From assisted suicide to unassisted murder

According to the Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by Lord Falconer, there’s a ‘strong case’ for killing terminally ill patients (those with less than 12 months left to live). His Lordship didn’t use the word ‘killing’, but that’s what helping others kill themselves amounts to — just as aiding and abetting murder is barely distinguishable from perpetrating it.

Had Lord Falconer based his case on hypothetically assisting in the suicide of his ex-flatmate Tony Blair, he’d almost convince me: I’d find the aesthetic, moral and hygienic argument to be irrefutable in that one instance. (Admittedly, the patient isn’t going through needless suffering, but he has caused it for many others.) As it is, the case isn’t so much strong as pathetic.

Now I’m aware how futile it would be to argue the contra position from religion, even though no workable substitute for Judaeo-Christian morality has ever been found. However, one senses that hostility to religion is too deeply ingrained for such an argument to carry much weight. But just for the sake of historical perspective it’s useful to remember that, in Christianity, suicide is a graver transgression than murder. As it’s the only sin that can’t be repented, suicides, unlike murderers, aren’t allowed Christian burial rites. The assumption is that a suicide doesn’t just destroy a human being but, implicitly, the very idea of human life. As he wasn’t the one who created it, he isn’t free to destroy it.

But, seeing that you aren’t convinced by this appeal to Christianity, I’m happy that the secular argument against ‘assisted suicide’ is just as powerful. As someone who has been warned several times of a lifespan measured in months (the last time was six years ago), I’m delighted to know that doctors can be wrong. And they are wrong not because they’re bad doctors, but because only God knows… oops, sorry, how uncool of me, nobody knows how long the patient has left. The case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, springs to mind. In August, 2009, he was released from prison on compassionate grounds because, according to the Scottish oncologists, he had three months left to live. According to the papers, however, he’s still alive, if not necessarily well. Any honest doctor, unless of course he’s Lord Falconer’s friend, will know many similar cases where the more macabre predictions were proved wrong.

As to needless suffering, a priest may tell you that no suffering is needless. But even the most atheist of doctors will know that there are ways of alleviating even the worst physical pain. A combination of hospice care and opiates can reduce suffering to a minimum, if not eliminate it altogether. The patient may not be comfortable, but he’ll be alive — and so will the hope, however slender, that he may get better.

Having said that, doctors regularly make therapeutic decisions involving life and, regrettably, death. It may be argued, spuriously, that the decision to withdraw treatment isn’t morally different from slipping the patient a lethal pill. When doctors decide, say, that a cancer is inoperable, and no chemotherapy would work, they effectively sentence the patient to death. Policing such decision-making would be neither possible nor advisable. However, there’s a big moral difference between a doctor admitting he’s helpless, and actively abetting a suicide: realising that you can’t help a drowning man because you don’t know how to swim isn’t the same as pushing him into the river or, for that matter, helping him climb onto the bridge railings.

Though doctors have always practised passive euthanasia by withdrawing treatment, legalising active euthanasia is fraught with horrific consequences. If it’s made legal, sooner or later it’ll be made compulsory. Requirements for patient’s consent will gradually become more nebulous until they disappear into the fog of hypocrisy. Witness Holland, where, for all practical purposes, euthanasia has been legalised and enthusiastically promoted by the government. As a result, many elderly people don’t seek medical help because they’re afraid that the doctors will kill them. Perhaps that was the general idea: the fewer old people go to doctors, the cheaper will medicine be for everyone else.

Now that the NHS, and therefore the state, has replaced God as the object of worship, one detects among government stooges a distinct longing for a cull of wrinklies. After all, those freeloaders receive a lion’s share of NHS funds while contributing precious little to them. I’m sure that the government hasn’t issued a secret directive to that effect: even our politicians aren’t so crass. However, those with their noses to the wind sense the inner imperative, and act accordingly. Hence Lord Falconer, in cahoots with 1,300 ‘expert’ NHS worshippers, with their ‘strong’ case. Let me tell you, the case for keeping the likes of him out of public life is far stronger.





How to make sure there are some virgins left

The 150 good men who make up Saudi Arabia’s High Religious Council are worried. In 10 years, they say, there won’t be a virgin left in their country. They didn’t specify the minimum age of the girls on the receiving end of this moral catastrophe, but, out of respect for that august body, one has to assume double digits. Even so, disaster looms.

Now here’s the good news: the Saudi theological consensus is that this pandemic of defloration is preventable. All it takes is to keep in place the existing ban on issuing driving licences to women. For, should the ban be repealed, warns the Council, ‘the Kingdom will suffer such disasters as a sharp increase in prostitution, homosexuality, pornography and divorce.’ ‘Let women drive, and in 10 years there won’t be a virgin left,’ declares Prof. Kamal Subhi who published the results of the discussion.

Now I’m not sure about the one-to-one causal relationship between driving and chastity. It’s true that most American women, and quite a few British, have lost their virginity in the back seat of a car. But, from observation, they were usually passengers, not drivers of the van of iniquity. It’s also a safe statistical assumption that these days most young ladies enter womanhood before they qualify for a driving licence. After all, isn’t that what sex education is all about? As to ‘prostitution, homosexuality, pornography and divorce’, one has to feel that the vehicular implications of such outrages are even more tenuous. But then the Council didn’t claim universal validity — it’s only in Saudi Arabia that girls would become prostitutes, men homosexuals, and both divorced if women got behind the wheel.

However, even when questioning the global validity of the Council’s findings, one has to agree with their conclusion, especially if one is a man. I know we’re all for equality in diversity or diversity in equality, but gentlemen — between us boys, and I promise not to tell anybody — how often do you curse female drivers in an average week? How often do you put your hand on the horn, even within city limits, where you aren’t allowed to honk? Let me tell you, the mullahs are on to something.

Last year I was chatting with a retired female MP who said that Muslims didn’t even allow women to drive. Yes, I agreed, but I don’t like their religion in spite of that. It took the formidable lady a full minute to realise I was joking. And then another 10 to realise that I wasn’t.


Second thoughts about the Lawrence case

The first thought was joyous: the murderers got what they deserved. Then doubts began to creep in, not just about this case but about justice in general. It suddenly occurs to one that the murdering scum didn’t get what they deserve. They deserve to be strung up, and I do know the death penalty is no longer an option. But I’m talking about justice here, not law, and the two don’t always overlap.

The death penalty was never regarded as cruel and unusual punishment in the founding and ultimate code of the West, the Scripture. When society was more than just a figure of politicised speech, the moral validity of the death penalty was never in doubt. It was understood that murder sent shock waves throughout the community, and the amplitude of such destructive waves could only be attenuated by a punishment commensurate with the crime.

Removing the death penalty doesn’t so much assert as diminish the value of human life — by balancing the criminal taking of it against a prison sentence, no matter how long. That is one argument in favour of the death penalty; deterrence is the other. This is in dispute against all evidence, but one thing beyond doubt is that it deters the executed criminal. This is no mean achievement considering that, since the death penalty was abolished in 1965, hundreds of people have been killed by recidivists who had already served their time for one murder.

Since our laws became more merciful than the Bible, the crime (including murder) rate in Britain has shot up to such unprecedented levels that it’s hard not to speculate along the lines of cause and effect. Why did the ancient prophets and kings allow the death penalty, and our secular state doesn’t? Precisely because it’s secular, devoid of any concept of transcendence, committed to life on earth because there is no other. To such a state, and such a nation, there’s nothing worse than death. But to the nation of Cranmer, More, Latimer, Fisher and Ridley, physical death was trivial compared to life in eternity. To them death could be redemptive; whereas continuing an unworthy life could consign one to torture in perpetuity. My argument here isn’t just theological: in the first wholly secular century, the 20th, more people died violent deaths than in all the previous centuries of recorded history combined. Something to ponder there, wouldn’t you say?

And then there’s the racist nature of the murder. Will anyone explain to me why murdering Stephen Lawrence for the colour of his skin was any worse than murdering him for the brand of his trainers? Those degenerates wantonly took a human life — and human life knows no colour. One building block of our civilisation is equality before law, the other is the sanctity of human life, which means that the race of the victim is no more important than the race of the murderer. Such considerations are utterly trivial compared to the soaring enormity of the crime. It’s a bit like a doctor telling a patient that he has terminal cancer — and an in-grown toenail.

Justice — and a civilised community — must be colour-blind. It must also be blind to the human qualities of the victim. There’s no doubt that Stephen Lawrence was a lovely person, but his being lovely is inconsequential compared to his being a person. After all, the commandment says ‘Thou shalt not kill’, not ‘Thou shalt not kill a nice man; but a nasty bit of work thou canst kill.’ When prosecutors and the press carry on about the sterling qualities of the victim, they again cheapen the self-important value of human life. Any human life — that of a star pupil or a truant, of a kind or mean man, of a faithful or promiscuous woman. Their transcendent humanity towers over their incidental traits.

This concerted effort to elevate racial characteristics to a perch where they don’t belong isn’t going to allay racial tensions. It’s going to make them worse, which is the predictable outcome of any institutional meddling on a large scale. But the whole thing about the modern state is that it doesn’t care about the social consequences of its actions. All it cares about is scoring a few PC points in the hope that this will stand it in good stead in the next election. And you know what’s even worse than our politicians’ refusal to think deeply and act courageously? That we let them get away with it.




Why just guns? Ban knives and pillows too.

Predictably, fulltime lefties have responded to the horrific murder-suicide in Durham with infantile wailing and gnashing of teeth. Ban guns, they scream, or at least tighten gun-licensing laws in a way that amounts to the same thing.

It’s true that people with documented mental problems, such as the suicide-murderer Atherton, shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. If Durham police were indeed informed in 2008 that Atherton was bent on self-harm, and yet didn’t invalidate his gun licence, then they must be brought to account — as psychiatrists will tell you, violence towards oneself often goes hand in hand with violence towards others. That agreed upon, can we now talk like grown-ups?

Much as I hate to repeat a slogan of the US National Rifle Association, guns don’t kill people — people kill people. Sometimes they shoot, sometimes they stab, sometimes they suffocate with pillows. Those wishing to do murder will find a way, and where there’s a way there’s a kill. And even where guns are everywhere more people are accidentally killed with cars, and yet cars still aren’t banned. But surely the more widely guns are available, the more murders will be committed? This question ought to be answered with factual evidence, not sentimental effluvia. And evidence points to a different conclusion.

Item 1: The six million Swiss own 600,000 assault rifles and 500,000 handguns. Yet murder statistics there are so low they aren’t even kept. Item 2: Massachussetts, with some of the toughest gun laws in the USA, has three times the murder rate of New Hampshire, where a resident doesn’t need a licence to buy a rifle, shotgun or pistol. Item 3, closer to home: In the six months after handguns were banned in Britain (1997) gun crime doubled.

I could cite such statistics till the MPs come home, all showing no direct link between the availabilty of guns and gun crime. Tough gun laws hurt only law-abiding people who find it hard to do country sports or defend themselves. Wicked people will always find a gun, and if you wish to put this assertion to a test, just go to any dingy pub in South London, chat to the landlord, buy him a pint, say you’re looking for a gun, see what happens. Another quotation from the NRA, and I thought I’d never cite those chaps: If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

We live in a country where police manifestly fail to protect us. London outstrips New York hands down in every crime category except murder, where the gap is closing fast. And yet, in spite of some token gestures by our governing spivocrats, self-defence is frowned upon, to put it mildly. You’re welcome to defend yourself against a criminal, provided he doesn’t get hurt, or, God forbid, killed. If that happens, you’re almost guaranteed to be charged with manslaughter and likely to go to prison.

The spivocrats do allow us to use ‘commensurate force’ to defend our life and property. In other words, if you wake up at night to find a stranger standing over you, you must make sure you defend yourself only with a weapon he carries. If he has a baseball bat, you can use a baseball bat. If he has a knife, you can stab him. If he has only his bare fists, you can punch him. If he has a gun… well, let’s not get carried away. You’re not allowed to have a gun handy, even if you’re licensed to own one. It must be unloaded and locked up in a secure case. Much good it’ll do you there.

Now, for old times’ sake, when a man’s house is broken into, his duty is to protect his family first, himself second, his property third. And yet in a situation I described the state would rather you lay back and pretended you’re asleep, hoping that the thug has ‘only’ come for your TV, not our wife or your life. Chances are, that’s indeed the case. But are you willing to stake your life on that chance?

Forget about such outdated notions as honour — common sense alone should tell you that the intruder isn’t entitled to benefit of doubt. It’s your duty to yourself, your family and (another obsolete notion) society to assume the worst: the criminal has come to kill and rape, not to pick up 20 quid’s worth of electronic kit. His civil rights were left outside your smashed window — if you can, you are within your moral right to defend yourself with whatever you have available, regardless of any visible threat. If your house is broken into, consider your life in danger.

Alas, applying this seemingly irrefutable logic in a live situation may well land you in prison. It’s only in a free country that citizens are free to protect themselves. In our emasculating spivocracy, the state and, by logical inference, criminals have a monopoly on violence. The rest of us must rely on the Guardian and the BBC to defend us.

One suspects that the kneejerk reaction to the Atherton case will make matters even worse. You don’t really expect Dave and Nick, ably assisted by Ken, to make things better, do you?





Our education is a) dreadful, b) awful, c) catastrophic

Barnaby Lenon, the retired Head Master of Harrow, feels multiple-choice questions are ‘underutilised in A levels and GCSEs.’ They are, he believes, ‘a very quick way of covering a large area of syllabus…’ I’m glad that someone has put his finger on the real problem with our education: not enough multiple-choice questions is why we’ve produced two generations of ignoramuses.

Even though one ought to listen to experts, I can’t for the life of me understand why simply asking a pupil, say, who invented radio transmission is in any way inferior to providing a choice of answers, such as a) Guglielmo Marconi, b) Elton John, c) David Beckham. But as Mr Lenon’s hands-on experience with teaching is of more recent vintage than mine, I’m prepared to bow to his expertise. Moreover, I’d like to put in my euro’s worth by proposing a few sample multiple-choice answers, designed to test today’s pupils to the outer limits of their knowledge.

What was Queen Victoria’s job? She was a) a queen, b) the star of a Soho transvestite show, c) You what, mate? The square root of 9 is a) 3, b) 21, c) Who you calling square, sunshine? What is Parliament? a) Britain’s legislative body, b) That’s not how you spell it, c) It’s fags, innit?

Admittedly, the education I’m trying to lampoon is more typical of our comprehensives than of Mr Lenon’s lofty school. But generally speaking, the dominant system of anything, be it education or medicine, tends to act like a magnet pulling all other systems up, or these days usually down, to its level. Thus, though our best public schools are still marginally better than comprehensives, the gap is narrowing. Today’s average Harrow graduate wouldn’t be a patch on someone who went to a bog-standard grammar school of 50 years ago. Moreover, I’d suggest from personal observation that this hypothetical grammar-school man would also be more learned than today’s average holder of a bachelor’s degree from a reputable university.

Now that I’ve cast myself in the role of prosecutor, I’d like to offer a few random exhibits in evidence, all coming from my personal encounters of the last month or so. Exhibit A, an architect, didn’t know what ‘polemic’ means (don’t architects ever argue?). Exhibit B, an IT consultant, had never heard of Byzantium (a dominant force in Europe for about 1,000 years). Exhibit C, a recent philosophy graduate, couldn’t place Schopenhauer’s name (that’s like a conservatory graduate never having heard of Mozart). Exhibit D, a financial journalist with one of our top papers, had never heard the word ‘metaphysics’ and couldn’t even venture a guess as to its meaning. Exhibit E, a reporter working for a London paper owned by a career KGB man, thought communism was a fine idea if lamentably perverted by the Soviets. When probed on the specifics, he singled out equality and democracy as distinguishing features of communism as an idea. Exhibits C, D and E had attended top public schools before going to university. (I’m prepared to swear on a stack of Bibles that I’m not making this up: these are indeed among the few people to whom I’ve spoken over the last few weeks.)

Don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t really matter to me if university graduates have never heard of metaphysics or Byzantium, or if our opinion formers don’t know communism from the offside trap. God forbid you’ll take me for an intellectual snob. The real problem is far deeper than the ignorance of elementary facts that’s endemic all over Britain (and she isn’t alone). It’s just that a civilisation can’t survive without most people sharing a certain corpus of intuitive assumptions, cultural preferences, prejudices – and factual knowledge. Diversity, multi-culti and all that, but without this society becomes atomised in ways that are more damaging than gradations of wealth. Ideally, 60% of the people should be able to draw from roughly the same cultural well, with 20% below and 20% above that level. That way society is unlikely to develop too many fault lines threatening to cleave it apart. Not everyone can or should be a Mr Know-all, but neither should everyone be a Mr Know-sod-all.

Dissolve the glue of shared knowledge, be it religious, cultural or educational, and what will keep society together? Yearning for six-week holidays and early pensions? But I’m barking up a wrong tree. The problem that vexes me so has already been solved by Mr Lenon. Let’s have more multiple-choice tests, and we’ll be fine.


It’s all society’s fault, says the Archbishop

Archbishops are like naughty children: compliment them, and the next minute they’ll do something awful. No sooner had I praised Dr Williams for his Christmas message than he reverted to type in his new-year speech.

The good Archbishop chided us for ‘a national habit of being suspicious and hostile’ towards groups of young people. Admittedly, ‘quite a lot of the images we’re likely to remember from the footage of the riots in the summer will be of young people out of control in the streets, walking off with looted property from shops, noisily confronting police and so on.’ But that’s no reason to cross the street when a gaggle of hooded, feral-looking chaps block our path.

Presumably, what we should do instead is stop and show we care by hugging the hoodies, as prescribed by Dave ‘David’ Cameron. Now, when I hug my wife, she hugs back, unless I’ve been irredeemably beastly, in which case she tells me to leave her alone. Under no circumstances will she stick a knife in my belly or even punch me in the face. Nor is she ever likely to mug me, unless of course I ask for divorce. However, hard-earned experience suggests that any or all such outcomes would be likely if one tried to get tactile with our Mowgli urchins. That’s precisely why ‘we walk a bit more quickly and hope we can pass without some sort of confrontation,’ which in the Archdruid’s view is a wrong thing to do because not all young people are thugs. That’s undoubtedly true, and I’d even go so far as to suggest that relatively few are. However, just to be on the safe side, it’s best not to calculate the odds in favour of such an eventuality. They are high enough, especially since the gooduns and the baduns are often indistinguishable sartorially or facially. The same gangsta getup; the same enraged air; the same empty eyes.

The liberal assumption shared by Dr Williams and Mr Cameron (in the latter’s case, one suspects, mostly for PR purposes) is that it’s all society’s fault. The poor youngsters aren’t the ones who stab, punch or mug – society does that, using the lads as a mindless, soulless conduit. It almost pains me to remind our two dignitaries that individual responsibility for one’s own salvation, heavenly or earthly, lies at the heart of both the religion led by one and the party led by the other. The youths are free agents; when they maim, rob or abuse, they exercise their own free will and must be prepared to face the consequences. That’s basic.

But once we’ve got this ABC truth out of the way, do let’s acknowledge that society has indeed dealt our young a losing hand – by putting into practice precisely the kind of bien-pensant liberal twaddle in which our leaders like to indulge. Just like the jawbone, the neck bone and the backbone, society is propped up or else brought down by an intricate body of interconnected elements.

When the state makes the father redundant by assuming his provider role, children are brought up by single mothers and are thus exponentially more likely to go bad. When the state crams such truncated families into Soviet-style tower blocks, it creates an ideal test tube for cultivating anticulture. When it pays serial single mothers, it encourages the breeding of uncontrollable guttersnipes. When it herds children into schools where they are comprehensively educated how to use condoms but not how to read, write and add up, they’ll neither acquire any marketable skills nor, judging by the number of teenage pregnancies, even learn how to use condoms. When children are fed multi-culti rubbish, they regurgitate it into hatred of our native culture. When they aren’t taught that there’s a direct link between work and pay, they’ll want something for nothing. When told that there’s no God and they’re all nothing but advanced apes, they’ll feel justified in behaving according to simian morality. When trained by our legal system that crime doesn’t necessarily lead to punishment, they’ll feel free to let themselves go.

If you’re driving fast in the wrong direction, the only way to get where you’re going is to backtrack to the starting point. Applying this proven logic to Britain, that means returning, with appropriate tweaks, to the foundations of what historically is perhaps the most successful society ever. Abandoning the same half-baked ideas that are responsible for our social demise would be a good opening move. Empty logorrhoea is what got us in trouble, and only thoughtful, courageous action can get us out if it.

Oh well, tell it to the marines. Or else to Archbishops and Prime Ministers.