In diversity, unity

No one can reliably name a year, century or age that changed man and his world for ever.

But it’s easy to say which day did just that. Easter Sunday, 2,000-odd years ago today.

Hellenic man had always struggled with death, its finality, its cruelty, its nothingness. Death seemed to render life meaningless, deprive it of any sense of purpose.

Life itself had to be regarded as the purpose of life, and the Hellenes, weaned as they were on logic, couldn’t fail to see a self-refuting paradox there.

To be sure, there were all sorts of Orphic fantasies about afterlife, but that’s what they were and were seen to be – fantasies.

And then, on this day, 2,000-odd years ago, people weren’t just told but shown that, just as there is death in life, so there is life in death.

Now they knew there was no such thing as a happy end to life. If it was to be happy, it wasn’t the end.

There had never been such rejoicing, never such an outburst of hope, liberation and energy. Imitating God in Christ became man’s moral commitment overnight. But more than that: the ability to do so became his ontological property.

Man was no longer a lodger in the world; he had become its eternal owner. He could now imitate Christ not only by being good but also by being creative. And create he did.

Thus, on this day 2,000-odd years ago a new civilisation was born, the likes of which the world had never seen, nor ever will see. More important, a new unity – a new family – came into existence.

Universal brotherhood became a reality: all men were brothers not because someone said so, but because they all had the same father.

This unity formed a bond far stronger than even the ordinary, what is today crassly called ‘biological’, family. And it certainly betokened a much closer concord than any worldly alliances, blocs, contracts, agreements, political unions – or for that matter nations or races.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” explained Paul, making every subsequent, secular promise of equality sound puny and vulgar.

It hasn’t always worked out that way. Just like the ancient Hebrews who were dispersed because they broke God’s covenant, the world blithely pushed aside the lifebelt divinely offered.

It hoped to find unity in itself – only to find discord, devastation and the kind of spiritual emptiness for which no material riches can possibly make up. ‘Diversity’, that buzz word of godless modernity, can never resolve into a unity.

But the lifebelt was not taken away. It still undulates with the waves, still within reach of anyone ready to grasp it and climb aboard.

Knowing this makes today the most joyous day of the year – regardless of whether or not we are Christians, or what kind of Christians.

On this day we can forget our differences and again sense we are all brothers united in the great hope of peace on earth and life everlasting. We can all, regardless of where we live, rejoice on hearing these words, ringing, thundering in whatever language they are spoken:

Christ is risen!

Le Christ est ressuscité!

Christus ist auferstanden!

Cristo ha resucitado!

Cristo è risorto!

Kristus on üles tõusnud!

Kristus er oppstanden!

Xристос воскрес!

Chrystus zmartwychwstał!

Kristus vstal z mrtvých!

Cristo ressuscitou!

Kristus ir augšāmcēlies!

Christus is verrezen!

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!

Krisztus feltámadt!

Kristus är uppstånden!

Kristus prisikėlė!

Kristus nousi kuolleista!

Hristos a înviat!



The sublime considered ridiculous

Substances and accidents

At a dinner party the other day, I sat next to a charming and exceedingly clever woman. Though I’ve known her for many years, until that evening the subject of religion never came up.

However, the proximity of Easter made such exclusion impossible, and my dinner companion said she was Presbyterian. As such, she thought the whole idea of transubstantiation (Eucharistic bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Christ) was nonsensical.

I began to mumble something about Aristotle with his substances and accidents, but stopped myself in mid-sentence. Discussing such things with a charming woman at a boozy party is a social faux pas, a crime worse than theological ignorance.

So instead of boring her by whispering sweet philosophical nothings into her ear, I’m going to bore you in writing, though I hope not too much.

Christian theology is basically interpretation of Scripture, which according to believers is the word of God. But God was an exceptionally gifted writer who used a variety of techniques: straight talk, poetic imagery, metaphors and other figures of speech, parables, novelistic narration.

Such virtuosity, incidentally, is sometimes used as proof of authenticity: human writers began to learn all such narrative techniques only when the novel took its place on the literary landscape in the 18th century.

Since the Evangelists couldn’t be confused with Messrs Richardson and Fielding, one has to believe God himself was moving their quills. By themselves, they wouldn’t have been able to make it up, as was indirectly stipulated by Tertullian (Credo quia absurdum).

All in all, it’s undeniable that some Biblical pronouncements are literal and some are figurative. Much of theology is about understanding which is which and converting such understanding into doctrine.

This leaves room for arbitrary interpretations: various denominations choose to treat as figurative the same passages other denominations understand literally, and vice versa. And cultured atheists treat the Bible as merely well-written science fiction and read it for its prose only (especially the KJV).

Relevant to my aborted dinnertime conversation are two passages in the New Testament, both becoming even more poignant at this time of the year:

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26: 26)


“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6: 53-54)

Now, according to Catholic doctrine, which Protestants, such as my Presbyterian friend, consider nonsensical, the Eucharistic bread and wine turn in substance into the body and blood of Christ. The highlighted words are key.

They don’t eliminate the mystery of the Eucharist or, for that matter, any other Christian dogma. But they put the mystery on a philosophical footing.

The philosophy comes from Aristotle’s teaching on substances and accidents, the former being the metaphysical essence of things and the latter their outer properties and attributes. To illustrate, in a crude way guaranteed to make my philosophically educated friends gasp, just look at a tree.

It may be pollarded or not, in bloom or not, in leaf or not, robust or dying, but it will remain the same tree in substance. All the permutations above, on the other hand, are what Aristotle called accidents. This is confirmed by committed urbanists who sneer at any request to identify a particular tree (“It’s a tree, innit?”).

The same basic teaching reappears in Kant’s notions of noumena and phenomena, and in any number of other philosophies dealing with the nature of reality. In Catholic doctrine, the substance of the bread and wine taken at communion changes into the body and blood of Christ, while the outward appearance of the treats remains the same.

In some Protestant denominations, especially Calvinist ones like Presbyterianism, the bread and wine are merely symbols, metaphors or ‘pneumatic’ reminders of Christ’s presence. As Calvin put it, “the Spirit truly unites things separated in space”, but Christ’s body and blood aren’t physically present at communion.

Such are the crude outlines of the profound and nuanced issues involved. These can’t be blithely dismissed out of hand, in my friend’s manner, or stupidly described as a form of cannibalism, as atheists often do. But no one can deny their existence.

Some of history’s greatest minds pondered and debated the doctrine of the Real Presence for centuries, and they’ll doubtless continue to do so in perpetuity. It’s up to individual Christians to decide whether to dip into such waters just below the surface, more deeply, or not at all.

But only some familiarity, no matter how cursory, issues the license to pronounce on such matters. Alas, this basic requirement is nowadays routinely ignored, and not just in this area.

“I’m entitled to my opinion” has become a buzz phrase of modernity. Whenever I hear it uttered in defence of obvious ignorance, I always reply: “Yes, but you aren’t entitled to an audience.” Alas, the idea that strong opinions ending up in the public domain must start from at least some knowledge has fallen by the wayside.

The counterintuitive assumption that all men are equal leads inexorably to an even sillier one, that all opinions are equal. This is guaranteed to reduce thinking to sloganeering, which is especially noticeable in politics.

In religion, most believers would be better off if they simply accepted Church dogmas just because the Church says so. The Apostolic and Nicaean Creeds are as far as most believers have to go. Those who choose to go beyond that point and delve into the tremendous corpus of Christian theology and philosophy, will be richly rewarded, but such inquisitiveness is by no means necessary.

What’s not just unnecessary but offensive is self-confident promulgation of ignorance. Especially when it proceeds from the ideology of equality so dear to every modern heart.  

An admission of intolerance

Heresy personified

During this Holy Week, one’s mind has to turn to matters divine even as one’s body consumes hot cross buns in toxic numbers.

Hence I thought of a recent conversation with a good friend, who is an Orthodox Christian (the Constantinople rather than Moscow patriarchate, as he always seeks to make clear). I said something contemptuous about the happy-clappy lot, and my friend rebuked me. “I welcome anyone who celebrates Christ,” he said.

I admired the sentiment, admitted he was a better Christian than me and left it at that. But then what the French call l’esprit d’escalier (literately, ‘staircase thought’, one that occurs to you after the conversation) led me to think that, had the Church always displayed such open-armed hospitality, it would have disappeared a long time ago.

Hence my tendency to regard even mainstream Protestantism, never mind its quasi-pagan sects, as out and out heresies. That makes it hard for me to see, say, a Baptist or a Pentecostal as a brother in Christ.

Since the time of St Paul one, perhaps the main, function of the Church has been to find a compromise between the truth as revealed from heaven and life as lived on earth. The static perfection only achievable in the kingdom of God had to be balanced against the dynamic human nature made imperfect by the Fall. The great synthesis based on the dual nature of Christ had to be made to work in everyday life.

This wasn’t an Eastern synthesis of things similar in nature. It was a balance coaxed out of a clash between opposites: one of them divine, the other human, both perfect and both extreme. The balance was so precarious that it had to be vigilantly observed: one step too far in either direction, towards either the sacred or the profane, and a precipice beckoned. One or the other end of the seesaw would shoot up, tossing either God or man into the abyss.

The Church had to find a compromise between perfection, as reachable only in the kingdom of God, and the imperfection of human nature, as precipitated by original sin. This the Church achieved during the period roughly demarcated by Paul at one end and Aquinas at the other.

In the process it had to fight off numerous heresies, each aiming to destroy the delicate balance. There the Church had to make sure it was preserving the Revelation in its fullest, without overstressing any one aspect. Such overstressing is in fact the essence of heresy; for all intents and purposes it might serve as its definition.

Most people assume that a heresy puts forth a wrong proposition, or at least one that contradicts the orthodoxy altogether. That’s not quite true. In fact, most heresies aren’t wrong in their main belief.

Where they err is in trying to assign an unduly universal significance to that one idea, passing a part for the whole. This inevitably puts too much weight at one end of the seesaw, destroying the balance.

For example, it’s not wrong to assert that Christ is God, as Docetism did, and neither is it wrong to say he is a man, as Arianism did. It is heretical, however, to deny the balance of the two – the balance without which Christendom wouldn’t have come about.

In fact, the Greek word hairesis implies a choice, inclination towards one thing, which then forms a distinct view of the world. This can act as the starting point for a political party, ideology, religious sect or philosophical school. In other words, the term hairesis contains an idea of something unilateral, of an obstinate concentration on just one of all the facets. 

While orthodoxy runs across the spectrum, heresy is by definition partisan and divisive. The sectarian spirit promoted by a heresy is characterised by egotism and ensuing atomisation. These are unavoidable whenever a partial thesis is proposed as the essence of absolute truth.

Such sleight of hand denies an antithesis to a thesis, making any synthesis impossible. There is nothing to synthesise. The balance no longer works, and doctrine is split into mutually exclusive aspects.

Thus the business of heretical sectarianism is choosing the fragments it finds attractive. On the other hand, the business of catholic orthodoxy consisted from the very beginning in gathering together all the pieces in their wholeness.

However, in trying to achieve this goal, the Church laid itself open to subsequent attacks launched by critics, from the early heretics to Calvin, from Wycliffe to Hus, from Luther to Jansen. With varying justification, such critics could always find the everyday practices of the Church wanting when held up against the absolute ideal put forth in, say, the Sermon on the Mount.

That has been either the nature or at least the tactic of most schisms and all reformations, including the one we spell with a capital ‘R’. And even when they weren’t officially declared to be heretical, they all used the heretic stratagem of placing too much emphasis on one or a few things at the expense of the balance among all.

However, had the Church not found such a balance, Christianity would now be remembered at best as a timid attempt to reform Judaism in the early days of the Roman Empire.

It wouldn’t have become a world religion, and neither would it have had the chance to create history’s greatest civilisation. Therein lies the strength of the Church. But therein also lies its weakness. For, trying to adapt to the relative imperfection of human nature, the Church itself had to become relatively imperfect.

Also, trying to fashion a religion that could thrive among peoples of different history, culture and national character, Christianity had to adapt more and more to the local conditions, especially as the monolithic Roman world was dissolving into separate nations.

Here the inherent Christian universalism was invaluable: at every critical point, when the world is being put asunder, people need a unifying religion where, in St Paul’s words, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek… for ye are all one in Jesus Christ.’          

Had the church been able to prevail over the atomising tendencies of individuals and nations, much grief could have been avoided. Yet it wasn’t always able to do so, and increasingly it wasn’t people who had to adapt to Christianity, but Christianity that had to adapt to them.

Adapting to the character of each nation meant at least slightly varying its own character from one geographical location to the next. As indirect proof of this, the Venerable Bede, England’s first historian, testifies that already by his time (d. 735) the barely post-natal English Church had already acquired traits peculiar to it, long before the great schism occurred.

The underlying faith of, say, an Englishman, a Gaul and a Corinthian was the same. But, when their cultural idiosyncrasies came into play, it was a safe bet that their religions wouldn’t remain exactly the same in perpetuity. Thus an institution created to spread the absolute truth had to, by its very nature, overlay its mission with potentially deadly relativities.

That wasn’t just a rhetorical conundrum. It was a disaster waiting to happen. For, trying to be all things to all men, the Church had to delve deeper into worldly matters than was good for it. That made it vulnerable to worldly criticism first and savage attacks second.

Those were launched by people who either couldn’t grasp the delicate nature of the balance maintained by the Church or hated that balance because it took something away from one or two things they held as paramount. That was heresy in action, and Luther, Zwingli, Calvin et al. were heresy personified.

They didn’t quite succeed in their mission of destroying the Church. But they did manage to split away from it. The house was divided against itself, and it could no longer stand as tall. A button was pushed for a gradual marginalisation of Christianity as a social, intellectual, moral and aesthetic dynamic.

In the subsequent centuries Protestantism proved its inherently factious nature by splitting into hundreds, some say thousands, of heretical sects, each celebrating Christ in, to be kind, rather idiosyncratic ways. Not only each sect but also each adherent is invited to have his own take on doctrine – to a point where the doctrine becomes unrecognisable.

So yes, perhaps I’m indeed mean-spirited and therefore a lousy Christian. But to me Christianity is inseparable from Church doctrine, which Protestantism has been systematically destroying for centuries by thousands of pinpricks.

In the good Christian tradition, I love Protestants as men and women, while detesting their heretical cults. (I could say the same about socialists and any number of other secular deviants, but won’t because that would be off my subject today.)

UK universities defend free speech

According to an education watchdog, universities in England could be told to sever links with foreign countries if such links undermine free speech and academic freedom. That’s good to hear.

In parallel developments, Spain cuts links with countries that practise bullfights, Russia with those that invade other countries, France with those that continue to work in August, and Holland with those that make cheese.

If you find such possibilities risible, we should all roll on the floor with laughter at the news that British universities are concerned with free speech and academic freedom. However, once that hilarity has stopped, we should catch our breath and read the news more attentively.

For the Office for Students (OfS) is only worried about those basic freedoms when they are imperilled by contacts with foreign countries, specifically China. In effect, OfS is only opposed to outsourcing suppression of free speech, not to such suppression per se.

This is a sort of protectionism. OfS doesn’t want foreigners to mess with our academic freedom at a time when our universities are doing a sterling job of it all on their own.

Any biology professor who insists that only women can have periods is likely to lose his job and be blacklisted for life. Any climatologist who questions, never mind debunks, the global warming swindle, ditto. Any sociologist who as much as hints at innate racial differences, ditto. Any professor who refuses to speak in vox DEI, ditto. Any political scientist who finds fault with the welfare state, ditto. Any English professor who refuses to acknowledge bowdlerised versions of great books or accept the woke mauling of grammar, ditto. Any historian who denies that England has always been racist, ditto. Any professor of theology insisting that not all religions are equally worthy, ditto. Even any physicist who doesn’t accept the string theory, ditto.

Our top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, routinely and rudely ‘cancel’ conservative speakers. For example, a friend of mine got cancelled at the last moment, having accepted the invitation to appear a month earlier. So much for free speech.

This isn’t to deny that the links between British universities and foreign countries are nothing short of scandalous. Most of our higher education is financed by overseas students on scholarships, and many of our research programmes are sponsored by foreign governments, with China taking pride of place.

According to OfS, this situation is as intolerable as its prose: “For instance, if it means that there are people who are employed by an institute who are preventing legitimate protests or shutting down lecturers from covering certain kinds of content regarding that country for instance, or that country’s foreign policy.”

Should that be the case, says OfS, all such links must be “terminated”. This presumes on the goodness of human nature more than is warranted. For in effect OfS expects many of our academic institutions to “terminate” themselves.

In fact, whenever their overseas sources of income show signs of drying up, our top universities instantly begin to cut courses, roll up research programmes and lay off staff. Foreign students in particular are the cash cow that has to be milked – or else.

No wonder. Some of such respectable institutions as University College London, Imperial College and the London School of Economics are getting up to 80 per cent of their student fees from overseas. And over the whole Russell Group comprising our top universities (including Oxbridge), that proportion is over 57 per cent.

While fees for domestic students have been frozen at £9, 250 a year since 2017, foreign students pay several times more, and no one seems to take issue with such blatant discrimination. Foreign governments don’t seem to mind either: China alone boasts about 100,000 students at UK universities, and believe me: they don’t patronise our mushrooming network of crypto-polytechnics.

This situation can be neatly summed up by the old proverb: he who pays the piper calls the tune. It’s hard to expect an institution sustained by China’s funding to come up with scathing criticism of, say, China’s massive cyberattacks on the West currently under way.

On the other hand, it’s both hypocritical and counterproductive for institutions committed to abusing academic freedom only to object when such abuses are perpetrated by Johnny Foreigner. Reaffirming commitment to free speech should be the starting point for anyone seeking solutions to the Chinese communist piper calling the British academic tune.

Once that commitment has been chiselled in stone, solutions to the problem that so vexes OfS will offer themselves. Otherwise this is a case of the pot calling the kettre brack.

It’s dishonest to tell a professor not to pull his punches when criticising, say, China’s foreign policy while telling him in the same breath that he isn’t free to insist that Israel’s fight for survival shouldn’t be hamstrung by international pressures. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, that sort of thing.

Once we’ve established that basic principle we can talk specifics. It’s obvious that freezing domestic student fees at an unsustainably low level was inspired by wokery. In this case, it was the egalitarian fallacy that at least 50 per cent of all Britons should have the benefit of higher education.

It’s true that high fees shouldn’t block the path of talented youngsters from poorer families. But I’ve looked up ‘talented’ in the thesaurus and haven’t found ‘all’ among the synonyms. The government should join forces with charitable foundations to offer enough grants and scholarships to ensure that intellectual talent rises to the top even if it starts at the bottom.

Yet anyone who has ever stood in front of a class will tell you that talented students of any social origin hardly ever make up more than 10 per cent. The rest of them should be charged the kind of fees that would enable the universities to sustain themselves.

That would enable all students to seek and eventually find their level. Some would soar all the way to Nobel Prizes, others to simply high levels of academic competence. And some, conceivably most, would weigh the pros and cons to decide they’d be better off studying plumbing than pre-Socratic philosophy.

Foreign students should be welcomed on the understanding that they must be happy to live by British standards of academic freedom – take it or lump it. (I mean the re-established and re-confirmed standards, not the nonexistent ones currently in place.) The same should go for overseas funding of research programmes.

Foreign investors must be made to understand in advance that, even if their money may be welcome, their meddling isn’t. If they feel their sensibilities are too brittle to countenance the direction in which research is going, that’s just too bad. The take-it-or-lump-it principle applies.

Now, if you re-read the last six paragraphs, you’ll know that no university professor can advocate such subversive ideas and remain a university professor. Therein lies the real problem. The strangulating influx of foreign lucre is just a subset.  

Let’s hear it for traditional values

The cutting edge of trdition

I love traditional values, you love traditional values. All God’s children, especially if they are conservatives, simply adore traditional values.

That’s why we must be thankful for Vlad Putin, the only world leader who upholds them. Here in a crime-ridden West, we are so obsessed with transgender homosexual racial minorities being fried by global warming that we’ve allowed tradition to fall by the wayside.

Since traditional values are indisputably good, logic suggests that the further back a tradition goes, the better it is. But that doesn’t mean paying blind obeisance to the past. Before upholding a tradition or reverting to it, it must pass the practical test of efficacy.

Take crime, that blight of all Western societies. Our jurisprudence prides itself on being evidence-based. Well, whoopee-do. Just look at our cities: crime is rife, and criminals routinely go free “for lack of evidence”, the formula that all policemen hate with a passion.

Well, in tradition – especially Russian tradition – confession is the ultimate and self-sufficient evidence required to secure a conviction. So trust Vlad Putin to revive this ancient concept and put it into the context of the 21st century.

Thus, one of the suspects in the Crocus City Hall murders confessed to his heinous crime after the interrogators cut off his ear and made him eat it. Another came clean after electric current shot through the wires connected to his testicles.

The famous – and traditional! – Wagner Group filled in the missing details: “An ordinary interrogation takes place using a military field telephone TA-57… By turning the coil…discharges are released through the wires… up to 80 volts, which in turn are connected to the prisoner by the fingers, ears or genitals… For best effect, the captured militant should be doused with water.”

I especially love the word ‘ordinary’, meaning normal, commonplace. One wonders what the extraordinary techniques might be like, a question to which Russian tradition provides numerous answers I’ll touch on later.

The beauty of this approach to legality is that it combines aspects of investigation, just punishment and deterrence in one package. Justice, after all, must not only be done but also be seen to be done.

That’s why, rather than keeping the more baroque details to themselves, the Russians have proudly posted the photographs and videos of one suspect’s blood-dripping ear being stuffed into his mouth and another culprit’s testicles being energised through a wire running from a battery.

When all is said and done, efficacy is the best test of any legal practice. And I have no doubt whatsoever that the Russians have shown us a way towards a crime-free society. Their publicity stunt secured the requisite confession, meted out initial punishment to the evil-doers and also sent out a message pour encourager les autres.

Let’s equip all our police forces with cleavers, field telephones and coils of wire, which they should be encouraged to use at will. A few months of such techniques being diligently applied, and the streets of London, Paris and New York will again be safe for traditional, law-abiding folk to walk.

I’ve already argued that any tradition worth its salt should show plenty of patina of age. Vlad prides himself on combining deep religiosity with no-nonsense masculinity. All such traditional Russian virtues go back centuries, at least to the first Russian tsar, Ivan IV.

Ivan was nicknamed ‘the Terrible’, although ‘the Traditional’ would be more apposite. That contemporary of our own Elizabeth I was an extremely pious man who knew the Scripture by heart. However, he happily alternated religious rituals with orgies (the tsar boasted of having raped a thousand girls, most of whom he then killed in a fit of post-coital aggression), as well as massacres and tortures of prisoners.

In addition to piety, Ivan had a heightened sense of beauty, however it was expressed. Thus he liked to witness the spectacle of people being skinned alive, quartered or sautéed in oil, to which end giant frying pans were erected in Red Square, next to St Basil’s Cathedral.

As people were being evenly browned on all sides, the tsar would look on, applauding whenever the executioners displayed more than average creativity. According to eyewitnesses, these were the only occasions when the tsar ever laughed.

Peter the Great, another signpost of tradition, also acts as a role model for Vlad – and, I hope, will one day act in that capacity for our own leaders as well.

Peter’s appetite for torture and mass murder was at least equal to that of Ivan IV, but he channelled it into an institutional conduit by creating Preobrazhensky prikaz (Transfiguration Order, literally) his secret police, the proto-KGB.

Its function was explained to the populace in simple, easy to understand terms: “Whoever sins against His Majesty by uttering words expressing contempt for His deeds and intentions, and by indecently discussing such, he is to be deprived of his life and executed by beheading.” But not without being didactically tortured first, one can’t help adding.

In that spirit, the tsar didn’t mind leaving his signature on written orders, such as “torture until he confesses”, “may be tortured to death”, “to be executed on the wheel” and even, a taste of things to come, “not to be punished by execution – to be passed on to doctors for experiments.”

One can see the roots of the tradition Vlad follows so faithfully and lovingly. In his Russia, insulting the president or spreading rumours besmirching the army are imprisonable offences. They are still not capital crimes punishable by death, but anyone familiar with Russian prisons will know that the difference is slight.

And of course, torture and medical experimentation in prisoners are fine Soviet extensions of Petrine jurisprudence, and Vlad proudly lists Stalin among his heroes.

Contrast Russian law enforcement with the travesty that passes for such in the West. Why, you can say what you will about any president or prime minister, and the state will still be too feeble to execute you on the wheel. Where are traditional values in that?

So I have two words for all you moaners who bewail the abuse of traditional values in the West and yearn for a strong leader: Vlad Putin.

He fights for traditional values every day, combining the qualities not only of his Russian predecessors, such as Ivan IV, Peter I and Stalin, but also of Pope Urban II who inspired the First Crusade and of Godfrey of Bouillon who led it. Where would we be without Vlad?

P.S. According to unverified reports, the arrested ISIS suspects have also confessed to the murder of President Kennedy.

Official: Russia is at war

Crocus City Hall

Unofficially, Russia has been at war since 24 February, 2022, when Putin’s hordes invaded much of the Ukraine. That was the full-scale unofficial war. The lower-scale unofficial war has been going since February, 2014, when Putin’s smaller hordes invaded some of the Ukraine, starting with the Crimean peninsula.

We can argue whether the war has been going on for 10 years or a mere two, but no one could argue that it hasn’t been going on at all. Or so you’d think.

The received term for Russia’s belligerent action has been not ‘war’ but a ‘special military operation’. You might think that’s a distinction without a difference, but tell that to the dozens (hundreds? – no one knows for sure) of Russians serving long prison terms for using the w-word out of turn.

That expensive slip of the tongue was an imprisonable offence, with the punishment both severe and certain. Notice that I said ‘was’, not ‘is’. For last Friday, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that Russia was indeed in “a state of war”. The announcement included two important omissions.

First, Peskov didn’t divulge who it was that Russia was at war with. However, juxtaposing that statement with hundreds of others made by Putin and his merry men, one can infer that Russia is at war with NATO. The Ukraine has been treated as merely the West’s proxy or its vanguard.

If so, then NATO ought to thank Peskov for elucidating the situation. For until now NATO not only has refrained from fighting in that war, but has seemed to be blissfully unaware that it was one of the warring parties.

Another omission has no geopolitical implications, but some legal ones. What will happen to those serving prison terms for calling the action exactly what Peskov has now called it? Will they be summarily released with profuse apologies?

I wouldn’t hold my breath. For Russia is now guaranteed to move towards putting even more people into prison, not releasing those already inside.

That announcement provides the starting point for both assessing things that have already happened, such as the terrorist attack on the Krasnogorsk theatre, and predicting things likely to happen soon.

The responsibility for the attack on the Crocus City Hall has been claimed by ISIS-Khorosan, a group with Afghan links mostly based in Tajikistan. So far 11 people have been arrested, including those four terrorists who killed up to 150 people (the exact number may be quite a bit higher because some 200 theatre-goers are still unaccounted for).

There are only two possibilities here: either ISIS is indeed responsible or the attack was a false-flag operation run out of the Kremlin. Much as the Russians would love to claim the terrorists were Zelensky’s best friends, even they realise the claim would sound too unbelievable.

In considering the first possibility, one should ask why ISIS would do such a thing. What’s its grudge against Russia, considering that Putin has been supporting lavishly every Muslim gang under the sun? Actually, a grudge does exist.

Putin has been funding and arming Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, which one would think should put him on the good side of any Muslim bandits. So it does, but that doesn’t include ISIS-K. As far as that group is concerned, Putin is backing the wrong side in Afghanistan, which is Taliban. And ISIS-K and Taliban are at daggers drawn or, more to the point, AKs locked and loaded.

Hence the mass murder at Crocus City may well have been designed to disrupt the friends of ISIS-K’s enemies. Yet the subsequent events are odd.

First, according to Russian reports, the four murderers were arrested when they attempted to cross the border of Russia. But which border? The Kremlin has a vested interest in putting the blame on the Ukraine, which is why its spokesman said the four terrorists were planning to get into that country, where a gap had been prepared for them to cross the frontline unmolested.

However, the vigilant Chechens fighting on the side of the angels, which is Putin, intercepted the evil-doers and arrested them. The released details of the arrest, including some video evidence, suggest a rather baroque nature of the procedure. Apparently, the captors cut off one of the terrorists’ ears and made him eat it, and he wasn’t even peckish.

But then the Belarus KGB announced that the terrorists had been moving in a different direction, way to the north of the one specified by the Kremlin. And it was Belorussian soldiers, not Chechens, who had arrested the Crocus four.

The divergence in the reports may testify to nothing more sinister than a mishandling of information. That possibility has the advantage of Occam-like simplicity, but it’s still not the only one. Another possibility is that the two security services hadn’t coordinated their reporting properly, and the whole thing had nothing to do with either Ukrainians or ISIS.

This leaves a false-flag operation as the only other possibility. First, I hope you don’t think Putin would have any compunction about murdering a couple of hundred Russians to achieve his goal, whatever that might be.

Both he and his KGB alma mater have form in this kind of monstrosity. In September, 1999, the KGB/FSB blew up four apartment blocks in Moscow, Buyansk and Volgodonsk, together with their residents. Over 300 were killed, more than 1,000 injured. The FSB blamed the Chechens for the atrocity, which started the second Chechen war and eased Putin’s transition from the office of prime minister to that of president, evidently for life.

As in that case, such a false-flag operation in Krasnogorsk might have been set up to tighten some screws both within and without Russia. Here we enter an area of irrelevance.

For whether or not the Russians are responsible for the terrorist act, and the cui bono logic does point a finger at them, they are going to use it to introduce some emergency measures. For one thing, they’ve already stated their intention to declare total or at least partial mobilisation.

The attack on Crocus City may provide a nice pretext for pressganging a few hundred thousand fresh targets for Ukrainian guns into acting in that capacity. Then again, there are signs that the Russians are becoming less enthusiastic than before about killing Ukrainians and especially being killed by them.

Hence it’s expected that Putin will soon turn even more despotic than he already is. Reintroducing the death penalty, shutting down the Internet and making it harder for Russians to leave the country are among the measures mooted. Again, the Krasnogorsk mass murder has come in handy as a way of explaining such developments to the population.

On balance, let me tell you: I’ve never felt nostalgic about Russia, and now even less so. Hold on, can anything be less than never? I don’t know. In grammar, probably not. But it’s possible in life, as proved by my feelings about the Russians’ savagery.

The joy of cancer

The title isn’t a facetious attempt to make light of the ordeal that has befallen the royal family and hence us all.

On the contrary, I’m deeply saddened by the latest news of Kate’s diagnosis. We all suspected something like that, feeding on the miserly crumbs of information falling off the Palace table. Now our fears have been confirmed, it’s time for sadness, sympathy – and reflection.

I know that believers among you will join me in praying for the speedy recovery of King Charles and the Princess of Wales, while non-believers will join me in hoping for it. We need them back, continuing to serve us with the selfless abandon for which this family (with minor exceptions) is so justly known.

Nor is the title meant to belittle the blow of a cancer diagnosis and the agony of the subsequent treatment. The first is nothing short of shocking, the second nothing short of torturous, and if anyone tells you anything different, call him a liar and refuse ever to speak to him again.

Until relatively recently, a cancer diagnosis spelled an unappealable death sentence. Now medicine has advanced, and survival rates with many types of cancer have improved. (Less so in Britain than in most other civilised countries, but our private care is up there with the world’s best.) Yet survival and recovery aren’t the same.

Both personal experience and observation of others suggest that, though surgery, radiotherapy and chemo can combine to save one’s life, one never fully recovers. The massive invasion by alien bodies produces many adverse changes in the whole system.

Hair loss after most kinds of chemotherapy is the best-known one, but there are also many others. I shan’t bother you with details, but just take it from me: physically, a recipient of chemo may emerge as strong as before, less strong or perhaps even stronger, although that’s rare. But he’ll never again be the same.

In my case, it was radio that was more traumatic, to the point of almost killing me. I ended up not touching any food for a month and losing 3.5 stone (50 lbs), which made it the most successful diet I’ve ever gone on, although I wouldn’t recommend this method of slimming to my friends.

When I asked Bob Phillips, a wonderful man and one of the world’s best oncologists, whether I was going to starve to death, he told me not to worry. “You have enough subcutaneous reserves to last you a while,” was how he put it. We both had a good laugh.

Then came the chemo, which I tolerated marginally better than I had expected. So much better that I asked Bob whether he should increase the dose. He said he couldn’t: it was already at a maximum.

That experience was spooky. I’d sit in an armchair for seven hours, a needle stuck into my arm, poison dripping in drop by drop. Penelope said it was like watching evil spirits invading my body, with me transforming before her eyes. She didn’t specify what it was that I was transforming into, leaving me to wonder whether I myself was turning into an energumen.

Neither Bob nor the other consultants thought I’d live to tell the tale, but at the end he was both surprised and delighted to say the words oncologists hardly ever utter: complete recovery. Usually they opt for the more cautious ‘remission’, but Bob knew what he was talking about, which I can testify to 20 years on.

So where does the joy come into this? In correcting those who bowdlerise the Juvenal quote and repeat “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body). In fact, Juvenal wrote: “orandum es tut sit mens sana in corpore sano” (you should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body). This surely makes sense, while the popular abridged version doesn’t, as proved by the joy of cancer.

In fact, it’s a ravaged body that usually ends up housing a healthy spirit, if metaphysical clarity is accepted as a factor of spiritual health.

People always say that the best way to die is either instantly, say from a massive heart attack, or in one’s sleep, say from a pulmonary embolism. I disagree. Such an abrupt or unconscious end gives one no chance to come to terms with one’s death, and therefore one’s life.

I’ll spare you the clichés about one’s whole life flashing before one’s eyes, although perhaps that’s what some people experience. But whatever the initial reaction on hearing the diagnosis, cancer kindly gives one plenty of time to reflect, and there is no need for instant flashes.

The time bestowed may be measured in years, months or weeks, but never in seconds. That’s long enough for the spirit to heal, and it can always do with such shock therapy.

That healing does bring joy beyond one’s imaginings. The chaff of the trivial peels off the wheat of the vital, the truth emerges, floating out of the fog and into sharp focus.

Many cancer survivors say their first reaction to the diagnosis was “Why me?” That question is a bit too vulgar to have crossed my mind. And weeks later, in hospital, I didn’t ask it either. Why ask the question if you already know the answer?

By then I had understood many other things as well. I suppose I always knew them vaguely, or rather was aware of their presence somewhere in the background. But as I was wasting away at the Lister Hospital, my mind’s eye acquired prescription glasses, the vision became sharper and surer.

Every once in a while a psychologist would poke her head into my room, asking me how I was and preparing to give me a lesson in mental wellbeing. I’d always send her on her way by replying, “Never better, thank you.”

She took that as either stoicism or macho bravado, doubtless explicable by my subconscious desire to kill my father, copulate with my mother and gouge my own eyes out. But in fact I told her the truth: I had never felt better.

After the lifelong Sisyphean labour of trying to make sense of life and my place in it, suddenly that immense boulder rolled uphill as if all by itself. I still didn’t know what I’d be able to do with that deliverance, or indeed whether I’d have any time to do anything with it, but that new understanding was its own reward.

I had received a precious gift, which I’ve since mistreated and squandered in any number of ways. But not all of it: some of it went on to make my life fuller, deeper – and therefore so much more enjoyable.

No man was an island to John Donne, and “every man is a piece of the continent”. That may be, but we are all individual pieces, and no one can claim that his experience applies universally. But cancer brings some sort of catharsis in all who suffer from it, of that I’m certain.

It teaches us that, even as there is death in life, there is also life in death. And if one cheats death that time, it loses its sting for ever. Some of its sting, at any rate.

So yes, we should all pray and hope that King Charles III and the Princess of Wales swiftly recover from their physical illness. But also that they experience the joy of spiritual healing that’s inherent in fighting that deadly blight. God bless them.

Help yourself to a Macron, chérie

The Macrons are surrounded with all sorts of theories, some rather plausible, some less plausible – and my own.

In the good tradition of modernity, I’m going to put myself first and start with my own explanation of this unlikely yet enduring romance.

Brigitte’s maiden name, Trogneux, is renowned in and around Amiens, where her family owns a chain of patisseries. These are particularly celebrated for their delicious macaroons (macarons in French). Know what I’m driving at?

When Brigitte, a school teacher of 39, first clapped her eyes on her pupil Manny Macron, she couldn’t help being smitten: not only was the 14-year-old sweet enough to eat, but his surname sounded just like the foundation of the Trogneux family fortune.

Within a few months the couple were having an affair, the delay probably caused by the silly obstacle of the law. I suspect – and this is another theory – that Brigitte was waiting for Manny to reach the age of consent, which is 15 in France. Such respect for the law is exactly what one would expect from France’s future Première Dame.

If divergence in a single letter (between homoiousios and homoousios) has been known to start wars, I don’t see why a similar difference couldn’t have started a tryst. But I shan’t hold it against you if you dismiss my nominalist theory as preposterous.

Another theory was yesterday put forth, or rather hinted at, by Roberto Menia, a member of the Italian senate. He was aghast at Manny’s earlier suggestion that, push come to shove, NATO could put troops into the Ukraine.

“’Peace cannot be achieved even by hypothesising military interventions,” Menia said, “even by muscle flexing, by one who usually proves to be rather feminine, and you know who I’m talking about.” 

Yes, we know who. And we also know what he was talking about, as anyone does who has spent any time in France at all.

In some French circles, Manny’s predilections in matters amorous are treated as a fait accompli – and dismissed with the characteristic Gallic shrug. Following that trend, I’ll dismiss them with a characteristic Anglo-Russian shrug, and I even promise to shun words like ‘smoke’ and ‘fire’ when talking about the French president’s domestic bliss.

Yet another preposterous theory adds a piquant touch to this scabrous narrative. Some malevolent gossips (mauvaises langues) have been spreading a vicious – and unfounded! – rumour that Brigitte Macron is actually a trans, born Jean-Michel.

That theory began to circulate immediately after the happy couple emerged out of the political wilderness, and it refuses to die. The best way to ensure such a demise would be simply to ignore the gossip, but Brigitte made a strategic mistake by suing the hack who first made that claim. She won her case last year, to guarantee the permanent presence of words like ‘smoke’ and ‘fire’ (fumée et feu) in any conversation on the matter.

Enter the American conservative commentator Candace Owens who wrote that: “After looking into this, I would stake my entire professional reputation on the fact that Brigitte Macron is in fact a man.” That fact is in fact interesting, as is Miss Owens’s slipshod editing.

She then tugged on the anti-establishment strings of my heart by adding: “Any journalist or publication that is trying to dismiss this plausibility is immediately identifiable as establishment.”

What’s Brigitte, aka Jean-Michel, supposed to do? She can’t keep suing everyone who questions her sex, and in any case Miss Owens is securely separated from French courts by the Atlantic Ocean.

Being somewhat closer to France, I “dismiss the plausibility” out of hand, but not before peeking with one eye at Miss Owens’s arguments.

They are largely based on an early black-and-white photograph of the Trogneux family, featuring among other members of the clan little Brigitte and her elder brother. According to Miss Owens, the little girl was actually adopted, and her elder brother is actually Brigitte, née Jean-Michel.

Apparently, the Faits et documents investigation used Chinese software to update the photo and cite the facial similarity between the two siblings.

As far as Miss Owens is concerned, the comparison is a “dead ringer”, showing the same face. “It’s crazy to me,” she wrote, “that you would not say that these two individuals look alike.”

Much as I’d like to agree out of sheer mischief, I feel compelled to point out that, first, ‘look alike’ isn’t identical to ‘the same person’, and second, it’s not unusual for brother and sister to look alike. For example, Penelope looks very much like her brother, and yet I have it on good authority she is all woman.

Not being an expert in facial recognition software, I can’t offer my own assessment. However, another argument Miss Owens offers isn’t without merit.

According to her, Jean-Michel became Brigitte by ‘transitioning’ in his/her early thirties. Hence the easiest way of debunking the ugly rumours would be for her to crack her family album open and make public the photographs documenting her first three decades.

However, wrote Miss Owens: “The first obvious thing is the first lady is simply unable to produce any photos of herself throughout the first 30 years of her life.”

She then provided a superfluous illustration of her meaning by sharing with the world the copious photographic evidence of her own gradually budding femininity. As a clincher, Miss Owens added that Brigitte’s first husband who is supposed to have died in 1969 kept such a low profile that he probably never existed.

Interestingly, similar rumours circulate about the Obamas, with Michelle said to be rather more masculine than Barak. That gossip, however, is nowhere near as persistent, and neither have I seen any attempts to analyse any photographic evidence one way or the other.

Manny himself refused to follow my advice to ignore the rumour-mongers. In a speech on 8 March, which he perversely calls International Women’s Day rather than the Mothering Sunday it really is, he said:

“The worst thing is the false information and fabricated scenarios. People eventually believe them and disturb you, even in your intimacy.”

Yes, I can just imagine Manny saying to Brigitte in an intimate situation: “Fancy that, maman. They say you are un homme, and moi,  je suis quelque chose that sounds almost like it.”

“Never mind, mon petit,” says Brigitte, “and just keep doing what you are doing…” And she doesn’t mean running France into the ground either. 

Religious faith and secular cults

Liberté, egalité, fraternité

A reader who himself doesn’t see a difference between the two asked me how I could possibly believe there is one.

That question, which my correspondent considers rhetorical, deserves an answer, ideally a book-sized one. But we have the space we have, so let’s make do.

Let’s start with the difference between faith, belief that God exists, and atheism, belief that God doesn’t exist. (We’ll put to one side the fact that ‘God exists’ is a theologically dubious phrase. Actually, God doesn’t exist. It’s because of God that everything else does. But some shorthand is inevitable in this format.)

Neither the believer nor the atheist can provide laboratory-standard, peer-reviewed proof for his assertion. Therefore we are dealing with opposition not between faith and fact, but one between two a priori assumptions, two hypotheses, each raised to a fideistic height.

One of them is based on God’s revelation given by methods both natural (through the possibility of perceiving much of his creation experimentally) and supernatural (through the Scripture and church tradition). The other is based on nothing but man’s own fanciful speculation. As such, it is not even so much faith as superstition.

Even scientists declaring themselves to be atheists, and trying to use science to vindicate their atheism, nonetheless start from the premise of accepting the existence of rational and universal natural laws.

If they wish to be logical, then, while rejecting the existence of a rational and universal law-giver, they are forced to ascribe rational behaviour to nature itself. That is the most primitive pantheism, and only in our crazy world can it pass for serious thought. Strip their frenzied harangues bare of scientific cant, and they descend to the intellectual level of a prehistoric shaman.

It would be foolhardy to deny that, whichever way we go, we are guided in our choice by emotional need, not just a dispassionate weighing of intellectual pros and cons. But Christian belief offers much greater rewards in either area.

The idea of having been created and guided through life by a loving, merciful and self-sacrificial God is more emotionally appealing than the notion of man’s descent from a single-cell organism via an unsavoury mammal that looks like a ghastly caricature of a human being. And intellectually, a thinker who starts from the theocentric premise will be able to explain next to everything that matters, while his anthropocentric counterpart will explain next to nothing.

A Christian has a clear and on its own terms coherent idea of how things, including the world and man in it, got to be. An atheist doesn’t. He may make claims to that effect, but in fact he doesn’t have a clue.

He can come up with one wild guess after another, each refuted by another guess or even itself. For example, ask an atheist what constitutes the human mind and thought, and he’ll either regale you with silence or treat you to an outpouring of gibberish. Or ask him where that original single-cell organism came from, and he’ll spin a yarn tying himself in knots.

Yet even atheists are not entirely anthropocentric. They may believe at a moment of frank self-assessment that man is but a cleverer ape, but unlike their simian brothers they still wish to make the world intelligible – God created this particular ape infinitely inquisitive. In search of the answers they seek they first look into themselves, but find only themselves there.

Such particularism is stifling to a man seeking some sort of universality. So our atheist has to come up with a surrogate theory of everything, or at least almost everything. Once that theory is identified and verbalised, it’s turned first into an ideology and then into a cause – something to assert and, if need be, fight for.

While Christianity imposes intellectual rigour and uncompromising reason, such secular quests are free-for-all. Since they are all products of fanciful speculation, anything goes.

What they all have in common is an agued attempt to debunk God and everything metaphysical associated with him, such as the soul and life everlasting. All of life is brought down to earth and reduced to people’s interactions in a purely material sphere.

The teleological aspect is removed, and life has no purpose. Hence the atheist has to commit the logical solecism of defining the process of life as its own purpose. His aim is only to make this process smoother and more rewarding.

Yet even that reduced task needs solving, such is the innate emotional need of mankind. We must find absolution for our own wickedness somewhere. If God is off-limits, we can only be absolved by some mysterious secular forces, moving us around like pawns on a chessboard and overriding our will at least partly.

Such forces have to be like God but without being God. They must be universal. They must be good, activating a simple syllogism: I can only believe in something good; I believe in n; ergo, n is good. And they must be exclusive, precluding any just competition. If competition does arise, it can only be deemed unjust and thus deserving of annihilation.

Such wobbly thinking will inevitably produce a secular cult disconnected from both reason and reality. The highlighted words are a useful definition of any ideology, wherever on the political spectrum it finds itself.

An exponent of such a cult must himself be disconnected from both reason and reality. This, my psychiatrist friend tells me, is a useful working definition of madness. That’s why I often repeat that any ideology makes people mad. This medical outcome is inherent in the very definition of an ideology.

Thus a V&A curator who thinks Margaret Thatcher is as evil as Hitler is neither thinking nor comparing nor even talking. He is ranting and, as the Russian saying goes, if you see a madman, step aside. Whatever you do, don’t argue with the lunatic. You’ll be appealing to reason and reality, which have nothing to do with his rants.

Exactly the same goes for exponents of blood and soil nationalism, which often overlaps with right-wing populism. Exactly the same goes for any ideology that’s ground-based. Whatever it is, it’s clinically insane.

It’s only things we can’t see that can explain things we can see. In the Western context, only Christianity explains life and man cogently enough to make them intelligible. A philosophy of any kind – moral, social, political etc. – has to proceed from the Christian premise not to lose touch with reason and reality.

Original sin explains man’s behaviour more credibly than any secular theory, from Rousseau onwards. No secular moral teaching can come close to the truth and clarity of Exodus and Matthew. No psychologist (or even economist) will find a better explanation of human failings than the seven deadly sins. And no secular philosopher will be able to define the purpose of life as soundly as any parish priest can.

I’m sure I haven’t answered my reader’s question to his satisfaction. People who ask what the difference is between Christianity and any secular cult, such as socialism or the Masonic triad adorning the facades of public buildings in France, already knows the only answer he’ll accept: no difference at all.

No reasoning can make a dent in such visceral convictions, but one still feels duty-bound to try (Matthew 5: 16).  

Maggie Thatcher, latter-day Hitler

Margaret Thatcher, addressing Parliament

A good friend of mine once had the misfortune of marrying a raging Leftie, who came packaged with her friends.

I was chatting with one of them at a party, with him asking what growing up in Russia was like. When I gave him an outline, with key words like ‘concentration camps’, ‘mass murder’ and ‘totalitarian despotism’, he felt my pain.

“I know how you feel,” he said. “I lived under a tyranny myself.” That surprised me because he sounded perfectly English. “Where? When?” I asked. “Right here,” he replied. “Under Thatcher.” Since I was clearly talking to a madman, I muttered “Quite” and moved to another corner of the room, lest he bit me or something.

That was some 30 years ago, and now madness is the new normality, as confirmed by the curators of the venerable Victoria and Albert Museum. Its exhibition of Punch and Judy puppets, along with three-dimensional caricatures of famous people, came with a helpful label:    

“Over the years, the evil character in this seaside puppet show has shifted from the Devil to unpopular public figures including Adolf Hitler, Margaret Thatcher and Osama bin Laden to offer contemporary villains.”

As I read that, the ghost of my erstwhile interlocutor came wafting in, and I wondered whether he had since become a V&A curator. That was a silly thought because he didn’t have to be the author of that message. We have no shortage of lunatics running the asylum, aka Great Britain.

Penetrating the putrid recesses of their minds is as difficult as it is superfluous. There is no point – their ideology comes from the viscera and bypasses reason on its way out into the open. So it’s useless telling them that a Whiggish conservative like Margaret Thatcher has nothing in common with Hitler and bin Laden.

You could keep arguing until you’re blue in the face that Maggie didn’t start a world war and never committed genocide like Hitler, and neither did she blow up public transport or fly airliners into tall buildings like bin Laden. They know all that.

And if they were sane, they wouldn’t equate Margaret Thatcher with satanic ghouls. But they aren’t sane because they are committed to an ideology, and ideology – any ideology – makes people mad, disengaging their minds from reality.

As a result, they see the world in strictly binary terms: those who share their ideology and those who don’t. And they are incapable of seeing those who belong to the second group as wrong, misguided or especially as simply people who disagree. They see them as evil enemies.

Thus Margaret Thatcher is evil to them simply because she wasn’t a woke Leftie. While she might have differed from Hitler and bin Laden in some inconsequential details, in principle they are all much of a muchness. (Lenin is usually given a free pass as someone occasionally misguided but certainly not evil.)

When the scandal about the V&A’s label broke, some commentators suggested that the Exchequer stop funding that loony bin. Alas, aesthetically pleasing though such a step would be, it would serve no useful purpose.

For one thing, I suspect that the V&A’s view of Margaret Thatcher is the majority opinion in Parliament. It certainly is that within the ranks of our ‘liberal’ intelligentsia busily cancelling every remotely conservative speaker, writer or academic. Hence any attempt to punish the V&A by withdrawing public funds would merely make it charge admission.

This morning I chatted with a friend about this outrage, and he asked the sacramental English question: “What’s the solution?” Perhaps he was expecting to hear a suggestion of a good ideology that could counterbalance the bad one. But I couldn’t oblige: there is no such thing.

Any ideology, left or right, is a secular cult. And the opposite of a cult isn’t a different cult but genuine faith. Only allowing Christianity to regain its past prominence as a moral, intellectual, aesthetic and social force could cure the world of ideological insanity.

That would be driving evil spirits out of the possessed, similar to the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac. People would then relearn the real meaning of words like ‘evil’, ‘good’, ‘tyranny’, ‘liberal’, ‘discrimination’ and ‘villainy’. They might continue to hold up tolerance as a prime virtue, but they’d begin to extend it to views contradicting their own. (Being tolerant of those who agree with you is no hardship.)

Putting it differently, the world – I’m thinking specifically of Britain – would become civilised again. But there’s little hope of that. Barring a miracle, similar to the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, we’ll continue on our accelerating downward slide into barbarism.

Prince William, our heir to the throne, provided an indirect proof of such gloomy predictions. Speaking to a charity for the homeless yesterday, he kept referring to his audience as “you guys”, which would be cloyingly demotic even in the US. In Britain, it’s prole slang.

Then, speaking of his wife, he said: “She needs to be sat here to hear this.” This is prole illiterate slang. Either the prince really is illiterate or, more likely, he wants to come across as a man of the people, ingratiating himself to those who naturally speak that way.

That too is an ideological stance, the milder version of putting Maggie Thatcher next to Hitler. If such are the standards set by our royalty, what do you expect from the commoners running the V&A and similar institutions? Exactly what we are getting: nothing but insanely rabid ideology.

P.S. On the subject of my yesterday’s article, the end came faster than we thought. Fr Michael James Daley, RIP.