Perhaps John Terry could captain the EU team

The European Parliament has ruled that the football teams playing in this summer’s European Championship must display the European flag on their shirts. Once rubber-stamped by the Commission, the bill will become law, even though the federasts are claiming the decision to display the emblem or not will be left to the national federations’ discretion.

I wonder how our own dear FA is going to handle this hot Euro-potato. One suspects in roughly the same way as it did at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, just before Germany’s previous attempt to unify Europe, when England’s footballers saluted the Führer in the style to which he had become accustomed. Indirectly, they were thereby also saluting such Nazi accomplishments as the antisemitic Nuremberg laws, passed the year before. Well, perhaps ‘saluting’ is a bit harsh. Let’s agree on ‘ indirectly condoning’.

In a parallel development, the EU Parliament stated that ‘the European flag should be flown at major international sports events held on the EU territory’. Now, this is getting really interesting.

I freely admit to not following current affairs as diligently as I should, but I was still under the impression that the word ‘territory’ in this context is associated with a nation state, as in France, Italy, whatever. That impression was obviously wrong, and I apologise for having neglected a major geopolitical development.

I thought that the EU was a union of sovereign states, each with its own territory. It turns out that the EU itself is a sovereign state, and can lay a valid claim to what the 27 members erroneously regard as their own territory. This clarifies matters a lot, and I thank the EU for making them transparent, at last.

What follows is that England, her national territory no longer her own, isn’t entitled to her own national team either. The squad should instead be called EU 4, to reflect former England’s ranking in the European pecking order. Former Spain would be EU1, former Holland EU2, former Germany EU3 and so forth.

Since England will no longer have her own national team, there’s no reason not to reinstate John Terry as captain — of EU4. I’m sure he, along with his fellow players Wayne Rooney (Wazza) and Steven Gerrard (Stevie G), are more than ready to assume their new pan-European identities. Why, their habit of drawing exorbitant pay for little (and, at international level, incompetent) work would by itself qualify them for post-football careers as MEPs. The fans, however, will have a problem.

They’ll have to think up new chants, reflecting the major shift in geopolitical realities. At a pinch, ‘ere we go, ere we go, ere we go’ could become ‘ici, nous allons, nous allons, nous allons’, although somehow it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But some of the others will need to be rethought altogether.

For example, ‘If it wasn’t for England, you’d all be krauts’ just wouldn’t work. Perhaps we ought to consider something like, ‘England or no England, you’ll all be krauts.’ No, that’s not quite right either. What about ‘Thanks to the European Union, of which Britain is a proud member, we shall all be Germans’? Much better.

‘Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be’ is already sufficiently multi-culti, no change needed there. But the common chant referring to the referee’s autoerotic tendencies needs to be amended to ‘l’arbitre, c’est un sale con’, even though some mellifluous quality will be lost along the way.

The fans must be instructed not to display emblems and slogans that might be construed as a manifestation of euroscepticism. The Union Jack on their clothing can be easily covered up with EU decals pasted over, no problem there. But ‘two world wars, one world cup, so f… off’ must be replaced altogether. May I suggest, ‘two world wars, one EU, whatever next’ as a suitable alternative?

A word of caution to England’s — pardon me, EU4’s — fans. Switching from lager to pan-European wine or, as a courtesy to the Championship’s co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, vodka will necessitate also switching from pints to glasses or, as the case may be, shots. Otherwise they just might forget what’s what and revert to their English identity. Can’t have that, the EU won’t allow it.



Sex, drugs and Eamonn Holmes

Alas, poor Eamonn. Every time this jolly TV presenter lets his humanity have the better of his official role, he causes a Twitter storm. Enraged viewers accuse him of crassness and demand punishments of varying severity, usually just short of evisceration.

In the past, he has suggested to a rape victim that perhaps taking a taxi would have been wiser than walking through desolate streets in the middle of the night. He has also called a stupid guest a ‘retard’, thus offending every sufferer from learning difficulties, if that’s the proper term this week. This time around he failed to recognise the seriousness of sex addiction, that pandemic and seemingly incurable disease afflicting millions.

Holmes was talking to a Miss Crystal Warren, who at age 40 realised she had been struck down by this degenerative disorder. That self-diagnosis is based on unimpeachable clinical evidence: Miss Warren has had sex with over 1,000 men, mostly strangers she picks up in pubs and coffee houses, sometimes seven in one day.

Assuming that her 1,000-odd conquests have been evenly spread over a lifetime, one wonders why it took Miss Warren so long to identify the problem. If, say, sleeping with 999 men by age 40 didn’t set off any alarm bells, then what caused the epiphany at Number 1,000? That’s the question I would have asked first, but old Eamonn is much better than me.

‘If you need this five or six times a day, have you ever thought of charging for it?’ he asked. How insensitive can one get? Sex will never, ever become Miss Warren’s profession, even though she claims that sex is the reason she can’t hold down a regular job. ‘What, becoming a prostitute?’ she demanded in a fit of moral indignation. ‘This way I’m enjoying it… I get to choose who I sleep with.’

Now, logic is clearly not one of Miss Warren’s addictions, and neither, by the sound of it, is moral philosophy. For prostitutes, unless they are sex slaves, also get to choose whom they sleep with. Their selection criteria are usually less than stringent, but, on purely arithmetical evidence, neither are Miss Warren’s. After all, it’s hard to explore the depths of emotional attachment with seven strangers a day. Also, from what one hears, some prostitutes actually enjoy their work too.

The morality of it never came up, as it hardly ever does these days, but applying such hopelessly obsolete standards, one struggles to see a clear watershed between doing it on this scale for money or for free. A distinction without a difference.

The subsequent outburst in interactive media was deafening, with doctors providing authoritative backup. Sex, they explained, is like drugs (and presumably rock’n’roll); it causes powerful chemicals to be released in the brain, making it enjoyable and therefore addictive. People can become addicted to pleasure, can’t they? Therefore, Holmes is ‘disgusting’! ‘irresponsible’! ‘crass!’. Anyway, prostitution is ‘illegal’! Actually, prostitution, as distinct from solicitation, isn’t illegal in Britain, but this hardly matters when a popular piety is offended.

What does matter is the staggeringly ignorant and morally corrupt tendency to ascribe all behavioural pathologies to medical problems. In the not-so-distant past someone like Miss Warren would have been described by a spiffy term implying opprobrium (‘value judgment’). Nowadays, she is a ‘patient’. The assumption is that her licentiousness is beyond her control — it’s explicable medically and neutral morally.

There are indeed some, exceedingly rare, physiological conditions that can lead to an increased need for sexual activity. As no evidence of such a disorder has been produced, or even mentioned, in Miss Warren’s case, one has to assume that her problem falls into the domain of counselling, rather than medical treatment. And in that realm people aren’t responsible for their actions — they are driven by some subterranean powers beyond their control.

The same arguments are applied to drug addiction. Those poor people can’t help it; they are ill, not irresponsible. In fact, even those who do believe that affection for, say, opiates is actually an addiction, rather than reckless hedonism, never claim that this ‘disease’ is contracted instantly. Typically, it takes regular and prolonged use before any hint of physiological addiction appears. And then — contrary to the horror stories one hears — withdrawal is as easy as getting over a cold.

I speak from experience, for some six years ago I became a drug addict. My ordeal was iatrogenic, caused by medical treatment. Due to a painful problem I won’t bore you with, I spent a month on an intravenous diamorphine (heroine) drip, and then a couple of months on oxycontin, an opiate that, incidentally, has acquired street cred in areas around King’s Cross.

When I decided my pain was no longer bad enough to warrant such mind-addling remedies, I went cold turkey — only to discover that I had become addicted. Since I had once researched an article on the subject, I recognised the symptoms, similar to the common cold. I then went back on oxycontin and gradually reduced the dose (titrated, in the medical parlance) over the next week. That’s it, no more addiction, no craving for those stupefying chemicals in my brain.

If I were Eamonn Holmes, I would have suggested a similar course of action to Miss Warren. Titrate, Miss Warren. Gradually reduce your daily intake to four men a day, then three, then two. Before long you could be on one a week and so forth. Why, you never know, in due course you might even discover the attendant joys of sex: human warmth, mutual affection, companionship — all those things that go beyond the friction of organs, even though they often start with it. Give it a go, love, you never know your luck.

But I’m not Eamonn Holmes. Unlike him, I don’t have to fear losing a well-paid job for yet another show of gross insensitivity. Had he suggested something like that, he’d be sending his CVs out even as we speak. If I ran a TV station, I’d hire him. Wouldn’t you?



Neocons score yet another own goal

Football violence isn’t a wholly alien phenomenon in Britain. But there is a salient difference between our homegrown scum and the Egyptian variety. These days ours have punch-ups outside the Coach & Horses. Theirs kill.

Both sets of football lovers are animalised brutes. But ours operate in a social environment that has been shaped over centuries by respect for the law in general and human life in particular. Theirs live in a country where, according to a recent Pew poll, 82% regard stoning adulterous women as just, 77% approve of chopping off thieves’ hands and 84% favour the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. Our society is rapidly frittering away the capital of institutionalised decency; theirs hasn’t yet begun to acquire it. We may be converging, but as the 74 people killed and hundred maimed in Port Said show, we haven’t converged yet.

In this context the article written a couple of months ago for Foreign Affairs magazine by Elliott Abrams, deputy national security advisor in the Bush administration, strikes me as particularly ill-advised. Mr Abrams, who is one of the flag bearers for neoconservatism, takes issue with those who find anything wrong with Arab Spring revolutions, largely inspired, if not directly abetted, by the US.

“The whole ‘experiment’ seems to some critics to be a foolish, if idealistic project that promises to do nothing but wreak havoc in the Middle East,” he sighs ruefully. As one of those diabolical critics, I agree wholeheartedly. This, however, is the only thing in the article with which I, or any other sane individual, can possibly agree. In fact, the issue wouldn’t even be worth arguing about if Abrams didn’t represent a political movement whose influence on US foreign policy is strong and, if a Republican wins in November, will become dominant.

Abrams begins by proving something that doesn’t need proof: the Middle Eastern regimes swept away by the revolutions were rather unsavoury, “kept in place solely by force”. Point conceded. And the conclusion? “Thus the neocons, democrats, and others who applauded the Arab uprisings were right, for what was the alternative? To applaud continued oppression?”

No, Mr Abrams. The alternative would be to remember the time when US foreign policy was guided by sage statesmen, not by ignorant demagogues. At that time President John Quincy Adams suggested a mindset that alone would be appropriate in the present situation: ‘[America] is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.’

Unlike Irving Kristol, the founder of the neoconservative movement, who was aware of the problematic nature of democracy even in America, never mind in countries with no historical predisposition for it, his ideological heirs have no capacity for nuanced thinking. Shrill sermonising is more up their street.

If it were otherwise, they’d know that the lofty standards of American democracy (which they don’t even understand properly) have questionable utility in most of the world. If, according to Freedom House (a largely neocon think tank), the world had not a single democracy as recently as in 1900 (an assertion that is in itself damning to neocon ideas), then which magic wand must we wave today to execute what George W. Bush described as ‘forward strategy to freedom in the Middle East’?

“The pessimists might yet be proved right,” concedes Abrams. “Any comparison of the Arab lands to Eastern Europe suggests that many positive elements are missing, not least the magnet and model of the European Union.” Yes, if only the Arab lands learned their lessons on democracy from the EU, that notorious champion of elective governments and national sovereignty, they’d be oases of political goodness.

As a result of the recent revolutions, Islamist parties (and ideologies) have become infinitely stronger in the region. In Egypt they won, in a perfectly democratic way, two thirds of the votes. That’s because, according to Abrams, such parties “do better on average in Arab than non-Arab lands.” Not being privy to the mathematical apparatus activated by Abrams to calculate the averages, I’d suggest he study the example of one non-Arab land, Iran.

In 1979 the unquestionably tyrannical rule of the Shah was overthrown with, to put it mildly, American acquiescence. Highlighting Pahlavi’s appalling record on human rights, the US press had been advocating his removal for years, and when the crunch came the Carter administration sat on its thumbs.

The assumption, one that’s clearly shared by today’s neocons, was that tyrants must be removed no matter what. Yet elementary historical knowledge should have suggested that, in some parts of the world, every tyrant is better than his successor. So it proved in Iran when the Americans, and in particular American neocons, got what they wished for.

The Shah may have been a tyrant and a thoroughly corrupt man, but one thing he wasn’t was a Muslim fundamentalist. Moreover, he was just about as pro-West as his environment allowed. What followed… well, you know what followed. What you don’t know, and neither does anyone else, is what’s going to happen next. Suffice it to say that nuclear war is one distinct possibility.

Would Iran be about average, according to Abrams’s learned calculations? Well, if the new Arab regimes are worse than average, then we know what to expect.

All this shows that “idealism”, which Abrams holds up as a virtue, is a wrong navigational tool to guide a country’s policy through the dire straits. Sober thinking, sage understanding and serious learning in history, geopolitics and cultural realities — as exemplified by John Quincy Adams — would fare much better. Abrams’s animadversions manifest none of those, and you won’t find many influential neocons who are any better.

While conservatives everywhere find it hard to wish for Obama’s victory, perhaps in this case we ought to suppress our visceral feelings. For should, say, Romney become President, the likes of Abrams won’t be writing articles about US foreign policy. They’ll be running it.





I’m going to defend Dave the dialectician — someone ought to

Poor Dave. All he did was put his name on a piece of paper, and now he is under a coordinated attack from every direction.

From the left, Ed the Red accuses him of inconsistency: a veto to Dave, he says, isn’t for life; it’s for Christmas. A hard-working line, that, and it would work even harder if Ed vouchsafed to us his alternative strategy vis-à-vis Europe.

Would he have signed the same document? Signed up to the FC (a more polite acronym than FU, but one that too could be deciphered in various ways)? Joined the euro? Left the EU? Restyled himself as gauleiter? What?

A word of avuncular advice to Ed: when in opposition, it isn’t enough to take cheap shots at the government. You have to offer a coherent alternative: don’t just say what you hate; say what you love.

Otherwise, look at what happened to Dave and his party when in opposition. Gnawing at the little bits of Labour policies, without devouring their eminently devourable main body, left the Tories with a severe political indigestion. Heir to Blair, yes, sure — just what grass-roots conservatives wanted to hear.

By way of reflux, the Tories lost any moral justification and, more important to them, credibility to come up with something completely different when in government. So they had to get into bed with something completely similar and call it a coalition, leaving us all at the receiving end of the ensuing action.

Who’ll be your coalition partners, Ed? The UKIP? Or are you counting on Nick to two-time Dave with you? Something to ponder there.

Just a thought, Ed: I’m not suggesting you should become a statesman overnight or, God forbid, a political thinker. You either got it or you ain’t, as Americans say. But becoming a competent practising politician shouldn’t be beyond you, anyone can do it. Talk to your speechwriters, organise a few focus groups — well, you don’t need me to tell you what to do, bright lad like you. But do something other than commissioning cute little lines.

Alas, it’s not just the left who want a piece of Dave — Ian Duncan-Smith and his 70 jolly friends in Parliament are screaming betrayal and inconsistency.

And on what grounds? That Dave vetoed that little piece of paper first because it didn’t contain any ‘safeguards for Britain’ and then, a month later, signed exactly the same document, even though no safeguards were on offer that time around either? Didn’t he tell you, in January, he wasn’t committing Britain to anything? So what’s your objection? Then why, considering the deal hadn’t changed since December, did he whip out his veto then? And you call that inconsistency?

I — and no doubt Dave, with his sherry-fuelled education — call it Hegelian dialectics. This is how it works, from Dave’s perspective.

Thesis: in December, let’s throw a small bone to Ian and his 70 jolly friends to keep them quiet for once. Antithesis: in January, let’s toss a bigger bone, with some marrow inside and meat outside, to Nick and his mates. Synthesis: I just might hang on to power beyond the next election.

Why, Dave’s the most consistent politician out there. He knows what’s important in life and goes after it. Have you got the same single-mindedness of purpose? I know I haven’t.

Like a father who spanks his little son savagely, saying it’s all for the boy’s benefit and ‘it hurts me more than it hurts you’, Dave claims he does it all for Britain. Of course he does — but again dialectically. Except that here a different syllogism is at work. Thesis: Dave is British. Antithesis: this rocking up and down on the political seesaw is good for Dave. Synthesis: it’s good for Britain. Who could possible take issue with this iron logic?

Well, the Iron Lady, otherwise known as Meryl Streep, might. But no one is going to ask her. And I’ve got news for you: no one is going to ask you either.