Musical microcosm of modernity

Call it confirmation bias if you must, but last night’s recital of the Takács Quartet at Wigmore Hall vindicated many of my cherished beliefs.

I commiserated the other day with the plight of our state-funded orchestras that are obligated to hire black musicians on pain of losing their state funding. I suggested that classical isn’t the first harbour for which talented black musicians sail, nor even second or third. Hence that mandated recruitment drive is in for a let-down.

Scanning the 500-strong audience before the first note was played, I espied just one black face. Yet upon closer examination even that turned out to belong to an usher.

Now, extremely talented musicians are like extremely tall trees. They typically grow not in a desert but in a large forest of smaller trees.

By the same token, talented professional musicians emerge out of a much larger group of less talented ones. It wasn’t by accident that, from Haydn and Mozart to Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, Vienna could boast so much musical genius within a relatively short period. This would have been impossible without the profusion of Picchinis, Salieris, Hummels, Clementis, Eyblers, Süsmayrs and Stamitzes lying thick on Vienna’s ground at the same time.

In their turn, the less gifted professional musicians stand out among amateurs. And amateurs come out of a vast pool of music lovers, those who don’t mind spending their time and money on string quartet recitals at Wigmore Hall.

If we walk up the same path in the opposite direction, the score of 500-0 against blacks in the audience emphasised the sheer impossibility of filling racial quotas at orchestras without sacrificing the quality of what orchestras are supposed to do.

Then there was another telling demographic. Without asking my fellow concert-goers for their ID, I estimated their average age at about 70. There were some young people in attendance, but they were outnumbered by Zimmer frames, walking sticks and hearing aids. The hair of the audience featured 50 shades of grey.

I didn’t need to consult actuarial tables to wonder who’ll be attending string quartet recitals at Wigmore Hall 20 years from now, indeed whether there will remain any such events to attend. Concert-going is, inter alia, a habit cultivated over a lifetime. Those in the audience had obviously cultivated it, but they hadn’t passed the urge on to the next generation.  

Then there was the performance itself. The Takács Quartet is one of the best ones around, and they didn’t disappoint. With their playing, that is.

Yet it took a feat of concentration for Penelope and me to start listening to the music – so irate we were about what had preceded it. As is becoming increasingly widespread, first violin Edward Dusinberre opened the recital by rapping with the audience.

At first he plugged his book, a signed copy of which we were encouraged to buy in the foyer. Then he primed us by saying a few vulgar and condescending words about the music to be played.

None of those words had anything to do with the actual pieces, how they were put together, what unusual harmonies, dynamic shifts or tempi made them interesting. Such recondite stuff must have been deemed to be beyond our ability to grasp.

Instead Mr Dusinberre explained that one composer wrote his quartet because he was happy to return home after a long stay abroad, another was inspired by the sadness of having to leave home and go abroad, and yet another put pen to scoresheet because he loved his Mum and felt guilty about neglecting her.

No one genuinely believing that such are the sources of artistic inspiration will be capable of playing to a high standard. Since Mr Dusinberre manifestly has that ability, he had to know that what he was saying was vulgar bilge pitched down to the presumed level of his audience.

If his presumption was correct, then the future of live classical performance is indeed bleak. One thing I can say for sure is that Penelope and I both whispered “Just play the music” in unison, except that I modified the noun with an adjective of a desemanticised sexual origin.

All told, that one evening summed up some of the core problems of modernity. But since I have no space to tell all, I’ll concentrate on a single theme with but a few variations.

The theme is democracy that has expanded out of its natural political domain into spheres that ought to have been outside its reach. That was predictable.

Democracy is a political statement of equality, one of the founding desiderata of modernity. It stands to reason that, if it’s a self-evident truth that all men are created equal (to quote one of my least favourite documents), they are all equally capable of choosing their governments.

I consider this counterintuitive assumption to be rather divorced from observable reality, and in fact no commercial concern I’ve ever seen determines its policy by a show of hands. But hey, whatever works.

If democracy works better than other techniques of choosing political leaders, fine. What matters isn’t method of government but the kind of society it brings forth.

We all know the key attributes of government we desire: justice, wisdom, courage and prudence are my requirements. If we are satisfied (which I am not) that unrestrained democracy meets our requirements, then we are all happy. If we aren’t, perhaps we ought to consider possible changes – it’s all, or rather should be, sheer pragmatism.

Except it’s not, is it? Democracy isn’t seen as simply a method of government, one of many possibilities. Two-odd centuries of unremitting propaganda has imbued it with a high moral, borderline religious, content.

When the Holy Trinity was declared invalid and nonexistent, another trinity took its place, in which égalité was the central element. Hence democracy, its political expression, couldn’t stay within the narrow confines of its remit. It had to expand into all sorts of other areas, and if they were at first reluctant to accommodate democracy, then they had to be forced.

Democracy of politics thus also became democracy of taste, democracy of thought, democracy of creeds – all this without completely shedding its political skin. That way everything of value became politicised, with a show of hands deciding the choice between good and bad, virtuous and sinful, clever and stupid.

Some of those hands on show clutch wads of banknotes or, these days, packs of credit cards. Commercial consumerism acts in matters of mind and taste the way voting does in democratic politics.

In the arts, it decides who and what will succeed. In thought, what is intelligent and why. In morality, what is virtuous or sinful. In creeds… well, as far as democracy is concerned, it’s best not to believe in anything other than democracy.

All this is camouflaged with the smock of another mendacious shibboleth of democracy – meritocracy, a sort of aristocracy of achievement that has replaced the aristocracy of birth as the dominant social, commercial and political dynamic.

Yet the notion of meritocracy depends on what is widely believed to be meritorious. When that issue is also decided by a show of hands, nothing truly meritorious emerges. Meretricious is what we get.

For any society committed to equality will associate merit with commercial success, a sort of finish line some reach faster than others even though they all start from the same blocks. In effect, meritocracy will become plutocracy, with power measurable in money and vice versa. That stands to reason.

As has been known since the time of Heraclitus, things don’t stand still. Thus democratic majority in large countries is but an icon, not the real wielder of power and authority. The malleable mass of humanity inevitably becomes putty in the hands of expert manipulators, assorted éminences grises spinning the potter’s wheel.

In the West, where the rule of law hasn’t quite become a moot point yet, they’ve had to proceed slowly, watching their step along the way. But they’ve gradually succeeded in putting democracy to work as their instrument of power.

‘Democracy’ itself is a sledgehammer they can bring down on a recalcitrant head, but it’s not the only one. ‘Racism’, ‘homophobia’, ‘misogyny’ and so on all pack a mean punch. And, in arts, education and thought, those greyish eminencies whip out the mallet of ‘elitism’.

Swing that mallet, and – skipping a few incremental steps – genuine artists, such as the Takács Quartet, gradually fade away into extinction. And even before they do, they have to patronise their audience by talking rubbish about the great works they are about to perform.

Ugliness, stupidity and vulgarity are democratic. Beauty, sagacity and subtlety are elitist. And when democratic clashes with elitist, you know who’s going to win in our Panglossian world.

Take my advice, chaps: don’t go to concerts. You’ll end up with a head full of subversive thoughts that can land you in trouble if you aren’t careful.

Mr Republican, meet Mr Democrat

Back in the 1950s, some southern senator, Strom Thurmond if memory serves, said at a party that Eisenhower was a communist (a popular charge at the time). He was immediately corrected by a colleague, who objected that Ike was an anti-communist.

Everything will be A-OK now, folks

“I don’t care what kind of communist he is,” said the indomitable senator, thereby unwittingly uttering an exemplar of deep philosophical thought.

I remembered that episode a few hours ago when watching the public response to Trump’s announcement of his candidature in the 2024 presidential elections. His speech contained the usual anaphoric litany of making America safe again, rich again, beautiful again and consequently great again (I don’t remember the exact words except the last ones).

The announcement was met with predictable revulsion by the Democrats and equally predictable exultation by the Republicans, those of the MAGA variety. The latter are tangentially closer to me than the former, at least in some respects.

Hence, if I wished to vote in US elections (I still have a dusty, long overdue American passport in the back of my sock drawer), I’d plump for Trump rather than any Democratic candidate. Such are the demands of our binary world: one or the other, black or white, no nuances need apply.

That’s how the game is set up and one must either sit it out or play it by the established rules. This pragmatic consideration, however, doesn’t alleviate my ennui whenever the subject of political tug-of-war comes up. “A plague on both your houses,” I think, while trying to keep my yawning jaw in joint.

And then I recall Strom Thurmond’s unwitting maxim, how it applies to today’s situation. Both the Democratic socialists and the Trumpist anti-socialists believe that the seminal problems of modern life have a political solution. Like Orwell’s animals, they reduce everything to a single issue. They just can’t agree on the number of legs.

Republicans accuse Democrats of being socialist, with ample justification. Yet socialism is, to use Marxist terminology, only a superstructure erected on the base of statism, a purely modern, post-Enlightenment phenomenon of endowing the state with omnipotent power.

If you divest socialism of its mendacious ‘share, care, be aware’ cant lifted from Christianity and then ripped off its roots, perverted and vulgarised, then that’s all it is: statism run riot.

The state assumes the function of a family, reducing the real one to a quaint irrelevance. It becomes a provider to millions, thereby performing the role of a father, with us as potentially wayward children. It looks after our health. It educates our children. It decides on the size of our allowance, the money we are allowed to keep after taxes. It teaches us what to say and even what to think, punishing us if we go wrong and rewarding us for obedience.

It does all those wonderful things for us – but acquiring in return the licence to do awful things to us. In both parts it’s dramatically different from the traditional state of Western polity, which did little for the people, but then neither did it possess the power to do much to them.

The transition from Western to modern state was effected by a frenzied assault on the very concept of man that was unique to Christendom. That concept was reflected in the explicit or implicit charter of the dominant Western institutions: the church and the state.

Western Man was a creature combining a wholehearted commitment to individual autonomy with a communal spirit springing from the defining concept of Christianity: love.

Reflecting that understanding, the ecclesiastical structure combined two complementary principles: subsidiarity and solidarity. Parishes all over the world enjoyed a great deal of autonomy (subsidiarity) while remaining in communion with all other parishes and submitting to the doctrinal authority of the papacy (solidarity).

The state functioned according to the same understanding. Localism trumped centralism, with local government being the only kind people knew, and local mores the only ones they saw as inviolable (subsidiarity). What brought them together was a shared faith and, usually but far from always, a common language. They only came together in a large group when uniting under the banners of the central state against a common enemy (solidarity).

Every aspect of that arrangement was made possible by the ultimate humility of faith, a realisation that, though man wasn’t nothing, it was God, loving and loved, who was everything. Such was the background against which man judged and measured himself, defined his worth, understood his essence.

The Enlightenment then barged in and turned things upside down. The humility of faith in a supreme being was replaced by the arrogance of belief in man as the be all and end all of existence. If before people knew they were all equal before God, now they were taught they were equal before one another.

That understanding destroyed both subsidiarity and solidarity. Local, parochial government couldn’t be sustained in a country where everyone was presumed to be created self-evidently equal, in the puzzling words of the founding document of political modernity. Equal people might have been, but only under a new entity: the political state, supposedly deriving its power from what Locke disingenuously called ‘consent of the governed’.

That consent was presumed, not actually given. And it was supposed to be given for an eternity: no legal means of revoking it were ever envisaged.

People, in steadily decreasing proportions, would vote for one of two (or sometimes three or four) candidates every few years. The winning candidate, often supported by no more than a third of the population, would then take that vote as a mandate to do anything he wished for the duration of his tenure – with practically no accountability to the people at large until the next election.

Such is the nature of modern politics, such are its systemic problems. The systemic problems may manifest themselves in more or less virulent symptoms. Various politicians promise to alleviate this or that symptom, but without ever diagnosing the underlying disease, much less trying to treat it.

People, arrogantly certain that they are equal to one another in the crude post-Enlightenment sense, look hopefully up to the candidates on offer, hoping their chosen one will relieve the more bothersome symptoms. And he may do just that – until his successor removes the palliative medicine to usher the pain back in.

Both Republicans and Democrats, worshippers of Trump, Biden or any other putative knight in shining armour, believe that their man will ride in on his steed and save the day, like St James Matamoros saving Castilians from the Moors in the Battle of Clavijo.

He won’t, not in the long run. I appreciate that this is how the game is played, but only children take games seriously. This particular one is especially infantile, with the players fiddling with toys while society burns.

The worst C-word in English

No, not that, and I know what you are thinking. The C-word I have in mind is both longer and more pernicious.

The Chineke! Orchestra ticks the relevant boxes

It’s ‘Council’, awful just about every time it’s capitalised. I’m sure you can think of an exception or two, but every time I come across the word, I assume I’m looking at an organisation wholeheartedly committed to subverting everything I hold dear.

The UN Security Council, The Council on Foreign Relations, any Council of Ministers, The Equality Council UK, any municipal Council – you name it, it’s committed to reducing the West to a purely geographical concept with no civilisational content whatsoever.

Some 20 years ago I co-owned a magazine funded by the British Arts Council (BAC). When the funding came in, we thought we were in clover. Instead we landed in a considerably more malodorous substance.

To continue to qualify for the funding, we had to appoint a leftist poet as editor who then spiked every article arguing a conservative case. That created unbearable tensions and the publication folded within a few months.

Currently in the news is BAC’s younger sibling, ACE (Arts Council England). Only 28 years old, ACE has brought youthful vigour to its assault on the ‘A’ initial in its nomenclature.

Its published strategy should terrify any sensible person. “By 2030,” said ACE, “we will be investing in organisations and people that differ in many cases from those that we support today.”

They were as good as their word. For starters, they withdrew all funding from English National Opera, London’s second opera house, and the Donmar Warehouse, a lovely and affordable small theatre where I’ve seen some splendid productions.

Those theatres failed to meet the criteria ACE specified as essential to their patronage. Artistic excellence is one of them, but way down the list.

Taking precedence are “inclusivity and relevance” (making sure that “England’s diversity is fully reflected”), “dynamism” (being infantile enough to appeal to aesthetically disadvantaged children) and “environmental responsibility” (self-explanatory).

To reflect England’s diversity fully, as opposed to partially or even predominantly, ACE demands that an institution be multi-culti in its staff, audience and repertoire. No perceived deviation is tolerated, be it in the direction of excessive whiteness or elitism (dread word).

The Britten Sinfonia, an acclaimed orchestra of long standing, failed to meet that criterion and as a result lost its meagre £406,000 annual grant. Actually, purveyors of classical, which is to say real, music find themselves on a losing wicket almost by definition.

This kind of music was created for few by fewer. That’s why it can’t really be wholly supported by box office receipts, not without losing sight of its high purpose. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and so forth all depended on patronage, as did most great 20th century musicians, certainly in the early stages of their careers.

Patrons, be it private individuals, charities or governments, pay their money and they call their tune, at least to some extent. By choosing the tune and those who play it, they affect public taste and the whole tenor of the musical scene.

Acting in that capacity way back then were aristocratic patrons, who themselves played musical instruments and appreciated those who played them infinitely better. Even then geniuses like Mozart bewailed the pig-headed obtuseness of assorted archbishops, princes and electors.

Yet I wonder what the protagonist of the disgusting play (and film) Amadeus would think of today’s patrons, such as ACE, should he come back to life. My bet is he’d utter one of his favourite scatological obscenities and insist on being taken back, even if that meant being bossed by the Salzburg archbishop Colloredo.

Divesting classical music of elitism (dread word) means reducing it to popular entertainment with pseud pretensions. And seeking predominantly multi-culti staffs presents another problem.

Granted, there are enough reasonably competent Asian musicians floating about to staff every orchestra in the world, with thousands left over for the marching bands and dance-hall combos. But that’s not good enough, is it?

Orchestras can’t fob off their benefactors by hiring mostly Chinese and Korean players, although that would be perceived as a step in the right direction. Yet no organisation is deemed diverse enough without a heavy black presence.

Therein lies a problem. For historical, social and cultural reasons that I shan’t go into, musically talented blacks tend to gravitate to genres other than classical. Such as jazz, which they’ve blessed with countless performers of genius, such as Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker – and I could keep you for hours just listing them.

On the other hand, in my decades of regular concert-going I recall only once having heard a black soloist, and even he was half-Hungarian. Orchestra musicians have to meet less stringent standards, but even so – putting diversity before artistic excellence can only come at a heavy cost to the latter.

ACE vindicates this statement, one I wouldn’t be able to make in any publication other than this one. Having removed its paltry grant for the Britten Sinfonia, ACE then pumped almost five times as much into the Chineke! Orchestra.

To its credit, that setup eschews lofty claims to offering deep musical insights. It’s proud to bill itself as Europe’s first orchestra where most players are black or otherwise ethnically diverse. The word Chineke, explains the group’s brochure, derives from the Igbo word meaning ‘God’.

This must be the deity ACE worships. In the past three years the orchestra’s funding has gone from zero to £2.1 million – this though by all accounts the Chineke! is so beset by internal squabbling that it’s unlikely to survive anyway.

How do those black musicians feel, knowing they just may owe their jobs not to their musicianship but to their race? Some of them may be gifted musicians, but even they may be beset by gnawing suspicions.

They, along with all other cultured people, know that music exists in the ‘ultra’ sphere soaring above petty quotidian concerns, especially politics. Any attempt to pull it down to our infested earth will land music in the putrid quagmire, sucking it into mediocrity.

But then I did tell you that any capitalised Council is out to achieve that very aim – at best. At worst, they all seek to expunge the last vestiges of what used to be history’s greatest civilisation.

Progress, literally

We’ve come a long way since the cave life of Victorian obscurantism, so long live progress.

I don’t have enough black paint handy to draw a realistic picture of a 19th century Britain ruled by an elite lording it over the downtrodden. Workhouses, penury, little urchins toiling as either coal miners or pickpockets and exploited by slumlords in either case.

Oh well, I know I can’t compete with Dickens. I have neither his talent nor his flaming social conscience. But I do have something he didn’t have: the benefit of hindsight and a few telling statistics, specifically in the area of education.

One such datum says that in 1900 Britain could boast a literacy rate of 97.2 per cent. And please remember that in that dark age education was available only to the chosen few. Or so says received wisdom. Oppressed children had to leave school early to make a head start in their careers as coal miners or pickpockets.

Two world wars later progress dawned on Britain. Schools became comprehensive and, until age 16, compulsory. And what do you know, the current literacy level is 87 per cent – exactly 10 per cent lower than in the days of wholesale oppression and elitism.

This is to say that nine million Britons, most, one suspects, young beneficiaries of our comprehensive and compulsory education, are functionally illiterate. (A note to my French friends: don’t feel smug about this. The illiteracy rate in France is even higher.)

This is the kind of tunnel at the end of which no light will shine in any foreseeable future. For 19 per cent of English children between five and eight have not a single book at home. When pressed, their parents explain that books are too expensive, and I can testify from my own woeful experience that they are right.

However, not all books are necessarily bought. Some come down from one generation to the next. Some others are picked up at free public libraries. The first one opened in 1857, also in the oppressive reign of Queen Victoria. Since then they spread like mushrooms after an August rain – but no longer.

In fact, over the past 10 years a fifth of them have closed, which raises the chicken and egg question. Do half of our children hardly ever read outside school because libraries are closing or are they closing because people ignore them?

You don’t need me to tell you that this situation betokens a cultural catastrophe. But that’s not the only kind.

A child growing up in a low literacy area has a life expectancy some 26 years lower than one growing up in, say, a university town. And the life of an illiterate child will be not only shorter but also poorer.

Back in 1900 Britain was heavily industrialised, and industry didn’t run on mainframe computers, automated assembly lines and microprocessors. Hence there was much demand for the kind of labour that didn’t need high levels of literacy.

By contrast, the employment prospects of an illiterate youngster are bleak in today’s post-industrial economy. Whatever jobs are available can’t match the level of handouts generously offered by HM Exchequer as a direct result of widespread illiteracy, at a cost of £37 billion a year.

Some will be tempted to put this calamity down to our multicultural society proudly enforcing the kind of ethnic diversity that didn’t exist in Victorian times. Yet most ethnic groups show a great improvement in school performance. There are only two exceptions: boys of black Caribbean and white working-class backgrounds.

When we talk about education these days, we don’t mean proficiency in languages, living and dead, an easy command of involved philosophical and theological concepts or knowledge of differential calculus. At issue here is the ability to read elementary English texts and add up simple numbers.

Failure to educate children to even such a basic standard has all sorts of deadly consequences, some of which go beyond life expectancy and economic success. For rampant illiteracy leads to democracy of universal suffrage being severely compromised or even downright inoperative.

From Plato and Aristotle onwards, serious thinkers on such matters have been pointing out that an enlightened electorate is a sine qua non of successful democratic governance. That’s why in the past an inability to read and write disqualified people from voting in many Western democracies (such as several American states in my youth). No longer.

How can an illiterate person choose among numerous campaign promises on offer? I don’t know, you tell me. Lee, what’s wrong with a high inflation rate? Or with high taxation, Gavin? Should the House of Lords become an elected chamber, Trish? Oh well, hard luck – for all of us.

Nor is it just black and working-class boys. University-educated grown-ups who write about the plight of the downtrodden masses in our broadsheets do so with the kind of solecisms that wouldn’t have let them within swearing distance of Victorian papers.

In those days basic literacy was an insufficient requirement for journalists, partly because there was nothing special about that accomplishment in a country where practically everyone could read and write. Elegance of style, precision of metaphor, depth of analysis, sterling erudition all had to figure on a columnist’s CV.

These days I can hardly read an article, especially by a young hack, that doesn’t make me cringe at every other paragraph. Many locutions are as grating as the sound of two pieces of glass rubbed together.

I often cite examples of especially awful usages, with one or another attracting my jaundiced attention at different times. My current bugbear is the structure ‘to be sat’, as in “Last night I was sat next to an MP at dinner”.

Any Victorian writer would have known to shun the passive voice unless it was unavoidable. English is a dynamic language propelled by strong, active verbs (this sentence is an example of an unavoidable passive construction). So what’s wrong with ‘I sat’, ‘I was sitting’ or, ‘I was seated?’ Out of which fetid rubbish bin do they pull ‘I was sat’ and, increasingly, ‘I was stood’?

This is no trivial matter for it goes beyond whole herds of hacks suffering from a bad case of tin ear. This aesthetic and educational problem springs from ideologised contempt for aesthetics and education – ugly is the new beautiful for being easily accessible to all classes, ages and races.

Hence a broadsheet columnist writing “I was sat” is as virulent a symptom of cultural malaise as is a working-class teenager who can’t read a primer. They sit (are sat?) on different tiers of the pyramid, but the whole structure is sinking deeper and deeper into the ground.

So let’s end on my lapidary phrase: that’s progress for you.

Confession: I’m a criminal

The sexual assault happened when I was 14, about 60 years ago. The crime scene was the staircase in my Moscow block of flats, permeated by the smell of sauerkraut, sweat and unlaundered clothes. The victim was a neighbour, a dark-haired girl named Natasha, same age as me.

Her anguish has aged Miss Hirsh beyond her years

I had known her for 14 years, give or take a couple of months, but it had never before occurred to me to objectivise Natasha, partly because I didn’t know the word at the time. My excuse is that neither did anyone else.

Then again, I had only recently become sufficiently aware of my vague urges to know how how to translate them into concrete actions. That’s what I did on that occasion.

As we were walking up the stairs side by side, I suddenly kissed Natasha on the lips. If I had expected reciprocity, I received none. She pushed me aside violently and called me a word that decorum prohibits repeating here.

That’s as far as it went, but even such a seemingly trivial act leaves deep scars in the psyche of both parties, especially the victim.

Natasha must have spent the intervening 60 years writhing in agony. The trauma she suffered must have been gnawing at her wounded soul every waking moment – which means almost all the time, for she must have suffered acute insomnia ever since.

There, I’m glad I’ve been able to get this off my chest. For I too have suffered, and I too have had sleepless nights, with a piercing sense of guilt keeping me awake. I feel much better now, even though I know there’s the danger of Natasha seeking legal recourse.

On the off chance that she reads this confession, she could either seek substantial compensation in the civil courts or even file criminal charges. Since I have no money, the latter course would probably bring her more satisfaction, especially in the British courts. After all, British jurisprudence has no statute of limitations.

Is she does have me arrested, I’ll feel mortified – but also proud. For 60 years could well be the record-breaking interval between crime and punishment in such cases.

Warren Beatty, for example, has only managed 50 years and, as one hears, for no lack of trying. For it was half a century ago, when he was in his mid-thirties, that he allegedly raped his current accuser, the actress Kristina Hirsh.

One can only admire Miss Hirsh’s patience. It’s only when the empty feeling in her soul, and doubtless also in her bank account, became unbearable that she instructed her lawyers, choosing that course of action over criminal proceedings.

That choice betokens wisdom. For one thing, US criminal law does have a statute of limitations for all crimes except, if memory serves, murder and a few other gruesome acts. Then again, unlike me, Mr Beatty does have money with which he could be forced to part.

Also, the standards of proof are less stringent in civil cases than in criminal ones. And in non-violent sex cases they are laxer still. On rapidly accumulating evidence, the victim’s word usually does the trick.

Miss Hirsh is accusing Mr Beatty of no gruesome crimes. His alleged offence is rape, of the statutory variety. For Miss Hirsh, 14 at the time, was what’s known in the common parlance as jail bait.

It’s not only her patience that I admire, but also her tact and discretion. Reluctant to submit Mr Beatty to trial by tabloids, she didn’t mention the actor by name in her lawsuit. Instead she only identified her rapist as the star who had received an Oscar nomination for his role as Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde, which every American has seen several times.

Mr Beatty, whose identity was thus securely protected, met Miss Hirsh on the set of The Parallax View. Sparks flew and, according to her, “from the spring of 1973 until the following January of 1974, we carried on a relationship that I thought was something that was special.”

Special or not, “it was a crime that Beatty was committing by raping me, having oral sex with me… and emotionally damaging me for the past 44 years,” she added.

In her lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles on Monday, Hirsch, now 63, claims the nameless Mr Beatty, now 85, groomed her for sex. And if you don’t believe her, you are a misogynist and, by extension, also probably a homophobe, transphobe, global warming denier – and almost certainly a latent rapist yourself.

This seems to be the only case her lawyers can possibly make against my fellow sex offender, the nameless Mr Beatty. After all, given the passage of time, they’ll find it hard to come up with tangible evidence. Thus the case they’ll bring will be not so much legal as political.

It’ll feed off the MeToo campaign that makes it next to impossible for a man accused of sex crimes, especially non-violent ones, to defend himself. His accuser isn’t just the victim but the whole of womankind, presumed to be a collective victim and united in its victimhood.

Now I wasn’t entirely serious about my own sexual offence: it was merely a silly childish prank. The nameless Mr Beatty is accused of something more serious: sex with a minor who is ipso facto unable to give consent, not even to an Oscar nominee.

Admittedly, teenage girls weren’t as thoroughly sexualised 50 years ago as they are now. But I still find it hard to believe that a 14-year-old Hollywood actress didn’t know about the birds and the bees (or, in San Francisco, the birds and the birds).

Still, the law is the law, even if Mr Beatty’s alleged deed only makes it into the malum prohibitum category, sinful only because it’s proscribed. True, it’s tawdry for a 35-year-old man to have an affair with a 14-year-old-girl.

However, I can’t help remembering that 14 is the legal age of consent in seven European countries, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Portugal. Yet in the state of California, known for its heightened morality, it’s 18, and it’s by California laws that my fellow sex offender will be judged.

Actually, his plight is of no interest to me. I really don’t care if Miss Hirsh manages to get millions in real and punitive damages. In fact, I hope she does, for this will reinforce the point I make so often.

This kind of mockery of justice diminishes not just those on the receiving end but all of us. Politicised justice spells the end of civilised polity.

Cases like Miss Hirsh’s won’t decapitate Lady Justice with one swing of the axe. But their accumulation will eventually kill her by a thousand cuts.

Then there will be nothing left to protect any of us, including young girls, from crimes much worse than one supposedly perpetrated by Mr Beatty. And, well, me.

Historic date, twice over

Britain remembers

Yesterday, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, silence fell on the British Isles. The country was remembering those fallen in the First World War that ended on that day, to the minute, 104 years ago.

One casualty was Western civilisation, moribund for a long time, but now put in a coffin with the lid nailed shut. Thus that war was unquestionably evil and yet, paradoxically, its major participants weren’t.

They were misguided, irresponsible, pig-headed, perhaps deranged – but not evil. In fact, they all, with the exception of Russia, practised what is believed to be political virtue: democracy, in its various forms. And even Russia was making tentative steps towards some sort of constitutional arrangement.

Traditionally, on this day Britons pin paper poppies to their lapels, which flower is symbolic in two ways. First, a poppy can only live free. It instantly withers when picked, which makes it a perfect botanical icon of freedom. Second, poppies grew abundantly in the fields of Flanders, where millions paid with their lives for their governments’ folly.

That war was evil not only because it killed 17 million men, but also because it uncorked a bottle out of which three evil spirits burst: Bolshevism, fascism and Nazism.

Had the belligerents known in advance where they were pushing the world, their fingers would have slipped off the triggers. As I said, they themselves weren’t evil and neither were their intentions. Only the results of their actions were.

Compared to that momentous historic event, yesterday’s liberation of Kherson by the Ukrainian army lacks in scale, finality (the war is far from over) and, seemingly, global impact. Yet it’s symbolic that it fell on Remembrance Day, and the floral tribute to freedom is just as appropriate.

Kherson rejoices

All the warring parties way back then depicted themselves as saviours of mankind, while demonising and dehumanising their adversaries. Yet in reality no clearly defined lines of moral demarcation existed.

In this war they do. Russia is a force of evil, and the Ukraine one of good – if only because she has shielded Europe from the triumph of vile hordes.

Free people have an in-built advantage in any confrontation with slaves, political or intellectual. In his 2001 book Carnage and Culture, Victor Davis Hanson builds an irrefutable historical case for this proposition, and the on-going war provides more evidence.

Kherson was the only provincial capital Putin’s bandits managed to occupy in the nine months of the war. This gateway to the Crimea was also Russia’s last foothold on the right bank of the Dnieper, and losing it came as a crushing blow to Putin’s dreams of rebuilding Stalin’s empire.

This is only an intermediate success, significant but not decisive in terms of military strategy. The Ukrainian army clearly has the initiative, but it so far lacks the means of pressing that advantage to an ultimate end.

For, if the Rubicon presented a psychological barrier for Caesar, the Dnieper is a formidable defensive one. Crossing it will definitely require more weapons, and possibly more men, than the Ukraine has at her disposal.

The Russians can entrench themselves on the other side and, if the First World War taught us anything, it’s the appalling cost of futile attempts to storm set defences.

Yes, the very fact that the Russians are preparing for defence spells a great turning point in the war, but it’s too early to tell how the carnage will end.

If the ultimate military aspect of yesterday’s victory is up for debate, its political and psychological impact is indisputable. The Russian propaganda effort can gloss over only so many crushing defeats, and this one just may prove to be one too many.

Putin’s hold on power is shakier now than it was even on 10 November, which may raise false hopes. For the only discernible opposition to Putin comes from the kind of circling vultures who make him look moderate.

They are the ones who call for apocalyptic measures, such as flooding Kherson by blowing up the dam upriver, using tactical nuclear weapons against Ukrainian targets or strategic ones against London and Washington. Putinism, in other words, may survive Putin, and in an even more virulent form.

Western intelligence shows that he himself was ready to escalate to nuclear, but was talked out of it by China, India and Turkey at the Samarkand summit in mid-September. Perhaps forbidden is a more accurate word: Vlad wasn’t the one calling the shots there. The great Asian powers treated him dismissively, not to say contemptuously.

Having said all that, the Ukraine remains heavily, perhaps totally, dependent on Nato support. Ukrainians are capturing a lot of armour from the Russians, a process they jokingly call “the Russian Lend-Lease”. But that’s a drop in the ocean. They need more and better weapons from Nato, along with financial and logistic support.

Referring to Western friends of the Ukraine as Nato implies unanimity among the 30 members of that organisation, a relative parity in the weight they carry. Yet this is far from being the case.

Britain has been the most vociferous and effective supporter of the Ukrainian cause in Europe, but that’s a wobbly frame of reference. For the US has so far contributed twice as much to the Ukraine’s defence as all European countries, including Britain, combined. And some Nato members, notably Hungary, are doing all they can to block supplies to the Ukraine.

This though the combined GDP of the EU plus Britain is slightly greater than America’s. Alas, the same can’t be said for their will to stop the triumph of evil.

The Ukraine’s fate thus depends to a large extent on the vagaries of American politics. In that sense, the mid-term US elections delivered a qualified victory to the Ukraine.

Many isolationist candidates trumpeted by Trump lost winnable seats. That happened largely because Trump had trumpeted them, but also because many of them indulged in rhetoric along the lines of “why should American taxpayers finance that war?”.

Global strategic shifts aside, the short answer to that lapidary question is “because, according to a recent YouGov poll, 81 percent of Americans considered Russia an enemy and 69 per cent support the Ukraine.” Bucking that kind of majority is seldom a promising electoral strategy.

Yet public support is fickle, and there are signs it’s waning. Pari passu, the volume of the shrieks emanating from negotiation-mongers is increasing. Those people coyly pretend not to realise that any negotiation, other than for Russia’s unconditional retreat from all occupied territories and subsequent payment of trillions in reparations, is a non-starter.

God only knows how this will all end, but the last time I talked to Him, He didn’t share that information with me. We know how the First World War ended though: all sides had run out of fight.

Thousands of soldiers wearing different uniforms were sticking their bayonets into the blood-soaked earth of Flanders, saying “No more”. Germany surrendered when her troops were closer to Paris and Petrograd than to Berlin.

Nothing like that will happen to the Ukrainians: their morale is boosted by love of freedom and hatred of Russian invaders. Nor so far are there strong indications that the spirit of pacifism will paralyse Russian troops or dampen the belligerent enthusiasm of Russia’s thoroughly brainwashed population.

However, as Western economies continue to flag, voices shouting “America [Britain, France, Germany etc.] first” will grow louder. But not yet, not today.

Today we celebrate the Ukraine’s victory, repeating Kipling’s iconic slogan “Lest we forget”. That’s what Britons say on Remembrance (formerly Armistice) Day. But the words are just as applicable to the current war.

Lest we forget that the Ukrainians are fighting and dying not only for their own freedom but also for ours. It’s a debt we can repay only with continued and growing support.

P.S. What’s with this ‘Dnipro’ business? When did the Dnieper apply for a name change in Britain?

We should resist the urge to change our language in response to fluid politics in foreign lands — regardless of our support for, in this case, the Ukraine.

Will the Dnieper revert to the English name it has had for centuries should, God forbid, Russia win this war? Will Kyiv? Will Kharkiv? Will the Ukraine and the Crimea regain their traditional definite articles or Odesa its second ‘s’?

I’ll tell you later, after I’ve sailed from Douvres in the general direction of Paree and then Bourgogne. That is, if this time I shan’t end up in Firenze, Roma or, God forbid, Moskva.

Police version of liberal democracy

Who will police the police? This question is bound to be raised by anyone watching the mayhem created by eco-zealots on our roads.

Cops seem relaxed on M25

Mobs can get away with breaking the law as long as they riot in support of an appropriately woke cause. In that case they are called not mobs or rabble, but protesters.

And, if the police are in broad sympathy with the cause, they are more likely to join in than to lash out.

Not only that, but they feel self-righteous about doing that, enough to defy direct orders from their superiors. The other day Home Secretary Suella Braverman found that out.

At issue was the M25, London’s ring road that happens to be Britain’s busiest motorway. It was paralysed for four days by Just Stop Oil fanatics who climb gantries, block the carriageway and in general create perfect conditions for fatal crashes.

Whatever you think of the underlying cause, such actions contravene an unequivocal law. The 1980 Highways Act states: “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence.” The punishment is up to a year in prison plus a hefty fine.

Instead of arresting the lawbreakers and clamping them in prison, police officers are displaying the kind of touchy-feely sensitivity that’s normally associated with psychotherapists. They beg the wild-eyed fanatics to get off the road, in some cases offering them a drink and saying: “If any of you have any questions, or need anything, just let us know.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is my kind of woman, would have none of that. She told the police to “stop humouring” the band of “radicals, road-blockers, vandals, militants and extremists.” (I told you she is my kind of woman.)

Now, since our police are under the aegis of Mrs Braverman’s department, she is their direct superior, institutional and, in this case, otherwise. Yet Chief Constable Noble explained to the jumped-up politician that the police are driven by higher concerns than just law and order:

“There’s a fair challenge about how effectively we are dealing with these particular protests,” he said, “but we operate according to the law, we work within a liberal democracy and the answer to some of the challenges we face is not a policing answer. We’re part of it, but we’re not going to arrest our way out of environmental protest.”

I don’t think it’s part of a cop’s remit to lecture a cabinet minister on the fine points of liberal democracy. Nor especially to use his interpretation of it as an excuse not to do his job, which is to maintain civic order by stopping lawbreakers in their tracks.

Chief Constable Noble is evidently a man whose conscience is informed by political philosophy. However, engaging him on his preferred ground, someone should explain to him that, though Britain may indeed be a liberal democracy, neither the adjective nor the noun is the defining characteristic of our polity.

It’s the rule of law, not liberalism or democracy, that makes Britain British, which is to say civilised. At different times the country may be more or less liberal or democratic. But Britain will remain civilised for as long as it’s ruled by just law and not by individual preferences of variously placed individuals, including high-ranking policemen.

Our law provides ample legal mechanisms to express grievances and launch protests against whatever it is that any group, or indeed any person, finds disagreeable. But ‘legal’ is the operative word.

Anyone who expresses grievances illegally isn’t a protester. He is a criminal, the kind of wrongdoer that law enforcement is there to protect us from. When facing illegal activities, police are expected to stop them by whatever means available – not to ask criminals solicitously whether they’d like some refreshments.

It was even worse during the BLM riots, when, instead of ploughing in with their truncheons, cops were seen taking the knee. At least, this time around cops don’t unfurl Just Stop Oil flags, nor join the criminals on the M25 gantries.

I suppose it would be unrealistic to expect police officers to be immune to the same total, not to say totalitarian, propaganda that’s poisoning impressionable minds all over the country. The media assist that noble effort under cover of the same liberal democracy.

Cretinous youngsters are given every platform they desire to spread their bilge ad urbi et orbi – that’s freedom of expression for you. They then froth at the mouth and scream at TV presenters.

That’s what happened yesterday to Sky News host Mark Austin. He invited one of those eco-zealots on his show and listened sympathetically as she signalled her virtue by spouting typically inane platitudes. It’s only when she screamed “Do you love your children more than you love fossil fuels?” that he objected: “Stop shouting at me!”

In other words, had she delivered the same gibberish sotto voce, it would have been perfectly acceptable, in a liberal democratic sort of way.

Don’t get me wrong: the rot hasn’t penetrated just the police. The whole justice system is creaking at the seams.

Under duress and after much grumbling the police have made some arrests, about 700 of them all over the country. Considering the scale of the disturbances, that figure is risible. But, even worse, only 15 fanatics have been charged. Our liberal democracy says that the remaining 685 have no case to answer.

Mrs Braverman, even though she is my kind of woman, can’t restore order on our roads all by herself. I can’t quite see her climbing those gantries to drag a pimply youth down. But neither can she or any other home secretary do anything else if the police defy their orders.

The Home Office can’t sack the whole police force, much as Mrs Braverman may feel tempted. Perhaps she should start by sacking Mr Noble and other police officers guilty of open insubordination.

Yet, satisfying though such an action could be, it won’t solve the wider problem: identity and cause politics shoving the rule of law aside. Perhaps we should all remind ourselves that, if Britain isn’t ruled by law, she can only be ruled by hatred, resentments and appetites.

The result would be what Thomas Hobbes called bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all.

Centre ground is quicksand

First a truism: politicians who manage to occupy the centre ground usually win.

This isn’t so much a matter of political philosophy as one of political arithmetic.

For it’s generally believed that about a quarter of all voters are right of centre, another quarter left of centre, and hence twice as many find themselves in the middle as in either extreme.

And now why this truism is meaningless. It would be useful only if the political centre were fixed in eternity, which would also imbue both Left and Right with easily definable boundaries.

But that’s not the case. Rather than being an immovable granite rock, the centre ground is quicksand being pushed and shifted by the mighty winds of the zeitgeist.

This line of thought has been stimulated by the on-going mid-term elections in the US, a country I called home for 15 years, from 1973 to 1988. But, politically speaking, it’s not the same country now.

Then too candidates were desperate to occupy the centre ground. In that sense nothing has changed, and it probably never will. But the quicksand has noticeably shifted leftwards since then.

Back in the 1970s the Democratic Party had a well-defined geographical habitat — it was dominant in the South. The appeal was tribal: it had been the party of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Mason-Dixon Line no longer existed as a political divide, but it continued to run through the hearts of Southerners. They could no longer fire cannon salvos at the Yankees, but they could still thumb their noses at them.

Loyalty to the Democratic Party was part of that unhygienic gesture. Yet that didn’t presuppose loyalty to the Yankee Democratic Party, one going back to the 18th century Tammany Hall machine in New York. That was the party of the New Deal, increasingly moving towards what Americans call liberalism and what is in reality socialism.

That wasn’t the Southern way in the 1970s. The region was inclined towards conservatism and so was its Democratic Party. Hence a large swathe of the Democratic Party in general was rather conservative, certainly as much so as just about any political group in today’s America.

Yet the zeitgeist of the post-Enlightenment West blows steadily in the opposite direction. Just as the North ended up winning the Civil War, so was the Northern part of the Democratic Party steadily winning the war of attrition against the Southerners.

When that tendency became plain for all to see, conservative Democrats began to change allegiance. Since my first 10 years in America were spent in Texas, an example from that state springs to mind first, that of a Democratic politician becoming a Republican because his party moved so far to the left that it left him behind.

John Connally (d. 1993) started out as a typical conservative Democrat. JFK, on the other hand, was a New Dealer. Yet in 1971 he appointed Connally to a cabinet post in his administration, this despite the divergence in their politics. A similar inclusivity is hard to imagine today, isn’t it?

Connally then left the Kennedy administration to become the governor of Texas. In fact, he sat next to Kennedy during that ill-fated ride through Dallas and was wounded by one of the bullets. Before he passed out Connally remembered seeing a chunk of Kennedy’s brain landing on his trousers.

Now our imagination has failed to fathom that political convergence, it’s about to receive another blow. For 10 years later Nixon appointed the Democrat Connally to an even higher cabinet post. Nixon was seen as a conservative Republican, but he evidently didn’t think he and Connally were politically incompatible.

This Connally proved by setting up in 1972 a campaigning organisation called Democrats for Nixon. Put your imagination into overdrive and try to picture a high-ranking Democrat of today starting a campaign under the slogan of Democrats for Trump (or DeSantis, if you’d rather). I can’t, hard as I try.

That such a situation is unfathomable is testimony to the shifting sands of American politics. Zeitgeist blew across the landscape and pushed the quicksand of centre ground leftwards, where it mixed with that leftmost 25 per cent, including what in my day was called the lunatic fringe. As a result, that segment grew in size and influence, not only political but also cultural and, if you will, existential.

The right-leaning 25 per cent may still be there, but the general tendency is to keep them in the margins. This explains the unexpectedly modest gains of the Republican Party in the mid-term elections.

Traditionally, the party in power hardly ever wins in mid-term. Its performance never meets the exalted expectations of the electorate because it never can: the daily grind of political rough-and-tumble defeats ideals hands down every time.

In dispute is only the margin of the ruling party’s defeat, and this depends on all the usual factors, the state of the economy and the personality of the president being the major ones. Immediately below that tier of concerns are such social factors as crime, education, healthcare, immigration and so on.

It’s on the basis of all such variables that most commentators predicted a crushing defeat of the Democrats. After all, the economy is in the doldrums, with inflation running at a 40-year high, the deficit and national debt are leaving the stratosphere for the moon, illegal immigration is bursting through the threadbare border controls, the crime rate is soaring.

And as to the personality of the president, well, you know. Joe Biden, never the sharpest chisel in the toolbox at his best, is showing worrying signs of a cognitive decline as progressive as his policies.

The poor chap confuses his wife with his sister, which raises interesting questions about the intimatemost life in that family. He doesn’t remember what his son died of. He repeatedly meanders on stage trying and failing to find the exit. He confuses countries and states, seldom remembering which is which. He indulges in pratfalls, evoking Chevy Chase’s opening routine in the old SNL. And his son Hunter was allegedly mixed up in financial scandals so dirty that Joe too was sullied head to toe.

Considering all that, it was easy to predict a wipe-out for the Democrats in both chambers. Yet nothing like that has happened. As I write this, the Republicans are on course to reclaim the House by a smaller margin than expected, whereas the Senate race is still on a knife-edge.

This falls far short of the confident and logical predictions. So much so that Joe Biden has declared his intention to run again, a decision likely to turn him from a lame duck to a dead one. One would think that any Republican candidate will wipe the floor with Biden, but it’s hard to be sure any longer.

For nothing in politics is as illogical as it seems. The logic is always there, one just has to be able to discern it.

When the Democratic Party moved leftwards, it took the mainstream of the political centre with it. The zeitgeist is blowing in one direction only, right to left, and that’s where the quicksand of the centre ground is shifting.

Today’s centrist is a 1970s liberal rapidly becoming a 1960s radical. This doesn’t bode well for America and, by ricochet, all of us.

Such is the ineluctable logic of today’s politics, not only in the US but throughout the West. And this is the kind of quicksand that can sweep us all into the sea of troubles.

Zhukov came back as a priest

My sceptical attitude to reincarnation is shaking at its foundation. For I’m struggling to explain in any other way the demonstrable presence of Marshal Zhukov’s soul in the body of a Russian priest.

Marshal Zhukov, aka Fr Mikhail Vasiliev

Zhukov, second only to Stalin in the Soviet high command, was known for his snappy retorts, especially when the value of human life was mentioned even tangentially.

When told that his troops were suffering an inordinate casualty rate, he dismissed the comment with a wave of a hand. “The wenches will just have to give more births,” said the peerless warrior.

Now, Zhukov has his detractors. But hey, à la guerre comme à la guerre, as the French say (in today’s England another spelling would be more appropriate: à lager comme à lager).

Western generals may tend to avoid casualties as much as possible, while their Russian colleagues have always adopted a cavalier attitude to their subordinates’ lives. But no generals can ever match priests in their feelings about the value of every human life – their remit is different.

However, the Russians prove that, though generals can’t be like priests, priests can be like generals, of the Zhukov school of martial thought. So much so, in fact, that one has to revise one’s views on reincarnation.

This convergence is best illustrated by Fr Mikhail Vasiliev, chaplain to the Russian airborne and rocket forces, nicknamed the ‘paratrooper padre’. The other day he was killed by a US-made HIMARS rocket in the Ukraine, thereby proving that what goes around does indeed come around.

For Fr Mikhail served as chaplain on various bandit raids launched by his employers in the Kremlin: Kosovo, Bosnia, Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, the North Caucasus, Syria, the Ukraine. You name it – Fr Mikhail was there, blessing every rocket about to destroy another residential building, absolving such little peccadilloes as murder, looting and rape.

All in a day’s work, one would say. Yet so far nothing suggests Marshal Zhukov’s soul found a new home in Fr Mikhail’s body. This, however, will.

Addressing the weeping and wailing Russian mothers whose soldier sons had been killed in the Ukraine, Fr Mikhail allowed his Zhukov soul to shine through. Rather than offering solace, he used the occasion to berate them for not having enough children, mainly, he suggested, because of too many abortions.

This is what he said: “I understand perfectly well that in most cases God has given women the natural ability to give birth to many children. If a woman, fulfilling this commandment of God to be fruitful and multiply therefore refuses the wide array of artificial means of pregnancy termination, then obviously she’ll have more than one baby, in most cases. This means it won’t be so painful and scary for her to part with a son…”

Essentially the holy father suggested that a woman blessed with more than one child would just shrug nonchalantly if one of her sons got killed. “Oh well,” she’d supposedly say, “there’s more where this one came from.”

Can you hear Marshal Zhukov’s voice there? Conversely, do you detect much priestly compassion, which is after all a cleric’s stock in trade? Fr Mikhail sounded more like a crass gunslinger than a worshipper of a God who wept with bereaved mothers.

I number priests of three different denominations among my friends, and I’ve met many others. But I’ve never known one who would respond in that fashion to the anguish of a woman who has just lost a beloved son in an unjust war. And my own observation differs from the padre’s: I’ve known women grieving agonisingly all their lives the loss of a child even if they had others.

Using the occasion for an anti-abortion lecture, much as one may agree with its essence, goes beyond any recognised norms of decency. Such a priest should have been summarily unfrocked, but God chose an extreme form of that censure by using a HIMARS rocket in lieu of His customary lightning.

“Like priest, like parish,” goes the Russian saying. However, on this evidence, the reverse is equally true. “Each nation gets the government it deserves,” quipped Joseph de Maistre on leaving Russia in 1815. Also, the priests, one is tempted to add.

I wonder which body Zhukov’s restless soul will next choose as its home. My advice would be to expand its horizons and look beyond our species. A wolf or a jackal might work.

Causality, real and Rishi

See if you can complete this sentence: Because of Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, we must… :

A. … build more nuclear power stations

B. … remove unreasonable restraints on fracking

C. … increase exploration of new oil and gas fields, while intensifying production at existing ones

D. … continue at the same time unhurried and thorough research into other realistic sources of energy capable of fuelling a modern economy

If your answer is any or all of the above, congratulations: you are neither mad, nor stupid, nor Rishi Sunak nor a politician in general. Moreover, you are familiar with the basic logic of causality, something that has created modern science.

Mentioning Mr Sunak in that list of deficient responders isn’t meant to suggest he is incapable of logical inference. He isn’t. And I even suspect that neither is he mad or stupid.

He is, however, a politician with far-reaching ambitions. Therefore Mr Sunak couldn’t have given any of the four answers on offer. Never mind causality, feel the fraudulent modern fads, those that have been built up into unquestionable orthodoxy.

Hence he said something entirely different at the UN climate summit COP27. Actually, immediately after downsizing into the flat at 10 Downing Street, Mr Sunak brought a smile on my face by announcing he wasn’t even going to attend that pathetic talk shop.

He had more pressing issues to contend with, he explained, making my smile even broader. However, it has since transpired that no issue is more pressing than swapping fraudulent platitudes with likeminded spivs… sorry, I mean statesmen.

By sweeping the four logical answers off the table, they have effectively committed the West to perhaps the worst economic crisis in its history. And Mr Sunak added his inflated penny’s worth to that collective suicide note.

“Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change. They are a reason to act faster,” he said. “We can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future…”

Now, climate is indeed changing. It always has and always will. The fraud starts with ascribing that law of nature to anthropogenic factors. Thus, contrary to what Mr Sunak pretends to think, we can’t stop climate change because we didn’t cause it.

There exist hundreds of reasons for it, solar activity being by far the dominant one. However, that activity isn’t linear. It goes up and down – and so obediently do global temperatures.

As you can see, both the Roman and Medieval Warming Periods featured temperatures higher than they are now. And I don’t think the Romans and the Crusaders relied on SUVs for their transportation, nor on natural gas for their heating.

The global warming fraud was perpetrated by largely the same people who back in the 1970s were screaming about an imminent Ice Age. That is, if they had any time left from drawing mushroom clouds above pictures of nuclear power stations and marching under placards saying ‘Down with Capitalism’ and ‘Off the Pigs’.

The UN provided a comfortable home for those well-heeled nihilists, generously funding their pseudoscientific swindles with subsidies and grants. Thus global warming became the first scientific discovery in history made not by scientists but by a supranational political body.

Since most Western media sing from the same hymn sheet, it didn’t take long to sell those wild ideas as facts and suicidal urges as virtue. And, since the Fourth Estate now trumps the other three, it took even less time for Western governments to toe the line.

They are all now committed to eliminating fossil fuels and consequently any possibility of averting a possibly irreversible economic downturn. Never in the history of human folly has so much been destroyed by so few to make life miserable for so many on the basis of so little evidence.  

But never mind that. Let’s assume – against all evidence, logic and indeed sanity – that the UN knows something we don’t. Climate is steadily warming up, it’ll never again cool of its own accord, and people will all be playing beach volleyball in winter within a couple of centuries.

Having made that wild assumption, let’s not stop now – we’re on a roll. So let’s further assume that replacing hydrocarbons with alternative energy will reverse that vexing trend over the same period, a couple of centuries or at least several decades.

Alas, none of today’s people will live a couple of centuries, and even several decades may be beyond many. And what do you know, while we are still around we don’t want to freeze and starve in the dark. We still want to live in the reasonable comfort created for us by generations of free, industrious, enterprising people.

Yes, thoroughly brainwashed as we are, we also want “to bequeath our children a greener planet”. Yet we’ve retained enough unsullied grey matter to consider the immediate problem in hand.

The problem is purely practical, leaving no room for platitudinous slogans and virtue signalling. Not only has Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine eliminated, or at least downgraded, a vast supply of energy, but it has also emphasised the folly of counting on evil regimes for our vital strategic commodities.

Hence, a) we must become self-sufficient in our energy production, or as near as damn and b) neither wind farms nor solar panels nor replacing internal combustion engines with batteries can get us anywhere near achieving this aim.

Even covering every roof with solar panels and every square yard with wind turbines we’ll fall far short of sustaining heavy industry, which even in this information age continues as the linchpin of a modern economy.

Moving heavy industry into the low-rent parts of the world isn’t so much a solution as a cop-out. In fact, COP-OUT 27 would be a more accurate name for the ongoing conference.

After all, we share ‘our planet’ and our atmosphere with all those less fortunate lands. So from the standpoint of “bequeathing a greener planet” it doesn’t matter whether carbon monoxide is spewed by a factory in India or Indiana.

The upshot is that there isn’t at present, nor will there be for at least several decades, any viable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. If Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine is the cause of the looming energy crisis, then the combination of the four options above is the only possible and desirable effect.

Yet Fishy Rishi has his own idea of causality, the kind that permeates the virtual reality of modern politics. If the cause were to be his contemptuous dismissal of global warming for the fraud it is, the effect would be an instant end to his career.

Can’t have that, can we now? Never mind that the poorer wrinklies may well die of hypothermia this winter. Rishi can live with that.