owner naked, tying him up and brushing him with a broom? Or did they realise their mistake and stop mid-stroke?

Evidently there were no hard feelings, at least not at first. The house-owner accepted the intruders’ apologies, shook their hands and saw them out. However, given time to ponder the situation, he reconsidered. As a result the KEBB workers ended up in court, charged with intimidation.

Now, to quote Pope Francis’s pronouncement on another set of initials, who am I to judge? As a matter of fact, who are those Aussie judges to judge? Yes, those KEBB workers made an inadvertent mistake, that much is clear.

Yet consequently another man was introduced to the alternative KEBB lifestyle, if perhaps initially against his will. Surely that can’t be a bad thing?

Are we witnessing judicial kebbophobia unfolding before our very eyes? If so, I hope we’ll all rise against it. Why, I even have a name for a campaign of protest: New Broom. Let’s keep both our minds and our houses wide-open, sweeping prejudices aside.

Mr Cummings, meet Messrs McCarthy and Nixon

Those who know modern US history will recognise the signs, even if they are flagged in Britain. For hysterical attacks on Dominic Cummings evoke Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon circa 1950.

Aim, fire!

In that year, the Soviet spy Alger Hiss was convicted for perjury, having been nailed to the wall by his HUAC interrogator, Congressman Richard Nixon. That was a hallmark case, largely vindicating Sen. Joe McCarthy’s campaign against communist subversion.

It was then that McCarthy and Nixon became marked men in the press. Both, especially McCarthy, were subjected to savage attacks, proving that lovies aren’t dovies. They are more akin to vultures.

McCarthy was literally hounded to death: incessant vituperative attacks proved harder to handle than the enemy ‘Tailgunner Joe’ had faced during the war. He drank himself to death at 48.

Many of the attacks were personal, dealing with McCarthy’s style and demeanour, rather than the substance of his accusations. In fact, the celebrities he targeted were indeed communist subversives, whose allegiance was with a hostile foreign power.

McCarthy, son of a poor Wisconsin farmer, was an outsider to the smart Eastern Seaboard circles, whose sympathies lay distinctly with McCarthy’s ‘victims’. He was portrayed as a rude, vulgar demagogue, vindictively going out to get good people.

It’s true that McCarthy’s voice was at times too loud and unpolished, and he himself too strident. Yet what he said was essentially true, which of course rankled the most.

On the other hand, after his original ‘crime’ of nailing Hiss, Nixon was less vulnerable to personal attacks. That didn’t mean they ceased: to the media Hiss was one of them, and ludicrous claims of his innocence are still heard today.

Nixon, on the other hand, was an outsider thrice over: not only did he corner the ‘liberal’ flag-bearer Hiss, but he was also a Californian and a conservative Republican. Off with his head.

Hence the media were complicit with the Democrats in stealing the 1960 election from Nixon. Not only did the networks’ cameramen lovingly show close-ups of Nixon sweating during the televised debate with Kennedy, but, much worse, the media hushed up the massive theft of votes in the swing state of Illinois.

Throughout that campaign the stylish bon vivant Kennedy was idolised, and his haughty dismissal of Nixon (“That guy has got no class”) was quoted ad infinitum. 

When he eventually became president, Nixon left himself open at Watergate. The media sharks smelled blood and pounced.

This isn’t to say that Nixon was innocent. He wasn’t. Yet one just wonders whether the pitch of self-righteous hysteria would have been as febrile if the culprit had been, say, one of the Kennedy brothers. Or whether the ‘liberal’ Washington Post would have pursued the leads so relentlessly.

Just compare the treatment of Nixon with that of Teddy Kennedy, the Chappaquiddick swimming champ. Under similar circumstances any conservative Republican would probably have been accused of murder, persistently and stridently.

Dominic Cummings is a lesser figure than Nixon or McCarthy. Yet a scaled-down model can still be an accurate representation of the original.

Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, supposedly broke the lockdown law. He drove his little son 260 miles to his parents’ farm in County Durham after both he and his wife had developed coronavirus symptoms. They decided that the safest course for their son was to leave him in the care of Cummings’s mother and sister.

Some kind soul immediately grassed him up to the ‘liberal’ papers, and the shouts of tally-ho! reverberated through Fleet Street, where Cummings is alternately despised and hated.

He is gleefully portrayed as an abrasive, unprincipled, Swengalian and sartorially inadequate northerner, what with his T-shirts and fleeces. All probably true, but none of this justifies the clamour for his summary dismissal.

Neither does his transgression. The lockdown law bans only unnecessary travel, and if trying to protect one’s child doesn’t qualify as necessary, I don’t know what does.

That’s why Boris Johnson supported Cummings who, according to him, had acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”. And yesterday Durham police confirmed that Cummings had no case to answer.

Yet the frenzy goes on, and that’s where a parallel with Nixon and McCarthy becomes visible. For Cummings committed several crimes against every cherished cause those elegant ‘liberal’ dressers hold dear.

First, he ran the Vote Leave campaign that – fingers crossed – got Britain out of the EU in the nick of time, offending every reader of The Guardian and The Observer (the two papers in the vanguard of the assault on Cummings), not to mention the entire BBC staff.

Then he focused the Tory campaign in the general election not on Islington and Notting Hill, those twin peaks of ‘liberal’ rectitude, but – are you ready for this? – on the North. The North! Where people wear T-shirts and fleeces, refer to dinner as ‘tea’ and speak in laughable accents!

Even worse, Cummings’s strategy was proved right, and the Tories won a landslide. That painted an indelible bull’s eye on his T-shirted chest.

I haven’t met Mr Cummings, but I hear from those who have that he isn’t exactly God’s best gift to mankind. But then neither was Alastair Campbell, who was to Blair what Cummings is to Johnson – and he never suffered the same treatment.

It’s just that Campbell wasn’t tarred with the Tory brush and Cummings is. Even worse, he had the gall to defeat the smart set twice, by getting Britain out of the EU and a Tory into 10 Downing Street.

That’s the nature of the witch-hunting campaign against Cummings, for which his display of parental love is but a pretext. However, I do hope Dominic starts wearing suits. If hated for being a vanquishing Tory anyway, he might as well dress as one.  

April is the deadliest month

T.S. Eliot prophetically described April as “the cruellest month” – and he had never heard of coronavirus.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land…”

Compared to April, 2019, 44,000 more people died last month, making it the deadliest month on record. Could many of those people have been saved had the government acted earlier? Were many more indeed saved by the lockdown?

Probably, on both counts. In any case, those numbers provide a sombre illustration to the argument I had the other day with a friend, who tends to see the world mainly in economic terms.

Actually, I wouldn’t call it an argument because everything I said was couched in doubts, whereas his position was chiselled in stone. Destroying the economy, according to him, was too steep a price to pay for saving a few wrinklies.

Now, regular readers of this space know that I’m not usually short of a strong view or two. Yet ever since Covid arrived “I don’t know and nobody knows” has been the leitmotif of my writings on the subject.

I don’t know what would have been the right course of action. Perhaps the government went too far with the lockdown. It’s possible that isolating the most vulnerable groups while letting others roam free would have been wiser. It would certainly have been less economically ruinous.

But what if tens of thousands more still had died? Libertarian arguments would have been compromised, wouldn’t they? Or would they? I just don’t know.

My friend does. He hit me with a rhetorical device called reductio ad absurdum, pushing an argument to its grotesque extreme to show how ludicrous it is.

“You’d be willing to pay a trillion pounds to save a few lives,” he said. Actually I didn’t recall putting a precise number on it and, not being a financial man like my friend, I couldn’t even imagine a trillion pounds.

But yes, I said, I’d be willing to pay quite a lot of money to save quite a few lives. My friend immediately did what I would have done upon observing vacillation on my interlocutor’s part. He demanded that I define ‘quite a lot’ and ‘quite a few’.

That I couldn’t do. As a matter of historical observation, however, good countries, including Britain, have been known to accept economic ruin for the sake of upholding certain values and, yes, saving lives in the long run.

Turning the rhetorical tables on my friend, I could have said that, to him, no number of human lives is worth a large amount of money. This argument probably would have been as powerful as his – and as unsound.

I wish I had been as certain as some people, those who don’t care how many die defending abstract libertarian principles. All I can do at the moment is grieve for those 44,000 excess deaths we’ve suffered during that cruellest month. Putting this in perspective, the Luftwaffe only managed to kill 32,000 British civilians during the 10 months of the Blitz.

I am certain, however, that a human life is valuable throughout its duration, from conception to death. The argument that most of those people would have died anyway, what with their existing conditions, of which age is the deadliest, is immoral to the point of being monstrous.

The underlying assumption is that a 25-year-old is worth saving, while a 65-year-old is not, or at least less so. Perhaps in God’s eyes both lives are equally precious, though I wouldn’t like to second-guess the deity.

But regarded through human eyes that proposition isn’t just horrific morally but also unsound empirically. I’d suggest that the last year of J.S. Bach’s life, during which he composed The B Minor Mass and The Art of Fugue was of greater value to mankind than the whole life expectancy of a 25-year-old pusher at King’s Cross.

Bach died at 65 and I can’t begin to imagine the sublime revelations he would have bequeathed us had he lived another year – or ten. Actually, I find it easier to imagine a trillion pounds.

Evolutionists are true heroes

Physicists Pierre and Marie Curie ruined their health by deliberately exposing themselves to radiation. Yet their self-experimentation made possible the use of radium in medicine.

Dr Lameira and Dr Dawkins, discussing the latest breakthrough in evolution science

There are many other examples of scientists becoming their own guinea pigs for the sake of a higher good. But none so heroic as evolutionists, who courageously put out reams of twaddle to prove by their own example the simian origin of at least some humans.

The latest of such unsung heroes is Dr Adriano Lameira of Warwick University. He proved that chimps, described by The Times as “our nearest evolutionary relatives”, move their lips at the frequency of human speech.

“It is exactly the signature you see if you looked at my lips open and close right now,” said Dr Lameira. “This is exciting.”

Orgasmically so, I’d suggest. As The Times, itself in the throes of excitement, explained, “He and his colleagues argue that this implies we inherited the trait from a common ancestor. And while most descendants use it as a general form of interaction, one particular ape added more complex sounds and grammar and it became language.”

Just like that. One ape decided its life wouldn’t be complete without subjects, objects and predicates. So instead of just moving its lips it used them to form words and eventually write Summa Theologiae, Hamlet and The Critique of Pure Reason.

While complimenting Dr Lameira on the self-lacerating honesty of his analysis, one can’t help noticing that, for most other people, there’s more to speech than lip movement.

Dr Lameira may not realise this, but language depends on a capacity for abstract thought. That’s what it takes to relate a concept, be that a melon, love or categorical imperative, to sounds of speech or squiggles on paper.

And thought is the metaphysical output of an intricate physical organ, the brain. That’s about all we know about it.

For despite the billions pumped into assorted Genome Projects and Decades of the Brain, we still don’t know what a thought is, how it’s produced and how, if at all, man’s capacity for it has developed over history.

The only thing those scanner-wielding scientists have discovered is that some physical processes accompany thought. But these aren’t the same as thought any more than, on this evidence, a doctorate degree is the same as intelligence. 

I recall Khrushchev claiming back in 1961 that, since Gagarin didn’t see God in space, God doesn’t exist. This is roughly the intellectual level on which the Lameiras of this world operate.

I’d suggest, without any pretensions to scientific rigour, that he ponder the verb ‘to ape’. The first giant stride would be to understand why it was the primate and not, say, the giraffe or the antelope that was chosen as the metaphor for imitation (and not just in English).

Having concluded that it was perhaps due to the ape’s knack for grotesque mimicry, Dr Lameira would then be ready to make another leap, towards considering the possibility that his chimp moves its lips like talking humans because it, well, apes them.

I’m not insisting that this is the only possible explanation, only that it sounds more plausible than the chimp being on the verge of declaiming “To be or not to be?” (or, being a modern animal, perhaps he’d opt for “To be or to not be?”).

When faced with such offensive mockery, evolutionists explain that transitions like the one from lip movement to Hamlet happened over a long time. How long exactly?

Well, you name it. Millions of years, they’d suggest first, but then some real scientist will show this would be too short a period to produce the requisite amount of evolutionary change. Well, billions then. No? Fine, trillions, but that’s my last offer.

Then they like to flag the fact that chimpanzees and humans share some 99 per cent of their active genetic material. Yet the QED expressions on their faces are premature. For biochemical likeness between apes and humans creates problems for their ilk.

Biology can’t explain why, given such close proximity, apes still look rather different from humans, even those as flawed as Richard Dawkins. Anything near the same biochemical closeness produces virtual twins in other animals. For example, even though they are 20 to 30 times further apart, some species of squirrels or frogs are practically indistinguishable from each other.

Dr Lameira and indeed The Times accept as fact that humans and chimpanzees have “a common ancestor”. If so, why is it that millions of uncovered fossilised remains belong either to apes or to humans, with no intermediate species ever found? In fact, there’s a remarkable dearth of evidence of any intermediate species, not just between ape and man.

Dr Lameira’s sort of reasoning would have him drummed out of any other science: his colleagues would be too busy laughing to do any serious work. But evolutionism isn’t like any other science. In fact it’s not a science at all. It’s an ideology by pseudo-scientific means.

That explains its remarkable longevity: any theory less politically charged would have been discarded at least a century ago. Few unproven ones (and anything called ‘a theory’ lacks decisive proof by definition) ever lasted longer than 40 to 50 years.

But evolutionism is essential to modernity, brought to life as it was by an attempt to debunk God. A modern zealot knows a priori that everything must have a purely physical explanation. And if facts don’t support that presupposition, then they must be dismissed, falsified or spuriously interpreted.

Here’s another promising area for Dr Lameira to explore. I’ve noticed that some frogs do flip-flops in mid-leap. Doesn’t that prove that Olympic high jumpers doing the Fosbury Flop share an ancestor with amphibians? Worth a grant, that.

Bloomberg out to dismember Russia

Polling is like three-card Monte. With a bit of legerdemain you can get any result you want.

Now think carefully: do you trust Putin?

You need to know what question to ask and how to word it. And, like in an EU referendum, if you don’t get the result you want, you rephrase the question, ask again and keep asking until respondents get it right.

This explains the problem the Bloomberg news agency has found itself in. It reprinted the results of a poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, a government-owned pollster.

Asked to name politicians they trusted, only 27 per cent of respondents gave the right answer, Putin. Seeing that it was in effect the Russian government itself that had conducted the poll, Bloomberg happily published the findings.

The agency ignored the truth universally acknowledged that, polls or no polls, Putin’s approval rating must be at least 100 per cent. More than that would be welcome, but anything less constitutes an act of aggression against Russia.

After all, Russia is coextensive with Putin, as the Duma Speaker Volodin once claimed. “There’s Putin, there’s Russia,” explained Russia’s answer to Sir Lindsay Hoyle. “No Putin, no Russia.”

That was the premise from which Mr Volodin responded to Bloomberg’s calumny. As everyone knows, American, and all Western, media are in the pay of the CIA, whose sole purpose is to destroy Russia.

Hence the Bloomberg publication was part of a dastardly conspiracy to “discredit the president, the key institutions of power and leading politicians, weakening them and undermining trust.” And of course the ultimate goal was “to dismember Russia”.

The Russian Embassy in Washington launched an official protest, demanding that real, as opposed to subversive, poll results be published, accompanied by profuse apologies for that “disinformation”.

If that was the tone of Russia’s reaction to a publication outside her control, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the fear of God put into her own culpable researchers. People have been defenestrated for less, and the hapless pollsters were doubtless reminded of that fact.

As a result, they hastily conducted another poll that yielded a respectable 67.9 per cent support for Putin. That was more like it, though still lamentably short of the universally acknowledged figure of 100 per cent plus. Oh well, next time.

The new finding was waved under the nose of Bloomberg and its CIA spymasters. There, this is the right poll, you hirelings of Wall Street.

In fact, both polls were right. They just asked different questions and therefore activated different response mechanisms.

The first poll didn’t give respondents any names. It simply asked which politicians they trusted most, leaving the options wide-open. Respondents racked their brains, pondered the comparative qualities of politicians they knew and gave Putin a paltry 27 per cent support.

The second poll involved no such mental exertions. It demanded a simple yes or no answer to the question “Do you trust Putin?”. Now, to understand why Putin’s rating improved so dramatically, you must consider both the current and historical context.

Since Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin, in effect the question was: “Are you a patriot of our motherland or its enemy?” Take it from someone who grew up there, opting for the latter isn’t easy.

Actually, in my day that would have been tantamount to suicide, most likely only professional but possibly also physical. After all, the people posing the question lived by Gorky’s aphorism: “If the enemy doesn’t surrender, he must be destroyed.”

A binary division of all into two simple groups, friend or foe, has been a permanent feature of the Russian state ever since its inception. That has inculcated in Russians a response mechanism based on the preservation instinct, which clicks into action whenever a thorny question is asked.

The consequences of a wrong answer have fluctuated in severity, depending on the current ruler. But one could always have feared at least some consequences.

The response mechanism in question isn’t always, and never merely, rational. Yet it’s always there.

If pressed, respondents to the second poll would have probably admitted that the chances of suffering any immediate repercussions for a ‘no’ answer were slim. But slim doesn’t mean nonexistent. Thus, to be on the safe side, it was more natural to nod ‘yes’ and be done with it. God looks after those who look after themselves.

Then again, the situation in Russia is such that the screws can be turned at any moment. The combination of coronavirus and derisory oil prices is producing mass discontent, and not just among the intelligentsia.

Covid will make us all poorer, but we won’t starve. The Russians will – in fact millions are already starving. However you measure Putin’s support, it’s dropping. Before long, rallies of protest will attract not just writers, historians and scientists, but, well, everyone.

The Russian state, including its present kleptofascist incarnation, knows only one possible response: unbounded violence. Witness the three unrelated doctors who posted videos protesting against having no protection in their fight against Covid, and also against the government falsifying the death statistics.

All three have fallen out of high windows, no doubt committing suicide after realising the enormity of what they had done. Some people just can’t handle guilt, can they?

Hence I must congratulate the circumspect respondents in the second poll on their prudence and foresight. Better safe than sorry, wouldn’t you say?

Israel really is Western

Israel is undoubtedly the most reliable ally the West has in the Middle East. But is she herself Western?

Give’em hell, Bibi

Some argue about the extent to which the ambient Middle Eastern culture has left an imprint on Israel’s mores, ethos and general social tone. This isn’t an argument I feel qualified to join.

However, it’s clear that a state younger than I am had to borrow its political models from elsewhere, and the West was happy to oblige. Mutatis mutandis Israel’s political system resembles ours, with executive power vested in the cabinet, legislative power in the Knesset, and the judiciary independent of either.

Moreover, like all truly civilised countries (well, Britain, to be exact), Israel has no written constitution, relying instead on a system of precedents. Sounds ideal so far, but alas here on earth we aren’t blessed with ideal systems. There’s got to be a damp squib somewhere.

As there is in Israel. For the democracy the Israelis largely borrowed from us came packaged with our hypocrisy, including the tendency to appeal to mythical political virtues for real political gain.

We pretend to expect pristine probity from our politicians, and they pretend to possess it. When they do something that shatters that expectation, our reaction depends on how we feel about their politics.

If a left-wing politician turns out to be less than angelic, all right-minded individuals are up in arms: doesn’t that Satan’s spawn realise that the moral standards of a democracy must exceed those in a Trappist monastery? And of course vice versa: a conservative politician overstepping the imaginary line instantly becomes the devil incarnate.

The nature of Western politics is such that the vice versa scenario is played out more often. Conservatism is alien to the post-Enlightenment ‘liberal’ culture, which is the area where most media operate.

To be elected, a conservative politician has to scale the barrier of generally hostile coverage. And once in office, he has to watch his step like a soldier negotiating a minefield. One tiny step in the wrong direction, and his career may explode into a red mist.

This brings us to Benjamin Netanyahu, the first standing PM to face prosecution in Israel’s history. Mr Netanyahu, who’s on trial not only for his career but also his liberty, denies accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Now, though I don’t follow Israeli politics as close as I should, I have followed Mr Netanyahu’s career ever since he was Deputy Foreign Minister, doing diplomacy in impeccable English, or whatever passes for it in the US, where he was educated.

My affection for politicians in general isn’t without certain in-built limits, but that disclaimer aside, I’ve always liked Mr Netanyahu. I see him as an extremely shrewd political operator with conservative instincts, but enough acumen to know when he has to compromise on them.

He certainly looks like the best Israeli PM in my lifetime, and most Israelis agree. After all, Mr Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, which is no mean feat in a country with a socialist DNA.

That tenure will end if he’s found guilty of the crimes he’s charged with. But how criminal are those crimes? I’ve looked at the indictment, and the only crime Mr Netanyahu seems to have committed is being, well, a politician.

Not a saint, not an angel, not a messiah – only a man who has to survive in the minefield of political rough-and-tumble. That’s a game played for keeps, and its rules are different from the charter of a Trappist monastery.

To be a player, one has to leaven one’s principles, moral and intellectual, with a certain amount of latitude demanded from a modern politician. It’s a game for big boys (of either sex), and those who can’t or won’t be big boys shouldn’t get into politics.

Being a big boy, Mr Netanyahu has been indicted on three counts, known as Cases 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000.

Case 1,000: He’s accused of receiving cigars and bottles of champagne from businessmen in exchange for favours.

I don’t know much about Israel, but our politicians certainly don’t come so cheap. The only favour a box of cigars or a bottle of bubbly will get you is a handshake. In today’s world, such things barely qualify as tokens of appreciation, never mind bribes.

Again, I’ll remind you for the last time that we aren’t talking about a Trappist monastery here, nor a Carmelite convent. 

Case 2,000: Mr Netanyahu is accused of offering to boost the circulation of the newspaper Yediot Ahronot in exchange for positive coverage.

Now show me a politician who wouldn’t do that, and I’ll show you a figment of idealistic imagination.

In 1990, when I wrote ads for Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, he was asked if he’d fire any employee voting Labour. “No,” he said, “but I’d pay for his psychiatric examination.”

Imagine my surprise when all Murdoch papers, including the most conservative ones, came out for Tony Blair in 1997. Are you going to tell me that Rupert had undergone a change of heart and no quid pro quo was involved?

Please don’t; I’m not going to believe you. Yet I don’t remember any demands for an investigation, much less an indictment. Then of course our democracy has had more time to develop a cocoon of cynicism.

Case 4,000: Mr Netanyahu is accused of promoting regulations favourable to Shaul Elovitch, principal shareholder of Bezeq telecom giant, again in exchange for positive coverage on his news site.

That’s not strictly kosher, as it were, and perhaps Mr Netanyahu deserves a reprimand. But a criminal indictment? Oh please.

As I said, Mr Netanyahu denies all these charges, and I hope he’s found innocent. Yet even assuming for the sake of argument that he did do all those awful things, do they really constitute criminal corruption?

We can’t accuse politicians of corruption when they merely act as politicians. Criminal corruption starts not when a politician accepts a bottle of champagne, but when he enacts ruinous policies undermining his country’s national interests.

As far as I can tell, Mr Netanyahu isn’t guilty of that kind of corruption. Quite the opposite, he has served his country’s national interests with wisdom, courage and dignity. Throwing him to the howling leftie wolves would be unforgivable.

Prince William goes mental

I’m not using the word in its colloquial meaning of ‘mad’. I’m sure HRH is a paragon of sanity.

Letting it all hang out on BBC

Nor do I wish to denigrate his work for the Royal Foundation, organised to promote his, his wife’s and his brother’s charitable impulses. It’s just that the part of this work that most fascinates HRH concerns mental health.

Now, I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that people are nowadays obsessed with psychology more than ever before.

In the absence of any higher values their inner selves assume an undue significance. They are encouraged to delve into their psyche and then share every perceived anomaly with all and sundry. Traditional – and laudable – British reticence is castigated as ‘repression’ and ‘bottling up the emotions’, with supposedly detrimental effects.

Naturally psychiatric disorders, such as clinical depression, do exist. However, clinical problems are best dealt with by, well, clinicians.

The rest of us, like HRH, simply don’t know enough about this area to contribute anything helpful to the discussion. The opportunities for sounding excruciatingly vulgar, on the other hand, are rife and HRH seldom neglects to take advantage of them.

His forthcoming BBC discussion of ‘mental issues’ with the footballer Marvin Sordell is a case in point. Reading the preview I wondered if Prince William has contracted Covid.  

For the sake of the dynasty, I hope he hasn’t. However, he does show one known symptom of coronavirus: absence of taste. HRH seems to think that babbling about one’s problems to anyone willing, or at a pinch even reluctant, to listen is an unequivocally good thing.

However, I’ve known several people suffering from clinical depression, and none of them could have been helped by a public chinwag.

They sought qualified medical help, which typically came in the shape of psychotropic drugs, accompanied by some therapy. For, my psychiatrist friends tell me, such diseases are either caused or accompanied by abnormal biochemical activity.

Controlling it with medicines usually controls the depression – on this they all agree. They do at times diverge on the relative importance of counselling, with many just shrugging their shoulders: can’t hurt, could help.

Obviously, psychiatrists need surgeries, hospitals, salaries, equipment and other costly things. Any charity is therefore welcome, but that doesn’t mean psychobabble is. Medical talk is best left to medical professionals.

Yet I’ve also known many people who use the technical term ‘depression’ when talking nineteen to the dozen about their bad moods, inclination to melancholy or sadness caused by bereavement.

In the past, such self-indulgent individuals were told to pull themselves together and have a stiff drink. I for one can’t understand how it’s possible to let one’s emotions run riot for too long when Laphroaig, Tanqueray and Absolut are readily available. If the sufferer is a friend, I’ll happily share such delights with him and listen.

But those people shouldn’t be encouraged to pour their hearts out to anyone but family and close friends. For one thing, when doing so it’s almost impossible not to overstep the boundaries of good taste.

Enter HRH, talking to Sordell who seems to suffer from real depression and has attempted suicide in the past. That’s unfortunate, and I hope his doctors are working overtime.

Yet I can’t imagine his condition improving as a result of being exposed to a barrage of HRH’s platitudes, expressed in the language of downmarket faux-sensitivity.

Moreover, I’d rather not be a subject of a king capable of saying “It’s okay to not be okay”. ‘Not to be’ would have been an improvement, but only a marginal one.

Royals shouldn’t sound like tabloid agony aunts for the whole family. That punches holes in their aura of mystique, which, in the absence of executive power, is an important part of their raison d’être.

The footballer complained that: “I grew up without my father… and now I’ve got a child. I don’t really know how I’m dealing with this and I really struggled with my emotions at that time.”

People who can’t cope emotionally with having children shouldn’t have them. Instead they should seek treatment and only consider procreation when the therapy has succeeded.

HRH could have suggested it to Sordell, perhaps couching that advice in more compassionate words than mine. Instead, he echoed the striker’s complaint with one of his own: “Being a dad was overwhelming after losing my mum.”

It seems that the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ have gone the way of the masculine personal pronouns. Somehow we’re supposed to replace them with soppy prole equivalents. I bet William’s father doesn’t refer to his parents as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’.

No upper-class people do. They may say ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’, and in fact Prince Charles has referred to Her Majesty as ‘mummy’ on a number of occasions.

Then again, the word ‘after’ sounds as if the loss of William’s ‘mum’ was closely followed by his becoming a ‘dad’. In fact the two events were separated by 16 years, which is enough time to come to terms with the tragedy and not let it remain ‘overwhelming’.

On we go, in the same vein: having children is “one of the most amazing moments in life, but also one of the scariest”.

I’ll buy “one of the most amazing”, but what’s so scary about it? Was William worried about paying babysitters? Future school bills? The possibility that little George would grow up to be like Harry?

And then: “But I think emotionally things come out of the blue that you don’t ever expect, or maybe you think you have dealt with.” How much more banal can one get?

I’d better stop – thinking about the future of our monarchy makes me too depressed for words.