The Queen gets gazumped

They say that a Chinese godfather makes you an offer you can’t understand. But money talks in a clear language everywhere, and certainly in Barbados.

What’s that in the glass, Your Majesty?

Having received close to a trillion pounds from China in loans and investments, Barbadians have sacked Her Britannic Majesty as their head of state. The Queen couldn’t find a loose trillion quid to match China’s offer.

Barbados has become a republic or, if we are being totally honest, a Chinese protectorate. That makes me wonder what would happen if Chairman Xi were to make a cash offer to Wales. He probably won’t though: the Chinese have trouble enunciating even single Ls, never mind the double ones favoured by the Welsh.

Her Majesty can’t be criticised for not holding on to that job. But, much as it pains me to say so, that doesn’t mean she should be off limits for any other criticism.

Mine concerns her drinking habits, currently in the news. Apparently Her Majesty, God bless her, has given up her customary nightcap of a dry martini. Such was her doctors’ advice, and I’m happy she took it.

But dry martini at night? Really, Your Majesty. This is an excellent drink, but not after dark, unless one is close to the Arctic Circle in winter.

A dry Martini, mixed four parts of gin to, ideally, no parts of vermouth (although a drop of Noilly Prat couldn’t hurt), is a perfect aperitif before a late lunch or early dinner. It’s usually served with a lemon twist or an olive. When it’s both, the cocktail is called ‘Dickens’ in New York (Oliver Twist, get it?).

The only beverages suitable for a nightcap are either malt whisky or cognac, and a noble-born woman like our Queen, God bless her, ought to have known that. Anyway, that’s not an issue any longer: Her Majesty has lost her nightcap in the same week she lost Barbados.

Speaking of gin, it’s Gordon’s that currently holds a royal warrant. I’m in no position to offer advice to Her Majesty, God bless her, but I would have removed that distinction after Diageo lowered the gin’s strength to 37.5 per cent.

Gin ought to be at least 40 per cent, with a big emphasis on at least. Anything less than that is a woke travesty defying the 250 years of Gordon’s tradition. Since monarchy is an inherently conservative institution, the Queen, God bless her, should uphold traditional values – especially where booze is concerned.

These aren’t my only alcohol-related gripes concerning the Queen’s habits. For apparently she enjoys a glass of sweet German wine with dinner.

Sweet? German? With dinner? I’ve heard of iconoclasm, but this goes too far.

Sweet wines are otherwise known as pudding wines, which hints, none too subtly, at the course with which they should be drunk. If consumed with courses other than pudding, they kill the taste buds and, with them, the flavour of the food.

By contrast, table wines from Bordeaux or Burgundy complement the food, the way Trinidad complements Tobago (now we are on the subject of the Commonwealth). As to German sweet wine, I can only put this down to the Queen’s ancestry.

I know she can’t afford Barbados, but surely her finances must stretch to Château d’Yquem or, at a pinch, a lesser Sauternes? If not, I know a chap who’s on the board of Corney & Barrow, the City wine dealer. I’m sure he could arrange for a suitable royal discount – in fact, being a confirmed monarchist, he’ll be honoured to do so.

Anyway, it’s lunch time, and my cocktail shaker is about to see some action. Two ounces of Tanqueray, a drop of vermouth, two ice cubes, exactly seven shakes — now that delicious drink is ready to be strained into a martini glass and topped with two skewered olives.

Here’s to Her Majesty, God bless her. She shouldn’t be too upset about Barbados – good riddance, I say. Our gain is China’s loss.

Christmas, banned every which way

The words ‘ban’ and ‘Christmas’ seem to be umbilically linked in newspaper headlines.

Different times, different reasons, same result

Anyone just scanning the front pages may get the impression that the birth of Jesus Christ is no longer seen as an appropriate cause for celebration. In some quarters it’s actually seen as downright offensive.

My mind’s eye, linked to a fecund imagination, can see boarded-up cathedrals, police cordons keeping frustrated parishioners at bay, swarms of genuflecting immigrants painting double yellow lines on every street within a mile of a church.

However, when my physical eye slides down to the text  below the headlines, the sightings of my mind’s eye are disavowed. That’s not what banning Christmas means.

It means the possibility of another Covid-related lockdown that would jeopardise the deep, religious meaning of Yuletide: Christmas sales and piss-ups, aka office Christmas parties.

The unaffordable in pursuit of the unusable – millions of generally respectable Britons feel compelled to spend exorbitant sums on, mostly, rubbish. Having thus paid their dues to Mercury, the god of trade, they then switch allegiance to Bacchus, the god of wine (and, by the looks of it, also of beer, cider, vodka, gin, whisky and flaming Sambucas).

Worshippers are so devout in those Dionysian rites that afterwards they upset taxi drivers by wallowing in their own vomit on the back seat. (After Christmas parties at my ad agency, we used to send otherwise proper young ladies home in taxis, only to have to pay the drivers for the damages the next day.)

At the risk of blaspheming against the God of Christmas Sales and Piss-Ups, I wouldn’t shed a tear if Christmas were indeed banned. In that sense, that is.

Yet some Britons wish Christmas were banned in every sense. They are driven by a charitable concern for the feelings of people who worship other gods or none. Those empathetic individuals feel the pain of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, animists, Zoroastrians and atheists who shudder with revulsion when walking past a Nativity scene or even hearing the words ‘Happy Christmas’.

To spare their brittle feelings, ideological altruists wish Happy Holidays to one another, thereby falling into a trap laid by etymology. Since ‘holiday’ is a fusion of ‘holy’ and ‘day’, those kind souls step out of the frying pan of Christ and into the fire of holiness.

May I suggest ‘Happy Break’ as a compromise solution? Just be careful not to wish that to someone who is recuperating from a broken bone or, for that matter, broken marriage.

If you think all this is yet another one of my sarcastic harangues against modernity, you are right. Except that I interpret modernity broadly, as a dystopic play under the working title of The Murder of Our Civilisation.

This play has many acts, of which the first one was the Reformation. And what do you know, reforming sticklers for biblical literalism wanted to ban Christmas too. I do mean Christmas as a religious festival, not just an occasion to spend money on trinkets and booze.

The reformers, especially the more febrile ones called Calvinists or, in England, Puritans, hated Christianity, as it had been worshipped during the previous 1,500 years. In any western context, this meant they hated Catholicism and everything as much as hinting at it.

One such hint was Christmas, with its masses and attendant pomp. The Puritans opened their Bibles and found no reference to any such festivities. And as far as they were concerned, anything that wasn’t explicitly allowed was implicitly prohibited.

That simple rule applied to icons and religious paintings the Puritans burned, religious statues they smashed and monasteries they robbed. After all, neither Testament said “thou shalt not loot monasteries.”

Christmas too smacked of idolatrous Catholicism, felt the Puritans and, having won the Civil War, their feelings mattered. Hence in 1645 Parliament replaced the Book of Common Prayer with a Directory of Public Worship. The Directory proscribed any special services at festivals, such as Christmas and Easter.

Since the Puritans also hated people having fun, they objected to Christmas festivities not only on scriptural grounds, but also on moral ones. Those crypto-Catholics drank alcohol, sang and danced – what further proof of their satanic nature was needed?

In 1647 Parliament introduced, and in 1652 reiterated, an outright ban on Christmas celebrations. Shops were to be open on Christmas day, and anyone violating the ban would be hit with a large fine.

After the 1660 restoration of sanity, that strain of Christmas-haters largely decamped for America, where it’s still going strong. Thus back in the 1970s a NASA colleague rebuked me for drinking.

“Jesus didn’t drink alcohol,” he informed me helpfully. When I muttered something about the wedding at Cana and water turned into wine, my colleague smiled indulgently.

“That was non-alcoholic wine,” he explained. “And how do you know that?” “I just know what kind of a guy Jesus was,” he said, much to my consternation. I hadn’t thought of Jesus as a ‘guy’.

In Britain, I’ve been spared this kind of disapproval of drinking or indeed Christmas. Our militant wokers go back to the next act in the aforementioned play, the Enlightenment – so called in reference to Lucifer whose name means ‘enlightener’ in Latin.

At this moment they are singing from the same hymn sheet, as it were, as our bossy government. It would confine us to quarters permanently if it could, with or without a reason, Christmas or no Christmas. Covid is a godsend for our leaders – it gives them a pretext to indulge their natural instincts.

Yet Christmas survived Cromwell and his jolly men, as I’m sure it’ll survive this lot. Birthdays are to be celebrated, no matter what.

William Hogarth, of BLM and MeToo

Congratulations to William Hogarth on his posthumous elevation to these organisations. Better 300 years late than never.

Can you find a BLM message in this picture?

With the prescience we associate with great artists, Hogarth anticipated the advent of these seminal movements. Hence his art is but a forward-looking membership application.

Such is the impression one gets when visiting the Hogarth exhibition at the Tate – that is, if one reads the blurbs accompanying the pictures.

These were provided by 18 scholars [hereinafter the emphasis is mine] carefully chosen by the Tate’s director Maria Balshaw, whose own personality lends a special lustre to the show.

There’s much I could tell you about Miss Balshaw, but all you need to know is her selections for Desert Island Discs. This popular radio show asks its guests to name the records they’d take with them to a desert island to relish in solitude until their dying breath.

Miss Balshaw would happily spend the rest of her life listening only to: the Specials, David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, Emmylou Harris, Anthony Johnson, Toumani Diabaté, Billy Brag and Stormzy. I can’t boast familiarity with any of these masterpieces, but you get the picture, as it were.

It’s only against this background that the Hogarth exhibition can be properly appreciated. Granted, Miss Balshaw’s musical selections might have been determined by political more than aesthetic considerations. You decide which is worse, but the Tate doesn’t have much of a chance in either case.

If Hogarth were to come back, he’d find out that the main thrust of his satire was directed against “… the entrenchment of racist, sexist and xenophobic stereotypes.” However, he had to be careful about his criticism because of “…his wealthy patrons many of whom benefited from a culture based on colonial exploitation.”

But trust a great artist to get around such obstacles. Hogarth cast an inward look into his own subconscious to realise it was “…the system of transatlantic slavery” that kept him awake at night. Being subconscious, that realisation had to be conveyed subliminally.

Thus, when Hogarth showed his eponymous Rake in Bedlam at the end of his Progress, the artist subtly depicted his character “naked like the enslaved Africans”, not like, well, a Bedlam patient. That message would instantly pop up in any viewer’s mind, no question about that.

No one is allowed to forget the critical race theory for a second, even when the image ostensibly has nothing to do with race. Thus, Charity in the Cellar (see the photo) may look like merely a caricature of raucous drunkenness, but we must delve deeper.

“We must also consider that the punch they drink and the tobacco they smoke are material links to a wider world of commerce, exploitation and slavery.” Must we?

Instead, not being a scholar, I might have been tempted to tell the story behind the painting. It’s a parody of Roman Charity, a popular subject of art in the two centuries preceding Hogarth’s.

A woman, Pero, secretly breastfeeds her father, Cimon, condemned to die of starvation in his prison cell. That poignant story inspired dozens of paintings, three of them by Rubens who had strong links with England.

Hence Hogarth’s canvas (and subsequent engravings) was not only socially satirical, but also formally iconoclastic. That, I think, would be more interesting than the supposed provenance of the depicted booze – but then I did tell you I’m no scholar.

Another writer provides some vital demographic information, a propos of nothing in particular. He is scathing about Paris that wasn’t nearly as “diverse” as Hogarth’s own city. “It is estimated that 1-3% of the population of London had African heritage at that time,” we learn with gratitude. Our understanding of art has been honed no end.

With a masterly hand, Hogarth used multi-point perspective – social, not just visual. But then great art never tells just one thing: “While mocking social class, the dog also makes a racist juxtaposition with the trumpeter, signalling deepening ideas of racial difference pervasive in eighteenth-century culture.” Fido isn’t allowed to be just a dog; he is a juxtaposition.

Hogarth is credited with the talent for conveying BLM messages not only through domestic pets, but also through items of furniture. He did so in his self-portrait, showing the artist in a chair:

“The curvaceous chair is made of timbers shipped from the colonies, via routes that also shipped enslaved people. Could the chair also stand-in for all those unnamed black and brown people enabling the society that supports his vigorous creativity?”

Yes, I suppose it could. It could also stand in for the derisory wages paid to furniture-makers, the liberation struggle of the working class and even, at a pinch, the objectifying of women, whose bodies are symbolised by the curvaceous chair. It could also stand in [sic] for someone who isn’t literate enough to know how to use the hyphen.

And speaking of women, the artist is in for a gentle rebuke: “Hogarth sometimes represents his female subjects not as sexual victims, but instead as sexual agents in their own right.” How dare he? Didn’t he know MeToo was on its way, albeit slowly?

Women should never be represented as equal partners in sex, not even sometimes. Any intercourse, marital or otherwise, is by definition an act of rape, and Hogarth ought to have known this.

He partially redeemed himself by his Before and After diptych. To any viewer whose sensibilities aren’t informed by a heightened awareness of the MeToo agenda, the Before painting shows an act of seduction.

A man is trying to get a woman into bed, with her putting up token resistance, as was de rigueur at that unsophisticated time when girls hadn’t yet learned to say “Fancy a shag?” to strangers. Not so, says the blurb.

What’s shown there is brutal rape, espied by the scholar with his X-ray vision. This, though in the After painting, the girl is clearly in love with her putative rapist.

The diptych shows no indication that whatever happened between Before and After wasn’t consensual. It didn’t have to: Hogarth was a moraliser to whom any fornication, with or without permission, was equally reprehensible because it went against his Protestant rectitude.

Yet to our scholar any sex is ipso facto rape, a reflection of male aggression and misogyny. This sensibility acts as both a light shining on the painting and a magnifying glass through which MeToo’s bogeymen (that is, all men) are clearly visible.

Miss Balshaw and her house-trained scholars must be congratulated. Many of us would be defeated by the task of turning eighteenth-century art into modern agitprop, but that jolly band passed the test with flying colours.

I’m disappointed though that they didn’t discern LGBT+ messages in Hogarth, nor notice that rainbow colours are present in his paintings, if not all in the same one. Or perhaps they felt it was self-evident that all Hogarth women were born as men and vice versa.

If Scholz is centrist…

Olaf Scholz will succeed Merkel as German chancellor – and I confidently predict this is the only time the words ‘Scholz’ and ‘succeed’ will ever be used in the same sentence.

What I find both fascinating and instructive is that he is described as a centrist politician. This again emphasises the wide amplitude within which terminological goalposts move in politics.

In fact, the amplitude is so wide that words like ‘right’, ‘left’ and ‘centre’ stand for nothing concrete at all. Their meaning depends on the nature of the whole political spectrum.

For example, Stalin occupied the centre ground between Lenin on the right and Trotsky on the left. Was he a centrist then? Was Hitler, who found himself sandwiched between von Papen and Röhm?

That Scholz is seen as a centrist tells you more about Germany than about Olaf himself. By looking where he stands on all issues one can pinpoint the exact location of the German political spectrum.

Comrade (Genosse) Scholz’s stand on specific issues is covered by the umbrella statement of intent he issued after announcing his success in forming the governing coalition of his Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats.

“We are united by our belief in progress and that politics can achieve something good,” Scholz said. “We are united by the will to make the country better, to advance it and to hold it together.”

This statement defies Karl Popper by being unfalsifiable – its opposite is hard to imagine. We believe in regress? Politics can achieve something bad? We’ll make the country worse, stem its development and let it fall apart? I don’t think so.

But never mind intellectual rigour. Scholz has formed his ‘traffic-light coalition’ (red, green and yellow) under the slogan of “dare more progress”. What, even more than now? Anyway, let’s see what progress means to Genosse Scholz.

To start with, he talks about a “paradigm shift”. This idiom has the same effect on me as the word ‘culture’ is alleged to have had on another German centrist, Dr Goebbels.

Genosse Scholz’s paradigm on immigration is basically more of it. He has promised to make it easier for migrants to get visas and, after 3-5 years, citizenship.

One would have thought the Germans are fed up with a million Muslims who have entered the country over the past few years. Yet Scholz believes their appetite is insatiable.

His ambitions in this area go beyond Germany. Genosse Scholz plans to blackma…, sorry, I mean persuade other EU countries to take in more asylum seekers too. This sends a clear signal for Britain to prepare to accept even more boat people or, alternatively, fish their bodies out of the Channel.

Genosse Scholz’s paradigm then shifts into the nether regions, or rather out of them. People who feel suffocated by the yoke of their natal sex, will no longer have to submit to the surgical procedures currently demanded. All they’ll have to do is go to the register office, and, with a minimum of bureaucratic fuss, come out as new men, women or other.

While we are on the subject, the ban on abortion clinics advertising themselves will be lifted. As an old adman, may I suggest this slogan: “We are the cutting edge?” Remind me to check if the line works in German.

Recreational use of marijuana will be legalised, with licensed pharmacies able to sell it. One can just see a wizened old Apotheker asking his customer: “Regular or skunk, mein Herr?” I bet that hypothetical customer will choose skunk every time. It’s better at reaching the ultimate goal of drug use, psychosis.

Then, “No industrial nation will make greater efforts to protect the climate,” says Scholz’s finance minister-to-be. Considering that Britain has already undertaken to destroy her economy to that laudable end, Scholz’s coalition has its work cut out.

Yet when have Germans ever shied away from hard work? It has been announced that the coal industry will go kaput by 2030, not 2038, as Merkel promised. In less than a decade, wind farms and solar panels will proliferate so much that 80 per cent of German energy will come from renewable sources.

And if that doesn’t work, as it almost certainly won’t, perhaps Putin will kindly build a third gas pipeline. The second, Nord Stream 2, will start pumping soon.

Genosse Scholz also promises to borrow “unprecedented” sums to rid industry of every carbon molecule. The goal is ambitious for the precedent sets the bar quite high.

The country’s debt is currently 70 per cent of her GDP. That’s lower than Britain’s 85 per cent, but, with “unprecedented” application, the gap can be closed. However, my money is on Boris to keep Britain in the lead.

Yet Germany will race ahead in social policy. The coalition wants to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16, which is unlikely to lead to greater fiscal restraint or more social conservatism.

Some of Britain’s leading political scholars are in favour of enfranchising even 6-year-olds, but that still remains a cherished dream. Sixteen is a realistic goal, and achieving it will guarantee a smooth passage of the craziest bills through the Bundestag.

In international policy, Genosse Scholz is committed to a “multipolar” world. If you aren’t sure what that means, allow me to translate: the term designates turning Germany’s back on the US and Britain, and her face towards China and especially Russia.

Genosse Scholz believes that: “If we want to guarantee collective security in Europe, then it’s up to the EU and Russia to do so.” Since Europe’s security is threatened by no one other than Russia, this is tantamount to joining forces with an arsonist to install a fire safety system.

Still, one has to be grateful to Genosse Scholz for clarifying the meaning of the political centre. Danke, Genosse Scholz. Now we know. Give the man a few years, and he’ll join his mentor Schröder on the Gazprom board.

Each life now comes with a tariff

What would be your reaction if someone told you that the killing of an NHS nurse is punished more severely than that of her colleague working in private medicine?

He is worth more than you

Outrage? Definitely. Disbelief? Possibly. Alas, that’s so outrageous precisely because it’s true. And the so-called ‘Harper’s Law’, which makes it true, is a travesty of justice.

PC Andrew Harper was killed responding to a burglary two years ago. His three murderers smirked in the dock as they received derisory sentences as low as 13 years, out in less than nine.

Mrs Harper was understandably aggrieved, prompting Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to commiserate that she felt a “burning sense of injustice”. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to our dedicated emergency workers,” he added. “I want them to know we’ve got their backs.”

It’s good to know that our justice secretary is au courant with American cop shows, where he must have picked up the expression he used. It’s even better to know he recognises that the sentences were shockingly unjust.

Any normal response to that debauchment of justice would be instructing the CPO to demand, and the courts to pass, mandatory life-means-life sentences for murder – and not to plea bargain.

Yet instead HMG decreed a law effectively attaching a price tag to people’s lives. The lives of those employed in the service of the state are deemed more precious than the lives of, well, you and me.

That’s why any murderer of a policeman, prison officer, fireman, NHS medic or paramedic will indeed receive a mandatory life sentence. Yet a murderer of anyone else may well be punished more leniently because his crime is likely to be plea-bargained or otherwise downgraded to manslaughter.

The law prescribing a mandatory life sentence for murder already exists in Britain, which makes this new law either redundant or vile. It’s the former if it adds nothing to the law already on the books. It’s the latter if it implies that the courts will have more latitude in treating any other murder as manslaughter.

I hate to sound sententious, but Harper’s Law represents the government’s acknowledgement that our jurisprudence has been cut off from its moral roots and cast adrift. The moral roots in question are grounded in the founding concepts of Judaeo-Christian ethics, from which all criminal laws used to derive.

The essential concept of Christian egalitarianism is that all people have the same fundamental worth because they are all created in the image of God. And if every life is equally precious, then every murder is equally ghastly. The victim’s job shouldn’t make one jot of difference: the murder of an unemployed druggie must be punished as ruthlessly as that of a fireman or NHS surgeon.

Harper’s Law is yet another proof that the modern state is out to protect not so much its citizens as itself. This is another consequence of modernity, with its systematic destruction of every tenet that predates that great misnomer, the Enlightenment.

Having removed God as the object of worship, modern barbarians still couldn’t quash the innate human need to worship something, and that something had to be some secular deity. In effect, religion was replaced with idolatry, a dance around totem poles, a forest of them.

The most obvious head sitting on top of such a pole is one’s own. Man was encouraged to place self-interest above all those tired old virtues, or better still dispense with them altogether.

That led to a new political dispensation based on dubious assumptions. The touts of one-man-one-vote democracy insisted that the sum total of private interests expressed at the ballot box would add up to public virtue. Let the people govern themselves.

However, rhetoric aside, people can’t really govern themselves. Any attempt to let them try will produce nothing but entropy, a perpetual chaos and war of all against all.

Someone has to have a vested authority to govern on the people’s behalf – and to make sure their pursuit of self-interest doesn’t impinge too much on the self-interests of others. In conditions of universal suffrage, that someone can only be the central state.

But a state isn’t an inanimate body. It’s made up of individuals given to normal human instincts. Of these, self-perpetuation and self-service are perhaps the strongest.

Having diminished or even obliterated the traditional subsidiarity of power, based on such local bodies as parish, guild, village or township council, the state shifted their functions into its own domain. The state squeezed its bulk into the space vacated not only in the palace but also in the church.

Gradually, it became preoccupied with looking after its own Number 1, itself. I shan’t bore you with statistics, but it would be easy to show, figures in hand, that the modern state becomes more powerful all the time, while relinquishing its traditional responsibility of protecting each citizen. Its first impulse is to protect itself.

That’s why people like Dominic Raab and his government colleagues don’t realise how unjust an abomination like Harper’s Law is. They have their own concept of justice, one springing from that prime, exceedingly only, virtue of modernity: self-interest.

I have only one question, and I hope someone in HMG can answer it. Do I have to retrain as a paramedic for Mr Raab to ‘have my back’?

A fourth of us are nutters

This is my crude translation of an NHS poster, screaming in 60-point type that “1 in 4 people have mental health issues”.

I wonder how that proportion was calculated. But first, as Greek rhetoricians taught, let’s agree on the terms.

Is a mental issue the same as a mental problem? Is a mental problem the same as a mental disease? If the answer to both questions is yes, then, statistically speaking, the title above is spot on.

A fourth of us must indeed be suffering from diseases like schizophrenia, paranoid delusions, manic depression, dual personality disorder and so on. Does this conclusion tally with your experience? It certainly doesn’t tally with mine.

Granted, your experience and mine don’t add up to a statistically significant sample. But to hell with statistical significance. There’s no way a fourth of the people we meet over a lifetime are mentally ill.

So let’s backtrack to the questions I asked earlier, or specifically the answers I suggested. In reverse order, a mental problem can’t be a mental disease. Nor can a mental problem be the same as a mental issue.

What is it then, this mysterious ‘issue’ that so concerns our blessed NHS because it afflicts one in four of us? First, let me give you a short answer: our blessed NHS is talking about life, medicalised.

Life, yours, mine, everybody’s, has ups and downs, peaks and troughs, excitement and drudgery, love and hate, sunny and tempestuous moments. We are happy when experiencing the first component of each pair, sad or even despondent when in the grips of the second.

Both are normal – but not to our blessed NHS. It starts from the assumption that only the first components constitute the psychiatric norm. That means the second components are deviations from the norm, or, in modern jargon, ‘mental issues’.

Somebody grieving for the love of his life suffers from a mental issue. So does a chap just made redundant. So does a girl jilted by her fiancé. So does a couple stuck in a loveless marriage. So does anybody who sees his job as a tortuous ordeal.

Most, though not all, of these problems will eventually be sorted out. But the mental issues will persist until they are, enabling modern people to indulge in their favourite patois: psychobabble.

Chaps, off-licences are open until eight, some even later. They all display hundreds of bottles, each containing a reliable, time-proven remedy for most ‘mental issues’. Mental diseases are of course a different matter, but we’ve already established that our blessed NHS doesn’t really mean those.

This is all part of the self-worship actively promoted by a civilisation that no longer can worship anything else. People are actively encouraged to delve deep into their own psyche in search of ‘mental issues’.

And, as the good book says, “seek, and ye shall find” (Matt. 7:7). Jerome K Jerome had much fun with that proposition when he made one of his characters peruse a medical encyclopaedia. The poor man found out to his horror that he had every disease listed, except housemaid’s knee.

In the same vein, our modern people, fluent in psychobabble if in no other language, don’t head for an off-licence when feeling sad. They make a beeline for a shrink’s office and come out with a prescription in hand.

Doctors these days dole out antidepressants like Smarties. As a result, 13 per cent of Americans aged 12 and over take things like Prozac every day. Further up on the age scale the percentage grows, indeed reaching something close to one in four.

That soul-destroying counter-cultural idiocy started in the US, but, judging by that NHS poster, we’ve caught up. We always do, when getting American vices second-hand. Not so with American virtues, such as industry, general civility, enterprise and little class envy. We give those a miss.

Writing about this has made me depressed – and if that isn’t a mental issue, I don’t know what is. So off to the liquor cabinet I go, for a taste of my own medicine. Cheers!

Vlad is a historian of genius

This conclusion is inescapable for anyone who has heard Putin’s speech at Victory Day parade on 9 May.

I did so only the other day, belatedly, and Schopenhauer’s definition of genius instantly crossed my mind. “Talent,” he wrote, “hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Vlad, that Thucydides in the Kremlin, did just that by providing an insight that has so far escaped, well, everyone else. The Soviet Union, he said, won the Second World War all on its own.

These are his exact words: “At the most difficult moments in the war, during decisive battles that determined the result of the struggle against fascism, our people stood alone – alone on the toilsome, heroic and sacrificial path to victory.”

Though the history of that war is still taught in Russia along the lines of Stalinist propaganda, there Vlad hit a target even Stalin couldn’t see. Talking to Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta, the generalissimo graciously acknowledged that without help from the Allies the Soviet Union would have lost.

Our genius reminds me of the late 70s, when I acted as interpreter and tour guide to the visiting Soviet hockey team in Houston. On a coach tour of the city, I pointed out a cenotaph to the Americans fallen in the war.

“Which war was that?” asked the burly forward, Popov by name if memory serves. “WWII,” I clarified. “Did Americans actually fight in that one?” asked Popov, testifying to the unrivalled success of Soviet education.

One would expect our Thucydides in the Kremlin to be better informed, what with his university education and distinguished service in the KGB. I suspect that he does know the facts, but, as his idol Stalin explained, “If facts are stubborn things, then so much the worse for facts.” America’s second president, John Adams, thereby stood corrected.

Stalinist historiography generally ignores any Allied involvement in the war before 6 June, 1944, D-Day. Since even Vlad wouldn’t ignore the subsequent action, he must define as “the most difficult moments of the war” the events between 22 June, 1941, when Germany attacked the USSR, and D-Day, when the Allies supposedly began to offer some feeble support to the Red Army’s “toilsome, heroic and sacrificial” efforts.

The reality was rather different. It wasn’t the Soviet Union that stood alone in that war, but first Poland and, from the fall of France to 22 June, 1941, Britain.

Poland stood alone against two allies, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The former attacked her on 1 September, 1939; the latter stabbed the Poles in the back on the 17th.

Britain and France didn’t cover themselves with glory in the ensuing ‘Phoney War’. But there was nothing phoney about the fall of France and the subsequent Battle of Britain.

Another piece of Russian propaganda is mocking the French who didn’t put up any fight and meekly surrendered after just 40 days. That is contrasted with the heroic efforts of the Soviet people who rose as one… well, you know the drill.

For those of us who don’t mind stubborn facts, it’s instructive to compare those shameful 40 days to the first 40 days of the Hitler-Stalin clash.

The theatre of operations in the former was about one-fifth the size of the latter. The frontline in Flanders and northern France was about 300 km long; in Russia, it was close to 2,000 km.

Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe engaged more warplanes against France than it did in Barbarossa, and suffered much greater casualties (by about a third). In fact, on the first day of their attack on France, 10 May, 1940, the Germans lost more planes than on any other day of the whole WWII. The Wehrmacht’s losses in men and materiel were slightly higher than in Russia as well.

Yet in France those 40 days are treated as a national shame. In Russia, the first 40 days of the war are held up as the first step on that “toilsome, heroic and sacrificial path”.

In the Battle of Britain, which Putin implied never took place, the Nazis lost more than 1,700 planes – which is 1,700 that could have flown against the Soviets but didn’t. Throughout the war, the Nazis kept at least as many planes, especially fighters, on their Western front as in Russia, and considerably more from the end of 1943 onwards.

Such deployment is understandable in view of the massive bombing raids by the RAF Bomber Command and, later, also the US Air Force. Almost three megatonnes (!) of high explosives were dropped on Germany, bombing her flat. Considering that the Hiroshima bomb yielded less than 20 kilotonnes, the Allies’ bombers spoke to Germany in the language of the nuclear age.

It’s not only Germany’s cities that were obliterated, with 80 per cent of all houses destroyed, but also most of her industry that otherwise could have treated the Soviets to a few nasty surprises, including conceivably atomic bombs.

Also, Germany’s entire naval war was fought against the Allies, with the Soviets taking no part. That sapped German resources more than is generally recognised.

Germany’s submarine production alone used up more raw materials than her tank manufacturing. In its absence, Soviet soldiers could have enjoyed the sight of twice as many Tigers and Panthers in, for example, the Battle of Kursk.

At the same time, the Soviets were receiving mountains of supplies, mostly from America, but also from Britain. The dollar value of America’s Lend-Lease supplies to Russia was $28 billion (real money in those days) – and, unlike such supplies to Britain, those were gifts, not loans.

It wasn’t just indirect help either. From 7 December, 1941, the Allies fought in the Pacific, keeping Japan from attacking Russia from the east. They also fought the Germans in Africa from 10 June, 1940, and, from 9 September, 1943, in Italy. That gives the lie to the Soviet – and now Russian – propaganda that the Allies only landed in Europe on D-Day. The last time I looked, Italy was still in Europe.

Another overworked line is that D-Day happened after the Soviets had effectively won the war, with the Yanks greedily devouring the chestnuts Stalin had pulled out of the fire. In fact, at D-Day the frontline on Russia’s west was twice as close to Moscow than to Berlin. The war hadn’t been won – and possibly wouldn’t have been won without the Allies even at that point.

The contributions of the USSR and the Allies to victory were about equal, and conceivably neither side would have won on its own. It’s true that the Soviet Union suffered greater casualties than all the other warring parties combined, but not because she stood alone.

Actually, the Soviets executed 158,000 of their own soldiers following tribunal verdicts – and possibly twice as many without even that travesty of justice. But even such horrendous numbers are but a drop in the ocean.

The Soviets lost some 12 to 15 million lives in the Red Army (and perhaps as many civilian ones) because of the barbaric methods of fighting favoured by Stalin, the gross incompetence of Soviet officers and generals in the initial stages of the war, and the eagerness of Soviet soldiers to desert, surrender and even join the enemy. More than 6.5 million left the Red Army for such reasons during the war, over four million of them in the first months.

Saving soldiers’ lives simply didn’t enter into the consideration of the Soviets. And why would it? When Churchill expressed his condolences on the awful losses suffered by the Soviets, Stalin just shrugged: “We lost more during the Collectivisation”.

Since then the war has been sacralised in Russia, what with any other achievements not exactly thick on the ground. At the moment, the volume of the bugles whining and drums rattling is higher than ever – and Putin’s speech added quite a few decibels.

The US and Ukrainian intelligence believe that the 97,000 Russian troops amassed on the border with the Ukraine will invade late in January or early in February. War psychosis needs to be whipped up in preparation, and that’s about the only thing Russia’s government is good at (actually, they are real experts at money laundering too, but that’s off the subject).

Putin’s lies are part of that programme, although even many Western historians teach, or rather preach, the same fallacies of the Second World War. Stalin lives on not only in his portraits, now ubiquitous in Russia, but also in history books – many of them Western.  

Kenosha teen convicted of murder

On 25 August, 2020, the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was ablaze.

The real jury has reached its verdict

Peaceable, law-abiding, liberal citizens were exercising their First Amendment rights. They were supporting BLM and protesting against the government, police and the whole white supremacist establishment, otherwise known as the USA.

The First Amendment prohibits abridging “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Since I strongly suspect you may be a white supremacist yourself, I’m sure you’ll insist that such actions as rioting, burning down houses, attacking people in the street, sacking shops, trashing churches and paralysing the whole city don’t fall in the category of peaceable assembly.

Well, bully to you. You are denying the authority of the Supreme Court of Public Opinion (SCPO), which august body has ruled that any action, no matter how seemingly violent, taken in support of any cause SCPO deems worthy is ipso facto peaceable.

Since no cause, other than perhaps trans rights, is as worthy as BLM, Kenosha rioting, arsons and beatings were peaceable and therefore legal. It follows logically that any attempt to impede those peaceable activities was belligerent, illegal and white supremacist.

Kyle Rittenhouse was one such white supremacist, in President Biden’s unimpeachable [sic] opinion. That infernal teenager took to the streets armed with a medical kit and an AR-15 rifle, the civilian knock-off of the M-16.

He and his friends managed first to commit the illegal act of stopping the peaceable sacking, and likely burning, of a church, that viper’s nest of white supremacism. They also saved a few shops, the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with capitalism, America and white supremacism. And they ministered to the wounded, rather than righteously letting them bleed out.

Several peaceable, liberal people then attacked Kyle, with one trying to hit him on the head with a skateboard (average weight 11 lbs). I don’t know how fast that weapon was travelling, so I can’t tell you exactly what the force of impact would have been.

That force, as you know, is mass times velocity squared, divided by two. However, even in the absence of exact data, had the skateboard landed, Kyle’s head would probably have looked like a watermelon dropped on a hard surface from a great height.

Yet that white supremacist perfidiously didn’t let the skateboard land. He fired at his attackers, killing two and wounding one. The racist nature of this double murder is in no way mitigated by the chromatic incidental of all three peaceable victims being white.

It certainly had no affect on Joe Biden who was campaigning for president at the time. Joe didn’t have to wait for the facts to come in. He instantly knew Kyle was a white supremacist and identified him as such publicly. Quite right too: facts oughtn’t to be allowed to silence the voice of liberal conscience.

Anyway, Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested, charged with homicide, tried by a jury of his peers and found guilty as charged. Now I admit that the last two phrases are somewhat disconnected.

The jury of his peers actually found Kyle innocent because, according to those white supremacists, he was acting in self-defence. As if killing BLM supporters, no matter what they do, can be qualified as such!

But he was convicted by SCPO, the higher moral authority if one lacking in legal force. Since we are all moral people and few of us are lawyers, I know you’ll join me in voicing unequivocal support for the guilty verdict unanimously passed.

Joe Biden is on our side. “The verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included,” said POTUS. However, he added with his unfailing – well, rarely failing – sense of reality, “we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”

Must we, Mr President? New York mayor Bill de Blasio, busily doing to the city what Kyle did to his attackers, feels no such obligation. He described Kyle as “a violent, dangerous man [who] chose to take a gun across state lines and start shooting people. To call this a miscarriage of justice is an understatement.”

When someone pointed out that Kyle hadn’t in fact taken the weapon across state lines, the mayor replied to the effect that he used the concept metaphysically rather than factually. The concept of crossing state lines doesn’t actually involve the physical act of crossing state lines, he explained, taking me well out of my depth.

Actress and singer Bette Midler described the verdict as: “A tragic, tragic day for decent, THINKING, feeling, ethical people everywhere.” The emphasis on THINKING conveys the self-evident fact that only liberal, peaceable BLM supporters are endowed with the power of thought.

One man so endowed is talk show host Andy Cohen, who is also blessed with enviable eloquence. “What in the actual fuck,” he tweeted, displaying a capacity for both deep thought and lucid speech.

Actress Rosanna Arquette informed her audience that her sense of disappointment transcended that travesty of justice in Kenosha: “I have no faith in the justice system in America today. I don’t want to live in a country that is ruled by violent ignorant racists.”

Miss Arquette stopped just short of stating an intention to move to North Korea, where her ideal of justice has been fully realised. But when it comes to expressing liberal indignation, words speak louder than actions.

Meanwhile, tradesmen all over America brace themselves for another round of peaceable assemblies by boarding up their shops and taking their baseball bats from under the counters.

The police know they are helpless to douse the fires of peaceable assemblies, but they hope they’ll be able to protect their stations from the fate explicitly desired by liberal protesters.  

“Every city, every town, burn the precinct to the ground,” they chant, showing a gift for poetic expression. If that’s not a peaceable assembly, I don’t know what is.

Corrupt Burke and ‘Incorruptible’ Robespierre

Unlike our loudmouthed media, I’m not unduly bothered about MPs’ second jobs. It’s their first jobs that give me sleepless nights (or would, if sleeping pills weren’t available).

“Yes, Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of mind is perpetual” Dr Johnson

Still, the word ‘corruption’ is reverberating through Westminster air. People are shocked that our MPs like to augment their salaries with outside income, and they aren’t always particular about its source.

Any lack of scruples is lamentable, as are real conflicts of interest, but the desire to moonlight is understandable. British MPs make just under £82,000 a year, equal to $111,000 US (a US congressman gets $174,000). Considering the expensive, two-home life they are called upon to lead, that sum isn’t as princely as it may sound to some of us.

The desire to supplement it is consistent with human nature. And, if we follow Socrates’s advice –  know thyself – perhaps we’ll find that holding that aspiration against our parliamentarians smacks of hypocrisy.

Few of us, I suspect, would refuse to accept thousands of pounds for merely introducing an ambitious chap, even one talking funny, to some of our colleagues. We may want to hold our representatives to more stringent standards of probity than we hold ourselves, but that’s presuming too much on human goodness.

Yet every time an MP of one party is found to be making a bit too much on the side, the other party whips up a storm of moral indignation. The current storm is only now beginning to abate, with Parliament passing a largely meaningless law after much bilateral mud-slinging and horse-trading.

The new law says that second jobs should “be within reasonable limits and should not prevent them [MPs] from fully carrying out their range of duties”.

The wording strikes me as rather imprecise, leaving room for many profitable loopholes. What limits are reasonable? Is the proposed weekly limit of 10-20 hours an MP will be allowed to spend on outside work reasonable or unreasonable?

What if, for the sake of argument, he spends a mere five hours a week trying to push through a bigger defence budget that would benefit his client Vickers? Or a wider vaccination programme that would benefit his client Pfizer? Isn’t that a greater conflict of interest than another MP spending 30 hours a week writing potboilers or composing word puzzles for a fee?

Yes, some of our MPs may indeed be corrupt, as the word is usually understood. But I think it’s rather misunderstood, with an important distinction lost along the way. The distinction is between what I call peripheral and fundamental corruption.

The former is an MP using his position to help himself to a few bob or a few women on the side. Though we may regard such peccadilloes as objectionable or sleazy, they may only jeopardise his own soul, not his country’s.

Fundamental corruption, on the other hand, afflicts the whole political class (if not everyone in it). It’s reducing their day jobs to the sole task of maintaining and increasing their own power. It’s bono publico not just playing second fiddle to bono privato, but not having a chair in the orchestra at all.

It’s debauching the country’s history, morality and founding principles, prostituting her whole civilisation and, as a side effect, destroying her economy by mollifying the thoroughly dumbed-down masses clutching ballot papers in their fists.

It is one Tory PM signing away his country’s sovereignty with a flourish of his pen, another listing his maniacal support for legal homomarriage as his greatest achievement, yet another planning to beggar Britain for the sake of a subversive and unscientific swindle fronted by a hysterical girl with learning difficulties.

And let’s not forget aspiring Labour candidates undertaking to convert Britain from mock-democratic socialism to fully fledged communism. One wishes they took bribes instead.

The comparison in the title illustrates the distinction between peripheral and fundamental corruption. Edmund Burke, one of the greatest parliamentarians of the 18th century, and arguably the greatest political thinker ever, was, by our exacting moral standards, as corrupt as they come. He had no independent means to support his large estate in Beaconsfield and had to hustle for every penny he could get.

It’s useful to remember that in those unsophisticated times sitting in Parliament was generally seen as selfless service, not a lucrative career. MPs weren’t paid (that only changed in 1911), and those without inherited wealth tended to seek careers in business, not politics. Burke was different, and he accepted money for the kind of outside services that today would have his name splattered all over the newspapers’ front pages.

At the same time, Burke acquired renown as a resolute leader and a wise legislator, who served his country with distinction – even if small portions of its treasury stuck to his hands. That reputation didn’t outlive him, but his writings, especially Reflections on the Revolution in France, immortalised Burke’s name.

Writing immediately after the 1789 revolution, before the regicidal Great Terror, Burke predicted it, nailing to the wall the very notion of a revolutionary upheaval. Unfortunately, he thought, wrongly in my view, that the American Revolution was different (“a revolution not made but prevented”). Yet his Reflections remains the standard, and I’d suggest greatest, text of political philosophy, the acme of political wisdom.

Robespierre, on the other hand, acquired the soubriquet of ‘Incorruptible’ when still a provincial solicitor in his native Arras. When he became one of the leaders of the revolution Burke tore to shreds so expertly, Robespierre still didn’t besmirch his reputation with backhanders, conflicts of interest or unauthorised hanky-panky.

He did, however, go down in history as one of its bloodiest tyrants who lit a straight path to evil for his 20th century emulators. While Burke was corrupt peripherally, Robespierre was corrupt fundamentally.

(As an aside, perhaps the greatest Victorian parliamentarian, Disraeli, might have been even more corrupt than Burke. At least, Burke actually bought his estate, while Disraeli received his courtesy of some Tory grandees as a way of giving him more political gravitas. Curiously, while Burke’s estate was in Beaconsfield, Disraeli’s was close to High Wycombe miles away, and yet his title was the Earl of Beaconsfield.)

Oh if only our MPs had one tenth of Burke’s political integrity, sagacity and talent for statesmanship. If only they limited themselves to taking the odd bribe or the odd woman – without doing to the country what they do to their paramours.  

Today is full of surprises

Surprise 1: Inflation soars to 4.2 per cent, higher than expected.

Emily, victim of male oppression (see Surprise 5)

Surprised? Amazed? Flabbergasted? I am all those things and more. Why, I keep asking myself, has it taken so long? And why just 4.2 per cent?

Inflation is too much money chasing too little in the way of goods and services. And the Exchequer has been printing money like a daredevil counterfeiter, while the amount of goods and services has been growing slowly if at all.

Much of this freshly minted cash goes to service the already existing public debt of over two trillion, with another two trillion expected to join the fun in the next few years. After all, our government is desperate to ‘level up’, an undertaking that invariably fails but always costs.

Excessive government spending funded by borrowing and the printing press is a sure-fire guarantee of burgeoning inflation, as any first-year student of economics will tell you. Among other things, the cost of servicing the national debt will shoot up pari passu with inflation.

The only real way of stopping that rise is for the government to start paying its way. Yet that’s a political impossibility: too many promises have been made, too many hopes stoked up, too many votes bought with spending pledges.

The short-term solution is to raise interest rates, and that’s what the Bank will probably do – with predictably dire consequences for investment and growth.

Economists use the term ‘misery index’ to describe the sum of inflation and interest rates. Ours is still a manageable 4.3 at the moment, yet it can reach double digits within months (but for my customary reluctance to play Cassandra, I’d predict that it definitely will). That’ll have a shattering effect on the economy and the Tories’ electoral chances.

Surprise 2. Some of the inflation has been caused by a sharp increase in gas prices.

Really? Seriously? Just because Britain gets almost half its gas from the EU, the EU gets a third of its own from Russia, and Russia is using its gas as a stick to beat Europe with? Wonders will never cease.

Surprise 3. Belarusian Arabs are now attacking Polish border guards with rocks, strobe lights and clubs, with more potent weapons to follow soon.

The Poles are countering with tear gas, flash grenades and water cannon, with more potent weapons to follow soon. The ensuing noise muffles the roar of Russian tanks moving to the border with the Ukraine.

Now there’s a surprise. Turns out Col. Putin doesn’t have to rely just on gas to put pressure on the West. And it’s already paying off: yesterday his best friend Angie Merkel turned herself (and therefore the EU) into a supplicant by ringing Lulashenko and begging him to desist, with Manny Macron making a similar call to Putin.

Massive concessions will doubtless follow, for both Putin and, as an afterthought, Lukashenko. And there I was, thinking the West doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Only joking. I’m not at all surprised.

Surprise 4. The Church of England does have an important role to play.

Who says the C of E is useless? Certainly not Muslim asylum seekers: the Church has been facilitating their applications by converting them to Christianity.

I would have thought a passionate protestation of Christian faith would in today’s climate be rather seen as a disqualifying circumstance, but to my surprise that’s not the case.

Alas, as they find Jesus, the chaps don’t quite lose the customs of their cradle religion. One such new convert joined the faith at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, which he was then going to blow up during the Remembrance Sunday service.

However, he only succeeded in blowing up himself, when his shoddily built IED exploded in his taxi on the way to the cathedral. There’s another surprise: I thought Muslims, crypto- or otherwise, would have learned how to handle explosives by now. They’ve had plenty of on-the-job training.

Surprise 5. Last but not least: Emily Ratajkowski is a victim of sexploitation. (This is the only Surprise I am illustrating pictorially because… Well, my reasons needn’t concern you.)

Emily is an actress and model whose only discernible talents are pouting lips and what Americans unkindly call T&A. Now she has had a book ghost-written to complain how she has been forced to monetise those assets into millions of dollars by posing in various stages of nudity since she was 12.

I’m surprised that so few nurses, factory workers and school teachers have expressed their unequivocal support for Emily’s plight. After all, how is she supposed to survive on a net worth of merely $8,000,000?

And that’s not all. Apparently, Emily, already a successful model at 15, was raped by a boy of 16. She surprised herself: “Why did [I] not scream at the top of my lungs? Why did I moan and whimper softly?” Why indeed.

She surprised me too. The definition of rape must have changed dramatically since I was a teenager. Then again, that was a shockingly long time ago.