Over a barrel

Clinton’s boy James Carville got it wrong: it’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the will to live.

For, while separate countries can be killed by outsiders, whole civilisations only ever die by suicide. There are all sorts of bullets they can fire into their own brain, all sorts of stakes they can drive through their own heart.

But it’s not the method but the underlying cause that matters: sooner or later, civilisations lose the will to live. Once that goes, they can self-administer euthanasia in any number of ways, such as destroying their own economy or putting it at the mercy of their enemies.

Yet it’s metaphysical collapse that’s the disease, with economic suicide only its symptom. And in today’s Europe, emphatically including Britain, this symptom is most virulent.

Our civilisation has systematically destroyed its soul, hoping that the body would be so much the stronger for it. Alas, things don’t work out that way.

There’s only so much moral corruption that a civilisation can handle, and we haven’t just crossed that line – we’ve bloody well erased it.

We’ve put our fate in the hands of politicians, knowing in advance that some of them would turn out to be corrupt. What we didn’t bargain for was that the whole system, and everyone in it, would be corrupt in the worst possible way, miles beyond the odd backhander greasing the odd palm.

The current Pandora investigation has shown that 34 Conservative (!) MPs are in Putin’s pocket. Perhaps. But if the remaining 626 MPs of all parties aren’t taking Putin’s ruble, it’s only because they didn’t get the offer.

There are no moral hurdles they’d have to clear, no scruples they’d have to overcome. It’s just that they’d have to be less open in their moral decrepitude than they become once out of office. Just look at the careers of Messrs Blair, Cameron, Osborne et al., and you’ll get the general idea.

While still in office, they put the whole country on suicide watch, with the watchers all blind. If you think this judgement is too extreme, I’ll be happy to entertain other explanations for the present situation.

Which, in broad strokes, is as follows. European (hereinafter also to include British) politicians have accepted on faith the pernicious, ignorant fallacy of man-made global warming.

How could they not, considering how hysterically they were scolded by an evil, retarded child from Sweden? Thus persuaded, they began to dismantle the existing energy industries: oil, gas, coal and nuclear (this last one is still hanging on in Britain). And of course they forswore any further exploration, leaving a vast reservoir of shale gas going untapped underfoot.

They then committed their countries to replacing all engines powered by fossil fuels with electric ones. Hence the demand for electricity, which is already growing exponentially, will shoot through the stratosphere.

This is supposed to be met by wind farms (provided the wind blows) and solar panels (provided the sun shines). If these parenthetic conditions aren’t met, our energy is supposed to come from… well, Russia of course, or perhaps the Muslim countries.

Neither of those is a friend of the West. In fact, both are our self-declared doctrinal enemies. Hence it should have been predictable long in advance that their energy largesse will come with a ganglion of political strings attached.

With Europe heading for a shivering spell this winter, Putin reached for the gas control valve, with his hand stopping an inch away. Do you want the gas to flow?

Well then, in that case: [approve Nord Stream 2, remove all sanctions, recognise Russia’s interests in the post-Soviet space, elect transparent Russian spies to Parliament, stop blocking Russian propaganda, turn a blind eye on Russian money laundering – you name it].

Do you, Mr West, accept these conditions? A roaring chorus came in reply: YOU BET WE DO! ANYTHING YOU WANT!!!

To be fair, some of those hypothetical demands aren’t exactly hypothetical. Most have already been met throughout Europe, and I assure you that the 34 MPs popping out of the Pandora box barely scratch the surface of wholesale corruption.

Against that background, it’s pointless trying to compare the relative military strength of NATO and Putin’s Russia. The Western gun may be bigger, but that doesn’t matter if it never fires – or, worse still, is used for suicide.

A Europe at the end of a string pulled by Putin’s kleptofascist gang will no longer be Europe in any other than the purely geographical sense. Western governments proudly (if not always truthfully) proclaim that they won’t negotiate with terrorists. Clearly, they feel that an abject surrender to energy blackmail is a different matter altogether.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is of course a simplification of a devilishly complex problem. Yes, our politicians can be bought retail or wholesale. But they don’t exist in a vacuum.

We are all passengers on a giant merry-go-round that’s gathering so much speed that jumping off is impossible. Or, if you prefer a different metaphor, cogs in a civilisational machine that has run out of gas metaphysically, not just physically.

That’s why we shouldn’t wonder if our politicians are stupid. Some are, most aren’t, but it’s irrelevant either way. It’s not that they don’t understand what’s good for the country – it’s that they inhale the zeitgeist and stop caring about anything other than their own careers.

Jean-Claude Juncker, whom I unkindly nicknamed ‘Junk’, put it in a nutshell. “We all know what to do,” he said. “We just don’t know how to get re-elected once we’ve done it.” A tectonic shift had to happen to make that aphorism true to life.

A civilisation in the grip of a death wish is impervious to reason in thought or deed. If someone tried to stay its suicidal hand, he would be brushed aside – we must kill ourselves, and we won’t be stopped.

P.S. Speaking of civilisational suicide, to put younger bums on pews the Bournemouth church of St Michael will henceforth be called St Mike’s. I wonder what St Matt, St Pete, St Jim, St Jack and St Andy would have to say about that.

P.P.S. On the same subject: Dmitry Muratov, editor of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has just won a share of the Nobel prize. The paper is owned by the career KGB officer, Alexander Lebedev, who’s also the proxy owner of our own Evening Standard and Independent. The official owner is his son Evgeny, elevated to the House of Lords by his friend Boris Johnson.

What’s in a name?

Ignorance by any other name smells as foul, as Justice Secretary Dominic Raab proved yesterday at the Tory Conference.

A victim of misogyny

Speaking to the BBC, he said “insults and misogyny is absolutely wrong whether it’s a man against a woman or a woman against a man”. When it’s against a man, Dominic, it’s called misandry – get your lexical ducks in a row.

Still, the underlying sentiment is correct: crimes committed against men are every bit as reprehensible as those targeting women. And if a woman does fall victim to a crime, she is entitled to seek recourse not because she is a woman, but because she is a subject of Her Majesty and, as such, enjoys the state’s protection. (I made a similar argument yesterday, in relation to ‘gay rights’.)

Any day, give me a man who understands the law over one who never commits a solecism when spouting rubbish. Understandably though, Labour mandarins and other fruits took the chance to make an ideological mountain out of a lexical molehill.

Raab’s Labour shadow, David Lammy, said: “No wonder the Conservatives are hopeless at tackling violence against women and girls.” I like the precision of “women and girls”. Otherwise one could have got the impression that women are entitled to protection only post-defloration and only when they reach a certain age.

And Raab’s LibDem shadow, Wera Hobhouse, added: “It’s little wonder the Conservatives are failing to tackle misogyny when their justice secretary doesn’t even seem to know what it is.”

She was referring to the government’s reluctance to designate misogyny as a hate crime, something Mr Raab reiterated in the same interview. He thereby proved that whatever he lacks in vocabulary he makes up for in his grasp of legal realities.

Misogyny is defined in the dictionary as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” I find such feelings idiotic and despicable, but how is it possible to criminalise them? How is it possible to criminalise any feeling or, for that matter, idiocy?

I’ve met many Englishmen who prefer the company of men, a preference I emphatically don’t share. I’ve even heard many men impugn women’s intelligence (wrongly), morality (ditto) and driving ability (correctly). I disagree with some such sentiments, agree with others, but I’d neither punish a chap for expressing the former nor extol him for expressing the latter.

Crimes motivated by misogyny (as opposed to crimes committed against women for other reasons) are of course a different matter altogether. These ought to be punished to the full extent of the law – existing law, that is.

For, thank God who, as we know, is an Englishman, we already have plenty of good and ancient laws on the books to punish any conceivable crime against women, men and anything in between. All of them, men, women and anything in between, are entitled to the state’s protection, just as the state is entitled to their allegiance.

Any additional law would be redundant and therefore useless. Actually, even worse than useless, for bad laws tend to reduce whatever respect people have even for the good ones. As to having on the books laws proscribing ill-defined, indeed undefinable, transgressions, they bring the country’s whole legal system into disrepute.

So yes, by all means, do let’s laugh at Mr Raab’s shaky command of woke English derived from ancient Greek. As long as we praise him for his legal nous at the same time.

There’s no such thing as gay rights

Yet another disaster movie in the Carrie On saga premiered the other day at the Conservative conference.

“Listen to me, Boris, cause I’m only going to say this once.”

Mrs Johnson, whose sole entitlement to addressing the multitudes comes from her ability to bear children for Mr Johnson, delivered herself of a lachrymose comment on LGBT+ rights.

Apparently, the plight of the LGBT+ ‘community’ moves her to tears. Her hubby-wubby and she once hosted a Pride reception at Downing Street, where Carrie’s heart strings were tugged by a victim of a ‘hate’ crime.

It has to be said that Carrie’s heart seems to have more strings than a Steinway grand, each ready to be tugged by any woke cause on offer. So far the strings have vibrated mostly in response to the impending climatic apocalypse, with the plight of trees also getting a tinkle or two.

Yet it would be unrealistic to expect Carrie or any other such intellectually challenged individual to pick up woke fads piecemeal. These usually come as a full package, which saves time for vituperative commentators like me.

If Carrie-like creatures state a staunch commitment to making sure the climate never changes, then we can infer unerringly their position on any rights, whether women’s, animal, trans, gay or whatever. At a slight stretch, we may even assume that, according to them, inanimate objects, such as trees, also have rights – even if not dialectically linked to duties.

Such a polyvalent conscience is, according to Carrie, a specifically Conservative virtue. After all, the Tories are a “party of equality”, and thinking otherwise would be “illogical”.

I wonder what the founders of the party, such as Disraeli, Peel or, for that matter, Queen Victoria, would think of this notion if they miraculously came back. I can just hear them say “Go home, dear, have a glass of hot milk and don’t worry about things you don’t understand.”

‘Pride’ figures prominently in Carrie’s lexicon of misused words. Thus, “we can now say with huge pride that it was a Conservative prime minister who delivered equal marriage in England and Wales.” And “we now have a prime minister who is completely committed to protecting those gains and extending them further.”

A prime minister, Carrie kindly reminded, who wore a pink hat at a Gay Pride parade when he was mayor of London, while she herself plans to go dancing until wee hours at an LGBT+ Conservative club. “I hope to see some of you on the dancefloor,” added Carrie.

I take that as an invitation, which I regretfully have to decline. I do like dancing, but only with women, and I’m sure such binary preferences will be frowned upon at that venerable Tory establishment. Perhaps if Queen Victoria stays resurrected for a while longer, she’ll be happy to let Carrie have the first gavotte.

Someone ought to remind the Johnsons that Britain isn’t like the US in many respects, one of which is that we don’t have a political entity called the First Lady. Unlike a monarch’s spouse, a prime minister’s wife has no constitutional status in Britain, no matter how many babies she pops out in how short a time.

So this barely post-pubescent woman should keep her flaming conscience strictly for home consumption. And, if her logorrhoea is uncontainable, at least the papers should ignore her stream of woke consciousness, rather than giving it space on the front pages.

Untangling Carrie’s jumble of nonsensical bites would evoke the memory of the Augean Stables. Still, I feel duty-bound to do my best for the benefit of my readers – even at the risk of preaching to the choir.

Hence I’ll repeat the title: this side of woke animadversions, there’s no such thing as gay rights. This is to say that homosexuals should enjoy no specific rights as homosexuals. Such particularism has no place among the all-encompassing raft of legal rights enjoyed by every subject of Her Majesty, regardless of sexual or any other deviations.

We have any number of laws protecting us from crimes motivated by ‘hate’, greed, drug and alcohol intake or anything else. A thug attacking a homosexual for his sexuality must be prosecuted side by side with a thug attacking a straight man for his provocative pinstriped suit.

Alas, the word ‘rights’ is routinely misused these days to denote privileges, entitlements and appetites. A genuine right is one that doesn’t presuppose a concomitant obligation on anyone else’s part.

Thus, the right of a homosexual not to be attacked or otherwise abused qualifies. However, his right to being employed without prejudice doesn’t: it means that an employer must have the legal obligation to give the homosexual a job. This clashes with the employer’s genuine right to choose whomever he likes.

I’m talking about companies outside the aegis of the state. The NHS, for example, can be legally forced to introduce any number of perverse hiring practices – that’s par for the course. Yet doing the same to a privately owned firm means sacrificing a genuine right for a bogus one.

We may bemoan the employer’s antediluvian bias, but we all have a God-given right to have some quirks, no matter how disagreeable. In any case, a free market should protect homosexuals all by itself.

Businessmen aren’t likely to spite their faces by cutting off their noses, and turning away a qualified candidate for extraneous reasons would constitute just such a proverbial faux pas. Companies compete not just for markets but also for talent, however packaged. Ignoring a talented prospect would let one’s competitors score free points, thereby threatening to run away with the game.

Free markets do have such self-regulating features, and the more the state meddles, the more it distorts a practice proven to work everywhere it has been allowed to run more or less (if not entirely) unimpeded.

Carrie’s poor husband seems to realise this, which is why he was right to say yesterday that people shouldn’t appeal to him, meaning the state, to cure all economic ills, such as the cracks in the supply chain.

That was a proper conservative statement, and Johnson ought to be complemented. What I find baffling, however, is that Carrie seems to think that her poor henpecked husband can fix problems outside the legitimate remit of the state.

For example, he is expected to do God’s job by ordering climate to stand still, something it has refused to do during the previous billions of years. Carrie also wants him to extend “the gains [of homomarriage] even further”. True enough, the rights to interspecies marriage remain untapped, and this is the only immediately obvious area of possible extension.

Contextually, Carrie also wants her poor husband to prove his Tory credentials by legislating reverse discrimination in the workplace, forcing employers to give special privileges to homosexuals. She also seems to think that killing someone for his sexuality should be punished more severely than killing someone for his money.

The logic escapes me, but then I’m neither a card-carrying member of the Tory party nor a donor to it. I leave that privilege to Russian gangsters.  

To love is to forget

You probably think this statement is so paradoxical as to be daft. So it is, in its broad form. So let’s narrow it down a bit by, paradoxically, adding a few words.

Leonardo’s Jesus is different from most others

To love a person is to forget his face. Does this make more sense now? I’m prepared to argue that it does.

If you disagree, let me ask another question. What did Jesus look like?

We don’t know – this, though over the past two millennia he has arguably been loved by more people than anyone else. And if you doubt this statement, then here’s an unassailable one: his disciples definitely loved him more than anyone else. After all, they were prepared to abandon their families to follow Jesus wherever he led them, all the way to martyrdom.

Then why didn’t they leave a portrait of Jesus for posterity? By that I don’t necessarily mean a painted portrait, although the art of portraiture existed at the time. Egyptian funereal portraits, for example, were painted roughly at the same time, and they were masterly.

Moreover, the Incarnation changed in one fell swoop the Old Testament injunction against creating graven images of divine personages.

There was no doctrinal problem with depicting the image of Jesus, if not that of Christ. For 30-odd years Christ appeared to the multitudes as man Jesus, and men’s likenesses could be painted or sculpted with no fear of divine wrath. Witness the flourishing of iconography from the second century onwards, which was not only allowed but welcomed and supervised by that guardian of doctrine, the Church.

It’s conceivable, likely even, that the apostles had neither any artistic ability nor the means to commission someone so endowed. But what about a verbal portrait?

The Gospels are, among other things, reminiscences of Jesus. They probably weren’t written by any of the apostles, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that only one degree of separation existed between the evangelists and Jesus, two at most.

Mark was essentially writing down Peter’s accounts, Luke those of Paul, John those of his apostolic namesake, Matthew widely used the earlier, undiscovered Aramaic account (Q, in the terminology of biblical scholars) produced by eyewitnesses, and he certainly knew some of the twelve.

Sure enough, the evangelists go into extraordinary detail describing Jesus’s words, acts, thoughts and feelings – including those that show them themselves in a bad light. And yet they are extremely frugal with any details of his appearance, other than the odd throwaway line here and there, with none amounting to a full picture.

Why such disdain for the visual sense? Atheists use it as proof that historical Jesus never existed, but that’s simply vulgar ignorance.

Quite apart from specific references found in the works of Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius and Josephus, not to mention the authors of the New Testament, anyone with any artistic sense will know that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts of physical events. To think otherwise would be to argue that those simple men possessed novelistic talents never again even approached by any writer – not to mention the knowledge of such disciplines as history and astronomy.

Also, immediately after the Resurrection, thousands of people, including those close to Jesus personally, went to their death with his name on their lips. It’s psychologically impossible that they would have done so for the sake of a fictional character.

Then there was the Docetic heresy, unequivocally rejected in the first Nicaean Council of 325. This was perhaps the most pernicious of many pure-spirit heterodoxies that denied the bodily being of Christ. What the multitudes saw, maintained the docetists, was a mirage, a phantasm that God in his omnipotence floated before their eyes.

Yet even assuming that for the sake of argument, it still doesn’t explain the scarcity of physical details in evangelical accounts. After all, writers both before and after the first century, from Homer to Dante to Goethe to Dostoyevsky to Kafka to thousands of lesser talents, were eminently capable of drawing figments of their imagination in palpable detail.

The fact is that, in common with other heresies, Docetism shows ignorance not only of God but also of man. This takes us back to the paradox in the title.

Think of someone you love with all your heart. Your spouse perhaps, or the lover your spouse knows nothing about, or your child. Now I’m sure that, for all the depth of your feelings, you’ve occasionally had to spend time away from your loved one.

Did you notice that on those occasions you found it hard to paint an accurate mental picture of that person? This, though you had no trouble remembering the exact appearance of, say, colleagues or causal acquaintances? I have my own experience in mind, but I’m sure it isn’t unique.

This shows that true love, as distinct from inferior forms of affection, is more metaphysical than physical. We love the soul not – at least not so much – the body. And the more we love, the deeper does our sight penetrate, the more it skips the physical shell to rest on the metaphysical essence. And this is something that can be deeply loved, but not accurately pictured.

That explains the evangelists’ otherwise inexplicable gaps of visual memory. They remembered too little because they loved too much.

Totalitarians at St Andrews are athirst

The term ‘totalitarian’, as distinct from merely authoritarian, was coined in the 1930s.

Where Will met Kate

But the underlying concept goes back to a much earlier source: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

There it is, the difference in a nutshell. An authoritarian doesn’t care about his subjects’ souls as long as their bodies dance to his music. Totalitarians are different: they aren’t happy with merely physical tyranny. They want the metaphysical kind as well.

Typically, they seek to kill sanity by smudging the borderline between virtual and actual realities, with the fake one always taking precedence. Eventually, most people will accept falsehood as truth, and those who don’t will pretend to do so.

Totalitarians love the second type as much as the first. Orwell pointed this out in one of his essays, when talking about the sadistic joy totalitarians feel when watching those who know better and still spout insane gibberish, not even daring to crack a smile.

This brings us to an unmistakably totalitarian establishment: St Andrews University, the alma mater of both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This year for the first time, it ranked above Oxbridge in the Good University Guide.

As befits our best university, St Andrews blazes the path for all others to follow. And the path leads straight to hell.

St Andrews students are forced, on pain of expulsion, to take compulsory diversity modules. There they are expected to give the ‘right’ answers to questions about racism, homophobia, climate and some such.

A typical agree-or-disagree question: “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.”

Or another example: “It is important to think about and understand our own prejudices and stereotypes so we don’t treat someone else unfairly or inappropriately.”

Someone forgot to teach those Scottish teachers the difference between education and brainwashing. Perhaps they didn’t have to learn: totalitarians sense in their bone marrow what they have to do.

A note to any sane freshers at St Andrews: I feel your pain. I too had to go through university in a totalitarian country, the Soviet Union. I too was forced to fake insanity while remaining sane. I wasn’t good at it though, and I’m sure you aren’t either.

Luckily, I was only threatened with expulsion and was allowed to matriculate. However, my secret personal file had enough black marks in it to consign me to a life of misery. Since the file was indeed secret, I never saw it. But I knew what it said: watch him, he’s anti-Soviet scum.

You must feel as Cincinnatus C. felt in Nabokov’s novel Invitation to a Beheading. Living in a land where everyone was transparent, Cincinnatus alone was opaque. That’s why he was to be beheaded: totalitarians can forgive any crime except being different.

You might object that we still have no concentration camps, public trials and mass executions. I can only reply by sending you back to the quotation from St Matthew above. Jesus establishes a clear pecking order there: those who merely wish to kill the body aren’t to be feared. It’s those who are after your soul who are really scary.

Totalitarians don’t use violence for its own sake. It merely serves to attain their goal, total control. If such a goal can be attained non-violently, so much the better. If mass murder is after all required, that’s fine too. Whatever works.

That’s why the force-feeding of woke dung isn’t just ridiculous – it’s sinister. It’s an attempt to take dominion of the soul, and fair enough: most people’s souls are indeed up for grabs.

They have been primed by decades of incessant propaganda that starts at the cradle and ends at the grave. Resistance takes an epic fortitude of mind and spirit, but where can such strength come from? It certainly can’t be produced by craving for material goods, which seems to be the only impelling force of modernity.

Ticking the expected answer in a questionnaire seems like a tiny concession to make. It never is though. “One claw gets stuck,” goes the old saying, “the whole bird will perish.”

Totalitarians can smell a soul cast adrift, and when they do they pounce. Another tick, please kind sir. And another, if you don’t mind. Just one more, and we’re done. Before you know it, there goes your soul, ticking away bit by cowardly bit.

I wish I could advise St Andrews students to throw those module papers back into the totalitarians’ mugs, but I can’t. No mere mortal has the right to demand heroism from others; this has to be a personal free choice.

The only advice I can offer comes straight from Thomas Cranmer: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant us that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.”

Yes, I know this is archaic, unfashionable and generally uncool. But I can’t think of any other viable source of strength to resist totalitarianism. Be it the Soviet kind, the Nazi kind – or the St Andrews kind.

P.S. Is the University named after several different St Andrews? Or was the First-Called named St Andrews? If the answer to both questions is no, how about an apostrophe there, chaps? You being the best university and all.