Another Lend Lease for Ukraine

Many counties are supplying arms to the Ukraine but, according to The Wall Street Journal, one of them is more generous than any other: Russia.

Gratefully received

That country has boosted the Ukraine’s heroic resistance with $2 billion’s worth of heavy armaments.

These include over 500 tanks worth about $800 million, 1,163 armoured personnel carriers (almost $700 million), 200 artillery pieces ($154 million), 209 AA systems ($175 million), 51 multiple rocket systems ($46 million), 503 military vehicles ($50 million) and even an attack helicopter ($10 million).

These supplies didn’t come from the Russians’ generosity and sense of fair play. Rather they were abandoned intact as the Russian troops hastily retreated from Kiev, Chernigov, Kherson and especially from the Kharkov region.

Ukrainians refer to such donations as the ‘Russian Lend Lease’. They gratefully pick up the armaments and, since they are familiar with them, instantly turn them against the former owners.

Some of those weapons are the latest vintage, such as the T-72B3 tanks, up-to-date mines and also the Orlan-10 drones. The tanks in particular are most welcome since Nato isn’t especially generous with weapons construed as primarily offensive.

Putin and his people aren’t taking this technology transfer lying down. Anticipating the possibility of Russia’s whole arsenal gradually falling into the Ukrainians’ hands, they are hatching farsighted plans.

The plans focus not on gaining victory, which they know isn’t going to happen, but on mitigating the consequences of defeat. According to reliable intelligence sources, the Kremlin gang is working on a project codenamed ‘Noah’s Ark’.

The name telegraphs the nature of the project: they are establishing escape routes and destinations where they can shelter from the wrath of victorious Ukrainians, frustrated Russians and vindictive international tribunals.

At first they set their hopes on China, but the Chinese evinced little enthusiasm for providing such hospitality. They are understandably unwilling to burn their hands by handling the hot potatoes that Putin and his coterie will become after they lose their war.

The Russians then switched their attention to Latin America, especially Venezuela, whose dictator Maduro they see as a kindred soul. Apparently the first approach was made by Igor Sechin, chairman of Rosneft, Putin’s confidant and Maduro’s friend.

Does this remind you of anything? Historical parallels are never 100 per cent accurate, but some 77 years ago Latin America also gave refuge to another group of evildoers who had lost their aggressive war.

Countries like Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and a few others didn’t mind all those Heinrichs becoming Enricos, Richards turning into Ricardos and Karls into Carloses. Now it’s Venezuela’s turn, although I can’t see immediate Spanish equivalents for Vladimir, Dmitry and Igor.

But who says the names have to be the same? If the Russian Patriarch Kirill didn’t mind being called ‘Agent Mikhailov’ for decades, his former runners can easily turn into Diegos or Manuels. Vitorio Putin does have a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?

The Noah’s Ark project will have a side effect of guaranteeing long-term employment for the Ukrainian secret services. Emulating Mossad, they’ll definitely continue to search for Russian war criminals, bringing them to justice, institutional or otherwise.

I wonder how much security all those billions the Putin gang has purloined from the Russian people will buy. Not an awful lot, would be my guess.

Heroism ain’t what it used to be

The Sussexes were hailed last night at an awards ceremony in New York for their “heroic” stand against “structural racism” in our monarchy.

Group Captain and Mrs Douglas Bader

While in no way doubting either the couple’s heroism or the royals’ structural (also superstructural and infrastructural) racism, I still have to marvel at how words, like money, can suffer from inflation. Don’t get me wrong: I realise this is part and parcel of progress, which, as we know, is, well, progressive.

Still, fossils like me can’t help remembering the pre-inflationary times, before the word ‘hero’ expanded its meaning to include Harry and Meghan. For example, it was used to describe Group Captain Douglas Bader.

He joined the RAF in 1928 and three years later lost both legs in a crash. Nevertheless, Bader rejoined the RAF when the war started. Piloting his Spitfire, he won 22 individual victories plus several shared ones.

In 1941 Bader was shot down over occupied France and taken prisoner. Despite his disability he made several attempts to escape from the Nazi POW camp. When eventually freed by the US army, Bader was feted as a hero – as Harry and Meghan are now.

Since the couple have all of their combined eight limbs emphatically intact, they evidently haven’t suffered injuries similar to Bader’s. Nor have they risked their lives fighting against evil, unless you think they take chances every time they board a private jet to fly to yet another social function.

That realisation reinforced my suspicion that heroism means something else these days, though I still wasn’t sure exactly what. Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F Kennedy and president of the foundation awarding the accolade, set me straight:

“They’ve stood up, they’ve talked about racial justice and they’ve talked about mental illness in a way that was incredibly brave.” The word ‘incredibly’ suggests that the couple’s bravery, unlike Bader’s, went beyond human imaginings.

As a parenthetical aside, I marvel at the staying power of the Kennedy family. Member after member succumbs to assassination, disease, accident or old age, and yet we never seem to run out of Kennedys. One after another keeps popping out, ever ready to serve mankind – in this case by clarifying terminological conundrums.

So talking about racial justice and mental illness (and presumably knowing where one ends and the other begins) constitutes an act of heroism that no human brain can fathom. Fair enough, speaking your mind is indeed tantamount to risking life and limb in oppressive countries, like the one I grew up in.

By inference, Britain is also one such country. You utter one word about structural racism in the royal family, and there comes that knock on the door in the middle of the night. Off you are dragged, never to be seen again.

This doesn’t quite tally with my observations of Britain, but then I’ve never lived in a palace. Harry’s experience is different, and he generously vouchsafed it to the audience: “Ultimately we live in this world now where sharing experiences and sharing stories has an enormous impact.”

No doubt. Yet the happy couple stopped short of claiming that telling such stories was all their lives were worth. Apparently they didn’t risk what used to be called ‘dancing the Tyburn jig’. And even incarceration in the Tower for lèsemajesté wasn’t a real prospect.

So what makes the Sussexes such “incredible” heroes? This is where that lexical inflation comes in.

Words take on new meanings, while sometimes shedding the old ones and sometimes keeping them, to confuse fossils like me even further. The word ‘liberal’, for example, used to mean commitment to individual liberties, free trade and a small central state.

That’s what it still designates in books on the history of the 19th century and in some articles on current Australian politics. Yet in the rest of the Anglophone world it now means, not to cut too fine a point, socialism: suppression of individual liberties, regulation of trade and an ad infinitum growth in the power of the central state.

In parallel, the word ‘heroism’, while still applicable to the likes of Douglas Bader, can now also accommodate “sharing stories”, especially mendacious ones. Always assuming the stories thus shared seamlessly fit into the ‘liberal’ narrative.

The guests at the ceremony reportedly paid $1,000,000 for the privilege of listening to Harry’s insights into the nature of heroism. I hope he and Meghan got their cut of the receipts. After all, Bader got paid for his heroism. So it’s only fair that they should be paid for theirs.

Mind your language

Or, to turn it around, your language is your mind. This is a far-reaching statement, and one I know I can’t prove or disprove scientifically.

My only consolation is that neither can anyone else – and for no lack of trying. Neurophysiologists, psychologists and practitioners of God only knows how many other disciplines have been trying, and failing, for yonks to establish an ironclad link between language and thought.

Billions have been pumped into all those Genome Projects, Decades of the Brain and similar megalomaniac undertakings – all for the scientists to find out that some parts of their scanner displays sometimes light up and sometimes they don’t.

However, leaving the realm of forensic proof for that of observation and speculative inference, one can’t help noticing that native speakers of different languages think differently.

I don’t mean the destination of their thought process, but the process itself: its structure, directness, accents, emotional colouring and so on. And even in the absence of a scanner with its blinking display, I am still certain that one’s thinking technique is inextricably linked with one’s native (or first) language.

(The parenthetical phrase above points to a distinction. True enough, I can testify from personal experience that one’s mother tongue doesn’t necessarily remain one’s first language for life.)

It’s even possible to generalise that a nation’s language shapes its character. Or it may be the other way around, but a strong link exists in either case.

The two languages I know best, English and Russian, provide useful material for comparative study. They are as different as two European languages can be, and, as anyone with first-hand experience of the English and the Russians can testify, the same goes for the way they think.

Comparing an Englishman and a Russian of equally high intelligence, one is struck by how differently they shape their thoughts. Borrowing art terms, an Englishman is likely to be a classicist, while a Russian will be leaning towards impressionism at best, abstract expressionism at worst.

If an argument between the two occurs, they’d both be frustrated with each other.

The Russian will think that the Englishman can’t see the forest of ultimate truth for the trees of coldblooded casuistic detail and disembodied sequential reasoning. The Englishman will feel that the Russian can irresponsibly say anything that comes to his mind, colouring it with misplaced, effusive emotion and ignoring elementary logic.

Both will have a point, although neither may ascribe the difference to his mother tongue. Yet I’m convinced that’s where at least some of the problem lies.

The complete lexicon of English has roughly three times the number of words as Russian. Even if we make allowances for the many technical areas with their recondite terminology being more advanced in the Anglophone countries, the disparity is still vast.

That enables an educated Anglophone to fracture concepts into finely nuanced fragments, each precisely defined. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a Russian won’t be able to communicate most of the same nuances.

But where an Englishman can hit the bull’s eye with one accurately aimed word, a Russian will have to look for a roundabout, descriptive route to the same target.

That makes him too verbose and vague for the English taste, while the Russian will deplore his interlocutor’s obsession with desiccated precision. The Russian will also be more likely to fill the lexical gaps with emotive inflection, making the Englishman wince.

All in all, and I know the skies will open and the god of wokery will smite me with his lightning, the English language and hence thought tend to be masculine, and the Russian, feminine. This isn’t to suggest that one is superior to the other — only that they are different.

The same goes for the two grammars.

Russian is a morphological language, whereas English is an analytical one. In linguistics, a morphological language relies on adding affixes to the same root to convey both nuances of meaning and the word’s relationship with other words in the same sentence. An analytical language, on the other hand, keeps the words stable while relying on other words, such as particles and prepositions, to do the same job.

The Russophones among you will know what I mean, but for the benefit of others this is what a Russian can do by adding different suffixes to the sacramental word ‘vodka’. Talking to those who indeed hold that word as sacred, one can hear vodochka, vodchishka, vodchishechka, vodchyonka, vodchyonochka – and I’m sure I’ve left some possibilities out.

All those suffixes convey different degrees of emotional attachment, something that an Anglophone will struggle to do within the confines of a single word. We can say drinkypoo, but something like whiskykin would be stretching it.

To borrow a term from yet another field, the molecule of a Russian root has a greater valence, which goes some way towards making up for the lower number of words.

It’s not just words, it’s also sentences. An English speaker has to have a good reason for inverting the lapidary structure of subject-predicate-object and will only do so for stylistic emphasis. (Compare “I like vodka” with “Vodka I like”.)

A Russian sentence, on the other hand, has no lapidary sentence structure, no prescribed word order. That enables Russians to play fast and loose with their sentences, although it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say their word order is entirely arbitrary. Still, Russian grammar isn’t nearly as structured as the English equivalent, which allows for greater freedom – but also for greater slackness and sloppiness.

The combination of profuse suffixes and free sentence structure make Russian a better language than English for writing poetry, especially rhymed verse. Even Russian poets of modest talent can produce excellent poems, whereas it takes a great poet to do so in English.

In the hands of a lesser artist (some of the Lake poets come to mind), English rhymed poetry often sounds like doggerel. That’s why, unable to rely on affixation to produce interesting rhymes, English poets have always gravitated to blank or free verse much more than their Russian colleagues ever have.

At the same time, Russian doesn’t even come close to English in the genre of the essay. This may explain why Russia has only produced a couple of internationally recognised philosophers.

English enables its practitioners to achieve the ultimate freedom of expression, something for which a rigid discipline is a sine qua non. At the same time, the terminological precision of English is a valuable tool in the hands of an adept user.

Russians, on the other hand, don’t recognise discipline as a precondition for freedom, a failing that transcends language, going all the way to thought in general and political thought in particular. The old Russian word for freedom, volia, is etymologically related to ‘will’, and indeed freedom for a Russian is the ability to do as he will, not to have his rights protected by the discipline of just law.

In poll after poll, the Russians opt in overwhelming numbers for a strong leader in preference to any legal system – something unthinkable for an educated Englishman (or anyone else raised under the aegis of English Common Law). A scholar will identify, correctly, any number of historical, social, cultural and economic reasons for that difference.

Yet language is unlikely to rate a mention as an important factor, which is unfortunate. I thinks it merits pride of place among the dynamics forming a consciousness, both collective and individual. In the very least, this link deserves serious attention.

Moral martial muddle

You know what happens to a compass placed next to a metal bar? It goes haywire, pointing this way and that – anyone who then uses it as a navigational aid will go nowhere fast.

The same goes for the moral compass placed next to the secular modern ethos. People can no longer orient themselves in a kaleidoscopically changing landscape, especially when the landscape becomes a battlefield.

This brings me to TV Rain (Dozhd’), the independent Russian channel thrown out of Russia and now licensed to broadcast out of Latvia. (And there I was, thinking that all those former Soviet republics suppress everything Russian, including the language. Wasn’t that the point, Vlad?)

The channel’s current mission is to exonerate the Russian people from the crimes committed by the Russian government. Dozhd’ founder, Natalia Sindeyeva put it in a nutshell: “Putin isn’t Russia, Russian people aren’t Putin. And it’s not the Russian people who are bombing the Ukraine.” Well, it’s certainly not Bolivians.

I could write a plump tome on that subject, but in this abbreviated format I’d rather draw your attention to another statement by Miss Sindeyeva, one that has created a maelstrom of comments in the émigré press. She expressed empathy for “our poor mobilised boys, freezing in the woods, having nowhere to live, no food, no proper clothes…”

Liberal Russian journalists, most of them now in exile, have joined forces to accuse Miss Sindeyeva of every mortal sin. Prime among them is “universal humanism”, a term they use in the sense of indiscriminate empathy. The Russo-German columnist Igor Eidman has thus summed up the prevailing attitude:

“I am on the Ukraine’s side, wish her victory and look at the situation from the Ukrainian perspective. That’s why I can’t pity Russian soldiers, feel empathy for them. One can pity POWs, but not armed invaders. Even if they are hungry, cold and went to war not of their own accord.”

I unequivocally agree with the first sentence and just as unequivocally disagree with the subsequent ones. But in order to make a cogent argument, I have to remove the moral compass from any proximity to the iron bar of the modern ethos.

The lump of metal in question goes by the name of ‘humanism’. The word has been forced to do so many jobs that its real meaning has fallen by the wayside. For most people, including those Russian journalists, the word has got to mean love of man. Yet the full stop is premature there.

I’d suggest that the true, historical meaning of humanism is professed love of man as a way of cocking a snook at God. Humanism yanked morality out of heaven and tossed it to the ground, where it shattered into an infinite number of fragments.

Human beings, now empowered by their cognate ism, were each freed to pick up whichever fragment they fancied and use it as their moral guide. Except that a closer look revealed that newly acquired wasn’t so much freedom as anarchy. The demise of collective morality left people to their own devices – and vices.

As humanism gathered pace, it predictably proved to be rather inhuman. The 20th century, the first humanist one from start to finish, produced more violent deaths than the previous five millennia of recorded history combined.

People were being taught a lesson: morality can’t conquer on earth unless it comes from heaven. But they didn’t heed the lesson – they could no longer think in those terms.

Trained to believe that every man is his own judge, they failed to detect the incongruity of being both player and referee in the game of morality. They didn’t notice that the arrow of their moral compass was spinning around faster than the second hand of a stopwatch.

Hence the muddle in which those Russian commentators found themselves: their sights were set wrongly. Attacking Miss Sindeyeva’s “indiscriminate humanism”, they targeted the adjective instead of the real culprit, the noun.

In pre-humanist times, the argument wouldn’t have arisen. It would have been nipped in the bud by this imperative sentence: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”

This commandment is often misinterpreted as a statement of pacifism. So it would be, if expressed by someone like Tolstoy, his disciple Gandhi or any of their current followers. When expressed by Christ, it was a statement of higher, divine morality reflecting the new understanding of man vouchsafed to an uncomprehending world.

Men were told to love one another not because they were all equally lovable, but because God loved them all equally. And He loved all human beings not because they were angelic but because they were indeed human, creatures made in the image of God and endowed with life everlasting.

That kind of love didn’t mean awarding identical marks to every deed men commit during their earthly life, far from it. But it did mean a promise of salvation in eternity, which is an act of love at its most sublime.

That’s what loving one’s enemy means: a hope for his eternal salvation. Each person, including our mortal enemy, is entitled to this core love based on the respect for his humanity, as created by God.

Feeling for his earthly suffering is corollary to that. This shouldn’t stop a soldier from shooting an evil invader point-blank or eviscerating him with a bayonet. That type of violence is just when it stops or deters violence that’s unjust. But it doesn’t preclude love – and even empathy.

I support the Ukraine’s resistance to Russian fascism as strongly as Mr Eidman does. And I’m not even as ready as Miss Sindeyeva is to exculpate the Russian people in general from the evil war they are fighting against the Ukraine.

I too hope the Ukrainians will drive the Russian invaders out, which has to mean wishing they kill more thousands of the soldiers Miss Sindeyeva describes as “our boys”. And yet that bloodlust doesn’t prevent me from feeling empathy for those youngsters, freezing and starving in the icy, brick-hard Ukrainian mud.

You decide whether this makes me a moral relativist or a moral absolutist. I’m sure it’s the latter, but those ‘liberal’ journalists might disagree.

P.S. Early this morning, Ukrainian drones hit the Engels base of Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers near Saratov on the Volga. Two of the bombers used for terrorist missile attacks on the Ukraine were destroyed.

Apparently, the new drones, designed and manufactured by the Ukraine herself, carry a 75 kg payload to a range of up to 1,000 km. Since Moscow is but 500 k from the Ukrainian border, this gives Putin yet another headache. Well done, Ukraine!

UK is bombing Irish cities

Such is an inescapable inference from the comments made by Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission and the new oracle of moral equivalence.

EU’s historian in residence

Though named after a British saint, it’s safe to say Ursula has little time for Britain. In that spirit she likened Russia’s genocidal war on the Ukraine to our historic rule of Ireland.

This reminds me of a story my late father-in-law told me. During the war he was sent to Belfast on some military business and naturally dropped by a pub for a pint of the black stuff.

His uniform acted on the locals the way a red rag acts on a bull. Though they didn’t gore my future father-in-law, they felt called upon to vent their criticism of the British army.

“British soldiers have killed our civilians, burnt our houses and crops, raped our women…,” they ranted, and my future father-in-law was both aghast and incredulous. That sort of behaviour wasn’t something he readily associated with the army in which he served.

“British soldiers have done that?” he asked, allowing some doubt to creep into his voice. “When?” “Under bloody Cromwell,” explained the historically minded drinkers, referring to the 1649-1653 reconquest of Ireland, during which the Irish indeed suffered an appalling loss of life.

Now, I realise some historical scars take time to heal. Still, going three centuries back in search of grievances strikes me as excessive. But note that those Irish pub-crawlers didn’t mention a much more recent conflict with Britain, the Irish War of Independence that had ended just 20 years earlier.

It’s a fair guess that, had the British matched Cromwell’s homicidal zeal in the war of 1919-1921, Cromwellian atrocities would have been overshadowed in the Irishmen’s minds. Yet it was that war that von der Leyen had in mind when indulging in her bit of ignorant and malicious moral equivalence.

Addressing the Irish Parliament in Dublin to celebrate some sort of EU anniversary, she said: “This country knows what it means to struggle for the right to exist. Today, another European nation is fighting for independence. Of course, Ireland is far away from the front line in Ukraine. But you understand better than most why this war matters so much to all of us.”

(I dismissed that EU anniversary as “some sort” although I know she was talking about the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s joining the EU. That was a typical federastic legerdemain. For the EU didn’t exist in 1972, what with the Maastricht Treaty still 21 years away. What existed was the European Economic Community, whose leaders were at pains to conceal their plan of creating a single European state by a series of incremental steps.)  

It would be easy to accuse Ursula of ignorance, but that would be letting her off way too easily. The statement she was making had nothing to do with historical facts, which I’m sure she knows as well as I do, and everything to do with the vindictive EU attempts to punish Britain for the temerity of refusing to be bossed by the likes of Ursula.

In her eyes, Brexit makes Britain a terrorist, fascist state like Russia, and never mind the nuances. The syllogism is there for all to see. Thesis: Putin doesn’t like the EU. Antithesis: Britain doesn’t like the EU. Synthesis: Britain is as evil as Putin’s Russia.

The EU would love to apply to Britain the same punitive measures as it did to Russia, but it has to acknowledge that, unlike Russia, Britain has broken no international laws. And she is certainly not perpetrating genocide in Ireland or anywhere else.

Hence a package of wholesale sanctions and boycotts can’t be on the table. The table can only be set with stealth and perfidy.

Such fine stratagems are coded in the EU’s DNA, and it’s Ireland that the EU chose as a whip with which to lash Britain. Since the Republic of Ireland is an EU member, her border with Ulster has been turned into a front line of the EU’s punitive raid.

While tacitly encouraging the separatist tendencies in Northern Ireland, those that produced Britain’s surrender on Blair’s watch, the EU openly puts into effect border controls that are much more stringent than at other entry points. This, Ursula and her ilk hope, will drive a deeper wedge between the Republic and the UK, ideally leading to another Time of Troubles and the breakup of the United Kingdom.

I shan’t emulate Ursula by drawing historical parallels, although Prussia’s 19th century Zollverein is worth studying as a lesson in how economic levers can act as mechanisms of political subjugation.

Suffice it to say that her remarks betoken open hostility to Britain, an animus deep enough for the EU’s top politician to sink into the morass of unfounded, impassioned rants. These come at a point when Sunak’s administration is making overtures to the EU, hinting at a possibility of some sort of compromise.

We’ve walked over that terrain back and forth so much and so often, it’s densely covered with thousands of footprints. There’s always room for compromise in diplomacy, but national sovereignty is a binary yes-or-no proposition.

And here a parallel between the Ukraine and Britain is indeed appropriate – not one between Britain and Putin’s fascist state.

The Ukrainians are dying in their thousands to make good their clean break from their former masters. Britain merely risks some economic discomfort at worst to stand up to EU bullies, finally shaking the dust of that pernicious contrivance off her feet.

When one thinks of the sacrifices the country made during Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe, one is reminded yet again that Rishi Sunak is no Winston Churchill. Mercifully, Ursula von der Leyen is no Adolph Hitler either.       

Our royals are running scared

The Prince and Princess of Wales are in the US, pressing flesh and sharing with the public their deep concern about warm weather.

The future of ‘our planet’ is in safe hands

At the same time, their spokesman adumbrates the arrival of cancel culture at the Palace, welcoming the brutal, indecent dismissal of Lady Hussey: “Racism has no place in our society.”

Our commentators are falling over themselves hailing the couple for “making the monarchy more modern”. A noble effort, that, but no match for the Sussexes who are up for an award in New York for their “heroic” (and rather lucrative) stance against the “structural racism” of the royal family.

Alas, this sort of thing didn’t start with the younger generations of the royals. The idea that the monarchy must march in step with every malodorous fad extruded by the bowels of modernity was advocated – or at least not contradicted too strongly – by Prince William’s father and even by his late grandmother, God bless her.

A cynic like me is bound to question the sincerity of such sentiments, or at least its extent. And if, as I suspect, the family isn’t wholly driven by genuine beliefs, one has to wonder what else may motivate them.

The answer is fairly obvious: fear. The royals think, justifiably, that, if they walk and talk truly royal, they are the ones who’ll find themselves on the receiving end of cancel culture.

Poll after poll shows that the republican sentiment is weak in Britain. But if you believe such surveys, there is a bridge over the Thames I’d like to sell you.

Yes, the salt of the English earth, the old Tory-voting lower and middle classes, tend to be monarchist or at least not too violently anti-monarchist. But they constitute the silent majority rapidly becoming the silent – and cancelled – minority.

Even their sympathies are fickle, largely at the mercy of swings in public mood. And if, as one can confidently predict, Labour turns an 80-seat Tory majority into a 100-seat majority for themselves at the next election, that will indeed reflect a swing in public mood, not just in electoral fortunes. The vociferous minority is already doing well but, when it becomes the majority, it’ll sweep all before it.

And then the dormant republican sentiment will break through the dam of the erstwhile affection for the late Queen and her husband. I can’t predict the form that outburst will take, only that it’ll put paid to the monarchy as we know it.

I suspect that de jure cancellation is unlikely for a generation or two. But the de facto demolition of everything the monarchy should, and used to, stand for is on the cards.

As it is, I find it remarkable that the dynasty has managed to survive for as long as it has, given the congenital conflict between this institution and the zeitgeist. In a word, the monarchy is fundamentally conservative and the zeitgeist, just as fundamentally, isn’t.

The internal barbarian has emerged victorious in Britain (and everywhere else in the West), and he hates every traditional institution with red-misted ferocity. Unable to demolish them wholesale, he keeps gnawing at the outer edges, burrowing closer and closer to the core.

This victorious type is committed to destruction, which it coyly describes as ‘change’ or ‘progress’. The internal barbarian flashes a beatific smile, hoping that nobody notices the red-dripping fangs thereby bared.

The fangs are systematically sunk into the flesh of the country’s constitution, of which the monarchy is both the lynchpin and the guardian. Exsanguinated already is another lynchpin, the House of Lords, which isn’t democratic enough for the internal barbarian’s taste.

Our comprehensively educated masses nod their consent whenever they hear that, since Britain is a democracy, an unelected chamber is an affront. This is basic political illiteracy, something to be expected from people who move their lips when reading even road signs.

Britain is a monarchy, with the king exercising his sovereignty through parliament. The monarchy is hereditary and hence non-democratic by definition. Its power has traditionally been balanced by the lower House, the democratically elected Commons.

The unelected upper house, the Lords, used to be hereditary too, and therefore presumed free of political pressures. Its function was to keep a watchful eye on the aforementioned balance, making sure neither end shoots up at the expense of the other.

The demise of the Lords that has been under way for several decades and is now for all practical purposes complete has destroyed the balance, creating the dictatorship of the Commons. Democracy, but in fact the internal barbarian, rules, which leaves the constitution without one of its essential guardians, with the other one, the monarchy, finding itself at a loose end.

Divested of much, eventually all, of its executive power, it still has a vital constitutional role to perform, that of providing continuity of sovereignty linking past, present and future generations.

It’s the fulcrum on which the balance of power rests and, like any other fulcrum, it has to remain relatively immobile for the balance to be maintained. In other words, any monarchy is either a conservative institution – or it’s a purely decorative and meaningless one.

Since conservatism of any kind is moribund, not to say dead already, our monarchy lives on borrowed time – and the royal family knows it. Hence its dubiously sincere and definitely pathetic efforts to stay in sync with every objectionable woke fad that comes round the block.

The critical race theory, the global warming fraud, equal rights for every sexual perversion under the sun – bring it on and our royals will endorse it. I don’t know if they realise that by doing so they are signing their own death warrant, but I’m sure some of them must.

One wishes those who do were able to augment their perspicacity with strength of character and moral fibre. But that’s too much to ask of today’s lot, both the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate. Or, more likely, at his throat.

An easy mistake to make

Lady Susan Hussey, the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting (and close friend) and godmother to Prince William, has been made to resign her honorary post at the Palace.

Ngozi Fulani could have fooled me too

Now, Lady Hussey dedicated 62 of her 83 years to royal service and never once put a foot wrong. Hence, for her to be – not to cut too fine a point – thrown out on her ear, she had to do something truly awful.

And so she did, by the standards of our heightened sensitivity. Lady Hussey was mingling with a crowd at a Palace function devoted to stamping out domestic abuse. Even though I wasn’t present, I can guess what she was saying to the attendees: sweet noncommittal nothings delivered with half a smile and heard with half an ear.

Then she ran into Ngozi Fulani, the founder of the domestic-abuse charity Sistah Space and a good friend to Harry and Meghan. The encounter proved to be Lady Hussey’s undoing.

That was an international occasion, with three queens, a princess, a countess and two First Ladies in attendance, flanked by a regiment (well, a battalion) of foreign visitors.

Though the do was officially hosted by Queen Camilla, it was Lady Hussey’s job to keep the social gears meshing smoothly, partly by introducing guests to one another. To do so competently, she had to have some snippets of information about their bios.

Such was the backdrop against which Lady Hussey saw before her a black woman having an African name, sporting an African hairdo, wearing African clothes and speaking with traces of the gangsta accent that Lady Hussey had probably never heard before in her cossetted life, but could be forgiven for identifying as African.

Though the combination of those accoutrements must have taken the courtier out of her comfort zone, she nonetheless asked a question she doubtless thought was both another polite nothing and a request for useful information: “What part of Africa are you from?”

Little did she know that asking that question amounted to what Miss Fulani then described on the TV show Good Morning Britain as “racial abuse”. That crime was aggravated by Lady Hussey repeating the question even though Miss Fulani had assured her she was as British as they came.

Activists like Miss Fulani want to have it both ways. They want us to notice they walk a different walk and talk a different walk from the rest of us – but also not to notice it at the same time.

And if we fail to comply with either of those unspoken demands, we are guilty of ‘racism’, which has over time expanded its original meaning (and lost its original British name, racialism). It used to mean the belief that some races are superior. Now it does the extra job of describing the belief that races are different.   

If Miss Fulani doesn’t want to be abused in such an egregious fashion, perhaps she should stop shoving her African heritage, distant though it may be, into our faces. And if she cherishes it so much she must wear it on her sleeve, then by all means she should do so. But then she shouldn’t be surprised if some people may be uncertain about her Britishness.

It’s not about skin colour, by the way. I’ve worked with several black people, both men and women. And it would never have occurred to anyone to ask them where they were from. But then their clothes, accents and hairdos were normal for Britons of a similar geographic, educational and social background. They didn’t insist on coming across as walking campaign slogans.

National identity is communicated by any number of semiotic signals. When such signals send an obtrusive message of foreign origin, then surely someone like Lady Hussey can be forgiven for being ever so slightly confused.

What no sane person would accuse her of on the basis of that incident is racial bigotry. Yet sanity is in short supply everywhere these days, including the rarefied atmosphere of the Palace. Thus Prince William’s spokesman thundered that: “Racism has no place in our society. The comments were unacceptable and it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect.”

Thank you for 62 years of loyal service, Lady Hussey. Now get lost – and ponder at your new leisure the fine points of modern sensibilities.

In a parallel development, the director Richard Curtis’s next project seems to go by the provisional title of Woke Actually.

Speaking to Diane Sawyer in the ABC special on his 2003 film Love Actually, Mr Curtis offered effusive mea culpas, indirectly demonstrating the lightning speed at which aforementioned modern sensibilities are plummeting into the woke gutter.

Most of the stars of that film are still with us, except Alan Rickman (d. 2016) and half of Martine McCutcheon, who ought to be complimented on her diet and exercise regimen. And yet what was par for the course 20 years ago – a film with no black characters – has become the stuff of which racial abuse is made.

“There are things you’d change, but thank God, society is, you know, changing. So, my film is bound, in some moments, to feel, you know, out of date,” explained Mr Curtis, suitably contrite.

When Miss Sawyer asked for specifics, the director added: “I mean, there are things about the film, you know, the lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid.”

The world is indeed, you know, changing, but mostly, you know, for the worse. But at least Mr Curtis can find comfort in the fact that hardly a film or a TV commercial made these days makes the same omission he so bitterly regrets.

Positive discrimination, what Americans call affirmative action, is in full bloom. But it bears poisoned fruit.