Socialism is the lie of the land

Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun. But it’s not a bad one because it works in both meanings of the expression.

One is the current state of affairs, and socialism qualifies in spades. All Western European economies are largely socialist, and ours is no exception.

Free enterprise hasn’t yet been banned, but it has been hogtied by strangulating regulations and bled white by extortionate taxes. At the same time Western European states all have a bloated public sector, siphoning out of the economy about half of what the nations earn, plus or minus a few per cent.

This isn’t an earth-shattering discovery – the facts are in the public domain, and they are widely known. However, they are just as widely ignored because the public has been brainwashed to overlook the other meaning of ‘lie’ in the title.

Socialism has been sold to the masses as a sort of secular Christianity: helping the poor, looking after the downtrodden, the last shall be first, that sort of thing. This is one of the biggest lies of modernity, a smokescreen concealing the real nature of socialism.

The ideal towards which socialism gravitates, if at different speeds in different countries, isn’t a Christian commune but the Soviet Union. Its principal desideratum is infinite growth of state power at the expense of individual liberties. That’s all. Everything else is hogwash, with lies acting as the hose.

There has never been any shortage of proof for that definition, but three current examples spring to mind. All three show that socialism (with wokery as its subset) both increases the number of the poor and hurts them more than the rich.

Recently published data show that even the poorest US state, Mississippi, has a higher per capita income than France or Britain. Without delving too deeply into the maelstrom of economic currents, let’s just say this is yet another proof that the prosperity of a country is inversely proportional to the amount of socialism in it.

Socialists are so eager to help the poor that they do their utmost to increase their number, thereby acquiring more beneficiaries of charitable socialist impulses. Again, this is a fact so amply supported by historical evidence that I’m ashamed of even mentioning it.

Socialists typically hurt the poor at one remove. Their egalitarian zeal compels them to penalise wealth producers, thereby making sure they produce less wealth to spread around. But at least socialists don’t often target the poor specifically and directly, bypassing any intermediate steps.

So much more egregious are the two recent attacks on motorists launched by London’s socialist mayor and endorsed by Britain’s (socialist?) High Court. Both attacks proceed from the entrenched position of barefaced lies.

First, the mayor introduced a 20 mph limit on most London roads, including those that had a limit twice as high a couple of years ago. The justification for it is carbon emissions that are supposed to go down in line with the speed.

But they don’t. Depending on the make, IC cars deliver the lowest carbon emissions in the 35-50 mph range. Emissions at 20 mph are higher than at 30 mph, and these are higher than at 40 mph. Since such data are available at the touch of a computer key, the mayor can’t plead ignorance as an excuse.

One has to conclude that this speed limit is nothing but a disguised tax: since it’s next to impossible to maintain a steady 20 mph on some London roads, especially at night, the council will rake in greater amounts in fines. That’s who benefits. But who is hurt?

Affluent people tend not to drive in London – depending on how wealthy they are, they rely on limousines, black cabs or car services. It’s their drivers who are punished by this wicked measure, along with other poor sods who drive for a living, including the proverbial White Van Man.

Car service drivers are getting points on their licences, and it doesn’t take many for them to lose their livelihood. And even if they manage to evade fines by religiously observing the extortionate limit, the number of fares they can serve (and hence their income) goes down.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife had to catch an early Eurostar train, and a car service picked her up at 5 AM. Yet she barely made it because the apologetic driver couldn’t go over 20 mph even on an empty six-lane road straight as an arrow.

The driver idled away the time by entertaining Penelope with horror stories of his colleagues paying fines or even losing their licences. The narrative was richly interspersed with curses aimed at the London mayor Sadiq Khan. (Lest you accuse the driver of racism, he was a Muslim himself).

The other example is even worse. Starting in a fortnight from now, all London drivers of IC cars eight years old or older will have to pay £12.50 every time they get behind the wheel. The whole city has been included into ULEZ, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone.

This is a socialist (woke) policy that targets the poorer people openly, directly and unapologetically. For, as I mentioned, the fat cats so hated by our affluent middle classes rarely drive in London. And if they do, it’s usually not in clapped-out bangers 10 years old.

However, if they do favour such cars out of reverse snobbery, they can afford to pay £12.50 for the privilege – as they can afford the current £15 congestion charge for entering Central London. Yet some people aren’t so fortunate: an old woman driving to church, a low-paid clerk living in an area not covered by public transport, a family that can’t get to a supermarket in any other way.

At the same time, Transport for London is spending millions on a nauseating TV campaign, with the slogan “Every trip counts”. You bet it does – for the fleeced majority.

Socialist lies have been swallowed hook, line and sinker, with the duped masses thrashing about trying to wiggle free. Various aspects of socialism have become orthodoxies that, like Caesar’s wife, are above suspicion.

One can still criticise isolated excesses, such as those I’ve mentioned, but not the underlying assumptions. All the biggest lies spun out of the Enlightenment are now sacrosanct.

And if you don’t believe me, stop a random passer-by in London and ask him what he thinks of, say, the NHS. He’ll be happy to regurgitate the relevant socialist lie – Londoners are very obliging.

Mr Chesterton, meet Herr Mann

Great men are often seers, and the two gentlemen in the title are no exception. Put together their two adages, both uttered about a century ago, and the jigsaw puzzle of our time is complete.

Thus G.K. Chesterton: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

In other words, atheism narrows the mind and widens the range of credulity. In still other words, when a man decides to take the Pascal wager, he gains a particle of Logos, the incarnated reason. That gift is denied an atheist, who thus joins the ranks of men one of whom, according to P.T. Barnum, is born every minute.

In practical terms, an atheist rejects intellectual discipline and discernment. He will rejoice in his newly opened mind, not realising that it has in effect become a tabula rasa ready to receive any scribbled message, sound or not. Alas, in most cases he’ll lack the ability or even desire to tell the difference.

A mind needs the discipline of the absolute as much as a general needs a strategy, a traveller needs an itinerary or a builder needs an architectural drawing. Firm belief in the existence of absolute truth equips a man to look for reasonable approximations in any task he sets himself.

A general can change his strategy in response to a sudden turn in the battle, a traveller may decide to take a different road, and a builder may choose to adorn the drawn structure with all sorts of ornaments. But rather than debunking the need for the original plan, such modifications confirm it.

Replacing the overarching absolute with a melange of little relativities will eventually lead to chaos. The general will confuse his troops with mutually exclusive orders, the traveller will find he is going around in circles, the builder will erect a rickety structure ready to tumble at any moment.

People sense this, either consciously or intuitively. Hence, if they can’t satisfy their ontological craving for the absolute by worshipping God, their fashionably open minds are bound to look for other options.

The menu of such options is vast, and it changes every day, with different specials highlighted in bold type. Which ones should they choose? Some of them? All of them? That’s where the trouble starts: they lack the discernment that can only come from a disciplined mind structured hierarchically.

A believer starts from the knowledge of absolute truth, which enables him to think vertically. God sits at the very top, and the believer will use him, wittingly or unwittingly, as the ultimate arbiter not only of moral choices, but also of intellectual and aesthetic ones.

By contrast, an atheist tends to think horizontally. All the dishes on the menu are sitting on his table, cooked, served and looking equally tasty. He’ll choose a few almost at random, only then to post-rationalise his choices by insisting that the dishes he picked have more taste and nutritional value. But he doesn’t really know that, and he has no mechanism for arriving at such knowledge.

That doesn’t mean an atheist can’t be any good at solving the quotidian problems of life. He can – purely practical thought may tick along nicely without any need for the absolute. Thus one can easily imagine an atheist programmer, an atheist banker or an atheist accountant. But an atheist philosopher is an oxymoron. And even, more generally, an atheist thinker is suspect.

Philosophy, when all is said and done, is the science of first principles and last causes – it’s the science of the absolute. Therefore an atheist, no matter how adept he is at double-entry accounting, can’t be a philosopher any more than a man who can’t add up can become good at double-entry accounting.  

That’s Chesterton’s aphorism, decorticated. An atheist culture will gradually disintegrate into a hodgepodge of cults. Each will be at first asserted with quasi-religious fervour – only then to be replaced with another adored with the same passion.

This is where Thomas Mann adds his pfennig’s worth: “All intellectual attitudes are latently political.” Simple observation will confirm this is so, these days. But why is it?

Why do all modern cults demand – and these days usually get – political action? For example, the sustained effort to bowdlerise English in the name of bogus equality is called political correctness. But what are the political implications of, say, following a singular antecedent with a plural personal pronoun? If the crazy idea that otherwise someone will get offended crosses a modern mind, why not call it moral or ethical correctness?

The answer, I think, is that all modern cults are strictly secondary and derivative. Their primary cause was an outburst of negative energy, the urge to destroy the civilisation brought to life by universal commitment to the absolute.

Anything directly attributable to that civilisation made the new breed reach for the wrecking ball. The dominant emotion wasn’t passive, academic rejection – it was a destructive animus demanding action.

That energy had a constantly repleted reservoir and hence a steadily growing level. Over a relatively short time, it produced an anthropological shift. Western Man, the dominant creative force of the old civilisation was ousted by a new species, Modern Man.

The new type could operate productively only at the lower reaches of thought, those involved in producing the material paraphernalia of life. The absolute was beyond his reach, it was something Modern Man perceived as hostile and sought to destroy – while intuitively craving a satisfactory surrogate.

None of his hodgepodge of little cults can function in any creative capacity. But put together, they can chip away at the edifice of the old civilisation. To do so more effectively they have to draw in the powers that be – the state. And a state can only be enrolled as a supporter, protector and promulgator of cults by political action.

That’s how seemingly apolitical feelings, such as preference for some kind of music or art, belief that no type of sexuality is perverse, suspicion of some chemical elements and so on are translated into aggressive political activism.

A sculptor taking a chisel to a slab of marble is driven by rational and aesthetic impulses. A vandal taking a sledgehammer to the resulting sculpture is immune both to reason and beauty. No matter how smart he may be otherwise, how good at his job and sensible with his investments, his reason doesn’t just play second fiddle to his hatred – it’s not even in the orchestra.

This explains why today’s political activists run up their flag posts whole buntings of absurd notions incapable of withstanding even a minute of rational inquiry. It’s not that they don’t realise, for instance, that CO2 is a trace gas of a trace gas whose role in climate changes is minuscule, while man’s role in producing it is smaller still. Such thoughts don’t even come into it.

They see through the red mist blinding their eyes a gigantic, if vaguely outlined, image of a receding civilisation and know viscerally it’s their target. Obsession with CO2 is just one arrow in their quiver, along with many others, such as doctrinaire Darwinism, reducing churches to social services, indoctrination of children in abnormal sexuality, ugly aesthetics and harebrained intellectual ideas – anything will do as long as it hits the mark.

That’s why it’s next to impossible to argue with paid-up Modern Men. That would be like arguing with a cannibal about the delights of a vegan diet. He wouldn’t even know what you are talking about. All he’ll know is that you are his enemy to be silenced – and it takes political action to do that.

That’s why, while accepting Chesterton’s maxim verbatim, I’d modify Mann’s with a qualifier: “All modern intellectual attitudes are latently political.” Come to think of it, they aren’t as latent as all that either. Rather, they are aggressively, destructively political. That’s what makes them modern.

“They make a desert and call it peace”

Ukrainian counteroffensive begins for real

Tacitus has come back to life thus to describe Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine. But let’s look at the full quote:

“These plunderers of the world, after exhausting the land by
their devastations, are rifling the ocean: stimulated by avarice, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; unsatiated by the East and by the West: the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal avidity. To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”

I knew you’d find me out. You are right: Tacitus hasn’t resurrected, and the tirade he quoted was aimed not at Russia, which didn’t exist at the time, but at Rome. Yet every word applies to Putin and his fans’ idea of peace.

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive gathers momentum, Putin’s propagandists both in Russia and in the West are shedding crocodile tears about the on-going loss of life and property. Let’s stop the carnage and negotiate, they whine. We all want peace, don’t we?

Yes, we do. But let’s not confuse peace with the Ukraine’s surrender, which is exactly what those Putin mouthpieces want. They want Russia to keep the areas occupied during the bandit raid in exchange for a cease-fire.

This after the Russians have done to the Ukraine exactly what the Romans did to the ancestors of today’s Scots (see the quotation above), a thousand times over.

If Zelensky were to sue for peace now, he’d betray all those thousands of Ukrainians murdered, tortured, raped and looted. He’d let the Russians get away with destroying Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, blowing up her dams, bombing her grain ports – all in an act of brutal and unprovoked aggression.

Zelensky won’t do any such thing. The only peace he’ll accept is a just one: Russia withdrawing to her pre-2014 borders, relinquishing her capacity to relaunch the raid once she has caught her breath and regrouped, and providing real security guarantees – not the Mickey Mouse ones of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

Thus, when you hear a Western pundit or politician call for immediate peace negotiations, make no mistake about it: he is a Putin agent, witting or unwitting. And something tells me those creepy-crawlies will be coming out of the woodwork in force over the next few days.

For, after two months of positional, or rather attritional, balance, the Ukraine seems to have achieved a strategic breakthrough.

In preparation for a Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Russians created what essentially is two lines of defence. The first is extensive minefields, making any armoured advance difficult and costly. The second line is fortifications and other facilities for the troops to dig in.

In theory, there is also a third line, but it’s designed merely to slow down a Ukrainian advance, not to stop it. It was mainly the dense minefields that kept the Ukrainian offensive in check, supported as they were by air raids on those who tried to clear the mines.

Now it appears that the Ukrainian army has managed to punch through that first line in at least two, possibly three, places and accelerate its assault on the dug-in Russian troops. The cluster munitions recently supplied by the West are playing a key role – to the accompaniment of wailing on the part of aforementioned Putin agents.

The new offensive started at dawn on Wednesday, and yesterday Ukrainian forces liberated the village of Staromaiorske, an important launchpad for a breakthrough in the southerly direction towards Berdyansk. Even Putin had to admit begrudgingly that Ukrainian attacks in the south have intensified.

He claimed, however, that Ukrainians are making no headway, which statement can only be understood in the context of his incessant assurances that the ‘special operation’ is developing as planned. Quite. He did plan to get bogged down for 17 months, suffer hundreds of thousands of casualties and achieve the improbable feat of uniting practically the whole world against Russia.

In parallel, Ukrainian forces are advancing on Robotyne, Zaporozhye province, heading in the direction of the city of Melitopol near the Sea of Azov. Should Melitopol be liberated, Ukrainians will effectively cut the Russian army in half, breaking the supply lines to the Crimea.

It’s way too early to tell, but every indication is that before long Ukrainian armour will break through into operational space, at which point Russian troops will face a rout. The Institute of the Study of War (ISW) confirms that Ukrainians are steadily advancing to the east of Robotyne, which means they have broken through the minefields, making such a success possible.

While Putin isn’t doing so well on the battlefield, he has stepped up the propaganda war, conscripting his Goebbelses, foreign and domestic, to launch another ‘peace’ offensive. To that end, the Russians have invited Zelensky to Moscow, guaranteeing his safe passage.

The Ukrainian president treated that trap with the disdain it deserved, but this gave Putin’s propagandists more ammunition. You see, they are screaming, Zelensky is rejecting Putin’s peace initiative. He is the aggressor, he is the warmonger.

No amount of cynical hypocrisy on the part of those mouthpieces surprises me. They are the ones, after all, who have described a handful of Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory as acts of terrorism. That’s like Hitler accusing Western governments of mistreating racial minorities.

However, I await with bated breath a Western counterpoint to such tunes. Specifically, I look forward to a certain Mail columnist calling for peace and accusing the Ukraine of undermining it. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that a statement along those lines will appear this weekend. But I’m not, so let’s just wait and see.

Dr Biden will see you now

It’s good to know that the Leader of the Free World is a polymath, whose interests and erudition extend even into such technical areas as medicine.

However, before punching the air with ebullient joy, we ought to track his foray into such areas to make sure he arrives at a legitimate destination. If he doesn’t, then rejoicing should be replaced with concern.

That, I’m afraid, is the case with Joe Biden’s recent speech on medical care, in which he made some statements that make it hard not to fear for the Free World of which Joe is the Leader.

The president tackled two branches of medicine of personal interest to him: oncology, because his son Beau died of brain cancer; and mental health because… well, you know.

Speaking on the first subject, Joe laudably insisted on reviving the American can-do spirit: “One of the things I’m always asked is, you know, why Americans have sort of lost faith for a while in being able to do big things.”

Such big things, for example, as curing cancer. “Why cancer? Because no one thinks we can, that’s why. And we can. We ended cancer as we know it,” Joe told his stunned audience.

The 19th century Russian satirist Saltykov-Schedrin once quipped that: “The government’s task is to keep the populace in a state of permanent amazement.” Joe must have taken that prescription to heart.

The people in the audience were duly amazed. The mortality rates of some cancers may be going down, but an average of over 1,600 Americans still die of cancer every day. Their families must feel relieved to know that the Biden administration has expunged that ghastly disease once and for all.

I imagine Biden’s press secretaries have to work their fingers to the bone every time Joe offers one of his staggering insights. In this case, they must have gasped and taken the name of Our Lord in vain, possibly with the addition of obscenities.

Having got that off their chests, they replaced “ended” with “can end” in the version released to the press. But it was too late: video cameras had preserved Joe’s braggadocio for posterity.

Having taken care of oncology, Joe bravely attacked psychiatry. Specifically, he took exception to insurance companies that are reluctant to offer complete coverage for the treatment of mental problems. Joe then promised his administration would end this iniquity the way it had already ended cancer.

“We’re working to improve insurance coverage for mental health in America,” said Biden.

“And folks, you know, I don’t know what the difference between breaking your arm and having a mental breakdown is,” he added. “It’s health – there’s no distinction.”

As an aside, I always admire the mock-folksy tone American politicians feel called upon to adopt. They sound as if speaking not just in public but in a public bar – I’m surprised they don’t interrupt their press conferences to growl at a reporter: “Whatcha lookin’ at, pal?”

Getting back from the form to the substance, there’s one helluva lota distinction between a cracked bone and a cracked psyche, Joe. The former shows up on an X-ray, the latter doesn’t.

Thus diagnosing, or these days even defining, a mental disorder is seldom straightforward. For example, a man grieving for his dead wife may be considered mentally ill, whereas a man claiming to be a woman is seen as a perfectly sane individual exercising his right to identify as anything he wishes.

Conditions that in the past called for a talk with a friend over a couple of stiff drinks have now been medicalised. Lack of self-restraint and responsibility has been upgraded to ‘gambling addiction’ calling for medical interference. And as to the craven refusal to face the very mild symptoms of withdrawal from opiates, no amount of money thrown at it is too big.

Such rampant medicalisation makes mental conditions rather open-ended and therefore extremely expensive to treat. In fact, Americans spend over $200 billion a year on mental problems – more than they spend on heart disease, diabetes and indeed cancer.

Not only does the cost of treating mental conditions exceed any other, but it’s also growing faster – as it’s bound to do when the boundaries of the problem are being pushed wider and wider by the burgeoning weight of psychobabble.

I’m sure insurance companies wouldn’t quibble about covering legitimate psychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia or dual-personality disorder. Yet one can understand their reluctance to shell out every time a self-indulgent housewife complains about being in a lousy mood lately.

Biden has in effect committed his administration to twisting insurers’ arm into going against their commercial interests. Such bossiness is to be expected on the part of any left-wing government, in America or anywhere else.

But insurance companies are still commercial concerns that have to answer to their shareholders. If new regulations force them to expose themselves to inordinate risks, they are bound to transfer their new costs to customers suffering from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and, well, broken bones.

Government expenditure will have to follow suit, which means higher taxes. American consumers of medical services will thus be hit with the double whammy of higher insurance premiums and greater taxation. I’m sure they won’t mind, secure in their serene knowledge that true equality has been achieved between mental and physical disorders.

Their plight saddens me, but not nearly as much as the future of the Free World. After all, Joe Biden, who clearly wasn’t compos mentis even before his first term, is running for a second one. And he may well win.

Burglary isn’t a crime any longer

A man doing his job

The Home Office data show that 213,279 police investigations into break-ins were closed last year without a suspect being identified.

That’s about 80 per cent of such crimes, which is bad enough. But even knowing the suspect doesn’t mean he’ll be arrested. If arrested, he won’t necessarily be tried. If tried, not necessarily convicted. If convicted, not necessarily imprisoned.

In fact, over 95 per cent of all burglaries in the UK don’t result in a conviction. And even if a burglar is convicted, he’ll usually serve only a derisory prison term, if that.

All this leads to the conclusion in the title. Add the qualifier ‘in effect’ to it, and the case becomes irrefutable.

The Lib Dems blame that appalling situation on the drop in neighbourhood policing teams and Police Community Support Officers. That lets them score political points off the Conservative Party, which is all they want.

Yet the causal relationship they’ve identified is as nonsensical as it’s indicative of the general level of political thinking in Britain (not that we are unique in that respect).

Years ago another leftie demagogue, Tony Blair, introduced the slogan “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. As far as he was concerned, the main causes of crime were a) not enough money given away in social handouts and b) the evil “forces of conservatism”.

This reaches the area where idiocy overlaps with evil. Believing that crime is caused by poverty is idiotic. Blaming the nonexistent forces of conservatism is evil. Yet correctly identifying the causes of a social malaise is essential to any treatment of it – at least the lefties are capable of such truisms.

There are enough policemen in the UK, over 180,000 to be exact, to reduce the number of burglaries and increase the number of convictions. In fact, our armed forces are considerably smaller, and they are expected to fight hordes of heavily armed enemies, not a few tattooed thugs.

And more than enough freeloaders live off the state to disqualify low social expenditure as the prime culprit. In general, arithmetic is the wrong discipline to apply to the situation. It calls for philosophy or at least serious thought in general.

Why are our police forces so ineffective? After all, during the late Victorian era, there were three times fewer cops in Britain, and real (as opposed to relative) poverty was rife, yet burglaries were extremely rare even in the impoverished East End of London.

Many tectonic shifts, social, political, cultural and above all philosophical, have had to occur to deliver personal property to thugs sure of their immunity. This isn’t the place to identify them all, but some can be sketched.

The police aren’t even investigating most burglaries because their employer, the state, has communicated to them either explicitly or osmotically that they have more important things to worry about. And the state gets away with decriminalising burglary because it has succeeded in indoctrinating the population in a new ethos.

Cops everywhere and in any epoch won’t kill themselves trying to solve crimes they know won’t result in a conviction – they have to justify their funding like any other government employees. Since both the Crown Prosecution Office and the courts clearly don’t see burglary as the heinous crime it is, the cops won’t bother to hit the streets.

The civilisational shift I’ve mentioned earlier affects the very nature and concept of legality. Thus, jurists used to distinguish between malum in se and malum prohibitum, the former reflecting an immutable injunction against attacks on life, liberty and property; the latter encompassing transgressions like not wearing a seat belt.

It has always been understood that the two are in a morally hierarchical relationship. For example, stealing a man’s horse is a worse crime than parking it on a double yellow line, and killing one’s wife is more reprehensible than making love to her without permission.

But no malum is really in se; evil and good are meaningless in the absence of a detached moral arbiter whose rulings can sometimes be interpreted but never questioned.

Take that arbiter away, and we have erased the absolute line of demarcation, making moral distinctions relative, which is to say inoperative. Indeed, we find ourselves beyond good and evil, in a space where things are distorted to a point at which malum prohibitum can be punished more surely and often more severely than malum in se.

The statistics I cited above are a direct result. In, say, Victorian England, it was understood that an Englishman’s home was his castle and his personal property was inviolable. Burglars transgressed against both principles, which is why they were punished with a severity that makes today’s lot wince.

Their crimes struck not just at their specific victims but at the very foundations of society – and society responded with commensurate force. Our society today, however, rests on different foundations. The same laws against malum in se may still be on the books, but they’ve slipped way down the pecking order.

Just one little example: a woman I know quarrelled with her neighbour and in the heat of the argument called him a “poof”. The neighbour, who is twice her size, instantly called the police and identified himself as a victim of a hate crime.

The police responded with an alacrity they never display when a burglary is reported. They turned up within minutes, arrested the woman and kept her in detention for 24 hours until her expensive lawyers turned up.

Another example: a journalist I know received a night-time visit from the police after publishing an article in which she argued in favour of tougher restrictions on immigration. She got off with a warning that time, but how many burglaries were committed while the cops lectured her sanctimoniously?

The existence of stupid, unjust and superfluous laws and injunctions undermines the whole legal system. People may still fear the law but they don’t respect it any longer, and fear alone isn’t a sufficient deterrent.

Also, Britons have been systematically corrupted over several generations to believe that a transfer of money from those who earned it to those who didn’t occupies a high moral ground. Few have retained enough of their critical faculties to question the validity of the state extorting up to half of what they earn.

The state has used its awesome propaganda machine to convince people that their money isn’t truly theirs. It really belongs to the state that then “lets them keep” some of it for their families, to use Gordon Brown’s expression.

Faith in the sanctity of private property thus weakens, while the belief in social (which is to say redistributive) justice strengthens. Hence a burglar stops being a vicious criminal,  becoming instead a somewhat naughty colleague of the state.

He too redistributes wealth, of which he has less than most of his victims. That makes him the real victim, while the people who complain about being robbed come across as greedy whingers.

This isn’t exactly the current state of affairs, but it’s definitely an accelerating trend. The state, abetted by the social groups it can rely on to disseminate its message and prime the population, will punish swiftly and mercilessly any infringement of its own interests. But it will smile leniently on any crime committed against private property.

This reminds me of the USSR, as, alas, more and more things do. The Soviets developed the concept of ‘the socially close’ to describe criminals of proletarian or peasant descent.

This was explained by Anton Makarenko, manager of the first Soviet colony for juvenile delinquents. The underlying assumption was that, because they were ‘socially close’ to the state, young criminals, many of them murderers, were not beyond redemption. They ought to be rehabilitated, not punished.

“It is only the intelligentsia, children of the upper classes, priests and land owners who are beyond redemption,’ wrote Makarenko. While today’s Western bureaucrats are unlikely to have read this, they proceed from similar assumptions.

An illiterate criminal in no way jeopardises state power. Ergo, every law devised by the state will favour the criminal over the victim – and in fact the whole notion of criminality will be stood on its head.

Put some more strain on society (financial, medical, military), and the whole system of justice may collapse. God save us then – even though most people have been brainwashed to think he doesn’t exist.

With apologies to my French friends

Jane Birkin’s mourners

If any of them are reading this: chaps, I love you dearly. You all have impeccable taste and discernment, as witnessed by the warm welcome you’ve extended to Penelope and me for over 20 years.

Your taste in matters artistic is also impeccable, most of the time. However, and I hope you don’t mind a good-natured generalisation, you tend to give a free pass to anything and anybody French.

Perhaps you only do so as a way of upholding your national honour when talking to foreigners like me. I don’t know, but I can only speak from my own foreign yet rather extensive experience.

Many a time have I almost had my head snapped off when opining that, say, Zola is a mediocre writer and Colette isn’t much of a writer at all, Erik Satie isn’t so much music as Musak (music d’ascenseur, as I imprudently put it) or that Renoir’s paintings belong on chocolate boxes, not in serious galleries.

Such passive-aggressive defensiveness is perfectly innocent and even laudable – I wish we felt as jealous about our culture as you do about yours. But even against that background I find the adulation of Jane Birkin, who died on 16 July, quite incomprehensible.

Thousands of Parisians came out to watch her funeral cortege, with the mourners looking genuinely aggrieved. One could get the impression that Miss Birkin’s demise impoverished French culture no end.

I do realise that most people would indeed become impoverished if they bought one of the Birkin handbags. These can cost upwards of £100,000, which is so steep that one would be tempted to think the price reflects the bag’s snob value more than any other.

On balance, I don’t think that paroxysm of collective sorrow was caused by the harrowing thought that henceforth Hermès may have to call their line of jumped-up carry-bags something else.

For Birkin was also known as an actress and singer, more of a celebrity really, if we use those job descriptions in their original meaning. Now, since she was as ethnically British as she was culturally French, I feel I can say what I think of Birkin as an artist without risking ostracism on the other side of the English [sic] Channel. I have a stock reply ready in case my French friends take exception: “She was English, so what’s your problem?”

Miss [sic] Birkin is best remembered for her 1969 hit Je t’aime… moi non plus, a duet sung with her then lover Serge Gainsbourg.

‘Sung’ is actually an overstatement, unless you think coital whispers can have a special mellifluous quality to them. The song’s two protagonists are, not to be too coy about it, shagging and, while on the job, exchanging hardcore running commentary and encouragements.

The title of the song is its first exchange: Je t’aime, whispers Jane (I love you) to which that cad Gainsbourg replies, Moi non plus (Me neither, whatever that means). That put-down doesn’t put him down, as it were.

He then compares his rampant libido to a vague irrésolue, meaning he is in two minds about climaxing. Je vais, je vais et je viens, continues Gainsbourg, “I’m going and coming at the same time”. That to me suggests the Nelson Rockefeller death, in flagrante delicto (in the saddle).

But Serge neither comes nor goes yet. In fact, lest his paramour may misunderstand, he specifies exactly where he’d like to come: Entre tes reins. That’s usually translated as ‘inside you’, but in fact the location is more specific than that (use your imagination).

Jane then waxes all poetic in good Gallic style: Tu es la vague, moi l’île nue, meaning Serge is the wave to Jane’s naked island. The metaphor strikes me as both strained and lame, even though it does convey relevant information: Jane isn’t wearing any clothes, following the recommendation of every reputable sex manual.

Serge then informs Jane that Je me retiens: he is holding back, with the implication that before long he won’t be able to.

Not a problem, as far as Jane is concerned: Tu vas, tu vas et tu viens: “You are going, you are going, and you are coming.” That strikes me as superfluous. If Serge is indeed coming, he doesn’t need Jane to tell him about it: trust me, when that happens, men tend to know it.

But in fact, Jane is telling him not to brag about his epic control: Go ahead et je te rejoins, and I’ll join you.

Then Jane, who clearly had mastered the French knack at doing to philosophy what Serge is doing to her, says in a sultry whisper that L’amour physique est sans issue – physical love is a dead end.

That being the case, Non, maintenant viens – now you can come. One has to assume Serge complies, although we are spared the sound accompaniment.

Don’t know about you, but I can’t escape the impression that artistic immortality is rather easy to come by in France. Just whisper a few sweet pornographic nothings, throw in some cracker-barrel philosophy and Bob est ton oncle, as they don’t say in France.

You are venerated in your lifetime, mourned by millions when you die and even have a £100,000 bag named after you. Let me tell you, moving to France at a young age was a smart move on Jane’s part.

Jane Birkin, RIP

God punishes atheists with stupidity

Not in everything, I hasten to disclaim. Atheists can be perfectly intelligent, sometimes even brilliant, in any field unaffected by their atheism.

Yet the moment they try to argue against the existence of God, even otherwise bright people start sounding like petulant children at best, braindead fanatics at worst. And Yevgeny Ponasenkov, the brilliant Russian historian of Russia’s Napoleonic Wars certainly isn’t an exception.

The other day I mentioned his rant against Greta Thunberg and everything she stands for as a typical example of Russian intemperance that compromises even sound views. That’s not the only thing he is a typical example of. He is also living proof of the statement in the title above.

In the same article, I wrote: “That he is an atheist is to be expected, but that’s strictly his own business. However, when Ponasenkov argues in numerous interviews and articles that religion, especially Christianity, is the root of all evil in the world, he throws his scholarly integrity to the wind.”

A historian’s articles and interviews on various subjects are one thing; his day job is another. Since Ponasenkov is indeed a brilliant historian, I dipped into his magnum opus, his seminal monograph on the 1812 war, to see if it vindicates my point. I was richly rewarded.

Ponasenkov sets his stall early by explaining why all other historians are pygmies compared to him. You see, he is a materialist who understands Darwin’s theory of evolution. That is the only possible starting point for any scholarly foray into history.

This is arrant nonsense on every level. First, it’s a non sequitur – belief or disbelief in God has nothing to do with systematic study of history, one way or the other.

If a historian treats his subject as strictly a gradual unfolding of divine providence, he isn’t a historian. He may be a theologian or a philosopher, but those are different, if sometimes adjacent, fields. And a secular philosopher who drags his atheism into his field sows it with weeds, stunting the growth of his thought.

I still think that an atheist scholar in any field, especially the humanities, suffers from insurmountable limitations no matter how sound his thought and painstaking his research. But such limitations will show very far down the road, and there is still plenty of solid ground to cover before that point is reached.

Just as religion has no immediate impact on the study of history, neither does Darwin’s theory. Again, a historian who sees his subject as merely the biological evolution of Homo sapiens, may be many things (such as a propagandist, zealot or simply an idiot), but definitely not a historian.

And anyone who believes that Darwinism is incompatible with religious faith is simply wrong. God can create things either instantly or slowly – that’s why he is God.

I happen to regard Darwin’s theory as slipshod, politicised nonsense, at least as an overarching explanation of life. But that judgement is based on an assessment of purely scientific and intellectual arguments pro and con, not on my faith.

This is to say that Ponasenkov’s first shot across the bows of faith misses by a mile. He is an atheist who sees Darwin as gospel truth, but that has nothing to do with his subject. His remark is thus a propagandist diatribe I could charitably ascribe to his youthful exuberance (he was born in 1982).

Then he writes: “I cannot help mentioning that the most detailed and comprehensive answer to the question of why the findings of physicists, biologists, geologists, paleoneurologists do not confirm ancient mythology [that is, Judaeo-Christianity] was found and published in his 2006 monograph The God Delusion by the Oxford professor, great scientist Richard Dawkins.”

This is gibberish that doesn’t become a serious scholar and doesn’t belong in Ponasenkov’s important work. The God Delusion isn’t a monograph – it’s a vulgar and ignorant tract on a subject about which the author knows nothing but emotes a lot.

Neither is Dawkins a great scientist. He is merely the author of lamentably popular books that tickle all the naughty bits of modernity. “Darwin explains everything,” writes Dawkins, and no one capable of making that statement can be described as even an average thinker. Before things evolve, they have to be – and Darwin never even attempted to explain how biological organisms had come into being.

Ponasenkov matches Dawkins’s inanity with his own. Expecting the Bible to vindicate every finding of modern science is committing a category error. Natural science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, that’s not what it’s for. But while we are on the subject, Genesis “explains everything” much more convincingly than Darwin does – as accepted even by many atheist scientists, some with Nobel Prizes to their name.

His ideologically fervent ignorance of subjects outside the scope of his monograph leads Ponasenkov astray even in his comments on history. Thus he quotes approvingly another fire-eating atheist who ascribes Russia’s troubles to her Byzantine religion.

According to her (and Ponasenkov), Byzantium had no redeeming qualities. That view is common to atheist intellectuals who proceed from a false syllogism: Byzantium was a Christian empire; Christianity is a lie; ergo, Byzantium was useless.

This is the actual quote: “Just think: a civilisation, heir to two of the greatest civilisations of antiquity, existed for several hundred years without leaving A-NY-THING after itself except architecture, some books for the illiterate, lives of saints, and fruitless religious debates.”

Books for the illiterate presumably include the works of John of Damascus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, Michael Psellus and other great Byzantine theologians. That’s where that syllogism kicks in: they were all Christian writers, so they wrote “books for the illiterate”. The effort had to be in vain: illiterate people wouldn’t have been able to read their works, but Ponasenkov won’t be deterred by such small inconsistencies.

And “except architecture”? (Ponasenkov ignores great Byzantine iconography, without which Renaissance painting wouldn’t have been what it became.)

During that period of our – Christian, Mr Ponasenkov – civilisation, architecture was the principal and most poignant expression of the nascent culture. That role was later ceded to music, but dismissing Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Chora, Basilica of San Vitale and other sublime Byzantine structures as culturally and civilisationally inconsequential is, well, ignorant.

At a less sublime level, the Byzantines were also innovative military engineers. For example, having settled in Rus’, the Vikings sought to conquer Byzantium next, the bigger fish to fry.  However, that particular fish began to fight back by unsportingly using the unique chemical compound, probably petroleum-based, to which the Vikings referred as ‘Greek fire’.

That invention, along with the first hand grenades in history, also thwarted the Arab onslaught on Constantinople – while different Byzantine units communicated with one another through another invention, the beacon system.

Yes, God does punish atheism, and not only in the next life. In Ponasenkov’s case, that’s a shame because his book is an important study of Russian history. And Russia’s present is a child of her past, which makes history an essential applied science. Ponasenkov is right about that.

This English rose smells bad

Whatever Cesare Lombroso thought, physiognomy doesn’t work every time. I’ve seen bright people with stupid faces, and vice versa.

But the face of Dame Alison Rose, chief executive of the NatWest banking group that owns Coutts, can’t possibly belong to an intelligent person. Anyone in possession of such a face has to be a leftie apparatchik, and Dame Alison doesn’t disappoint.

Hers is the face of someone whose creative imagination is circumscribed by bureaucratic procedure and her ability to manipulate it nimbly. Such talents must be highly prized – they earned Dame Alison £5.2 million last year, not bad for a passionate champion of equality.

I’ve already written about Coutts’s ‘debanking’ Nigel Farage, but then I assumed that the bank hadn’t lied when saying Farage’s account was only closed because he wasn’t wealthy enough.

Alas, it was indeed a lie. Since then the bank’s 40-page dossier on Mr Farage has been published, making it clear that Coutts was driven by political, not commercial, considerations.

“The Committee did not think,” went the document, “continuing to bank NF was compatible with Coutts given his publicly-stated views that were at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation.”

The authors reluctantly admitted that all those articles in The Guardian claiming that Farage was a Kremlin stooge weren’t borne out by any facts. Personally, I wouldn’t have let Farage off so easily on that one, but the point is he wasn’t ‘debanked’ for that reason.

Why then? Essentially, because his political views are different from The Guardian’s and Dame Alison’s.

Her views, on the other hand, are in complete agreement with The Guardian’s, and in some areas even race ahead of them. When she was appointed, Dame Alison proudly described herself “a passionate supporter of diversity”.

She applied that passion to Pride last year, saying: “Our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is integral to our purpose of championing the potential of people, families and businesses.” One account holder took exception to that sentiment and was promptly ‘debanked’ for his trouble.

Silly me, I used to think that a bank’s focus should be on maximising returns for its investors and shareholders. Obviously, I was wrong.

“And NatWest Group’s employee-led networks are playing a huge part in creating a truly inclusive culture at the bank.” That’s good to know.

And it’s even better to know that Dame Alison has the power of her convictions. For example, under her guidance and supervision, NatWest’s employees are encouraged to identify as men and women on different days.

To make it easier for them to do so, and also to avoid possible confusion, employees may wear double-sided lanyards to inform the world whether they are men or women today. Some work is clearly needed there to make the practice more inclusive: after all, the number of known sexes is close to a hundred. But the general direction is clear enough.

Lest you think it’s all about the naughty stuff, Dame Alison is equally committed to other fads as well. For example, shortly after her appointment she declared that: “tackling climate change would be a central pillar” of her mission. The bank then ended new loans for oil and gas extraction.

With that woke abomination at the helm, Nigel Farage never had a chance. However, much as I am concerned about his predicament, my own banking future worries me more.

For I too have an account at NatWest, which Penelope’s father started for her when she was a child and I piggybacked when we got married. I wonder if I should jump before I am pushed, for, reading the dossier’s list of Farage’s sins, I realise I’m guilty of each one.

He led the campaign for Brexit; I supported it with lectures and articles. Then again, 52 per cent of Britons voted for it, but since when do we have to go by majority opinion in this democracy?

Then Farage was described as “transphobic” because he retweeted comedian Ricky Gervais’s sketch about those horribly old-fashioned women “with a womb”. Mea culpa: I too found that sketch funny, although I’m not on Twitter.

Farage, according to the dossier, is in favour of Britain leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. He may remember, as I do, that England already had constitutional provisions for human rights at the time when the ancestors of today’s Brussels bureaucrats still copulated with small furry animals in the woods.

Farage, says the dossier, is “at best” seen as “xenophobic and pandering to racists, and at worst, he is seen as xenophobic and racist”. That’s the beauty of the passive voice: it lets nincompoops hide behind it.

Seen by whom? How many? Do any of them read any paper other than The Guardian? (The Independent doesn’t count.) Anyway, I’m sure some people with similar reading habits may see me that way too.

The fact is, Farage once compared the BLM movement with the Taliban, and the comparison strikes me as valid, mutatis mutandis. He is also opposed to uncontrolled, especially illegal, migration to the UK. If such views make him “xenophobic and racist”, then so am I – in the eyes of Dame Alison and her kindred spirits.

Then Farage is known to keep bad company, which is incompatible with the honour of having a Coutts account. He is friends with Donald Trump, despite the latter’s “locker room humour” with its feline references. Well, I’m no friend or supporter of Trump, but I’ve been known to crack the odd locker room joke myself.

And – are you ready for it? – Farage is also friends with Novak Djokovic, the tennis-playing anti-vaxxer. Now, I’m not an anti-vaxxer myself, but I’m friendly with several people who are. So put that black mark on me too.

All in all, functionally and stylistically, the dossier reads like the indictment at the trial of Adolph Eichmann. Except that he was indicted by a duly instituted court, not a bank.

Banks used to be commercial, not political establishments, but they evidently aren’t any longer. Everything is political in modernity, that’s one of its innate traits.

Speaking of politics, Andrew Neal has written a scathing article about this outrage, and written it well. One quibble though: he referred to Coutts’s action as “McCarthyism”.

He thereby used the hare-brained language favoured by the very people he so expertly criticises. Joe McCarthy might have overdone things a bit, but he pursued – in the face of overwhelming left-wing opposition – a worthy and noble goal: ridding American institutions of massive communist penetration.

The likes of Dame Alison are different. They overdo things too, but their goals are neither worthy nor noble. They are subversive and evil.

This gets me back to my earlier question: Should I close my NatWest account before that awful woman does it for me? Worth considering, that. But first I must be sure that other banks aren’t like that or even worse.

They may well be. The ideology of wokery is no longer just total. It has become totalitarian, and there is really nowhere to escape.  

Freedom of speech and from speech

Sometimes different freedoms clash, making one choose one or the other if no compromise is possible.

One’s individual choice is clear enough – and that’s perhaps the most essential freedom, deciding what’s more important to you. When the choice has to be collective, however, a previously clear line of thought begins to meander all over the place.

Thus, if someone says something I find offensive, I can tell him to shut up, imply he has an Oedipal relationship with his mother, or simply walk out. But what happens when a governmental or commercial institution offends me by word or deed?

More to the point, what if I offend it? I have little recourse against such institutions, but they can punish me in all sorts of ways, from legal to economic to social.

These questions have been prompted by the continuing saga of Nigel Farage and Coutts, the latter closing the account of the former.

I wrote a piece about it the other day, saying that banks have a right to close accounts without owing anyone an explanation. Any business, I wrote, can choose whom to serve and whom not to.

Many bars in the US display signs saying, “The management reserves the right to refuse service”. Quite right too: most bars are their owner’s private property, just as my house is mine. As I am within my rights to deny anybody access to my house, so does a bar keeper have a right to decide to let someone in or not.

In other words, his property rights supersede an individual’s right to drink at that bar. Good, now we’ve established some hierarchy of freedoms. More important, we’ve realised that such a hierarchy is essential to resolve inevitable clashes.

(This doesn’t fully apply to Coutts because it isn’t completely private. It belongs to the NatWest Group, almost 40 per cent of which is owned by the public – us. Any shareholder with that kind of stake would demand, and definitely get, an explanation from the management of how the business is run. The explanation Coutts has given since I wrote my piece made me wish we could do to its doors what it did to Farage’s account.)

What about an individual’s right to offend and to be offended? Putting it another way, what if your right to freedom of speech clashes with my right to freedom from speech? If the conflict is strictly private, it can be handled in private ways, from a reasoned argument to the possibilities I mentioned above to perhaps even fisticuffs.

Alas, few conflicts remain private in our politicised times. No one is believed to be strictly an individual – we are all supposed to be members of some community, dread word. Thus, if a homosexual takes exception to my mentioning Leviticus or Romans, I’m deemed to have offended not just him, but the whole community he represents.

Similarly, transsexuals, MeToo feminists, BLM and Just Stop Oil activists, and other such ‘communities’ scream bloody murder whenever they feel their right to freedom from speech has been infringed. Thus they demand that the state infringe my right to freedom of speech.

In those cases, the clash is easy to resolve in a just and sensible manner. This isn’t to say it will be resolved in a just and sensible manner, only that it would be easy to do so, given the will.

Freedom of speech is fundamental to our polity, civility, law, history, our whole way of life. Hence it occupies a higher rung on the hierarchical ladder and should supersede anyone’s right to feel offended, rightly or wrongly.

So far so good. Yet it can’t possibly mean that freedom of speech must not ever be curtailed in any way. In fact, it is, and always has been. Any kind of incitement to violence against any group is against the law in every country I know, for example.

Yet where do we draw the line? Let’s say a homosexual ‘community’ gets offended by something I write about it (not a hypothetical example) and claims that describing their practices as an aberration constitutes inciting violence against them.

Now, I’ve known troglodytes both in Russia and in the US who attacked homosexuals in the street. Some Houstonians I met back in the early 70s turned that into a weekly sporting event, which they called something that sounded like “kicking ice”. (It took me some time in Texas to adjust my ear to the local phonetic peculiarities.)

I considered them savages and didn’t mind letting them know what I thought. Still, I don’t subscribe to the liberal misconception that doing anything consensual is perfectly fine as long as innocent bystanders don’t get hurt. There exist certain absolute and objective moral dicta that can’t be cancelled out by such subjective factors as consent.

However, inasmuch as we no longer criminalise homosexuals, they do nothing illegal. They definitely do something immoral, but none of us is without sin.

Begrudgingly or otherwise, I have to respect their right to do whatever it is they do. But they – and society at large – must reciprocate by respecting my right to freedom of speech. If I find homosexuality wrong and teaching about it at schools abominable, I should be able to say so without risking repercussions.

If homosexuality is some sort of mental aberration, gender dysphoria is a mental illness. If you disagree, you’ll have to explain to me why a man claiming to be King Solomon is mad, and one claiming to be a woman isn’t. That would be a hard sell.

However, while no one insists that I take that putative Solomon at his word and ask him for sage advice, society does insist that I accept transsexuals with readiness and deference. It then denies my freedom of speech by mandating that I use a set of pronouns that violate grammar, taste, common sense and evidence before my eyes.

Again we see that same conflict. Transsexuals and their champions insist that their freedom from hearing the pronouns they find offensive trumps my freedom to use the pronouns I find appropriate.

Now, this is a special and extreme case. If we accept the obvious fact that transsexuals are somewhat insane, then this is a case of the lunatics not only running the asylum but having the license to turn the sane world into one.  

However, some clashes between freedoms are less straightforward than that. The American conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, who is a most sensible young man, recently fielded a leftie’s question with his customary rhetorical adroitness. Saying I find homosexuality wrong, he said, doesn’t mean I’m inciting violence against homosexuals unless I explicitly call for it.

As a lawyer himself, he should be familiar with the concept of reasonable inference. If a US presidential candidate (is there no end to that awful Kennedy clan?) says that the Covid virus was specially engineered to spare Jews, some people so disposed are bound to conclude that it was the Jews who engineered it to promote their knavish schemes.

Since the virus ended up killing seven million worldwide, those same people (in the biological sense only, you understand) may seek retaliation – this though Kennedy didn’t explicitly call for it. And if the media picked up his version and peddled it as fact, violence would almost certainly ensue.

So should Kennedy have been denied his freedom of speech? Probably. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know, really. And I could think of many other situations where the same question and the same answer may arise.

In most cases, a conflict between freedom of speech and from it should be decided in favour of the former. But not in all cases, and the grey area may be rather wide in our relativist world.

Before we decide what kind of action should or shouldn’t be taken either to affirm or curtail freedom of speech, we have to settle the issue of right and wrong. That’s hard to do if it’s not only our genders that are supposed to be fluid, but also our notions of morality.

That issue was indeed settled in Exodus, Matthew and the book that contained them. That established absolute standards with an absolute certainty and authority. Both the certainty and the authority have now been replaced with petty relativities that change from one day to the next.

I maintain that no political virtue, such as freedom of speech, can have absolute value. Hence, in the absence of an authority sitting infinitely higher than any political institution, conflicts between different rights and freedoms will continue. And, if my reading of modernity is accurate, most of them will be resolved in favour of wrong and against right.