“Auf Wiedersehen, pet”

That was the name of an old TV series that, to my shame, I never saw. I don’t even know what it was about, although I’m fairly certain it wasn’t about a man killing his dog.

WANTED: Glenn McCrory

I suspect the word ‘pet’ was merely a term of endearment widely used by Englishmen of a certain age and class when talking to younger women. It’s no more of a putdown than the similarly used ‘love’ is a protestation of undying affection.

The show ended in 2004, and little did its producers know that today the title of the series would be classed as incitement to criminal behaviour. The former boxing champ Glenn McCrory, 57, didn’t know that either, which got him in a spot of trouble.

Glenn attended a £5,000-per-head VIP dinner, served by a bevy of young waitresses. Failing to weigh his words with the exactitude demanded by today’s heightened sensitivity, Glenn addressed two of them as ‘pet’.

The girls called the police (as one does), who instantly arrived at the scene. It makes me proud to be British, knowing that our police have enough free time on their hands to fight even such seemingly insignificant infractions. Obviously, things like murder, burglary, mugging and theft have already been eliminated from Her Majesty’s realm.

The aging pugilist was arrested and charged with threatening and abusive behaviour. The maximum punishment for this is six months in prison, which testifies to the ill-advised liberalism of our legal system.

After all, the two young ladies may be traumatised for life, and how do you measure decades of anguish against any term of imprisonment, especially such a derisory one? Lock him up and throw away the key, I say.

I also wonder what would have happened had Glenn called the waitresses ‘love’, ‘darling’ or the archaic ‘flower’?  Are these better or worse than ‘pet’? Don’t ask me, I’m no legal expert. I am, however, an occasional transgressor, known at times to call younger women ‘sweetie’, and most women are younger these days.

I’ve been told off a few times, but so far not prosecuted. If tried for that crime, I’d probably cite the extenuating circumstance of being foreign-born and therefore deaf to the fine nuances of the English language.

Since Glenn doesn’t have that excuse, he may be looking at some hard time. The rest of us may repeat after Alice: “Curiouser and curiouser”. Or rather crazier and crazier.

Everything about modernity is progressive, including, by the looks of it, its lunacy. Our whole society is being driven bonkers by a madcap idée fixe that words are more injurious than sticks and stones – and it’s up to every individual to decide which words are hurtful.

Such subjectivity has nothing to do with justice. Laws are supposed to be objective, with breaches tightly defined. Murder is murder, theft is theft, robbery is robbery. They are subject to investigation and proof, but not to personal idiosyncrasies.

A defence counsel may argue that his client didn’t commit the murder in question, but not that there is nothing wrong with it because the victim didn’t suffer very much.

The crime for which Glenn McCrory was arrested is different. Subjectively, some woman may be offended by the same word that most of her sisters would find warm and cuddly. Does this mean the man will get off for committing the same crime against some women, but not others? If so, justice isn’t so much abused as prostituted.

It’s not just words either. Transport for London has posters on the tube warning commuters that “intrusive staring” is sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is a crime. Not bad manners, not rudeness, not even a misdemeanour – a crime. That being so, anyone reporting staring would be doing her civic duty, not snitching.

The whole idea is expressed with the coruscating stylistic brilliance we’ve learned to expect from our civil servants: “We want to know about that staring because that is the behaviour that suggests to me that someone is thinking about a sexual behaviour that supports that staring. We will record them as crimes and we will investigate them.” [My emphasis]

Guilty as charged, m’lord. If an attractive woman sits opposite me on the train, I may try to look away, but I’m not sure I’ll succeed every time. The thought “of a sexual behaviour” may sometimes cross my mind, though not as often as in my youth.

At other times, I may look at her simply because she is indeed sitting directly opposite. If the ride is long, constantly looking away may crick my neck, a condition to which I’m prone. And if it’s not one attractive woman, but two side by side, then avoiding them would involve sustained contortions that might tax my flagging athleticism.

Thus, one of the two ladies, or perhaps both, may interpret my looking as staring or even leering. If that’s how they see it, they seem to be duty-bound to call the Transport Police and have me nabbed.

Our government should just be open about its aim. It intends to make the two sexes not complementary but hostile. One way of achieving this noble purpose is to destroy any normal interaction between men and women, which in the old days might even have involved mild flirtation.

Or not, as the case may be. A man may appreciate an attractive woman, or a woman an attractive man, aesthetically, with nary a dirty thing in mind. Looking thus becomes a wordless compliment, to be accepted with a noncommittal smile of gratitude.

But that sort of thing would go against the desideratum of annihilating society, turning people into atomised individuals resentful and suspicious of one another. Hence all links keeping those atoms within the social molecule have to be severed.

Divide et impera, said Julius Caesar twenty-two centuries ago, when he was fighting the Gauls. Our modern state also wants to divide and conquer. And it’s us that our spivs are fighting.

Change sex, go to heaven

Sit up and listen, all you transphobes. For I’ve made a startling discovery that proves you are all heathen reprobates.

The secret is out

It’s especially you, so-called Christians, who are in for a shock of your miserable lives. You keep using Scripture as an offensive weapon against saintly people who transition from one sex to the other (or rather another, for, as every decent person knows, there exist 76 of them, at latest count).

Your problem is that you read Scripture selectively, starting with the kind of Scripture you select to read. That’s indeed your problem, but it’s not all your fault.

It’s the fault of that awful institution, the Church, which arbitrarily picked just four Gospels out of many lower-case gospels in circulation. The intention behind that legerdemain is clear: to dupe the masses into believing in the loving Jesus who led people to salvation by inviting them to believe in him and imitate his own goodness.

That’s why the Church suppressed many other gospels painting a different and therefore true picture, two of which were written by St Thomas the Apostle. The first one dealt with Jesus’s infancy, the second with his mature years.

And let me tell you, Jesus was one naughty brat (I’m choosing a mild adjective not to offend anyone). If another child upset him in any way, little Jesus would use his divine powers to smite him on the spot. Still think he was all lovey-dovey? Think again.

However, it’s the second Gospel of St Thomas that’s relevant to today’s topic, the divine nature of transsexuality. Behold:

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘Look, I shall guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter heaven’s kingdom’.” (Gospel of St Thomas 114)

What are we to make of this passage? First, Simon Peter was a rank misogynist on speed. Implicitly, he felt that all women should be exterminated.

Contextually, this also makes that bedrock of Christianity a champion of homosexuality. After all, men would only have one another if every woman were killed. So let’s just make a mental note that Peter wasn’t totally out of synch with our time and press on.

The same context also suggests that Jesus agreed with Peter’s premises. But, being divine, he didn’t just identify the problem. He also offered a solution.

A woman may save herself from the extinction she richly deserves by transitioning. Even though Jesus was omniscient, he mentioned no specific procedures involved in that metamorphosis. Not a word about surgery, transplants, hormone treatment and so on. But hey, this is Scripture, not a medical manual.

Note that Jesus didn’t even mention the possibility that a man also might wish to transition, in the opposite direction. The thought that some men might be that way inclined didn’t even occur to him.

This casts doubt on his omniscience, but that’s a subject for another day. Perhaps I’ll ask my friend Richard Dawkins for a comment, he’s up on the Church’s sharp practices.

Meanwhile, let’s stop this levity and express a sombre regret that some people still give credence to the ‘lost’ apocryphal gospels. They weren’t lost. They were rejected for the obvious sinister fakes they were.

Many of those gospels have been discovered relatively recently, in my lifetime. But Fathers of the Church repudiated them directly those forgeries appeared, from the second century AD onwards.

They immediately identified the true authors of the apocryphal gospels as Gnostic heretics, not the apostles whose authorship was claimed. Thus, for example, Irenaeus of Lyons: “They adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth.”

Since then, Gnosticism has expanded from the domain of spurious religious knowledge to enter one of equally spurious secular claims. But it appeals to essentially the same types of men: foolish, ignorant, seeking simplistic solutions to complex problems.

The most obvious illustration is helpfully provided by assorted conspiracy theories, all based on claims to secret knowledge off limits to hoi-polloi.

Jews get together with Masons, the Bilderberg Group, the CIA, MI6, and NASA hoaxers who faked the moon landing. They then murder Kennedy and Diana, blow up the World Trade Centre, spread Covid – and in general conspire against whatever our modern Gnostics hold dear.

The appeal of such theories is easy to understand. Life has a tendency to throw up an endless variety of challenges, many of which present serious factual, moral or intellectual problems. That doesn’t make them unsolvable, but it does mean that solving serious problems requires serious study and analysis.

Alas, most people are unable, or at least unwilling, to make such efforts. They look for quick, simple, or rather simplistic, solutions, and well-wishers are always on hand to provide them.

Those well-wishers are in possession of secret knowledge vouchsafed to them by those who can’t be named for security reasons. But being well-wishers, they are ready to share those gems with you – and they won’t even have to kill you afterwards.

“Everything secret will become manifest,” taught real Scripture. It also taught something else: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Beware, in our secular life, of promulgators of false knowledge, out to inject venom into people’s brains. They have no real secrets to share, except those of their true aims.

And speaking of Peter Hitchens…

It didn’t start with Putin

Kremlin propaganda insists on stressing the similarity between the Russians and the Ukrainians – the latter are supposed to be merely a subset of the former. That turns the on-going bandit raid into a legitimate attempt to reunite two parts of Russia torn asunder by her enemies.

That’s a lie. The real issue isn’t that the Ukraine is too similar to Russia to exist as a sovereign country. It’s that the Ukraine is too different.

The problem Putin really has with the Ukraine isn’t that she used to be part of the Russian Empire. It’s that, as the westernmost part of the Empire, she is sullied with corrupting influences that make her existentially incompatible with Russia.

The Russians suffer from a malignant condition: a Gnostic belief in their own exclusivity, posing as holiness, saintliness or whatnot. Some will describe this as delusions of grandeur; others as typical provincial insecurity.

Whenever this condition flares up, the Russians detest everything the West stands for because they think themselves superior. Whenever the disease is in remission, they detest everything the West stands for because they think themselves inferior.

However, hostility to the West is constant. It pervades every pore of what goes into the making of Russia: politics, philosophy, religion, economics – even indigenous music, which was more or less begun by the chauvinistic composers of the ‘Mighty Handful’ as a reaction against Western musical perversions, as exemplified by the likes of Beethoven and Brahms.

You’ll find manifestations of this tendency in most Russian writers and philosophers of the Golden Age, from Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky, from Pushkin to Soloviov.

Sometimes this attitude is masked by fulsome protestations of affection. Thus Dostoyevsky wrote in his Karamazovs about going down on his hands and knees to kiss “the sacred stones of Europe”, and Soloviov dreamt about the reunification of Western and Eastern churches.

Yet Dostoyevsky’s affection for the inanimate objects of the West coexisted with his virulent hatred of anything Western that moved. Soloviov’s version of ecumenism left one in no doubt as to which church should absorb which. And though Tolstoy professed to loathe the state as such, in fact it was the Western state – and its elements in Russia – that he mostly abhorred.

All those men had in their sights, some would say justifiably, a West irredeemably sullied by mercantilism, amorality and understated spirituality. Russia was by contrast considered an exemplar of spiritual purity, a claim that was difficult to sustain even in the nineteenth century, never mind later.

But it didn’t need to be sustained. This was an article of faith, not a product of reason or empirical observation.

There is a mystery to the glorification of the Russian people, so widespread among the intelligentsia. Actually, the mystery starts with the very words ‘Russian people’.

As one wades through the works of Russian writers, one realises that they apply the term only to the poorest and least educated tiers of the population. Such exclusivity is unique: teachers, doctors and even businessmen aren’t denied their nationality in, say, England or France. “He isn’t British; he’s a gynaecologist” is something one is unlikely to overhear on a London bus.

The implication is that, since education in Russia was either nonexistent or Western, the educated classes were tainted to a point where they no longer qualified as the Russian people. In other words, by deifying the peasant the cultured Russians were demonising the West.

Thus the historical class conflict in Russia is largely, though not exclusively, xenophobia in disguise. Characteristically, classical Russian literature shows not a single sympathetic portrayal of a Westerner, at least none that I can recall offhand.

Both Russia and the Ukraine originated in Kievan Rus’, a hodgepodge of ethnic, cultural and religious inputs. Its ruling dynasty descended from the Swedish Viking Rurik, but the local population was mostly Slavic.

In the 10th century, the Rurik prince Vladimir baptised Rus’ in the Eastern rite, having rejected Catholic proselytising. He sensed that the kind of statehood gestating in the Catholic West was ill-suited to Rus’. However, considering the geographical proximity to the West, objectionable cultural influences couldn’t be kept at bay completely.  

By the beginning of the thirteenth century, Kievan Rus’ had broken up into many independent – and generally hostile – principalities. The conflict between East and West was particularly ferocious: eastern princes must have felt that contaminating proximity to the west made western principalities less than Russian.

Witness the fact that, when the Vladimir Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky captured Kiev in 1169, he gave the city to his host for a three-day rape and pillage – a treatment that in Rus’ was reserved only for foreign cities. For Andrei and his troops Kiev was as foreign as any Polish or German town.

The pivotal figure of medieval Rus’ was Prince Alexander Nevsky, canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547, almost 300 years after his death. Alexander’s claim to sainthood stems from two battles (in fact, mere skirmishes) he fought against the militant Catholic orders trying to westernise Rus’.

Characteristically, although Alexander wouldn’t accept even a mild compromise with Catholicism, he was more than willing to submit to the Mongol invaders from the east.

Rather than fighting them, he fraternised with Khan Batu’s son Sartaq, thus becoming the Khan’s foster son. In that capacity, Alexander collected tribute for the Mongols from his fellow Russians, ruthlessly punishing those who wouldn’t pay.

Having their eyes poked out and their tongues cut off were the mildest of the punitive techniques favoured by the great hero, and his Mongol masters approved (thank goodness our own dear Inland Revenue is so much more civilised).

Mongol political influences survived until the 16th century. But culturally they left an indelible mark that has never been erased.

Erasing Western influences, on the other hand, was a natural pastime of Russian princes, later tsars. The most pro-Western principality was that of Novgorod, a Hanseatic city with the parliamentary traditions Russia could have developed. Instead she saw Novgorod as a bugbear – precisely because it was pro-Western.

In January, 1570, Ivan the Terrible captured Novgorod. By way of a warm-up, all Novgorod monks were clubbed to death. Then Ivan summoned the city’s boyars and merchants, accompanied by their wives and children. They were all tortured “unimaginably”, as a contemporary described it, and then murdered in all sorts of creative ways.

Meanwhile, what is now the Ukraine was part of the Catholic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1654, Hetman Khmelnysky submitted his Cossacks “to the Russian hand”. That was unacceptable to Poland, and after a subsequent war the Ukraine was divided between Russia and Poland. After the three partitions of Poland, Galicia (Western Ukraine) became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Quite apart from the strong Catholic influences west of the Dnieper, the Ukraine has always been more Western than Russia. Even her Orthodox bishops were culturally and intellectually closer to their Western colleagues than to the Russian clergy.

In fact, when Peter I set out to westernise the Russian Church, he had to rely on two Ukrainian bishops, Stefan Yavorsky and Theophan Prokopovych, to provide the theological and philosophical impetus of the reform.

Even the peasantry was westernised in the Ukraine, eschewing as it did the communal practices of Russian agriculture. Unlike their Russian counterparts, Ukrainian peasants were enterprising individualists, similar to Western farmers.

That was a formative experience of the Ukrainian nation, and even when in 1783 Catherine II extended serfdom to the Ukraine (it had existed in Russia since the 17th century), the spirit of independence survived.

That’s why Ukrainians resisted Stalin’s collectivisation of agriculture so resolutely. Stalin solved the problem in his inimitable manner, by deliberately starving millions of Ukrainians to death in 1932-1933. That did nothing for the prospects of enduring cordiality between the two peoples.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine has been steadily (if not on a straight line) moving towards the West, following the path well-trodden throughout her history.

That’s the immediate reason for Putin’s aggression. But the conflict didn’t start, and neither will end, with him.

We disagree to disagree

Totalitarian and liberal regimes aren’t exactly meeting one another halfway. The latter are bridging most of the gap.

Decency kicked into touch

One key sign is the accelerating attrition suffered by freedom of conscience (and its derivative, freedom of speech), that key civil liberty without which no political, social or cultural virtue is possible.

Granted, absolutes never exist even in the most absolutist of realms. All societies impose some limits on self-expression.

The difference between decent and vile societies is that in the former such mandates are proscriptive, while in the latter they are prescriptive.

Decent societies only ever tell people what they can’t say or do. Vile ones, on the other hand, tell people what they must say or do. And if such demands go against the people’s conscience, then so much the worse for the people.

France kindly provides an illustration by her treatment of Idrissa Gueye, the footballer plying his trade at Paris Saint-Germain. He refused to celebrate in the prescribed manner the seminal date in the calendar: the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

On that day all French teams, including PSG, were ordered to wear shirts embossed with a rainbow design, along with rainbow shoelaces. Being a pious Muslim, Gueye refused. He comes from Senegal, where 97 per cent of the people believe homosexuality is wrong.

Both the regional council of Ile-de-France and the French Football Federation almost suffered a collective apoplexy. The footballer, they croaked, will be punished, although they didn’t specify the severity of the punitive action.

In a parallel outrage, footballers in England are mandated to genuflect at the start of a match as a gesture of solidarity with drugged-up black criminals who pass counterfeit banknotes and then get killed when attacking policemen.

All our ball-kickers except one are complying dutifully, and the lone holdout refuses to take the knee only because he doesn’t think the gesture goes far enough. What would? Hanging cops in effigy? Or for real perhaps? Our national pastime could do with a bit of ritual sacrifice.

Come to think of it, Islam isn’t the only Abrahamic religion that has a dim view of homosexuality. Both Testaments, Old and New, issue similar injunctions. They refer to homosexuality as an “abomination”, even if they don’t command that guilty parties be thrown off tall buildings.

Not many English footballers I’ve ever watched are Orthodox Jews. Yet many of them, including those who’ve probably never seen the inside of a church, cross themselves in the Catholic manner before kick-off. Now imagine the brouhaha if one of them refused to express solidarity with sexual perversions, citing his Christian faith as the reason.

At least Gueye has a modicum of protection based on a clash of pieties. He is a black African Muslim, which gives him perfect credentials. Our love of the Third World may just cancel out some of our commitment to promoting homosexuality.

But someone like Raheem Sterling, one of those inveterate self-crossers, may be black, but he is a London black, which strips away a vital protective layer. If Sterling did a Gueye, he’d probably be eviscerated.

What happened to our much-vaunted democracy? We are still allowed to vote our conscience in various elections, but not to act on it wherever a newly hatched orthodoxy is involved.

But wearing rainbow clothes or taking the knee are both political statements. After all, it’s not for nothing that woke fanaticism is called political correctness – not, say, moral or social. And yet we are allowed to write “none of the above” on a ballot paper, but not to act on our conscience in other political situations.

While punishing dissent, modernity extols effusively any act of abject conformity. The other day, for example, the 17-year-old Blackpool forward Jake Daniels came out of the closet in which other homosexual footballers have been hiding since Justin Fashanu fessed up in 1990.

The outburst of enthusiasm over young Jake’s admission even exceeded the decibel level of opprobrium over Gueye’s crime. Daniels has been called heroic, brave, courageous and a full thesaurus of other synonyms for fearless.

That makes me wonder what words we reserve for the defenders of Mariupol who fight against Russian fascists to the last man, preferring death to surrender. If a youngster admitting to a sexual preference for other men is a hero, then words no longer mean anything. They outdo our finances in suffering runaway inflation.

A regime can be legitimately described as totalitarian (or heading that way) not because it punishes dissent with bullets and concentration camps, but because it does punish it. Having found myself on the receiving end of hysterical campaigns (complete with death threats) in social media, I know how trying such an experience can be.

Boycotts, suspensions, destroyed careers, offensive howling coming out of thousands of lead-lined throats are all punishments. They are milder than bullets and GULAGs, but that’s only a difference of degree.

I left Russia in 1973, having experienced the delights of unvarnished totalitarianism first-hand. But even in the Moscow of my youth, we could say whatever we wanted when having a drink with friends. True, some of those friends might have ratted us out afterwards, but at least no one would hiss “you can’t say that” at a party.

Yet this is a stock phrase in today’s England, and not just at parties. The bien pensant phrase is bouncing off the walls of media outlets, courts, pubs, schools and universities – everywhere where people communicate with one another.

And if you still dare utter things “you can’t say”, you’ll suffer consequences. They would be milder than those young Soviets might have suffered in the sixties, but they would be more certain in coming.

Disagreement is no longer an option. Contrary to Umberto Eco’s view, liberal democracies discourage the critical faculty as fiercely as totalitarian regimes do. They just haven’t quite graduated to unrestrained violence yet.

Fascism at our doorstep

Some seven years ago, I spoke to a conservative gathering on the dangers of Putin’s fascism. (http://www.alexanderboot.com/russian-fascists-and-british-conservatives/)

Umberto Eco knew the signs

My point was then, as it is now, that the word ‘fascist’ shouldn’t be used as a desemanticised term of abuse. It’s something concrete and identifiable.

The same people who may use the word loosely often confuse cause and effect. They scan a country’s landscape, find no concentration camps and mass graves of freshly murdered thousands, and conclude that the country under investigation isn’t fascist.

On that criterion, Mussolini’s Italy wasn’t fascist, even though the term was coined to describe his political movement. Yet no network of death camps existed there, political prosecutions were few, and there were no mass executions (until the Germans took over, that is).

Fascism is an ideology; it’s a cause producing a whole panoply of effects. If we focus on effects rather than causes, we may find that Abraham Lincoln was more fascist than Il Duce. He imprisoned 13,535 Northerners for political crimes in just over three years. Mussolini, on the other hand, only managed 1,624 political convictions in two decades.

In that talk I mentioned a few essential characteristics of fascism, making the point that Putin’s Russia matches each one. My listeners were largely unconvinced, and from what I’ve heard, some of them still are. But then those diehards would probably praise Putin’s strong leadership even if Russian missiles rained on London.

Since then I’ve come across Umberto Eco’s exegesis of fascism. He identified twice as many telltale signs as I did, 14 in all. So I applied them to Putin’s Russia and what do you know: the fit was again perfect. Judge for yourself:

The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”

The key word there isn’t ‘tradition’ but ‘cult’. Conservatives cherish tradition, but they don’t turn it into a pagan cult. In Russia that cult does exist, and has existed since the 16th century, when the country began to describe itself as The Third Rome.

The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”

Since Eco was a man of the Left, the rejection of post-Enlightenment modernism was to him an ipso facto sign of fascism, not of conservatism, as it is to me.

The Age of Reason was indeed the beginning of modern depravity. But conservative rejection of it proceeds from a rational premise, free of occult undertones. Fascist opposition to modernism is indeed irrational, appealing to dark instincts, rather than minds.  

Putin’s propaganda is a prime example. It doesn’t even attempt to construct sequential arguments. Pavlovian rather than Cartesian, it subsists on slogans, sound bites and shibboleths, not logic or factual analysis.

The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”

Putin’s Russia is a prime example of this. Serious reflection has been expunged from its mass media, and it’s actively discouraged in the population.

Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”

Eco is woefully wrong about discernment being a characteristic of modernism. Quite the opposite: modernism actively promotes, encourages and rewards uniformity.

But treating “disagreement as treason” is indeed a sign of fascism, and Putin’s Russia puts a big fat tick into that box. It recently passed a law equating any criticism of the ‘special military operation’ with treason, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”

Russia is easily the most racist country I’ve ever known. The affectionate term ‘blackarse’ is applied — to their faces — not just to black people, but to everyone born to the south of old Muscovy.

As to the blacks proper, they are routinely attacked in the streets. People swear and sometimes spit at a Russian girl walking with an African. Russian supremacism is rapidly becoming the Kremlin’s principal ideology, with Ukrainians held up as sub-human, or at least sub-Russian.

Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”

Russia doesn’t have much of a middle class but, other than that, Eco’s description fits it like a glove. Russians are taught from their early days that, whatever deprivation they may be suffering is the fault of some externalised evil: Nato, America, the EU, capitalism, globalism and so forth.

The obsession with a plot. “Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.”

This could have been written about Putin’s Russia. It presents the world as a constantly expanding conspiracy against saintly Russia.

The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

Another perfect fit. On the one hand, the West is depicted as a decadent, rotting organism unable to defend itself. On the other hand, enfeebled though it is, the West presents a deadly threat to Russia.

Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”

In today’s Russia, anyone displaying a ‘down with war’ sign can be arrested and possibly charged with treason.

Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”

Again, this is a left-winger talking. ‘Elitism’ is modern slang for any attachment to hierarchies of birth, status, expertise, intellect. Respect for these is conservatism, not fascism. But contempt for the weak (it’s more like yawning indifference in Russia) is indeed fascism. Since Western conservatism is rooted in Christianity, such contempt is impossible.

Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”

Burying the enemy under an avalanche of Russian corpses is a time-honoured strategy of Russian warfare. This is faithfully pursued in the ongoing conflict.

As to the cult of heroism, this Russian and then Soviet tradition is lovingly maintained today. Every Russian pupil, even if unable to name the four Evangelists, will instantly name dozens of heroes from the Second World War. I was such a pupil myself, and today’s lot are no different.

Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”

Conservatives aren’t crazy about “nonstandard sexual habits” either, but they don’t go around beating up homosexuals, a standard and tacitly encouraged practice in Putin’s Russia. Hate the sin, love the sinner, is the guiding conservative principle. As to machismo and weaponry, just look at a selection of Putin’s photographs over the years.

Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”

In Russia, this is a feature of the present, not the future. Putin’s stormtroopers prance about wearing T-shirts decorated with truncated swastikas. This is passed as vox populi, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more it’s touted, the wider it spreads.

Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

This is definitely a characteristic of Putin’s Russia, although, lamentably, not its exclusive property. Modernity in general creates its own half-witted cant, but, since fascism is an extreme wing of modernity, it pushes that tendency to a nauseating extreme.

As you can see, Eco and I proceed from different starting points, but still reach similar conclusions. And all our conclusions apply to Putin’s Russia in spades. His country is the flag-bearer of European fascism. Or quasi-European, to be exact.

“The more I see of men, the more I like dogs”

The wording of this aphorism changes slightly every time it’s used. Its attribution is uncertain.

Anubis, Egyptian dog of the underworld

The French put forth Madame de Sévigné and a few others. The English, Thomas Carlyle. The Americans, Mark Twain. And even the Russian actor Vasily Kachalov (d. 1948) has a claim to the authorship.

Whoever said it first, and whatever the exact wording, the meaning is crystal clear. Dogs are generally superior to humans.

A recent poll shows that this view is widely shared in Britain. Two out of three respondents say their dog is their best friend, and a quarter prefer their pet to their other half. Asked why they felt that way, 60 per cent said that, unlike their spouses or lovers, dogs don’t judge. They also like to cuddle, which respondents’ inamoratos don’t.

No poll in recent memory has saddened me more. None has even come close. For I can’t imagine a clearer proof of a civilisation sinking into rampant, infantile paganism.

To begin with, a halfway intelligent person would simply refuse to answer such a question. He’d say it’s based on a false premise, that of humans and canines being in any way comparable. That’s like asking someone whether he prefers BMW or Beaujolais.

This reminds me of an enterprising American adman, who back in 1975 came up with the concept of a ‘pet rock’. He packed a small rock in a box and enclosed a clever brochure, to the effect that the rock makes a perfect pet. You don’t have to take it walkies, feed it, bathe it or paper-train it. All you have to do is love it.

The clever marketing ploy worked: he sold four million boxes at a dollar each and became a millionaire. My point is that a pet dog is infinitely closer to a pet rock than to a human being. It’s basically a rock that can bark, run around the garden, urinate and defecate, chase cats and drink out of puddles.

Yes, it can cuddle, but it can also bite strangers or kill their fowl or cats (spoken from personal experience in both cases), which may put the owner into an awkward and a financially embarrassing position.

In short, dogs are beasts, and their similarity to rocks or trees is much more pronounced than any resemblance to human beings.

The lives of minerals, plants and animals are predetermined by their chemical or biological makeup. Thus dogs are slaves to their genes. They have no option of changing their behaviour in any way because they have no free will.

Dogs may be trained to guard a house, guide a blind person across the street, fight other dogs, hunt or even, if one is so inclined, have sex with people. But that only means that their trainers impose their will on the animals – they still have none of their own.

Some of my friends have hunting dogs, mostly Golden Retrievers, trained to, well, retrieve. When not picking up dead game out of the grass, these dogs are well-behaved and unobtrusive.

Their owners treat them kindly but without any cloying sentimentality I detest so much. The dogs are functionally related to their owners’ shotguns, not their wives.

One could cite any number of scriptural references supporting the towering superiority of man over beast. Concepts like soul, the image and likeness of God, moral sense (and absence thereof) will be mentioned, but they would cut no ice with those respondents.

They self-evidently don’t believe in God. They do believe in Darwin though, and a man to them is only an animal. He may be cleverer than other animals, but that’s a difference of degree, not principle.

Moreover, these poor people show what happens to a civilisation cut off from its religious underpinnings and cast adrift. Such a civilisation replaces mature reflection, love and intelligence with childish anthropomorphism.

What miserable lives those people must lead if they depend on dogs for tactile tenderness. They don’t get it because they are incapable of giving it.

Mature love is like a piggybank: you can take out only what you put in. The stunted emotional growth of those respondents prevents them from developing and expressing real feelings, real commitment – real love.

Their intellectual development is equally stunted. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t be so panic-stricken at the thought of being judged.

The judgement of others is a test for our thoughts, behaviour and personality. As with any tests, this one is only frightening to those who are certain not to pass. Real people may fear God’s judgement, but not man’s.

A lifelong effort in refining one’s mind, improving one’s behaviour and developing compassion would turn a man into a confident test-taker. He’d know he could pass muster and, more important, wouldn’t care if he didn’t.

This is another thing about those respondents: they must be chronically insecure. That makes them unable to develop normal relationships with friends or the opposite sex. All such things have been replaced with surrogates.

If I may be allowed the bad taste of quoting from myself, this is what I wrote in one of my books:

“We have replaced religion with (at best) religionism, freedom with liberty, wisdom with cleverness, sentiment with sentimentality, justice with legalism, art with pickled animals, music with amplified noise, statecraft with politicking, love with sex, communication with sound bites, self-confidence with effrontery, equality before God with levelling, respect for others with political correctness, self-respect with self-esteem – in short, everything real with virtual caricatures.”

Because human canophilia is infantile, it was widespread at a time when the human race was in its infancy. Many early civilisations not only anthropomorphised dogs but even deified them. When I myself was a child, I too loved dogs to distraction.

I once spent several summers in the company of five Dachshunds and an Alsatian. The latter used to be known as the German Shepherd, but, in an early display of political correctness, that name was changed in 1914. Because Americans entered the war later, they kept the original designation.

There were no children of my age around, and I spent many hours either reading or playing with those cuddly creatures. Most of my time I tried to keep the Dachshunds from digging up the roses. Again, that was biological determinism at work: the dogs were bred to dig into fox holes, and they were genetically compelled to dig even when there were no foxes in the vicinity.

Then they began to die one after another, and my response to that was so tragically shattering that even at that early age I decided never to own a dog. Life provides enough tragedies as it is, I thought, in my first act of emotional self-defence.

Yet I continued to like dogs, with that affection slowly attenuating as I grew older. What eventually turned diminishing affection into mild disgust was the soupy, maudlin affection so many people have for their pets.

There’s nothing wrong with liking one’s dog. There’s plenty wrong with treating the dog as if it were a member of the family, which is to say human. That only shows that, though civilisation has grown up, some people haven’t.

P.S. On a lighter note, I notice that in most idioms featuring the word ‘dog’, it can be profitably replaced with ‘wife’. ‘Let a sleeping wife lie’, ‘work like a wife’, ‘wife’s dinner’, ‘sick as a wife’, ‘can’t teach an old wife new tricks’ – they all work, don’t they? (I admit that ‘wife’s bollocks’ doesn’t, not yet at any rate.)

Russia’s worst enemy isn’t Nato

First a general observation, borne out by the entire history of Russia.

“Do cry for me, Russia”

When waging war, the country’s rulers always see the Russian people as their secondary – and sometimes primary – enemy. That’s why every Russian war, whatever its official designation, is also a civil war.

Hence, even though the harrowing stories told by Russian POWs have much shock value, they have no novelty appeal. Apparently, Russian officers routinely shoot their wounded soldiers rather than retrieving them from the battlefield.

For example, one lieutenant-colonel solicitously asked a wounded private if he could walk. When the man replied he couldn’t, the officer shot him without giving the matter a second thought.

The colonel might have been a sadist aroused by killing. More likely though was that he simply didn’t want to waste time just to save a useless human life. After all, a seriously wounded soldier was unlikely to return to the ranks before the war ended. So he had no value. Unlike industrial waste, he couldn’t even be recycled.

You may think that captured soldiers are saying what their captors want to hear. Perhaps. Yet the salient thing about these revelations isn’t that they are unquestionably factual. It’s that they are eminently believable.

For Russian people aren’t sovereign human beings to their rulers. They are bricks, a material the rulers can use to build whatever structure they desire. When a brick is broken, it becomes useless. The builder tosses it aside and picks up another brick.

Just look at the two wars meriting the soubriquet of ‘Patriotic’ in Russian historiography. The first one was fought against Napoleon in 1812. Except that it wasn’t just fought against Napoleon.

Before retreating from Moscow, the Russians burned the city to cinders on orders from Field-Marshal Kutuzov and Governor General Rastopchin. Yet no attempt was made to evacuate the 20,000 to 30,000 wounded soldiers in Moscow’s hospitals who all perished in the flames.

At the same time, peasant uprisings broke out in practically every province of the country. The people were killing their masters, not the French. They were burning down manor houses, not Napoleon’s supplies.

Though Kutuzov’s army was depleted, he had to dispatch large units to fight peasants armed with pitchforks. Celebrated heroes of 1812, Paskevych, Deibitsch and Wittgenstein, had to lead thousands of much-needed soldiers to kill their fellow Russians.

Yet the Russia of Alexander I was irredeemably liberal compared to the Russia of Stalin. In the ‘Great Patriotic War’, Stalin had to defeat not only the Germans but also, and not necessarily in that order, his own men.

The Red Army was surrendering en masse in 1941, with the Germans taking four million POWs in just five months (my father among them). Many of those soldiers didn’t put up any resistance – they’d drop their guns, tear off their insignia, run away into the forest and keep running until picked up by German patrols.

Whole columns of Soviet POWs were marched into captivity by a handful of Wehrmacht soldiers, who were frankly perplexed by that kind of warfare. Even the French had put up a stiffer resistance.

That wasn’t a situation Stalin could countenance. He declared that every Soviet POW was in fact a traitor, to be treated as such.

Thus, instead of fighting the Luftwaffe, the Red Air Force began to strafe columns and camps of Soviet POWs. At the same time, the NKVD was busily – and sadistically – murdering inmates kept in the prisons of the cities the Soviets were abandoning.

Many prisoners, including those not yet convicted of anything, weren’t just shot. They were nailed to the wall, eviscerated, flailed, had various parts of their anatomy cut off. Even the Nazis were appalled when entering cities like Lvov, to find them reeking of the stench of decomposing corpses.

Stalin also explained to the population that the soldiers’ families were hostages to their men’s valour. The family of a soldier taken prisoner was deprived of ration cards, which usually meant a death sentence. The impetuous Zhukov actually ordered that such families be executed, but Stalin countermanded the directive. That was too much even for him.

Zhukov was also too much for Eisenhower. In his memoirs, the Allied commander describes his shock when his Soviet counterpart casually mentioned that, when his armour was bogged down in a minefield, he’d simply march some infantry across to clear the way.

The gallantry of Soviet soldiers was also enhanced by the so-called ‘blocking detachments’, at least a company for each regiment. They were positioned behind regular units and used machinegun bursts to block any retreat.

Plus, Soviet commanders and commissars were encouraged to execute any soldier whose courage they deemed below par. Soviet war novels are full of such stories: a heroic commissar or a SMERSH officer shooting a broken, shell-shocked soldier.

How many were killed by their own officers and the blocking units? No one counted because no one cared. Most guesses run into hundreds of thousands.

But those executed by court martial verdicts were indeed counted. There were 157,593 of them during the whole war. Ten full divisions. And a half.

To be sure, no army in the world has ever treated traitors and deserters kindly. Some are always executed, and the other warring nations were no exception.

Still, Descartes taught (wrongly, by the way) that all knowledge is comparative. So let’s compare.

The Nazis executed 7,810 of their own soldiers, to be outscored by the Soviets 20 to 1. And the scores of Britain and the US, 346 and 147 respectively, don’t even register.

Any army is a microcosm of society. A country where human beings have no value is a natural breeding ground for cruelty and sadism. When those corrupted in that manner find themselves bearing arms, they get what they see as a legitimate excuse to indulge such tendencies.

The army raping the Ukraine acts in the fine tradition of Russian history. Even the universal, millennia-old custom of carrying the bodies of fallen comrades back for honourable burial is wantonly ignored.

The fields of the Ukraine are strewn with the rotting, putrid corpses of Russian youngsters left behind like so much refuse. So when Russian POWs say that officers slaughter their own wounded, I believe them. Why wouldn’t I?

If they behave that way towards their own, their casual sadism towards Ukrainians isn’t surprising. Thus, 650 civilians were shot in Bucha alone, and thousands more elsewhere. Many had been brutally tortured before they died; women have been found raped and mutilated (I’ll spare you the details).

We all have good and bad qualities. We are all capable of kindness and brutality; love and hate; charity and crime. The difference among nations isn’t that some are genetically angelic and others are diabolical.

It’s just that some societies encourage our good qualities to come out and the bad ones to remain dormant. Some others have it the wrong way around, and Putin’s Russia is one such.

She has committed heinous crimes against the Chechens, Georgians, Syrians and Ukrainians. But perhaps her worst crime was committed against the Russian people, turned by totalitarian brainwashing into a stampeding herd of rampaging beasts, bleating along with Orwell’s animals “Four legs good, two legs bad”.

Heroic holdouts exist. They go into exile; some accept the martyrdom of prison, or worse. But Nazi Germany also had her Bonhoffers, Reck-Malleczewens and Stauffenbergs. Yet that didn’t change the satanic nature of that regime.

A Col. Stauffenbergsky may yet place a bomb next to Putin’s chair. But that won’t undo the colossal moral and mental damage done to the nation, not quickly at any rate.

The Germans took decades to expunge Nazism from their bloodstream, but they were helped by the Allied occupiers. Because Russia won’t be occupied by Nato, she’ll take much longer to heal the disease of Bolshevism, Stalinism and Putinism. A century for sure, several centuries possibly. If at all.

How can Remainers remain Remainers?

Like any ideology, affection for the EU resides in the heart which, as Pascal correctly observed, has its reasons that reason knows not of (Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point).

Manny Micron, third from right

And now I’m in a quoting mood, the Russian proverb says you can’t give orders to the heart. It feels what it feels, and that’s that.

However, if we move the think-tank from the cardium to the cranium, surely the current events in the Ukraine should destroy any federalist illusions, nay delusions. For no modern union this side of the Soviet one has ever been so disunited.

Just look at Hungary and Poland, which both ought to feel about Russia what a lamppost feels about dogs, and for the same reasons.

The Russians partitioned Poland four times, if you count the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Then, in 1940, they hastily shot 25,000 Polish officers, administrators, teachers and priests. And towards the end of the war, they languidly sat back for two months, watching the Nazis raze Warsaw after the uprising of Armia Krajowa.

After the war the Soviets imposed a communist government on Poland, which ruled until 1991, in the style we all know and love. Nothing surprising about that – but what’s truly astonishing is the massive support Poland is offering the Ukraine.

In fact, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the leader of Ukrainian Cossacks, placed the eastern part of the Ukraine under Russian control in 1654 specifically because he and his jolly men hated the Poles, reciprocally. (They also hated Jews and murdered almost 300,000 of them in various pogroms. That record stood unchallenged until Hitler.)

The western part of the Ukraine remained within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and acted largely in the manner of today’s radicalised Muslims in Europe. That part of the country eventually passed on to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then, after Versailles, back to Poland.

The Ukrainian nationalist movement was at that time active mostly in the west of the country, and its bogeyman was Poland, not so much Russia. The activity was mostly of the terrorist kind, with many top Polish officials assassinated and many Ukrainian militants executed for their trouble.

Their leader Stepan Bandera was sentenced to death for the murder of Poland’s interior minister. He was liberated by the advancing Nazis, who, after a short hiatus, put him into Sachsenhausen, where he stayed for the duration of the war. Bandera survived that, but not the cyanide pistol fired in 1959 by a KGB hitman in Munich.

Given this history of mutual enmity, it’s amazing how staunchly the Poles are helping the beleaguered Ukraine, at a considerable risk to their own security. Or perhaps it’s not so amazing after all.

It’s that FDR garden hose again. The Poles are aware that the fire engulfing the Ukraine will spread to their own house if allowed to rage on. So they are keen to stop its spread by supplying metaphorical firefighting equipment to the Ukraine and lending their territory to Nato as its beachhead.

The Poles may dislike the Ukrainians, but they hate – and, more to the point, fear – the Russians more. And they don’t have to look too far back to justify such sentiments.

Closer to our own time, the Russians lied about the massacre of Poles at Katyn and elsewhere until 1990, when Gorbachev was trying to seduce the West with his much-vaunted glasnost. In that spirit, he confessed.

Recently, however, Putin retracted that confession, reviving Stalin’s canard of German responsibility for the massacre. That really got the Poles’ gander up, and their feelings about the Russians didn’t become any warmer on 10 April, 2010.

On that day a Polish Tu-154 aircraft crashed near Smolensk, killing all 96 people on board. Among them were Poland’s top government officials including the country’s president Lech Kaczynski.

A subsequent investigation established that the plane had been blown apart by a bomb, and a Polish panel found that the Russians were responsible. Putin is lying about this the way the Soviets lied about Katyn, but the Poles are no more credulous now than they were then.

The Poles actually rebelled against the Soviets in 1956, the same year the Hungarians did. But the outcomes were different.

In Poland, the Soviets backed off a bit, loosened the reins and allowed the Poles a small measure of sovereignty. Their response to the Hungarian uprising was more in character. Soviet tanks moved in, turning Budapest into a bloodbath.

The Soviet papers of the time explained that mass atrocity as a preemptive strike that barely managed to beat a West German and American invasion to the punch. If you’ve followed Putin’s propaganda, you know that this stock excuse outlived the Soviet Union.

In the post-war years, Hungary has suffered even more Russian brutality than Poland has. And yet Hungary, under the leadership of the hideous Viktor Orbán, has been trying to sabotage every pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia initiative of Nato.

Orbán is a prominent member of the fascisoid International Putin has been trying to cobble together. Under Orbán’s tutelage Hungary is barely managing not to overstep the line beyond which her continued membership in Nato will become untenable.

Yet both Hungary and Poland are members of the EU, with the ‘U’ initial implying some commonality of interests and principles. No such thing exists, nor will it ever exist.

Eastern European members of that ideological contrivance (Hungary and Bulgaria apart) are all on Poland’s side – they too know that their proximity to Russia makes them potential targets for Putin’s fascism. And yet the two EU leaders, France and Germany, are both as pro-Putin as possible.

Actually, I’m planning to start a petition to change Manny’s surname from Macron to Micron. His puny attempts to understand Putin’s concerns and engage him in bien pensant chinwags are as risible as they are futile.

Manny’s German counterpart, Scholz, is another Putinversteher, someone who feels Putin’s pain more acutely than he feels the pain of Ukrainian civilians, killed, maimed, robbed, raped and made homeless by Russia’s righteous wrath.

The populations of both countries predominantly don’t share their leaders’ empathy to Putin. But who cares what they think?

The underlying purpose of the EU is precisely the de facto disfranchisement of national populations.  Manny Micron is desperate to ride the EU horse to some sort of Napoleonic self-aggrandisement, and Scholz’s feet haven’t been under the desk long enough for him to run Manny close. Give him time though.

Rather than being a reflection of pan-European solidarity, the EU is in fact a bureaucratic plot hatched against pluralism and national sovereignty. If anyone had harboured any notions to the contrary, they ought to have been expunged by Russian bombs falling on Ukrainian schools and hospitals – and by yet another EU failure to solve any serious problem.

Yet Remainers remain Remainers. They still wish Britain hadn’t left that impotent yet megalomaniac setup giving the lie to the ‘Union’ in its name.

Say what you will about Boris Johnson’s selfish motives, but at least he dragged the country out of the EU, with the Remainers kicking and screaming every inch of the way.

Considering Britain’s role in training and equipping the Ukrainian army, Ukrainians must thank God that Britain has shaken the EU dust off her feet. I add thanks of my own every day.

 

 

 

Dress to depress

“Apparel oft proclaims a man,” wrote Shakespeare. Yet these days, methinks, it also doth proclaim a cultural catastrophe.

If you wish to take issue with this melancholy observation, just look at former MP Tracy Brabin, who is now mayor of West Yorkshire. In her new job, she is trying to criminalise misogyny and “everyday sexism”, having herself allegedly fallen victim to that outrage.

In 2020, Miss Brabin, a soap opera actress by original trade, showed up for a parliamentary debate wearing a £35 off-the-shoulder dress. She was then traumatised for life by troll attacks along the lines of “a slag”, “hungover”, “a tart”, “about to breastfeed”, “a slapper”, “drunk”, and “just been banged over a wheelie bin”.

That, according to Miss Brabin, “uncovered this split in the universe where the misogynists just fell on my head”. Now, though I realise that any criticism of a woman is a manifestation of misogyny, I doubt her critics hated women. They just hated Miss Brabin’s sartorially expressed contempt for the Mother of All Parliaments.

I’m sure no such opprobrium would have come her way had she worn that dress to a party. Some people might have been put off by a sixtyish woman dressing like a working-class teenager out on the town, and words like ‘mutton’ and ‘lamb’ might have crossed a few minds.

But that’s where such words would have remained. Dressing badly isn’t offensive; only dressing inappropriately is. Horses for courses and all that: a bikini is fine on a beach, but not in a City bank; jeans are wearable in the street, but not at a Buck House reception; a very décolleté blouse is for the evening, not office hours.

Yet these days many women turn themselves into walking mouse traps, with their secondary (and sometimes primary) sex characteristics on blatant display to act in the capacity of cheese. When such a woman catches a man making a frivolous comment or even just looking lower than her eyes, the trap slams shut.

He is a sexist, misogynist and – by confident extension – also a xenophobe, racist, homophobe and transphobe. He ought to have his collar felt; a mere reprimand wouldn’t do.

Two paths are diverging, and women try to perform the unlikely contortionist feat of following both at the same time. First, they wear inappropriately revealing clothes in situations calling for some decorum. Second, they insist that all men nevertheless suppress their God-given tendency to notice the more visible attractions – and men of discernment ignore the clash between dress and occasion.

I like the sight of female flesh as much as the next man, and my most unfortunate CV should immunise me against charges of prudishness. Yet I’m scandalised to see, as one example, female newsreaders on morning shows flashing more breast than they should when reporting on, say, mass murder or, even worse, a Labour conference.

As to Miss Brabin, how was she elected to parliament in the first place? What credentials did she possess for running the country? Her face was known to soap watchers, but is that sufficient to qualify her for deciding which laws should govern the nation?

Nor was she just a backbencher. Jeremy Corbyn appointed Miss Brabin as Shadow Secretary for Culture, no less, which should give you an idea of how culture is defined these days.

I’m not saying that no soap actress should serve in parliament, although thespians in general aren’t known for the prudent sagacity that job requires. But if a soap actress does become an MP, she should dress as an MP, not as a soap actress. That would be a sign of good taste and respect for the institution, which is still, in spite of everything, worthy of respect.

Oh well, that ship has already sailed, and it might even have been blown up like that Russian cruiser in the Ukraine. I’m looking forward to the House of Commons retraining as a house of ill repute. And let’s bring Tracy Brabin back as madam (unless she prefers a more hands-on role).

Hate vaccines, love Putin

How come anti-vaxxers tend to be pro-Putin? A close friend made this astute, if interrogative, observation the other day.

That made me cast an eye over the people I know, either personally or vicariously, only to find that my friend was right yet again, to a large extent. The overlap between the two groups isn’t total: some anti-vaxxers are also anti-Putin and vice versa.

Yet such sentiments reside in the same breast often enough to rule out random coincidence. This brings me to Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky, who is trying to sabotage the Lend-Lease bill designed to help the Ukraine and stop Putin’s aggression.

Whatever Dr Paul’s ostensible reasons, it’s possible he doesn’t like this bill, which enjoys a wide and rare bi-partisan support, precisely because it enjoys a wide bi-partisan support. Some people, both on the right and on the left, feel the urge to regard every received opinion as wrong because it’s received, not because it’s wrong.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Dr Paul, but I knew his father when I lived in Texas. He was a congressman, most of whose views appealed to me at the time, even though even then I considered some of them as rather eccentric.

Paul père belonged to what I call the hermetic strain of American exceptionalism, which is sometimes called isolationism. The other, crusading, strain is best exemplified by the neoconservatives.

Both groups share the messianic view of America first enunciated by John Winthrop in 1630. Quoting Matthew 5:16, Winthrop informed his attentive listeners that it was the new country in the making that would become the city on the hill mentioned by the evangelist. America would shine her light on the world whether or not the world was in need of such illumination.

This self-image has since become widespread in the US, mostly among real or putative conservatives, paleo- or neo-. But that genus eventually bifurcated into two species: hermetic and crusading.

Exponents of the former believe America should enjoy her unmatched virtue within her own borders only. On the other hand, the crusaders are convinced America is duty-bound to export her virtue globally, by force if necessary.

Both groups, especially the former, make some good points and some bad ones. Most of the bad ones come from pushing a sound idea to ridiculous extremes, what rhetoricians call reductio ad absurdum. By way of illustration, drinking a lot of water is good for you. But drinking too much of it can kill you.

Paul père was a hermeticist on speed. His thunderous mantra was “No foreign aid!”

“How about millions of people starving to death?” I once asked him. “No foreign aid!” “How about the need to cultivate strategic allies?” “No foreign aid!” “How about our allies being attacked?” “No foreign aid!” “How about helping Mexico deal with the consequences of a major earthquake?” “No foreign aid!”

One got the distinct impression that, had Ron Paul been around in 1941, when the original Lend-Lease Act was debated in Congress, he would have told Roosevelt to stick his garden hose you know where.

(Trying to push the Act through, FDR came up with the metaphor of a neighbour’s house being on fire. You’d want to lend him your garden hose because, if you didn’t, the fire might spread to your own house).

At the time, I regarded Ron’s extreme isolationism as odd. Now I regard it as sometime vicious and always silly.

His son Rand is marginally saner. In fact, I’d happily sign my name to most of his ideas on the economy, medical care, abortion, immigration, homosexuality and other sexual perversions, crime – you name it. Yet he is still the apple to his father’s tree.

Rand Paul is a doctrinaire libertarian, and I oppose doctrinaire everything, even when I’m in sympathy with the original idea. It’s that ideology that he brought to bear on the Covid pandemic.

Dr Paul is a medical man, which I’m not. Hence, even though his speciality is ophthalmology, not immunology, his arguments against Covid vaccination should carry some weight.

Or rather they would do so, had he made them on the grounds of clinical efficacy. But he didn’t. Most of Dr Paul’s arguments came from the standpoint of doctrinaire libertarianism, which in this case is indefensible on various grounds, moral, legal and rational.

Contrary to his view, imposing mandatory vaccination in extreme circumstances isn’t dictatorship as such. It’s the government assuming dictatorial power in extreme circumstances, when millions of lives are at stake.

That’s what governments do, that’s what they’ve always done, and one could argue that’s what they are instituted to do. Yes, imposing things like mobilisation and blackouts at wartime or masks and vaccination at a time of a deadly pandemic is self-evidently tyrannical.

But this is a necessary and therefore acceptable tyranny – provided that a) the danger is real, b) the government’s measures can be expected to be effective and c) the government will relinquish its emergency powers once the emergency has passed.

I happily listen to arguments against a) and b) and I think extra vigilance is required to ensure c). I’m aware of my own limitations when it comes to discussing technical medical issues. Unlike so many of our hacks, I didn’t instantly become an expert epidemiologist when Covid struck.

Yet even an ignoramus like me could see that the benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risks. Dr Paul kept citing isolated instances of unpleasant side effects but, as a medical man, he ought to know that drugs that have no side effects have no effects either. Regulatory bodies approve a drug when convinced that it’ll do more good than harm – not that it’ll never cause any harm at all.

Dr Paul knows all this better than I do, but his argument was in essence ideological, not evidential. I suspect the same goes for his arguments against the current Lend-Lease bill.

He is blocking the bill giving the president the power to provide up to $40 billion in aid to the Ukraine. Dr Paul cites the need to create a special inspector general to oversee how the money is spent, and in general I share his commitment to fiscal responsibility.

But we aren’t dealing with a general situation. Staring us in the face is a bandit raid launched by a fascist state against an independent European nation. Moreover, the bandit doesn’t even hide the fact that he is at war with the West, not just the Ukraine.

As the driving force behind Nato, America is the lynchpin of European security. The garden hose metaphor works in this case too: if America does nothing to resist Putin’s aggression (we already know that the EU is totally impotent in this respect, as it is in all others), then it may well succeed in setting first Europe and then the world ablaze.

Hence the Lend-Lease bill reflects not only America’s commitment to abstract humanitarian values, but also her self-interest. Only those who refuse to see will fail to see this.

Dr Paul has form in supporting the Kremlin’s line. So much so that the late Sen. John McCain was forced to say that “the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” That was a comment on Dr Paul’s fighting tooth and nail to block new admissions to Nato.

When Sen. McCain pointed out in 2017 that Putin was pouncing on his neighbours. Dr Paul just shrugged: “The countries that were attacked were part of the Soviet Union since the 1920s.”

I won’t dignify the underlying idea with a cogent argument (Danzig used to be part of Germany too, which didn’t justify Auschwitz). Let’s just say that my friend had a point: anti-vaxxers are often, if not always, Putinistas.

I only hope Dr Paul will only succeed in holding this bill up a few days, not in torpedoing it altogether. I wish him every possible failure.