Thank you, Ma’am, can I have another?

“You’ve been a bad boy. So bend over and grab the edge of this desk…”

The relationship between the state and the people increasingly reminds one of a strict father chastising his naughty children.

There’s nothing new about the underlying paternalistic philosophy, but the scale of its application is steadily growing.

It was some 50 years ago that Richard Nixon said one of the few true things he ever uttered: “We’re all Keynesian now.” That was putting it mildly.

I’d say that all modern Western states tread the short stretch between Keynes and Marx. In other words, they’re all socialist to varying degrees.

Socialism originally proceeds from the assumption that the state knows what’s good for the people better than the people themselves. This is analogous to a father knowing what’s good for his children.

Like the father, the state must impose its will on the people for their own good. Also for their own good, the state may throw its naughty children over its knee and give them a thrashing if they dare challenge its authority.

Yet the founding premise of socialism is a lie: the state doesn’t really know what’s good for its subjects better than they themselves know it. That’s why the duty of paternalistic care the state assumes eventually becomes powerlust for its own sake.

Thus, if we blow away the smoke puffed up by sanctimonious liars to conceal the true nature of socialism, its essential feature, in fact its raison d’être, is a maximum transfer of power from the individual to the state.

To serve this purpose, the state will always try to make more and more people more and more dependent on it: for their medical care, their children’s education and – ideally – their very livelihood.

The nastier modern states use unbridled violence to that end; the more benign ones rely on other expedients. Yet ultimately the desired end is the same.

Taxation is the most widespread method of crowd control in Western countries; it’s the cane in the hands of a strict schoolmaster of yesteryear. Its efficacy goes beyond the obvious outcome of making the state richer and the people poorer, and therefore more in need of the state largesse.

For the masterly use of the cane of fiscal policy can beat crowds into shape in all sorts of subtler ways. A high-taxing, high-spending, inflationary economy doesn’t just affect our bank balance; it alters our behaviour.

Just imagine for the sake of argument that the state uses taxes, say, to double the price of wine and halve the price of spirits. I’d suggest that the incipient oenophilia of the British would disappear faster than you can say: “Let’s drink whisky with dinner, shall we?”

Or, relying on history rather than imagination, consider these facts.

The last 50 years of the nineteenth century produced an overall inflation of a meagre 10 per cent. The corresponding figure for the last 50 years of the twentieth century – when we all became Keynesian – is a whopping 2,000 per cent.

In that first period, income tax was practically nonexistent by our standards, and even that paltry tithe was paid by relatively few people. Public spending and borrowing were consequently low as well.

In the second period, the British government set out to prove the economic maxim that promiscuous state spending causes runaway inflation. Not only the inflation rate but also taxes shot up pari passu with the socialisation of the state.

Furthermore, during the same period, the inflation of assets, mainly properties, outstripped the monetary inflation tenfold.

The behavioural upshot was that Victorians were good savers and conservative investors. After all, a man was unlikely to become a spendthrift or a gambler if he was blessed with an income that he knew wouldn’t diminish by more than 10 per cent over his lifetime.

The reverse was true during the second period I mentioned: there wasn’t much point in saving money if it rapidly lost value. Hence people had to become either profligate borrowers and spenders or else reckless investors. typically in properties.

The 2008 disaster was a direct result, except that this was hardly a disaster for the state if we keep in mind its true desideratum. As people were defaulting on mortgages and declaring bankruptcy under the weight of unsupportable debts, they became more dependent on the state. QED.

Those who somehow managed to stay afloat tended to liberate themselves from the state’s tender mercies, making themselves, in the eyes of the state, disobedient children to receive six of the best.

This is the only context in which the government’s latest outrageous initiative can be understood: the Chancellor has announced a plan to charge VAT on private school fees.

Such promises are the only ones our governments keep unfailingly. Thus parents who now pay, say, £25,000 a year to educate a child can confidently expect to be paying £30,000 soon.

For many parents school fees represent a tremendous sacrifice: I know families who spend half their income trying to shield their children from the toxic effects of our comprehensive non-education.

The state thus gets them coming and going. First, it destroys the excellent two-tier system Britain had until the mid-1960s and creates hatcheries of ignorance, stuffing pupils’ heads with mendacious ideology and no real knowledge.

The children leave school unable to read and write properly, yet convinced of the unmitigated and uninterrupted evil of their country’s history. The only exams on which British children hold their own against their continental counterparts are pregnancy tests.

Second, when desperate parents spend their last pennies on trying to prepare their children for a better life, the state whips out the punitive cane of taxation.

It must be emphasised that it’s not just the EU but all modern states that pursue political ends camouflaged as economic ones. Economically speaking, the state would vastly benefit from making school fees not only tax-deductible but actually tax-free.

This way more children would go to private schools, thereby reducing financial pressure on state education. And, in the long run, more of the properly educated children will become tax payers, rather than tax consumers.

However, the state would lose a measure of its control over the people, which goes against the grain of its very essence. Hence, rather than encouraging parents to educate their offspring privately, it punishes them for having the temerity to do so.

Exactly the same applies to private pensions, another bugbear of the modern ‘Keynesian’ state.

As a proportion of average income, British state pensions, at just over 20 per cent, are the lowest in the developed world (in Holland, for example, they’re over 100 per cent, and elsewhere around 70-80 per cent).

On the plus side, our private pension funds are the largest in Europe, which partly makes up for the pittance we receive from the state. This, however, is an affront to our powers that be.

A private pension may make a person independent from the state for the last decade or two of his life. This simply won’t do.

The same thing happens here as with education. The state is a dog in the manger: it isn’t prepared to solve the problem, yet pounces on those who try to do so for themselves.

That’s why every government, Tory or Labour alike, robs pension funds in every conceivable way, and this government is preparing to follow suit.

Again, the measure makes no economic sense: the more money people have in their private funds, the less pressure they’ll put on social services.

But that’s like saying that a schoolboy would be better off reading, say, Reflections on the Revolution in France on his own, while ignoring the rubbish demanded by the Universal School Curriculum. Yes, he will be better off, but the state won’t.

We should all stuff a thick magazine into the back of our financial trousers and brace ourselves for more punishment. Our Head Mistress and her deputy are really cross with us.

Cult is all that’s left of culture

Banksy’s THE GIRL WITH THE PIERCED EARDRUM is clever. But, call me a reactionary, on balance I still prefer the original.

Looking down on our art scene from wherever they are, Plato and Aristotle must be having a good laugh.

Their guffaws probably have an element of I-told-you-so pride (hubris to them). For they knew that a moral and intellectual catastrophe was bound to ruin aesthetics as well.

The great Greeks considered what Aristotle called ‘transcendentals’ and what Plato specifically identified as Truth, Beauty and Goodness to be the inseparable ontological properties of being.

One can infer that a deficit in any element of the inseparable triad would automatically produce a failure in the other two. And a failure in two elements would leave the third one with nowhere to go but straight into the bin – like Banksy’s Love.

Banksy is a clever graffiti ‘artist’ for whom any wall or fence is a natural canvas. In terms of genuine aesthetic value, he relates to real artists as a subway busker relates to a concert virtuoso.

Yet he isn’t without some wit and ability (including, self-evidently, commercial acumen). Once, for example, he spray-painted PLEASE DRIVE CAREFULLY THROUGH OUR VILLAGE on a naked concrete wall in a particularly nasty London suburb.

Another time he painted a giant word BORING, on the wall of the brutalist Southbank Centre, showing a sound aesthetic judgement.

Of course, in the past, when art was defined as an expression of the ontological quest for beauty, Banksy would have been regarded as not so much an artist as a vandal.

But these days art is defined as anything its perpetrator says it is – provided critics and buyers agree. The actual reality of art has given way to the virtual reality of image, conveyed by smoke signals in the shape of currency signs.

That’s why Banksy has graduated from wall art to art auctions. Critics write serious proselytising articles about his work, and collectors pay serious money for them. Never mind the aesthetic value, feel the cult.

Hence the art world has happily fallen for the neat trick of artistic chicanery played by Banksy at – and probably in cahoots with – Sotheby’s.

His painting, Banksy’s Girl with Balloon, was bought for close to £1,000,000, which by itself is remarkable. After all, a few years ago a Lucas Cranach painting had a reserve price of £800,000 at Christie’s.

In the eyes of modern art connoisseurs, Cranach and Banksy are clearly comparable figures, with the latter slightly ahead of the former.

Admittedly, the price a painting fetches has never been solely a reflection of its artistic quality. But never in the past was the former totally divorced from the latter.

Thus it’s possible that, say, Canaletto’s depictions of Venice were more expensive than Guardi’s, who was the better painter. But neither of them would have faced serious competition from a street dauber, knocking off 15-minute pictures of the Rialto Bridge for the tourists’ delectation.

But Banksy isn’t just any old dauber. He’s a Conceptual Artist. This genre replaces art with ‘concept’, such as an unmade bed or livestock pickled in formaldehyde.

Actually, I wonder if I could make a splash in the art circles by putting a turd on a bathroom tile and calling that conceptual artwork Conceptual Art. Worth exploring, that.

Anyway, in this case Banksy’s concept was to hide a remote-controlled shredder in the painting’s massive frame.

The moment the auctioneer’s hammer fell, some accomplice pushed a button, and the painting was immediately shredded into long strips before the gasping audience.

The shredded fragments transformed one masterpiece into another, this one called Banksy’s Love is in the Bin. (I wonder what the police feel about a little girl described as Banksy’s love.)

One would think that the tricked owner would demand her money back. However, if she were the kind of person who’d do that, she wouldn’t have bought a Banksy in the first place.

The winning bidder wasn’t the last, essential, element in a transaction involving a work of art. She was a follower of a virtual-reality cult and reacted accordingly.

“At first I was shocked,” she said, explaining why she had decided to keep the work, “but I realised I would end up with my own piece of art history.” And obviously, should she want to sell, people will pay through the nose for a piece of art history.

At least the cult appeal of graphic arts is limited, what with the typically one-on-one nature of their transactions. Pop music, on the other hand, has millions of consumers, making it a truly mass cult.

Even in the salad days of rock ‘n roll, music played second fiddle to the cult. Presley in particular became a Christ-like figure, even acquiring aspects of resurrection after his death.

The cult aspect of pop became particularly prominent with the Beatles, who started out as singers of cute songs and ended up as false prophets, cult leaders of the modern world.

Somewhere along the way they acquired the help of musically trained assistants, so their later records display competent harmonies and even direct quotes from real composers, including Bach and Beethoven.

Yet it’s precisely in their late albums that music, even at its most primitive, no longer mattered. No one listened to it any longer anyway.

Instead, hysterical, drug-addled audiences were hanging on to every garbled word of the semiotic infra-musical message they discerned behind the ‘music’: hatred for everything that made the West Western.

In extreme cases, the message was literally understood and faithfully followed. Charlie Manson’s ‘family’ went on a murderous rampage partly as a result of the subliminal signal of hate they had correctly perceived in The White Album.

While the Beatles still tried to preserve a semblance of musicality, their followers have abandoned any such attempts. More and more, pop began to acquire overtly Satanist characteristics.

More and more, it began to appeal not just to the darker side of human nature but to the sulphuric swamp concealed underneath it. The appeal continued to be quasi-religious, in the same sense in which the antichrist is the negative image of Christ.

While Jesus redeemed his followers by dying on the cross, the messengers of the new cult would commit suicide or else die of alcoholism, drug overdose or in due course of AIDS.

In the process, pop has become a big business, perhaps the biggest of all. Tone-deaf adolescents can become billionaires overnight, provided they can tickle the naughty bits of the masses in a particularly effective way.

They belch their anti-capitalist invective all the way to the capitalist bank, and many critics sneer at the alleged paradox. None exists. These ‘musicians’ are expert manipulators of today’s cults, expressed commercially.

Modern commercial shamans don’t make products. They create markets and sell brands. They slap together sub-cultures. They fuse the markets and the sub-cultures into a uniform whole.

Pop music is only a part, although an important one, of what passes for modern culture. It’s the heart of the new Leviathan whose tentacles are numerous and ever-reaching.

Pornography, fashion, show business, a great part of the publishing and record industries, electronic media, drugs – all reach for the immature hearts and minds of modern consumers.

Step by step, the last three letters have fallen off the word ‘culture’. Only ‘cult’ has remained.

What’s wrong with our columnists, in a nutshell

IYIs are out in force

I struggle to remember the last time I learned something from a newspaper column, or for that matter a magazine article, that added anything to my understanding of something.

But I do read them, mainly because columnists have access to newspaper archives from which they pull odd bits of information that might be hard to find otherwise.

Other than that, I divide columnists not into good ones and bad ones, but into those who are extremely offensive and those only mildly so.

Those who often avoid giving any offence tend to concentrate on narrow subjects. Thus I find nothing offensive in what Roger Boyer has to say about Russia or Christopher Howse about religion – although I sometimes disagree with both.

However, no one can write soundly on multiple subjects unless he proceeds from a single sound philosophy. This is no more possible than for a builder to erect a house on a termite-ridden foundation or for an army to vanquish when its rear is weak.

In the absence of a solid philosophical base put together over many years of contemplation and study, a writer will never avoid saying intellectually offensive things – even if he also says some useful ones.

Dominic Lawson is a case in point. He’s a lucid and quick-witted writer, but one showing quite a few holes in his erudition, those that even access to The Times data bank and a virtuosic mastery of Google can’t quite plug.

That by itself is no big deal – show me a man who claims to have no such holes, and I’ll show you a liar. But Mr Lawson’s sketchy erudition is accompanied by no discernible philosophical position, and that’s a more serious matter.

Such drawbacks can be masked by a nimble pen, quick mind and general intelligence, all of which Mr Lawson displays in abundance, but they become glaring when he tries to delve slightly deeper than the surface.

I’m not trying to be beastly to Mr Lawson: he’s actually among the least offensive columnists, even though he’s a scion of a family where girls are named after their fathers. Rather I’ve chosen him as an illustration of the feather-like weight of his profession as a whole.

He too uses the trick I commented on a few days ago: pre-empting what others might say about one by saying it first.

Thus he opens today’s column with a self-deprecating admission that “columnists are, despite our pretension to omniscience, only human.” What, even Peter Hitchens?

Mr Lawson then proceeds to demonstrate the reason for reading newspaper columns by providing all sorts of useful statistics.

I didn’t know the cost of complying with the EU law that mandates an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 levels by mid-century (eventually £2.5 trillion a year), nor that most American soft drinks, including Coke and Pepsi, are kosher even though observant Jews make up only 0.3 per cent of the population.

The latter point was made in support of the accurate observation that vociferous minorities can subvert democracy by imposing their prejudices on the majority. A valid point, although I’d prefer to illustrate it with a similar example closer to home: preponderance of halal meat in British supermarkets.

Mr Lawson also kindly provides a good term made up by the American scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb: IYI (Intellectual Yet Idiotic). I’d say that SIYI (S for Semi-) would be more precise because real intellectuals can’t be stupid by definition.

Still, the term has its uses, as anyone who follows the toings and froings in the academe will confirm.

Mr Lawson then takes advantage of being a Sunday paper columnist by rehashing things many of his colleagues said during the week, including the outrage of sex self-identification.

When the issue first became fashionable, I wondered if I could self-identify as a woman to gain access to the women’s showers at our tennis club, subsequently re-identifying as a man half an hour later.

The case cited by Mr Lawson is more serious. ‘Karen’ White is a criminal man who self-identifies as a woman and therefore was serving his term in a women’s prison. There ‘she’ gratefully raped fellow inmates with ‘her’ penis and got a life sentence for her trouble.

Mr Lawson correctly finds this situation deplorable, as any sane person would. But, having thus shown the good side of Op-Ed journalism, he then says things showing the bad side.

In fact, all the same things could be easily said by all the same people who champion the cause of transgender madness:

“This is not an argument for complete conservatism, opposing all changes in social mores except by means of a referendum. Five years ago this column supported Westminster’s introduction of same-sex marriage as I couldn’t see how the happiness it gave those couples was a problem in the lives of others.”

Only an IYI could write something as irredeemably inane as this. First, conservatism, being above all a matter of temperamental predisposition, can’t be complete or incomplete. It’s like being pregnant: one either is or isn’t.

Then it’s simple ignorance to say that conservatives oppose all social change. We oppose only pernicious change, and all unnecessary change qualifies as such.

A conservative will always agree with what Lucius Cary said almost 400 years ago: “If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

Second, it’s even more ignorant to imply that conservatives would only accept social change as a result of a referendum. In fact, no real conservative has a good word to say for plebiscitary democracy, which is even more destructive than our present dictatorship of the Commons.

My view on this subject didn’t change one bit even after the latest plebiscite produced the result I welcome. But even accepting that some referendums are unavoidable, only an IYI would suggest they’re the only expedient for introducing a change in social mores.

You see, it has taken five paragraphs to give the lie to one IYI sentence. Mr Lawson’s second sentence, on the other hand, shows such an abyss of IYI ignorance that one could write a whole book about it.

The argument for homomarriage put forth by Mr Lawson isn’t so much eudemonic as demonic. It takes an IYI, especially one of the leftish persuasion, not to see that recognising the validity of homomarriage debauches the whole idea of society’s crucial sacrament.

Marriage and family, the building blocks of society, are among those institutions that can’t be redefined. They can only be destroyed, and legalising homomarriage takes a long stride in that direction.

The happiness of the homosexuals involved has no more bearing on the issue than the happiness of the well-hung ‘Karen’ White has on the issue of sex self-identification.

True enough, it doesn’t diminish Mr Lawson individually. However, we’re not only individuals, but also members of society. Anything that damages society diminishes us collectively short-term – and individually over time.

And what about a vociferous minority (in this case homosexual activists) imposing their bias on the majority? How can it be right for them and wrong for ‘Karen’ White’s supporters?

Since I’m only writing a short piece, not a book, on this subject, I’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say that Mr Lawson ought to be careful throwing IYI stones out of his glass house.

Down with England’s past

Poppies are good only to make opium and its derivatives, so popular at our universities.

The young are supposed to be intellectually underdeveloped, for purely physiological reasons. One’s brain isn’t even wired properly before university-leaving age.

However, even considering such low expectations, the students’ union of Cambridge University makes one gasp with incredulity. That body has voted not to celebrate Remembrance Day because it “glorifies war”.

Now if international tables are to be believed, we’re talking about one of the world’s best universities. I can only guess the extent of mental retardation at universities that don’t enjoy such an exalted status.

This dovetails neatly with the piece I wrote the other day, about the cataclysmic deterioration of the post-Christian collective intellect. For my problem with that vote isn’t so much that it’s subversively unpatriotic and morally revolting as that it betokens the inability to use basic logic.

Patriotism isn’t something to be expected automatically, only allegiance is – for as long as one enjoys the country’s protection, one must be loyal to it.

The ancient principle protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protectionem (protection entails allegiance, and allegiance entails protection) is inviolable and non-negotiable. William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, found that out the hard way in 1946 by becoming the last person hanged for treason in Britain.

That Irish-American Nazi propagandist fled to Germany on a British passport. Even though it was fake, the passport put him under protection of the Crown. Therefore he owed it allegiance.

Had he travelled on his American or Irish passport, he wouldn’t even have gone to prison: neither the US nor Ireland was at war with Germany in 1939, when Joyce absconded there. Hence he was a traitor neither to them nor indeed to Britain, whose citizen he wasn’t.

A citizen’s allegiance to his country is thus a matter of law. His patriotism, however, is a matter of personal taste. Burke expressed it with his usual epigrammatic precision: “To makes us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”

I happen to think that Britain is indeed lovely, for all her rapidly multiplying faults and tragic failings, such as Jeremy Corbyn. Then again, we like because of something; we love in spite of everything.

With those provisos, I’m satisfied that, on balance, Britain is lovely – which is why I’m a patriot.

Those Cambridge youngsters obviously feel otherwise, and they’re entitled even to their ridiculous opinion (one reason I’m a patriot is that Britain still retains some, if increasingly less, freedom of expression).

But they aren’t entitled to their own logic: like any other of God’s creations, logic is objective, not subjective. Its rules don’t change depending on how well or badly we wield it.

That doesn’t mean everyone is born equipped with a beautifully tuned logical apparatus. No, the ability to think soundly, along with the knowledge of what constitutes sound thought, must be both taught and self-taught.

It’s blindingly obvious that the students of one of the world’s best universities haven’t had the benefit of such tuition.

Otherwise they would never have uttered something as monstrously cretinous as that mourning the country’s fallen soldiers glorifies war. That’s like saying that a woman weeping for her departed husband thereby glorifies the cancer that killed him.

The bereaved wife doesn’t have to weep for her husband. She might have hated him when he was alive and, now he’s dead, she may be dancing with joy.

By the same token, those pimply youngsters are within their right to say they hate Britain, wish it had never won a single war, and therefore detest retrospectively every soldier who died defending such a worthless commonwealth.

That proclamation would have been monstrous, but it wouldn’t have been monstrously cretinous. What they proclaimed instead is both.

I’d wonder what they’ve been taught over some 15 years of institutional education – if I didn’t know exactly what it was. These young savages have had their heads stuffed to the gunwales with the kind of ignorant, malignant leftie rubbish that Jeremy Corbyn feels they haven’t had enough of.

The entire history of England is, according to these ghouls, one uninterrupted chain of oppression, injustice, slavery, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and every other sin than which nothing worse exists.

Hence we should spit on the graves of those who died defending this awful place, including presumably those 20,000 Royal Navy sailors who laid down their lives trying to stop slave trade in the early nineteenth century.

And it’s not just the military men. If we still have some saliva left after spitting on their graves, we should also spit on the memory of every hero signposting British history.

Merely quoting Churchill at our universities makes one a target for vicious attacks and ostracism. Wellington was nothing but a war criminal, and a white supremacist to boot. How many of his officers were black, lesbian, disabled Muslim women? Say no more.

And that hysterical leftie fanatic Afua Hirsh agitates for removing Nelson’s statue from Trafalgar Square. (I had the misfortune of meeting Miss Hirsh on a BBC programme, where I tried to explain to her – predictably in vain – that prison is a form of punishment rather than education or social work.)

As to that great empire builder Cecil Rhodes, his statue can’t be allowed to befoul the hallowed grounds of Oxford University, which is even higher than Cambridge in the international pecking order. The administration of Oriel College managed to keep the lynching mob at bay in 2016, just, but it’ll be back.

This kind of poison is in the air, yet no antidote is provided. All that’s on offer at our schools and universities is more, and more virulent, poison.

This reinforces my conviction that university education should be provided for not 50 but five per cent of the population. The predominantly left-wing, Anglophobe dons will still spray their intellectual novichok around, but at least they’ll kill fewer minds.

Same old China

So how are they (the dissidents) hangin’, Xi?

In this context, China isn’t Cockney rhyming slang for ‘mate’. It’s a synonym for ‘enemy’, and the Americans sound as if they begin to realise this.

In fact, one detects a note of pique in their response to yet another spying scandal involving China.

President Trump has warned that the higher tariffs imposed on China are only the first step on the punitive path – especially since stealing technologies and spying in general aren’t the only, nor even the worst, crimes committed by China against the US.

According to Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security Secretary, “China absolutely is … exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion.”

It appears that hybrid war is something invented by Russia, but perfected by China. Then again, China has more money to spend on undermining the West, and no less desire to do so.

China, says FBI Director Christopher Wray, presents “the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face.”

Vice President Pence thunders that China is running “an unparalleled surveillance state”, having abandoned “the pathway of more freedom”. It uses coercive loans and foreign aid programmes to exert control over vulnerable countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

All things considered, the Trump administration is overturning the Nixon policy of mollycoddling China – and more power to it. This turnaround is long overdue, and one can only hope it hasn’t come too late to stop the Chinese juggernaut.

What I find amusing is the note of bitter disappointment sounded by American officials, the sense they convey of being let down. They trusted China, but China didn’t live up to the trust.

It’s as if they’re saying:

“Look, we’ve given you so much, opened up world markets for you, transferred every conceivable technology, given you all sorts of credits, loans and charitable aid – all in the hope that you’ll become like us.

“Not only as rich as us, but also as free, benevolent and, well, civilised. And is this what we get in return? There we were, extending our hand in friendship, and here you are, alternately biting our hand and spitting on it.”

Now the real problem isn’t that all those Western emoluments have failed to erase the spots from the Chinese leopard. It’s that there was a hope that they would.

This emphasises two fundamental problems with the contemporary Western, and particularly American, mentality.

The smaller problem is the lamentable inability to grasp the nature of the effect communism has on a nation – especially one with no traditions of Western civility.

Communism is misanthropic hatred of our civilisation, expressed as history’s most evil ideology. If practised for a few decades it tends to kill not only millions of bodies but also tens, or in China’s case hundreds, of millions of souls.

It befouls the collective soul of a nation, destroying whatever is good and fostering everything that’s evil. And if there wasn’t enough evil there in the first place, communism makes sure the level is built up to the desired standard.

It’s a cancer, metastasising over a nation’s entire body. Just like an oncological patient, the nation may survive. But it’ll never be the same: its moral fibre will never grow back to cover all the gaping holes.

That’s why abandoning communism fully is impossible: the residual disease will still be there for many generations, gnawing surreptitiously on every organ.

This will be the case even if a country makes a genuine effort to treat itself, thereby attempting to join the civilised world. However, neither Russia nor China has made such an effort.

All those perestroikas, democracies, free markets and other good things in life are used there not to excise evil, but to camouflage it.

And, just as it’s possible to paralyse an army’s HQ  simply by jamming its communications, so it’s possible to deal the West a deadly blow without necessarily attacking it militarily. As long as the will is there, a way will be found.

Inundating the West’s gullible and undereducated population with hundreds of millions of subversive messages may do the trick. And what will happen to the global financial system, if the Chinese and the Russians dump all the trillions they hold in dollar assets? (The Russians are already beginning to do so.)

For biographic reasons, I know – and write – more about Russia than about China. But I know that they are much more like each other than either is like the West.

Since the early nineties, I’ve been banging my head against the wall of post-perestroika demob happiness in Britain, writing (in small conservative journals) that what was going on in Russia wasn’t a transition to democracy. It was a transfer of power from the Party to the KGB.

The country thereby shifted to more subtle and perfidious methods of undermining the West. In parallel, the new elite, made up by a fusion of the secret police and organised crime, could also look after Number One much better than under the crude Politburo.

Russia became not less of an enemy, I was saying, only a less overt one. I wasn’t believed then, and, by and large, I’m not going to be believed now.

The immediate reason for this incredulity is the small problem I’ve outlined: ignorance of communism and its demoralising long-term effects.

Yet there exists another reason, a deeper and bigger one. The West – especially its transatlantic leader – is in the grips of a philistine certainty that everyone is, or yearns to be, just like us.

Countries that are Western only geographically, like Russia, or not Western at all, like China, are supposed to limit their aspirations to achieving the philistine heaven of two cars in every garage and two chickens in every pot.

Cultures that have precious little in common with America are supposed to have produced populations eager to start seeing life as a gradual accumulation of assets, culminating in some suburban bliss.

A philistine man is certain of universal sameness, and so are philistine nations. And when other nations behave in ways that belie that belief, that only means they haven’t had the opportunity to express themselves in Western ways.

Provide that opportunity, open up the paths, give them a helping hand and within a few years they’ll chuck aside thousands of years of their history, their national mentality, their faith (secular or otherwise), their notions of morality – their whole ethos, all incompatible with ours.

Dangle the straw of being like us before them, and they’ll grasp it with both hands. Such has been America’s geopolitical naivety throughout history, but especially since it found itself face to face with crystallised political evil.

A country where only 40 per cent of the population have passports, and where close to 100 per cent have little idea of international history, geography and politics, is ill-equipped to develop a deep and nuanced understanding of lands dramatically different from itself.

The penny usually doesn’t drop until the first bombs do. So it’s to the credit of the Trump administration that it seems to be getting around to realising that non-military weapons can be just as devastating – provided they’re deployed to devastate.

So far Trump and his people have shown a clearer vision of China than  Russia, partly I’m sure for racial reasons. (Until the Mueller investigation has been completed, I’m willing to push more sinister explanations aside.)

It’s easier for Americans to see the Chinese as aliens because they look, well, alien. The Russians, on the other hand, look almost Western, especially now they’ve made some sartorial and hygienic advances.

They look like ducks, walk like ducks, quack like ducks – but they aren’t ducks. One hopes that the Americans will realise this before too long. Meanwhile, let’s congratulate them, hopefully, on the hardening of their stance towards another evil regime.

Without God all things are possible

If only…

The title isn’t a blasphemous attempt to turn around what Jesus said (“…with God all things are possible.”)

It’s rather a paraphrase of a line spoken by Dostoyevsky’s Dmitri Karamazov: “Without God everything is permitted”.

Or rather not spoken by him, as literary pedants point out to establish their scholarly ascendancy over us, ignoramuses.

Fair enough, those exact words don’t appear anywhere in Dostoyevsky. But that exact thought does.

Dmitri says: “And without God and without life everlasting? That means then that everything is permitted, that one can do anything?”

This theme, with variations, is Dostoyevsky’s leitmotif, repeated by Myshkin in The Idiot, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Kirilov in The Possessed – and these are only those I can remember offhand.

In fact, one could go so far as to say that the post-Christian moral catastrophe is the thrust of Dostoyevsky’s entire oeuvre. In this, he both agrees and argues with Nietzsche, who largely set the terms of intellectual debate in Russia at the time.

Since then this theme has been flogged to death by every conservative commentator. This doesn’t mean that a few more lashes would go amiss – only that the amorality of atheism is, to me, an observation so obvious as to be boring.

Usually I just cite the empirically verifiable fact that more people died violent deaths in the first fully atheist century, the twentieth, than in all the other centuries of recorded history combined.

I then preempt the inevitable objection by saying that not all of these deaths were caused by advances in killing technologies. Millions were dispatched using the expedients long in the public domain: executions, tortures, inhuman imprisonment, artificial famines, neglect.

Another subject, however, hasn’t been explored as exhaustively, and I’m certainly not yet bored with it. My contention is that the collapse of Christianity as the principal social dynamic has produced not only a moral catastrophe, but also an intellectual one.

In other words, without God all things are possible not only to do, but also to say. If I ever get around to writing a book about this, I’ll doubtless cite many substantiating examples. Regular readers of this space know that these aren’t in short supply.

What I’d like to do here is try to understand why our collective intellect has been declining so steadily and precipitously since the coming together of two great misnomers: the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.

This isn’t to suggest that the average IQ is lower now than it used to be. I suspect on general principle that the spread of human abilities, including IQ, is roughly similar in every generation.

However, and this obvious point is often ignored, IQ relates to intelligence the way musicality relates to musicianship – it’s potential, not actual attainment.

Many musical people never learn to play musical instruments, or especially play them well. And many people with a high IQ never become intelligent, although they tend to do well in purely practical fields.

What I mean by intelligence is the ability to think through multiple complex ideas, both singly and in conjunction with one another; construct strong logical chains of many links; build multi-storey structures providing access to the truth; successfully rely on reason rather than emotions or ideology in dealing with the vagaries of life; know the differences among a feeling, an opinion, a judgement and an argument.

A brief scan of, say, Victorian newspapers will show that the columnists of the time occasionally wrote wrong things, but hardly ever stupid ones. These days, one can hardly ever find an Op-Ed piece that can withstand the most cursory of intellectual tests, never mind scrutiny.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) is a widespread fallacy, and one must be on guard when claiming that it was the demise of Christianity that caused the intellectual decline.

However, in this case one can easily argue in favour of a causal effect.

For any religion, when it’s the dominant force in society, teaches people not only, one could even say not so much, what to think but also how to think. It provides a methodology, discipline and technique without which no intellectual or creative activity can ever succeed.

The Christian thinking methodology blended Athens and Jerusalem together, and fortified the blend with indigenous additives. Over many centuries this produced a collective intellect like no other.

This irrespective of the person’s faith – in Christendom, even agnostics thought like Christians on secular subjects, taking advantage of the Christian methodology.

Christianity is a teleological religion, based on the assumption that life has a specific purpose, an end towards which it moves in eternity. Thus a thinking Christian accepts the existence of ultimate, absolute truth and dedicates his life to approaching it.

Moreover, Christians believe that, since the world was created by a rational deity, it’s rationally knowable and independent of our perception of it.

This explains why real science could only have appeared in Christendom – the Incarnation established an ontological link between God and man, conferring on the latter some of the rational powers of the former.

That was the foundation of Christian thought, on which the subsequent structure was built gradually but ineluctably. For Christian thought reflects Christian faith in that it too is teleological, striving to arrive at the absolute truth, or at least approach it.

That being the desired end, an intricate lattice of various methods and techniques were developed to ease a thinker’s way to it.

The process wasn’t haphazard: not only universities but even schools routinely taught such disciplines as logic and rhetoric, to say nothing of theology and philosophy. These were the mainstay, sometimes the entirety, of every curriculum.

The victory of atheism caused a rapid subsidence in the foundations of Western thought. People no longer believed in absolute truth, which deprived their thought of its vital teleological aspect. Absolute truth was fractured into shards of little half-truths and petty relativities.

Man, declared to be self-sufficient in all matters and therefore in no need of God, was cut away from his intellectual underpinnings and cast adrift.

The Christian idea of equality of all before God was perverted to mean the equality of every opinion, what with the man himself being not only the originator of it, but also its judge. The intellectual weapons of Christianity were decommissioned, leaving man to his own vices and devices.

What used to be Christian individualism became modern solipsism, a tendency to see oneself as the axis around which everything revolves. That meant backtracking to Athenian idealism, but with no Plato anywhere in sight.

As a result, serious thought was replaced by a toxic combination of emotions and ideology – with devastating results, at least 300 million of them, which is how many people were killed during the twentieth century.

If you look at one of the two central activities of Western modernity, politics (commerce being the other one), you’ll know what I mean. It proceeds from the worship of narrow-minded and ignorant egoism.

The key presupposition of modern politics, with democracy not counterbalanced by any restraints that could only come from competing powers, is that every vote, no matter how ill-informed or driven by pernicious appetites, is equally valid.

People are paper-trained to think that, regardless of how many individual wrongs are thrown in the pot, together they’ll produce a collective right.

So they may, once in a blue moon – statistically it’s not impossible. But the underlying proposition is not only false but demonstrably damaging if practised over time.

Give it a couple of generations, and no one will believe any longer that any ultimate political truth exists. Everybody is trained to think in terms of short-term expediency – which is to say no one is trained to think.

That explains democratic politicians routinely delivering speeches that are not only mendacious but, which is worse, intellectually puny.

The latest example is Mrs May’s soliloquy at the Tory conference, in which she first identified the high cost of servicing the national debt as a great problem – and then promised to drive that cost much higher by abandoning ‘austerity’, such as it is.

But this isn’t just Mrs May – it’s the overall collapse of the collective political intellect. Stupid politicians assume that their flock is even more stupid, and they’re usually right.

Rather than responding to political messages as sapient individuals, voters respond like dogs, reflexively. They identify some key stimuli activating their current appetites and jump up on cue.

That intellectual catastrophe produces the upward pull-through: people vote in politicians whose promises make their saliva pump harder, without giving the slightest thought to the veracity of the promises or the possible long-term ramifications.

The same observations can be made about commerce or just about anything else. It’s the staggering collective inability to think through one’s economic leaps before making them that created the 2008 crisis and is about to create another, worse one.

This is noticeable in the behaviour of both the providers and consumers of financial services. The former are incapable of thinking beyond this year’s bonuses, the latter beyond today’s appetites. Neither are trained to think through the potentially disastrous consequences of licentious profligacy.

In fact, when people stopped believing in God, they stopped believing in consequences. A moral failure for sure – but also an intellectual one.

In fact, I tend to see much of modernity as one immense intellectual failure. Rodin’s famous sculpture was merely an exercise in nostalgia for a world long gone.

No, you can’t examine me, doctor

“The doctor will molest you now.”

This space is turning into an extended certificate of the collective mental illness otherwise known as modernity.

Without going deep into the philosophical, moral and social collapse pushing modernity off the rails, this time I’ll simply cite the empirical evidence I collected last week.

Medically, this is close to being the busiest time of my life. Everything seems to be packing up at the same time, the upside being an opportunity to observe how medical services respond to the pressing challenges of our time.

As we all know, the most pressing challenge, nay the greatest danger, of our nuclear age is men behaving inappropriately towards women and, less often, the other way around.

Too many beastly men wolf-whistle at innocent young things, traumatising them for life. Too many of those animals brush against women on public transport, pushing the victims into a lifetime of costly therapy.

Clearly, the state would be remiss in its duty of care if it didn’t step in to put an end to such outrages. And step in it does, putting its foot down with a mighty bang.

These days even an unsupported claim of sexual harassment may suffice to ruin a career, if not expose the target to criminal prosecution.

An uninvited hand on an unsuspected buttock clearly calls for a custodial sentence. And using a position of power to solicit sex makes the oppressed women of the world unite in their demand that the death penalty be reintroduced.

That’s why all medical services are expected to provide, or at least offer, chaperones during examinations. As I found out, this generosity extends not only to women but even to rather burly, if not impeccably healthy, men.

When a chaperone is offered by a male doctor, I decline in the hope that I’m in no sexual danger. When it’s offered by a woman, I decline in the hope that I am.

However, that doesn’t mean I stay unprotected in either case. My nonexistent chastity is still well served by medical professionals, and the evidence of last week is incontrovertible.

Exhibit 1: My wife and I went to get our flu jabs, which we’re supposed to have every year, even though the nurses administering the procedure honestly admit it’s unlikely to have much effect.

Since we were both scheduled at the same time slot, the young nurse suggested we go into her office together. She then went through the litany of possible side effects, which, considering we get the same jab every year, lacked novelty appeal.

Having explained that some patients might feel faint, and coyly smiled at my silly request for prophylactic mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the nurse approached me syringe in hand.

However, before plunging it into my shoulder, she asked me if I agreed to be touched by her, and again smiled when I said the pleasure was all mine.

Now, considering that my wife was in the same room, or rather cubicle, the chances of the comely nurse molesting me were, alas, abysmally low. But hey, protocol is protocol. Bureaucracy will overpower common sense every time.

Exhibit 2: The next day I had an appointment with a woman endocrinologist, investigating something potentially nasty in my thyroid.

There was no operational reason for me to disrobe, and, to her credit, she didn’t request that I do.

In this she favourably differed from an art director I used to work with in advertising during my dissipated youth.

When casting female models for, say, close-ups of their eyes, that libidinous chap always asked them to get their tops off, waving aside their objections that they didn’t see the necessity. “It’s the way the light reflects, love,” he’d explain somewhat unconvincingly.

The endocrinologist wasn’t like that. She didn’t ask me to take my trousers off before palpating my neck. However, she did ask if it was all right for her to examine me.

The puerile prankster in me desperately wanted to say, “No you don’t, you slut, not if you don’t want to be struck off.” Instead, the mature adult in me said, “But of course, doctor, this is what I’m here for.”

One would assume that a patient presenting for an examination has thereby consented to the examination. But nothing is taken for granted these days.

Exhibit 3: The day after I went to see a sports doctor, trying to inject some life into my leg, worn out (‘knackered’ in the technical parlance) by a lifetime of chasing fuzzy yellow balls on tennis courts.

This doctor was male and, by the looks of him, as straight as I am. Before I took my trousers off, he kindly asked if he could lend me a pair of tight shorts to protect my modesty.

Since he was a man, my modesty didn’t need all that much protection but, being an old hand at this sort of thing, I had put on just such a garment before the visit just in case.

That obstacle out of the way, the time came for him to dig his fingers into my thigh. But before doing so, the doctor repeated the interrogatory mantra I had already heard from the endocrinologist: “Do you consent to being examined?”

Having received my assent, he examined me and honestly admitted he had no clue what the problem was. He then charged me twice what the endocrinologist had charged.

The thought crossed my mind that I could make him waive the charges by threatening to report him for sexual harassment. But I didn’t: such a trick would be too unoriginal.

Was Churchill Hitler in disguise?

Winston Churchill, delivering his ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech to the Commons

Or, to broaden the question, was the British Empire evil? If your answer to either question is ‘no’, I suggest you keep it to yourself for your own good.

Finding anything positive to say about our wartime leader or the empire he served instantly brands you as, well, a fascist. And that’s putting it mildly.

Count yourself lucky that our lamentably outdated laws still don’t call for banging the likes of you in prison.

That’s going to change soon, so start quaking in your Chelsea boots. Meanwhile, progressive people have to rely on social, rather than legal, punishment.

Ostracism is useful, so is indignant din in social media. The transgressor will be still free to move around, but wouldn’t want to, for fear of loud opprobrium from the baying mob.

Nigel Biggar, Oxford professor of moral philosophy, has found this out the hard way. He dared suggest that Britain’s colonial past was “morally mixed”. In fact, his whole course is dedicated to compiling some sort of a balance sheet.

Excuse me? “Morally mixed” means there were some pluses to offset the minuses. Now who does he think he is? That’s like teaching a course entitled Holocaust: Pros and Cons. Doesn’t everybody know that the British Empire was evil incarnate?

Prof. Biggar’s colleagues certainly do. That’s why 170 of them wrote a petition last year, trying to nip that course, that vile exoneration of evil, in the bud.

That noble undertaking failed, and the course went ahead, much to the chagrin of every progressive man/woman/other. The best they could do was ostracise Prof. Biggar, making him what in the country of my birth was called a non-person.

That fond memory of the workers’ paradise was reinforced even by those of Prof. Biggar’s colleagues who agreed with his views. They too shun him, explaining in private that being seen ‘consorting’ with him would destroy their careers.

In the Soviet Union too, everyone knew when a colleague had fallen into disfavour. He might not have been arrested yet, or even sacked from his job, but he’d be carrying the invisible equivalent of a leper’s bell.

Suddenly his best friends would stop calling or indeed recognising him in the street. Official disfavour was a contagious disease, and it was deadly. A quarantine was the only salvation.

It’s good to see that our top universities are upholding the standards of academic freedom I knew only too well in my youth. Of course in my youth I also knew summary arrests for, say, a political joke, but in Britain that’s still only something to look forward to with distinct longing.

I have a confession to make at this point, shamed into it by realising that, my facetious protestations notwithstanding, I’m really not a lifelong champion of progress.

In fact, and you could see me blush even as we speak, in my first book, How the West Was Lost, I wrote a sentence that belies my claims to virtue: “When applied to places like Burundi, ‘national liberation’ means a transitional stage between colonialism and cannibalism.”

The point is that a balance sheet does exist, and the best way of compiling it is to compare those places before and after they shook the yoke of the British Empire.

With one or two possible exceptions, they were all better off as British colonies. And those who’ve moved on since then have done so largely because of the institutions the British established.

The credit side of the ledger would include British missionaries who risked, and often lost, their lives carrying Christ to pagan animists; British legislators who created civilised institutions in the colonies; British doctors who introduced a semblance of modern medicine; British educators who founded schools; British builders who created cities; British farmers who fed the local populations.

Of course there were excesses – there were even mass murders, in India among other places. For example, in 1919 British troops under the command of Gen. Reginald Dyer fired at a crowd of protesters in Amritsar, Punjab, killing approximately 1,000 people.

That was an awful thing to do, although not without some extenuating circumstances. However, compare that to a million people killed and 14 million displaced after the liberation of India, championed by that great peace lover Gandhi.

Churchill referred to that secular saint as a “seditious half-naked fakir” (careful how you pronounce the last word), which is precisely what he was. However, if Churchill were alive today, uttering such a phrase would have put paid to his political career – and possibly life, what with the mob already displaying strong lynching propensities.

As it is, he’s only suffering posthumously. And those who ‘consort’ with his memory suffer too.

Such as the retired American astronaut Scott Kelly who quoted Churchill in public and – are you ready for this – referred to him as “one of the greatest leaders of modern times”.

Personally, I would have qualified ‘leaders’ with ‘wartime’, not that it would have made any difference. For the response to Kelly’s unfortunate reference was nothing short of ferocious.

The ex-astronaut must have lost much of his original courage for he caved in instantly, issuing a grovelling apology: “Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill. My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support.”

The abject surrender followed an outburst of mud slinging, which has become modernity’s preferred form of debate.

Kelly ought to be ashamed of himself! Apologise! Churchill was a racist! (Appropriate quotations enclosed.) He “was as good as Hitler!” (That suggests that Hitler was good, but the mob is seldom stylistically accomplished. “As bad as Hitler” is what you meant, chaps.) He was solely responsible for the 1943 Bengal famine!

It’s true that, in forming his views on race, or indeed any other subject, Churchill refused to be guided by the heightened moral standards of our time – for the simple reason that they didn’t exist in his time.

And, yes, perhaps he could have done more to relieve the Bengal famine, although he had a few other things on his mind at the time. Such as that the British themselves weren’t eating properly, what with the German U-boats sinking a huge tonnage of supplies. There were also problems with finding enough ships for humanitarian missions, in addition to military ones.

However, even with those provisos, Churchill was a divisive figure even in his own time, and at no point could he be described as an angel. I’d even go so far as to say that he wasn’t an unequivocally good man.

Neither, for that matter, was Charles Martel, who saved Europe from the Islamic blight. People who save countries are seldom angelic, and their personalities too must be assessed with a balance sheet.

However, having toted up the credits and the debits, we’ll find that all those men were heroes who deserve eternal gratitude from their countries and the rest of the world.

But not the gratitude of the baying mob, whose delicate sensibilities are offended. It doesn’t matter to them that Churchill led his country during a deadly fight for her survival.

He might as well have surrendered, as far as they’re concerned. Hitler was no worse. And the British Empire was just as racist and evil as Nazi Germany (though not the Soviet Union, which was neither racist nor evil, if occasionally misguided).

Are you getting the impression we live in a madhouse? I am.

All threats to our security, sorted

“We have nothing to fear from muggers because they have less money than we do.”

Before people say something nasty about you, say it yourself and make it sound ridiculous.

Peter Hitchens works this confidence trick to perfection, to preface every sycophantic piece he writes about Putin and his kleptofascist regime.

The latest sample was served the other day: “Speaking as a Kremlin stooge (this silly phrase is applied to everyone who doesn’t join in the current wild anti-Russian panic)…”

England being a residually free country, he can define a Kremlin stooge any way he pleases. But then so can I, and my definition is different from his.

A hack is a Kremlin stooge if he acts as a consistent mouthpiece for pro-Putin propaganda. Whether he does so as a paid agent of influence or an enthusiastic volunteer makes no moral difference.

Any sane person would have to agree that, knowing all we know about Putin’s Russia, only a Kremlin stooge like Hitchens would describe it as “the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe”.

This is spoken of a country whose principal commercial activity is global money laundering; one that imprisons, maims and murders political opponents; suppresses most civil liberties; pounces on its neighbours like a rabid dog; turns the church into a department of the secret police; wages an all-out hybrid war on the West.

So the ruse of Hitchens’s introductory paragraph didn’t work, at least not on me. The stain of being a Kremlin stooge can’t be washed off by cheap verbal trickery.

What followed isn’t worth reiterating for any reason other than reinforcing my belief that, once a communist, always a communist.

Hitchens prides himself on being open about his political past. However, when one’s past leaves an indelible mark, it’s no longer just past: it’s also present and future.

In this case, he employs the old Leftist trick of exonerating the Soviets by appealing to ‘moral equivalence’. You know, they have the KGB, we have the CIA and MI6; they’ve murdered millions, the CIA tried to poison Castro; they run concentration camps, but it’s the British who invented them.

This is how Hitchens applies this Leftist larceny to the present: “No doubt Russian intelligence sometimes does wicked things, and also makes a fool of itself. But shouldn’t we be examining our own spy and security services before squeaking piously about others?”

What, our spies also do wicked things, and sometimes do them badly? Agreed.

But first, Western intelligence services practise wickedness on a vastly smaller scale – witness the nonagenarian George Blake, roaming the streets of Moscow unmolested by British hitmen.

And second, however deplorable our spies’ wickedness and ineptitude may be, at least they have the excuse of trying to defend our freedoms – which Hitchens’s Russian friends seek to undermine.

My hero then goes on to prove that no truth can be uttered in defence of a lie, and nothing intelligent can be said in support of a stupid proposition.

Addressing “the current wild anti-Russian panic”, Hitchens proves that point by making a statement as mendacious as it is idiotic:

“My advice in all such matters is ‘Calm down, dear’. Russia is in no position to attack us. Its economy is the size of Italy’s and failing badly.”

That’s like saying that British drivers are incapable of speeding. But they do speed, don’t they?

Likewise, Russia is attacking us already, although not yet by securing a bridgehead in Kent. The attack follows one leg of the hybrid strategy first developed by Gen. Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff.

Inundating Britain (and other Western countries) with millions of fake, disruptive messages; hacking into the computer systems of political parties and military structures; sowing panic and discord by disinformation on things like GM crops and vaccines – all this is part of the strategy outlined by Gen. Gerasimov.

Add to this ‘active measures’ on British territory, such as assassinations of British subjects with nuclear and chemical weapons, and we’re looking at a systematic offensive aimed at us and our allies.

None of this is an unsupported accusation. The governments of Britain, US, Holland and other Western countries provide plenty of hard evidence, complete with agents’ names, along with the SVR and GRU departments they represent.

Thus the GRU’s Unit 26165 has been traced as the source of the 2016 US election hack, malware assaults and ‘close proximity’ cyber-attacks in Holland.

That’s the mendacious part of Hitchens’s effluvia. Now the stupid part, one about Russia being in no position to attack us militarily because her economy is small.

One can infer that our strategist equates the size of a country’s economy with her capacity for waging war. Presumably, therefore, Alaric’s Visigoths were more prosperous than Rome, for otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to sack it.

Closer to our time, the Soviet economy in the 1930s featured famines killing millions, which didn’t prevent Stalin from building the largest and best-equipped army the world had ever known.

Hitchens’s strategic insights lead to an ineluctable conclusion. Since, say, Germany boasts a bigger economy than Russia, she could wipe the floor with Russia one on one.

So could Britain and France, whose economies are also bigger than Russia’s. Either country, never mind the two of them together, could show Putin what’s what.

This ignores the fundamental difference between us and Russia. Western countries, even such demonstrably nasty ones as Nazi Germany, can’t do what Russia can: dedicate most of their resources to the military.

Thus the Soviet economy was put on a war footing in the late 1920s.

All Soviet factories began to work in three shifts around the clock 10 years before a Soviet soldier fired a shot in anger (millions of shots were fired into the heads of recalcitrant Soviets, but not by soldiers and not in anger).

By contrast, Hitler’s economy was put on a war footing only in 1943 – when the country had been at war for four years. Until then all the talk of ‘guns before butter’ was just that, talk.

It would take too long to compare the relative military strength of Europe’s three leading economies and Russia across all categories.

But one weapon category, tanks, should give you a reliable glimpse of the overall picture. Tanks, after all, are predominantly offensive weapons, acting in the same capacity as cavalry used to in times olden.

Russia boasts 15,500 tanks in active service (and untold thousands of older models mothballed until the time of need). By contrast, the three biggest European armies, French, German and British, have, respectively, 423, 408 and 407 tanks.

And when Europe still hasn’t recovered from its post-perestroika demob happiness, Russia is pumping untold billions into new weapon systems, including strategic armaments.

But fear naught: all three countries make more fluffy loo paper, each roll contributing to their vast GDP that puts Russia to shame and renders her impotent.

Moreover, few Russians eat balanced diets and practically none can afford a new car every couple of years. Who says we should be on our guard against bellicose thugs with lean and hungry looks?

I’d still suggest we try to counteract the information weapons Putin deploys in preference to ICBMs for the time being. One such weapon is called Peter Hitchens.

Mrs May leads us all a merry dance

Mrs May in her youth, training for the job of prime minister

Watching Her Majesty’s prime minister dance onto the podium to the accompaniment of some revolting pop noise had an instant emetic effect on every sane viewer.

Somebody has forgotten to inform our politicians that we expect them to govern us, leaving the task of entertainment to professionals.

The odd witticism is fine, that’s a classic oratorical device. But impersonating a court jester, otherwise known as fool, goes a long way towards making people despise politicians even more than they do already.

However, as Mrs May switched from choreography to rhetoric, her dance routine was quickly forgotten. For, displaying prodigiously lithe agility, she used her tongue to step on everybody’s toes.

That’s a feat almost as improbable figuratively as it is literally.

Her ill-considered proposal on Brexit displeased the Remainers in her own party because Britain would thereby gain some independence from the EU.

It infuriated the Leavers because Britain wouldn’t gain enough independence.

And the proposal angered the opposition because it was put forth by a Tory, however nominal.

Above all, it was nothing new. The Chequers plan has been knocking about for weeks, never failing to elicit just the reaction I mentioned from all the same groups, which is to say just about everyone in the country except Mr May.

Her ignorance of elementary economics is hardly earth-shattering news either, but at least Mrs May displayed some dancer’s dexterity by adding  some new twists.

First she lamented that we spend less on schools than on servicing the national debt. And of course improving our schools is a top (rhetorical) priority of this – or any other – government.

Considering that half of our school leavers can’t read, write and add up competently, one hates to think what’s going on in the departments to which a lower priority is assigned.

Such as defence, another top priority, but a marginally lower one. Which is why the French navy is now stronger than the Royal Navy for the first time since Admiral Nelson lost his eye. And the British Army is now smaller than it was at any time since the post-Waterloo demobilisation – smaller indeed than our police force.

It can’t be gainsaid that spending more on servicing the national debt than on either of those top priorities is indeed outrageous. And, theoretically, only two solutions to that problem exist.

One is to spend an extra £10 billion on education and an extra £15 billion on defence, making each edge just above our debt servicing cost. Two is to reduce our national debt and therefore the cost of servicing it by about a third.

Since spending an extra £25 billion would mean a drastic increase in borrowing, the first option would rather defeat Mrs May’s purpose.

That leaves the second option a clear winner. The bright sparks at Treasury should bang their heads together and think up a way of reducing our national debt enough to produce an approximately £15 billion reduction in servicing costs (from the present annual level of £48 billion).

Glad we’ve figured this out – you could see me wipe the sweat off my brow even as we speak. Oh yes, one more thing. How do we reduce the size of the national debt?

Our midnight oil won’t have to be burned because the answer is blindingly obvious. The Exchequer must spend less than it earns, rolling the surplus into debt repayments.

So is that what our fleet-footed PM promised to do? Er… not quite. Actually, not at all. As a matter of fact, she proposed something exactly opposite: putting an end to “10 years of austerity”.

Now the word ‘austerity’, as used by today’s politicians, is a lie in itself. Fiscal austerity means spending less than one earns and using the surplus frugally – exactly the measure that would reduce the debt servicing costs that vex Mrs May so.

But to our politicians the word means something so different as to mean nothing. Austerity to them is increasing public spelling stratospherically rather than cosmically – and consequently increasing the sovereign debt at a slightly slower rate.

Without overstepping the boundaries of logic, I’d suggest that it’s impossible to stop something that never started. But fine, being in a compliant mood, I’m prepared to accept the non-definition of austerity as legitimate.

Stopping it therefore means removing any sensible restraints on public borrowing, in this case by local councils. The councils will then be able to build more social housing, serving the noble goal of accommodating new, mainly Islamic, arrivals at our shores.

One doesn’t have to have a degree in economics – in fact one would be distinctly better off not having it – to see that this state-financed altruism will lead to a massive hike in borrowing.

That will in turn increase the size of the national debt and the cost of servicing it, which will exacerbate the problem our dancer has identified. Hence Mrs May performed a deft pirouette to end at the same point – or rather a much lower one.

But don’t despair. It’s not yet certain that our economy will be dealt this mighty blow. For Mrs May made her ruinous proposal contingent on the approval of her Brexit plans.

It’s a bonus or, if you will, a bribe: she’ll agree to damage the economy only if her fellow spivs are good boys and girls.

If to Mrs May asinine economics is a potential reward, sound economics is punitive. One of her threats to the EU is to lower our corporate taxes and reduce red tape if the EU continues to be bloody-minded.

Meaning that if the EU is compliant, corporate taxes and red tape will go up or, at best, stay the same, making Britain less competitive in world markets. I’m sure there’s some inner logic there somewhere, but I don’t get it.

Mrs May’s economic nous boosted by her talent for rigorous logic is making my head spin, as if I were whirling in a particularly brisk waltz.

Really, our PM missed her true calling. She should have built on her knack for dancing. With diligent application she could have made the chorus line in a West End musical. Barring that, there would always have been pole dancing to fall back on.

Yes, I know she’s a lousy dancer. But at least, had she embarked on that career, she wouldn’t have done much harm – certainly not as much as she’s doing now.