The advantage of writing a blog, rather than a newspaper column, is that no newspaper would run the title above. Nothing is perverse these days, and one can claim otherwise only at one’s peril.
Blogs too will doubtless be censored soon, but, before they are, I feel free to comment on the counterattack that Orthodox Jews have launched against subversion by perversion.
The activist Shraga Stern has instructed solicitors to write to the education secretary that “to teach about homosexuality, same-sex relationships and gender reassignment [is] morally unacceptable and unlawful”. (Mr Stern is laudably opposed to sex education tout court, but he must realise that’s a fight long since lost.)
He’s certainly right about morally unacceptable, but I’m not sure about unlawful. The 2010 Equality Act does demand that children be taught about homosexual and gender-bender delights, with no exemption for faith schools specified.
This provides yet another proof that in modernity law and morality have gone their separate ways, with both diverging ever farther from the founding tenets of our civilisation, not to mention basic decency and common sense.
This separation is so insane that its advocates inevitably go soft in the head. Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, illustrates this point most helpfully:
“We know a gay child might be born into any town, any family, any time,” she said in reply to Mr Stern’s complaint. “You can’t say in these communities there won’t be any gay children. This is about making sure every child has the chance to grow up with the right level of information [and] . . . access to the kinds of conversation or support they might want.”
It’s refreshing to see that someone entrusted to inspect schools cheerfully follows the singular ‘every child’ with the plural ‘their’, which alone should be grounds for summary dismissal. Yet this little indiscretion can be overlooked when popping up in the midst of so much illiterate drivel.
In the schools Miss Spielman inspects, children have little “chance to grow up with the right level” of literacy and numeracy. Yet they have their young heads stuffed to the gunwales with instruction on how to pinch the reservoir tip of a condom before pulling it on.
This invaluable tuition starts in kindergarten, and in elementary school it’s augmented by propaganda of homosexuality and gender-bending. Tots learn it’s all about free choice, that cornerstone of liberty.
If a boy chooses to stick his wee-wee into another boy, his choice is commendable and in no way inferior to normal sex – not that children should be encouraged to have any kind of sex before they grow up.
Equally, all children are free to choose the sex that best suits them from a large menu on the table. The last time I looked, the menu contained 22 options. Since I had never heard of 19 of them, I realise that real life must have passed me by and it’s too late now to catch up.
Contrary to Miss Spielman’s twaddle, children aren’t just informed about perversions – they’re implicitly encouraged to try them and see if that way they’ll grow up better prepared for adult life. It’s indoctrination, not education.
This educational trend is responsible for trans-sex operations becoming not just allowable but fashionable. We’re treated to the news of yet another man who used to be a woman being impregnated by a woman who used to be a man – and no one calls for the men in white coats.
I haven’t conducted a private poll, but it stands to reason that most youngsters changing their sex probably wouldn’t do so had they not been told that this is a perfectly valid choice.
Mr Stern says that, if draft guidance from the Department of Education goes into effect, thousands of Orthodox Jews would leave the UK for the sake of their children’s sanity (if they haven’t already been driven out by Muslim attacks).
But why should it be just Orthodox Jews who are aghast?
Admittedly neither Testament lists 22 sexes, or issues an injunction against changing from one to another. This just goes to show how infinitely more sophisticated we’ve become on the wave crest of progress.
Yet it’s not just Leviticus but also Romans that refers to homosexuality as ‘abomination’ punishable by infernal fires. God forbid secular schools should take any notice of such antiquarian matters, but surely Jewish and Christian schools must be allowed to be guided by their faith?
Apparently not. And I’m not even getting into esoteric arguments about the Judaeo-Christian nature of Western morality, even if ostensibly secular.
Nor am I appealing to aesthetics, banish the thought. However, show me someone who claims not wincing at the sight of, say, a putative woman sporting a five-o’clock shadow and speaking in a rich baritone, and I’ll show you a liar.
I’m simply saying that, for faith schools to fulfil their remit, they have to be free to teach their faith, including the morality the faith commands. Sounds sensible, doesn’t it?
However, when modernity speaks, morality, faith, decency, common sense and aesthetics stay silent. Or, if they do try to speak, they’re easily outshouted by a modernity that not only promotes perversion, but is itself one.
Paris, certainly. Marseille, but of course. Bordeaux, probably. Lyon, definitely.
But Toucy, our sleepy village in the sleepiest part of northern Burgundy? Surely not. One just can’t see it as a hub of revolutionary activity.
In fact, the other day I made a smug, self-satisfied remark to that effect, displaying Schadenfreude at its most supercilious. However, Penelope, who lived in France for 10 years as a girl, suggested I shouldn’t hold my breath.
This morning we drove to Toucy market, to find I was wrong in having overestimated the bucolic placidity of the locals.
The centre of Toucy is adorned with a statue of the great lexicographer Pierre Larousse who was born there. And adorning the statue were a dozen or so gilets jaunes, banging on plastic buckets and making la mère of all ruckuses.
I couldn’t make out what they were shouting, but the sentiments must have been in line with the messages on their placards. Most of them evoked the memory of the slogans aimed against Marie-Antoinette in 1789.
All said rather uncomplimentary things about Manu, which is the French contemptuous diminutive of Macron’s Christian name (I anglicise it to ‘Manny’). This, although ‘Le Roi Macron’ had taken exception to being so addressed because that insulted not only him but also the very institution of presidency.
I didn’t notice any dismay expressed about that venerable office; just the heartfelt desire that it should be occupied by someone other than Manny.
One poster explained the nature of the problem: “We want to live, not to survive”. (The translation inevitably loses the charm of the original: On veut vivre, non pas survivre.)
Another one emphasised that the demonstrators were sick and tired of being taken for a ride (Marre de se faire plumer, literally “We’ve had it with being plucked”). Yet another specified the ride: rubbish collection tax rose 25 per cent last year, preceded by similar hikes in fuel taxes.
That message struck a chord deep in my heart, for I’m directly affected.
For example, during the 18 years that we’ve been in the area, diesel prices went up and down, but they were consistently 25 per cent lower than in London. Now they’re 15 per cent higher, and I’d happily add my voice to the chorus of “Manny out!”
The general sentiment among the gilets was that Manny’s policies left much to be desired, and his personality even more. It’s possible that the wicker basket for his head has already been woven, waiting for its cue to slide under the guillotine.
Now much as I sympathised with the demonstrators, I was a little wary of their tendency to burn cars. Having parked around the corner, I didn’t fancy the prospect of walking 12 miles home.
That fear evidently wasn’t shared by the two policemen observing the proceedings. Since they were national rather than local, they must have been forewarned that disturbances were coming.
As I was queuing up for my beef cheeks, which everyone knows is the best cut for boeuf bourguignon, lesflics cut menacing figures. But then they relaxed, realising that no auto–da–fé was on the cards, meaning, and I’m translating loosely in jest, that no cars were likely to be burned.
They turned their backs on the bucket-bangers and began to scrutinise the estate agents’ boards with a manifest lack of interest. Eventually they walked away in the direction of the fruit stands.
Clearly they knew their rural protesters well. As those strapping officers haggled about the price of clementines, the revolutionaries took the weight off their feet. They sat down at the outside tables in a local café and inundated the staff with orders for coffee, croissants and pains au chocolat.
Croissants are, after all, the stuff of life and fuel of any self-respecting revolution, especially in rural France. But how long will our local protests remain a scene from a French vaudeville? How long before burning cars illuminate Toucy and other local villages?
One can understand Manny’s desire to transform himself from a presumptive king of France to the emperor of Europe, sort of a present-day Charlemagne. Displaying the nose of a bloodhound, Manny must have sensed the inner imperative of today’s democratic politicians.
Woefully unfit to do their jobs, they live in constant fear that they’ll be found out. Hence the desire to put some serious mileage between themselves and their voters, who just might hold them accountable.
That’s why Manny, along with most of his European colleagues everywhere, sees the EU as a godsend and a most welcome employment opportunity for life. Manny is more bolshie than most because he has indeed been found out.
If the demonstrations have reached Toucy, you can imagine what’s happening in urban centres. The French do have form in expressing their discontent with their rulers, and who says they’ve lost it?
It must be time for Manny to go into hiding and change his name. May I suggest Manu Egalité?
As often happens with great breakthroughs, the recent one in jurisprudence has gone barely noticed.
Yet Judge David Hale’s ruling in a drug-dealing case not only blazed new legal trails, but also opened up dizzying new horizons.
Two drug dealers guilty of possessing cannabis with intent to supply were spared jail because His Honour found their “grammar and pronunciation” to be at a much higher level than normally expected from drug dealers.
Admittedly I haven’t had the privilege of meeting many, indeed any, drug dealers. Yet on general principle I doubt they set the locution and elocution bars at a vertiginous height. Therefore the two criminals in question didn’t really have to evoke the memory of GK Chesterton and Evelyn Waugh to get off.
In fact, the only sample of their linguistic attainment provided in the newspaper report is rather inconclusive: “Mad flavours from 10 tonight – let me know for more details.”
Now, should I ever feel inclined to trade in illicit substances, I should fear no punishment whatsoever, for I could express the same, admittedly rather basic, thought even better.
I would have found a better adjective than the slangy ‘mad’ to describe the enticing flavours, and I would definitely have said ‘contact’ instead of ‘let me know’. After all, it’s up to the seller to let the prospective buyer know about the wares available, just as it’s up to the prospective buyer to contact the seller with any inquiries.
Yet it’s of course commendable that two youngsters are better-spoken than the chaps one hears conversing behind King’s Cross Station after dark. Moreover, as a writer I welcome the value our legal system attaches to the tools of my trade.
However, I do wonder if Judge Hale considered the full legal implications of his momentous ruling. For, if decent locution can be seen as an extenuating circumstance, it follows logically that speaking badly should be regarded as an aggravating one.
One can just hear a colleague of Judge Hale delivering a sentencing statement along these lines: “Young man, normally what you did doesn’t call for a custodial sentence. But because you use double negatives and glottal stops, and because you drop your aitches, I have no option but to send you down for life with no possibility of parole.”
That, however, would be regarded as class, and quite possibly racial, discrimination. After all, a poor chap who says ‘I’m, like’ instead of ‘I said’ is a victim of society, which, and not he, should hence be held responsible for whatever crime he committed.
The upshot of this is that, since all criminals speak either well or badly, none should go to prison. There has to be a logical hole somewhere in this conclusion, but I can’t spot it offhand.
Judge Hale’s ruling also casts a new light on another case. Some 20 years ago, a drugged-up aristo I knew, a man educated at a good public school and Cambridge, used a replica pistol to knock off a convenience shop.
I can vouch from personal experience that he spoke with perfect diction and impeccable syntax, and yet the poor man had to serve a year in prison and for ever carry a blot on his CV.
His year of captivity can’t be returned to him, but the least we can do is demand that his criminal conviction be excised from his record: I’m sure the two dealers spared jail couldn’t match his Sloanie vowels.
Sentencing them to community orders, Judge Hale explained that he didn’t want to “fetter the prospects” of either man by sending them to prison. One prospect that may soar unfettered is that they’ll graduate to flogging opiates rather than cannabis, but obviously their superior locution precludes this, otherwise likely, possibility.
The Judge then proved his knowledge of such matters by explaining to the relieved youngsters that, although “cannabis may be an experiment that you find pleasurable”, they could be “desperately affected” by it.
That, though undeniably true, misses some of the point. For the chaps were guilty not of finding cannabis pleasurable, but of finding it profitable. Chances are they sample what they purvey, but that strikes me as being beside the point in the context.
The Times article reports on the case in the spirit of journalistic objectivity that in some circles may be seen as moral anomie. The only quality judgement is reserved for the alma mater of both criminals, the Bishopston Comprehensive School in Swansea, “which is rated excellent”.
Even though I know nothing about that school, on this evidence I disagree with its rating. The school may have been moderately successful in teaching two lads how to speak proper, like. However, it didn’t teach them not to peddle drugs, which I’d describe as a gross failure.
In conclusion, I have a piece of avuncular advice to anyone contemplating a career in crime. Learn your grammar and keep your aitches where they belong – you just may be able to get away with murder.
Since over the past several days my glass hasn’t been allowed to remain either half-full or half-empty for more than a few seconds, I defy the stock definitions of optimist and pessimist.
Nor can I claim the possession of a crystal ball, much as I’d like to own such an appliance. However, using the modest logical faculties I do possess, I find it hard to think of 2019 with anything other than a sense of foreboding.
Everywhere one looks, the options we seem to face span the range from barely acceptable to downright catastrophic. However, since a short piece doesn’t afford the luxury of looking everywhere, let’s just cast a quick glance at a few things off the top.
Such as Brexit, to start with.
All options to the positive side of barely acceptable are off the table, having been removed by a staggeringly weak and inept government. That’s why even discussing them is a sign of infantile idealism divorced from any conceivable reality.
However, just to keep the record straight, a decisive, resolute, intelligent government, of the kind no Western country is currently blessed with, could have shifted the realistic range of options far towards the plus end.
That could have been done by leaving the EU directly Article 50 was invoked and without paying any exit fees, at least not straight away.
The EU could have been told that any divorce settlement involves not only a restitution of liabilities but also a division of assets. Once Britain left the EU, the two parties could have begun a dispassionate, fact-based analysis of both the assets and the liabilities, aiming at achieving an equitable arrangement.
Meanwhile, Britain could have invited the EU to enter into a free-trade agreement, of the kind two civilised sovereign nations can both profit from. Yet civilised sovereign nations can also compete with one another.
In that spirit, Britain could have created the most favourable conditions possible to attract foreign trade, businesses and capital – and stimulate the domestic variety. Red tape could have been rolled up and tossed away, tariffs relegated to the past, taxes on income, business and capital drastically reduced – well, any economic primer will teach how that’s done.
(It gives me a petty, hubristic pleasure to see the word ‘Singapore’, which I’ve been using in this context for years, beginning to crop into the economic narrative of our respected columnists.)
That way Britain would have gained a competitive advantage over the EU, nullifying whatever punitive measures that pernicious contrivance could devise.
Such measures would definitely have been imposed – as an organisation pursuing political aims only, the EU would happily cut off not only its economic nose but indeed its every economic limb to spite any dissident state undermining its desiderata.
However, a bold move along the lines of the one I’ve mentioned would have taken the sting out of any spiteful actions, making the EU think twice before destroying, say, 10 per cent of German car exports.
Alas, that will remain an unfulfilled fantasy firmly lodged in the subjunctive mood.
The barely acceptable end of the Future Very Indefinite range includes limping out of the EU somehow, either without a ‘deal’ (but with many unilateral concessions, as I hope everyone realises) or with Mrs May’s ‘deal’, which is one contiguous unilateral concession tantamount to leaving one foot stuck in the EU morass.
After that the vector plunges towards the catastrophic end. This could take the shape of holding a second referendum or simply crawling back to the EU tail between our legs and submitting to eternal vassalage on terms inferior to those we had before.
The range of political options available internally follows the same path. The very realistic thought that a year from now we may well be missing Mrs May is enough to give me sleepless nights, or would be if that glass remained half-empty or half-full.
Any way you cut it, a well-meaning and generally benign nonentity at the helm is preferable to an evil nonentity bent on revenge and destruction. Yet Corbyn’s premiership, which started as a remote possibility, first graduated to a probability and is now almost a certainty.
People everywhere, and perhaps especially in Britain, vote not so much for as against. They look at Mrs May’s craven, incompetent, divided government and don’t weigh it against the available alternative. They want it out.
The root of the problem was identified by the American comedian George Carlin, who once quipped: “You know how dumb the average person is? Well, I’ve got news for you: half the people are even dumber than that.”
Applied to politics and couched in more scholarly vocabulary, this observation points at the systemic drawback of universal franchise. Yet things are what they are, and universal franchise is getting more and more universal.
The voting age is bound to be reduced to 16 and, if we follow the (serious!) recommendation of Cambridge’s head of political science, possibly to six. One way or another, for as long as the ability to vote responsibly and intelligently isn’t seen as a necessary qualification, our dumbed-down electorate will make evil ghouls like Corbyn inevitable.
The very possibility of a Corbyn government has already made many wise investors seek greener pastures elsewhere. When he does take over, an economic catastrophe will follow within weeks – as the same economic primer will tell you.
But even in the unlikely event Mrs May hangs on, our economic prospects are bleak, and not because of Brexit qua Brexit.
Leaving the EU properly could have spelled an economic boom, along the lines I drew in the subjunctive mood. But leaving it chaotically and without a clear picture of the future, or, even worse, staying in is bound to have dire economic consequences – with dire becoming catastrophic if followed, as seems likely, by the arrival of a Trotskyist government.
Skipping over the continuing degradation of our education, medical care, defence and law enforcement, let’s look at something lighter, or not, as the case may be.
The Times chess columnist Raymond Keene enthuses about the self-teaching artificial intelligence programme AlphaZero. It’s currently thrashing every other chess software that in its turn can thrash any human player, which Mr Keene sees as having far-reaching implications.
Favourably comparing the programme’s creator Demis Hassabis with Sir Isaac Newton, Mr Keene enthuses: “If the lucubrations [sic] of AlphaZero can be adapted to medicine, or even politics, and the same level of excellence attained, then it may be seen to have exerted a transformative influence over modern life in many varying areas.”
I’m afraid Mr Keene’s enthusiasm is as ill-advised as his misuse of the archaic word ‘lucubrations’. He clearly sees nothing but positives in an area alive with the sounds of dystopia.
Artificial intelligence can indeed exert a transformative influence over modern life, but it takes an inveterate optimist not to see a concomitant potential for disaster. Call me a luddite, but I have nightmares thinking of machines deciding what’s good for us in politics.
Grandmaster Keene’s experience has taught him to see life’s little challenges strictly in intellectual terms. That works admirably in chess, which is free of moral connotations. (Yet many of his colleagues bemoan the dominance of computers, which they believe is killing the game.)
Politics, however, is largely a moral exercise, and in this life morality can never be off-limits to human fallibilities. Perfection in politics is not only unachievable but indeed undesirable simply because it’s not objectively definable. Checkmating the opponent is the perfect end to a chess game, but what passes for it in the game of politics?
One side’s meat is the other side’s Novichok, and no one will ever accept a computer’s mediation, nor especially diktat. Sooner or later people will throw their clogs into the works, bringing the machine to a sputtering halt and sinking our world into a blood-soaked chaos.
A statesman of only average intelligence can still achieve greatness if he’s blessed with integrity and strong moral character. Yet in the absence of those no machine throwing up a perfectly intelligent solution will help.
However, even as it’s pointless trying to explain to the electorate that not any alternative to a bad government will be better, and many can be worse, it’s no use suggesting that advances in science and technology are replete not only with positives but also with negatives.
The same chemical that boosted agricultural yields also murdered millions of people; the same energy that can heat your house can also incinerate it; the same poison that kills toothache can also kill the whole body.
The difference boils down to moral choice, and the ability to make it freely is God’s greatest gift to man. An attempt to override this ability by computerised perfection can only guarantee that most choices will be bad and some evil.
All in all, I’m looking forward to 2019 with trepidation. Which, however, in no way diminishes my heartfelt hope that your personal new year be happy, successful and healthy.
Donald Trump is neither the best nor the worst president in US history. Neither an angel nor the devil incarnate. Neither an intellectual pygmy nor a giant. Neither an unqualified reprobate nor the paragon of morality. Neither a saviour of the West nor its nemesis.
Any reasonable, dispassionate analysis will probably place him somewhere between any of those extremes. In each case, his exact placement would call for serious discussion.
However, when following the media coverage of the president, especially in the US, one notices that he hardly ever gets the benefit of reasonable, dispassionate analysis, nor indeed of serious discussion.
He’s denied his rightful place somewhere – anywhere – in the middle ground, even if closer to one extreme or the other. All he’s getting is either hysterical attacks or equally hysterical adulation.
When Trump comes into a conversation, reason leaves in a huff. Wings are flapped, voices are raised, spittle is sputtered – and I’m talking about otherwise intelligent people, if usually without much excess intelligence to spare.
This calls for an explanation, especially since Trump himself sounds fairly rational. This isn’t to say that one always agrees with his thinking, but think he does.
The president has a clear view of the world and America’s place in it. Again, my view of America and especially the world is rather different from his, but I can still discern a reasonable pattern to his thoughts and actions.
Reasonable doesn’t necessarily mean correct, and, for example, Trump should suppress or at least moderate his isolationist instincts. His demands that America’s allies take more responsibility for their own defence are perfectly justifiable, but perhaps he should ponder not only the minuses of global paternalism, but also the pluses.
Ever since the US set out to supplant the British Empire as the West’s father figure, the country has been cultivating numerous quasi-vassalages around the world. Since time immemorial, such a quest has involved trading protection for allegiance, and providing protection costs money.
But the allegiance attracted thereby makes the exercise worthwhile. Being the military Leader of the Free World makes it so much easier to be the economic leader as well.
I’d say that simply having the dollar as the world’s reserve currency (in which, incidentally, the US debt is denominated, taking some of the sting out) greatly offsets whatever defence costs the US has to incur – and we haven’t yet even touched on the trade benefits.
There has of course always been a strain of thought in the US that opposes the country’s global role and resents having to pay the cost, both in money and the blood of American soldiers.
In theory, I’m broadly sympathetic with this view and those who espouse it, such as Pat Buchanan and any number of prominent Republicans before him.
However, abandoning world leadership runs against the grain not only of the country’s foreign policy but of her whole history over the past century at least.
And America’s refusal to provide much of the the West’s military muscle is tantamount to forfeiting leadership. Moreover, such an about-face, especially if done quickly, would make the West, including the US, geopolitically vulnerable.
I’m not sure that Trump’s thinking, trained by a life-long veneration of the bottom line, goes quite so far. He seems to want the best of both worlds: America enjoying her disproportionately prominent position while refusing to pay the disproportionately high cost.
Best of luck to him, but I don’t think this is either doable or, given the global situation as it is, rather than as we may like it to be, advisable. However, coming down on either side of this argument shouldn’t be accompanied by, nor met with, hysterical rants and wild personal invective or, for that matter, encomiums.
‘On either side’ are the operative words: Trump admirers are as frenzied as his detractors. Yesterday’s fervent globalists become isolationists overnight and scream about it loudly enough to compete with the opposing din.
This is happening not only with Trump’s foreign policy but with everything he says or does. None of it is cause for rational analysis; all of it is cause for irrational frenzy.
If Trump moves the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he’s accused of pro-Israeli Islamophobia, a charge made even more frenetic by his stated intent to reduce Muslim immigration.
The same people, mostly those of the neocon persuasion, who 15 years ago preached a virtual crusade against much of the Islamic world, during which perhaps a million Muslims died, now insist, against all scriptural, historical or current evidence, that Islam is a religion of peace.
One gets the impression that, should Trump adopt that line, they’d again agitate for carrying democracy to the Middle East on the sharp end of American bayonets.
If Trump withdraws the tripwire force of 2,000 US soldiers from the Middle East, he instantly becomes an enemy of Israel, the West and everything that’s good in the world.
If Trump cuts taxes, the same people who used to describe themselves as conservatives (usually with little justification) now accuse him of sacrificing the poor to please the rich.
Many of them now claim to be ‘fiscal conservatives but social liberals’, which presumably means they love the indigent, but hate to give them any money.
The poor souls don’t even seem to realise that social liberalism, aka welfarism, and fiscal conservatism are mutually exclusive. But it wouldn’t matter even if they did: they’d call themselves anything as long Trump calls himself something else.
There have been divisive presidents before, but in my, alas rather long, memory I can’t remember anything like this. Nor do I recall any political figure, other than perhaps Nixon c. 1974, whose personality draws more attacks than his policies.
Trump is revolting, scream the haters – and, though I am not one, I tend to agree. But is he more disgusting than, say, Bill Clinton, of the cigar fame?
He’s playing lickspittle to Putin, others blurt, and they have a point. Yet those same people voted for Hillary Clinton with her subversively idiotic ‘reset button’. (If the Mueller investigation produces prima facie evidence of collusion, I’ll repeat my usual proviso: Trump in that case should be not just impeached but tried for treason.)
He’s ignorant and illiterate, the haters insist, has never read a book, his degrees were bought with Daddy’s money. Fair enough, a president who can’t string a grammatical sentence together and manifestly has no sense of style doesn’t add lustre to America’s reputation.
But which of the post-war US presidents was an elegant, erudite stylist? Eisenhower? Ford? Carter? Or even the sainted Reagan?
I don’t know how many serious books Reagan read and how deeply he could delve into the ills of the world. He was an infinitely nicer and more sensible man than Trump, readier to listen to good advice (one of his advisers, William F. Buckley, even applied in jest for the job of ventriloquist), but a major intellect he wasn’t.
Granted, Reagan’s Daddy didn’t buy his degree, but then there was no need: Eureka College isn’t Wharton. Reagan’s presentation was much smoother than Trump’s, but then he was an actor, not a property-developing chancer.
Though Reagan was disliked by many and liked by more, neither emotion ever reached the fervour pitch one observes with Trump. He’s unique in that respect.
The reason may be that, though Trump is neither the best nor the worst president the US has ever had, he’s certainly the most unusual one. Because he’s the first rank outsider to move into the White House, he takes most commentators out of their comfort zone.
Not only is he not a member of the cross-party apparat that has governed America for ever, but he’s openly contemptuous of it. Alas, most commentators hate to be yanked out of the warm confines of their intellectual households.
For too long they haven’t had to think for themselves. A couple of trusted stencils were always close at hand – apply them to any issue, cut away whatever little sticks out, and the job’s done. With Trump, however, the stencils are useless, and so are their nimble but limited intellects.
Passion has to take in the slack thus formed, and in such matters that’s a poor substitute for reason. Trump is in a way the litmus test of political commentators, and most are demonstrably failing it.
P.S. Newspapers often enrage me too. Yet my experience this morning was truly shocking even by comparison to most news items.
One of the clues in the general knowledge crossword of today’s Times was ‘Be (5)’, to which the answer was ‘Exist’. If the crossword compilers are unaware of the basic difference between being and existence, they should read up on their Aristotle or, better still, Aquinas. Don’t those people know anything? Or are they deliberately trying to mislead me?
No? Then you have a lot to learn from Peter Hitchens, who clearly prefers Russia’s “masculine society” to our effeminate one.
For years now Mr Hitchens has been one of Putin’s most faithful and courageous trolls.
The courageous part is evident from the pundit’s mournful admission that there’s a price tag attached to his shilling for Russian kleptofascism: “I have made many enemies by refusing to join in the anti-Russian frenzy.”
Sorry, I stand corrected. “Refusing to join in the anti-Russian frenzy” is obviously the right way to describe what I unkindly call ‘trolling’ or ‘shilling’. Anyway, whatever you call Mr Hitchens’s stance, I’m sorry many people have become his enemies as a result.
I’m certainly not one of them, in the same sense in which I’m not an enemy to the neighbourhood dog who yesterday relieved himself on my newly washed car. I simply recognise that some of God’s creatures are programmed to act in a certain way, and this setting may override, in humans, such things as free will, reason and moral sense.
It’s in that spirit of compassionate understanding and genuine concern for his mental health that I read Mr Hitchens’s Yuletide offering, in which he compares favourably the Russian aviation business to ours.
Building on his vast personal knowledge of the country, he writes: “On ferociously freezing days when any Western airline would have given up, Russian internal flights took off without hesitation, and arrived on time.”
‘Took off without hesitation’, definitely. ‘Arrived on time’ or indeed at all, well, not always.
Once I’ve finished applauding my former countrymen’s intrepid disdain for the elements, I can’t help juxtaposing Mr Hitchens’s statement with another one, in WorldAtlas:
“In 2011, Russia was considered the most dangerous country to fly from. In that year, the country experienced nine commercial airline accidents, a number so high that it required an investigation into its air-safety practices. The investigation found that the commercial flights were being flown by insufficiently trained pilots who were following inefficient and outdated safety regulations and procedures.”
It’s not just 2011. Historically, only the US has had marginally more airline deaths than Russia, but from a vastly greater volume of traffic. So let’s just say that ‘masculine’ disdain for safety isn’t without its downside.
In fact, some may confuse such masculinity with contempt for human life in general, and not just in the area of civil aviation. But Mr Hitchens forges on undeterred: “Russia… is still a… society, in which the influence of lawyers and social workers is minimal.”
That is undeniably true. Lawyers, and law in general, have next to no influence in Putin’s Russia. Their principal activity is to pass on the sentences pre-determined either in the Kremlin or at a lower governmental level.
That’s why detainees are routinely beaten up, tortured or even killed in Russian police stations and prisons. Anyone who follows Russia in good faith could cite a long list of such outrages, from the highly publicised Magnitsky case to the more obscure ones, such as a man raped to death with a champagne bottle.
In fact, the influence of lawyers – or rather laws – is so minimal that the whole Russian economy is criminalised from top to bottom, with protection rackets and money laundering its principal industry. Nor can laws prevent a spate of gangland and political murders Putin’s lads commit both at home and abroad.
It’s also true that Russian social workers indeed aren’t overburdened with work. That may be partly why at least 20 million Russians starve – that is, live below the poverty line of £200 a month. That’s quite impressive in a country whose population is 140 million, or, if one believes some sociologists, even lower.
“I rather think,” continues Mr Hitchens, “that if anyone was fool enough to fly a drone over one of Moscow’s major airports today, two things would happen within about half an hour. The drone would be shot out of the sky, and the person involved would be in the slammer, contemplating a lengthy spell in Siberia. If the airport ever had closed (which I doubt), it would soon be opened again.”
He’s as right in his guess as he’s wrong in his moral judgement. “The person involved” would indeed be in the slammer, having been beaten, tortured and then sentenced by a kangaroo court. And yes, the airport would stay open throughout – it’s that understated respect for human life again.
Mr Hitchens is full of contempt, this time fully justified, for our “ludicrous MI5”, “MI6” and “the so-called ‘British FBI’, the National Crime Agency”, which he groups together under the rubric of “our own burgeoning KGB-type organisations”.
What isn’t justified is the unspoken but clearly audible refrain of the original KGB being much preferable to those insufficiently masculine outfits. This goes beyond simple ignorance and idiocy, penetrating instead the domain of psychiatry.
True, all those British organisations are ineffectual and frequently incompetent. But, the last time I checked my facts, none of them is responsible for murdering millions of their countrymen and enslaving the rest – activities that are still continuing in Russia, if so far on a smaller scale.
I’d suggest that any man capable of referring to any Western security service as a “KGB-style organisation” should be sectioned or at least have his mental health carefully investigated. And then he ought to be passed on to the care of the social services, busy as they lamentably are in Britain.
I and my friends are getting some Christmas cards from the US, except that they aren’t really Christmas cards.
They all wish me Happy Holidays, making me wonder exactly what holidays we’re celebrating.
Ramadan? Hanukah? Schweinfest? Winter solstice? All of them? None of them? Is Christmas allowed to figure only as the modifier of ‘shopping’?
Even some who do celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ still send out cards leaving room for such guesswork.
I haven’t lived in America for 31 years, so I don’t know if any actual Christmas cards can be bought there. I suspect they still can be, but not easily.
This in a country that prides herself on her Constitution, complete with its First Amendment guaranteeing every conceivable freedom, including one of religious expression.
In the country where I grew up, the USSR, Christmas was celebrated clandestinely if at all.
In my parents’ generation, wishing someone a Happy Christmas could earn a one-way ticket to the GULAG, if not a bullet in the nape of the neck. In my own generation, the consequences would have been less drastic, but there would have been consequences, mostly career-related.
And I along with other Russian children took delight in decorating a New Year tree, which was how the Christmas tree had been known since the advent of universal social justice.
That was par for the course, for we lived under the worst tyranny the world has ever known. Here, however, I’m talking about “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. It appears that the bravery required to exercise freedom just may be in short supply.
The US Constitution is a written document, but demonstrably competing against it is the set of unwritten laws I call glossocratic. These laws aren’t yet enforced by the courts, at least not widely. They are banged into the people’s heads by extra-legal means, and no appeals are allowed.
The logic of shunning Christmas escapes me. After all, Americans don’t mind celebrating Thanksgiving, and pilgrims offered those original thanks to Jesus Christ, not Zeus, Allah or Zarathustra.
Granted, not all Americans are Christians – not all of anyone are these days. Yet it takes rank cretinism to claim that non-Christians have nothing to celebrate on 25 December.
For we owe our whole civilisation to the birth of Jesus Christ, regardless of whether or not it actually took place on that day. Even those Americans who deny the divinity of Jesus or indeed his historicity dine every day on the fruits of Christendom, which is how Western civilisation was called for the best part of two millennia.
Even their much-vaunted Constitution, compiled as it was mostly by agnostics, has clear Christian antecedents, as do most fundamental Western laws.
Those same celebrators of androgynous Happy Holidays look at paintings on Christian subjects, listen to music either coming from or inspired by liturgy, enjoy the scientific discoveries that couldn’t have been made in any other than Christian civilisation.
One has to come to the melancholy conclusion that, when Christ no longer matters, neither does Christendom. In the absence of clay, no ceramic vessel can be made.
Taking the place of faith-inspired culture is the glossocracy-inspired fear of giving offence. But the fear itself isn’t real but glossocratic.
I’ve been friends with a few Muslims in my life, more Jews, agnostics and atheists. Yet I’ve never met a single member of those groups who’d be genuinely offended when wished a Happy Christmas.
One has to be not just impious but downright barbaric to be insulted by an expression of that wish and, though some of my friends are impious, none is barbaric. Neither, one suspects, are many of those Happy Holidays Americans.
They’ve just lost the very modicum of courage required to buck glossocratic laws, to refuse to accept that Christmas offends anybody. It doesn’t really take that much mettle to do that.
Perhaps it would take a bit more to throw those glossocratic laws back into the faces of their propagandists, those who insist on various groups’ mandatory sense of constant offence. Yet their glossocratic tyranny is as oppressive as communism or fascism, perhaps more so.
Those same people who can resist intellectual rape often find themselves helpless when exposed to intellectual seduction. If those Happy Holidays cards are any indication, there were more anti-communists in the Russia of my youth than there are anti-glossocrats in America today .
Still, God loves us all, and it’s a small gesture of gratitude to wish his son a happy birthday.
So Happy Christmas to all of you! May God, in whom you may or may not believe, prove that he believes in you by making your year successful and unsullied by any serious problems.
Martina Navratilova isn’t the first name that springs to mind when one hails champions of traditional values. One would have to go through the whole list of New Age causes before finding one she doesn’t support.
Martina is particularly vociferous when sticking up for animals’ right not to be eaten and for lesbians’ right to be… I almost wrote ‘to be just that’ but then decided against it, this being the Christmas season. ‘Married’, is what I really mean.
To her credit, Martina has the power of her convictions. She doesn’t eat meat and does eat… please Lord, give me strength to refrain from another lewd double entendre.
What I mean is that, ever since she defected from her native Czechoslovakia in 1975, and even before she came out in 1981, Martina has been known as a lesbian. There’s nothing uncommon about that.
I wouldn’t be divulging any secrets if I observed that this little quirk is hardly unusual among female tennis professionals.
Tennis is an aggressive sport, and, as well-publicised experiments on mice have shown, aggression is a masculine trait attributable to testosterone levels. Yet high testosterone levels also tend to make people want to have sex with women, and I hope I’m not making it sound too simplistic.
Hence many women who dedicate their lives to tennis have certain tendencies, and the peripatetic life of a tennis pro travelling the world in the company of other women gives an easy outlet to such proclivities.
(I could give you a long list of Sapphic players, but you can easily do your own Googling. To be fair, some of them don’t look at all masculine and some, such as Gigi Fernández in her prime, are downright gorgeous. What a loss.)
However, not all tennis lesbians are as open about their sex lives as Martina is. And certainly not all of them marry their girlfriends, which she did in 2014.
Martina wasn’t exactly reticent about that happy event. She proposed to her girlfriend Julia Lemigova in a crowded restaurant, with a battalion of paparazzi in attendance.
In the good tradition of matrimony, Martina, clad in a white man’s (or at least manly) suit went down on one knee, making everyone who really respects the good tradition of matrimony rush towards the exit holding his hand to his mouth.
I’m lingering on these salacious details only to enhance the effect of the forthcoming shock. For Martina has got on the wrong side of the ‘transgender community’ after laudably insisting that ‘women’ born men shouldn’t be allowed to compete in women’s events.
“Clearly that can’t be right,” wrote Martina, born again as a traditionalist. “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women. There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard. For me it’s all about fairness. Which means taking every case individually… there is no cookie cutter way of doing things.”
Martina is dodging the issue ever so slightly. Because there is indeed a cookie cutter way of allaying her objections. It’s called an operation, whereby the anatomical feature Martina sees as disqualifying is removed.
But, keeping as she does her finger on the pulse of modernity, she clearly accepts that anyone is entitled to self-identify his/her/its sex regardless of biochemistry, physiology or anatomy. She’s only objecting to seeing too much of a bulge in the front of a woman player’s knickers.
However, even her understated remarks caused such an outburst of attacks on her ‘transphobia’ that Martina was forced to delete the offensive comments from her website.
Leading the attacks was Dr Rachel McKinnon, a male-born ‘transgender’ activist and competitive cyclist who wins women’s events on the circuit.
“Genitals do not play sports,” explained Dr McKinnon, displaying a keen mind and deep medical knowledge. “What part of a penis is related to tennis?”
I can’t answer that question, certainly not to satisfy the exacting medical criteria evidently applied by Dr McKinnon. I do however acknowledge that genitals don’t play sports, although many ***** do (I’m slapping my own wrist even as we speak – this subject makes me want to use unprintable words).
However, talent and application being equal, a player born with XY chromosomes will wipe the court with one cursed with XX initials. Coming into play here isn’t just testosteronal aggression, but also the manifest male superiority in strength, speed and height.
That’s why the best female players would struggle to break into the men’s top 1,000. And that’s why back in 1973 Bobby Riggs, at a venerable age of 55, was able to beat Margaret Court, women’s Number 1 at the time.
Even more illustrative is the case of Renée Richards, neé Richard Raskind. Dr Raskind was a good amateur player who set out to show that it was possible to play tennis without balls. After undergoing the whole hog of trans-sex procedures, the freshly minted Renée launched a series of legal challenges to be able to compete in women’s events.
He/she finally won the legal battle and began his/her professional career at age 44, when most players have been off the circuit for at least a decade. However, this middle-aged male amateur broke into the top 20 of the women’s professional ranks.
He/she then went on to become a coach, working, among others, with Martina Navratilova. She’s then in an ideal position to know that, though “genitals don’t play sports”, men do, and they have some in-built advantages over women.
However, ever the conciliator, I’m prepared to side with Dr McKinnon. Furthermore, I can develop her argument to its logical conclusion.
The only way to rid tennis of such unseemly squabbles is for men and women to compete together in the same tournaments. The issue of who is and who isn’t a woman will become moot, and tennis jousts will be held not among penises and vaginas, but among fellow professionals.
There’s always the danger that women, unable to make a living under such circumstances, won’t remain fellow professionals for long. But hey, fair’s fair. At least such an arrangement will put an end to any possibility of sex discrimination.
Some 20 years ago I was splashing about buckets of cold water to douse the universal enthusiasm about glasnost, perestroika and the ‘collapse of communism’.
There’s no tradition of civilised society in Russia, I was writing, and whatever little there used to be has been crushed during the 70-odd years of Bolshevism. Hence the belief that, having shed the shackles of communism, Russia will turn into a Western or even quasi-Western society is, to be charitable, naïve.
There was no viable group to replace the Communist Party in government. Or rather there was one: the KGB. That’s why, rather than hailing what a particularly brainless neocon described as the end of history, I shuddered to think what those people would come up with next.
Now we know: all those wonderful things so beloved of useful idiots amounted to a transfer of power from the Party to the organic fusion of the KGB and organised crime.
Proof was quickly provided, if any was needed, that a market economy not buttressed by a legal tradition of long standing is a synonym for gangsterism – and an attempt at democracy for which there’s neither taste nor historical prerequisites is bound to result in some sort of fascisoid regime.
I can’t claim clairvoyance, much as I’d like to. What I can claim is some knowledge of political history, specifically of revolts resulting in drastic changes to societies.
Different as they might have been, they all have something in common, some sine qua non of revolutionary makeover.
All modern revolutions, whether self-described as bourgeois, peasant or proletarian, were perpetrated by middleclass intelligentsia cohering on the basis of a plausible idea. In revolutions too, the word came first.
Actually, ‘intelligentsia’ is too broad a term, implying a whole class of people. In reality, revolutions are made by a small, vigorous and unscrupulous core within intelligentsia.
In addition to detesting the existing order, such activists always have a clear idea of where they wish to take the country, and they always brandish some easily digestible slogans for public consumption.
Sometimes the idea coincides with the slogans, and sometimes – perhaps usually – it doesn’t. Not to embark on a long foray across many centuries and borders, let’s just look at the two Russian revolutions in 1917.
The February one deposed the tsar whose rule was widely seen as untenable. The active group in the event was formed by left-of-centre liberals, who thought Russia could prosper as a copycat Western-style democracy, complete with all the liberties implicit therein.
Like all revolutionaries, the members of the Provisional Government wanted to destroy something, in that case Russia’s absolutism. Unlike some revolutionaries, they also wanted to create something: a Russia shedding her Golden Horde heritage in favour of Western democracy.
Yet eight months later the Provisional Government was ousted by another, Bolshevik, revolution.
The Bolsheviks, led by a syphilitic ghoul, had no constructive purpose whatsoever. They were driven by zoological hatred of everyone who wasn’t a Bolshevik.
Their hatred was truly classless: they murdered with equal relish aristocrats, officers, priests, engineers, scientists, academics, workers and peasants.
They didn’t really seek anything constructive. All they wanted was absolute power enabling them to spread Lenin’s syphilis all over Europe and eventually the whole world.
The divergence between their desiderata and their slogans was as wide as it could be, for the simple reason that the desiderata owed much to Russia’s Asian, which is to say Mongol, political heritage, while the mendacious slogans came from the European Enlightenment.
By the time I grew up, in the ‘60s, people widely, and the intelligentsia universally, detested communism. The powers that be, on the other hand, having gorged on the blood of 60 million victims, were suffering from reflux: the general slackening of will.
They had lost the taste for mass murder, and inevitably a dissident movement appeared. I was a small part of it, and I remember the all-abiding hatred we all felt for the communists.
But what, other than the death of communism, did we actually want? Whenever that question was asked, a fog descended.
We’d mouth general platitudes along the lines of democracy, liberty and all things Western. Yet we knew next to nothing about the West and understood even less. Even though I was bilingual and read mostly Anglophone books, I was no better than others.
That became instantly obvious whenever we were asked any question beginning with “And specifically…” We couldn’t offer any specifics that wouldn’t be laughed out of a freshman seminar on political science at any Western university.
Predictably, when the sclerotic Soviet Union could no longer survive, it wasn’t my fellow dissidents (I myself left Russia in 1973, half a step ahead of an arrest squad) who took over, but the people they either hated (KGB) or despised (gangsters).
Looking at the situation today, one can detect obvious parallels. The Russian intelligentsia almost universally detests Putin’s kleptofascist regime. That’s good, because it’s indeed detestable.
Those with the gift of the gab write about the Putinistas knowledgeably, convincingly, at times brilliantly. But what sort of alternative do they see in their mind’s eye?
Generally speaking, their frame of reference is yet again negative: whatever Putin likes, they hate and vice versa.
If Putin manipulates religion for his purposes, they’re militant atheists. If Putin is against homomarriage, they’re for it. If Putin is anti-EU, they think it’s the greatest achievement in political history. If Putin were to insist that the sky is blue, they’d argue it’s polka dot.
All that is good knockabout stuff, but specifically, ladies and gentlemen? What kind of Russia would you like to see?
A Western one, comes a reply as thunderous as ours used to be back in the 60s. Yet their ignorance of the West is as staggering as ours was, if less excusable. After all, unlike us they can travel in the West and have access to any information they want.
When I read Russian opposition publications, I’m as impressed by their deep insights into Russia as I’m appalled by their wilful ignorance of the West, married to the typical effrontery of ignoramuses who aren’t even aware how little they know.
As an example, here’s my translation of a recent piece by the popular blogger Mikhail Pozharsky. As far as I can glean from his sketchy bio, he started political life as a Nazi who wanted, among other things, to kill all homosexuals. He then travelled all the way to libertarianism, with an interim stopover at liberalism.
Here he offers his take on conservatism, and I’m publishing this piece in its entirety only because it’s typical of the level of political thought within the opposition intelligentsia.
“The lupine stupidity of conservatism
“Wolves are considered dangerous predators, but they have an Achilles heel: they fear everything new and unknown. That determines how they’re hunted: little red flags are hung around the forest, and, because wolves are scared of approaching them, they run where the hunters await. One wonders why some people and whole nations like to emulate such stupid beasts. However, there is an explanation.
“For wolves are a perfect symbol of political conservatives. What in fact is the conservative agenda? Do you see something new, unknown? Run away, go into a stupor – as long as you don’t get anywhere near! Conservatism is a political ideology without an ideology as such. It is wholly replaced with kneejerk neophobia, an irrational urge to maintain the status quo.
“A conservative’s thought is never independent – he runs wherever he’s driven by representatives of other political forces, mainly socialists (it’s not for nothing that those little red flags are red). Conservatives are driven by the principle ‘I’ll cut off my nose to spite lefties’. Thus they keep running inside the perimeter hung with flags, thereby popularising the left agenda.
“Yet there’s no fundamental difference between conservatives and lefties. The left seek absolute power in order to raze the old society and build a new one in accordance with their utopian fantasies. Conservatives also seek absolute power, but to the opposite end: protecting everything old from natural erosion. That’s why repentant socialists often become conservatives, and vice versa. But they seldom join the ranks of defenders of freedom. They are all enemies of freedom.
“A conservative defending freedom is as rare as a socialist doing so. The USA was initially built on liberal principles. That’s why an American conservative may support free enterprise. However, the same American conservative will be against freedom in other areas – he’ll be in favour of protectionism and a ban on same-sex marriage. Conservative is incapable of pondering and developing the ideas put forth by the Founding Fathers. A conservative is a kneejerk ‘want everything as it was’.
“That’s why supporters of freedom, libertarians, may have conservative views in the area of morality or religion. But they can’t be political conservatives. Political conservatism is as incompatible with liberty as socialism is.”
As one of those lupine conservatives who detest liberty, I don’t think any commentary is necessary. One seldom sees so much ignorant bilge put forth with so much arrogance.
The only true statement in the piece is that conservatism isn’t an ideology, but the poor chap isn’t even aware of the negative connotations of the word ‘ideology’.
Now political taxonomy is a tricky business, and ‘conservative’ means different things to different people. In Russia as often as not it stands for ‘Stalinist’ and, when used pejoratively in that sense, it’s justified.
But Pozharsky is talking specifically about American conservatives, who are supposed to be enemies of freedom and have no ideas of their own, other than opposing same-sex marriage and free trade.
It’s true that conservatives neither want to murder all homosexuals, as Pozharsky did when he was a Nazi, nor to see them marrying, as he wants now he’s a libertarian. Yet he allows libertarians to have conservative views on morality and religion, which views are incompatible with the championship of homomarriage.
But never mind the intellectual muddle, feel the ignorance. Pozharsky – and take my word for it, he’s typical – not only knows nothing about conservatism, but he doesn’t even know what the word means.
Talking specifically about American conservatism, he hasn’t read a single word written by Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Frank Mayer, Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Erik Kuehnelt-Leddihn (Austrian American) and dozens of others I could mention.
Nor is he familiar with the history of conservative thought, signposted – among hundreds of others – by Aristotle, Burke, Goethe, Chateaubriand, de Maistre, Tocqueville or, if he wants to talk about American Founders, Ames, Randolph and Calhoun.
So what will happen to Russia when Putin finally goes, as go he must at some time? Who’ll take over? Pozharsky, of the cutlet fame? His fellow liberal-libertarian admirers of the West about which they know the square root of sod-all?
I dare say it’s more likely, nay guaranteed, that they’ll be ousted, possibly massacred, by heirs to Putin and therefore the Golden Horde tradition of Russian politics – this time with a huge thieving dimension (not that corruption has ever been dormant there).
My advice to Russian intelligentsia would be to stop looking to the West for answers. They should have done so many centuries ago, when the West was in ascendancy. Yet over the past couple of centuries the West has been busily destroying what took almost two millennia to create – what conservatives cherish.
Whatever good is still extant in the West can’t be just run through a copier – the run-out will be garbled. By all means, they should study the Western experience critically, adapting what could be useful, discarding the rest.
But the first order of the day should be for them to generate indigenous ideas based on concrete Russian realities, not on Western ones they don’t understand in sufficient depth.
And they ought to refrain from sweeping statements about the West that upset me so. These are never amusing, grown-up or clever.
Or if it isn’t, it should be. For only one medical researcher combines deep penetrating insights with the courage to stage death-defying experiments on himself.
Many doctors, including five Nobel laureates, have gone down in history for exposing themselves to pathogenic, toxic and radioactive substances. Jesse Lazear exposed himself to yellow fever, Max von Pettenkofer to cholera, Daniel Zagury to AIDS – the list can go on and on.
But it’ll never be complete without the name of Jean-Claude Juncker, or Junk as he likes to be known to his friends among whom I proudly count myself.
Last July Junk came up with a daring hypothesis on the aetiology and symptomatology of sciatica. His courageous self-experimentation at the NATO summit then turned the hypothesis into scientific fact.
Junk’s breakthrough discovery was that sciatica is caused by the toxic substances added to Glenfarclas malt whisky. As with all such additives, the adverse effect is directly proportional to the amount consumed and the rate of consumption.
To support this theory Junk self-sacrificially, not to say heroically, consumed a full bottle of the dangerous beverage. Sure enough, he immediately developed a bad case of sciatica, featuring a unique clinical picture.
In addition to pain in the lower back, the virulent form of sciatica caused by Glenfarclas is evidently characterised by zigzagging, stumbling, losing one’s balance, trying to topple over backwards, laughing uncontrollably and for no good reason, kissing everything that moves and forcing foreplay on men and women alike.
At the time I started a campaign demanding that Glenfarclas labels carry a government health warning. Predictably the government, preoccupied with such marginal issues as Brexit, ignored my entreaty.
More evidence, they said, was required before such a step could be taken. My friend Junk, they added, should be encouraged to collect more research data. According to them, the corpus of evidence gathered hitherto only qualified as a promising start.
When I conveyed the bad news to Junk, he took it in his stride. “All we can do, Al,” he said, “is keep plugging away. I don’t care if I have to drink Scotland dry to help all those millions of sciatica sufferers.”
Junk was true to his word. He chose the Africa-Europe summit at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace as an appropriate site for his self-sacrificial self-experimentation. When I later asked him how much Glenfarclas he had consumed to bring on sciatica symptoms, Junk told me it was none of my bloody business.
“Let’s just say it was well in excess of LD50,” he said, yet again resorting to the arcane technical jargon that comes naturally to him but leaves ignoramuses like me bemused.
“LD50, you nincompoop,” explained Junk, sensing my bewilderment, “is Lethal Dose 50, the amount of an ingested substance that kills 50 per cent of a test sample. Well, I’m in the other 50 per cent.” he added proudly. “Tell that to those Brexiteer énculés.”
Even before that momentous event, Junk had staged a lower-level trial to obtain more evidence of sciatica causing bizarre amorous episodes. He had been filmed ruffling the peroxide hair and kissing the cheek of Pernilla Sjölin, the EU’s deputy head of protocol.
Aware of the episode’s medical significance, Miss Sjölin went along, which encouraged Junk to consume more whisky, thereby exacerbating the sciatica symptoms.
He then expanded his sample base by engaging Mrs May in a foreplay session, involving kissing, petting and murmuring sweet nothings into her ear, such as “You nebulous bitch, why don’t you pull your head out of your cul and tell me what the bloody hell you want.”
Yet it was the Vienna conference that was singled out for the full-scale experiment. This time it took several burly assistants to keep Junk upright, while he was laughing uncontrollably and trying to fall down.
The amorous symptoms of Glenfarclas-induced sciatica also manifested themselves with new clarity, this time transcending the line separating the sexes.
Yet again Junk selected a Croatian politician as his subject. If in July he had tried to feel up Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the comely president of that country, this time he focused on Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenkovic (“I thought he was Kolinda,” he later told me. “That’s sciatica for you.”)
When sciatica finally made it impossible for Junk to get up from his chair, he remained seated while trying to, in his parlance, ‘score’ with Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas. Evidently Junk had upped the dose of the control substance to produce a cleaner experiment.
Here’s a man willing to suffer excruciating pain for the sake of medical science. And not just pain.
Sciatica is known to produce other conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, fibrosis, pancreatitis and imprisonment for affray. Junk is heroically risking all those to advance human knowledge, and I can’t think of a worthier candidate for the Nobel Prize.
I’m also comforted to know that the future of the EU is in such safe, if slightly shaking, hands.
Junk isn’t dedicating his life to this other noble cause in his life for the measly €350,000 a year, plus unspecified expenses. Yet again he’s sacrificing himself for the common good – and how many of us can say the same?