Desperate times and dangerous measures

The former call for the latter, said Guy Fawkes and then tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The adage rings true, provided the times are desperate enough and the measures are not self-defeatingly dangerous.

They do look like hordes, don’t they?

Granted, a military, or otherwise violent, coup is never desirable in a civilised country. But when is it justifiable?

Never, says David Aaronovitch, he whose intellectual outlook is mostly formed by popular TV shows (see the PS to my yesterday’s piece). This unqualified view lacks nuance, which puts it in the category of ideologies, rather than ideas.

I can think of at least two military coups within the past century that qualified as a justified response to an impending catastrophe: one in Spain, 1936, the other in Chile, 1973.

Neither Franco nor Pinochet would have had his application for sainthood favourably reviewed. However, they stepped in when their countries were in the throes of bloody, communist-inspired anarchy threatening national survival.

Azaña’s minority government was well on the way to committing Spain irrevocably to the Popular Front, which in those heady days more or less meant Stalin (NKVD officers openly referred to it as “our operation Popular Front”). But for Franco, Spain would today be like Romania, if not worse.

Allende’s government already was communist in everything but name, with Allende himself in the pocket of Castro and hence the Soviets. A fanatical Marxist, Allende in his younger days made his bones fighting in European streets as a member of the Popular Front’s paramilitary Kriegerbund, although I’m sure Aaronovitch would see him as a fellow liberal.

Going back in history, one could say that Napoleon’s coup was also justified, although there the situation was perhaps less straightforward, considering an estimated 1,000,000 Frenchmen who perished in the subsequent wars. (As a matter of record, Napoleon didn’t actually start any of them, although on a few occasions he struck the first preemptive blow.)

What drew Aaronovitch to this subject was the letter written by several top French generals, co-written by hundreds of other officers and endorsed by Marine Le Pen, who is neck and neck with Macron in the presidential polls.

The generals seemed to think that France is so far gone that they must take over to prevent social disintegration. They were particularly unhappy about the on-going Islamisation of the country, with all the ghastly consequences this process entails.

Quite apart from an increasing number of grisly murders committed to the accompaniment of the battle cry ‘Allahu akbar!’, the outskirts (banlieues) of France’s major cities, especially Paris, have become no-go areas for Frenchmen, including the police. Lawlessness reigns there, or else sharia, which in any European context is the same thing.

Children there are educated to become either welfare recipients or terrorists or, more typically, both. The question of their adaptation to French ways no longer even arises.

Consecutive French governments have been practising the ostrich strategy of ignoring vast tracts of their country being turned into a European answer to the Gaza Strip. They tend to throw money at the problem, hoping it’ll go away. It hasn’t, and it never will in the absence of decisive action.

I’m not sure the situation has got to a point where it’s ripe for the decisive action proposed by the epistolary generals, but neither can it be blithely dismissed as trivial. Yet this is exactly how Aaronovitch treats it, adding nice touches of his customary ignorance.

He rebukes the “frenzied tone of the generals’ letter, in which the five million overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim inhabitants of France were described as ‘hordes’…”

True, not many French Muslims cut off people’s heads, drive cars through crowds or shoot up magazine offices. Yet this is a specious argument. Most Germans weren’t Nazis either, nor most Soviets communists, which didn’t prevent their countries from being an existential threat to civilisation.

Both countries serve as a useful reminder that thousands (in Russia’s case, hundreds) of evil rabble-rousers can at the drop of a hat turn “predominantly peaceful” millions into rampaging beasts. In this case the situation is even worse because Islam is fundamentally incompatible with the European ethos.

That doesn’t mean all Muslims are so incompatible. Many of them are good Frenchmen or, in our country, Britons. But the likelihood of their becoming fully paid-up Europeans is inversely proportionate to their commitment to Islam. The only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.

The chap who stabbed to death a woman inside a police station in Rambouillet (an affluent suburb of Paris) is a typical illustration of France’s lackadaisical attitude to the problem. He is a Tunisian who entered the country illegally in 2009 and yet was granted residency 10 years later.

He had no criminal record, and no evidence of any radicalisation has come to light. Yet he demonstrated tangibly that he was indeed radicalised, as are thousands of other young Muslims living in the banlieues. There are enough of them about to merit the designation of ‘hordes’, even though the pejorative connotation of this word seems to displease Aaronovitch.

In 2005, President Sarkozy called rioters, many of them Muslim, something worse: racaille (‘scum). French lefties were up in arms, and, as a gesture of solidarity, our own dear Guardian, Aaronovitch’s spiritual home, described Sarko’s language as “inflammatory”.

Yet such words are accurate when applied to crowds of enraged, deracinated aliens holding France hostage. Words, however, aren’t going to solve the problem, and I’m not aware of any establishment figures in France who have so far proposed any constructive measures. The generals have, whatever we may think of their ideas.

Aaronovitch displays his erudition by likening the epistolary generals to the OAS, an organisation of veterans who plunged the country into civil war after the government reneged on its promise to keep Algeria French. He also displays his ignorance by comparing that situation with the collapse of the British Empire.

“Britain, by contrast, retreated from its empire with relatively little fuss at home,” he writes. So she did. But there was a fundamental difference between, say, Nigeria and Algeria.

Nigeria was a colony of the British Empire. Algeria, on the other hand, was a part of France, like any other département. As such, it was similar to Wales or the Isle of Man, not any British colony.

Every nation gets the government it deserves, wrote Joseph de Maistre. The same can be said about political commentators, although I still think Britain deserves better than what she gets.

Scratch Britain and you’ll find USSR

I’d like to thank Uxbridge police for kindly providing an illustration to my yesterday’s article on gender tyranny.

Totalitarian terrorism at work in North London

They pounced on John Sherwood, 71, a Christian pastor preaching in the street, clapped handcuffs on him and dragged him off to the station where he was held overnight, bruised and shaken.

Mr Sherwood’s crime was quoting the same passage from Genesis 1:27 that I had the gall of mentioning in my piece: “Male and female He created them.” True to his remit, the pastor used that verse to question the validity of any marriage other than one between a man and a woman.

Some good citizen felt compelled to inform the police who promptly turned up, which left one wishing they displayed the same alacrity when answering burglary calls. After a brief and rather one-sided struggle, Mr Sherwood was arrested under the Public Order Act for making “allegedly homophobic comments”. This, according to the Act, constituted “abusive or insulting words” perceived as “harmful” by someone, anyone else.

Yesterday I drew a parallel between the Soviet Union, circa 1970, and today’s Britain. Disproving Euclid and vindicating Lobachevsky, these parallel lines are converging – and by the looks of it even faster than I suggested.

The pastor was doing his job by obeying Christ’s order “…go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Doing the same at a street corner of Moscow, circa 1970, would have produced the same outcome: summary arrest.

In both cases, the crime was identical: going against a newly sacralised secular orthodoxy, communist there, woke here. But the similarities go even deeper than that, dealing as they do with imposing tyranny through open-ended laws.   

Just laws are defined by many features, but tightly and narrowly defined culpability is perhaps the most important one. Such laws protect individuals against the state, but totalitarian and quasi-totalitarian states pursue an opposite objective: they need loose, open-ended laws they can use to put their foot down on any dissident.

The pattern was set by arguably the most evil politician in history, Lenin, and I am aware of Stalin’s and Hitler’s heroic efforts to challenge Vlad I for that distinction. However, unlike them, Lenin, a lawyer by training, could bring his professional expertise to bear on jurisprudence.

In 1922, the great leader was contemplating the first draft of the new penal code, one of whose articles stipulated the death penalty for “anyone promoting the restoration of capitalism”. Lenin looked at the text and saw it was good. Yet something was missing, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on what exactly it was.

Then that eureka moment arrived in a flash. Lenin took out his trusted blue pencil and added the words “or capable of promoting” after the inordinately restrictive “promoting”. Now the law was perfect: it gave the Bolsheviks legal means to shoot anyone they disliked (or everyone, if they so wished).

Our own dear Public Order Act doesn’t yet provide for a bullet in the nape of the neck as a punitive measure. Yet it soars just as high to the summit of legal perversion.

Using the Act, the police can arrest, if not yet execute, every subject of Her Majesty. For who among us has never uttered a single word that someone could construe as insulting and therefore damaging? I for one can be arrested for just about every piece I’ve ever written, and as to my oral statements… well, lock me up and swallow the key.

The good pastor issued a statement that shows how profoundly ignorant he is of Britain’s new concept of legality: “I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says – I wasn’t wanting to hurt anyone or cause offence.”

What he was or wasn’t wanting is a matter of utter indifference. What matters is how his words were perceived by someone in his audience. If just one listener felt his psyche was irreparably damaged, Mr Sherwood violated Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Off with his head (so far only figuratively speaking).

That’s how tyranny advances in formerly civilised societies, not by giant strides, but by small steps. It takes longer that way, but ultimately the same distance will be travelled.

At some point, the people will realise to their horror that they can no longer see the starting point in their rear-view mirror, and there is no going back. But then it’ll be too late.

Each small step may look unobjectionable in itself, or at least not too objectionable. But, as that other evil tyrant, Mao, explained, that’s how every thousand-mile journey starts, with a small step.

P.S. Speaking of small things, whenever I read an article, I like to check the author’s cultural perspective for it says a lot about the starting point of his ratiocination.

Thus, in his article today, David Aaronovitch makes five cultural references: Country Life magazine; Frederic Forsyth’s book The Day of the Jackal; the TV series A Very English Scandal; another one, The Crown; Francis Wheen’s book Strange Days Indeed. Is it any wonder then that Aaronovitch writes either arrant nonsense or facile truisms on every subject he touches?

Stop gender terrorism before it stops you

If we define terrorism as sowing fear to achieve political ends, then the ongoing gender-bending craze is just that.

Maya Forstater, victim of terrorism

Granted, sane people who dare resist still only lose their livelihoods, not lives. But, as I can testify from personal experience, that was the case in the post-Stalin Soviet Union too.

An imprudent word could only get one sacked, not imprisoned or killed. To be thus punished, one had to commit a real crime, like reading Orwell or passing 1984 on to a friend.

Yet sane people who were physically unable to mouth the mandated gibberish lived in permanent fear. Loose lips could get one not only sacked but also blacklisted, turning, say, a professor of physics into a street sweeper.

Fear was so pervasive that the USSR definitely qualified as a terrorist state even during its vegetarian period. And it’s heart-rending to see Britain turn into a milder but perhaps even more sinister simulacrum of a communist state.

Normal people have to watch every word they utter in public, lest they may be denounced to the authorities and summarily sacked – just like in the Soviet Union. What makes Britain’s version more sinister is that here one can’t easily identify the source of danger.

Back there, everybody knew the enemy: the Party and its punitive arm, the KGB with its army of snitches. But who represents the threat here? The state? Parliament? MI-5? Police? Friends and colleagues?

We don’t know who the terrorists are. But we do know they are out there.

Both countries operated by secular sacralisation: raising wicked political causes to a status of mock-religious orthodoxies. There it was just communism; here it’s any old cause that catches the bastards’ fancy – including gender-bending.

If I had a sackable position, I would have been fired long ago by enunciating what any sane person knows anyway. Outside grammar and recondite psychiatry, there’s no such thing as gender. Pronouns have genders, either masculine or feminine; people have sexes, either male or female.

I do realise that’s not quite all there is to it. Some marginal or intermediary cases exist, but such – extremely rare – exceptions are the kind that prove the rule. A person may be born with two heads but that doesn’t change the fact that a normal person has one head – even though folk wisdom says two may be better.

As I said, I can’t be fired for such heretical notions. But just about anyone who can be, will be. This brings me to the case of Maya Forstater, who in 2018 was sacked from her job at a Westminster think tank for saying roughly what I’ve just said.

Writing her profile in The Sunday Telegraph, which, I’d like to remind the outlanders among you, is our most conservative broadsheet, Jane Gordon helpfully explains the relevant semantic nuances.

“While sex is defined as the biological categorisation of people as male or female, gender refers to socially constructed roles – an individual may see themselves [sic] as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender.”

This is bilge, of a kind that leaves one in no doubt of where the author’s sympathies lie. Anyone who follows a singular antecedent with a plural pronoun should be banned from writing on pain of death, which punishment for non-compliance I’d gladly administer personally. Miss Gordon, whoever they are, is clearly a crypto-terrorist themselves.

Miss Forstater, on the other hand, has a long history of anti-terrorism. In one of her tweets, she mocked Pips Bunce, a Crédit Suisse director, who sometimes goes to work in women’s clothes as Pippa and sometimes in a suit as Phil.

It goes without saying that nobody can tell Bunce to choose one or the other and stick with it. But, as Seneca said, though none of it can be helped, all of it can be despised – which Miss Forstater laudably does.

The old acronym game kicked in, and she was forever stigmatised as a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), insensitive to the feelings of the groups identified by a term that easily rolls off the tongue: LGBTQQIP2SAA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two spirits, androgynous and asexual.

(A note to lexicographers compiling such designations: chaps, why don’t you just enrol the whole alphabet, from anti-climate to xenophobia? That way you could save time and space by referring to yourselves as simply ABC activists.)

When Miss Forstater took her sackers to a tribunal, she was nailed to the wall by the revelation that she had previous as a TERF. Apparently, when she was a Scout leader (I thought girls had Guides, not Scouts, but then I’m even more retrograde than Miss Forstater), she mistakenly [sic] referred to another, ‘non-binary’, Scout leader as ‘he’ rather than ‘they’.

That was no mistake, this side of a loony bin. ‘They’ is a plural pronoun that can only apply to a singular person suffering from dual personality disorder. (When the Scottish goalie Andy Gorham was diagnosed with schizophrenia, empathetic fans chanted “There’s only two Andy Gorhams.”)

But then I myself am a TERF at heart. Justice James Taylor manifestly isn’t. That’s why he ruled against Miss Forstater, declaring that her “absolutist view” was not “worthy of respect in a democratic society” and that she had no right “to ignore the “the enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering.”

Evidently, His Honour’s idea of a democracy is a society where a few sideshows representing an infinitesimal fraction of one per cent of the population can be used as a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of decent, sane people making up the overwhelming majority.

The English Common Law works by precedents, and Justice Taylor established one. Now gender terrorists can step up their diabolical efforts to destroy normal everything: morals, people, families, children, decency, thought, taste.

I realise that the few genuine hermaphrodites and people with gender dysphoria must have a hard time, and I do sympathise with their suffering – as I would with the plight of a bicephalous chap getting sick and tired of hearing “two heads are better than one” and being asked whether he uses a bra for a hat.

But suffering is a constant, I dare say normal, part of the human condition. I, for example, suffer grievously when I hear pop music in public places, especially restaurants. Most modern architecture also makes me nauseated, as do people sporting tattoos and facial metal.

Miss Gordon also made me suffer when she wrote: “It seems to me – and I put it to Forstater – that a little more tolerance on both sides of this argument might make the issue less angry and confrontational.”

Would she say the same thing to victims of Muslim terrorism? The silly twit doesn’t even realise what a grossly tactless thing she wrote. Miss Forstater is a victim of gender terrorism: she lost her livelihood for a spurious, wicked reason.

Now the precedent has been set, anyone can be sacked and blacklisted for daring to suggest that, say, asking little boys and girls to ‘identify their gender’ when entering kindergarten is evil. Yet no one can be fired for issuing such a questionnaire, so there’s no equivalence anywhere in sight.

This “argument” doesn’t have two sides, and it’s not even an argument – in the same sense in which one doesn’t argue with a chap claiming to be God or with a terrorist about to blow up a bus. One tries to commit the former and stop, ideally kill, the latter.

If you have any way to communicate to Maya Forstater your solidarity with her, please do so. She needs to know there are other people like her out there: decent souls who deplore what’s being done to her – and all of us.

Their cities, our language

Have you been to Firenze lately? Followed the news from Kyiv? Enjoyed Beijing duck?

It’s Florence, not Firenze

Well, I haven’t and never will. For me these cities are, have always been and will forever remain Florence, Kiev and Peking.

I do respect, as one has to, the right of any people to call their cities any names that strike their fancy, no matter how ridiculous. I may grumble about it if I don’t like the name, but eventually I’ll have to go along.

Thus, if Italians decide to rebaptise Florence as, for example, Città di Gramsci, I’d toss off an indignant article about the obscenity of naming an ancient city after a communist subversive, but eventually I’ll have to accept the new name. There’s really no other option.

I may bitterly resent seeing Saigon called Ho Chi Minh City, but this fait is very much accompli. The bastards won the war and now they can play fast and loose with urban nomenclature – that’s not the greatest catastrophe that has befallen the Vietnamese.

By the same token, if Kiev and Peking undergo a name change and become, say, Zelensky and Mao respectively, I’ll huff and I’d puff, but I’ll soon relent. Or not so soon, I’ll grant you that.

For example, when Leningrad again became Petersburg, I stubbornly referred to it as Leningrad for another couple of years or so. I genuinely believed, as I still do, that the city still has more to do with Lenin than with the patron saint of Peter the Great. But, having put up a valiant rearguard action, I eventually conceded the point.

Yes, countries are free to give whatever new names, no matter how offensive, to their cities. However, if the names remain the same, they have no right to tell us how to spell and pronounce them in English.

The way the Chinese pronounce the name of their North Capital, it has always come out closer to Beijing than to Peking, inasmuch as Chinese phonetics can be perceived by any European ear, that is. But so what? To us, it has always been Peking. (As, parenthetically, it still is to the French – bien joué to them. They cherish their language more than we do ours.)

We don’t tell the French and Italians that our capital is neither Londres nor Londra, do we? So they mustn’t shove Paree and Roma down our throats. To their credit, they don’t, and even the Russians are happy with our Moscow, although to them it’s the same as the river, Moskva.

This sounds like a small point to make a fuss about, but it really isn’t. For such name changes are symptoms of a ghastly disease, the politicisation of language.

A nation’s language is the most valuable part of its identity, more important than any politics. Over the past 250 years, France, to cite one country I know well, has been governed by several monarchies, a revolutionary committee, a Directory, a military dictatorship, an emperor, five different republics and, from 1940 to 1944, by the Nazis.

But she always remained France, her language has always been French and, as Maurice Chevalier used to sing to SS officers, Paris reste Paris.

To the English, politics matters more and the language somewhat less. Yet even here, English is a powerful national adhesive, uniting into an integral whole such seemingly irreconcilable people as Londoners, Scousers, Geordies and even Scots (apart from Glaswegians; they are sui generis). As such, it shouldn’t be used as an arena for scoring political points. But, alas, it is, very much so.

Variously pernicious groups are aware of the political power of language. He who controls English, controls the English – they sense that in their viscera. I refer to this process as glossocracy, government of the word, by the word but, unfortunately, not just for the word.

It behoves all intelligent patriots (which is a longer way of saying ‘conservatives’) to keep politics out of English, fighting lexical subversion every step of the way. However, when the enemy advances on a broad front, it must be fought for each inch of territory.

If we try to expurgate politicised, un-English woke usages, or at least refuse to use them in our own speech, we can’t cede ground elsewhere. And make no mistake about it, it’s for political reasons that some countries insist that their old city names should be spelled and pronounced the new way in English.

In this case, it doesn’t matter how we feel about the underlying political inspiration. We may sympathise with it, as I sympathise with Ukrainian independence, or deplore it, as I deplore China’s global bossiness. But English is the mainstay of our culture, not theirs. And, unless they change the names of those cities, they’ll bloody well remain Kiev and Peking.

Well, to me, at any rate.

P.S. Speaking of English, I continue to learn new usages by listening to football commentators. The other day, one praised England for “the emergency of many talented young players”. I’m still waiting for the NHS to start providing emergence services.

Another chap commended a winger for his “Olympian speed”, making me wonder if the player could qualify for the Olympian Games.

And of course they all talk about “the amount of goals”, proving yet again that one doesn’t have to be literate to earn a large number of money.   

The book I love by the writer I hate

The Bumper Book of Vitali’s Travels, by Vitali Vitaliev, Thrust Books, 612 pages (and you’ll want to read every bloody one of them)

Vitali is my friend and I hate him, as I’d hate anyone making me commit a deadly sin, in this case envy. No one from Russia – or, worse still, the Ukraine! – should be able to write such dazzling English and get away with it, certainly not in a review by another native Russian speaker.

It’s not only for this shameful reason that I’m a wrong man to review this book. For Vitali describes himself as a dromomaniac, meaning he is every inch consumed with wanderlust, which I every inch am not. Not only has he hopped around the globe several times over, but he has also been writing travel notes, which are collected in this volume.

Now, generally speaking, travel writing is far down the list of my favourite literary genres. In fact, it doesn’t even make the list at all. However, speaking specifically rather than generally, Vitali proves there is no such thing as boring genres – there are only boring writers, a category to which he manifestly doesn’t belong.

I’ve read The Bumper Book from cover to cover, but starting with the essays on the places I know well. Or so I thought.

Reading Vitali’s prose, I was humbled to discover that, like the hapless Dr Watson, I saw without observing, meaning I didn’t really see much. Conversely, like the eagle-eyed Sherlock Holmes, Vitali sees because he observes. And like the inspired virtuoso he is, he takes but a few words to make us see things we ourselves missed so blithely.

His quiver of metaphors and similes would be too bulky for anyone else’s back, but Vitali’s is broad and sturdy enough. And every arrow-like weapon is honed sharp enough to pierce any armour of tired old stereotypes.

As a rule, I avoid quoting a reviewed book too profusely, but I don’t know how else to convey Vitali’s mastery. Any attempt merely to describe it would be like trying to describe the taste of, say, avocado. A reader would never get an accurate idea until he has tried the fruit for himself. So here are a few delicious morsels:

“Didn’t I myself once compare London to a curvaceous bikini-clad blonde who has wandered by mistake into a drab, male-only Pall Mall club?”

“I have come to regard it [Venice] as an aging, yet still graceful, woman, suffering from insomnia and dragging restlessly around the house in her worn-out, loose-fitting slippers in the night. Soft splashes of water against the ancient Venetian stones are like shuffling of slippers across the floor…”

On Riga: “It was late afternoon in March. Stray cats were copulating frantically on time-beaten cobbles. A plush Volvo of the latest make was crawling up a narrow lane squeezing into the gap between houses like a gleaming dagger into a tight sheath.”

On Prague: “Baroque architecture… strikes me as somewhat beer-inspired: this excessive ornamentation, this profusion of curved and interrupted lines, these heavy and solid – almost stout – facades, this beer-foam-like multitude of cupolas and turrets… And isn’t it true that the best examples of baroque architecture can be found in beer-loving countries? Please correct me if I am wrong (which I probably am).” A wine-imbibing Roman would probably oblige with gusto, but Vitaliev writes so well, I don’t feel like correcting him on anything.

“Walking in Manhattan, where the traffic is so slow that it gives the impression of travelling backwards, I spotted an elderly woman asleep inside a capacious shopping trolley, her bare feet sticking out like two freshly bought overbaked baguettes.”

On New York’s Brighton Beach, mostly populated by Russians: “A couple of elderly immigrants, carrying an indelible ‘I-am-waiting-to-be-hurt’ expression on their faces, could be seen strolling along the wet wood-paved boardwalk. From time to time, they would stop and stare at the ocean, as if trying to discern the outlines of their native Odessa on the horizon.”

“While in New Orleans, I was tempted to compare it to:

“A joyful scream, a gentle shock; a sophisticated mess, like a Cajun dish; a cup of strong black coffee that cheers you up and keeps you awake throughout the night; a friendly blow in the solar plexus that leaves you bent over and gasping for breath, and yet with a blissful smile on your face…”

And on and on, the world comes alive one sentence after another beautifully shaped sentence, one page after another perfectly structured page, one chapter after another chapter short on words but long on startling imagery and X-ray vision. If the purpose of literature is indeed to enlighten and delight, then The Bumper Book does so with the verve and precision seldom found in this genre.

This gets me to the starting point: the authentic and yet idiosyncratic English this reprobate has the audacity of writing.

Whenever I am described as a Russian author, or a Russian anything, I invariably quote Joseph Conrad: “My nationality is the language I write in.” Vitali cites this retort too, in his essay on Andrei Makine, the French writer who, like us, was raised in the Soviet Union.

By that criterion, Vitali is a British writer par excellence. But he wouldn’t be the British writer he is without the experience of having been (and lived) just about everywhere. An experience I for one am grateful he has put to such a thoroughly enjoyable use.  

Official: Biden is demented

This melancholy conclusion is inescapable in light of Biden’s comments before, during and on the climate summit graced by the presence of 42 world leaders, including Vlad Putin.

GRU officers Chepiga and Petrov on the way to that Czech depot

It was that champion of ecological probity whom Biden chose to single out for special praise, in preference to the other 40: “I am very heartened by President Putin’s call for the world to collaborate on advanced carbon dioxide removal.”

It pleases me as a British subject that my country has also been singled out for praise. Britain, Bill Gates told the conference, is to play a leading role in helping subsistence farmers avoid the shocks of global warming. God help me, but the chap has gone microsoft in the head.

Had Gates plotted climate changes next to farming activity over the past few millennia, he’d know that warm periods marked the times of the greatest productivity and prosperity. And conversely, when the climate got colder, famines usually ensued, accompanied by large-scale migrations, shrinking populations, disappearing farms, disease and general misery.

Now Biden and Gates, along with the world’s entire progressive community (it is a community, isn’t it? – everything else is), cling to the daft notion that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is mostly produced by irresponsible people who fuel their lives with hydrocarbons.

This belief is so scientifically illiterate that one shouldn’t grace it with too much commentary. I exhausted my quota of articles over the past couple of months by siting on several occasions reams of scientific data that show that human input makes up an infinitesimally tiny portion of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an even smaller one of atmospheric gases in general.

Moreover, changes in CO2 concentration have little to do with climate, and next to nothing compared to solar activity, tectonic shifts, volcanoes, meteorites and hundreds of other factors beyond human control.

But let’s assume that great scientist Greta Thunberg is right. Even so, since carbon dioxide is a major resource of biomass generation, its removal will reduce the number of forests and trees in general. Since trees absorb CO2, its amount in the atmosphere will hence rise pari passu. This is one way in which nature maintains its balance, and trying to distort it artificially is fraught with incalculable risks.

But I shouldn’t compete with Greta on this subject – her educational credentials are too awe-inspiring. Tipping my hat, I’m prepared to agree with her and Joe Biden: CO2 is poison, and hydrocarbons are the work of the devil.

Now let’s juxtapose this premise with the fact that Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the consumption of hydrocarbons and especially their export. It’s oil and gas that keep Vlad and his jolly friends in the style to which they’ve lately become accustomed. Without hydrocarbons, Russia’s economy will collapse within weeks and, more important in this context, so will Putin’s regime.

So how sincerely do you suppose Vlad supports the wokish theories so dear to Joe’s heart? Not very, would be my guess. He merely wants to trick his way to a measure of international respectability, something to which he has never been entitled, and now less than ever.  

“President Putin and I have our disagreements,” acknowledged Biden, but these are insignificant compared to their shared commitment to… well, you get it.

I’m not sure ‘disagreements’ is quite the right word, unless he’d also use this word to describe US-Japan relations circa 1942. Just a couple of weeks ago – and I realise a fortnight is aeons in politics – Biden described Putin as a killer (or rather agreed with that description when asked).

Since the president gets intelligence briefings, and assuming he can read them with full comprehension, he must be aware of the reckless brinkmanship with which Putin teeters on the verge of full-blown war against America’s allies and even other Nato members. Biden must also have heard of the three aggressive wars Russia has waged in the past 20-odd years. Moreover, I’m sure the CIA informs him of the relish with which Vlad and his acolytes regularly threaten nuclear annihilation, specifically turning America into “radioactive dust”.

And speaking of other Nato members, a few days ago the news broke that the same two GRU officers who in 2018 poisoned the Skripals, British subjects on British soil, had four years earlier blown up an ammunition warehouse in the Czech Republic, which, unless I’m very much mistaken, belongs to Nato.

Two local residents died in the blast. I’m sure the area’s ecology must have suffered too, and we know how deeply Vlad cares about that. Let me tell you, wars have been started for much milder ‘disagreements’ than that, and Article 5 of the Nato Charter calls for a robust response to such hostile acts.

I’m not the first to question Biden’s mental health, nor shall I be the last. But I just can’t imagine anyone who is compos mentis choosing this time to pat Vlad on the back and compliment him on some empty promises he has no intention of keeping. I wish the security of the West were in safer hands.

Where are the St George’s flags of yesteryear?

Today is St George’s Day, and I almost forgot that. I have a ready excuse though: the day of England’s patron saint has been ignored, not to say hushed up, in London.

I walked a few miles through Fulham and Putney earlier today and saw not a single St George’s Cross flapping in the wind. It wouldn’t be a stretch to observe that, say, St Patrick’s Day or even the Fourth of July receive greater publicity.

One would have expected front pages of our broadsheets dedicated to this Roman officer martyred in the Diocletianic Persecution of 303 AD, and first mentioned in England by the Venerable Bede. That expectation would have been frustrated: one would have needed a magnifying glass to find the feast even mentioned in most of the papers.

Yet for half a millennium at least, St George’s Day was a national holiday celebrated with almost the same pomp as Christmas. St George was honoured because so was England.

No longer. Honouring England, and therefore St George, is these days on a par with xenophobia and racism. In some quarters, the Cross of St George is regarded as not quite so bad as the swastika but almost – and certainly more disreputable than the red flags seen everywhere on May Day.  

Oh well, one hears (often from the same people who think Englishmen ought to be ashamed of themselves), what do you expect? St George wasn’t even English. True. But then neither was Jesus Christ, whose birth we do celebrate nevertheless, if in a rather perfunctory fashion.

The thing is that nowadays we celebrate not so much Christmas as Christmas Sales, that orgiastic festival of acquisitiveness. This gives me an idea of how to restore St George’s Day to its past grandeur.

Shops across the country must be given tax incentives to discount their merchandise every 23 April dramatically enough to have crowds queuing up through the night. At least that way every shop will be draped in St George’s flags to remind us that England is still worth celebrating.

Happy St George’s Day to all of you who love England, wherever you are from!

Our established Church is racist

It pains me to say this, but I have to agree with the conclusions reached by an internal inquiry conducted by the Church of England. The Church is institutionally racist, which is to say mired in what will soon be added to the list of deadly sins.

Archbishop Cottrell, case in point

According to the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce: “A failure to act now will be seen as another indication, potentially a last straw for many, that the Church is not serious about racial sin.”

True to its word, the taskforce proposed 47 concrete steps towards ending a “rut of inaction” and ushering in a rut of action instead. The taskforce’s findings are consonant with Archbishop Welby’s 2020 pronouncement that the Church is still “deeply institutionally racist”.

Some of the 47 steps mirror the initiatives that have proved staggeringly successful in the lay world: appointment of full-time racial justice officers, compiling annual reports on recruitment and mandatory training to embed anti-racism instincts.

Hear, hear! Every Anglican church in the land must have on its staff a diversity deacon, empowered to overrule the vicar on, well, anything he feels the vicar must be overruled on. That goes without saying.

However, I’d still propose to extend this welcome initiative into matters doctrinal and liturgical. To begin with, the list of seven cardinal sins should be expanded to include an eighth: racism. In general, the list ought to be seen as open-ended: new deadly sins, such as misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia, should also be added as required, but perhaps not all at once.

The Penitential Rite must also be slightly amended to begin as: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in racist thought, word, and deed…”

In the good tradition of Anglican liberalism, Lambeth Palace should eschew dictatorial practices and empower the ministers to express their innermost personal convictions. Thus, if a vicar demands that his/her/its congregation worship Jesus Christ as a black woman, he/she/it should be free to do so.

But perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree. More than 160 recommendations along these lines have been made to the taskforce, and I’m sure my amateurish efforts must have been superseded already.

So perhaps I’d better focus on the core of the problem and preempt all those naysayers who will doubtless insist that the C of E isn’t institutionally racist. To shut them up once and for all, I’d like to submit some incontrovertible evidence.

If we define institutional racism as discrimination against or in favour of an employee solely on account of his/her/its race, irrespective of any other qualifications, then I submit the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell as my Exhibit A.

In 2020 His Grace (irredeemably white) replaced in his current post, second most senior in the Church, John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu (impeccably black). Since anyone would be hard-pressed to identify Archbishop Stephen’s qualifications to be a priest, never mind a prelate, it had to be his pigmentation that acted as an institutional hoist.

If His Grace is as committed to eradicating racism as he professes, he must tender his resignation and apply for a job as diversity officer. Mugabi Sentamu should then reclaim his diocese or, if reluctant to do so, put forth a candidate of proper racial credentials.

Here we dig our teeth into the meat of the argument. As progressive people, we accept that racism is anything anyone says it is. Yet pedantic sticklers may feel that this criterion is insufficiently precise. They insist on some objective measure of institutional racism.

Thank God one such exists: Proportional Ethnographic Representation, PER for short. By applying PER to an institution’s staff, we can determine if a particular race is over- or underrepresented in relation to its share in the ethnographic makeup of the nation at large.

Any sizeable deviation from the statistical requirement spells institutional racism. It’s as simple – and as fool-proof! – as that.

Hence we programme the total number of C of E bishops (42) into the PER tool and then add the number of black bishops (5). Hence 12 per cent of the bishops are black, meaning that the total proportion of blacks in the population must be similar.

But – and I can’t even begin to describe my shock – it turns out blacks make up only three per cent of the UK’s population. There you go then, the taskforce’s findings stand vindicated. The Church of England is institutionally racist because whites are grossly underrepresented in its episcopate. QED.

Bolshevik, as in BLM

BLM has scored its triumph: Derek Chauvin will spend years, possibly decades, in prison.

BLM too stands on the shoulders of giants

Was the verdict just? Since I haven’t seen any trial transcripts, and newspaper reports tend to be biased one way or the other (usually the other), I can’t answer that question purely on legal grounds.

Instead I can ask another one: What would have happened had the jury found Chauvin not guilty? You don’t need me to tell you.

The riots that came in the slipstream of George Floyd’s death would have looked like a quiet picnic in the park by comparison. Every state in the Union, along with all other Western countries, would have seen mayhem as bad as anything that happened in the ‘60s or perhaps even worse.

Cities would have been paralysed; bars, restaurants and shops would have been torched and looted; white people would have been randomly assaulted, possibly killed en masse; civil order would have disintegrated and, at best, would have taken weeks to restore.

You know this, I know this, and everyone taking part in the trial knew it. Prosecutors, defence attorneys, judge, jury – they all knew that any other than a guilty verdict would have turned the country into a bloody, fiery mess. Even closer to home, their own safety would have been severely compromised in eternity.

They wouldn’t be human if such considerations hadn’t entered their minds during the trial. It’s on this basis that I regard the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial as unsafe.

That doesn’t mean it’s undeserved – only that the impartiality of judge and jury was under such undue pressure that it couldn’t be taken for granted. This failed to satisfy a conditio sine qua non of jury trial, rendering the proceedings suspect.

Conservative, which is these days to say marginal, papers point out that George Floyd’s death is no great loss to mankind. A life-long criminal, he once held a gun to the stomach of a pregnant woman hostage, which my conservative brethren don’t think is a nice thing to do. Floyd was also a drug pusher and taker, and in fact was under the influence during the fatal incident. Police were called to the scene because he tried to pass a counterfeit banknote at a shop, and Floyd fought the arrest with all the gusto of a muscular drugged-up man accustomed to violence.

All that is true. It’s also irrelevant. The law doesn’t just protect Sunday school teachers. It must protect all people, good or bad. If no one is above the law, then no one is beneath it. A human life must not be taken arbitrarily even if, by all secular criteria, it’s a worthless life. If Chauvin had indeed treated Floyd with excessive, murderous cruelty, he deserves all he gets.

Yet the use of the conditional mood in the previous sentence is justified, for reasons I’ve outlined earlier. This raises another question: Why would a failure to convict Chauvin have resulted in a Walpurgisnacht, or Kristallnacht if you’d rather?

This brings us to BLM, an openly Marxist, which is to say subversive, organisation. All these modifiers leave no doubt that Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s hypothetical acquittal would only have served as a pretext, not the reason, for riots.

BLM was founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who describe themselves as “trained Marxists”. The adjective makes one wonder who trained them, but it’s the noun that’s even more telling.

Trained, professional Marxists have only one cause in their lives: replacing traditional Western governments with communist dictatorships. The slogans they hoist on their flagpoles are as varied as they are irrelevant. Whatever they are, they are but a means to the end.

The desired end is always the same whatever the current slogan. It could be redistribution of wealth, global warming, feminism, LGBT rights, racial equality, nuclear disarmament or any combination thereof – any such slogan is a tissue of lies trying to conceal the underlying subversive intent.

The source of BLM financing is as opaque as the identity of the Marxist instructors who trained its founders. Its money is known to be handled by a shadowy organisation called Thousand Currents, fronted by Susan Rosenberg.

Miss Rosenberg boasts a colourful CV. As a member of the terrorist ‘May 19 Communist Organisation’, she was in the mid-80s sentenced to 58 years in prison on a weapons and explosives charge. Thanks to Bill Clinton’s pardon, she only served 16 years of that term, which brings into question the very notion of presidential pardons.

She now handles BLM financing, thereby continuing a fine Bolshevik tradition. In the olden days, whoever was in charge of the Bolsheviks’ money was also involved in hands-on terrorism. (You can Google names like Krasin, Litvinov, Semashko and, for that matter, Stalin for details.) However, before money is handled, it has to be there.

So where do BLM’s millions, almost 100 of them last year, come from? I don’t know, but I could venture a guess.

The size of BLM funding suggests a state, rather than a consortium of private individuals. As a rule, rich people don’t like bankrolling organisations that are committed to dispossessing rich people, or worse. Though that rule has been broken at times (some Russian millionaires, such as Savva Morozov, gave money to Lenin), this isn’t the way to bet.

Much more likely is that BLM is supported by a state with a vested interest in unsettling and destabilising Western countries, especially the US. Off the top I can think of only two countries with an established record of funding, training and arming extremist groups, mostly though not exclusively communist: Russia and China.

Russia is the more probable suspect, considering her recent, and not so recent, behavioural patterns. But either way, while I’m not sure I regret Chauvin’s conviction, I definitely regret the use to which enemies of the West will put it.

BLM will become stronger and the West weaker. This is a zero sum game – whatever one side loses, the other side gains. And make no mistake about it: we and BLM are on opposite sides.  

Football and Christian dialectics

Footie is now front-page news because 12 clubs, six from England, the others from Italy and Spain, have announced the founding of a breakaway Super League. If allowed to go ahead, this would trivialise, possibly destroy, traditional competitions, both domestic and European.

The entire football community – players, managers, pundits, fans – are understandably up in arms. And, since the big 12 will each receive signing-on fees in hundreds of millions, with billions more to come, the owners are rightly accused of greed.

Interestingly, the accusers, most of them rank atheists, are liberally quoting biblical injunctions against avarice, which is good to see. What’s less good to see is that they make no allowances for the dialectical subtlety of both Testaments, especially the New one.

The impression the critics try to convey is that Christ was opposed to wealth as such, not just particularly rapacious ways of acquiring it. That contravenes Christian dialectics, derived not only from Christ’s teaching but, above all, his person.

This tripartite dialectic can be represented by the formula of yes – no – yes or, in Hegel’s terminology, thesis – antithesis – synthesis. As applied to the person of Christ, it can work in this manner: Yes, Christ is fully God (thesis). No, Christ is fully a man (antithesis). Yes, Christ is God-man (synthesis).

Christians have always applied this dialectic to economic behaviour – come to think of it, they’ve applied it to everything, though not always consciously. There are many comments on wealth in the Scripture, but I’ll focus on just two.

In a well-known incident, Jesus stunned his apostles by a bold thesis: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples “were astonished out of measure”, and understandably so. After all, at the onset of their religion Abraham’s righteousness was rewarded with riches, as was Solomon’s wisdom.

But then came the antithesis: “…With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” The synthesis couldn’t be clearer: as long as we put God first, we are justified in pursuing riches. Granted, the Christian attitude to wealth never rose above toleration. But tolerated it was. It was never proscribed. 

In another incident, Jesus spoke of “mammon”, which is the Aramaic for wealth: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

The yes – no – yes dialectic is implicit there, and in several ways. For Jesus, serving God meant putting God before all else  (metaphysical thesis). It didn’t, however, mean elimination of everything else, for life had to be lived (physical antithesis). Therefore, though we cannot serve mammon, which is to say put it first, we may still wish to live comfortably as long as we serve God (“…seek ye first the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you”), put him first (synthesis).

The message is clear: God is everything, but this doesn’t mean that man has to be nothing.

This dialectic was understood by all theologians who talked about riches. Thus St Thomas Aquinas: “The perfection of the Christian life does not consist essentially in voluntary poverty, though that is a tool of perfection in life. There is not necessarily greater perfection where there is greater poverty; and indeed the highest perfection is sometimes wedded to great wealth…”

Note the qualifiers: “essentially”, “not necessarily”, “sometimes”. Rather than issuing a licence to acquisitiveness, St Thomas was expressing the fundamental Christian view on pursuing wealth: Go on then, if you must. But do remember what comes first. Jesus, after all, only said man shall not live by bread alone, not that man shall live by no bread at all.

Addressing seven centuries after Aquinas a world that no longer could be automatically presumed to put God first, Pope John Paul II said essentially the same thing: “It is necessary to create lifestyles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments.”

The language is modern; the message is two thousand years old. It’s based on the Christian balance between the two planes, physical and metaphysical, reflecting the two natures of Christ: God and man.

When our civilisation was being formed, seeking wealth for those who didn’t inherit large tracts of land was tantamount to selling the fruits of their labour. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker bartered their products for other people’s. Since money was sometimes involved as a means of exchange, it was natural to expect that more of it would eventually end up in some hands than in others.

Thus labour indirectly presupposed the possibility of enrichment. Yet in spite of that the New Testament contains direct endorsements of work. These come across in the Lord’s Prayer (“give us this day our daily bread”), in Jesus the carpenter talking about “the labourer worthy of his hire” and in St Paul the tent maker stating categorically that “if any would not work, neither shall he eat.”

The upshot of this is that our football pundits should stop their Bible-thumping even if they can’t help screaming “Damn them to hell!” (Martin Samuels, our best football writer). Dismount your high moral horse, chaps, take a deep breath and try to discuss the issue of the Super League on its merits, such as they are.

When all is said and done, it’s only footie, not some heretical religious schism threatening our whole civilisation. A bit of dialectical perspective would come in handy, don’t you think?