Ain’t no way to treat a lady

those_beautiful_veiled_eyesThe other day a young woman was beheaded in Afghanistan for going shopping without her husband.

This punishment strikes me as a trifle excessive, even though at times I do wish I could chaperone my wife to prevent her from taking excessive liberties with the credit card.

But hey, dura lex, sed lex as the Romans used to say. The law is harsh, but it is the law. Different religions have different laws, and all must be respected equally: that’s the essence of multiculturalism, of which I’m a lifelong champion.

Now if my objections to my wife playing fast and loose with credit cards are narrowly fiscal, Islamic law is much broader and more principled. A woman can’t leave home for any reason, unless accompanied by a close male relation.

Women are also banned from work, education and sartorial variety – the burqa makes them all look as if Halloween came early, and that’s classless uniformity at its best. Of course that way one is never sure until the moment of truth whether one’s date is Fatima or Ali, but an element of suspense ought to add excitement to the assignation.

Lest you might think some Muslim countries take a more liberal attitude to the fair sex, a Saudi man has just been sentenced to a year in prison for daring to suggest that men’s guardianship of women should be abolished as a bit archaic. The sentence strikes me as humane by Muslin standards: they could have chopped various portions of the rogue’s anatomy off, but commendably didn’t.

Saudi Arabia has got one thing right: women aren’t allowed to drive there. Anyone will sympathise who has ever sworn at a woman swerving all over the road or taking five minutes to back into a parking space big enough for an articulated lorry.

However, with a bit of an overkill, neither can a Saudi woman study, travel or work unless explicitly allowed to do so by a male family member, usually father, husband or brother. I have an image in my head of a 25-year-old Fatima asking her 12-year-old brother Ali for permission to go shopping, and it pleases the confirmed multiculturalist (and incipient misogynist) in me.

It also pleases me to notice that Christianity has never gone so far in keeping women in their place. St Paul, for example, didn’t go further than offering this eminently sensible, positively liberal advice: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience…”

No mention of beheading, dismemberment, lashing or punitive rape – but then again, we have our culture, the Muslims have theirs, and who’s to say which one is better? Certainly not our commendably liberal government.

Some Muslim countries, such as Bahrain, are perfectly westernised. However, even there a woman working as a sports journalist was the other day shot for no apparent reason other than being a woman working as a sports journalist. Westernisation must have its limits, as any denizen of Leicester will confirm.

The question remains as to how many people raised in the Muslim world would enrich our culture as much as our successive governments have promised. Even such a passionate champion of multi-culti rectitude as me can’t get rid of a few residual doubts. Then again, we’re governed by much cleverer people than me or, for that matter, you.

I recall making a typically frivolous remark a few years ago, at lunch with a lovely and formidable woman, a former Tory minister. “The Muslims,” she said, “terribly mistreat woman.” “Yes,” I replied, “but in spite of that it’s an awful religion”.

Since the venerable politician is a bit short on sense of humour, it took her a few seconds to realise I was joking. But, reading about these recent events, one realises that this savagery is really not a laughing matter. If anything can be off limits for laughter, that is.

I drove to my local French village the other day, where I was greeted by a large sign Bienvenus aux migrants (migrants welcome). The world is well and truly off its rocker.

Where does speech come from?

wolfeTom Wolfe is a natural phenomenon. Being able to produce at age 85 – hell, at any age – a coruscating essay like Kingdom of Speech smashes all sorts of stereotypes.

But then smashing stereotypes is Wolfe’s stock in trade. I know many superb journalists, but I can’t think offhand of anyone else who has created a whole new genre of journalism.

Wolfe has. It’s called New Journalism, and it blurs the line between literature and essay to a point where it isn’t clear where one ends and the other begins.

When Wolfe oversteps the line into the area of journalistic novel, he is, to me, less convincing, albeit still eminently readable. But one step back into novelised journalism, and Wolfe is without equals. He’s even without close seconds.

I’ve read just about his whole output, and my own literary path is signposted with such milestones as Radical Chic, The Painted Word, From Bauhaus to Your House, The Purple Decade, Hooking Up and so forth.

No turn is left unstoned – Wolfe is merciless to every modern perversion and its purveyors, as he now is to Darwin and Chomsky in Kingdom of Speech, an essay attempting to answer the question in my title.

Actually Wolfe’s answer comes rather late in the book. The first two thirds is a systematic thrashing of Darwin, with every haymaker landing right on the button.

I myself have got into that ring with just about every book I’ve written, but even so I’ve learned a few new facts.

For example, I didn’t know that ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ Huxley never believed Darwin’s slipshod theory and only devoted his life to shilling for it because it rationalised his own strident atheism: arguing that man is nothing but an animal is tantamount to delivering a redundancy note to God.

But the story of Alfred Russel Wallace is well known, and it drives a stake through the heart of Evolution, which Darwin and his champions have tried to pass for the Theory of Everything.

Wallace wrote a paper on natural selection (transmutation, as it was then called) and naively sent it to Darwin, seeking his help in introducing it to the Royal Society. Little did he know that Darwin had been thinking along the same lines for 25 years.

The Great Man, however, had refrained from publication because he feared that such a manifestly atheist work would hurt his glorious career as traditional naturalist. Yet Darwin, writes Wolfe, was a Gentleman, which Wallace wasn’t. So Darwin had the pack loaded.

Sir Charles Lyell and other Gentlemen of the Royal Society closed ranks behind Darwin and persuaded him to knock off an abstract of a book yet unwritten. The abstract was then presented at the same session as Wallace’s completed paper – alphabetically. Since the D comes before the W, Darwin reaped the ensuing harvest of adulation, while generously acknowledging Wallace’s honest but implicitly inferior efforts.

Wallace was at the time catching flies in Malaysia and had no clue about the unfolding tragicomedy. When the flycatcher did become aware of it, diffident man that he was, he didn’t argue against Darwin’s priority, choosing to remain a footnote to the hastily written Origin.

So far it was all good knockabout stuff, as typical of the cutthroat scientific establishment then as it is now. But a few years later Wallace did something that today’s Darwinists don’t like to mention.

He blew out of the water Darwin’s cosmogony, such as it was. Before things evolve, they have to be. So where did Evolution start from? Here’s Wolfe at his best:

“Darwin had apparently never thought of it quite that way before. Long pause… and finally, ‘Ohhh,’ he said, ‘probably from four or five cells floating in a warm pool somewhere.’ One student pressed him further. He wanted to know where the cells came from…”

No one, not Darwin, not Dawkins – no one – has answered this question in an intelligible way. Wolfe then proceeds to show that Darwin’s Evolution fails every one of the standard tests for a scientific hypothesis:

No one has ever observed and recorded this phenomenon. Other scientists can’t replicate it. The theory isn’t falsifiable, in the Karl Popper sense. Scientists can’t make prediction based on it. It doesn’t illuminate hitherto unknown areas of science.

Wolfe then lands another crushing blow: “Next to genetic theory, the Theory of Evolution came off not as a science but as a messy guess – baggy, boggy, soggy, and leaking all over the place.”

Wallace identified another gushing leak in Darwin’s cosmogony. He disavowed Darwin’s (and his own) theory because it couldn’t possibly explain the appearance of the human brain and its most conspicuous function: speech.

According to Darwin, natural selection delivers only meliorating characteristics necessary for physical survival. The brain obviously doesn’t answer this description, wrote Wallace. People don’t need to write sonnets to survive physically. Quite the contrary, that ability may well imperil physical survival. And in any case, it took man millions of years to learn how to use a tiny, if still significant portion, of his brain. He managed to survive famously – so why did the brain become so intricate?

Darwin’s take on speech was frankly risible: in The Descent of Man, he claimed that human speech had evolved from onomatopoeic gibberish, man trying to imitate sounds made by birds. Such musings are strictly for the birds: it’s easier to believe in Genesis than in birdsong evolving into a Shakespeare sonnet, Aquinas’s Summa or even Darwin’s Origin.

Wallace, being a scientist first and foremost, accepted that problem and realised that Evolution wasn’t the Theory of Everything. At best, it was a theory of some things, and not even a definitive one.

No such problems for Darwin. By frankly admitting in his preface to The Descent of Man that his aim was to prove that God didn’t exist, he stopped being a scientist and became a propagandist, typologically closer to Lenin’s League of Militant Atheists than, say, to Watson and Crick.

Having brilliantly shown what the origin of speech isn’t, Wolfe then proceeds to show what it is. That animates his frontal assault on Noam Chomsky, one of the founders of structural linguistics, whose theories tortured me at university.

According to Chomsky, every person’s brain contains a ‘language organ’, more or less the same for everyone. “To Chomsky,” writes Wolfe, “it didn’t matter what a child’s first language was. Whatever it was, every child’s language organ could use the ‘deep structure’, ‘universal grammar’, and ‘language acquisition device’ he was born with to express what he had to say,… whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese.”

Wolfe mercilessly mocks Chomsky and his theories, exciting my schadenfreude no end. Like Wolfe, I detest gurus of any kind, and leftie gurus like Chomsky especially. However, I’d more charitably describe this particular theory as dubious, rather than worthless – especially if I had Wolfe’s problem of offering a viable alternative.

Here he co-opts the anthropological linguist Daniel Everett, who spent years among the Pirahã people, a hunter-gatherer group of the Amazon Rainforest and the most primitive tribe extant.

Everett was the first non-Pirahã to learn their language, which couldn’t have been unduly hard. The language has all of 500 words, heavily relies on whistling as a means of communication and has only one grammatical tense, the present. The Pirahãs are incapable of abstract thought and therefore don’t need words to express them. Their way of wishing someone goodnight is saying “Don’t sleep, there are snakes” (the title of Everett’s book).

Everett disagrees with Chomsky that language is innate. He argues that language is like the bow and arrow, a tool to solve a problem as it arises. Language, in other words, is a cultural artefact developed in parallel with culture.

Wolfe accepts Everett’s view uncritically, which to me somewhat mars his dazzling essay. Everett implicitly countenances Darwin’s theory by treating the Pirahã as a throwback to primordial times, an early stage in the development of man.

That presupposes a steady progress: in one era, out the other. But there’s no evidence for any such process. There exists, however, quite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

For example, the earliest known sites of human habitation show that all those thousands of years ago people were already as intelligent as any Darwinist and quite a bit more artistic. Also, rather than replacing one another with kaleidoscopic finality, human types happily coexisted. For example, Neanderthals overlapped with Homo sapiens by up to 5,400 years, with much crosspollination going on.

By saying that language is but an artefact, if one without which no other artefact would have been created, Wolfe not only accepts a clearly Darwinist argument, something he spent so many pages debunking, but also falls into a logical trap.

If language is an artefact without which no other artefacts would have been created, then it has to be an innate property. Man simply wouldn’t have survived the millions of years it supposedly took for language to develop without at least some primitive tools essential for his survival.

Wolfe refuses to accept, possibly for pragmatic reasons, that the creation of language is inseparable from the creation of man, which in turn is inseparable from general cosmogony. And no secular theory can match the intelligibility of the cosmogony story presented in Genesis.

I happen to believe it’s true, but such clearly retrograde credulity isn’t essential to realising that the story adds up philosophically and even evidentially (certainly better than any all-encompassing secular theory).

Much as I admire Wolfe and despise Chomsky, the latter is in my judgement closer to the truth: language was born at the same time man was. Trying to explain it in any other way is digging an intellectual hole for oneself.

That’s what Wolfe does, but that by no means diminished my delight in reading his idiosyncratic prose. Show me a writer who doesn’t envy Wolfe, and I’ll show you a hypocrite.

And I didn’t even know he was ill

georgemichaelWhat an educational year 2016 has been, largely thanks to several front-page obituaries for great ‘artistes’ I had never heard of.

George Michael was one such, almost. Although I had heard his name, it was mainly in connection with various drug and sex scandals. I also knew he had something to do with pop music (an oxymoron, as far as I’m concerned).

Yet until today I hadn’t heard him sing a single note – and I still haven’t. That is, overcoming physical revulsion, I’ve made the effort of listening to a few of his songs. But I can’t describe Michael as a singer of notes.

Notes, and what they convey, are sung by musicians, which Michael wasn’t. He was a shaman of a pernicious cult. Every sound intoned by such shamans screams defiance of our culture, emphatically including music.

The couple of pieces I’ve heard suggest a modest ability, sufficient for gigs at seedy clubs in the dangerous parts of town, where one never goes except to indulge a perverse taste for slumming.

Yet judging by the tributes densely packing the front pages of formerly respectable newspapers, Michael was a musical genius, the equal of Bach and Beethoven, if expressing himself in a different genre. Here are some titbits:

“Troubled genius…”

“I’ve loved George Michael for as long as I can remember. He was an absolute inspiration. Always ahead of his time.”

“Honest, genuine talent.”

“…loss of another talented soul.”

“Heartbroken… Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved.”

“…the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.” (What happened to ‘artiste’? ‘Artist’ is so-o-o-o twentieth century.)

“What a beautiful voice he had and his music will live on as a testament to his talent.”

“A lot of us owe him an unpayable debt.” (‘A lot of us’ have bought 100 million albums by Michael. Surely that counts as at least partial repayment?)

“Another Great Artist leaves us.” Capitalised, no less.

Many weeping obituaries talk about Michael’s life, which has been – what shall we call it, in the nil nisi bonum spirit? – rather uninhibited. By his own admission he smoked up to 25 joints a day, was addicted to crack and for a long period had a new man in his life on average every five days.

In 1998, Michael was busted for performing ‘a lewd act’ in a Beverly Hills public lavatory, the kind of site that witnessed many of his conquests. He called the act “subconsciously deliberate”, as if soliciting sex next to the urinals could have been accidental.

Then there were arrests for drug offences (one for smoking crack in yet another public lavatory), a prison sentence for driving (under the influence) his SUV into a Snappy Snaps shop in Hampstead – all in all, ‘uninhibited’ is a fair description of Michael’s life.

Another description is suicidal, for one doesn’t have to be a psychiatrist to realise that Michael was systematically trying to kill himself, finally succeeding at age 53.

That’s another proof that he had nothing to do with music, for no great composer has ever killed himself (Tchaikovsky’s suicide is disputed). There’s something about music qua music that discourages that sort of thing.

However, for today’s quasi-musical shamans dying of old age is somehow illogical. Such bourgeois conformism would compromise the religious-surrogate aspect of pop. It’s not just the shamans’ vocal excretions or bodily gyrations that make up their appeal, but the totality of their lives.

While, say, the Beatles still tried to preserve a semblance of musicality, their followers have abandoned any such attempts. More and more, pop appeals not just to the darker side of human nature but to the sulphuric swamp concealed underneath.

The appeal continues to be quasi-religious, in the same sense in which the antichrist is the negative image of Christ. While Jesus had to die on the cross to fulfil his mission, the hypostases of the new god commit suicide or die of alcoholism, drug overdose, AIDS or, if they’re truly blessed, a combination thereof.

All those Sid Viciouses, Freddie Mercuries, David Bowies and George Michaels aren’t just dead pop performers. They’re martyrs at the altar of our anomic modernity. Pop goes the weasel of our culture.

At the risk of upsetting some of my readers, I dare say even if a decent person doesn’t mind the ‘music’, he should be turned off by the cultish, often overtly satanic, aspects of pop.

Purveyors of the new cult cultivate this image consciously – they know that hints at the devil pay handsome dividends. That’s why they perform in clouds of billowing smoke symbolising hell with a typical lack of subtlety, wear predominantly black (sometimes crimson) clothes, sport dark glasses making them look sinister – whatever works.

Aesthetic sense isn’t a prerequisite of a decent person, but moral sense is. And it’s that faculty that ought to be offended by the pop cult.

George Michael, RIP.

Selling out Christmas

oxfordstreetMany shops are still open on Christmas Day, and stampeding throngs are buying up everything in sight.

But there’s anticipatory weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in hell, where Mammon lives. For Christmas sales will sooner or later end.

There will be other sales, numerous other opportunities to inject new energy into the devout worship of Mammon. But no sale is quite like a Christmas sale.

So hurry! The chance of a lifetime! Discounts on everything! Today and Boxing Day! Including, and this is the best part, a 100 per cent reduction on the meaning of Christmas.

Churches stay open too, for old times’ sake, but their traffic is a trickle compared to the mighty torrent in Oxford Street. Some churches have found a solution: eliminating God from their liturgy and joyously advertising an ingenious marketing ploy.

This is the discount to end all discounts: Come and have a good time! Take the weight off your feet, blistered by sprints from shop to shop. No charge! You won’t have to ponder, repent, worship, even listen to those words no one uses anymore.

Come in, belt out some songs in a Karaoke sing-along, kiss whomever you’re sitting next to (they may be ‘well tasty’, you never know your luck) – and then off you go again, pounding the pavements in search of the real deal.

Even the cultured atheists among my friends are aghast. Perceptive people, they sense that this rampant materialism runs so contrary to our cultural, social and spiritual tradition that it’ll eventually spell a disaster.

The till, they acknowledge, is a poor substitute for the collection box. We must take Christianity seriously, even if no clever people can take Christ seriously. That way we can dump the outdated superstition while keeping all the good things: social cohesion, morality, spiritual content to our lives.

The agricultural equivalent of their craving would to be sever the roots of an apple tree while still hoping to enjoy the apples. Nature doesn’t work that way. Neither does life.

Christianity was able to provide such good things as social cohesion, morality and spiritual content to our lives, while creating the greatest culture the world has ever known, not because it was a clever way of keeping the masses in check. It was able to do so because it’s true. Or at least because most people believed it was.

Taking Christ out of Christianity will have the same effect on the religion as taking Christianity out of life will have on society: both will first degenerate and then die.

Unless my cultured friends believe that Christmas is the day on which God was incarnated to redeem our sins, Christianity won’t do them any good. Nor will it do any good to a society compulsively obsessed with conspicuous consumption.

A society obsessed with consumption will become consumptive. And no palliative treatment for this disease exists.

Cultured people even wish one another a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year – prosperous, not virtuous or spiritual. They don’t even sense a contradiction there, but then their minds knock off for as long as it takes my atheist friends to ponder such subjects.

Christ didn’t come into the world 2016 years ago to make us prosperous. He came to die for our sins, thereby making us good enough to be saved. Hence our popular greeting is an oxymoron or, in musical terms, a jarring, cacophonous discordance.

Oh, I know my atheist friends are too clever to believe any such superstitious nonsense. This isn’t what clever people believe.

They believe that a few molecules created themselves out of nothing in some primordial soup and then – chaotically, totally at random – came together in a larger entity called matter and decided to live according to rational laws.

Ex nihilo nihil fit? Nonsense. Of course something can bloody well come out of nothing, say my clever friends (they may not actually say it, but that’s the only thing their atheism can imply).

And that something is perfectly capable of organising itself – no outside help needed, thank you very much – according not only to rational natural laws but also according to aesthetic and moral ones. In due course, matter develops an irresistible urge to build cathedrals and write the music sung inside.

My cultured friends admire the architecture of the cathedrals; they love to listen to the music and even to play it. Sensitive souls, they detect the presence of divine reason behind these, but they can’t identify it as such.

As far as they’re concerned, all those nice things began with a random, purposeless physical event. Yes, the world functions according to universal, rational laws. But that, to my clever friends, somehow doesn’t have to presuppose the existence of a rational law-giver. Those things just happen, best not to think about it.

Those of us who do think about it must pray for those who don’t. For by denying divine intelligence they discount their own. If they don’t reconsider, eventually the discounted commodity will have to be written off altogether.

The only alternative is to put Christ back into Christmas – even if this means a smaller and less frantic traffic in the High Street.

Happy Christmas!

Prince Charles: Jack-of-all-faiths, Supreme Governor of none

charleshrhBritain is constitutionally a Christian commonwealth, complete with its own state religion (none of that nonsense about separating religion and state).

Our Queen – God bless her – took the oath to uphold the received confession of her realm. Her official title, Defender of the Faith, goes back to Henry VIII, when he was still a good Catholic.

Thus the constitutional (I know I repeat this word too often, but it’s rather important) remit of our monarch, regardless of any personal idiosyncrasies, is to maintain Britain as what it has been for thirteen centuries: a Christian country.

Now I hope that Her Majesty will live for ever, but, in the statistically probable event that she won’t, she’ll be succeeded by HRH Prince Charles. And the omens aren’t good.

If his public pronouncements are anything to go by, HRH is ecumenical to the point of being a rank atheist. Years ago he amended the title the Pope bestowed on Henry VIII to say that he’d be not defender of the faith, but “defender of faith”, meaning all faiths.

The thought crossed my mind then that – and I hope MI5 aren’t on my trail – HRH was so staggeringly ignorant that he simply didn’t realise that some religions aren’t so much different as mutually exclusive. Defending them all means that they’re all so similar as not to make a difference. In other words, they’re all equally irrelevant.

As a private subject of Her Majesty, Charles Mountbatten-Windsor, HRH is perfectly entitled to his opinion. As heir to the throne, he isn’t, or at least he should keep it to himself: his duty is to uphold the ancient constitution of the realm.

Anyway, one could put that pronouncement down to an unfortunate slip of the tongue, possibly influenced by overeducation in Latin: the original Latin title (Fidei defensor) didn’t feature the definite article.

Yet all such hopes were summarily dispelled by HRH’s pronouncement earlier this week, when he commanded us to think, in this festive season, not only of Jesus but also of Muhammad:

“Normally at Christmas we think of the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder though if this year we might remember how the story of the nativity unfolds, with the fleeing of the holy family to escape violent persecution. And we might also remember that when the prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina he was seeking the freedom for himself and his followers to worship.

“Whichever religious path we follow, the destination is the same – to value and respect the other person, accepting their right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God.”

I hope our future Charles III remains in good health, and by no means do I wish him harm, but one is tempted to recall what happened to Charles I for a considerably milder transgression against the constitution of the realm.

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton ever so slightly, Christianity and Islam are very much alike, especially Islam.

If HRH’s earlier intention to defend all faiths (Pantheism? Catharism?) betokened a sketchy command of comparative religion, this pronouncement reveals something that only respect for his office would prevent one from calling pig ignorance.

For, at a stretch, it could be said that Muhammad had preached something resembling peace and freedom before he moved from Mecca to Medina. After his migration, the period that HRH singled out, he started to preach and perpetrate mass murder.

That’s when that illiterate nomad dictated the more blood-thirsty verses of the Koran, some 300 of them. The time for talk had passed, now it was time for action.

“Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends…,” dictated Muhammad (5:51), and he started his reign when, exactly upon moving from Mecca to Medina, he had 900 Jews massacred, beheading many of them with his own trusted sabre.

Within the next century or so, the cult inspired by his teaching carved out a caliphate greater in size than the Roman Empire at its peak. Since then the religion supposedly following the same path as the one started by a crucified martyr, whose birth we’re about to celebrate, has murdered the better part of 300 million people.

Contrary to what HRH believes (or claims – an important difference), the destination of all religious paths is far from the same. It’s beyond ignorance to aver that the Muslim path leads to “respect [for] the other person, accepting their right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God”.

Muslims, sir, have never accepted our right to worship God. Forget history; just follow the current events. Muslims, sir, are murdering thousands of Christians – today! – for the simple reason that they are Christians. And they kill mercilessly any apostate from their awful cult.

There’s a lot to pray for at Christmas mass tonight. But one prayer should be for the continued good health of Her Majesty. God only knows what havoc her heir will wreak.

Meanwhile, my heartfelt Season’s Greetings to all the non-Christians among my readers. I realise you can’t celebrate the miracle of Incarnation, but you may still want to commemorate the birthday of the greatest civilisation the world has ever known.

And to the Christians among you, have a blessed Christmas and a peaceful, loving New Year.

King’s is a royal pain

kingscollegeThe other day I wrote about an outburst of righteous, or rather self-righteous, student wrath at King’s.

The eruption followed a rumbling five-year campaign by a pressure group affectionately called ‘gay-stapo’ in some quarters. Once the lava of indignation splashed out, the photograph of Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was removed from the university’s ‘Wall of Fame’ in the Strand.

According to the aforementioned pressure group, Lord Carey had forfeited any claim to the honour by having opposed homomarriage, something he was obliged to do, if only institutionally.

King’s, in case the outlanders among you are wondering, is no poxy school somewhere in the sticks. According to 2016/17 QS World University Rankings, this university, one of England’s oldest, is in the world’s top 25. It boasts 6,800 staff shining the light of their wisdom on more than 27,600 students from some 150 countries.

All in all, King’s is a useful benchmark of England’s academic life, and I felt the mark was sliding down with precipitous speed – largely under the influence of young fanatics whose main reason for attending seems to be struggle for the liberation of… well, not mankind these days, but every base passion the fanatics deem worthy.

They are successfully browbeating the increasingly spineless regents into meek acquiescence, so far falling just short of public mea culpas accompanied by self-flagellation and most unflattering self-descriptions.

Things haven’t quite got as bad as at Soviet universities in the ‘20s or Chinese ones in the 60’s (when students abused professors not only verbally), but the vector is clearly observable. It’s pointing in the direction of a refuse heap, of the kind that would make passers-by pinch their nostrils.

Anyway, my article generated some interesting responses, with one reader objecting that “student activists of any kind have as much influence on the general student population as a fart on a force nine gale (as the saying goes).”

I respectfully disagreed, citing a few flagrant examples of said influence in action. Those, I suggested, testified to it being not so much flatulent as emetic.

However, having left the proverbial groves decades ago, and in another country, I couldn’t offer any first-hand insights. Those were helpfully provided by another reader, one of those youngsters who at times make me moderate my pessimism about the country’s future. Here’s what he wrote:

“I always keep up with your blogs, which I look forward to every day, but with this one I thought it might be worth adding whatever insight I could from within.

“I’m currently studying Theology at King’s, and the influence of the ‘gay-stapo’ at the university has grown noticeably even in the few years I’ve been here. Same with the ‘anti-racist’ student activists.

“It was a fellow Theology student in my year who campaigned successfully for the introduction of ‘gender-neutral’ toilets, and the creation of the ‘Wall of BAME’ (Black And Minority Ethnic). This latter phenomenon was in response to a row of pictures in the main corridor of female academics, none of whom were sufficiently brown for this person’s liking.

“Unfortunately this obsession with superficiality and victimhood has infested the university, and its leading figures are largely succumbing to it. The most farcical thing, for my money, was the drama concerning the apparent racism behind the lower average marks achieved by BAME students at King’s.

“When marking essays, our professors are given nothing but a student’s candidate number, which is changed regularly. How anonymous marking is supposed to nevertheless encourage racism is beyond me, but this Theology student and his followers decided that walking out of lectures was the answer. No doubt this improved their marks.

“He eventually quit the course, denouncing King’s as a ‘racist institution’ in spite of its efforts to keep step with the progressive timetable imposed by himself and others.

“More recently, we were encouraged by the Theology & Religious Studies Department to fill out a survey which asked us for our details concerning ethnicity and sexuality, before posing a range of questions about whether we felt that the Theology course represented us appropriately.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, plans are now in the pipeline to change the course to ‘Theology, Religion and Culture’, coming into effect in 2018 so the head of department tells me, apparently to broaden the appeal and range of the course. Straightforward ‘Theology’ is hard enough to find nowadays for potential undergraduates, and even the course as it is now has its failings and glaring omissions. There is, for example, no module on medieval theology whatsoever.

“A good friend of mine also doing Theology, at the same time a ‘Student Rep’, provides some official feedback to the department regarding the discontent all this has caused for those of us who retain some sense, but apparently his views are very much in the minority when it comes to the people who actually govern the direction of the department and the university.

“As you know, there is no debating with these people ultimately; the only thing one gets out of it is abuse.

“Anyway, it gives us something to pray about and struggle against.”

Indeed. If such is the state of affairs in Theology, one wonders how things are at Sociology. Doesn’t bear thinking about, that, at least not this close to Christmas.

Lord Carey against “the diversity of our university”

archbishopcareyAdorning the façade of King’s College London is a ‘wall of fame’ displaying the portraits of the most deserving alumni.

One has to believe that by any reasonable standards an alumnus who rises to the highest ecclesiastical post in the land, that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is deserving enough.

Yet a five-year campaign by homosexual activists, collectively known as ‘gay-stapo’, has just succeeded in removing Lord Carey’s picture from the wall. That portrait was expunged because it failed to “capture the diversity of our university community”, meaning Lord Carey staunchly opposed homomarriage.

Now anyone who refuses to be stamped in the dirt by the steamroller of our PC modernity is a criminal by common – and increasingly more often legal – definition. Yet one can still scrape together enough audacity to suggest that accusing a Christian prelate of opposing homomarriage is tantamount to accusing him of being, well, a Christian prelate.

The scriptural position on both homosexuality and marriage is so unequivocal that any priest who fails to oppose homomarriage ought to be summarily unfrocked and ideally excommunicated. Lord Carey thus remained within the confines of his remit.

That, however, doesn’t make him guilty of one of the greatest crimes against PC sensibilities, ‘homophobia’. Not to be pedantic, I won’t emphasise the simple lexical fact that ‘phobia’ means an uncontrollable fear, not hatred, which the term ‘homophobia’ is supposed to imply nowadays.

But however one defines it, I’m sure Lord Carey isn’t a sufferer. I’m certain he doesn’t turn pale with fear at the sight of, say, the Tory MP Alan Duncan.

Nor, as a Christian, can he possibly hate Mr Duncan, at least not for his open homosexuality. However, he can – indeed, as a Christian, must – hate Mr Duncan’s homosexuality. The distinction has been valid ever since St Augustine wrote “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum”, which is roughly translated as “Hate the sin but love the sinner”.

For any Christian, rejection of homosexuality (and consequently homomarriage) is a matter of doctrine, not personal choice. Yet the doctrine also prescribes the ultimate virtue of Christianity: loving not only one’s neighbour but also one’s enemy, not only a saint but also a sinner.

Regrettably, such distinctions are lost on the homosexual stormtroopers of King’s, led by Ben Hunt and inspired by the patron saint (well, sinner) of homosexual activism Peter Tatchell. Hunt made the removal of Lord Carey’s portrait part of his manifesto when he stood for the post of LGBT officer, whatever that means.

He’s now president of King’s student union, using the power of his office to promote his parochial interests and merit a pat on the back from Tatchell himself, who commented: “No university should celebrate a public figure who fought so hard against gay equality.”

What amuses me is that Tatchell’s stormtroopers claim they’re in favour of tolerance. This side of Khmer Rouge and ISIS, I can’t think offhand of a less tolerant group than homosexual activists. It’s like Julius Streicher accusing his opponents of racial prejudice.

Some four years ago I found myself on the receiving end of their vaunted tolerance when I published this article in The Daily Mail on-line magazine:

The gist was criticism of Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, who had allowed a campaign for homomarriage to appear on buses, while banning a rebuttal by Christian groups. Fair’s fair, I suggested. What’s sauce for the homosexual goose should also be sauce for the Christian gander.

In passing, I referred to homosexuality as an ‘aberration’, which it is, if only in strictly numerical terms. In retrospect, I could have couched the argument in more anodyne terms, but mine was indeed an argument, not a harangue.

Within hours all hell broke loose. On the evening of the same day my picture and all the relevant contact details appeared in Tatchell’s propaganda sheet called PinkNews. The paper demanded that all practitioners of what I criminally called an aberration express their feelings, all in keeping with the tolerance they swore by.

Come morning, I had received thousands of balanced and well-reasoned counterarguments, along the lines of “Eat sh*it and die, you c**t”. Also coming in thick and fast were death threats, expressed in the same refined idiom.

One chap displayed a diagnostic ability of enviable attainment, saying he’d joyously kill me, but there was no need because, judging by my photograph, I wasn’t long for this world anyway. Since the picture was taken at the time I had what was believed to be terminal cancer, I silently applauded my correspondent’s perspicacity.

Coming in the wake of personal communications were some twenty PCC complaints, threatening The Mail with lawsuits the size of Belgium’s GDP. In the good, if recent, tradition of British journalism, I was thrown to the wolves immediately – no one can be so intolerant of tolerance and get away with it.

Now the same gang has succeeded in kicking out not insignificant me but Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury. Much as I’d like to, I can’t blame them – that would be like blaming a dog for chasing a cat around the block.

But I can blame a society that allows openly subversive nonentities to win their pathetic little victories. Such a society has its survival imperilled – and I’m not sure it deserves to survive.

Two words on the murder in Ankara: Franz Ferdinand

archdukeferdinandA Russian commentator has posted this laconic comment on the murder of Ambassador Karlov by yet another exponent of the religion of peace.

That was the briefest but far from only parallel drawn by various observers between the assassination of Ambassador Karlov and that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914. Since the earlier event set off the First World War, the implication is sinister: there may be war.

But between whom and whom? Will Russia incinerate Istanbul the same way it flattened Aleppo, children’s playgrounds and all?

Such a response wouldn’t be without precedent. One of Putin’s spiritual forebears, Genghis Khan, would wipe out the entire population of a city where his envoys had been harmed. He himself never killed other countries’ ambassadors.

Even such voracious murderers as Stalin and Hitler didn’t count any ambassadors among their victims. After Hitler’s ambassador Count Schulenburg declared war on the Soviet Union, Stalin sent him back to Germany, where the privilege of killing Schulenburg was exercised by Hitler himself in 1944.

It’s also true that, regardless of who pulled the trigger, the host country is at least partly to blame for the murder of a diplomat. Hence, should Putin choose to treat the crime as a casus belli, he’d have some justification. But why should he choose to?

Putin’s official bogeyman isn’t Turkey but the West, especially the US. Whether that designation will survive President Trump’s inauguration remains to be seen, but that’s how things are at the moment.

True, as a NATO member, Erdoğan’s Turkey may be regarded as tangentially a Western country. Moreover, a year ago it committed a hostile act by downing a Russian SU-24.

However, since then Russia’s policy towards Turkey has been that of rapprochement, clearly aimed at splitting NATO and weakening its southern flank. That policy is consistent with the Russian strategy of sowing discord among Western countries, thereby creating troubled waters in which the KGB junta could profitably fish.

The first noises coming out of Russia suggest that the policy hasn’t changed, and Putin is trying to shoehorn the murder into the overall strategic pattern.

Within hours of the assassination Russia’s senator Klintsevich opined that “…it is highly likely that representatives of foreign NATO secret services are behind it. What has happened is a true provocation, a challenge.”

“They did not shoot at Karlov. They shot at Russia,” echoed Senator Kosachev. He didn’t specify who ‘they’ were, but contextually it could only be the dastardly NATO members.

Russian foreign minister Lavrov clarified for those slow on the uptake. Whoever was behind the murder, he explained, intended to “undermine” the normalisation of relations between Moscow and Ankara. According to Lavrov, that was the conclusion reached by Putin and Erdoğan in their telephone conversation.

Putin was quick to confirm: “The crime that was committed is without doubt a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations and disrupting the peace process in Syria that is being actively advanced by Russia, Turkey and Iran.”

Evidently said normalisation isn’t being disrupted by Turkey’s support for the Sunni cannibals wishing to eviscerate Assad, whereas Putin doesn’t care how many children he must bomb to keep Assad in power. Obviously a higher purpose trumps temporary divergences.

Should we apply the ancient Cui Bono? principle, NATO would be exculpated this side of Putin’s frenzied propaganda. Yet both Erdoğan and Putin have something to gain.

Erdoğan is already blaming his major opponent, the exiled cleric Gulen. The cleric is screaming his innocence, but Erdoğan can use this pretext to round up those dissidents who miraculously are still at large after the failed July coup.

Putin’s possible benefits are far greater, even apart from laying the blame on NATO. For Moscow, Ankara and Tehran are indeed negotiating to broker some deal over Syria. And Moscow’s position has been weakened by the brutality of its indiscriminate carpet bombing of Aleppo.

Putin is being seen by many as a war criminal, a reputation he has been studiously fostering throughout his reign. Now he can shift that perception by positioning himself as a victim, one who has paid for his place at the table with Karlov’s blood.

Does this mean that either Erdoğan or Putin might have underwritten the assassination? I wouldn’t put this past either gentleman, knowing their moral fibre and track record.

The circumstances of the murder add weight to such speculations. Neither the Russians nor the Turks provided any security worthy of the name. Yet a government bombing Aleppo children must expect that some grown-ups would want to kill its diplomats.

However, the murderer managed not only to pump eight rounds into Karlov’s back but also to deliver a speech compromising the widely held belief that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Only then did the police engage him, with nary a trained security officer within sight.

Yes, a conspiracy is possible. But the most obvious explanation of the assassination is the one visible on the surface.

After Aleppo, Russia acquired 1.5 billion Sunni enemies braying for the Russians’ blood. About 65 million of them live in Turkey and it couldn’t have been unduly hard to find one ready and able to do the deed.

One way or the other, political assassination always heightens international tensions, with unpredictable consequences. Today’s situation is particularly fraught, with Russia’s bellicose hysteria at its most febrile.

The other day Russian MP Vyachelslav Nikonov, named after his Grandpa Molotov, pronounced off the Duma pulpit that “the free world has acquired a new leader, which is Russia.” Why? Because “Russia is the world’s only country that can annihilate America ten times over.”

The atmosphere is electrically charged, but one hopes that the parallel between Karlov and the Archduke will remain a fantasy. Anything else is too horrific to fathom.

Col. Putin, meet Mr Swift

swiftIn 1729 yet another famine in Ireland caused much outrage in England. Foremost in the public mind was the plight of Irish children whom their parents were unable to feed.

Jonathan Swift brought to bear on the tragedy his genius for satire. Swift published, anonymously, a pamphlet called A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.

Rather than worrying about feeding their offspring, wrote Swift, parents should eat them. This ‘modest proposal’ would achieve the dual benefit of having fewer mouths to feed and at least two mouths fed very well indeed.

According to Swift, babies were quite a delicacy: “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”

I don’t know if Col. Putin has read the pamphlet but, if he has, he seems to have taken Swift’s irony at face value. Under his stewardship Russian orphans aren’t often used for food but, all things considered, they might as well be.

Most children kept in Russian orphanages aren’t actually orphans. Many are today’s answer to the Irish babies of 300 years ago: children abandoned by their parents out of sheer destitution.

They seldom (though not never) fall victim to cannibalism. Rather than being eaten by grownups, they’re devoured by the Saturn of Putin’s Russia.

At least half, and by some estimates up to 95 per cent, of orphanage inmates become alcoholics, drug addicts or suicides. About 60 per cent of both boys and girls are raped. Few live to maturity, and those who do go into the outside world unfit to survive by any other than criminal means.

Some children are lucky enough to be adopted, though for many this means leaving the frying pan for the fire. Some foster parents are perverts, but most are kind, well-meaning persons. Alas, many overestimate their ability to feed children, with predictably disastrous consequences.

The really lucky tots are adopted by American couples – for them the chances of survival to adulthood are 39 times higher than for those adopted by Russians. And it’s this lifeline that Putin and his gang have severed with their characteristic cruelty.

The 2013 Magnitsky Law and subsequent 2014 sanctions banned from entry into the US several dozen Russian officials implicated in the crimes that had produced the sanctions.

Putin and his gang were outraged, especially since other Western countries followed suit. After all, the Russian national sport, money laundering, can’t be practised without access to the laundry, otherwise known as the West. So what’s going to happen to all those palaces in Florida, villas in Costa del Sol, Eaton Square mansions and 300-foot yachts moored at the Côte d’Azur?

Putin’s response was instant, only beaten for speed by the alacrity with which it was rubber-stamped by the Russian ‘parliament’. Thenceforth those awful Yanks wouldn’t be allowed to adopt Russian children. Col. Putin would rather watch them being raped and starved to death in the hellholes of Russian orphanages than let Americans indulge their paternal instincts.

This little bit of quid pro quo was accompanied by a propaganda campaign the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the halcyon days of the Soviet Union, if then. Back in the ‘60s an average Russian could be forgiven for forming the impression that lynching was America’s chosen leisure activity on a slow weekend. But Putin went his KGB ancestors one better.

He personally vouchsafed to his subjects the secret that in America it’s not against the law for foster parents to kill their adopted children, especially Russian ones. And according to his shrill mouthpieces in the Duma and on TV, at least 10 per cent of the little Russians were only adopted to be disassembled and sold for parts.

Others were turned into slaves, like those blacks who used to be lynched en masse back in the ‘60s. Most of them would be used as cannon fodder in the upcoming attack on Russia, which, as we all know, was and still is being planned by American warmongers.

Yesterday I used the expression plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose in relation to Saltykov-Shchedrin’s observations about Russia back in the nineteenth century. The phrase works in this case too.

Any Russian reading stories of the post-revolutionary mayhem is aware of hundreds of thousands of feral stray children roaming the streets of all major cities. They robbed, stole, begged, slept rough (often under asphalt kilns on cold winter nights) – and died. Those who survived were shipped to colonies for juvenile delinquents that made Victorian workhouses look like resorts.

In my day, brainwashed Russians accepted those stories at face value, never asking themselves the most natural question: Where did all those stray children come from? The forbidden answer would have been that the little ones were orphaned by the CheKa murder squads, famines and the Civil War provoked by Lenin’s gang.

Today’s Russians may be able to ask and answer such questions with relative impunity, preferably in private. But most take the easy option and banish the thought from their minds. As to Putin’s ‘useful idiots’ in the West, they just don’t want to know.


Wholly Russia: Mr Karr, meet Mr Shchedrin

saltykov-shchedrinIn 1849 the French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr came up with a spiffy epigram: the more things change, the more they remain the same (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose).

 It appears that Karr’s Russian contemporary, the great satirist Mikhail Yevgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin, dedicated his work to proving the Frenchman right, at least where Russia was concerned. Modernise his language ever so slightly, and everything he wrote about Russia and the Russians reads like contemporary reportage today. (You’ll notice that a few of his epigrams now apply more widely, having left the confines of Russia.)

 Shchedrin lacerated with a light touch, which made his satire even more devastating. I don’t know if he was aware of his prophetic powers, but, if he was, I’m sure he hoped some of his observations would no longer apply centuries later.

So much more disappointed he’d be if he came back to see that every poignant word I’ve taken the liberty to translate still rings true:

If I fall asleep for a hundred years and they ask me what’s going on in Russia these days, I’ll reply: “Drinking and thieving”.

When they start talking about patriotism in Russia, you must realise: they’ve stolen something somewhere.

I felt like something: either a constitution or sturgeon with horseradish or to scam somebody.

In other countries railways are for transportation, but with us they are also for thievery.

When has there ever been a bureaucrat who wasn’t sure that Russia is a pie he can freely approach, slice and munch?

When all you get for our rouble abroad is fifty kopeks, that’s fine. The trouble starts when all you get is a punch in the snout.

Russian powers-that-be must keep the people in a state of constant bewilderment.

The strictness of Russian laws is mitigated by optional compliance therewith.

It’s not like that here, mate. Here we’d not only eat all the apples off a tree but also snap every branch. The other day Safron walked by a mug of kerosene – and even that he drank up.

God’s world apparently has corners where all times are transitional.

Alas, not even a quarter-hour had passed, but I already sensed that now was high time to drink vodka.

Literature and propaganda are the same thing.

Here in Russia everyone steals. And while at it, they laugh and keep repeating “When on earth will it all end?”

When spreading wise thoughts, one can’t avoid being called a bastard.

Nowadays, Mum, they live without a husband as if with a husband. Nowadays they mock religious prescriptions. They find a bush, get hitched under it – and Bob’s your uncle. They call it civil marriage.

All it takes to thieve successfully is speed and greed. Greed is especially important because a small theft may be grounds for prosecution.

A bribe destroys barriers and shortens distances, it makes an official’s heart open to the little troubles of everyday life.

Civic maturity is a transition from off-colour gossip to a more accurate perception of the authorities’ glances.

Education must be spread with moderation, avoiding bloodshed if at all possible.

When meeting an important official, it is permitted to express the pleasure felt thereupon by polite and respectful body movements.

For a true liberal, there is no worthier task than awaiting trustfully further clarification from the higher-ups.

A citizen is always guilty of something.

It’s but one step from irony to subversion.

Sleep and vodka – these are man’s real friends.

…he even allowed that even people’s worst misapprehensions shouldn’t always lead to execution as an ineluctable consequence.

“Credit,” he was explaining to Kolia Persianov, “is when you have no money… you follow? You have no money, but then – bang! – you’ve got it.” “But, mon cher, what if they demand repayment?” Kolia lisped. “Fool! You can’t even understand such simple things! You’ve got to repay – more credit. Repay again – still more credit! All states live that way nowadays!”

They sat thinking how to turn their loss-making business into a profitable one without changing anything.

Many tend to confuse two concepts: ‘Motherland’ and ‘Your Excellence’.