Aulde Lang Lang Sign

What are the tell-tale signs of a great pianist? Or especially one of genius?

Lang Lang seems seems happy happy with with himself himself

Artur Schopenhauer, one of only two German philosophers who could write intelligible prose (Nietzsche is the other), produced the best explanation of the difference between talent and genius:

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Applying this adage to pianists, I’ve heard quite a few extremely talented ones. Why, I’m even married to one of them.

But, in about 60 years of listening to music, I’ve heard only one pianist – actually only one instrumentalist – who always hit targets no one could see: Glenn Gould.

Some sublime pianists (one could think of Schnabel, Gieseking, Yudina, Richter, Gilels and a few others) could occasionally approach that level at their best.

However, Gould lived on that level and never descended from it. His playing was never short of genius – even on those rare occasions when he played badly, which all serious musicians do from time to time. However, as another great pianist, Sofronitsky, once said: “You can play badly by accident, but you can’t play well by accident.”

In other words, playing well – and Sofronitsky’s ‘well’ meant near-genius – involves more than just a flash of inspiration. That alone wouldn’t raise a mediocrity into the rarefied atmosphere of genius or even sublime talent.

Obviously there are many physical and physiological skills that go into playing well, this goes without saying. Playing the piano to any reasonable standard is perhaps one of the most physiologically taxing tasks.

Watching my wife practice, she has to coordinate at the same time both arms and hands, all ten fingers and both feet, while her eyes follow the score and the keyboard, and her mind races several bars ahead of the notes she’s playing.

Her mind also has to make sure that structural integrity is observed with minute accuracy, while her ears and fingers combine to make the piano sing, delivering cantabile that all concert pianists could produce in the past, and so few can at present.

Yet real talent, never mind genius, goes well beyond just those devilishly difficult things. For music is the highest manifestation of Western culture – a statement that can’t be credibly made about any other culture.

Unless a pianist, no matter how lavishly gifted in physical and physiological skills, lives his life immersed in that culture, he’ll always remain nothing but an epigonic Peeping Tom, spying on serious musicians and then trying to reproduce what they do.

He won’t be able to. Playing to the standard of the pianists I’ve mentioned requires permanent residence in Western culture. Any Peeping Tom or even a short leaseholder will forever remain an interloper.

Is it possible to play Western music well without being on intimate terms with the culture that alone could have produced that music? But of course – provided we define ‘well’ in a different way from Sofronitsky’s aphorism.

Apparently, however devilishly difficult the physical and physiological aspects of piano playing seem to me, millions of people take those things in their stride. China alone has a million professionally trained pianists at present, and they can all get around the keyboard with reasonable competence.

They can play well in the sense of hitting all the right notes in the right sequence, displaying virtuosic digital fleetness whether it’s required or not. Then again, a computer can be programmed to do just that, and even better.

If that’s all that today’s public requires, then suddenly pianists like Yuja Wang, who in my day would have struggled to gain admission to Moscow Conservatory, never mind having a successful career, can become international stars. Especially if they, like Yuja, are pretty girls performing semi-nude.

When music is played that way, it’s no longer the apex of our culture. It’s soulless entertainment activating the same mechanisms of appeal as pop or rap.

That’s why I’m always incensed when some modern barbarian says he likes both classical and pop. “If you can listen to pop at all,” I once said to a lovely young girl, “you simply can’t understand real music.” She was upset, and I had to offer profuse apologies for my rudeness. But I meant what I said.

This brings us to the undisputed leader of the Sino pack, Lang Lang, whose parents loved him so much they named him twice.

I’ve had the misfortune of hearing some of his robotic, mindless, deracinated performances, and each time I thought he could have a brilliant career as a circus performer. But he doesn’t need to: he rakes in millions playing non-music to gaping audiences of non-listeners.

Every audience gets the kind of performances it deserves, and modern audiences weaned on pop excretions don’t deserve any better.

It’s in that spirit that I read a recent Lang Lang interview, which started the emetic impulse that could have been brought to gushing fruition had he also played, not just talked.

Here are some choice bits:

The instrument I wish I’d learned. The guitar… You can take the guitar everywhere. It would be amazing to play guitar like a rock star. [Why, Lang Lang? You already play the piano like one.]

My favourite author is Shakespeare. His works are basically screenplays. [Why not TV adverts?]

The music that cheers me up is my friend Pharrell Williams’s song Happy… Listening to it makes you just want to be together and have a good time. [And what else can one expect from music? A couple of pints would go down nicely too, to make the time even better.]

The book I wish I had written is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. [Not The Divine Comedy? The Iliad? War and Peace? Well, at least he didn’t say Fifty Shades of Grey.]

The place I feel happiest is on stage. If you play music by yourself it’s OK but when you share it that’s when it becomes really powerful. By yourself, you’re just a computer. With other people you become the internet. You’re connected. [Yes, with internet listeners. But I appreciate his honesty in admitting his playing is computer-like.]

I’m having a fantasy dinner party, I’ll invite these artists and authors…Mozart, Pavarotti, Lady Gaga and Michael Jordan. These are my favourite musicians and my favourite sports star. I would love to see how Mozart plays the piano. [Yes, but he wouldn’t have played in this company. Pearls before swine and all that.]

A composer who is underrated… Carl Czerny… and there’s another incredible composer I love called Clementi. [Both of these men wrote mostly technical exercises for budding pianists – not much cultural attainment is required for playing their music.]

Overrated…  If you are a famous classical composer then you’ve earned it. [Penetrating insight, that.] Even really popular composers like Chopin and Rachmaninov are not overrated. Their music has stood the test of time. [Really? And there I was, thinking Chopin only wrote funeral music for marching bands.]

I don’t mean to be nasty to Lang Lang or other Oriental musicians. Granted, they are all without a single exception cultural barbarians who understand the music they play at the level of an average rave-goer. But at least they have the excuse of having been raised outside our culture.

Alas, many Western pianists flash the signs of barbarism with equal gusto. What’s their excuse? What’s ours, for launching them to stardom at the box office? Well, don’t blame me: I voted Glenn Gould.

Putin, please unite Left and Right

Back in the 1930s, the Bolsheviks and the Nazis had their admirers in the West. However, not many people this side of George Bernard Shaw admired both at the same time.

The fisher of men

Putin is in that sense a unique figure because swarms of his fans can be found at either extreme of the political spectrum. Assorted ‘right-wing populists’ love the Russian chieftain, but then so do such undeniably left-wing figures as Corbyn.

Even people called conservatives in America, Pat Buchanan to name one, adore Putin, as do their British counterparts, such as Peter Hitchens and Christopher Booker. It’s as if some present-day Paul proclaimed “there is neither Right nor Left for you are all one in Vlad.”

Why do most people outside the political mainstream, and even some within it, fall over themselves to extol Putin’s non-existent virtues?

Some of it may be ignorance, although that’s often too simplistic an explanation. Sometimes it isn’t: I’ve talked to Putin admirers who knew shockingly little about Russia.

But surely the gentlemen I’ve mentioned know enough about the crimes committed by Putin’s regime, inside and outside Russia. They may be aware that the Russian economy is criminalised from top to bottom, that money laundering is the only growth industry there, that elementary civil liberties have been suppressed, that Russia is waging hybrid war against the West and so forth.

One suspects that even many on either political extreme know such facts, and yet their panegyrics for Putin lose none of their volume. Why?

The simple answer is that both the Right and the Left admire Putin because the former believe his propaganda and the latter don’t.

The propaganda is balm to a Right-leaning soul. Putin’s Goebbelses position Russia’s kleptofascist junta as a champion of conservative values, strong government, the vital importance of the Church and all those lovely things.

The music is so beautiful that it’s impossible to turn the radio off, and who cares about the false notes – it’s the intent that counts. The listeners either don’t realise or refuse to accept that false notes are all there is.

Traditional values are only as good as the tradition. Putin’s Russia packages Stalinism with the worst features of tsarism and calls it conservatism. So it is, but this isn’t the conservatism of Burke or Chateaubriand, nor even of Pat Buchanan.

The same goes for strong government: it all depends on how it uses its strength. Margaret Thatcher’s government was strong, so was Fidel Castro’s – can we agree that strength isn’t good ipso facto? As to Putin’s religiosity, this is indeed Pauline.

Overnight KGB officers and Party secretaries treating faith as a criminal offence became pious Christians who cross themselves before government meetings.

When I see videos of that travesty, I strain to find somewhere in the background the horse they fell off when they heard the voice of God. Taking that obscene spectacle seriously takes not just suspension but elimination of disbelief.

Forgetting Putin’s gang for a second, it’s useful to remember that when a Russian talks about the Church, he means something different from what the word connotes to a Westerner.

I’m not going to talk about filioque and other doctrinal differences between Eastern and Western Christianity, crucially important though they are. What’s relevant here is the existential difference between the civilisations the two Churches have produced, and what place they occupy in each.

If Christendom appeared at the confluence of Jerusalem and Athens, for the Russian Church these are only two of the feeding tributaries. The others, more relevant to my theme, are Byzantium and the Golden Horde.

The Byzantine Church was an aspect of absolutist government, and its important function was to sacralise the power of the Caesar. Political power, religion and wealth were so organically fused together as to become one.

Had Russia got her Christianity from the proselytising Catholic orders, her history might have taken a different course. As it was, her religion came courtesy of Byzantine theocaesarism, and her politics came from the same source, with a later admixture of Mongol absolutism.

Hence every attempt by the Russian Church to get out of the state’s clutches led to savage suppression, reaching its height under Tsar Alexis and his son Peter (the Great). Under the latter, the Church was placed under the auspices of a secular government department, the Holy Synod.

Still, under the tsars the Church was able to attend to its main business and even produce outstanding thinkers: though its supervisors were laymen, they were still Christians who had to pay spiritual fealty to the Church.

In their impetuous youth, the Bolsheviks set out to wipe out the Church altogether. Some 40,000 priests were murdered in all sorts of imaginative ways on Lenin’s watch, and that was before Stalin got going.

However, destroying the Church proved easier than destroying the religious yearning that has been with man since before he learned to build houses. As Stalin’s empire was being overrun by Nazi panzers, Lenin’s heir realised that his power could do with some sacralisation too.

The Church was brought back into the fold: it agreed to be used lest it might be abused. It then suffered the indignity of being placed not just under the government, but specifically under its secret police, which was responsible for bolstering Russian patriotism.

This fine tradition perseveres. The current patriarch Kirill (ne Vladimir Gundiaev, aka ‘Agent Mikhailov’) is a career KGB operative – as were his only two rivals for the office.

Rather than having undergone a spiritual catharsis, Putin and his jolly friends have prostituted the Church to make it serve their propaganda ends, both at home and abroad.

The propaganda sways the Western Right, who accept as real the lies peddled by Russian media. They’re so starved of Christian or any other virtues in their own governments that they are willing to believe in the Emperor’s clothes.

The left-wingers’ eyesight is better: they see that all this talk about tradition is just propaganda. Realising that Putin’s regime is a direct heir to Stalin’s, its reincarnation in different clothes at a different time, they’re prepared to overlook all that conservative camouflage woven out of a tissue of lies.

The old truism about extremes converging seems to be vindicated. But a truism is different from truth. In this case the underlying supposition is that the two extremes set out to be different and then somehow drift together.

But that’s not true: if they drift together, they weren’t that different in the first place. It’s just that their similarity lies deeper than any superficial divergences in policies and pronouncements.

Both extreme worship power as such, which is pointed out often enough. But underneath this is the same religious yearning I mentioned earlier, a craving for an ideal kingdom not of this world.

Except that modernity has trained people to accept the purely physical boundaries of this world, with nothing beyond it any longer imaginable. Hence that ideal kingdom has to be found not in heaven but elsewhere in earth.

Looking at our politics, Westerners of all political hues despair. Those on the Right and on the Left may hate their governments for different reasons, but hate them they do. Yet, as Cicero put it, dum spiro spero.

No longer capable of investing their hope in God, people are ready to invest it into any fraudulent pyramid scheme, including what Nietzsche called “brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non-brothers.”

Both the Right and the Left, bereft of any realistic hope of bliss at home, look at Putin’s criminal regime and see brothers where only enemies exist. They want to believe so much that they’ll believe anything.

At least Trump doesn’t want to kill us

Mr – or, to use the honorific he doubtless prefers – Comrade Corbyn has snubbed the Queen’s invitation to attend the state dinner in honour of President Trump.

“I’ll never sit down to dinner with a man who doesn’t hate Britain and Jews.”

Perhaps it’s worth pointing out to Corbyn that a state occasion at Buckingham Palace is different from dinner at a friend’s house. Thus in my private capacity (which is the only capacity in which I can act), I’ve been known to decline dinner invitations if I didn’t like the company.

For example, I’d probably not attend a dinner where another guest would be Corbyn, whom I find sufficiently revolting to put me off my food. However, in the unlikely, nay impossible, event that such an invitation was issued by Her Majesty, I’d feel duty-bound to attend – whatever the guest list.

Being rude to one’s friends is par for the course: that’s what friends are for, though not all they are for. However, being rude to the Queen means disrespecting her realm, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Such rudeness goes beyond bad manners even if manifested by an ordinary subject. But when the Queen’s invitation is thrown in her face by a high official, it shows instantly and undeniably that such a person isn’t fit to be a high official.

Admittedly, Mr Trump isn’t the kind of man I’d welcome at my own dinner table. We’re all God’s children and all that but, if a particular God’s child is a narcissistic, functionally illiterate vulgarian, I, my wife and our other likely guests wouldn’t enjoy his company, and neither would he enjoy ours.

But this is neither here nor there. For when Trump is on a state visit to Britain, it doesn’t matter how narcissistic, illiterate or vulgar he is. What matters is that he is the head of state in a country friendly to ours, and allied with it for some 200 years.

In any case, since Corbyn is every bit as narcissistic, illiterate and vulgar as Trump, this can’t be the reason for his boorishness. And I do hope he didn’t turn down the Queen’s invitation because he didn’t expect to have a good time.

Apparently, the last time he attended such an event he described it as “one of the most boring nights I have ever had”. That may well be, but state occasions aren’t attended for their entertainment value. They are among those things that come with the territory for leaders of Her Majesty’s Loyal (in Corbyn’s case glaringly disloyal) Opposition. You do it not because you want to, but because you have to.

Perhaps, rather than trying to second-guess Corbyn’s reasons, we should listen to the man himself. So here are his own words: “Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a president who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”

Now “racist and misogynist rhetoric” doesn’t belong here at all, for if Trump ever indulges in such affronts to Corbyn’s sensibilities, he does so in private. I’m not aware of a single racist or misogynist word Trump has uttered ex cathedra in his capacity of US president – and it’s in that capacity that he’s visiting Britain.

As to ripping up “vital international treaties”, which ones would they be? The only treaties Trump has ripped up are one that was guaranteed to turn Iran into a nuclear power, with deadly consequences for America’s and Britain’s allies; and also the Luddite Paris Accords, penalising the West for the environmental damage largely perpetrated by the Third World.

This dovetails neatly with “climate change denial”, which is among the most serious crimes against New Age pieties. Corbyn is obviously unhappy that Trump refuses to let his knee jerk whenever yet another fad makes a claim, especially if both the fad and the claim are bogus and anti-Western.

All this means is that Trump’s politics differ from Corbyn’s, as if we didn’t know that already. Hence Corbyn refuses to break bread with a leader whose political convictions clash with his own.

Splendid, glad we’ve established that. But logically the opposite must also be true: Corbyn has to see nothing wrong with the politics of those leaders with whom he has happily sat down to dinner.

Hence a quick scan of such kindred souls will provide an optically perfect insight into the convictions, and personality, of our likely next PM. So here goes, in no particular order:

Corbyn has attended a state dinner with Xi Jinping, president of a communist country running what effectively is a slave economy, suppressing free speech and murdering or imprisoning dissidents.

Comrade Jeremy has described as his friends members of Hamas and Hezbollah, murderous terrorist organisations that mysteriously fail to activate Corbyn’s revulsion at racism and misogyny. As he put it: “It will be my pleasure and honour to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking.”

Clearly, he doesn’t regard as racist a heartfelt commitment to murdering Jews, accompanied by regrets that Hitler didn’t quite finish the job – even though the Holocaust never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews’ own fault. As to the Muslims’ treatment of women, if that’s not misogyny, I don’t know what is.

Incidentally, Trump is perhaps the best friend Israel has ever had among US presidents, which alone would suffice to make Corbyn detest him – hatred of Israel, ideally as an expression of virulent anti-Semitism, seems to be an ironclad criterion for membership in his Labour party.

Who else? Oh yes, Comrade Jeremy never had any compunction against sharing a meal with IRA murderers, including Gerry Adams himself. In fact, he timed such friendly get-togethers to coincide with IRA atrocities.

He met Adams in the 1980s, when the IRA was waging a war of terror against Britain. A fortnight after the IRA blew up the Tory conference, killing five people, Corbyn had tea at Westminster with two convicted murderers. And he did the same in 1996, the year of the bombings in Manchester and the Docklands.

Corbyn also went to Syria to meet Assad, with his trip funded by the Palestinian lobbyists who also organised an event at which Jews were blamed for the Holocaust. I wonder if afterwards Jeremy described Assad as a gas.

And of course he’s a self-proclaimed friend and admirer of Maduro, a communist who is equally good at bankrupting a previously rich Venezuela and driving armoured cars over those who object.

Clarity is beginning to emerge. Corbyn’s criteria for selecting his dinner companions include a propensity for mass murder, anti-Semitism, hatred of Britain and her allies, communist ideology and general criminality.

President Trump should be proud he doesn’t qualify.  

Our defence is in safe thighs

Dear me, ever so sorry. Is that what they call a Freudian slip? Yes, I suppose it is. I mean hands of course.

Penny Mordaunt only looks like a woman

And I do mean it: I think Penny Mordaunt may well make a damn good Defence Secretary, better than just about any of her parliamentary colleagues I can think of.

It was five years ago that Miss Mordaunt appeared in a swimsuit on Splash!. Until then I hadn’t heard of her, but then I don’t follow Westminster politics as closely as I should.

However, the photographs of the semi-clad Undersecretary of State for Something or Other impressed me, and not only because of her shapely thighs. It’s just that I couldn’t think of any other female Tory politician who would have posed that way, at least while in office.

Margaret Thatcher? Be serious. Anne Widdecombe? Please. Esther McVey? Well, I suppose she might, but hasn’t yet.

Anyway, my curiosity piqued, I looked beyond Miss Mordaunt’s thighs, meaning at her record, and what did you think I meant? Amazingly, the more I looked, the more I liked – and I thought I’d never say that about a politician.

In fact, although my own thighs are unlikely to excite anybody’s imagination, I feel we have much in common.

Miss Mordaunt is a Royal Navy reservist, who once actually served as an acting sub-lieutenant, which roughly corresponds to my reserve rank in the Soviet army (all university graduates got that after some perfunctory training).

She studied philosophy at university, which happens to be my favourite subject. She was in PR; I was in advertising. She likes off-colour jokes – so do I. As shown by her appearance on Splash!, she doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously – neither do I. She has a taste for pranks, as do I.

In fact, on a dare from her fellow naval officers, Miss Mordaunt once repeatedly worked a rude word for penis into her parliamentary speech.

I’ve never been in a position to do so, but probably would if I could. In fact, my public speeches have at times featured the kind of jokes that elicited Oh-my-God gasps from the audience (one of them was based on a foreign leader misspelling “can’t”).

On a more serious note, Miss Mordaunt detests the EU as much as I do and has voted on her principles when opposing Mrs May’s deal, or rather double deal. In spite of that she has managed to stay on the right side of the Remainer PM, and that’s where our similarity ends: I wouldn’t have the requisite diplomatic skills.

Add to this Miss Mordaunt’s Christian name, which is the same as my wife’s (although she hates the diminutive form of it), and she’s my kind of girl. Moreover, she may well turn out to be my kind of politician, although, modern politics being what it is, I’m not holding my breath.

I’m sure that feminists around the world are throwing their hats (or perhaps other items of their apparel) up in the air. They must be rejoicing at seeing a woman ascend to one of the top positions in the government of a major Western country.

Just kidding. I know they aren’t rejoicing, as they never did when Margaret Thatcher became PM or Jeane Kirkpatrick US Ambassador to the United Nations. You see, neither Mrs Thatcher (as she then was) nor Mrs Kirkpatrick, both conservative after a fashion, qualified as women in the eyes of feminist activists. Neither, for all her feminine allure, does Miss Mordaunt.

Ever since sex got to be described by the grammatical category of gender, it stopped being sex, hitherto understood as a simple function of a chromosome mix. Sex stopped being biological, physiological, chromosomal, hormonal or what have you.

It became a form of political expression, and the politics it expressed were – and remain – uncompromisingly left-wing. As such, they rise above, or rather drop below, nature, logic and even sanity.

Women who refuse to claim a victimhood status as a way of cocking a snook at every traditional certitude thereby forfeit their womanhood. Womanhood means victimhood or it means nothing.

Race has become like that too. Every pejorative term white racists use to describe blacks has its counterpart in the abusive slurs ideological blacks hurl at those who refuse to reduce their whole personalities to a chromatic incidental.

‘Uncle Tom’, ‘Bounty’, ‘Coconut’ are heard whenever a black person achieves a prominent status. For example, though I’ve never heard the eminent philosopher Thomas Sewell complain about that, I’m sure he has heard such invective many times.

When I just moved from the US to Britain (31 years ago – has it really been so long?), I once talked to an impeccable, Telegraph-reading gentleman. The subject was American blacks, who I said tended to be left-wing.

“They are left-wing,” opined my interlocutor, “because they are black.” “It’s actually the other way around,” I said. “They are black because they are left-wing.”

In the same sense, Penny Mordaunt isn’t really a woman. She may yet become one by taking a wide step to the left and starting to pronounce on the plight of her sisters. But somehow I doubt she will. Then again, I’m idealistic enough to think she’s my kind of girl.     

The great larceny of modernity

One of the comments on my yesterday’s piece raised some serious questions that deserve a serious answer.

And so it began

Here is how a reader responded to my statement that I oppose Catalan secessionism: “…it is strange that someone who believes in conservative localism would be against the regionalism of, for instance, the Catalans. Franco sought to subsume all of the geographical region of Spain under one identity. Such plans are still being attempted by the EU, as well as our Muslim friends. Whatever the source, it must be resisted.”

Franco thereby finds himself in a posthumous company I doubt he would have welcomed in his lifetime. This shows the inherent dangers of allowing superficial similarities to overshadow profound differences.

The EU seeks a unity based on politics. “Our Muslim friends”, on the other hand, wish to unite the world under the aegis of their religion. That’s a fundamental difference, as great in its way as the one between the EU and the Holy Roman Empire.

The latter loosely united European states on an ecclesiastical basis, while leaving plenty of room for them to keep and nurture their national cultures, economic arrangements and politics. This is the kind of European Union I’d welcome today, should the remotest possibility of such a settlement exist.

On the other hand, I’m opposed to both the EU and especially to the threat of a pan-European caliphate because I see both as tyrannical and mortally dangerous to everything I hold sacred. Thus it’s possible to welcome some types of unity while dreading others.

As to Franco, it wasn’t he who “sought to subsume all of the geographical region of Spain under one identity”. It was dynastic marriages that did that, and long before little Francisco was even a twinkle in his Daddy’s eye.

The one in the twelfth century incorporated Catalonia into the Kingdom of Aragon; the one in the fifteenth century integrated Aragon (and therefore Catalonia) with Castile. So do let’s blame Ferdinand and Isabella for a united Spain, not the late Caudillo who, as a traditionalist conservative, fought to preserve Spain as she had been for half a millennium.

But the question remains: Is there an inherent contradiction between championing traditional localism while at the same time opposing Catalan separatism – or, extending the argument, that of Scotland and other constituent parts of the United Kingdom?

That puts into focus the title above. ‘The great larceny of modernity’ is the term I use to describe the transition from Christendom to another, modern, civilisation that was largely inspired by its violent rebellion against Christianity and the civilisation it had created.

However, discarding one civilisation to usher in a successor isn’t the same as a scientist abandoning one theory in favour of another. The old civilisation may be knocked off its perch outwardly, but it can’t be fully uprooted from the consciousness and instincts of the people weaned on it.

That’s why successful revolutionaries always strive to destroy the house of the old civilisation, while looting its furnishings and moving them, appropriately vandalised, to the lodging of a new civilisation.

For example, if you look at the revolutionary slogans of post-Christian modernity, you’ll notice their tripartite form regardless of where and when they were concocted.

Starting from the French “liberté, egalité, fraternité”, one could site the American “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, the Russian “vsia vlast sovetam” (all power to the Soviets) or the German “ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (one people, one nation, one leader). And even a somewhat less significant twentieth century revolution had to chip in with a vapid ‘Work harder, produce more, build Grenada!

What we are witnessing here is the first stage of larceny: the revolutionaries sensed that the world around them was alive with Trinitarian music. Since people’s ears were attuned to it, they were predisposed to respond to similar sounds even if they conveyed a different meaning.

In a similarly devious way the linear, teleological nature of Christian eschatology was transformed into the secular doctrine of progress.

Unlike the Eastern mind trained to respond to circular, static philosophies, the Western mind had been conditioned by its philosophy to expect a dynamic linear movement.

With an enviable sleight of hand, modernity replaced the kingdom of God as the final destination of linear development with the eudemonic idea of happiness as the ultimate goal of life – which, courtesy of St Anselm, had been known since the eleventh century as a sure recipe for amorality.

In the same vein, the Christian concept of equality before omnipotent, merciful God was vulgarised into a worldly equality before an omnipotent if less than merciful state; Christian inviolable value of every person became ‘human rights’; ennobling Christian charity was turned into the corrupting welfare state; reason as a tool for understanding the creation of rational God was turned into soulless secular rationality.

And of course the sublime idea of Christianity (and its civilisation) bringing all peoples together into a single commonwealth was eventually perverted into producing such an obviously wicked contrivance as the EU.

The important thing to remember is that the anti-Christian rebellion was inspired not so much by a desire to create as by an urge to destroy.

It’s no coincidence that the first wholly atheist century, the twentieth, brought about the destruction of every traditional empire. Whatever we may think of, say, the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns or Romanovs, it’s hard to deny that their empires were infinitely preferable to their immediate secular successors.

But the chaps wielding the battering rams of modernity hadn’t considered the pros and cons before wreaking their mayhem. They were driven by a destructive animus above all, however totally it was camouflaged by demagoguery about progress, liberation, equality or whatever.

All this applies in spades to the perversion of traditional Christian localism as the bedrock of any political dispensation. This developed as a revolution against the statist collectivism of the Greco-Roman world with its overall conception of man, nature and reality.

For Christianity was indeed a revolution, the only truly successful one in history. It stressed the autonomous value of the individual and built its political dispensation from there up. Hence the family became the most essential building block of society (you’ll notice how systematically and passionately the ensuing modernity has been destroying the family).

Familial local institutions, such as parish, guild, township, village commune formed a cocoon  protecting the family from the central political power of the princes. Thus even that most absolute of monarchs, Louis XIV, had more power over his glamorous courtiers than over the lowliest of peasants.

That familial localism was destroyed by all modern states, regardless of their ostensible ideology. The family and institutions based on it got to be seen as competitors to the burgeoning power of the central state. That’s why they had to be destroyed – but with an element of larceny thrown in yet again.

The local self-government of small communities has been replaced by the post-Christian notion of national self-determination as a natural entitlement of every ethnic group, no matter how lacking in size or self-sufficiency.

That cause has been faithfully served by every enemy of traditional European institutions because it was seen as a powerful weapon against them. The First World War, the final violent assault on traditional Europe, is a great example of that underlying impulse.

Thus Woodrow Wilson, a politician whose sinister influence tends to be underestimated, was at the same time a fanatic of a single world government and a great champion of national self-determination.

There was no contradiction there at all, at least not to a modern mind. The first was the end; the second, the means. National self-determination fanatically pursued is bound to tear asunder Europe’s traditional commonwealths – QED.

However, the ensuing independence is as bogus as most things about modern politics. For, having left the organic, historical arrangement in existence for centuries, those newly independent countries seamlessly pass into real bondage to the Johnny-come-lately contrivance of the EU.

What do you think will happen to Catalonia or, more relevant, Scotland when they leave the yoke of their traditional association? They’ll become EU members within months, possibly weeks, losing in the process the not inconsiderable autonomy they enjoyed before.

Thus Catalan – or for that matter any other European – separatism will only increase the size of a political setup about which my correspondent clearly feels as I do.

To conclude, political issues are much more nuanced and complex than they appear on the surface. They aren’t easily reducible to catchy, simple slogans. Simple tends to be simplistic and eventually destructive. Just look at the slogans sited above.