None dare call it Muslim terrorism

Messrs Bush, Blair, Cameron and now Mrs May chant the same refrain in chorus.

Repeat after them: Islam has nothing to do with it. Islam is a religion of peace. There’s no such thing as Islamic terrorism.

There’s only Islamist terrorism, meaning that not every Muslim is a murderer. True. Neither did every Russian communist torture and shoot people in cellars. Neither did every German Nazi gas Jews. So don’t you dare blame communism and Nazism.

And especially don’t you dare blame Islam for any murders committed to the accompaniment of hysterical shrieks “Allahu akbar!!!” For all we know, the choice of the scream is purely coincidental. They could just as easily have shouted “Long live Sweden”, “Vive la France” or “God save the Queen”.

In keeping with this newfangled ideological piety, the media around the world are manifestly reluctant to identify Muslim murderers as such. Reporters no longer report – they self-censor. And if they don’t, they’re censored by their editors.

Yesterday three more Muslims drove a hijacked lorry into a shopping mall, this time in Stockholm. It seems as if their entire religion is in need of a remedial driving course: similar incidents have happened in London, Nice, Jerusalem, Antwerp, Berlin.

Chaps, vehicles are supposed to be driven on tarmac, not human bodies. But never mind. Scream “Allahu akbar!!!” all you want. No one will dare say there’s anything wrong with your cherished cult.

It has taken the Stockholm police a full day after arresting two of the murderers to acknowledge – while emphasising that the acknowledgement is in no way official – that at least one of them is an Uzbek who might have been affected by jihadist propaganda. Crikey. Who could have thunk.

But at least they did admit, however begrudgingly, that the criminals weren’t exactly Swedish Lutherans. The French tend to withhold such admissions altogether.

The murderer was French, they normally say. What kind of French? French is French. Yes, but what was his name? A French name. Fine, but what specifically? Bien, if you insist. Ahmed Abu-Bakr (or some such).

On Tuesday morning an athletic young man stepped out of his window in the 11th Arrondissement, neither the best nor the worst part of Paris. He then scaled the wall of his block of flats and climbed through the window of the flat immediately above him on the top floor.

Having gained entry, he stabbed the flat’s owner, a 66-year-old Jewish woman Sarah Halimi, and, while she was still alive, pushed her out of the window. As her body shattered down below he screamed the mandatory “Allahu akbar!!!”

Talking to a French friend last night, I asked him if he had read about the incident. He had, and he even knew that the victim was Jewish. Yet he had no idea that her murderer was Muslim. The French papers merely reported that he was déséquilibré (unhinged).

However, they failed to report that both the murderer and his relations had been harassing Miss Halimi for months, that they were all  Muslims and that the neighbours had actually heard the shriek “Allahu akbar!!!” harmonised with the thud of the body hitting the pavement.

The murderer had a police record of verbal and physical abuse, but nothing had been done about it. The police just shrugged in that inimitable Gallic manner and said “Il est fou” (He is mad). Possibly. Probably. But his madness revealed itself within a rather narrow range of activities, with him being perfectly normal outside.

Is it perhaps that the Muslims are so thoroughly integrated in France that they’re indistinguishable from other Frenchmen? Eh, not quite. Swarms of Muslims, many of them native-born, live in hellhole banlieues around Paris where the police are scared to go other than in armoured cars.

About 30,000 cars are incinerated there every year, many on New Year’s Eve, the Muslim illuminative answer to our Christmas trees. When these people riot, which is often, their battle cries are “Nique la France!” (f*** France) and, well, “Allahu akbar!!!” I dare say the possibility of misidentification is slight.

“Allahu akbar!!!” is thundering all over France.

On Wednesday it accompanied rifle shots fired at a shopping mall in Nantes.

Last week it was shouted in Nice, where a young Algerian attacked passers-by and then tried to hijack a lorry.

In Flavigny, a young chap screaming the mandatory mantra terrorised patients in a home for the handicapped.

In Avignon, another young Muslim terrorised the city centre by walking around and shouting “Allahu akbar – I’m armed and I’m going to kill you all.”

Also in Avignon, a 23-year-old man raped a prostitute in broad daylight, while intoning the same old “Allahu akbar”, presumably to the coital rhythm.

None of these incidents was directly attributed to Islam. All were ascribed to madness or drunkenness.

My advice to the French hacks is that they should talk to their English colleague Peter Hitchens. He’ll explain to them that all those crimes were caused by marijuana, that evil weed responsible for every one of the 300 million murders the Muslims have committed over history to the sound of “Allahu akbar!!!”

It’s not just America that God now blesses

Even the outdated Tomahawk missiles did the job yesterday: the airfield from which chemical weapons had been launched on 4 April is no more.

But then we already knew the US had the technical capability to do that sort of thing. No surprise there.

The surprise came from elsewhere: first, from those 49 cruise missiles having been launched in the first place; second, from President Trump’s comments.

Trump ended his televised statement with the de rigueur slogan “God bless America!” I’m still waiting for a British prime minister to match that rhetorical device by shouting “God bless Britain!”. Until that happens, I’ll continue to regard that customary tagline as slightly infra dig and theologically unsound.

For the implication is that America isn’t just blessed, but uniquely blessed. This assumption of divine exclusivity goes back to 1630, when the first batch of English settlers colonised Massachusetts Bay.

Their leader, the Puritan lawyer John Winthrop, delivered an oration in which he alluded to Matthew 5: 14 by describing the new community as a “city upon a hill”, contextually making its inhabitants “the light of this world”.

In the secular context this allusion can be interpreted in various ways. For example, that America’s unique virtue sets a shining example for the world to follow. Or else that, if some parts of the world are slow on the uptake, they may be urged to follow the example by the use of military chastisement.

An allusion to the “city upon a hill” could justify isolationism or interventionism or any combination thereof. Yet every pronouncement hitherto made by President Trump has suggested that he understands America’s God-given exclusivity in isolationist terms.

Various variations on this theme have been ever-present in his speeches, and his “God bless America!” has always implied that the rest of the world can go bless itself.

But this speech was different. For the obligatory ending turned out not to be the end. Trump made a slight pause and added “And God bless the whole world!”

This wasn’t just rhetoric. It was a complete about-face in US foreign policy over the last decade. Combined with the attack on the offensive airfield, it also means that Trump has abandoned his pragmatic focus on America’s self-interest (simplistically understood) in favour of her more traditional moral proselytism.

He’s now prepared to use American muscle to enforce certain moral standards internationally. One such standard is that there exists a valid moral difference between killing people with explosives and doing so with chemical weapons.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Let’s just say that my enthusiasm about this use of cruise missiles as a disciplining rod is less unequivocal than that of, say, Benjamin Netanyahu.

To begin with, it’s largely America’s neocon-inspired proselytism that got us in trouble to begin with. Had George W. Bush with Blair in tow not launched the 2003 attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East, local tyrants like Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad and Mubarak might have kept a lid on the bubbling Islamic passions.

The blood-soaked mess we’re seeing today and will see more of tomorrow mainly springs from the Americans’ unshakeable belief that their way is the best and only way. Even now, when the calamitous consequences of their proselytism are there for all to see, one hears the neocons insisting that the 2003 foray was unimpeachable in principle, if poorly executed.

I’m not trying to suggest that, having assumed the geopolitical and moral duties of world leadership, America should now abandon them. Nor is she able to do so, for such a turn-around would mean reversing not just some policy but America’s entire mentality guiding her dealings with “the whole world”.

Ever since the first decades of the nineteenth century, America has pursued a policy aimed at supplanting, and ideally destroying, the British Empire as the world’s dominant force. In that undertaking the US has succeeded so thoroughly that the attendant mentality has penetrated the nation’s genome. And this is one area in which genetic modification would be lethal.

There’s a fine balance to be struck, but I’m not sure that Trump can strike it (we already know that the neocons can’t). At his press conference he was too emotional for my taste, too impressed by the footage of chemically poisoned babies.

Don’t get me wrong: such footage should make any normal person respond emotionally. But a president of the United States isn’t any old normal person. What he does or even says may well determine whether the whole world will be blessed by God or, temporarily at least, damned by Satan.

One would like to see a more rational response, especially since this action puts the US on a collision course with a criminal nuclear power, Putin’s Russia. Trump has pushed his chips to the middle of the table. Is he bluffing or is he ready to confront Putin in the Middle East? Is he even aware that a huge potential for confrontation exists?

What if the Russians assume there’s merely a bluff under way and call it? Make no mistake about it: if Trump isn’t prepared to go all out, America will lose her world status overnight – with disastrous ramifications.

When Trump made it known that he was considering the military option, the two sides exchanged warnings.

Vladimir Safronkov, deputy Russian ambassador to the UN, had said: “We are receiving… direct signals that such a military action is being prepared. Moreover, we’re surprised that no one has posed a question about the possible consequences.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set the stage for his 12 April visit to Moscow by issuing a veiled warning of his own: “It is very important that the Russian Government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime.”

Meanwhile the Russians have suffered a major embarrassment. Their much-vaunted S-400 AA missiles were installed in Syria last October to much fanfare. Their specific role was to “close the skies above Syrian airfields”. Well, they haven’t, have they?

Will Putin swallow his pride? Or will he respond in kind? The world may well be on the brink, and ideally one would wish that the two key players weren’t a foreign-policy virgin capable of neither subtlety nor depth and a fascist dictator with global ambitions.

Oh well, to continue the gambling metaphor, we play the cards we’re dealt.

Russian TV has a role model

Two days ago I wrote about the explosion on Petersburg’s underground, suggesting that the old cui bono principle pointed at Putin as the ultimate culprit.

The possible bono was multifarious: using the explosion as a pretext for stamping out the opposition after the protest rallies on 26 March, forcing the populace to close ranks behind ‘the national leader’, creating an atmosphere of xenophobic psychosis, reinforcing the perceived need for Russo-American – or rather Putin-Trump – cooperation in combating Islamic terrorism.

A word of avuncular advice to Putin’s propagandists: chaps, if I were you, I wouldn’t use the term ‘national leader’ too often. Some people may translate it mentally into German and shudder.

Especially if they saw a programme about the Rothschilds on Russia’s official Channel 1 and recalled how the German national leader rallied the people behind one pet hatred.

Valeriy Fedoseev, the host of Voskresnoe vremia (Sunday Time) exposed the sinister role the Jewish bankers have played ever since the nineteenth century. This is persisting, since those awful Jews are now bankrolling such mortal enemies of Russia as the US and ISIS.

This was followed by an uncritical reference to a secret world government pulling the strings behind the scenes. By way of visual support, the programme showed a long fragment from a propaganda film produced in 1940 by Dr Goebbels’s department. The footage was presented – again uncritically – not as vile, cannibalistic rabble-rousing, but as a documentary.

To its credit, Channel 1 didn’t bother to conceal the film’s provenance. On the contrary, this was cited as validation of authenticity and implicitly as proof of historical continuity and verisimilitude.

Now Channel 1 is no different from Soviet media: it does little without specific instructions from the Kremlin. Thus the timing of this revolting rant is telling. As is the timing of the Petersburg explosion for that matter: less than a week after the anti-Putin rallies.

At the same time all state channels, both TV and radio, turned up the volume of their shrieks about the urgent need to support the national leader. One people, one state, one leader is heard loud and clear, this time in Russian.

It has been announced that pro-Putin rallies will be held all over the country on 8 April, and one has to congratulate the government on its efficacy. In Soviet times it generally took longer to organise such outbursts of loyal enthusiasm.

Speaking on another government channel, the writer Prokhanov explicitly linked anti-government protests with the explosion, or rather two explosions, about which later. “The single provenance of these actions,” said Prokhanov, “can be easily surmised.”

His show host, Putin’s propagandist Soloviov nodded with alacrity: “I don’t believe in such coincidences.” Neither did another guest, Duma deputy Alexander Khinstein. Rather than just pointing an accusing finger at the train-exploding opposition, he came up with a concrete solution to the problem: “If we want security, we must roll back democracy.”

Since democracy already exists on paper only, what this prominent Putin stooge means is that a campaign of state terror will be aimed at stamping out all dissent. Khinstein emphasised his credentials by explaining that liberal opponents of Putin are the likeliest culprits in the Petersburg murder: “They regard people not as individuals but as building blocks for their own pedestal.”

Meanwhile, in addition to mere speculation, some strong circumstantial evidence has come to light, enough to conclude that, rather than dissenting intellectuals, it’s Putin’s FSB that organised the explosion.

Two bombs had been planted on the fated train, but only one of them went off. Yet for the first hour after the tragedy all state channels were talking about two explosions, not one. They were citing ‘official sources’, but how could those sources get it so wrong?

The only possibility I can think of is that they knew about the two bombs, assumed that both would detonate, but hadn’t yet been informed that the second one didn’t. Hence Pokhanov and all the leader’s men were talking in chorus about two explosions, not one.

This means the same ‘sources’ had foreknowledge, which in turn means they had had the bombs planted. If there’s an alternative explanation, I’d like to hear it.

Parallels with the 1933 Reichstag fire are begging to be drawn, and in fact those putative terrorists among the Russian intelligentsia are drawing them all over the place. Like most other such parallels, these aren’t quite exact. But neither are they spurious.

It took that fire six years to conflagrate a world war. But, unlike the Russian intelligentsia, I’m not going to draw any analogies. They’re much too obvious.

Instead I’m trying to imagine what will happen in Russia when it’s not the liberal intelligentsia who take to the streets, but hungry people, those 20 million who live at or below the ‘survival minimum’ of £130 a month (with prices only marginally lower than in Britain).

Many of them are in work, getting paid a pittance while Putin and his gang are siphoning billions’ worth of laundered cash into offshore accounts. The pressure in the boiler is rising, and Goebbels-style propaganda can keep the lid on only for so long.

Only naïve ignoramuses think the national leader would hesitate to unleash the kind of carnage that made other national leaders so justly famous. Only the unobservant and uncritical can fail to see the significance of the current events.

The French like self-destruction

Last night’s TV debate among all 11 presidential candidates was convincingly won by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who’s now running fourth in the race.

Debates are usually won not by deep ideas but by glib oratory. In a time warp, Leon Trotsky would debate rings around David Davis (why, even Dave Cameron managed to do that) – yet I’d prefer Mr Davis’s policies to Mr Trotsky’s.

Hence one shouldn’t read too much into Mélenchon’s outdebating Macron, Fillon and Le Pen. But one can still read something into it.

After all, 25 per cent of viewers saw a rank communist as the most convincing candidate. And yet every one of Mélenchon’s policies, if brought to fruition, would be catastrophic. Collectively, they’d turn France into a pre-1989 Romania.

Like Mrs May, Mélenchon wants to increase workers’ rights. However, the unions already have more power in France than they had even in pre-Thatcher Britain.

Nowhere in the high-rent part of Europe can the unions organise such paralysing strikes as in France. This, though French workers are already among the highest paid in the world, while working on average 200 hours per year fewer than in Britain, and 300 fewer than in the US.

Giving the unions (which is what ‘workers’ means in practice) even more control would plunge the economy into chaos and eventually destroy it. And if that doesn’t do the job, Mélenchon’s other pet idea, increasing welfare spending, will surely do it.

France already tops the world in that category, spending almost a third of GDP on welfare, way above the global average of 22 per cent. Only Finland, Belgium and Denmark approach such stratospheric levels, but even they lag behind France.

Mélenchon’s plan can’t be realised without pushing public spending in France, currently at about 60 per cent, close to what it was in Stalin’s Russia (about 80 per cent). Similar political adjustments are bound to follow, but then that’s the general idea.

Jean-Luc has also worked out how to rid France completely of any people capable of driving the economy forward. To that end he proposes to introduce a marginal tax rate of 100 per cent on those earning over €360,000 a year.

Hollande’s similarly inspired initiative only managed 75 per cent, which was sufficient to trigger a mass exodus of bright, enterprising Frenchmen. It’s largely thanks to such punitive taxation that London has become the world’s fifth most populous French city.

If Mélenchon gets his way, during the years it’ll take us to curb free movement in the EU, London has a sporting chance of outstripping Paris in that department. That’s not necessarily bad news for us, since the French are still better educated than the English and definitely produce better bread, cheese and pastries. One just hopes that the last Frenchman leaving his country will remember to unplug all electric appliances.

What else? Oh yes, Jean-Luc also wishes to ease immigration laws, which already don’t strike me as being excessively severe: France currently welcomes about 250,000 migrants a year.

‘Welcome’ isn’t a figure of speech: my local village proudly displays a sign Bienvenus aux migrants dans l’Yonne, a sentiment not universally shared among the locals who tend to vote for Le Pen by a wide margin. Considering that France is already 10 per cent Muslim, one can understand their understated hospitality.

I recall being tortured at school with a mathematical puzzle about water flowing into a pool through one pipe and out through another. If Jean-Luc implements his plans, France will function like that pool: foreigners, mainly from the less desirable countries, will be flowing in; Frenchmen, mainly the more solid kind, will be flowing out. Draw your own demographic conclusions.

Then of course Jean-Luc advocates full reimbursement of healthcare costs, money no object. Actually, money would be no object if he got his hands on the lever operating the printing press. Alas, that lever is in the hands of the European Central Bank, which is to say the EU, which is to say Germany.

So naturally Jean-Luc wants a Frexit referendum, ideally to yield a Brexit-like result. That by itself is good – chapeau, as I’d say in French. Except that, considering why Mélenchon wants to leave the EU, my head insists on keeping its hat in place.

He believes that the EU is too ‘neo-liberal’. Now anybody fluent in communist will tell you that in that language words mean the opposite of their dictionary definitions.

Hence ‘truth’ means a lie, ‘justice’ means ‘injustice’ and so forth. What Jean-Luc means by neo-liberalism is proto-liberalism, which is to say an accent on free markets and individual liberties.

Thus the way he uses the term is a lie, but it’s a double lie: the EU is nothing of the sort. It’s a protectionist economic bloc run by a demonstrably illiberal, unaccountable elite. As such, it’s closer to being neo-fascist, but Jean-Luc wouldn’t be a communist if he used words precisely.

Then of course there’s the usual opposition to religion and NATO, along with support for homomarriage and euthanasia, but such details go without saying.

What’s deeply worrying is that 25 per cent of French TV viewers are either too stupid to realise that Mélenchon would destroy their country – or too wicked not to mind. And it isn’t just Mélenchon: 68 per cent went for extremist candidates of either red or brown hues.

Don’t you just love French politics? And German politics aren’t vastly different. So much for the core of the EU.

It’s not whodunit – it’s who benefits

The official death toll stands at 14 so far, but it’ll rise: some of the remaining 49 injured are in a bad way.

But then a high casualty count is to be expected when a nail bomb equivalent to 300 g of TNT goes off on a crowded underground train, as it did in Petersburg yesterday.

Within hours, not to say minutes, the Russian authorities identified the culprit: Akbarzhon Jalilov, a Kyrgyzstan-born Russian citizen who has lived in Petersburg for six years.

Jalilov was photographed leaving the scene of the crime and looking like a caricature Muslim, complete with a long, dangling beard on his chin and a taqiyah on his head. Such accoutrements made him stand out in Petersburg considerably more than they would in London.

Now if I were a Muslim terrorist about to blow up a tube train, I’d do my best to try and look like Jacob Rees-Mogg, or at a pinch John Prescott, but the intrepid Kyrgyz wouldn’t demean himself by such cowardly subterfuge. He was a Muslim terrorist, glory be to Allah, and he didn’t care who knew it.

One has to compliment the Russian police and security services on such remarkable speed of action. Our MI5 and Scotland Yard never move that fast, but then our MI5 and Scotland Yard never investigate crimes they themselves have committed or commissioned.

Alas, some Russian naysayers on the few remaining independent websites immediately blamed the authorities and – are you ready for this? – Vlad Putin personally for this heinous act.

No corroborative or even circumstantial evidence has been produced, other than pure speculation. But speculation is the starting point of most criminal investigations, while the question ‘Cui bono?’ is the starting point of most speculation.

So let’s speculate. First, such vile accusations would be dismissed out of hand if levelled at any Western politician, no matter how revolting. Tony Blair, for example, is as revolting as they come, yet only a madman would suggest he, PM at the time, commissioned the bombings on London transport in 2005.

Alas, such accusations against Putin are eminently credible, for Vlad has previous. Back in 2001 he had his FSB blow up several residential buildings, then used the explosions as a justification for another attack on Chechnya. (Alexander Litvinenko co-authored a book about it, Blowing Up Russia, and was subjected to Russia’s unique genre of literary criticism.)

Back then Vlad’s bono was consolidating his position in the Kremlin, and he knew a successful war would do nicely. Alexander Herzen did observe famously that the strongest chains binding people are forged out of victorious swords.

So what would be Putin’s bono in this case? First, a serendipitous though possibly irrelevant coincidence: Putin just happened to be in Petersburg at the time, instructing the Byelorussian president Lukashenko in the ways of the world.

Second, a definitely relevant coincidence: Putin is in the process of tightening the screws internally, probably in preparation for doing so externally as well. Terrorism, especially that of the Muslim variety, has been used as a pretext for curtailing civil liberties even in the West – in Russia it could be used to inaugurate the reign of state terror.

Putin knows the history of the Soviet Union well, and tries to learn from it. He remembers that Stalin unleashed cannibalistic terror in the 1930s specifically to whip the population into unquestioning obedience in the run-up to the planned ‘wars of liberation’ against Europe.

He also remembers that Stalin overdid things so much that the population initially refused to fight for him. In just three months of 1941 the Germans took 4.5 million POWs, many of whom joyously marched into German captivity to the sound of regimental bands. More than 1.5 million enlisted in the German army and, had Hitler used that force properly, Stalin’s regime would have collapsed.

Putin would rather avoid such extremes, but neither is he prepared to tolerate dissent. On 26 March his stormtroopers brutally dispersed protests by thousands of people, hundreds of whom were arrested.

Simultaneously Putin’s Chechen stooge and occasional hitman Kadyrov launched a massive campaign of rounding up homosexuals, arresting hundreds and murdering dozens. No doubt all our ‘conservatives’ who applaud Putin for upholding traditional values are rejoicing. The real conservatives among us are more likely to recoil in horror.

Then a fortnight ago yet another opposition journalist was assaulted in Petersburg, an aspect of ‘conservative’ statesmanship in which Putin is past master. Nikolai Andryushchenko is still in a coma, but at least he isn’t six feet under. His luck is good.

The thumbscrews are indeed being tightened, and the explosion on the Petersburg underground can – and I predict will – be used as a pretext for replacing such outdated implements with more effective weapons of mass terror.

Let’s not ignore the foreign policy bono either. There’s little doubt that Putin has some kompromat on Trump, either fiscal or sexual or both. Hence there were celebratory banquets held in various branches of the Russian government upon Trump’s election. The Donald was seen as the Manchurian candidate.

Hopes that the new administration would be on Putin’s string were running high, but so far they’ve been frustrated. Trump started off by making positive, sometimes fawning, noises about Putin but, unlike his Russian counterpart, a US president isn’t a dictator.

When the intimate links between Trump’s entourage and Putin became known, both the press and Congress cried foul, and the word ‘impeachment’ began to waft gently through the air.

However, Trump didn’t get where he is by sticking his neck out too far. He realised he had to tread slowly and change the tune of his march song. He did, however, fight back by claiming that a close alliance with Putin was essential for combating Islamic terrorism – you know, the sort of thing that Theresa May doesn’t think exists.

The Petersburg explosion serves as a timely reminder that the Islamic threat is real, and that Putin and Trump have a common fight. This may dull the edge of criticism coming from the American press and Congress, including Trump’s own party. The floodgates of cooperation may well be flung open, and of course there can be no trade sanctions among friends and allies.

So did Putin organise the explosion? I don’t know. But, since he had the motive, the means and the necessary moral fibre, he must be regarded as a prime suspect in the investigation. However, if you think any honest inquest is possible in Russia, there’s a bridge across the Neva I’d like to sell you.

My condolences to the victims’ families.

Damascene experience in Chartres

I’m a champion of progress. Or rather I’ve always desperately tried to be one. Post hoc, ergo meliora hoc, if you’ll forgive a feeble Latin pun, are words I wish I could live by.

Ever since Darwin created the world, everything in it, including man, has been undergoing nothing but meliorative changes – that’s what I’ve always wanted to become my article of faith.

Everything mankind has ever done has pushed us forward with nary a backward step. The pace of progress has varied, but the overall tendency is inexorable.

Hence I’ve strenuously tried to convince myself that today’s professor of philosophy at, say, the LSE is a step forward from Plato; Tracy Emin has to be a better artist than Giotto; Andrew Motion is a positive development of Shakespeare; John Lennon represents progress compared to Bach, and Damian Hirst compared to Donatello.

Admittedly, I’ve had to override my mind and taste to feel that way, but I’ve been willing to do just that. One has to march in step with one’s time. Doesn’t one?

And then earlier this week I spent a couple of days in Chartres.

Suddenly, my hitherto unshakeable desire to believe in progress began to totter with an ever-increasing amplitude. Nothing short of a frontal lobotomy would make me accept that Chartres Cathedral – and especially what it represents – is backward compared to a modern skyscraper – and especially what it represents.

I’m not in favour of awarding ranking points, but, if pressed, I’d say the cathedral is the most beautiful thing created by man – perhaps because it wasn’t just created by man.

No other Gothic cathedral I’ve seen has such an intricate lattice of flying buttresses at several tiers, each providing niches for sculptures (which is also quite rare). This added reinforcement enabled the builders to increase both the number and size of the windows, and the extra acreage didn’t go to waste.

Nowhere can one see such a blazing glory of stained glass as in Chartres, not even in Bourges, where it’s as superb but less plentiful. Each window is bursting with colour, with life eternal – each tells the story of a great civilisation exhaling the air breathed into it by the pre-Darwinian Creator.

My father, a glass chemist, doubted we’d be able to reproduce today the technical mastery involved in colouring pieces of glass so luridly that they irradiate sparkle even with no sun shining through them. I don’t know about that. What’s certain is that, even if the technical know-how is extant, the inspiration isn’t.

Then there’s the mysterious labyrinth cut into the floor stones of the nave. It symbolises the tortuous road leading to Christ, and for the past 800 years pilgrims have walked it slowly and reverentially, their heads bowed, their minds and souls engrossed in mystical contemplation. They still do, unfashionably trying to recapture the part of life Darwin didn’t quite get around to explaining.

The cathedral took some 30 years to build, and God only knows how much effort. Every sinew had to be strained to erect such a massive structure without any modern construction equipment, with only human hands and the superhuman spirit that gave them strength.

Time wasn’t of the essence, as it always is with us. It was eternity speaking through stone and glass, and eternity has to take man outside time. It also takes man outside space for, like many Romanesque and Gothic buildings, Chartres Cathedral defies physics by appearing bigger inside than outside. That’s no coincidence: physics apart, spiritually it was built from the inside out. Its space isn’t just three-dimensional.

What does the cathedral say about its time? Just about everything, I dare say, in the same sense in which the Shard or Centre Pompidou says everything about our time. An age defined by filial devotion is manifestly capable of soaring to greater heights than an age circumscribed by hubris and self-indulgence.

I hadn’t seen Chartres Cathedral for some 15 years, and in the intervening period its interior had changed. Centuries enveloped in candle smoke had darkened the walls and columns so much that, the last time I was there, I didn’t even notice them.

It was as if they were there only to provide an invisible frame for the dazzling brilliance of the stained glass. One’s eye was instantly riveted to it, sliding over the rest.

In the past few years the interior has been painted pink and white, supposedly to restore the original look. There have been fierce debates about the project, and they’re still raging. For once I’m not going to join in.

The instant effect of the glass has doubtless been diminished – it now floors one with an accelerating series of visual punches, rather than with one mighty blow. But on the other hand, I could now divert some of the attention to the interior itself. The two do compete, but in the end neither loses – and neither does this awe-struck visitor.

Progress tried to make inroads on this glory in the fateful eighteenth century. The spirit that had inspired the cathedral had begun to attenuate, with the attendant hubris increasing pari passu. Hence some bright spark saw fit to plonk an awful 4-tonne sculptural concoction at the altar, which looks like the Baroque equivalent of a moustache painted on the Mona Lisa.

Other bright sparks later in the century were out to vandalise, or ideally destroy, the cathedral, as they had destroyed so many others. But the cathedral was spared excessive damage by being declared a Temple of Reason, one of several, and used for atheistic homilies to Philosophy and Progress.

The sort of progress we see all around us now, one disfiguring our cities and, more important, our souls. Here I must confess to a little fib: I’m really not, nor have ever tried to be, a champion of progress.

We’ve surrounded ourselves with all sorts of sophisticated trinkets, each supposed to make our lives better. And fair enough, my car took me from London to Chartres in a few hours – only for me to realise yet again that in everything that matters we’ve been travelling backwards, leapfrogging our sublime civilisation to land in the midst of pagan barbarism.

It takes an inert mind and deadened senses to discern any forward momentum in the development of man, except the kind that propels him towards perdition. And if you don’t believe me, go to Chartres.

Now we’re threatened by neocons

Defying Euclid and vindicating Lobachevsky, parallels can converge, especially those drawn by Remainers between the EU and just about anything else. The point of convergence is feeble, spurious nonsense.

Yesterday I spoke about the frequent analogies imagined between the EU and the Holy Roman Empire or the USA; today Niall Ferguson, representing the neocons, has ploughed in with his professional knack at seeing parallels where none exist.

The historian will doubtless object that he speaks for himself only. But neocons, of whom he’s one, hardly ever do. Everything they write sounds as if it reflects what the Soviets called ‘the general line’.

In my book Democracy as a Neocon Trick, I even coined the term Collective Neocon, COLLENE for short, refusing to attribute numerous quotations from their books because they all say the same things the same way.

One fundamental thing about the neocons is that they’ve never shaken their Trotskyist heritage. They’ve only shifted the same radical animus from Trotsky’s ‘permanent communist revolution’ to a permanent war to promote Democracy (always implicitly capitalised).

It’s to them that we largely owe the criminal 2003 attack on Iraq, which has invigorated the Muslims’ present orgy of violence (not that they needed much invigorating). The neocons use Democracy the same way Trotsky used Communism, as a slogan to inscribe on the banners of incessant war.

That’s why, even though they insist on calling themselves neo-conservatives, they have to be out and out statists. Their cherished crusade for a particular political form (divorced in their minds from any content underneath) can only be undertaken by the state. To be able to do that, the state has to grow pari passu with the scale of global ambitions.

Since any one particular state has natural limits to its expansion, the neocons have to support the notion of a giant supranational state, ideally governed by America. The EU is seen as an essential intermediate step on the road to such unification.

That’s why American neocons, which Ferguson has become, if only by co-option, tend to be fans of the EU. British neocons, even if they don’t move to America, are all bound by the unspoken party discipline too. Therefore they’re all American patriots, and it takes a reader of their books no time to realise that their ‘we’ doesn’t refer to Britain.

Most of them also support the EU, although dissent occurs more often in their ranks than in those of their US Parteigenossen: transferring British sovereignty to the tender care of the EU is a more vital issue in London than in New York.

Since Ferguson is now firmly ensconced in the States, he has no such limitations. Hence in the run-up to the referendum he wrote articles like Fog in Channel: Brexiteers Isolated from Britain’s Duty to Save Europe and Brexit’s Happy Morons Don’t give a Damn About the Costs of Leaving, all filled with vituperative diatribes, masking the crepuscular thinking in the background.

(Britain did her part in saving Europe back in the 1940s. Now it’s Europe’s turn to save itself, and the EU isn’t the way to go about it. But of course what Ferguson means is the same old crusade for Democracy for which his neocon heart aches.)

Then six months after the referendum he changed his tune, while continuing to sing off-key. “My mistake,” Ferguson wrote, “was uncritically defending Cameron and Osborne instead of listening to people in pubs. Issue was not GDP but future migration.”

The issue was neither GDP nor even future migration, but political sovereignty. All else is strictly derivative, something that’s too simple for Ferguson to understand. But notice the sly dig at those who do understand that: they’re all pub crawlers, not a patch on superior intellects like Cameron, Osborne and, by association, Ferguson.

Now he’s back, bringing his professional credentials to bear on the issue of the supposedly awful cost of leaving the EU.

First Ferguson credits himself with having been the first to compare Brexit to a divorce, a trite simile if I’ve ever seen one. Now, he says, divorce doesn’t even begin to describe it.

It’s a schism “recalling as it does the great division between western and eastern Christianity in 1054, as well as the period between 1378 and 1417 when there were rival popes in Rome and Avignon. The defining characteristic of schisms is that they are drawn-out and bitter – and the more arcane the points at issue (such as… the precise wording of the Nicene Creed), the deeper the schism becomes.”

I’m amazed he didn’t compare Britain to Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of that Wittenberg church in 1517.

As an aside, the ‘arcane’ point at issue in 1054 was about the nature of the Trinity, which, next to the divinity of Christ, is perhaps the most critical point of Christian doctrine – but hey, ours is an age of specialisation, and Ferguson is an historian, not a theologian.

As to the rest of it, comparing Britain’s desire to regain her ancient constitution to a religious schism is vulgar stupidity at its most soaring. The EU isn’t a religion. It’s a wicked political contrivance based entirely on secular aspirations.

A more exact (if still not exhaustive) parallel was Britain resisting further European integration in 1940, during Germany’s previous attempt to unite the continent under its aegis. No price was seen as too big then, and no price is too big now.

I shan’t bore you with repeating Ferguson’s musings: you can read them in today’s Times. The gist is that Brexit will cost us a lot of money – not the destroyed cities or thousands of lives Britain suffered in 1940.

Uninteresting if true. The issue is that of principle, morality and intellectual integrity (all those things the neocons know about only by hearsay), not of a few billion here or there.

If HMG plays the card dealt by the referendum with intelligence and resolve, we won’t suffer any horrendous economic consequences, quite the opposite. We should just resist the EU blackmail with the same staunch spirit as that evinced during the Blitz.

Contrary to what the likes of Juncker, Tusk – and Ferguson – claim, we can negotiate from a position of strength, as one of only two nuclear powers in Western Europe, a lynchpin of European security and an irreplaceable market for European goods.

But even if regaining our ancient constitution does cost us money, it’s a price eminently worth paying. Really, Ferguson ought to continue peddling his wares to credulous Americans and leave us alone.

The US is about to come apart

Honest to God, it’s not an April Fool. My friend Junk, as Jean-Claude Juncker likes me to call him, refuses to discriminate against the other 11 months too.

Leave Junk in the company of friends and a bottle of single malt (more than one bottle if the friends have some too), and he can come off the wall on any day of every year.

Responding to President Trump’s understated affection for the EU, President Junk demanded instant love. And if that’s not forthcoming, as Junk fears it won’t be, he threatened to break the US apart – or at least work towards such an outcome.

Specifically, he singled out Texas and Ohio as prime candidates for secession. The idea is interesting, but one wonders if Junk has fully considered the practicalities involved.

When I lived in Texas, I did meet some locals whose thirst for independence hadn’t been quenched. Most of them were the type who said things like “if y’all’s heart ain’t in Texas, get y’all’s ass out”, drove pickup trucks with deer antlers on the roof and a rifle rack in the back, wore silver buckles on their belts, Stetsons on their heads and spurs on their cowboy boots.

They also professed to hate the Yankees, while their views on race were rather pre-war (the Civil War, that is). A typical exchange went along the lines of: “Are y’all a Yankee?” “No, I’m from Russia.” “D’y’all have niggers there?”

Sometimes those chaps exhibited linguistic curiosity by asking “Did y’all speak German at home?” At first I thought that recurrent question was posed in jest, before realising that it wasn’t. At that point the didactic part of my nature would kick in, and I’d start mumbling: “Er… well… we did sometimes. But most of the time we spoke Russian.”

Perhaps in theory the rednecks could form the fifth column, applying secessionist pressure from the inside, while Junk did the same from the outside. In practice, however, I doubt they’d welcome his mediation in their eternal conflict with the Yankees. They wouldn’t see Junk as a good ole boy, would they?

Other than relying on sedition, Junk’s options in Texas would be limited, especially since the good ole boys are in the minority everywhere, except perhaps on the boards of major oil companies. He could try to offer Texans a cut-price deal to enter the EU, but one suspects he wouldn’t find many takers. The Texans would probably feel that this ‘furriner’ is only after their ‘awl’.

But at least Texas was a sovereign republic until 1846, so one could say it has form as far as independence is concerned. By contrast, Ohio joined the Union in 1803 and to the best of my knowledge has never since shown any appetite for splitting away. So Junk would have even more of an uphill struggle fomenting sedition there.

However, considering that Ohio boasts the ugliest cities in the US (which is saying a lot in a country that doesn’t apply aesthetic principles to urban planning and architecture), one suspects Junk’s drive for its secession would resonate among other states. Worth a try, Junk, but I wouldn’t hold your breath in the hope of success.

However, I’m proud of the standard of statesman rising to the top in the EU. In a way I’m even sorry we’re leaving – what shall we do for amusement if Junk and his ilk no longer talk to or about us?

Proceeding from levity to gravity, Junk’s drunken delirium is an echo of the Eurocrats’ persistent effort to seek legitimacy by drawing parallels between themselves and other composite political entities, such as the Holy Roman Empire or, bizarrely, the USA.

Such parallels are invariably spurious, reflecting the general intellectual paucity of that wicked pan-European contrivance. This is exemplified by Junk, whose brain couldn’t have been up to much even before it got pickled in single malt.

The Holy Roman Empire was a loose federation of principalities brought together by one powerful adhesive: Christianity. In that sense it was indeed both holy and Roman – and not neither, as Voltaire quipped with his typically facile wit.

National particularism didn’t exist then, certainly not sufficient to exert enough pull to keep those atoms within the same molecule. But while Europeans didn’t feel an overpowering sense of identity as, say, Franks, Gauls or Iberians, they certainly felt one as Christians. This was their factor of homogeneity.

What’s the EU equivalent? Desire for 6-week holidays?

The EU operates in a world created by the Enlightenment and dominated by nationalist pressures – something Charlemagne didn’t have to contend with. So, while factors of homogeneity are in short supply, those of cleaving self-determination along national lines are strong, if kept quiet for now. The slightest push, and the whole rotten structure may explode into a red mist.

If parallels with the Carolingian empire are spurious, Junk’s implied parallel with the United States is simply mad, possibly produced by insipient delirium tremens (this suggests a good title for a Junk biopic: DT, the Extra-Terrestrial).

Different as Texans may be from Ohioans, they are nowhere near as different as, say, Swedes are from Greeks, Spaniards from Belgians or any of them from Germans. The USA is a culturally, linguistically, socially and politically homogeneous entity, while Europe isn’t. Even Junk must realise this, at least while he’s still on his first bottle.

Moreover, the USA is old-fashioned in a perverse sort of way, in that it’s brought together not by ethnic commonality but by a clearly definable metaphysical idea, that of Americanism. Even those who, like me, have misgivings about it, can’t deny its gravitational power. Now does Junk think that a Greek and a Dutchman feel a strong kinship because they both subscribe to the European idea?

If he seeks more accurate parallels, he can find the EU’s antecedents in Germany, both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the earlier period, Prussia used the proto-EU model of the Zollverein either to bribe or to force other German principalities under its sway.

Later, Hitler created a pan-European federation dominated by Germany and sharing natural resources, laws, single currency, foreign policy, united multi-national army under German command and economic policy. The parallels with the EU, while not wholly exact, are surely more evident than those between the EU and anything else.

In conclusion, I’d like to wish Junk a very happy April Fool’s Day. It’s your day, Junk, so here’s to you, my boozy friend.