And Mr Goebbels had no… who’s Mr Goebbels?

According to the popular, if in this instance slanderous, wartime song, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s principal ideologue, had no… well, he was testicularly challenged.

That, however, didn’t prevent him from making the great-men list compiled by the Russian TV channel VESTI-RU, the Kremlin’s mouthpiece. The list, published on the channel’s Facebook page, featured Goebbels along with Lenin, Stalin, Ghandi and Einstein.

The Nazi was quoted with obvious editorial approval as expressing his admiration for Lenin: “Whoever one day leads the Russian people out of their suffering will become their Saviour, their Apostle, their God. Lenin was the greatest of such people. He wanted to show the people the way. For his people he became everything.”

…while the people themselves became nothing, one is tempted to add, but this is beside the point.

Goebbels’s admiration for Lenin was understandable: young Joseph came from the leftmost wing of a socialist party, the NSDAP. Hitler himself admitted he “owed everything to Marx”, and both he and Mussolini venerated Marx’s most diligent and consistent pupil.

Protests against glorifying Lenin and Stalin are fraught with danger in Putin’s Russia, but Nazis are still not off limits. What followed was an outburst of public indignation spearheaded by liberal (meaning on-line only) magazines and the few surviving war veterans.

Such survivors would have had to be born no later than 1927. Considering Russia’s third-world life expectancy, the number of veterans must therefore be roughly equal to the number of magazines, but nevertheless their protests were heard.

Goebbels was removed from the page, even though Lenin and Stalin stayed. The next day the page itself was taken off Facebook, which was followed by the summary sacking of the entire staff of the channel’s social media department.

Yet according to the story making the rounds in Moscow, the unfortunate youngsters were sacked not only, nor even particularly, because of their affection for Goebbels. It’s just that, when queried, none of them could quite place Goebbels’s name.

They had picked up the Nazi’s quote about Lenin from a website featuring such trivia and thought the accolade ipso facto merited its author’s inclusion. They didn’t have a clue who the author was.

I occasionally rebuke British education, using such immoderate modifiers as ‘moron-spewing’, ‘pathetic’ and ‘shameful’. So much happier, in the Schadenfreude sense of the word, I am to see that we’re not in that boat alone. In fact, the boat is overloaded and due to capsize.

Why, the Russians are just like us. In fact, they’re even worse: according to a recent poll 30 percent of them think the sun revolves around the earth. So far only a negligible proportion describe the earth as flat, but give them another generation or two.

This is indeed a generation game. When I was going to a Soviet school back in the ‘60s everyone knew who Goebbels was. We might have been unaware of the emotional and ideological links between Nazi and Soviet chieftains, but we could place all the key names.

Russians of the current generation are allowed to learn anything they want, this side of the KGB archives. What they want to learn most of all is how to be Western.

However, they’re finding out the hard way that, though borrowing Western technology is easy, borrowing the Western ethos is not.

When we want to become like someone else we tend to suspend any critical judgment of our role model. That’s why whenever the Russians try to borrow Western ways, be it during Peter I’s, Alexander I’s or Putin I’s reign, they fail to realise that now is the wrong time.

Peter was only interested in Western trinkets, while ignoring the civilisation that had made them possible. Neither did he realise that those Western institutions whose outer shell he wished to import were already tottering in the West itself. It was early eighteenth century, and the unenlightening Enlightenment was beginning to sabotage the West.

By the time of Russia’s 1812 victory in the Napoleonic war, the Enlightenment had already turned the West into a lender from which one would have been well-advised to borrow with caution. After Waterloo all those dashing officers in the occupation force spent a year in Paris and came back screaming Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité at every corner. We all know what happened a century later.

Under Tsar Putin, the Russians yet again strive to learn from the West. Yet again they’re finding that it’s only the bad things that are easy to pick up. And even the good things lose some of their lustre when transplanted onto Russian soil.

Western materialism puts on manic fervour when in Russian hands. Commercial activity in the West may no longer be restrained by God’s laws, but at least it’s still largely controlled by the man-made variety.

The Russians, however, are showing that, when unchecked by laws, material pursuits turn into gangsterism. To make that point Putin and his cronies have successfully turned the country’s economy into an international crime syndicate.

Pornography, gambling, money laundering, protection rackets, tasteless palaces and megalomaniac yachts all carry Western labels in Russia, as does the dromomaniac urge to travel non-stop.

Meanwhile the Russians’ traditional dedication to learning is falling by the wayside. They’ve picked up Western pragmatism, and to them as to us education has become a purely utilitarian necessity (or not even, as the case may be).

Some types of knowledge can make you rich, some can’t. The knowledge of modern history clearly falls into the second category, so never mind Goebbels – feel the marketing courses.

As a result, one observes the Western kind of anomie brewing in Russia. Reducing education solely to the acquisition of marketable skills creates a chasm between the people and their civilisation. Those falling in are traditionally called barbarians, and that’s what we’re all becoming.

A note to the Russians: Don’t borrow things from the West, chaps. You’re a 1,000 years too late. Try to find your own way, one that would exclude Putin but include familiarity with the key figures of modern history.














Where Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sally Bercow converge

At first glance there isn’t much common ground.

Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose on 2 February at age 46, was an immensely talented thespian, arguably the best character actor of his generation.

At 44, Sally is almost Hoffman’s age, but her sole conspicuous accomplishment so far is being married to John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons and therefore one of Britain’s most important politicians.

Hoffman possessed a genuine gift – all he had to do to stay in the limelight was keep working with his customary dedication. He was an old-fashioned celebrity, one who owed his fame to actual attainment.

Sally is a newfangled celebrity wholly manufactured by the media. As such, she doesn’t rely on her nonexistent attainments to remain in the public eye: all she needs is the odd bit of scandal, the slimier the better.

Any decent person would be too proud to seek cheap, utterly undeserved publicity. But our Sally is a modern person, not a decent one. She has to appear in glossies and tabloids at whatever cost – this is a compulsion shared by most modern people devoid of inner content, which is to say most modern people.

Sally would consent to be photographed having an abortion, if that were the only way. Mercifully she doesn’t have to go so far. Considering her hubby-wubby, she can get on front pages with a minimum of effort.

To that end she has posed wearing only a bed sheet against the background of her husband’s House, flashed her underwear in public, appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, rolled blind drunk out of night clubs in full view of (probably) pre-alerted paparazzi, laughed as she was pawed from behind by unidentified men.

The other day she was photographed on one such occasion, wearing a silly wig and French-kissing a muscular, heavily tattooed black man about half her age. The picture made the front page of The Sun, whence it has spread over to both broadsheets and other tabloids.

Sex sells, goes the old truism, and Sally hasn’t been bashful about disclosing the intimate details of her life. In her youth she was “addicted to alcohol”, routinely drinking several bottles of wine every day. She’d then pick up strangers at clubs or pubs and “go home with them”, waking up in places, and with men, she didn’t know.

Now she’s trying to fight such urges, but sometimes they get the better of her. Sometimes they prove beyond her control.

If Sally were married to an accountant or, which is closer to her intellectual and moral level, a dope pusher, she wouldn’t make the papers. And even if she did something truly outrageous, she’d barely merit an inch on Page 74, with most readers dismissing her as a vulgar, drink-sodden slut.

But she’s married neither to an accountant nor a dope pusher. That’s why hacks seriously and sympathetically discuss her “condition”, talking about her “addictive personality”, “desire to be liked”, “inability to toe the line”, intolerable “pressure to conform” and other factors supposedly beyond her control.

The impression one gets is that Sally is an innocent victim of external circumstances, some of them purely medical. She has an addictive personality, doesn’t she? So she can’t help acting in a grossly obscene manner. It’s beyond her control.

Similar arguments are being put forth on behalf of Hoffman, a great actor but a flawed man. You see, he suffered from a disease, now unfortunately pandemic,  known as drug addiction. At age 22 he courageously went into a remission, then suffered a relapse.

When in the throes of his disease, Hoffman stuffed his flat with heroin-based substances not exactly approved by the FDA, MHRA or any other regulatory body. One of the substances proved too potent, and the actor was found dead with a syringe stuck into his vein.

Conclusion? Legalise drugs, which will prevent similar tragedies. The FDA would have done for Hoffman what he couldn’t possibly have done for himself. Protecting his own life was beyond his control.

The inference one derives is that alcoholism and drug addiction are basically medical conditions, like laryngitis or cancer. We catch dependence on booze or heroin the way we catch flu – it’s beyond our control.

However, there’s a noticeable difference between cancer and drug addiction: only the former is truly beyond our control. We can’t choose not to have cancer. We can choose not to mainline heroin.

This was established in a statistically reliable trial on millions of subjects by that great clinician Mao Zedong. One fine day Mao declared that anyone caught taking drugs would be summarily shot. As the threat was both dire and credible, it had a remarkable curative effect: within days the number of drug addicts in China dwindled away to zero. Somehow one doubts that a similar promise would have reduced the incidence of cancer as successfully.

Though they may have medical consequences, drug addiction and alcoholism are existential, not medical, problems. They are a result of a person exercising, or rather abusing, his God-given free will. Like any other freedom this one presents a choice between right and wrong, presupposing the possibility of a person opting for the latter.

People who choose to go wrong effectively throw God’s gift back into his face, just like our progenitors did in the garden of Eden. Nonetheless God forgives them and so must we. But spare us the medicalised psychobabble: such idiotic bien pensant nonsense is truly unforgivable.

Those who throw away their life, à la Hoffman, or every vestige of human dignity, à la Sally, deserve pity or, in Hoffman’s case, sorrow. But they don’t deserve sympathy: what happens to them isn’t beyond their control.








Words, words, words

Some people do exercises to get their day started, which is fine. We’re all entitled to eccentricities, and this isn’t the worst one.

It is, however, one of the most annoying. This obsession with one’s physique betokens sybaritic self-indulgence, a tilt towards the body and away from the mind.

One also detects a certain holier-than-thou attitude there, some claim to moral ascendancy. Yes, the well-toned chap seems to be saying, I pay attention to my body – unlike you.

I, the well-toned testament to the everlasting nature of amour propre, uphold the ideals of Greco-Roman antiquity. Mens sana in corpore sano, my old son.

Yeah, yeah, I reply with my usual contrariness. And what ideals would they be? Slavery? Paganism? Leaving newborn girls by the roadside to be devoured by wild beasts?

Your logic, he objects, doing his fiftieth press-up, is as soft as your muscles. What do you do first thing in the morning? After you’ve finished throwing up, that is?

First, I answer indignantly, I haven’t done that in the best part of 30 years. And second… well, here I have to admit to an eccentricity of my own.

Having abandoned all hope of ever cranking up my body into life in the morning, I try to get my mind started instead. To that, typically hopeless, end I do a couple of easy crosswords, eschewing the cryptic ones.

When asked for an explanation, I usually say that cryptic crosswords take too long to complete. Actually, and this is between you and me, I’m not smart enough, or rather British enough, to complete them.

I can just about complete the easy ones, though occasionally I’m let down by my conviction that words must always be used in their real meaning.

We get words second-hand, after they’ve been used by a chastening number of generations. To make verbal discourse possible, they had to agree on the meaning of words and stick to that agreement.

They, the generations that produced John Donne and Anthony Trollope, didn’t feel that words mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean. We, the generation that produced Don Brown and Joanna Trollope, think they must.

In fact, lexical laxity is a distinguishing feature of modernity, what with its understated education and overstated solipsism. Well, you know what I mean, says a modern man using ‘masterful’ to mean ‘masterly’. No, I don’t, my friend. Are you sure you do?

Look at today’s crossword, for example. One clue is “Make (someone) appear guilty (11)”. The compiler seems to think that this is what ‘incriminate’ means.

It doesn’t. ‘Incriminate’ means to charge with a crime or a fault, with a few variations. None of them signifies ‘make someone appear guilty’. In fact, many incriminated people appear as innocent as those newborn girls dumped by the Romans.

Another clue in the same pathetic puzzle: “Essential aspects (5-6)”, with me  expected to write in ‘nitty-gritty’. But that’s not what nitty-gritty means.

It means fine, basic details. Such details may be essential, but then again they may not. Anyone who has ever read a legal document will agree, as will anyone who has ever foolishly said ‘nice car’ to a boffin and received a lecture on McPherson struts and slip differentials in return.

Here’s another clue in the same crossword: ‘Deep admiration (7)’. Would you guess that the answer is supposed to be ‘respect’?

Admiration and respect are two different things. I respect our cleaning lady for being honest and conscientious, but I don’t admire her. I respect Andy Murray for having become the first Briton to win Wimbledon since God was young, but I certainly don’t admire the surly git.

It’s not just crosswords either. The other day a receptionist told me that the doctor would see me ‘momentarily’. That gave me a start: I feared the doctor would take one look at me and kick me out.

Then I realised that she had used the word not in its true meaning, which is ‘for a moment’, but in her voluntaristic meaning of ‘in a moment’. When such solecisms are pointed out to today’s lot, they usually say that language is but a means of communication.

That may be, though any reader of Shakespeare’s sonnets will argue that language isn’t just that. Still, no communication is possible if the speaker and listener can’t agree on the meaning of words.

All this sounds trivial, and so it would be if it weren’t a symptom of a general malaise. For voluntarism in language betokens voluntarism in thought. Anyone who uses words loosely thinks loosely, which makes him easy prey to those who use language to deceive.

Thus when a politician talks about helping the less fortunate, few realise he means dispossessing the more fortunate. When he mentions cooperation with our European partners, few understand this means overturning 2,000 years of British political history. And when he preaches respect for different cultures, we may overlook that he actually means destroying our own.

Much as we may despise conspiracy theories, one finds it hard to believe that our educational catastrophe is a result of honest errors. Some deliberate design is discernible behind the concerted drive to disengage people from their culture, including their language.

Our ‘leaders’ believe that stuffing the people with bread and keeping them half-catatonic with circuses will keep them sweet. The blighters only ever sound alarm bells when they realise that our moron-spewing ‘education’ produces millions of unemployable savages.

All those Poles and Estonians, some of them not speaking a word of English, come here and within a few months they take jobs the Britons aren’t qualified to do.

Since people don’t starve to death in civilised countries, the state has to feed those underachieving Britons, as a side benefit making them likely to vote for those who promise to feed them better.

Our ‘leaders’ generally think this is a fair deal but, with the economy being what it is, feeding a burgeoning army of illiterate idlers lowers the standard of living for everyone else.

Since those who thereby suffer still outnumber the loafers, an electoral calamity looms large. It’s only at this point that politicians try to paper over the spidery cracks in our ‘education system’.

Otherwise, reducing a great nation to anomic barbarism is perfectly fine with them. That’s actually a clue in another crossword: “savage (8)”. ‘Barbarian’ is supposed to be the answer, a typically imprecise one. 






Let’s boycott John Kerry, not Israel

The world is blessed with 206 independent states. Only one of them has its legitimacy, and indeed right to survive, questioned.

Some of the others routinely murder and torture their own citizens, control the press, reduce their population to cannibalism, present a direct threat to the world, change governments by violent means every few years, support international terrorism, reduce women to chattels, maim or murder homosexuals and adulterers.

The sole pariah state does none of such things. It’s a Western parliamentary democracy whose legitimacy is grounded in international law.

So what has Israel done to deserve its unique status and to merit the threat of a global boycott issued by John Kerry, the US Secretary of State?

Israel refuses to accept a ‘peace settlement’ on the terms imposed by terrorists who openly aim to wipe the country with everyone in it off the face of the earth. Would we accept such a settlement? Would any country? Would John Kerry?

Yet yesterday he saw fit to utter what the Israeli government correctly took as a veiled threat.

“You see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimisation campaign that has been building up,” pronounced the Secretary with a rhetorical lustre polished at Yale. “People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained.”

The tautological ‘today’s status quo’ refers to Israel occupying territories beyond her 1967 borders, into which progressive mankind and regressive terrorists want her to retreat.

Israel, you’ll recall, expanded beyond those borders after repelling an attempt to ‘drive her into the sea’, in the words of Nasser, the leader of said attempt.

In a short, sharp war a greatly outnumbered Israel routed the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan – against the background of global bleating about Israel being the aggressor.

Since then Israel has relinquished most of the captured territories, to which she had a right at least as legitimate as America’s to Texas or New Mexico.

She has hung on to some acreage for two reasons: economic and demographic (a dire shortage of space) and strategic (an equally dire need for a buffer against those whose murderous urges have never abated).

There’s not a single rational, moral or legal reason for Israel to succumb to pressure. Nor are there any such reasons for the pressure to be applied.

So why has the man in charge of US foreign policy gone along with the manifestly wicked, irrational drive to twist Israel’s arm into submission? Two isms spring to mind: anti-Semitism and progressivism.

The Israelis focused their response on the former, and one can hardly blame Jews for being sensitive to anti-Semitism. After all, that quaint prejudice reduced their number by half in my father’s generation.

In some circles Jews are slated for treating any criticism of Israel as a manifestation of anti-Semitism. Obviously not all such criticism is caused by Judophobia. But just as obviously some of it is.

Anti-Semitism, especially when it’s fashionably presented as anti-Zionism or else burning affection for the oppressed, clearly touches some sensitive chords in the hearts of many gentiles.

Their number may be large enough to tilt elections in favour of politicians expressing such sentiments – or at least not to hurt their electoral chances.

Predictably the call for boycotting Israel is sounded the loudest by the EU, which is to say the alliance driven by Germany and France, two countries not known for excessive Judophilia. Within that organisation one also finds many Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania, whose own record in treating the Jews is, well, ambivalent.

A growing number of European businesses and pension funds cut ties with Israeli firms linked to settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – with most publicised opposition to this outrage coming in the delectable shape of Scarlett Johansson. Over the weekend, Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, blacklisted Israel’s Bank Hapoalim because of its links to settlement activity.

Barack Hussein Obama has never been accused of a pro-Jewish bias either, and his policy towards Israel has been consistently more ‘even-handed’, which is to say pro-Muslim, than any other US president’s.

At the same time, he treats Iran with avuncular benevolence, a spirit in which Kerry is currently negotiating with his Iranian counterpart. While this love-in of mutual cordiality goes on, Iran’s nuclear programme is proceeding apace, and we all know who its first victim is likely to be.

Britain’s foreign policy in the Middle East has always been dominated by Arabists and driven by an emotional and, perhaps more important, pecuniary tendency to appease those who have oil at the expense of those who don’t.

The country’s academic community these days routinely boycotts Israeli scientists (of whom, incidentally, there are considerably more than in the entire Muslim world combined), barring them not only from research grants but even from attendance at international conferences.

In all these instances latent anti-Semitism overlaps with explicit progressivism, which is the major reason behind anti-Israel invective. Lefties, such as Obama, Kerry, every EU functionary and most British academics, are ideologically predisposed to champion the cause of ‘the oppressed’.

This group may be defined in any number of ways, but one ironclad qualification for membership is hatred, both private and institutional, of every aspect of the West.

Material prosperity is one such aspect, especially when achieved by widespread talent, enterprise and industry, rather than pumping oil sloshing underfoot. Because Israelis have a deservedly higher standard of living than the Palestinians, they don’t merit our sympathy.

Palestinians do, mainly because they can be seen as an international extension of our own welfare state. Our supplicants are adjudged to merit assistance even when their destitution is manifestly caused by sloth. Likewise, Palestinians, who spend most of their time not working but dreaming of eviscerating Jews, are perfectly cast in the role of victims.

All these factors combine for the likes of Kerry to feel that he must throw support behind the Palestinian cause by holding a gun to Israel’s head. He’s being applauded by the growing Muslim communities in the West, its home-grown anti-Semites and assorted lefties the world over.

This is the company in which we find ourselves thanks to our sage leaders. Let’s rejoice.