British culture is just like it used to be (in the USSR)

Reading the Culture sections of our broadsheets brings back fond memories of Yekatirina Furtseva, Khrushchev’s Culture Minister and reportedly mistress.

The Soviets had a fervent affection for proletarians, which didn’t prevent them from murdering millions of them and enslaving the rest. But then we always hurt the ones we love, as the popular song goes.

Still, acting on the underlying emotion, they promoted amateur arts, in the certainty that art should be useful to the whole society, not just the hoity-toity elite. Never mind the skill, feel the ideology. The culture vulture Furtseva was supposed to spearhead that effort.

Once she sat on the jury of an All-USSR Festival of Amateur Arts. At the closing ceremony Furtseva gushed, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that a simple turner can be Hamlet and a common weaver Ophelia! It’s not long before amateur companies will oust professional theatres!’ The great actor Nikolai Mordvinov sitting next to her was overheard muttering, ‘Idiot! When you give birth, are you going to go to a turner too?’

What brought on this nostalgia trip? Oh yes, our Culture sections, which have on me the same effect the word ‘culture’ had on Dr Goebbels.

Nonetheless, the title of Richard Morrison’s article in The Times (Art School: an Oxymoron Past its Time?) caught my eye. Here was a kindred soul, thinking, as I do, that our art establishment has become totally subversive, producing and rewarding nothing but a load of Pollocks, at best.

Tragically ignorant of who or what Mr Morrison is, I dug in. Soon, mild curiosity gave way to enthusiasm: ‘What’s the point of art schools?’ asks the article. ‘Wouldn’t the next generation of [artists] learn just as well by apprenticing themselves to established practitioners?’

Absolutely. What’s the point in attending schools where students are taught self-indulgence and abstruse theorising rather than basic craft? Images flashed through my mind of a future genius, spending years, just like his Renaissance ancestors, at the feet of a master, learning how to mix paints before being allowed to take brush to canvas. I felt like a girl looking for a soulmate, finding one in Mr Morrison and feeling ready to be seduced.

Yet the very next sentence made me feel like a girl first seduced and then cruelly jilted. ‘After all, from Michelangelo to Damien Hirst there’s never been a shortage of artists willing to take on assistants.’

Damien Hirst? The only thing his apprentice could learn would be how to synthesise formaldehyde, but there’s no need – there are plenty of warehouses selling industrial chemicals premixed and ready to be used in the service of high art.

According to Mr Morrison, ‘Young creative talents should be responding directly to the world around them, not slavishly studying past techniques.’ Such a direct response could take, for example, the form of an obscene graffito or perhaps screaming ‘ref is a wanker’ at a stadium. The advantage of such responses is that they can be effectively delivered with no formal training whatsoever. I used to think that responding to the world artistically does take a modicum of such training, but obviously I was wrong.

To Mr Morrison’s credit he is not so hubristic as to depend on his own judgment only. He drafts as support the artist George Shaw, once short-listed for the Turner prize, the one awarded for the greatest damage caused to art in the past year: ‘If artists are going to move art forward and upset the odd apple cart, imagination should come first and skill afterwards.’

Upsetting the apple cart isn’t the purpose of art, Messrs Shaw and Morrison. It’s an incidental bi-product of greatness, which is above all a bi-product of professional skill. When an artist sets out to upset the apple cart, using mainly his imagination, he ends up producing a pictorial equivalent of the kind of stuff one occasionally has to scrape off one’s shoe sole.

Another Turner aspirant Yinka Shonibare, approvingly quoted by Mr Morrison, does think British art schools have something going for them: ‘It’s a broad cultural education – especially since the 1980s, when everything from anthropology and psychology to semiotics and post-colonialism has come in.’

Poor old Giotto and Velazquez didn’t know what they were missing. Had they had a crash course in post-colonialism, they would have learned how to upset apple carts and move art forward.

Tracy Emin, on the other hand, is unhappy about the Royal Art College. This ‘artist’, whose talent is only exceeded by her beauty, much prefers Maidstone College of Art, where she had obtained her first degree. It ‘was guided by a Marxist doctrine, so we were given social and political skills [acting as] a passionate spiritual guidance through creativity.’

As a result of her schooling in such essential disciplines, the absence of which held the likes of Vermeer so far back, Miss Emin has learned how to leave her bed unmade and construct ‘installations’. A photo of one such adorns the article, making one regret that Miss Emin didn’t become a builder, an occupation for which she is Eminently more qualified. In due course she could have become a union activist, taking advantage of her training in Marxism.

‘Well, it’s true that not even its greatest supporters… would describe the RCA as Marxist,’ rues Mr Morrison. ‘But the place has exemplified the philosophy that artists should be useful to society.’

Thank God for small favours. Add to this Marxism and post-colonialism, and our artists could meet the exalted standards of usefulness set by Miss Furtseva, and Messrs Lenin and Stalin before her. The useless ones, skilful professionals, could then be sent to uranium mines to improve our energy supply.

Lest you might think it’s all about social utility, think again. Some formal training is essential as well. ‘Imperfect they may be but art colleges are more essential than ever [for without them artists wouldn’t be able to learn] computer fabrication or additive manufacturing.’

Really, in a sane society this lot would be dangling off one of Emin’s installations. In a humane society, they would be merely locked up in a loony bin. And in our society they pontificate off the pages of formerly respectable broadsheets.



God doesn’t punish strident atheism – He needn’t bother

I don’t know if God punishes atheists in the next life. In this one they punish themselves – by sounding downright cretinous whenever they try to make a shrill case for atheism (Richard Dawkins, ring your office). This, irrespective of how bright they are to begin with.

That’s why intelligent atheists, and amazingly they do exist, either steer clear of the subject altogether or broach it with utmost care and respect. This is a tax faithlessness pays to faith, and punishment for evading it is instant and brutal.

As his recent Mail column suggests, Andrew Alexander could tell you all about it, except that I’m not sure he’s capable of realising how severely he has been punished. But judge for yourself.

‘The world of Islam [is] convinced that it is under threat from the West. It resorts to counterattacks… The arrival on the scene of the suicide bomber is certainly a product of religion…’ This is absolute gibberish, and ignorant gibberish at that.

The world of Islam is convinced of all sorts of things, few of them true. This one certainly isn’t, and it’s not counterattacks Muslims launch against our buildings and buses but vicious and unprovoked assaults.

Nor is the phenomenon of suicide bombing a product of ‘religion’, for no ‘religion’ exists. There are only specific religions, each with its own beliefs, dogma, morality and, well, just about everything else, from culture to social and political organisation, from required standards to resulting behaviour. It’s not ‘religion’ in general but Islam in particular that produces suicide bombers. Until a Buddhist or a Franciscan has flown a plane into an office tower, we must regard this propensity as specific and not all-encompassing.

‘Religion also made a significant contribution to the Cold War… John Foster Dulles brought us close to nuclear Armageddon with his fanatical hostility to ‘atheistic Communism’.’ More deranged, ignorant gibberish.

Religion made no contribution to the Cold War whatsoever. Dulles, and the presidents he served, opposed Communism not out of religious conviction but in the knowledge that it represented a clear and present danger to the West. During Dulles’s own lifetime (d. 1959) Communists murdered hundreds of millions in their own countries, and Russia’s stance vis-à-vis all others was consistently and increasingly aggressive. His therefore were the actions of a statesman, not a believer. Privately, he no doubt saw a link between the evil of Communism and its hysterical hatred of God, but that’s neither here nor there.

It was Dulles who had to deal with the Berlin blockade, the rape of Eastern Europe, the Communist takeover of China, the Korean War, the massacre of popular uprisings in East Germany, Poland and Hungary, the massive military build-up of the Soviet Union. From Mr Alexander’s remarks one can infer that opposing this escalating evil was wrong, and Dulles’s hostility to it ‘fanatical’ and therefore misplaced, only attributable to his Christian faith. Had he been an atheist like Mr Alexander, there would have been no Cold War. This is cloud cuckoo land.

As to ‘nuclear Armageddon’, no such danger existed in the 1950s, for the United States enjoyed an overwhelming nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union. The Americans knew it, the Russians knew it, too bad Mr Alexander doesn’t know it. But perhaps, once he has calmed himself down, he’ll realise that it was Soviet global aggression, not Dulles’s Christianity, that was responsible for the still on-going Cold War.

‘The fact is that religions offer differing degrees of silliness and are not a solution to anything.’ Too bad Lenin’s League of the Militant Godless is no longer in business; Mr Alexander would find much sympathy there and perhaps secure employment for life.

‘Silliness’? ‘No solution’? ‘Fact?’ Never mind the joy and solace billions of communicants find in their faith. Even the staunchest of atheists, provided they aren’t culturally deaf, dumb and blind, feel elevated whenever they pass by a sublime Gothic church, listen to a glorious fugue, look at the masterpieces on show in our museums. Why, some atheists even read the King James Bible for its prose.

The greatest creations of the human spirit are a direct product of Christianity, and they include the civilisation of Christendom, based as it is on the uniquely Judaeo-Christian commitment to the self-importance of the individual qua individual. Without this foundation of Western civility and polity, chaps Chesterton described as village atheists wouldn’t be able to talk to village idiots for fear of arbitrary arrest.

Seriously, Mr Alexander ought to have his head examined: such irrational hatred can destroy what’s left of his mind. In fact one of my good atheist friends is both a psychiatrist and a journalist; he’d be happy to help a half-colleague who is in such dire trouble.

Religion, according to Mr Alexander, is an ‘urban myth’, whereas his own ignorant, half-crazy rants represent ‘the real world’. It’s evident that his grip on reality is tenuous at best – my psychiatrist friend would have plenty to work with.

I’m certain that his first recommendation would be that, to keep his disease in remission, Mr Alexander ought to enlarge only on subjects he understands, such as the perils of the euro. He makes sense on those, and they don’t make him overexcited. However, venturing beyond that scope clearly triggers a flare-up, necessitating psychotropic drugs, if not yet electric shocks.

One can only regret that Britain’s sole surviving conservative paper sees fit to publish such deranged drivel. Perhaps its editors ought to ponder what it is that they wish to conserve.

George Osborne has principles. Well, one principle at any rate.

It’s ‘out of principle’ that George ‘strongly supports gay marriage.’ Not much of a principle, you’d think, but enough to give young George a sense of pride: ‘I’m proud,’ he writes in The Times, ‘to be part of a Government that will introduce a Bill to allow gay marriage.’ Well, at least he found something in this sham government to be proud about.

And let’s not forget George’s stated commitment to ‘the current abortion laws’. Though falling just short of a principled stance, it still qualifies as a strong feeling, springing no doubt from aesthetic considerations. Perhaps he just happens to like the sight of a recognisable little person being scraped out piece by piece. Well, de gustibus… and all that.

Nor are these just abstract ideas, devoid of any practical significance. For George believes that this egregious betrayal of the most fundamental conservative tenets will win the Tories the next election, all in the name of conservatism of course. This is one lesson George has learned from Obama’s victory which he, along with his boss, cheered in a most fawning manner. There are also others.

‘First, the incumbent government was re-elected despite a historically weak recovery.’ You sure it’s ‘despite’, George? Not ‘because’? Obama was re-elected because he started out with about 75 percent of the Hispanic vote and an almost 100-percent support among the blacks, who would have voted for him even if he had started another Great Depression. To offset this in-built advantage Romney needed to get about a 10-percent lead among the whites, and he only managed seven points. Though a landslide, this proved insufficient.

What Osborne means is that Obama has shown it’s possible to pass all blame for the pitiful state of the economy on to the previous administration. Sure enough, Dubya’s tenure was hardly a success, and the $10-trillion public debt he left behind hardly a nice legacy. Yet this doesn’t explain why in his four years at the helm Obama, rather than reducing that figure, managed to add $6 trillion to it. Nor does it explain why during the same period unemployment increased to a level threatening social cohesion.

Would the same trick work for the Tories here? I doubt it. The British, thoroughly corrupted by decades of mendacious socialist propaganda, are naturally inclined to vote Labour – unless the Tories give them a compelling reason not to. Mrs Thatcher, as she then was, gave them such a reason: before winning her first term, she had explained how she’d sort out the mess left behind by Labour. She then proceeded to do just that, winning her subsequent elections as a result. ‘Ain’t my fault, Guv’ won’t cut the same ice.

After this lesson, which he oddly divides into two, George becomes totally confused, and he isn’t the only one. ‘Third, the Republican message about fiscal responsibility… gave Mr Romney a small poll lead on economic issues.’ But we’ve just been told that such issues don’t matter much. Nor does this explain why Mr Romney still lost to a candidate who even his own mother would say preaches the exact opposite of ‘fiscal responsibility’. Really, I’ve often thought that an Oxbridge education is overrated these days, and George is living proof.

‘Fourth, the Romney campaign ultimately did not convince voters that he was on the side of ordinary hard-working… Americans.’ Actually the Romney campaign ‘ultimately did not convince voters’ that he was on the side of ordinary non-working welfare recipients. However, acting on this lesson here would contradict the previous one on fiscal responsibility. Therein madness lies, not just a most lamentable deficit of logic and economic literacy.

The fifth lesson has to do with George’s solitary principle, that involving homomarriage and barely pre-natal abortion. Hail those, and every Millwall supporter will pin a blue rosette to his home strip. Somehow I don’t believe this, though I’m sure George has stacks of focus-group data to support this firm if fleeting principle. Focus groups, you understand, have obviated the need for our politicians to think seriously and act courageously. Just find out what people want to hear and say it – what could be easier than that?

I suspect what George really means is that most chaps at Islington dinner parties support homomarriage – even though it’s unlikely to produce abortions, which has to be the downside in their eyes. George’s CV suggests that he has never ventured outside this or similar groups, with nary a Millwall fan anywhere in sight. 

It’s a pity the Tories won a share of the last election. Had they lost, Labour would have had to face the cacophonic music they themselves had made, doubtless driving the country further into the abyss. That would have given the Tories a chance to regroup and find real conservatives to lead the party out of the wilderness, and the country out of its morass. This way we’re stuck with George, his frankly idiotic lessons, and the catastrophic likelihood of a Labour comeback. All those lessons notwithstanding, I’d say he rates an F, and I’m being generous.

The Tories must win as Tories, not as Labour Lite. If they eradicate the last vestiges of difference between themselves and the loonier left-wingers, it’s not clear why anyone should vote for them. Left-leaning Brits would vote for real Labour, rather than a me-too pastiche. And true conservatives would probably opt for UKIP – in fact most of my conservative friends do so already.

Meanwhile George and Dave will be on their way to Brussels, leaving behind a poor, despondent nation struggling to find any hope or indeed perceive itself as a nation. Or else perhaps George will devote himself to writing a history of the Obama administration. Paula Broadwell can give him another lesson, in hagiography.







Son of a gun

Americans, especially those of the neocon persuasion, tend to dislike the French, whom they call ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’. This tendency intensified in 2002, when the French wisely refused to send their troops to Iraq.

But even the most passionate American Francophobes have to realise that they have much to learn from the French in at least one aspect of human behaviour: conducting a discreet extramarital affair.

Rumour has it that, when Moses descended from the mountain, he told the Israelites, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, I got him down to ten. The bad news is, adultery stays.’

True enough, this misdemeanour commandment says ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, not ‘Thou shalt not get caught.’ Also true, however, is that neither the Israelites nor many people of other nativities have since followed the seventh commandment with unwavering piety.

If we accept this simple observation, then surely the insouciant French culture of a cinq-à-sept is preferable to the tawdry spectacle starring Gen. David ‘Peaches’ Petraeus. If a little dalliance is worth doing, it’s worth doing with a modicum of decency and style.

The press is portraying Petraeus as a martial genius eclipsing the combined talents of Hannibal, Marlborough and Napoleon. Apparently this old dog of war came up with some new anti-insurgency tricks during the ‘surge’ in Iraq, putting the ghastly terrorists to flight and himself on a fast track to the White House. After all, if Gen. Eisenhower could become President, what’s Gen. Petraeus? Chopped liver?

I don’t know about that. The salient difference between the two men is that Eisenhower won his war and Petraeus didn’t. Neither historians nor electorates  elevate to greatness commanders who personally did well in a losing effort, such as the ill-advised American action in the Middle East.

The two men do have something in common: both had wartime mistresses, though, if Kate Summersby’s 1976 memoir is to be believed, Ike wasn’t a patch on ‘Peaches’ in the virility stakes. Then again, he had a dodgy heart and didn’t run a marathon every morning before his cornflakes.

What is striking about this whole affair isn’t so much its immorality, nor even the possible security breaches involved, as its utter, unmitigated vulgarity. A salient feature of our post-modernity is that it’s mostly vulgarians who achieve prominence. This seems to be an ironclad requirement communicated to celebrity candidates at job interviews. ‘Yes, Sir, but how vulgar are you? On a scale of one to ten? Do you have references? I have reports here that say you’re only a seven, not the ten you claim…’

What kind of man, never mind a military genius or, come to that, head of an intelligence service, can be so stupid as to leave a small library of pornographic e-mails on his computer? As a matter of fact, what kind of man, even if he doesn’t occupy a sensitive position, would send such messages? Sex under a desk may be part of life but it doesn’t belong in the epistolary genre. And surely a four-star general must rate a sofa at his command post?

Admittedly this is tame stuff compared to a President of the United States sticking a cigar, presumably unlit, into a girl’s genitals or masturbating while talking to her on the phone (I suppose that’s what Miss Lewinsky meant when talking about ‘phone sex’). Still, it gives tastelessness a bad name.

And look at the other actors in this comedy of bad manners. Like the muscle-bound Paula Broadwell, a PhD candidate at King’s College, no less, setting up dummy e-mail accounts to harass her presumed rival for Peaches’s affection. I’m amazed she didn’t beat her up in a dark alley – why not put all that narcissistic fitness to work? I don’t know if they teach vulgarity at King’s College, but if so the academic standard is high. (What they obviously don’t teach is writing, for Paula had to have her hagiography of Peaches ghosted.)

Of course, another possible way out of this triangle would have been to invite Jill Kelley to take part in a threesome – after all, sharing is at the heart of President Obama’s programme for his second term. Or perhaps even a foursome, also including the investigating FBI agent who, rather than flashing his shield, was sending Mrs Kelley half-naked snapshots of himself. And let’s not forget Gen. Allen, another leader of men and lover of women… No, that sort of stuff would have been too French, in the worst sense of the word.

What now? The participants will probably have mixed fortunes. Mrs Kelley is likely to persist with her ‘we’re just friends’ denials until a tabloid has offered her a shot at celebrity for admitting something slightly naughtier, true or false. The FBI agent, he of the seductive torso, will be transferred to traffic duty. Petraeus’s career is finished, and so probably is his marriage. But Paula, once she has emerged from hiding, is clearly on the upswing of a career curve.

She has a bright future in publishing, and I can recommend two projects straight away, both guaranteed bestsellers for our refined times. One would be Paula’s Guide to General Fitness, the other Peaches and Cream: Paula’s Guide to Sexual Gratification.

Before another ghost writer gets his quid in, I volunteer. And if she wants to list Petraeus as a co-author, it’s fine with me. If I didn’t fear being accused of indulging in infantile innuendo yet again, I’d say Peaches has struck a blow for all waning sixtyish gentlemen. Son of a gun, he deserves to have his name on the cover.

Tories suffer from a personality disorder, identity crisis – and they can’t spell

Imagine a man, his eyes vacant, his hair dishevelled, his walk unsteady, muttering ‘Who am I?… What am I?… What’s my name?… What am I for?…’ You’d doubt his sanity, wouldn’t you?

Next imagine a large group of such people, each sporting a blue rosette and acting in the same confused manner. Well, now you have an accurate mental picture of the Conservative Party.

The Romney bubble burst with such explosive force that the shock waves have reached across the ocean, leaving our poor Tories in a dazed muddle and on the verge of madness. By Tories I don’t mean the spivocrats in government or thereabouts – these chaps aren’t confused at all. They know exactly what they want (keeping their snouts in the trough for as long as possible), if not necessarily how to get it.

No, confusion reigns among their groupies, those who’d vote for a cocker spaniel if he had a blue rosette pinned to his collar. As part of it, they confuse lower-case conservatism, which is another word for political sanity, with the upper-case Conservative Party, which is the exact opposite of that. At their weak moments, they even think that the typographic style of the initial doesn’t matter, and the two words are interchangeable.

Witness Tim Montgomerie’s article in The Times the other day. The confusion starts with the title: Being anti-State is stupid for a Conservative. Now people who are anti-State aren’t called conservatives; they are called anarchists. No conservative, however spelled, can be anti-State by definition.

Mr Montgomerie knows this of course. He uses ‘anti-State’ the way Barroso uses ‘anti-Europe’, as a term of abuse reserved for those who refuse to accept asinine, destructive politics. Barroso’s bogeymen aren’t against Europe as a cultural, historical or geographical entity. They are opposed to the European Union, a supranational self-devouring Leviathan, a socialist project with megalomania.

By the same token, it’s not the state that conservatives abhor, but its tyrannical excesses. The state can employ or support 10 percent of the people, or 50 or 75 or 100. Somewhere along that ascending scale tyranny lurks, for once the critical mass of state dependents has been reached, the ensuing chain reaction is unstoppable.

According to Mr Montgomerie, any opposition to any size of the state is wrong because that way ‘Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic’ lose elections. I’m not aware of the existence of Conservatives in America, though I know a few conservatives, but then I’m interested in politics only tangentially.

In search of allies Montgomerie co-opts the American neocon commentator David Frum who has made the earth-shattering discovery that ‘the Republicans have won more than 50 percent of the vote in only one of the last six American presidential elections.’ ‘The situation is pretty much the same in Britain,’ sighs Montgomerie.

First, it’s not necessary to win more than 50 percent of the British electorate to carry an election. In fact, you’d have to go back to the 1930s to find a British party that won more than 50 percent of the popular vote. But leaving that aside, what’s the reason for this unfortunate situation?

According to both Frum and Montgomerie, it’s failure ‘to reassure those who are afraid of market forces.’ And who might such timid individuals be? Why, mostly those who hide from such ominous forces under the blanket of state entitlements. Such people see Conservatives ‘as a rich man’s party, worried about issues such as freedom when voters are worried about security.’

Preferring freedom to security? Perish the thought. We might be seen as espousing principles different from those at the foundation of bolshevism, and then Dave and Nick will have to console themselves with cushy jobs in Brussels. Never mind the demonstrable historical fact that it’s the freest countries that provide the greatest security for their citizens. To Frum and Montgomerie security doesn’t mean security. It means sponging on the state.

From this diagnosis comes a recommendation for treatment, the usual jumble of ‘a politics of social solidarity’, ‘blue-collar wages’, ‘dropping the anti-State rhetoric’ and so forth. In other words, Conservatives must become at least as socialist as Labour, if they aren’t already, and then one day they may win an election in the name of conservatism, or rather Conservatism.

This is opportunistic, relativist, immoral nonsense. Forgetting America for the time being, the reason Dave’s Tories failed to score an outright victory against the worst and most destructive government in British history isn’t that they are too conservative. It’s that they aren’t conservative at all.

Their patron saint isn’t Edmund Burke but John Major, who listed ‘a classless society’ among his desiderata, a notion as anti-conservative as it is ignorant. Never in history has a classless society been achieved, not even by states prepared to murder everyone without calluses on his palms. But even this elementary observation is too subtle for our Tories. 

When in opposition, they watched meekly as Tony and Gordon were running the country into the ground under the smokescreen of sharing and caring rhetoric. In the process, grounds were laid for self-perpetuation, for state dependence grew exponentially. Rather than screaming off the rooftops, the Tories hid in the cellar, muttering the same ruinous bien-pensant shibboleths, but in a slightly lowered voice.

Had they presented a clear-cut conservative alternative during their 11 years in opposition, they would have won the last election by a landslide. The planks of their electoral platform would have written themselves, with voters nodding each time: 1) The country is in deep trouble – nod. 2) It’s Labour policies that got us in trouble, not just economic but also social, demographic and above all moral – nod. 3) We fought those policies tooth and nail, but you didn’t want to know – nod. 4) Now is the time to let us pull the country out of trouble, acting on our own prescriptions – nod, nod, nod.

But of course our craven, self-serving spivocrats have neither the minds nor the courage nor indeed any convictions, other than all-conquering powerlust. And now, according to Montgomerie, having suffered acute political embarrassment, they should converge with Labour to a point where even a minuscule difference would no longer be discernible.

If this is the depth of thought we get from our analysts, there is no hope. And what’s this preoccupation with ‘blue-collar wages’ anyway, especially as it’s expressed side by side with a lament that the Conservatives are ‘stuck in the early 1980s’?

In contrast to the early 1980s, blue-collar chaps are now producing 12 percent of our GDP, as opposed to the 23 percent contributed by the City of London. It’s not immediately clear then how getting ‘more serious about blue-collar wages’ would make that much difference to election outcomes. And how can this newly acquired seriousness be expressed? We aren’t by any chance talking about nationalising industry, are we? One fails to see how else the state can increase wages there.

There is a way, of course: cutting both personal and corporate taxes dramatically, encouraging investment, removing most of the stifling regulations, greatly reducing state interference… Oops sorry, I’m sounding ‘anti-State’ and therefore ‘stupid’.










Wolfgang Schaüble for Gauleiter of France?

Since the marriage between Angela and Nicolas was annulled for non-consummation, France has been getting ideas beyond her station.

Angie, crestfallen after the break-up, has tried to sweet-talk François into having the same passionate relationship she had with Nicolas, but the fickle Gaul doesn’t want to know. Unlike Nicolas, he’s a man’s man, he claims. He won’t let Angie crush that part of his anatomy, the sole part one has to say, that defines his masculinity.

François wants to make his own decisions, right or wrong, and no butch frau spilling out of a tight jacket will tell him what to do. This just goes to show he doesn’t get the point. Or rather six points, to be exact.

Point 1: To bolster her own fragile self-image, badly bruised over the last century, Germany has a deep inner need to rule Europe.

Point 2: Rather than committing to lifelong shrink fees, she’s prepared to pay any price, within reason, to achieve that goal.

Point 3: ‘Within reason’ are the operative words. Bailing out all those Greeces and Irelands, perhaps even Spains, is a smidgen inside this range. To do the same for France would be so far outside it that even Angie would balk at the price tag.

Point 4: France therefore must tart up her economy enough to look sexy to Angela.

Point 5: France is manifestly incapable of doing so on her own, certainly not under François’s tutelage.

Point 6: The only way for Germany to achieve her mission in life (see Point 1) is to take over the French economy and whip it into shape.

Angela is perfectly willing to get that old PVC costume off the mothballs and start cracking the whip. But she has to think of her public image, badly hurt as it has been by all those Greeks bearing Nazi uniforms. So the whip must be wielded by someone else, a dog of war to let slip.

Mercifully, Angela didn’t have to look far. Her finance minister Wolfgang Schaüble, ‘Wolfie’ as she affectionately calls him every time he fetches her slippers in his mouth, filled the bill perfectly.

It was a wise choice. ‘Wolfie’ bared his fangs and told his panel of economic advisors to devise a series of measures that would bring France back into the fold.

They are facing a tall task. Lars Feld, an economist who sits on the panel, put it tactfully: ‘Concerns are growing given the lack of action of the French government in labour market reforms.’

If only this were the only concern. Yes, not to cut too fine a point, François, just like our own Milibandits, is in bed with the unions. That’s why France’s labour costs are among the world’s highest (at least 10 percent higher than in Germany), her retirement age among the world’s earliest (only 40 percent of those over 55 are still at work, compared with 57.7 percent in Germany) and her work week among the world’s shortest.

But that by itself doesn’t explain the country’s plight, though people my age remember the havoc wreaked by the unions in Britain back in the pre-Thatcher seventies. And ‘plight’ is the right word to describe the state of the French economy.

It’s set to slip into recession and fall far short of European deficit-reduction targets. France’s industrial output has fallen to our own risible level of 12 percent of GDP, many of her factories are shutting down, and most of her products can’t compete with Germany’s. And her share of world exports has fallen below that of Spain and Belgium, those famous muscle-bound powerhouses.

Meanwhile, France’s quango-driven public sector has grown to a staggering 56 percent of the economy (even higher than ours), the kind of millstone that can drag even a healthier economy to the bottom. Suffocated by taxes old and new, France’s wealth producers are fleeing in droves, many to our shores. It takes some impressive footwork for the British economy to look like El Dorado to the French, but to François’s credit he managed to do it in no time.

Solutions? According to Deputy Jacques Myard, ‘Only a devaluation of 30 percent against Germany can restore the competitiveness of French firms…We have to leave [the EU].’ Truer words have never been spoken. But these aren’t the words Angie wants to hear (see Point 1 above). Her index fingers are firmly lodged in her ears.

So rumours are making the rounds that she’ll go further than merely asking ‘Wolfie’ to come up with a list of recommendations. She is planning to insist that Germany be given a decisive vote on how much and on what France spends, and how much and whom she taxes. Put differently, give or take a few minor details, she wants to put Schaüble in charge of the French economy. That’ll show that fickle François who’s boss.

No doubt it will. Moreover, I’ve seen little resistance to this prospect among the French Gaullist intelligentsia. Now François is a different animal altogether. For amazingly it’s mostly the French internationalist Left that offers any resistance, however feeble, to the shocking loss of France’s sovereignty. So François isn’t going to drop his trousers and take his punishment like a man.

I don’t know how this conundrum will be resolved, only that there is indeed a conundrum. Effectively Angie wants to have more control over France than that other famous Chancellor of Germany had over Vichy – this without the benefit of military victory. For François to accept that sort of thing is tantamount to self-emasculation, and he’s as long on pride as he’s short on intellect.

Things are going to get interesting before long. Staying outside will give us the best vantage point to follow the action as it unfolds. Should you wish to take a little flutter, my money would be on Angie, she of the PVC and whip fame.






A cautious and reserved welcome to Justin Welby

The jury isn’t out on the Most Rev and Rt Hon the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. In fact, it’s not even in: as I write, he has just been appointed. Yet some comments are in order.

First, I know nothing about the Most Reverend apart from what I’ve read in the papers, where the news of his forthcoming appointment has been met with responses ranging from enthusiasm to ecstasy. Now, assuming that his positions on various issues are represented accurately, and this is an optimistic assumption, my own reaction is that of cautious neutrality at best.

Archbishop Justin is being depicted as the best candidate to smooth over the divisions among the catholic, liberal and evangelical strains of Anglicanism. Amazingly this claim is largely supported by his experience as an oil-company executive, whose relevance to the doctrinal issues at hand isn’t immediately obvious.

Disregarding his stint in the cutthroat oil business and concentrating instead on matters clerical and theological, I fail to see why Archbishop Justin will succeed in the task that has defeated all his predecessors for centuries. If anything, his own allegiance to evangelical Christianity spells bad news for Anglo-Catholics. Archbishop Justin came to Christ as an adult and he’s enthusiastic about the Alpha course at Holy Trinity, Brompton. Most Anglo-Catholics I know tend to regard the Alpha course as an aberration only missing paganism by a gnat’s nose.

The Creed Anglicans recite in their liturgy confirms their belief in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Roman Catholics will deny their right to say so, claiming that the Church of England broke the apostolic succession by severing its ties with Rome in the 16th century. The issue is debatable – but it’s only debatable from a High Church perspective, and even then not all that powerfully. It’s hard to see how evangelicals, such as Archbishop Justin, can argue this point against even a moderately erudite RC.

That, however, is a general point. Anglicanism, after all, contains both a Catholic liturgy and Calvinist Articles and, for the Church to be seen as anything other than a loose association of independent parishes, the conflict between the two must at least be patched up if not eradicated. It’s some of Archbishop Justin’s particular beliefs that worry me.

Prime among them is his support for the consecration of women bishops. This development, indeed even the ordination of women priests, crosses confessional boundaries, for it strikes against the very nature of any apostolic church.

Why is this even being mooted? What in the two millennia of Church history prompts such a radical violation of its traditional structure? The answer is, nothing. Christ didn’t consecrate women even though several of them were as important to him as any one of the Twelve. For the next two thousand years this quaint idea never crossed anyone’s mind, at least within any apostolic church. What then justifies going against both scriptural and ecclesiastical tradition in this case?

It’s conceivable that Archbishop Justin’s veneration of church tradition is somewhat muted – he is an evangelical after all. If so, such a position is suspect for it was tradition alone that fed the faith for some 30 years before the first Gospel was written, about 70 before the ink dried on the fourth, and several centuries before Scripture came together in its present form.

Therefore any attempt to use Scripture as an argument against the sacred significance of church tradition is at best spurious and at worst subversive. In this instance it’s also impossible, for there exists not a hint in the New Testament that either ordination or consecration of women was seen as desirable by Christ and his disciples.

So what arguments pro are there then? They are all based on premises that aren’t just secular but wrong. They also consign any rhetorical sanity to the way of all flesh.

Jesus, explain the pro enthusiasts, didn’t consecrate women because the culture of the day prevented him from doing so. The same goes for the two millennia worth of saintly or simply brilliant theologians, along with bishops, priests and laity. They have all been led astray by the culture of the day, or some 730,000 days to be exact.

Let’s forget for a moment that accusing Jesus and his apostles of being slaves to ‘culture’ is grossly blasphemous. Let’s further assume that shaping the church structure on the basis of extraneous secular concerns is wrong. Logically it follows that the pro enthusiasts, such as Archbishop Justin, are being driven by extra-cultural beliefs. In other words, the teaching of Jesus and his apostles was transient; the teaching of Archbishop Justin and the braying enthusiasts of female episcopate, transcendent.

This inference is absolutely logical, but I’m sure that our new Archbishop will wrathfully deny that he harbours any such thoughts. In that case, he has to admit that his views are a result of cultural conditioning, of the kind that revolves around ‘equality’, ‘human rights’ and, not to cut too fine a point, belligerent feminism.

It ought to be clear that Christian faith can’t be expressed within a domain defined by such categories, regardless of how one feels about them. I find them pernicious, someone else may find them invigorating, but surely we must all agree that they belong outside, not inside, ecclesia?

An apostolic church cannot, or rather should not, come up with a new theology in response to every half-baked idea emanating from the kind of people, most of them atheists, who in the relatively recent past were seen as the lunatic fringe and who are now seen as ‘the liberal establishment’. Nor should it change its doctrine to accommodate even solid secular ideas. The Church should stand above all such ideas, good or bad. When Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, he meant his kingdom was higher than this world. No parity or ‘equal rights’ between the two was implied.

Any changes in ecclesiastical doctrine must be dictated by the Holy Spirit or the inspiration of subtle theological minds or, ideally, both. This particular change, inspired as it is by harebrained, kneejerk ‘liberalism’, will tear the Anglican Church asunder regardless of how nice a person the new Archbishop is, or how much management experience he accrued in the oil business.

I don’t know how welcoming Roman Catholics really feel to converts from Anglicanism, be that in the form of straight conversion or the ordinariate. If they really want to attract such converts, they won’t have to work very hard. Meanwhile, best of luck to the new Archbishop. He’ll need it.  










What the election says about the US and about us

Obama, say our triumphant broadsheets, won because unlike his opponent he understands that America is changing. In line with the almost universal faith in inexorable progress, the implication is that she’s changing for the better because all change is vectored in that direction.

I’m not going to bore you with stacks of figures showing how far this is from the truth. Anyone who follows the news knows anyway that after Obama’s first term America is considerably worse off – economically, socially, politically, geopolitically, demographically – than she was at the same point in George W. Bush’s tenure, when things were already far from perfect.

Nor does it take the help of fortune-telling appliances to predict that things are only going to get worse. No economy can survive years of trillion-dollar deficits when it’s already groaning under the weight of a $16-trillion debt. No country will escape a recession by increasing its already high social expenditure and punishing success by higher taxes. No society can get away for long with allowing unlimited immigration of cultural and ethnic aliens, with the concomitant irreversible shift in the nation’s demographic make-up. No state struggling with economic malaise can pursue incessant local wars – unless it hopes to cure said malaise by provoking a deck-clearing global conflict.

With the possible, though unlikely, change in the last direction, there is every indication that Obama’s administration will follow all others as far as the Republican opposition in Congress will allow. That’s why his re-election will hurt the national interests of the United States, and therefore her people. But then Obama was elected not by the nation at large but by those special groups within it that have a vested economic, ideological and racial interest in extending the tenure of the most socialist president in US history.

Any healthy society would disfranchise a welfare sponger who votes for a candidate merely because he promises more welfare, or a member of an ethnic minority (or, for that matter, majority) who votes solely on the basis of a candidate’s skin colour, or an immigrant who votes for a candidate exclusively in expectation of unlimited immigration. Casting a vote responsibly involves a mature ability to ponder the best interests of the whole nation, not the parochial interests of a discrete group. Believing that every post- or sometimes pre-pubescent person is capable of such deliberation is a fallacy that goes back to the great catastrophe of the West, the French Revolution.

Since then the West has been divided into those who more or less welcome a world built on the principles emerging out of that debacle, and those who more or less reject it. That’s the sense in which America is truly divided. The watershed runs not between Democrats and Republicans, but between those who cheer the clean break with two millennia of Western tradition and those who believe that most of it is worth keeping. That watershed will never be filled in and concreted over, it’s much too deep for that.

Obama’s re-election, in the face of an economic plight that would have made any candidate unelectable at any point in America’s past, shows that more Americans now reside on the left side of the watershed than on the right. I use these conventional terms in a rather unconventional sense of transcendental cultural and philosophical, rather than transient political, allegiance. At that level no reconciliation is ever possible, no compromise can ever be worked out.

Thomas Mann once said that all intellectual attitudes are at heart political. I’d paraphrase that to say that all political attitudes are at heart cultural or, even deeper, moral. Politics may be the art of the possible, but the domains of culture and morality can’t by their very nature be relativistic. Rather than doable or undoable, they operate in the categories of good and bad, or else right and wrong. Regarded in that light, there’s no doubt that Obama’s re-election testifies to the ever-growing number of Americans who opt for bad and wrong, rather than good and right.

This is not to suggest that I believe for a second that Romney would have been on the side of the angels. On general principle, I rather doubt it. But of course I don’t know for sure, and neither did those Americans who cast their vote for Obama. Since only a sudden outbreak of a cretinism pandemic would make the majority like Obama’s record, they had to base their choice mainly on comparing Obama’s rhetoric with Romney’s. On that basis, they chose to stay on the wrong side of the divide.

At least the Americans had one. Nowhere in Europe exists a society with even an approximate parity of right and wrong, good and bad. Stupid, soulless, immoral modernity has carried the day here, which explains such remarkable homogeneity of opinion across the full spectrum of political parties everywhere. It also explains why 90 percent of Frenchmen and 80 percent of Brits favoured Obama. They had been brainwashed to accept unquestioningly the ethos he represents – to a point where no serious opposition to it is possible. In Britain, for example, no candidate saying the same things as Romney would be allowed to stand for a parliamentray seat, never mind lead his party.

That’s why all European leaders, including our faux Tory Dave, endorsed Obama. It’s not Obama they supported, nor his Democratic party. Their hearts went out to the rhetoric that was consonant with the noises they heard in the depth of what passes for their souls. Upon hearing yet another clarion call of modernity, they got up and saluted.

What now? My crystal ball looks murky this morning, so I’ll have to refrain from specific predictions. I don’t know what will happen in America or anywhere else over the next four years. But if we were to widen our perspective and look at long-term trends, the general direction in which the West is going, then one sees little reason for optimism. The West just may be suffering from a terminal disease, and the 2012 US election is but one of it symptoms.    





It’s not the economy, stupid

James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist was wrong when he said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ As Obama’s triumph shows, it’s not the economy that decides elections these days, it’s the corruption.

For the 2012 US presidential election, along with all others in the West, was utterly corrupt – and the guilty party were not the officials who counted the votes but the people who cast them.

Those who still worship at the altar of universal suffrage must realise that their church was desecrated a long time ago. The building still stands, but it’s an empty shell stripped of any meaningful content.

In the process yet another blow was delivered to the widespread myth of Americans being rugged individuals, firm believers in individual attainment, hard work and the rags-to-riches American dream. They used to be all those things. But they’ve been corrupted to become something different.

They certainly vote not as rational individuals but as ideological blocs. For example, among the Hispanics, who make up 10 percent of the vote, Obama beat Romney by 40 percentage points – a landslide that suggests a collective allegiance free of any consideration of merits and issues. The only thing this group cared about was its own parochial interest: Romney’s tough, and utterly correct, stand on immigration decided the issue.

Yet compared to the 87-percent majority Obama won among black voters, his triumph among Latinos looks like a cliff-hanger. Again parochial interests came into play: Romney was clearly intending to trim welfare rolls, in which Hispanic and black voters are represented out of all reasonable proportion. Add to this the chromatic incidental of Obama’a skin colour, and Romney’s solid 18-point advantage among white voters wasn’t sufficient to offset this electoral racialism, tacitly promoted by the media.

Now that institution is utterly corrupt in that it fails in its mission to cover news in a fair and unbiased way. All major US media, and especially the three main TV networks, traditionally act as the propaganda department of the Democratic party, resembling in their ideological bias our own dear BBC – the difference being that at least American networks aren’t financed by the public.

In the run-up to the election Obama was largely absolved of any blame for the state of the US economy. Yet according to the Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute, media coverage was much more hostile in 2004, when the economy boasted higher growth, lower unemployment, smaller deficits and cheaper fuel than today.

Back then TV screens were filled with icons of Republican heartlessness: the homeless man, the poor sod without health insurance, the unemployed woman with a football team of fatherless children, the old chap having to choose between medicine and food. This time around, with the economy worse off than at any time since the Great Depression, such tear-jerkers no longer regaled the viewing public.

In parallel, the gaffe hunters had a field day with every mildly controversial remark made by Romney, while ignoring major policy blunders committed by Obama. For example, when the hard-left magazine Mother Jones secretly taped and published Romney’s generally correct remarks about the unsupportable numbers of welfare freeloaders, the networks described them as an ‘earthquake’ and ‘hurricane’. Their self-fulfilling prophecy was that the hurricane would blow away Romney’s chances.

Yet Obama’s idiotic and demagogic ‘You didn’t build that’ speech, in which he explained to the nation that it wasn’t so much private enterprise as the state that was responsible for America’s greatness, was hushed up for four days. Only when Romney attacked this subversive nonsense in his own speech did the networks acknowledge it, and then rather sympathetically.

The latest policy outrage committed by Obama was his reaction to the murder of four Americans, including the ambassador, in Benghazi. He and his staff knew immediately that this was a terrorist attack timed to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. Yet he and his spokesmen claimed that the carefully planned and successfully executed murder was a ‘spontaneous’ reaction to an anti-Muslim video watched on YouTube by a dozen people.

Now imagine someone like George W. Bush caught in a lie like that. Why, he wouldn’t be allowed even to contest the election, such would be the outrage whipped up by the media. And in this instance?  According to NBC’s flagship Today programme, the event was a feather in Obama’s cap, ‘reminding voters of his power as commander-in-chief’. When this nonsense was disproved by hard facts, the Benghazi story quietly disappeared off the screen.

This election provides yet another proof that America has gone the way of Europe. Popular corruption has reached a point where a thoroughly corrupted electorate is no longer capable of casting their votes in an honest, responsible way.

Corrupt politicians, ably assisted by corrupt media, have created an electorate in their own image. The corruption is self-perpetuating: the more politicians preach and the media extol the virtues of socialism and PC rectitude, the more people will see nothing wrong in having the state supporting them. Once the number of those wholly or partially dependent on the state has reached a certain critical mass, a strong statesman will never be elected – or if by some fluke he is, he won’t be allowed to change anything.

This situation isn’t a transient downturn in the fortunes of one-man-one-vote democracy, but its structural defect. For as long as the vote of a man working his fingers to the bone remains equal to that of a welfare recipient, the crack in the edifice of democracy will continue to grow wider. The task of getting elected will be even further reduced to the ability to make incredible promises credibly, appealing to the basest instincts rather than the highest aspirations.

Obama has proved to be exceptionally good at that. America is in for a tough time.







Voting has barely started, but Obama has already won by a landslide

Before you reach for your TV remote to check what’s going on, I don’t mean that Obama has somehow leapfrogged the electoral process to claim victory prematurely. Moreover, even if he does win the closest US election in history, it won’t be by a landslide.

Yet though the Americans haven’t voted yet, the Europeans have – and Obama’s victory is staggering. Asked whom they would rather see as US president, over 70 percent of all Europeans went for Obama – and in France he polled an unlikely 90 percent.

The French of course have a predilection for socialist politicians, as they showed in their own latest election. But Hollande only won by a couple of percentage points; he didn’t carry 90 percent of the electorate.

This enthusiastic support for an utterly useless president is worth decorticating. Why such affection for a foreign politician who broke all his good campaign promises and kept all the bad ones, who is presiding over an economy with the highest unemployment rate since ‘Brother, can you spare a dime’ was a big hit, whose administration increased the already catastrophic $10 trillion debt to a suicidal $16 trillion?

For one thing, socialism is beautiful, and all beauty is best appreciated from afar. We don’t screw our noses into the glass case protecting Mona Lisa; we step back to admire the masterpiece. Thus almost half of the same Frenchmen who voted against their own socialists enthusiastically support someone else’s. In the same vein, all those Gitane-smokers in the Left Bank used to love Stalinism in Russia but would have hated it in France.

Then of course there’s the cynical belief that a decline of US economic power, which will inevitably ensue if Obama is re-elected, will put France’s own rickety economy in a stronger competitive position. As it is, she’s slipping behind such overachievers as Spain and Italy, and her own recession is deepening with every subversive measure introduced by François’s government.

The Europeans’ hatred of Romney, or rather everything he represents, shouldn’t be underestimated either. The French in particular talk about ‘ze Anglo-Saxon model’ the way they never talked about ‘ze Nazi model’ during the occupation. What is it a model of? Personal responsibility over communal security; small rather than omnipotent state; an economy free of government meddling; high rewards for hard work, no rewards for indolence; flexible labour markets; low taxation and so forth.

Romney preaches all those disagreeable things, which activates in French minds their historical resentment of ‘ze Anglo-Saxons’, who have had the temerity of beating them on every battlefield, including the economic one. In this respect, the French choose to ignore the obvious lack of homogeneity between les yanquis and les rosbifs. Both are Anglo-Saxons which, when enunciated by a Frenchman, is seldom a term of endearment.

Few stop to realise that Romney’s rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. He says all the right things, yet if elected can be confidently predicted to do all the wrong ones. He’s a modern politician after all, and his record as governor of Massachusetts shows that he put through many Obama-style programmes there, albeit on a smaller scale. But he does make ‘ze Anglo-Saxon’ pronouncements, which trigger off traditional Gallic actuators.

Foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is another reason, and here I begin to converge with the French, though for a different reason. The French are torn between two animosities. On the one hand, they are easily the most anti-Semitic nation in Western Europe, which unenviable prejudice provides the basis for their hatred of Israel. I heard more anti-Israeli harangues in France last summer alone than, over a lifetime, in all other countries combined.

Both Obama and Romney pledge support for Israel, but the French sense correctly that Obama’s heart isn’t in it, and Romney’s is. That alone would be enough to swing the French vote to Obama.

On the other hand, they resent their own Muslims more than any other European nation does, possibly because France has more of them than anyone else. Here the same pictorial analogy applies: the French mind Muslims much less when they burn settlements around the West Bank than when they burn cars around Paris. It’s not just absence but also distance that makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure the French perceive the common thread running through both incendiary excesses, but then the ability to put two and two together is never thick on the ground anywhere, not just in France.

All these are spurious reasons to cheer Obama and jeer Romney. There are better ones, and they too have to do with foreign policy. Romney is steeped in the ethos of the American religion: US supremacy, manifest destiny and a shining city on top of a hill. His own visceral feelings are strengthened by his foreign-policy entourage, neocons to the last man.

The readers of this blog probably know that I regard neoconservatism as a pernicious and ultimately dangerous trend in American politics. It represents the proselytising arm of the American religion, with its belief that every country in the world must be educated in the magnificence of American democracy. If the teaching aids required for this didactic exercise all have to be laser-guided, then so be it.

Romney, if elected, will do the neocon bidding, and since democracy is demonstrably unachievable in the Middle East (Israel apart), the region will be in the throes of a non-stop war. This creates a vast potential for a major conflagration involving Russia, possibly even China.

The neocons aren’t bright enough to realise that, by agitating for the Arab Spring, they’ve brought the world to the brink of the nuclear winter. They are driven by ideology, which can never coexist with reason – as they’ve amply demonstrated over the last decade.

The French have wisely stayed more or less out; we’ve stupidly plunged in headlong. I for one don’t want to see British youngsters dying to promote America’s manifest destiny, which I fear they may have to do in greater numbers should Romney win.

To sum up, if I still lived in America, I’d vote for Romney. In that I’d be driven by economic self-interest, which, according to Adam Smith, lies at the foundation of civic virtue. As I live in Britain, I think Obama would be the lesser evil.