“Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear”

Environmental activist Darrell Waterford obviously never heard this song from The Threepenny Opera. Or else he wasn’t paying attention to the first line of the lyrics.

Unencumbered by the information conveyed therein, the young Greenpeacer expressed his love of all living things by hugging a great white shark in the Indian Ocean.

If he expected reciprocity, none ensued. Perhaps the shark didn’t fancy him or simply objected to getting physical on first date. It’s also possible that she had kept abreast of the #MeToo campaign against unsolicited hugs.

One way or another, the shark emphasised her absence of consent by tearing off the young man’s right arm. Mercifully, even though he lost a lot of blood Darrell survived. But he won’t hug anyone else in a hurry.

Somewhere in a far recess of my character lurks the objectionable chap who can’t contain his schadenfreude. After all, just as a man trying to hug an unwilling woman should expect a slap in the face, a man trying to hug a feral creature should expect a sanguinary response.

Modern obsession with nature sits side by side with other affronts to our civilisation, such as socialism in any of its variants, Islam and other Eastern religions (when practised in the West), unvarnished materialism, Ayn Rand and so forth.

Our attitude to nature used to follow Genesis 1:27-30. Only man is created in the image of God. Everything else is there merely to serve man.

Theologians would argue that, by incarnating in a physical, human shape, God sanctified nature and matter in general. But that doesn’t change the ascending pecking order: nature is only sacred because man is; man is only sacred because God is.

This simple understanding was blown to pieces by the first shots fired in the French Revolution. Man was no longer seen as created in anyone’s image. He was simply a more complex part of nature than, say, a slug. A few decades later Darwin explained how that worked, to the satisfaction of the newly dumbed-down masses.

His contemporary scientists acknowledged that nature is rationally knowable because it functions according to rational laws. Yet somehow they then committed the logical solecism of denying that the existence of rational laws presupposes the existence of a rational law-giver.

So fine, there’s no God. But where did the rational laws come from? What’s the source of that ratio?

Sooner or later the moderns were inexorably driven to the conclusion that it was nature itself that possesses reason. They thereby left the domain of logical solecism and entered one of sheer lunacy.

Deifying nature was of course old hat. When some religious feeling was still extant, Spinosa, while denying the existence of a personal God, postulated the identity of God and nature. Later this blend of heresy cum philosophy was called pantheism.

When the very notion of any kind of divinity became infra dig, pantheism developed into romantic, secular adoration of nature. This led to a gradual disappearance of the line separating man from beast.

If all parts of nature partook in some universal reason divorced from God and therefore man, then animals are also sapient, albeit less so than we are. In that case it’s only logical to assign to them human characteristics including natural rights.

This anthropomorphism run riot is progressive, in the same sense in which a disease can be progressive. By now it has progressed to a point where vegetarianism, which used to be regarded as a psychological quirk, is believed to occupy a high moral plateau.

Interestingly, this and other forms of hysterical secular sentimentalism have strictly urban origins. Those who are in day-to-day contact with nature, farmers and peasants, even if they aren’t familiar with Genesis 1:27-30, treat animals in exactly its spirit.

I remember my Italian landlord, a farmer who did agriturismo as a side line. One day Sergio proudly took Penelope and me through his farm.

He led us to a fat cow and outlined with his finger where different cuts of beef came from: “This is filetto di manzo, this is bistecca alla fiorentina…” Sergio then picked up a cute little rabbit by its ears and explained with a gentle smile: “Al forno con patate.” How many youngsters would wince at such heartless utilitarianism?

These days every perversion has to find a political expression. Hence we no longer just love animals: we see them as political entities endowed with rights, even in the absence of attendant responsibilities.

And in 2001 ‘philosopher’ Peter Singer even allowed that humans and animals can have “mutually satisfying” sexual relations because “we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.” Therefore such sex “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.” Good news for some shepherds, bad news for poor Mrs Singer.

So, even without intending to go all the way, why not hug a shark as a protest against shark fin soup? Why not reaffirm one’s commitment to shark rights?

Ask Darrell.

 

Manny mollifies Muslims

Amazing how a spate of terrorist acts can promote a desire for national cohesion.

A few hundred murders, and suddenly the French are dismayed that most of their 6,000,000 Muslims live in ghettos. They only ever venture out to join rallies under the slogan of “Nique la France!” (f*** France) or else have some fun with explosives and AKs.

After three generations of de facto apartheid, this is their principal way of interacting with their fellow Frenchmen. But Manny, his self-confidence expertly nurtured by his foster mother Brigitte, won’t take it lying down. He’ll take it standing up – on a rostrum, making speeches.

His buzz neologism is ‘structuration’ of Islam, meaning weaving it into France’s social fabric in such a way that Muslims talk to their infidel neighbours rather than shoot them.

A fairly tall order, one would think, but 56 per cent of the French disagree. In a rare outburst of collective Stockholm syndrome, they think that Islam is perfectly compatible with the values of French society.

Two years ago exactly the same proportion thought otherwise, but we should never underestimate the mind-shaping potential of a few AK bursts. Muslims become more compatible with French values in direct proportion to the number of rounds they fire at French people.

Manny resembles JFK in believing that his youthful energy can overcome any obstacle. No job too big or too small (to mess up, in JFK’s case).

So how does Manny plan to succeed where every one of his predecessors has failed, not to mention every other president or prime minister in what used to be Christendom? They’ve all tried, only to come a cropper.

Surely Manny must have a plan hatched by his active brain egged on by his foster mother Brigitte? And so he does:

“My goal is to rediscover what lies at the heart of laïcité, the possibility of being able to believe as not to believe, in order to preserve national cohesion and the possibility of having free consciousness.”

That sounds like a fact-finding mission rather than a plan for action. What exactly are you planning to do, Manny?

Er… we’ll fight fundamentalism by integrating Islamic religious practice into French life. Splendid, Manny. But how do you propose to do that?

You’ll know after I’ve done it, was Manny’s reply to the people most of whom voted for him. Those who worship at the altar of democracy may find this response by an elected official rather unsatisfactory.

The Interior Ministry was slightly more forthcoming. The plan is for the state to start training imams and funding their mosques, thereby hoping to “reduce the influence of the Arab countries, which prevent French Islam from returning to modernity”.

In other words, it’ll now be the state’s task to teach imams how to be imams and Muslims how to be Muslims. All I can say is good luck, Manny.

This is a thorny path with many natural obstacles along the way. One such is the word ‘return’ in the Interior Ministry’s quote. The verb means going back to an earlier point. Therein lies the trouble.

Islam can’t ‘return’ to modernity for the simple reason that it has never been there. Modernity promotes, in theory at least, free discussion, something that hasn’t existed in Islam for at least 800 years even in a severely abbreviated form.

Forty generations of imams, caliphs and emirs have realised that an invitation to discuss is an invitation to doubt, which isn’t something their patchwork quilt of a religion can withstand.

What’s there to discuss anyway? We’ve got the Koran which is immutable and true in every letter. So, if the Koran tells us in 300-odd verses to kill or at least shun infidels, mainly Christians and Jews, then that’s what we’ll do. And if someone doesn’t agree, he’s an apostate who must be stoned to death.

That’s what being a good Muslim means. The only way for him to become a good Frenchman is to become a bad Muslim or no Muslim at all, with all the social or even physical risks such a metamorphosis may entail.

Then again, how does this desire to incorporate Islamic worship into secular life tally with France’s much-vaunted laïcité, the bedrock of French life since 1905? Such complete separation of religion from state affairs seems to preclude the state from assuming the role of a nationalised Mullah. (Having said that, the Eiffel tower does have the makings of a natural minaret.)

If I were a French Catholic, I’d be up in arms. And what am I, chopped foie? What’s sauce for l’oie is sauce for le jars. Fair is fair.

So how about incorporating Christianity into French life? How about the state funding seminaries and churches? So that each priest has one parish, rather than 30 or even 40, as is widespread in la France profonde? How about preventing churches from going to rack and ruin?

I’d be curious how Manny would answer such questions. I suppose that depends on how uncharacteristically honest he wants to be. If our hypothetical French Catholic posed such questions, Manny would probably say something noncommittal.

But speaking to his foster mother Brigitte in private, he’d tell the truth. If Christians want Christianity to be ‘structurated’ into French life, they should blow up a few buses and shoot up a few crowds. Learn from the Muslims, chaps. That’s what comparative religion is all about.

P.S. I’m still awaiting applications for membership in the Charles Martel Society for Multiculturalism, of which I’m the founder, president and so far sole member.

“There was no Russian Revolution”

I often have Peter Hitchens in my crosshairs. I wouldn’t bother if his musings about Russia were just ignorant: popular education isn’t my task. However, I consider it my duty to counter Putin’s propaganda, for, if unchallenged, it can do harm to Britain.

Putin’s propaganda is what Hitchens, well, propagates unfailingly. Whether he does this wittingly or unwittingly is a biographical fact of interest only to his friends and family. It’s the upshot that matters.

His latest opus explains the Russian Revolution in 300 words or less. Now brevity may be the soul of wit, but not in Hitchens’s hands – certainly not when he touches upon this subject.

But do let’s allow the master to speak for himself: “Germany, funnelling gold through the sinister middleman Parvus Helphand, financed and organised the Bolshevik putsch in Russia which has ever since been wrongly called the Russian Revolution. They even arranged for the maniac Vladimir Lenin to travel to Russia.”

This passage may strike you as factually correct. And so it is, textually. However, when propaganda is spun out by an expert, it’s often not the text but subtext that carries the burden of message.

Russian chauvinists obsessed with imperial aspirations always struggle with the need to explain the Bolshevik takeover and the cannibalistic regime it produced. After all, no other major nation in history, not even Nazi Germany, has ever managed to convert the whole country into a giant concentration camp, murdering 60 million in the process.

Yet Russian imperialism isn’t just any old land grab. It’s messianic: Russia is the Third Rome, whose noble mission is to spread wide her moral purity and unrivalled spirituality.

Such a claim requires substantiation, which, alas, has always been wanting, and especially after 1917. Thus the Russian Revolution must be not just explained, but explained away.

If the Russians are so saintly, spiritual and kind-hearted, an inquisitive audience might ask, then how come they [a long list of Bolshevik monstrosities]. Anyone still with a stake in preaching Holy Russia has only one option.

He must object that the Russians had nothing to do with the long list of Bolshevik monstrosities, nor indeed with the Russian Revolution. It was shoved down their throats by aliens who somehow landed from an unidentified planet to do their dirty deed.

The two groups usually put forth as candidates for this role are the Germans and, especially mellifluous to the Russian ear, the Jews. That makes Parvus a godsend: he blends the two in his own person. That’s why he’s a pet scapegoat of Russian chauvinists, especially those who, like Solzhenitsyn, like blaming Jews.

A minor quibble: he wasn’t named Parvus Helphand, as Hitchens calls him. His name was Alexander Helphand, and ‘Parvus’ was his nom de révolution. Therefore he was Parvus or Helphand or Alexander ‘Parvus’ Helphand, but not Parvus Helphand.

However, he undeniably did the things Hitchens mentions. As an international financier, Parvus had wide connections, reaching all the way to the German General Staff. He used those to mediate the transfer of German gold into Bolshevik coffers and of Lenin to Russia.

The Germans jumped at the chance to knock one adversary out of the war and, in Churchill’s apt description, “transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia”. Yet this doesn’t mean that what the Bolsheviks then perpetrated wasn’t a Russian revolution.

With equal justification Hitchens might say the American Revolution was in fact French. France, after all, played a similar role then as Germany did 141 years later.

For the financier Parvus read the playwright Beaumarchais. The author of Figaro acted as the middle man in the transfer of arms from France to the insurgents. Without those supplies, the Continental Army would have been routed.

Not only that, but French generals, such as Rochambeau and Lafayette, actually led insurgent armies in battle. So shall we refer to that event as the French, rather than American, Revolution? Or perhaps, since that name is already taken, Gallic Revolution?

Of course not. That would be an asinine oversimplification of a complex and multifarious historical process. The Revolution came out of the whole history of the colonies, and it was indeed American – this, though France’s help was much more critical than Germany’s help to Lenin.

For, by April, when Lenin rode that notorious sealed train to Russia, the country’s statehood had already been two months since crushed by a revolution in which the Bolsheviks had had no part.

Nor did they foresee it. A few months earlier Lenin had written “we, old men, won’t see the decisive battles of the coming revolution”. It was the February Revolution that made him seek a way back to Russia – enter the German General Staff.

Hitchens has his own take on that event: “Russia (as almost everyone forgets) was a democracy at the time. Lenin crushed that freedom with German-financed bayonets.”

I’m grateful for that ‘almost’. He graciously allows that some of us are privy to a few particles of Hitchens’s own gnostic knowledge. But democracy? Freedom?

If that’s how Hitchens sees the February-October interregnum, he should really read up on it. I’d be pleased to recommend a reading list.

Then he’d learn that, though Russia had a technically democratic Provisional Government at the time, it was no more a democracy then than, say, Iraq was after 2003.

Russia’s weak, ineffectual but legal state had been smashed to pieces, and the country sank into a blood-soaked chaos. The socialist Soviets formed a kind of duopoly with the government, but neither had any real power. The Red Guards, who later unseated the Provisional Government, came together then, and they went on a rampage.

Expropriations began immediately, with most factories nationalised and effectively put out of business. Those who worked there went on strikes, but to no avail.

The paralysed countryside stopped producing – or at least delivering food to the cities. Since the tsar’s government had introduced a wartime prohibition, the peasants chose the more profitable option of converting their grain into moonshine.

The cities starved, and they were overrun by gangs – especially since the Provisional Government had opened the doors of prisons. A bacchanal of murder, rape and robbery descended, and ransacking the cities were gangs of criminals, Red Guards, soldiers and sailors (the soldiers didn’t want to go to the front and the sailors couldn’t – the German navy had sealed the Baltic ports).

There was no law enforcement left: policemen were being shot out of hand, and those who survived were in hiding. Famine started, accompanied by murderous epidemics, and upper-class ladies were swapping diamonds for some flour. Bread was in short supply, but blood flowed freely.

Such were the eight months of “freedom and democracy” that Lenin “crushed with German-financed bayonets”. German gold didn’t buy the bayonets: they came free and willing. It did buy more propaganda than the Bolsheviks were already spewing out. That certainly helped – but not as much as Russian chauvinists like to claim.

The Revolution was a larger-scale version of what Pushkin described as the “Russian riot, senseless and merciless”, and what Lenin channelled to serve his evil ends. Not to see this takes profound ignorance of history in general and especially Russian history, along with the urge to blame anyone other than the Russians.

Or else it takes a wilful attempt to preach Putin’s official line. “The German government,” continues Hitchens, “cared nothing for the fate of the Russian people, whom they casually condemned to 70 years of state-sponsored murder and oppression.”

This portrays the Russians as innocent victims, who only unleashed an orgy of violence because the Germans had told them so. But I’m particularly interested in the numeral.

Let’s see, 70 years after 1917 gets us to 1987, the cut-off point beyond which murder and oppression vanished. The Soviet Union still had four years left, but it magically stopped being murderous and oppressive.

But what’s a couple of years here and there among friends? What Hitchens really means is that there has been no murder and oppression since 2000, when Putin came to power.

Never mind hundreds of dissenting journalists and politicians murdered, imprisoned or maimed by Putin’s stormtroopers. Quashed freedom of speech. Tens of thousands killed in aggressive wars. Massive theft of Russia’s national resources, with the proceeds laundered through Western banks by Putin’s gang.

Putin is the shining light leading Russia to the democracy, saintliness and spirituality she so tragically lost through no fault of her own because of the ghastly Germans. QED.

Hitchens is at pains to disclaim regularly that he isn’t paid by any Russian institution. Possibly. But one wonders how different his writing would be if he were.

The other side of the socialist coin

Contrary to the popular misapprehension, opposites never converge. If they appear to do so, they’re only misconstrued to be opposites.

Thus the fundamental opposite of secular socialist collectivism isn’t really secular dog-eat-dog capitalism. It’s Christianity, with its accent on free will and therefore on the freedom of the sovereign individual.

That’s why secular modernists, whatever they call themselves, and whether they glorify capitalists or shoot them, are united in their rejection, nay hatred, of whatever little of Christianity is left in our civilisation. They’re modern first and anything else a distant second.

The history of the West shows that only the Judaeo-Christian way of life can counterbalance the destructive, and self-destructive, power of either capitalism or socialism – or any conceivable combination thereof.

Remove Christianity from capitalism, and sooner or later it’ll converge with some kind of socialism, be it national, international, democratic, moderate or fascist. The convergence first manifests itself culturally and spiritually, by systematically empowering the state and eventually fusing it with big corporations. And then capitalism can become a snake devouring even its own economic tail.

Step by step, capitalists are squeezed out of capitalism, replaced by corporatists indistinguishable in their mentality and modus operandi from state officials. Witness the ease with which today’s politicians effortlessly become corporate executives and vice versa.

Socialists the world over insist that their creed is the ultimate Marx-given truth, regrettably perverted by the Soviets and just about everyone else who has ever tried it in earnest. Similarly, the apostles of spiritually denatured capitalism blame its social and cultural failures on the insufficient doctrinal purity of its practitioners.

Both refuse to accept that all such problems spring from congenital defects, not transient contagions. Then again, by ousting Christianity the West has lost not only a unifying morality but also the very reason in the name of which modernity was inaugurated.

Only this can explain the continuing influence of Ayn Rand (d. 1982), whose fusion of what I call totalitarian economism (viewing life mainly from the economic perspective), soulless rationalism, political libertarianism and hysterical atheism has claimed an army of followers.

Rand was the archangel of crude materialism, the nexus at which all strands of modernity converge. While feeble in her intellectual constructs and, for a bestselling novelist, an astonishingly incompetent writer, she was a natural fisher of souls, claiming many disciples who instantly fell under her spell.

For example, Rand exerted a formative influence on Alan Greenspan, the Virgin to her Gabriel, who in his position of Federal Reserve boss was one of the principal architects of the 2008 crisis. Even today this objectionable woman still claims apostles, most no doubt attracted by her fanatical championing of free enterprise über alles.

Few are repelled by Rand’s strident tone or the way in which she fuses the values of cutthroat capitalism with fascistic philosophy and aesthetics. At the centre of all her musings stands the fiscally virile superman, towering over a godless world made in his image.

This is couched in the literary equivalent of Nazi and Soviet paintings depicting, respectively, a muscle-bound chap sporting swastika insignia or a muscle-bound chap raising high the hammer and sickle. Replace those attributes with a balance sheet, keeping every other detail intact, and Rand’s clumsily painted picture will be complete.

To reinforce the parallel, whenever Rand delivered herself of views on religion, she matched the hateful rhetoric of her Satanic contemporaries, such as Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler.

Nor did she defer to them in the hysterical pitch of her effluvia, except that she chose as the object of such outpourings the übermensch defined in economic terms, rather than those of race or class.

While mocking religion, Rand slapped together her own philosophy she called ‘objectivism’. This was supposed to be the antithesis to ‘subjectivism’, a contrast much favoured by the communists who are house-trained to claim exclusive access to ‘objective’ truth.

This new philosophy is neither new nor has anything to do with philosophy. It’s Enlightenment positivism liberally laced with utilitarianism and stripped to its materialist core.

By way of an alternative to Christendom, humanists suggest a dispassionate calculation of self-interest based on reason. In a way it’s a revival of Platonic ethics: people, if properly taught, can learn to tell right from wrong simply by using rational thinking.

Everyone is supposed to be intelligent enough to be moral enough. Hence selfishness must be moderated only inasmuch as it doesn’t pay, not because the Church says so.

Private vices are no longer seen as inhibitors of public virtue. Like in arithmetic, where two minuses multiplied produce a plus, in social life too tossing a mass of private vices into the crucible of the new order is supposed to smelt them into one overriding collective virtue.

That’s the basic premise of Rand’s objectivism. She despised altruism in any form, be it public welfare, private charity or simple compassion. Amazingly, she found a moral content in the old adage of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

The fallacy Rand sold to the public was that the sum total of naked self-interests could by itself produce public good. Hers was the politico-economic answer to alchemy: the gold of goodness could be extracted from the pig iron of crude or even wicked pursuits.

Alas, we’ve found the hard way that simply adding millions of private self-interests together doesn’t produce public virtue. It produces instead a frantic traffic in buying and selling with no red lights (except those found in the district known for such fixtures) and with morality as the burnt-out cars by the roadside.

All this is easy enough to understand because it’s easy enough to observe. What I find incomprehensible is that Rand’s acolytes see themselves as conservatives. I can understand their calling themselves libertarian: most libertarians I’ve met seek liberation not just from the state, but also from any religious, cultural or intellectual authority.

But conservative? Whatever these chaps seek to conserve, it’s certainly not the two millennia of our civilisation. One can begin to understand Rand’s enduring popularity in the US, a country founded on Enlightenment principles, where conservatism is seen as a full synonym of economic libertarianism.

However, one would think that British conservatives would dismiss Rand’s strident utilitarianism with contempt. Alas, British conservatism is going the way of all flesh, with its place taken by various US hand-me-downs, such as neoconservatism or libertarianism.

Rand too is gaining popularity, with a group led by Razi Ginzberg setting up the Ayn Rand Centre. “She portrays… man as he ought to be,” explains this sorely misguided young man.

That would be true if we agreed that man ought to be a deracinated barbarian with no cultural or religious roots, who rejects everything our civilisation has produced except material progress, an animal so focused on the pursuit of fiscal happiness that he doesn’t care how many bodies he stamps on or steps over en route.

Mr Ginzberg would do well to remember that people with his kind of surname were in his grandparents’ generation exterminated en masse by goal-oriented savages similarly unconstrained by any tethers of Judaeo-Christian morality.

That’s what you get, Mr Ginzberg, when you reduce humanity to humanism. With no identifiable end, only the means are left – and they justify nothing. For, when man becomes a Homo economicus, he stops being a Homo sapiens. He loses his reason, morality and ultimately his humanity.

Is the Chairman Catholic?

Chairman Xi Jinping, soon to be beatified in the Catholic Church

Whenever a Church dignitary is about to pontificate (as it were) on matters political or economic, I wince before the first word is even uttered. And when I realise that he plans to elucidate such issues in the light of Catholic doctrine, the wince becomes a grimace of pain.

The other day Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, turned pain into agony. His Excellency praised Communist China for being “extraordinary” in “best implementing the social doctrine of the Church.”

This statement betokens cosmic ignorance not only of quotidian matters, which is par for the course, but even of the aforementioned social doctrine, which isn’t.

The bishop believes the communist butchers amply justify such accolades: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. What they do have is a “positive national conscience”.

I don’t know how widely he has travelled in China, but I do know that I haven’t travelled there at all. Hence I shan’t dispute the claim about shanty towns, although I doubt it on general principle. But His Excellency is absolutely right about drugs.

When Mao took over in 1949, there were 70 million junkies in China. Mao recognised that as a problem and threatened to execute anyone taking drugs. With communists, such promises never remain empty for long.

After whole armies of addicts were shot, the rest were miraculously cured, thus giving the lie to the claim that addiction is a disease. No legitimate disease I can think of, such as cancer, arthritis or emphysema, can be cured by a threat. A cancer patient can’t decide to stop having his condition, but a drug addict apparently can.

Thankful as we should all be to Mao for clarifying this sticking point and dealing with this pandemic problem, some of us, though evidently not the bishop, may object to his methods.

Sticklers for theological fine points may even doubt that mass executions conform to Catholic social teaching. They can, however, undeniably go a long way towards shaping a “positive national conscience”, especially if used widely and indiscriminately.

The bishop also admires China because there “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States…”

Yes, it’s indeed awful when the economy dominates politics. There’s only one thing worse than that: it’s when politics dominates the economy – as is the case in all communist countries, China included.

World domination is the political aim of all communist regimes, but their means may differ. Comrades Stalin and Mao preferred military conquest involving nuclear weapons if necessary. Xi Jinping relies on the carrot of economic expansion, keeping the military stick behind his back for the time being. His politics still dominates the economy, but in a subtler way.

If His Excellence doesn’t know much about such things, as he obviously doesn’t, only two reasonable options exist. One, he should learn; two, he should shut up. Mouthing bilge isn’t a reasonable option.

What else? Oh yes, the Paris Climate Accord, which the US has left, but China is upholding. “In that,” declared the prelate, “it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned.”

First, equating a dubious project based on little scientific evidence with morality is definitely ridiculous and, in a Catholic priest, possibly even heretical. But leaving this aside, one wonders how deeply His Excellence has studied this subject.

Even though the US, led by that notorious Antichrist Trump, has thumbed its nose at the Paris Accord, it has been steadily reducing its CO2 outputs. On the other hand China, led by the saintly Xi, is far and away the worst polluter in the world, responsible for about a third of all CO2 emissions – and fast increasing their volume.

Sure enough, the communists do support the Accord verbally. But don’t actions speak louder than words? Or perhaps the good bishop is more Augustinian than Thomist in that he believes in predestination impervious to good works.

What is proselytism if not teaching truth to the uninitiated? In that spirit, the bishop spruced up his message with a dollop of didacticism: “What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. There’s no other way, fundamentally it is like St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.”

Well, at least His Excellence is familiar with scriptural sources, if nothing else. If he also knew something about China, other than what communist propagandists told him, he’d know that the reverse of the Pauline adage doesn’t work there.

Millions of people who “work, work, work” don’t eat, eat, eat. A small bowl of rice, possibly with some fish heads, is still the mainstay of daily diet for many hard workers there. The situation has improved slightly from Mao’s time, but it’s still abysmal.

And, if the bishop had studied the history of communism, he’d know that St Paul’s quote was mockingly used in Russia by overseers of hard-labour camps, where millions died of starvation. Even though I doubt the Chinese butchers refer to Scripture much, I’m sure they often convey the same idea in the same spirit.

I’d welcome a chance to query the good bishop on such points of Catholic social teaching as subsidiarity and the right to life.

The former involves devolving power to the lowest sensible level. Ecclesiastically, this means empowering parish priests to do their work without much meddling from the Vatican. Politically, this means the small non-intrusive state.

Christianity in China is pretty much underground, so ecclesiastical subsidiarity doesn’t apply. And politically, China’s omnipotent central state ruling by diktat has little to do with subsidiarity.

I’d also ask how China’s one-child policy, only now being slightly relaxed, fits into the Catholic concept of right to life – especially since it involves mandatory culling of millions of foetuses, mostly female.

All told, perhaps it’s premature to nominate Xi for beatification, with the subsequent canonisation fast-tracked. But Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo may disagree.

EU talks Turkey

Erdogan and another future EU member

The EU is woven out of a tissue of lies, but they aren’t the same kind of lies.

Some are plain silly, such as that the EU, formed in 1992, has kept peace in Europe since 1945. Even assuming that this organisation can miraculously have a pacifying effect retroactively, this is a lie on many levels.

First, as denizens of Yugoslavia (remember it?) will testify, there has been no pan-European peace. What the Euro liars mean is that Germany hasn’t invaded France since 1945. Then why don’t they say so?

And why don’t they admit that the EU has nothing to do with such restraint? Post-war Germany has been deprived of any wherewithal to attack anybody, much less France that possesses a nuclear deterrent.

Any threat of post-war invasion came from the Soviet Union (aka Russia), and that was prevented not by the might of the EU, formed in 1992, but again by a nuclear deterrent, this time provided by NATO, formed in 1949.

Some other lies are perfidious, such as the one about the purely economic objectives pursued by the EU. In fact, as Jean Monnet and other founders were saying back in the ‘40s, when the EU was merely a twinkle in their eye, their aim was to form a single European state. This was to be achieved by a series of incremental steps, each sold to the credulous public as merely economic.

There are many other lies as well, such as that Germany doesn’t play a leading role in the EU. Yet one lie stands out as the most disgusting. The EU, claim its champions, picks up where the Holy Roman Empire left off.

Since most EU functionaries have gone to good schools, they can’t be so ignorant as to believe this nonsense. They must count on their audiences’ ignorance, and not without reason.

Medieval Europe was indeed united – in Christendom. Nationality implied no deep divisions then, as it does now. Italy, Germany and France, for example, can each justifiably claim Thomas Aquinas as their own. And the ethnically German Albertus Magnus, St Thomas’s teacher, spent most of his life in France.

Europe at the time had a single currency in precious metals, and educated Europeans conversed in a single language, Latin. But they were ultimately united in neither their money nor their language. They were united in Christ.

It was Christianity that made ethnic divisions trivial. Europeans perceived themselves as brothers at a level that transcended all others. They were united by what today’s barbarians call ‘values’.

The EU is also united by its ‘values’: powerlust, soulless materialism, socialist utopia of a single world government. These came to the fore during the Enlightenment, which etymologically derives from Lucifer, the original enlightener whose name means just that.

The EU thus doesn’t just deny the traditions of Christendom; it makes a mockery of them. Thus its claim of being heir to the medieval glory of Europe is a cynical lie.

To prove this point, Junk (as Jean-Claude Juncker is known to his friends) and Dusk (Donald Tusk), heads respectively of the European Commission and the European Council, will meet Turkey’s dictator Erdoğan to discuss Turkey’s admission to the EU.

The meeting will take place on 26 March in the Bulgarian city of Varna. Bulgaria is an excellent choice of venue, considering that back in 1876 the Turks massacred thousands of Bulgarians in the name of Allah.

Bulgaria must have been chosen in preference to other places capable of laying claim to the honour. Austria, for example, could qualify, for it was at the gates of Vienna in 1683 that the Polish king Jan Sobieski managed to defeat the Ottoman hordes, thereby saving Europe from being overrun.

One country that heaved a sigh of relief must have been Hungary, where the brutal Ottoman occupation had decimated the Christian population and destroyed medieval Hungary, along with thousands of lives. So Hungary too could be a suitable meeting place.

But my personal favourite would be Armenia, where fond memories of the Turks are of more recent provenance. For in 1915, the Ottomans, inspired by the Young Turks, founders of the modern Turkish state, systematically massacred 1.5 million Armenians – with Allah smiling benevolently from high above.

So, if the EU is brought together by shared ‘values’, exactly which of them does Turkey share? How can a Muslim country ruled by a brutal dictatorial regime, and having only five per cent of her territory in Europe, even remotely be described as European?

Springing to mind is Göring, who once said, in response to a Gestapo inquiry about his second-in-command Field-Marshal Milch, a suspected Jew: “At my headquarters I decide who’s a Jew and who isn’t.” Junk could paraphrase by saying: “In the EU I decide who’s European and who isn’t.”

Hence Junk could draw into the union such impeccably European countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran. They too could be seen as sharing EU ‘values’, the real ones, that is.

The EU is trying to undo the cataclysmic damage caused by an influx of Muslim migrants travelling to Europe through Turkey. The EU is paying Turkey billions every year to stem the flow, and perhaps even reroute some of it back where it came from. Clearly, EU membership is part of the payment for that service.

This misses a vital point. The arrival of a hundred thousand more Syrians here or there would damage Europe severely, but arguably not quite yet beyond recognition. The potential arrival of millions of Muslim Turks, however, would have exactly that effect.

Turkey is a country of 76 million. How many of them will prefer Burgundy or Bavaria to Anatolia? I don’t know. More important, neither do Junk and Angie.

The latter in particular should ponder the disruptive social and cultural (not to mention criminal) effect made by the half a million Turks already living in Germany. What if a modest 10 per cent of Turkey’s population decide to settle in Europe, which they’ll be entitled to do? Or shall we consider a perfectly realistic 20 per cent? Fifteen million Muslims?

Europe will become many things, but one thing it definitely won’t remain is European. And it’s not that Junk, Dusk, Manny and Angie don’t realise this. It’s just that they don’t care.

This kind of talking Turkey emphasises the true values unifying the EU. Its leaders would happily destroy Europe for the sake of preserving the European Union. One just hopes we’ll eventually break free of this wicked contrivance.

Transgender child of God

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. voted last Saturday to stop using “gendered pronouns” for God.

To “remove all obstacles” for “transgender” participation in worship, the Book of Common Prayer will be bowdler…, sorry, I mean revised to excise all gender-specific references, replacing them with words “drawn from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition…”

This brings to mind Hilaire Belloc’s 1938 book The Great Heresies. There Belloc analysed the greatest heretical threats in the history of Christianity. Specifically, he focused on the Arians, Muslims, Albigensians – and Protestants.

Now even some enemies of Protestantism may deny that it’s a heresy. But even friends of Protestantism can’t deny its potential for encouraging heresy. And even ardent exponents of Protestantism can’t deny its sectarian factionalism – this is borne out by the existence of over 30,000 Protestant sects.

The upshot of it is that one can’t talk about the Protestant Church. The term would presuppose the unity of doctrine and dogma, which is nowhere in evidence. At best, one may talk about Protestant churches – at worst, only about Protestant sects.

The Anglican Church, specifically its High end, has always clung to its ecclesiastical roots in Catholicism. Its communicants describe themselves as Anglo-Catholics.

Considering that some of my best friends are High Anglican priests, I shan’t attack this claim too fiercely. In its structure and liturgy, High Anglicanism has indeed kept one foot in the Western ecclesiastical tradition. But the other foot is buried in Protestantism all the way up to its ankle.

Hence even the Anglican Church can’t resist the heretical temptation of keeping up with secular perversions. This explains its female priesthood and episcopate, tasteless and tone-deaf rewritings of scriptural texts, using pop music at liturgy, Holy Communion administered by laymen (alas, this is practised even in some Catholic churches), increasingly lax stand on homosexuality and homosexual marriage – and general kowtowing to the more objectionable demands of modernity.

Since the US Episcopalian Church is in communion with the Church of England, it’s hardly surprising that it treads the same path to perdition, but at a brisker pace reflecting the dynamic, can-do American personality.

Thus it outdoes the C of E in stepping towards, and in this case over, the line beyond which heresy lies. For, in its nauseating attempt to mollycoddle champions of non-binary sexes (11 of them by last count), those DC chaps effectively deny the Incarnation.

Thereby they openly admit they aren’t Christians. That rather disqualifies them from holding their positions, regardless of how upstanding they are in other respects.

It’s possible to be a good person without being a Christian, but it’s impossible to be a good Christian without being a Christian. And the definition of a Christian surely has to include belief in Jesus, the Son of God in whom the second person of the Trinity assumed a human form to redeem our sins by agonising death on the Cross.

The second person of the Trinity incarnated as a man, disdaining female and non-binary possibilities. Denying this obvious fact is tantamount to denying that the physical Incarnation ever took place.

This takes us into the area of Docetism, one of the earliest heresies, identified as such at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. (Docetism insists that Jesus’s human form was a mere illusion, a phantom, which is what the word means in Greek.)

Refusing to describe Jesus as the Son of God or refer to him as He is therefore either Docetism or atheism – take your pick.

In Christian theology, Jesus isn’t only the Son of God, but also God the Son, of the same essence as God the Father. Thus countless references to God as a Father are justified not only theologically but also logically. He was a father twice over, and denying this is perfectly fine – as long as the denier doesn’t call himself a Christian.

The statement issued by the diocese identifies Jesus as the third person of the Trinity, which is staggering ignorance on the part of those who are supposed to have studied and preached Christian doctrine for years. Given that, one shouldn’t be surprised at their equal ignorance in identifying the mission of churches: “Fixed boundaries of gender identity are being challenged and churches need to respond.”

They do need to respond, but not by going with the secular flow. The proper response would be identifying various sex anomalies as mortal sins and opening a path to repentance and redemption. ‘Transgender’ persons must be welcomed into the church, but on the church’s terms, not their own.

Anyway, those DC chaps aren’t just ignorant and heretical. They’re also stupid in that they can’t see obvious logical incongruities.

To wit, they don’t mind ‘gender-specific’ pronouns when they’re female. As a lifelong champion of egalitarianism, I have to protest. Fair is fair: if Jesus isn’t a he, then none of the Marys, including the Virgin, is a she.

It’s hard for me to penetrate the mind of a non-binary person, but logically it (they? – one can get terribly confused with those things) should be equally offended by masculine and feminine pronouns. Even-handedness in taking offence has to be one of those inalienable rights.

In trying to be all-inclusive, the DC diocese will only succeed in being all-exclusive. Perhaps their objective is to re-enact the Exodus of Jews from Egypt and, if so, I’m sure their triumph will be as soaring as that of their British co-communicants.

British Anglicans are fleeing churches, secure in the knowledge that there’s no pharaoh in pursuit, nor any sea to cross. In general, churches that try to attract Christians by being less Christian only succeed in having less of a turnout come Sunday morning.

They could do worse than heed the words of the great Jesuit Matteo Ricci (d. 1610): “Simus, ut sumus, aut non simus” (We shall remain as we are or we shall not remain at all).

Trump is right

The president ought to have known better. He thought he was making an obvious observation that “the NHS is going broke and doesn’t work” and that socialised medicine is “really bad”.

Little did he realise that he was committing the worst sacrilege perceived in Britain as such. For the nation has channelled its religious fervour previously reserved for God into the conduit of the NHS.

Actually, this is only an ersatz of religiosity, in the Christian sense of the word at any rate. For western Christianity encourages, indeed demands rational thought. However, NHS champions, including Mrs May and her Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, not so much use as abuse reason in defending this Leviathan.

They’re proud of the NHS because it’s free at the point of delivery. But in colloquial usage, only the first word of this description is enunciated clearly. Hence this is the only word our comprehensively educated masses hear. Our health service is free.

Now imagine, one could say to them, that you want to buy a sofa costing £500. But rejoice: you pay nothing up front. The sofa is free. Of course there’s the small matter of your having to cough up £5,000 at the end of the year, but let’s not talk about such incidentals.

One could venture a guess that most people would insist that they’d rather pay £500 now than £5,000 later. They might even accuse the salesman of cheating. And yet those same people proudly describe the NHS as free, even though the logic of its financing is exactly the same.

Having lived in the US for 15 years and in Britain for 30, I can compare the two systems. As a sickly sort, I used the US system a lot, including for major operations. When I was in employment, medical insurance was a standard part of the package. When I was between jobs, I picked up the cost of the premiums myself.

Yet at no time did I pay 12 per cent of my income for medical care, which is the proportion charged by HMG in national insurance ‘contributions’. This before topping it up with private insurance, which in Britain is essential for anyone who needs first-rate medicine and can afford it. Free medical care seems dear at the price, wouldn’t you say?

Mrs May rebuked Trump’s assertion that the NHS is going broke by saying that the expenditure on it is at a record high. That may be, but it doesn’t at all contradict being broke.

No one would object to describing as broke a man whose liabilities exceed his assets, but who nevertheless continues to borrow vast amounts. Then why not apply this term to the NHS? It’s largely responsible for our huge budget deficits and trillion-plus public debt. Not only is it broke, but it’s beggaring the country for generations to come.

Mrs May and Mr Hunt counterattacked by boasting that any Briton can be treated regardless of his bank balance. The implication was that in America only the rich – or the lucky possessors of insurance policies – can get medical care, while the poor die in the gutter with greedy medics looking on with indifference.

This ignores the US public medical services of Medicare and Medicaid that look after those who are too old, too poor or too unemployed to have medical insurance. In fact, the US government spends more as a proportion of GDP on public medicine than the UK does – this although only less than 10 per cent of the US population are uninsured.

I visited friends in American hospitals financed by Medicare and Medicaid, and they’re in no way inferior to anything the NHS has to offer. And what do you know, male and female patients are kept in separate wards, not herded together as they are in Britain.

Nor do I recall having to wait for a GP appointment or hospital admittance in America – never mind waiting a fortnight for the former and over a year for the latter, periods that are standard in the NHS and getting longer. Neither do Americans ration medical services, something that’s routine in the UK.

Mr Hunt is proud of the fact that “healthcare for everybody [is] delivered at half the cost of the US system”, but that pride would only be justified if we received the same level of service. Yet we don’t, not by a long chalk.

However, it’s true that the US system is far from perfect. After all, perfection is only attainable after the Second Coming of Christ, and even then not by everybody.

Stripping the issue of totemistic adoration and nationalistic pride, we should identify the aetiology of imperfections in both systems and analyse them rationally.

Then we’ll see that, to use the medical parlance, the NHS problems are systemic, while the US ones are symptomatic. The former are caused by the intrinsic nature of things and therefore aren’t correctable. The latter lend themselves to relief, if not easily.

The main reason American medicine is too expensive is American litigiousness. Like some primitive African tribesmen who see every death as somebody’s fault and swear vengeance, Americans are encouraged to blame medics for their health problems and sue.

Hence in my day, 30 years ago, a Manhattan GP had to pay over $100,000 a year in malpractice insurance premiums, and consultants paid much more. These numbers must have grown exponentially in the interim. And the same applies to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, which spend billions fighting, and often losing, legal action.

That’s why exactly the same treatments may cost more in the US, although, what with contingency legal fees becoming popular in the UK, the gap may soon narrow. We tend to learn things from the Americans, except those that are worth learning.

NHS problems are caused by the very nature of a giant socialist enterprise increasingly less dedicated to treating patients than to promoting egalitarianism. The NHS provides yet another proof, if any are still necessary, that it’s possible to achieve universal equality only at the lowest common denominator.

All socialist enterprises are unwieldy bureaucracies breeding sinecures like rabbits busily copulating in the field. The NHS reinforces this observation by systematically replacing frontline medical staffs with useless administrators, who function similarly to the Soviet nomenklatura of my childhood.

History shows that such setups can’t be reformed. The only way is to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch – possibly by losing the first letter in NHS and moving the other two closer towards a mixed system used in the US and most other Western countries.

Conversely, the drawbacks of the American system are extrinsic to it, deriving largely from a plethora of litigation, most of it unreasonable. This sort of thing could be corrected by reforming laws, although the mechanics of this could be devilishly difficult.

Mr Trump had in his sights not so much the NHS as his political opponents who hold it up as a shining example to follow. But taking a shot at them, he hit the NHS by ricochet – and put his bullet right in the bull’s eye.

Unexplained wealth, explained

It has taken a TV series for HMG to cotton on: Russian money doesn’t just smell; it poisons. We seem to be ready to abandon Vespasian’s principle of pecunia non olet.

I haven’t watched a single episode of McMafia, and nor am I likely ever to do so. But hey, if it takes popular entertainment to spur our government into action, then long live popular entertainment.

HMG is ready to invoke unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) to seize the UK assets of rich Russians suspected of having profited from the proceeds of crime. This goes further than simply compiling a list of such people, as the US government has done.

Predictably, the ‘oligarchs’ are running scared, while their shills are raising a hue and cry. The gist of their protests is no longer that good people are suspected of being gangsters. It’s that good gangsters are suspected of being gangsters.

Actually, figuring out which Russian billionaires have acquired their lucre in criminal ways is easy: they all have. It’s like tossing a grenade into a room full of murderers. You can’t miss.

Even the Swiss are beginning to act, and not even their worst enemy can accuse them of being overly fastidious in opening their banks to criminal loot.

After London’s own Roman Abramovich found himself on the US list, he realised, with his unerring survival instinct, that Britain would soon follow suit. To give himself a bolt hole he applied for Swiss residency. However, having then found out that his application would be rejected, he hastily withdrew it.

Some 60 other Russian gangsters in London have asked Putin if they could please return home without being arrested. This suggests they fear exactly that fate should they remain in the UK.

The practice of refusing to accept dirty money isn’t new. Back in the 80s I met two Russians in New York, who had made millions forging works of art. Yet they continued to live in Queens because their every attempt to buy, or even rent, properties in upmarket Manhattan condominiums had failed. Their money smelled.

The other day I talked to a rich young Russian, who shuttles between London and Moscow. Although no champion of Putin, he was waxing indignant about what he called “an act of war”.

He’s a junior partner in a firm whose senior partner merited inclusion in the US list. When I voiced approval of that measure, my interlocutor accused me of tarring all rich Russians with the same brush. His company, for example, had nothing to do with organised crime.

“Do you pay protection money?” I asked. He gave an evasive answer (“Not me personally…”) that made it clear that they did. “This makes you at least an accomplice of organised crime,” was my unkind comment.

Most people to be subjected to the UWOs are guilty of more than just paying protection. For, when the whole economy is criminalised, it’s only possible to make vast amounts by criminal means.

Paul Klebnikov, who later found himself on the receiving end of rather extreme literary criticism administered with submachine guns in the centre of Moscow, wrote a book The Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia. In it he described the criminal activities of the eponymous hero and his then partner, later enemy, Abramovich.

The two of them were buying up companies wholesale, trying to corner a segment of the energy market. One factory owner flatly refused to sell. The next day he fell out of his window, after which the deal went through smoothly.

Klebnikov didn’t use the word ‘murder’, but he used many other words that left no doubt about the moral profile of the two gentlemen, who eventually moved to London.

Both of them were Yeltsyn’s closest advisors, in which capacity they recommended Putin as his successor. The partners thought they’d be able to control the KGB man, but he turned the tables on them.

When Putin became, well, Putin, Abramovich wisely fell in with him, but Berezovsky fell out. The former became Putin’s London friend and moneybag, while the latter became his London enemy. In due course Berezovsky was found hanged under unexplained circumstances. I’d suggest they’re about as unexplained as the oligarchs’ wealth.

Putin and his gang must be credited with creating history’s unique state. Fascisoid dictatorships had existed before, as had states run by secret police or those in cahoots with organised crime.

One can think of a few governments here and there that combined a couple of those elements. But only Putin’s junta has managed to fuse them all together.

In common with all faschisoid regimes, the Russian economy is subjugated to politics, and Russian politics is subjugated to its leader. Yet Putin’s regime differs from Mussolini’s, Stalin’s or Hitler’s. They stamped out organised crime; Putin is its absolute godfather.

In common with traditional gang chieftains, he uses global criminal activity as a way of creating a coterie of close accomplices who owe their wealth to him personally. Even if they had made their money before Putin took over, they’re only allowed to keep it as a reward for absolute loyalty.

Just like Russian tsars were the ultimate owners of all Russia by patrimonial right, so is Putin the ultimate freeholder of all Russia’s wealth. The nominal owners can only have a leasehold contingent on good behaviour. When they begin to misbehave, their wealth can be repossessed in a second.

Hence every sizeable business in Russia pays protection money, which eventually zigzags its way up to the Kremlin, having shed bits and pieces along the way. Putin’s personal wealth is variously estimated between 50 and 250 billion US, which is nice, as far as by-products of politics go.

But by-products they are: the ‘oligarchs’ are allowed to rob Russia blind in exchange for their blind obedience. Putin feeds off organised crime, and organised crime feeds off Putin. Together they’ve created the only totally criminalised major economy in history.

Putin likes to describe himself as a Russian traditionalist, and in this aspect at least he’s not far wrong. Malfeasance was always tolerated, indeed encouraged, in Russia even under the tsars.

In a well-known anecdote, Alexander I once asked his court poet and historian Karamzin how the provincial officials were doing. “Thieving, Your Majesty,” replied Karamzin (“Ils volent, Sire” – Russian spirituality was at that time expressed in French.)

Russian public servants were paid derisory salaries, especially in the provinces. Catherine II stopped paying them altogether, correctly assuming they could handsomely survive off the fat of the land.

Yet, though those chaps could have misappropriated state funds and taken the odd bribe, they weren’t murderers – and neither did they run global criminal empires. Even savage satires, such as Gogol’s play Inspector General, never went beyond portraying local officials as anything worse than petty crooks.

Crooks today’s lot may be, but there’s nothing petty about them. US authorities estimate that a trillion dollars has been laundered through American banks, and about as much in the rest of the world.

With their characteristic myopia, Western bankers and governments accept pilfered billions with alacrity. They fail to realise that packaged with the visible short-term money come invisible long-term side effects.

A society can survive only so much poison injected into its veins. At some point the receiving organism may develop fatal effects. The toxic presence of hundreds (thousands?) of Russians throwing their ill-gotten loot at London’s property developers and banks corrupts Britain.

Once the point of no return is reached, the whole country may well become fatally infected, effectively turning into a fence and money launderer for Russian criminals.

I don’t know if HMG fully realises all this. More likely, political expedience is trumping any moral considerations. But in this case the two happily coincide.

I do hope that those stolen assets will be seized, detoxifying Britain. Who knows, perhaps the US Congress will prevail on Trump to do the same and go beyond just listing Putin’s caporegimi.

Free speech? Yes. But not absolutely

Every time a conservative speaker is either disinvited or, if appearing, shouted down by a braying mob, the subject of free speech comes up.

The latest such incident occurred at Bristol University, and the speaker subjected to a riotous assault was Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP.

It has to be said that Mr Rees-Mogg asks for it, as far as our masses are concerned. The blighter doesn’t even bother to conceal that he was born with a silver spoon in every orifice of his body.

Mr Rees-Mogg speaks with the kind of patrician accent that even those born to it try to push downmarket not to provoke class war, and he wears Savile Row suits as if he came out of his mother’s womb sporting one.

That sort of thing is by itself enough to provoke a riot. And when he starts to speak, only those stuck in the same mud can possibly resist the desire to commit, as a minimum, ABH against his person.

Mr Rees-Mogg is one of the few politicians who can actually string together several sentences containing no obvious non sequiturs. He limits his rhetorical fallacies to a maximum of one per speech, rather than the more customary one per sentence (sorry, Mrs May). And he makes cogent arguments for Brexit without sputtering spittle all over the rostrum.

This explains the enthusiasm with which masked youngsters disrupted his speech and attacked Mr Rees-Mogg for being a ‘fascist’, ‘Nazi’, ‘racist’ and some such. I don’t know if homophobia and misogyny came up as well. If not, one can only put this glaring omission down to the heat of the moment.

Having dived headlong into the melee, Mr Rees-Mogg later admitted this was the first fist fight of his life (remember those silver spoons?), and it showed in his rather chaotic pugilism. But there was no shortage of courage and backbone – again rare traits among his colleagues.

Anyway, he emerged unscathed, and yet another debate about free speech kicked off. Many a commentator reasonably suggested that free speech only means something if we disagree with the speaker. If we agree, granting such freedom is no hardship.

Even more commentators quoted Voltaire’s maxim: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Stoutly spoken, as befits the master of the epigrammatic genre. But quotations do not a serious argument make.

If we wish to argue seriously, we must start by accepting that freedom of speech isn’t a natural or, if you will, absolute right. There exists an infallible test that proves this.

A real (natural, absolute) right is one that doesn’t presuppose a concomitant obligation on anybody else’s part. The right to life is one such. So is the right to secure property, provided it’s acquired legally. So is… well, I can’t think of any others offhand.

All other rights, including the one to free speech, are a matter of consensus, which can be granted or withdrawn. That means they aren’t really rights (to use the term rigorously) but contracts. One party claims freedom of speech; the other agrees to grant it – but never without qualifications.

Remove all qualifications, and we’ll be begging for freedom from speech, not of it. In other words, some speech is  allowed and some isn’t – always.

The incident at Bristol University was an attack on the kind of speech that so far hasn’t been proscribed by consensus reflected in the law. So by all means do let’s defend it – but only if we recognise that some other kinds of speech may be so proscribed.

For example, I wouldn’t defend to the death the right of a jihadist mullah to make a speech entitled “Let’s build a caliphate on the bones of British infidels”. A neo-Nazi should also be stopped if delivering an address along the lines of “Holocaust never happened – but it will if we try”. The same goes for a fire-eating patriot screaming: “Let’s deport, or ideally kill, all Muslims including (especially?) Baroness Warsi.”

The question will inevitably arise as to where do we draw the line, and who draws it. The only realistic answer available to us today is the government. This, however, implies faith in the government’s unbiased sagacity and its unerring sense of the demarcation line that can never be overstepped.

However, I doubt that many of us share this faith. (Sorry, Mrs May.) And even those who used to have it must feel betrayed by the conveniently broad definition of ‘hate speech’ enforced by HMG.

Good people will appreciate that incitement to kill, say, all Muslims definitely qualifies as such, but they’ll still demur when simply saying that we should prevent the Islamisation of Britain constitutes culpable ‘hate speech’. And, to remove any semblance of objective criteria, a racial insult is defined as anything perceived as such by the person on the receiving end – another example of the government’s incompetence in this matter.

So how do we decide where free speech should begin and end? And who, if not the government, can do so?

Two or even one century ago, it was understood that there was only one  institution whose moral judgement was capable of rising above the short-term expediency by which the state lives: the Church.

Yet giving this answer today would brand one as an even greater reactionary than Mr Rees-Mogg. Hankering after the past is like reaching for a pie in the sky long after salmonella has set in.

However, it’s impossible to answer those questions satisfactorily in the absence of an absolute moral authority, empowered to adjudicate secular diktats. Without it, any answer will be arbitrary, and vital issues, such as free speech, will be left at the mercy of those manifestly unqualified to solve them.

(Sorry, Mrs May.)