Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ion Mihai Pacepa on the killing of the U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi

Ion Mihai Pacepa talks about the killing of the U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi, which we know, despite what Mrs. Clinton said, was not a spontaneous response to a film about Muslims: 

"My past experience at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community gives me solid ground to state that the Muslim attacks on U.S. embassies and the assassination of our ambassador to Libya, carried out with Soviet-made rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikovs and Molotov cocktails, were just as “spontaneous” as the May Day parades in Moscow – and that they have the same organisers".

He is certainly not very trustworthy but since he was working for the KGB (not the CIA)  this is probably true. 

"In those days anyone who could write at all could have a living."

Novelist Evelyn Waugh

On writing, Waugh - the author of novels such as Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust, Scoop and Brideshead Revisited - says he has always found it easy, "nothing easier". He adds: "In those days, perhaps even now, anyone who could write at all could have a living."

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Enoch Powell told me the time to start worrying ...

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč, Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Enoch Powell told me the time to start worrying was when bishops started looking young - this is the moment when they started to.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Romania the eternal (and fascinating) adolescent

This article appeared in Vivid in 2004. Romanians have come a very long way since 2004 and no long ago stopped seeming like children of a larger growth to well-disposed foreigners.

The psychology of nations is not intellectually out of fashion in Romania in the way that it has been for the last sixty years in the West. Romanians, usually their own severest critics, talk at length and often with cruel accuracy about their national character and question the reasons why so much of Romanian society appears to be dysfunctional. On the other hand, foreigners who have the luck to live and work in Romania are often enchanted and exasperated in turn, or simultaneously, by what seems to them a curiously childlike quality in Romanians (in common with other central and eastern Europeans but to a more pronounced degree), even when they are taking part in activities that are far from innocent.

In a superficial sense adolescence is over much more quickly in Romania than in the Anglo-Saxon world where baby boomers squeeze themselves into jeans at sixty. At twenty or twenty-one the Romanian is a young adult earning his living, even if still at university, and surviving in a tough and dangerous world. Older people are treated with respect in a part of the world where the generation gap was never heard of and each generation follows fairly closely in the path of its parents. Important figures in business and politics seem rarely to talk to people under fifty. Yet at a deeper level Romanians seem, at least to outsiders, in some ways children of a larger growth.

One reason is that life in the West changed out of all recognition under the impact of sudden and unprecedented economic growth and technological advance in the fifty year period in which Romania was frozen in time under communism. Life in the West was once much less pressured, slower, simpler, more human and more innocent. Watch a British film from the 1930s or 40s and you will recognise a lot. Bolshevism’s final achievement, while destroying so much that was priceless, was to act as the only conservative force strong enough to put a brake on progress and preserve a traditional way of life which with astonishing rapidity was destroyed forever in the market economies.

But another reason is that for fifty years initiative and freedom of thought inRomania was crushed. And the Communists were only the last and worst in a long line of bad rulers. The Communist tyranny, bear in mind, extended from the central committee to every factory and office in the country. In psychological terms the result is comparable to the trauma inflicted on a child who is not allowed to detach himself from his abusive parents and to mature. He remains a perpetual adolescent. In Jungian terms we can speak of the phenomenon of the puer aeternus, the eternal boy, of whom the classic literary example is Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.

The psychologist Jeffrey Satinover has described the puer aeternus as “characterized on the one hand by a poor adjustment to quotidian demands, a failure to set stable goals and to make lasting achievements in accord with these goals, yet, on the other hand, it is also characterized by noble idealism, a fertile imagination, spiritual insight and frequently, too, by remarkable talent.” Professor Satinover went on to refer to a “refusal to take the difficult path of adaptation, or work. The grandiose fantasy is preferred to the modest accomplishment.”

If this parallel holds true, Romanians are in a sense perpetual (and fascinating) adolescents traumatised by a disrupted and painful history who dislike and scorn authority, break rules without a qualm of conscience but at the same time are sorely afraid of punishment. Leaders (adults) are idealised and expected to solve all the problems, demonised when they (always) fail to do so. The puer is obsessively interested in how he appears to outsiders because he lacks a solid sense of identity. He is passionate, artistic and warm-hearted but often impractical, passive, shirking responsibility, seeking to shift blame, preferring nostalgia or fantasy to reality on which he has a tenuous grasp.

Such psychoanalytical comparisons are beguiling but should not be pressed too far of course. The puer aeternus is  un vrai naïf and here the parallel with Romanians might seem to break down, for Romanians are nothing if not cynical. On the other hand  children who are the victims of prolonged abuse become highly suspicious and unable to trust others. Romanians often combine naiveté and cynicism in a way that foreigners don’t easily understand. Maybe that’s the secret of the present Government’s high ratings in the opinion polls.

Romania’s  orphans (in fact a misnomer since few of the institutionalised children are orphans) are, entirely due to pressure from opinion abroad, a political story that never goes away. They may well play a large part in postponing Romania’s admission to the European Union. In a front page cartoon in a leading newspaper a weary Romanian complains: ‘Why do they keep talking about orphans? We Romanians are all orphans.’ And so indeed they are. The Romanian-American writer Andrei Codrescu in a speech in 1991 put it this way. ‘Romania is a country of abandoned children, literal children and grown-up children, abandoned by its own leadership, abandoned by the West and psychologically by its own citizens.’

In another sense too Romania is orphaned. Since the demise of Communism other former Soviet colonies have found Western countries to act as economic partners-mentors: Austria supports and invests in Hungary and its other ex-Communist neighbours: the Baltic States and Poland have Scandinavia; even wretched Albania has Italy. The Romanians have no-one, for surely the Greeks and Turks do not fulfil this role. They have only the EU whom Romanians look on as a rich and benevolent distant relative who will adopt them and thereby solve all their problems. Lady Nicholson’s career as a backbencher in the British Parliament was pretty undistinguished but as the European Parliament’s Rapporteur the hectoring style and meddlesomeness which grated in England the 1990s is what Romania now requires. Whether or not she is right in her opposition to foreign adoptions, how statesmanlike and how adult a figure she cuts among the Ministers and officials whom she harries. On balance, how lucky, did they but know it, Romanians are to have her.

Romanians are the enfants terrible of Europe and if they succeed in joining the European Union in 2007 they will do so as the licensed problem children, expected to lag behind the others and embarrass the grown ups. Real children who have been ill-treated and neglected very often grow up to be child abusers. In Romaniagenerations of cynical and self-interested leaders have taught succeeding generations to misuse power. Romanians hope that foreigners, like wise and beneficent grown-ups,  will step in to make things better but what is needed to break the cycle is moral regeneration from within. Discouragingly, the only movement in recent Romanian history that sought to achieve this daunting task was the Iron Guard, the pre-war mystical-fascist movement who proposed a cure for corruption worse than the disease.

This article appeared in Vivid in 2004. Romanians have come along way since 2004 and no longer seem like children of a larger growth to well-disposed foreigners.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

America is no longer a Protestant country

Two enormously significant milestones in 24 hours for the U.S.A. 

First, America is no longer a Protestant country. The end of an old song. 

File:Grant DeVolson Wood - American Gothic.jpg

I am a Catholic, yet am sad, though I was expecting America, the only industrial country which is intensely religious, to become slowly secular. She will thereby be gravely weakened. The future for America looks European and this means wisdom, sophistication and decline. 
I am much more saddened by this than by the economic statistics showing America losing ground to China. Economics is in itself unimportant - economics reflects culture which reflects, in the broadest sense of the idea, religion (and genetics). In no country have religion, self-belief and sense of purpose always been as closely linked as in America, founded though she was by Deists, with church and state strictly separated. 

As Margaret Thatcher said: "Economics is just the method. I want to change people's souls."

It is a mistake, by the way, to confound American Protestants with the religious right.  There is also a smaller but still large and influential religious left and most American churchgoers are not in either camp. And religious conservatism is found in both parties. Black voters who mostly vote Democrat have voted down homosexual marriage in California. But there is an anti-religious strain in the Democrats and the American Left which is becoming more visible.

To Europeans, American religiosity seems odd. First because Americans, despite being proverbially rich and modern, take religion seriously, including those who do not believe. Second because, while few countries are more religious, none is less mystical. And few countries are more violent, more exuberantly keen on making money or more relaxed about divorce or sex generally. American Christianity is very Old Testament. Nevertheless, this very muscular, very individualistic Christianity is what gives America her self-belief. Victor Frankl learnt in Auschwitz that what gives an individual the strength to endure is the belief that his life has a meaning. This is true of societies too, which are made up of individuals.

The second milestone is a new Gallup poll today that finds that, for the first time, most Americans believe that the government should "not favor any set of values" rather than promoting traditional ones. Until 2004, a majority favoured the promotion of traditional values, and since then, the numbers have been in flux. A slim 52 percent majority now say that "the government should be values-neutral".

Most of that 52% do not in fact want government to be values-neutral. They want government to enforce all sorts of values like sexual and racial equality, just not traditional ones. I should add that I am not sure what traditional values are, and perhaps it is not important to know, though marriage between two people of the same sex is certainly not one of them.

Many of the 52% are 'Millenials'. I was interested to read an American demographer the same day saying that: 

"Millennials say the role of government is to be our parent. Parents set rules. " 

An interesting analogy that suggests that young Americans have been infantilised by the state like West Europeans.

The small-town Protestant America which elected Ronald Reagan is losing ground rather fast. 
This, rather than economic statistics, makes me think that America is starting to decline. It might be a nicer, fairer and more interesting place in decline, like Canada, which is in a much worse state. We shall see.

In twenty or thirty years, the USA will also no longer be a white majority country. Many Americans I learned recently, from the BBC, do not speak English. Everything flows and this tide is flowing quickly. 

My philosophy of life

Life is sweet, brother, who would wish to die? A gypsy speaking to George Borrow

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, 
The earth, and every common sight, 
To me did seem 
Apparelled in celestial light, 
The glory and the freshness of a dream. 
It is not now as it hath been of yore;— 
Turn wheresoe'er I may, 
By night or day, 
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
William Wordsworth

He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute. St. Augustine
Life is, I am sure, made of poetry. Jorge Luis Borges
God has determined, unless I interfere with His plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, He calls me by my name, He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and He means to give it me. Cardinal Newman

The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. Ecclesiastes 10:2

The theologians say the soul has no sex, but I wonder, I very much wonder. Coleridge

All we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next. John Updike, about Salinger, in a review of Franny and Zooey
I have met Frenchmen, Germans and Russians and even heard thanks to Montesquieu that there are Persians but I never met Man.
De Maistre 

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. Leonardo da Vinci

Dicebat Bernardus Carnotensis nos esse quasi nanos, gigantium humeris insidentes, ut possimus plura eis et remotiora videre, non utique proprii visus acumine, aut eminentia corporis, sed quia in altum subvenimur et extollimur magnitudine gigantea.

John of Salisbury

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakens. Carl Jung

If the gospels are fictions then the writers are greater than the protagonists. Rousseau

'A nation is not an idea only of local extent, and individual momentary aggregation: but it is an idea of continuity which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space. And this is a choice not of one day, or one set of people, not a tumultary and giddy choirs; it is a deliberate election of the ages and of generations; it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dis­positions, and moral and special habitudes of the people, which disclose themselves only in a long space of time....' - Edmund Burke

Things can be done. The people in life who get them done are the ones who know that, and the ones who don't are the rest. Tony Hawks

I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine. Caskie Stinnett

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute. St. Augustine

It is the great achievement of Christianity in all times and places to have raised the condition of women. W.E. Gladstone

What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?
There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.
P.G. Wodehouse

Lord (Noel) Annan once recalled an occasion when a fellow peer quoted the famous lament of Sir Ranulph Crewe over the medieval nobility: "Where is Bohun, where's Mowbray, where's Mortimer? Nay, which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are entombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality" — whereupon a voice piped up from the Conservative benches saying: "Mowbray is here!" "There, indeed," recalled Annan, "was the premier baron of England, fighting fit and at his place in that hour."

"Reaction. Obstruction, Stagnation" cited by CS Lewis as the motto of the Society for the Prevention of Progress.

Never hire anyone who is going to report directly to you who you do not intuitively just plain like. Charette 

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him where it wants. Lao-Tzu 

Hatred of Catholicism is the only genuinely religious emotion the English ever experience.

Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition. Rumi

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. –Carl Jung 

In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines. Benjamin Disraeli 

States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples

UN Dec. of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Art. 8

Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world. Sir William Harcourt

It is not given to any of us to see more than a fraction of a shadow of the truth. Stanley Baldwin

Can an undying creature debit petty expenses and charge for carriage paid? The soul ties its shoes; the mind washes its hands in a basin. All is incongruous.
Walter Bagehot

An individual European may not even believe that the Christian Faith is true, but what he says and makes and does will all spring out of this history of European culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Nietzsche or a Voltaire. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. T.S. Eliot

[William Trevor’s characters] know that what you are is determined not by a cheery self-assessment of the ‘real you’, still less by what you want for yourself, but by what you have done. Book review

They say I am against reform. I am not against reform. There is a time for everything. And the time for reform is when it can no longer be resisted.
Duke of Cambridge

It is only rarely that one can see in a litle boy the promise of a man, but one can almost always see in a little girl the threat of a woman. Alexandre Dumas fils

Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live. Comte Nicolas de Chamfort

The secret of being a bore is to tell everything. Voltaire

The past is attractive because it is drained of fear. Thomas Carlyle

No man can please others who does not please himself. Frederic Harrison

Mrs. Hardcastle: Ay, your times were fine times indeed; you have been telling us of them for many a long year ... all our entertainment your old stories of Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough. I hate such old-fashioned trumpery.Squire Hardcastle: And I love it. I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine; and I believe, Dorothy (taking her hand), you’ll own I have been pretty fond of an old wife.

Enoch Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’Mrs. Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’Enoch Powell: ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’

Friday, 5 October 2012

Sir Jimmy Savile, the psychopath and paedophile who hid in full sight

Image result for Saville centre, with Frank Bruno the boxer (R) and Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper (L)
Savile centre, with Frank Bruno the boxer (R) and Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper (L) in Broadmoor Hospital. A disturbing picture and Savile looks more disturbing here than Sutcliffe.  Savile's obituary said he 'almost ran' Broadmoor. (Is this a Masonic handshake?)

I think Jimmy Savile's rapes were less about desire than the desire for power - and the psychopath's eternal desire to spoil and break things, which is the way he proves his power. Especially to spoil innocence.

Jimmy Savile was a very big British television star even when I was at primary school and then very famous for raising money for charity. He was a talentless, boring TV presenter and physically repellent too, but he was famous for being famous, a synthetic fame manufactured by the BBC, who therefore are in a sense to blame for his crimes, since BBC employees had heard the stories. The English never took him to their heart, as they have taken such odd or unrighteous people as Barbara Windsor, Elizabeth Hurley or Stephen Fry, but he became rich, was knighted by the Queen and by the Pope and he got Cardinal Hume to put him up for the Athenaeum. (He bought a suit to wear there.) Margaret Thatcher invited him for Christmas dinner year after year (imagine what fun those dinners must have been). He gave advice to the Prince of Wales on his marital problems.  I always disliked him, without thinking about it, and now, it turns out, so did almost everyone else. 

The allegations of his interfering with girls in their early teens for years are heart-rending and pretty clearly true, alas. What is chilling is how institutions like the BBC, hospitals and the police seem to have protected him. There are also rumours floating around that he was a necrophiliac who was given admittance to hospital morgues. He died in November and was buried, after a three day celebration of his life and a funeral in the Catholic cathedral at Leeds, in a golden coffin encased in concrete, "so that the grave couldn't and wouldn't be opened again". He clearly knew full well that people would desecrate his grave. One feels that somewhere he is laughing about all this, although if he is in Hades he is not.

Jimmy Savile's £4,000 gravestone to be dismantled following allegations
This has now been taken down.  Was the inscription a taunt? I think so.

Evil is a fact. The scientific words are psychopathic, or sociopathic, which mean the same thing. 
I do not know for sure whether Jimmy Savile was a psychopath, but it certainly looks that way. He had the desire for attention, promiscuity, glibness, grandiosity, extreme manipulativeness and hunger for power of one. The cigar perpetually in his mouth - he was permitted to smoke even in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, for which he raised funds - was a symbol that ordinary rules did not apply to him. Perhaps it was a phallic symbol too, flaunted at us all. He usually wore a track suit and his Order of Knighthood on a ribbon around his neck. One of his victims is convinced that he wore the track suit so that he could peel it off immediately. Psychopathy is not an illness, please be clear - simply the lack of a conscience. Nor is evil an illness. Evil is a fact of life, gentle reader. Read some history or some police reports. 

The late DJ and television presenter surrounded by girls at a Radio 1 event near his home in Leeds in 2000

Somehow, because he was so very familiar to all of us, part of all our lives, and because most of us had heard the stories (I certainly had, several times over the years), we feel implicated ourselves. He groomed us all. And Savile in the pictures now looks exactly like the child's idea of a terrifying vampire, warlock or demon. So obviously sinister, power-mad and insidious. How could we not have seen it? But we didn't.

England seems to me to be dangerously child-obsessed (children and health have filled the void left long ago by Anglicanism) and, despite cases like this, far too obsessed with child molestation (I do not like the word paedophilia, coined by the culprits to excuse their crimes). Yet we treat children so badly in so many ways: aborting babies; leaving children with strangers while mothers work to pay the bills; bringing up children with a succession of step-fathers; giving children sex education (and probably instruction in not disapproving of homosexual acts) at primary school; giving them the pill and condoms on demand.

On the subject of interfering with children, by the way, during Oscar Wilde's trial a rent-boy in his bed who looked fourteen was mentioned. Wilde is regarded by many as some kind of martyr, but he was no martyr. He would, rightly, be sent down today and incur even more obloquy.

What very odd and often vile people flourish in the media and the arts, especially in the pop world and for that matter on British television. British TV seems almost an asylum for freaks and misfits. 

Here are a couple of extracts from Jimmy Savile's 1976 memoirs, 'Love Is An Uphill Thing'. Did nobody read it since 1976? How attitudes have changed since that ghastly, seedy, sleazy era. The whole free love thing was about men exploiting young women and girls. Feminism, which has done a great deal of harm, can be congratulated for cleaning out some of these Augean stables.
"A high ranking lady police officer came in one night and showed me the picture of an attractive girl who had run away from a remand home. 'Ah.' says I all serious, 'if she comes in I'll bring her back tomorrow but I'll keep her all night first as my reward.' The law lady, new to the area, was nonplussed. Back at the station she asked 'Is he serious?'
It is God's truth that the absconder came in that night. Taking her into the office I said,'Run now if you want but you can't run for the rest of your life.' She listened to the alternative and agreed that I hand her over if she could stay at the dance, come home with me, and that I would promise to see her when they let her out. At 11.30 the next morning she was willingly presented to an astounded lady of the law. The officers was dissuaded from bringing charges against me by her colleagues, for it was well known that were I to go I would probably take half the station with me."
'Let me tell you about the fun part of the charity deal. I got a call one day from the chairman of a local council. He'd got a new idea for the annual mayoral ball and wanted to turn it into a big youth dance, and would I come? For years the affair had been just a bit stuffy and only attracted a couple of hundred locals. He wanted 2,000 and did I have any ideas? Sure I had. Good ideas are my strong point. I will come, to Otley in Yorkshire it was, if you will arrange for me to sleep in a tent up the local hillside with another tent alongside with six girls to sleep there as my bodyguards!
My demands really put the dance on the map and 2,000 tickets went like hot cakes. My ultimatum of 'no tents, no girls, no me' meant the council had to go through with it.
A notice for volunteers in the paper brought well over a hundred lady applicants, all determined to spend a night on the moors. The council had to decide which six, so they called a special meeting. Some of the members only then realised what they were doing. 'We can't have a council meeting to decide which six of our girls sleep with this man,' said several, more bewildered than outraged. So half the council left and half stayed. Six girls were selected and all of them were given matching mini skirts and white boots, as befitting a ceremonial bodyguard. They looked good enough to eat. I duly arrived in the town and it was the start of an incredible evening. The first thing was that the father of one of the girls arrived and hauled her off home. She protested loudly but dad would have none of this preposterous situation. For company I had brought along a millionaire pal who just didn't believe my story. When he saw the crumpet his eyes shot out a mile and his total conversation for the evening was an incredulous 'Are we kipping with them?'
Technically no, as we were in the tent next door. Or were supposed to be. The dance finished in spectacular, never-before and certainly never-since fashion, and the moment of truth was upon us. What follows must be the greatest ever. It was raining but who cared. The tents had been erected in the afternoon in a secret glade known only to the chairman. The blankets and suchlike were kept in his house to avoid damp or theft. At 3.0 a.m. an unbelievable sight appeared in the sleeping town. Several cars, headed by the mayoral one, drove to the foot of the hill, a local beauty spot known as the Chevin. From the cars climb out a dozen people: five girls, me and my pal, the chairman, his wife and equerry. On our heads we carry our blankets, and in single file, like Sherpa porters, we set up off to the tents. I was convulsed with laughter and with a real pain.
It was all in the public domain all the time.

The story of Savile is profoundly shocking but perhaps it should not shock us. Sigmund Freud reminded us:
Men are not gentle creatures, who want to be loved, who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus [man is wolf to man]. Who in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion?
Sinister: Savile was a regular visitor to the care home, which was the centre of a storm of abuse allegations

P.S. A strange coincidence. Paedophilia has a tendency to make people believe in all sorts of strange conspiracy theories of the kind that infest the internet. The record of the trial of the Yorkshire Ripper, whom we saw in the photograph above, includes this sentence:
 "Mr Sutcliffe also told police he left the murder scene after he heard voices, but couldn't tell where they came from. He also heard a car being driven away from the entrance to a house. Later he found out that the house was where disc jockey Jimmy Savile lived"
Wild stories abound on the internet.  Savile was said, apparently, by one Gordon Logan, an ex-MI6 spy, to be procuring children for Edward Heath to abuse! Even the Queen Mother and the Prince of Wales are implicated, as are the Masons, though Savile was a Catholic (but not, admittedly, a good one). One site accuses him of being secretly Jewish and part of an international Jewish conspiracy. It feels like the Dreyfus scandal, or McCarthyism, or a seventeenth century witch trial. Or like the mass hysteria which followed the death of Diana. It might die away again tomorrow, but I suspect it has legs.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

'Oh, see the happy moron' and other quotations

Doubtfully attributed to, but surely not by, Dorothy Parker:

Oh, see the happy moron;

He doesn't give a damn.

I wish I were a moron.

My God, perhaps I am.

Authorship also unclear:

The rain falls on the just

And on the unjust fella,

But more upon the just because

The unjust stole the just's umbrella

1980s Romanian joke

Listener: Is it possible to foretell the future?
Radio Yerevan: Yes. We can predict the future with complete accuracy. It is only the past that keeps changing.

E.B. White
"There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something ….Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion."

Hedy Lamarr 
"American men, as a group, seem to be interested in only two things, money and breasts. It seems a very narrow outlook."

"Let me have war, say I; it exceeds peace as far as day does night; it's spritely, waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy: mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war's a destroyer of men. "

Brideshead Revisited

 "We were joined by a Belgian Futurist, who lived under the, I think, assumed name of Jean de Brissac la Motte, and claimed the right to bear arms in any battle anywhere against the lower classes."
Clarke Kant

The same people that get excited by Mitt Romney also get excited by Argyle socks.

Charles Moore

On Thursday, I listened to the BBC News at seven in the morning after the first of the Obama/Romney US presidential debates three hours earlier. The report of the debate was only the third item on the news. So I knew, without having to hear any more, that Mitt Romney must have won. If Mr Obama had come out on top, the BBC would have led with the story.

 Mark Steyn
"Modern 'liberalism' is strikingly illiberal; the high priests of 'tolerance' are increasingly intolerant of even the mildest dissent; and those who profess to 'celebrate diversity' coerce ever more ruthlessly a narrow homogeneity." 
 Thomas Sowell
 "I have never understood why it is greed to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money."  

Jerzy Kosinski
"I detest the dismissal of the true drama of our life by the emissaries of the popular culture."

The philopsophers 

Beauty is a short-lived tyranny. ~ Socrates

Our care should not be to have lived long as to have lived enough. ~ Seneca

In order to improve the mind, we ought less learn than to contemplate. ~ Descartes
The superior man makes the difficulty to be overcome his first interest; success only comes later. ~ Confucius
 To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three-parts dead. Bertrand Russell
To change ones life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. ~ William James

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself. ~ Cicero

By a lie, a man... annihilates his dignity as a man. Immanuel Kant

What then is freedom? The power to live as one wishes. ~ Cicero

It is not God's will merely that we should be happy, but that we should make ourselves happy. Immanuel Kant

I would not know what the spirit of a philosopher might wish more to be than a good dancer. ~ Nietzsche

There can be nothing more dreadful than that the actions of one man should be subject to the will of another. Immanuel Kant

It is good that I did not let myself be influenced. Wittgenstein

Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile. Bertrand Russell 

Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another. Immanuel Kant

Anything you're good at contributes to happiness. ~Bertrand Russell

People are unconsciously aware that the customs of society embody more wisdom than could emerge in a single generation. Roger Scruton
A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand. Bertrand Russell
To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness. Bertrand Russell

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. — Bertrand Russell. 

Not sure about the last one. Stupid people are more often right than the clever people and do very little harm compared with the philosophers.

Eric Hobsbawm, enemy of the people

So the unrepentant Communist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, C.H., has died aged 95, loaded with honours by the British state which it was his life's ambition to destroy. The BBC report of his death contented itself with noting that his works were “shaped by his commitment to radical socialism”. The Daily Telegraph was less polite but more informatative. Its characteristically masterful and mordant obituary is here“Biography adds a new fear to death,” said Oscar Wilde and so does the Telegraph. 

Eric Hobsbawm in 1976 (Photo by Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images)

Silly, silly, silly man and worse than silly British state. In his lifetime the British and Western European working classes benefited from unprecedented prosperity and opportunities, thanks to capitalism not socialism, and yet he persisted in believing that the Communist Manifesto foretold the future. He wrote justifying the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1940 and of Hungary in 1956, worked very hard for Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev and achieved a very great deal of influence for the far left in UK universities. I was shocked when I read history at Cambridge at the respect that he was shown but knew it would be unacceptable to voice my opinion with my peers.  

But the patience of the British has its limits. Had Eric Hobsbawm adopted the theories of Gobineau and H.S. Chamberlain, rather than those of Marx and Engels, he would have been left to theorise in pubs, not given tenure at Birkbeck. Had he thought race not class was the driver in human history the Guardian would probably have refused to publish him. (I presume this because The Guardian sacked a football manager who wrote a column for them, a few years back, for making a racist remark, while continuing to employ several communists.)

Nick Cohen pointed out last year on a piece on Hobsbawm the Stalinist:

When he first visited the Soviet Union in 1954, Eric Hobsbawm discovered that the theory of a workers’ state and the practice of a Moscow still bleeding from Stalin’s last purge did not quite gel. “It was an interesting but also a dispiriting trip for foreign communist intellectuals,” he recalled in his autobiography, “for we met hardly anyone there like ourselves.” 

Hee, hee. Cohen continues: 

If he had gone to Siberia ....Hobsbawm would have found the bodies of communist intellectuals – just like him. If Hobsbawm had followed the logic of his convictions and moved from Nazi Germany to seek a home in the Soviet Union rather than Britain, his chances of surviving would have been slim. Either the party would have shot him in the great purge for being foreigner and a Jew to boot, or he would have been forced to denounce innocent comrades to save his skin. After concluding the Nazi-Soviet pact, Stalin handed German communists over to Hitler as a gesture of goodwill. If the purge of 1936-38 had not killed Hobsbawm, the pact of 1939 probably would have done for him instead.’

In 9 November 1956 Hobsbawm, future Companion of Honour, wrote in The Daily Worker:

"While approving, with a heavy heart, of what is now happening in Hungary, we should therefore also say frankly that we think the USSR should withdraw its troops from the country as soon as this is possible."
He said in one of The Age of Extremes which came out in the late 1990s that
'The Second World War led communist parties to power' in Eastern Europe and he referred in it to the 'revolution' in Eastern Europe after 1945. These are not slips or, if they are, they are Freudian ones. 

Hobsbawm (like Ralph Miliband) did not repay the UK very well for sheltering and naturalising him, it seems to me, although Miliband grew out of his Leninist phase in his teens and was a classical Marxist. There is not as much gratitude in immigrants as you might expect. Other instances of ingratitude are legion but include the Archbishop of York and Miss Yasmin Alibhai-Brown banging on about British racism, despite the fact that Britain gave them refuge from Idi Amin. But I suppose Hobsbawm, a convinced Marxist-Leninist, was obeying his ill-educated conscience, as were the Nazis. 

Still I owe Eric Hobsbawm something. I had my first inkling Christianity might be true reading him saying that the Catholic Church opposed everything the 18th and 19th centuries believed in. That sounded like divine guidance and a Divinity in Whom I could believe. (Writing this, I see that the reactionary Catholicism of Pius IX is the opposite of the Marxist doctrine that the historical process is a sort of secular god. Personally, I prefer the Syllabus of Errors to the Communist Manifesto.)

Michael Moynihan has written:
In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the “sacrifice of millions of lives” in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm’s lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It’s not that he didn’t know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It’s that he didn't much care.
Readers of How to Change the World will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that “Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB.” Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao’s Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.
I also recommend this excellent piece by John Phelan.

Political commentary by fine historians of the recent past is, surprisingly enough, almost never of any value or interest - certainly not that of Tony Judt, Norman Davies, Eric Foner, Neil Ferguson, Mark Marzower or A.J.P. Taylor. Even my old friend, Andrew Roberts, did not convince me to admire George W. Bush. Certainly Eric Hobsbawm had nothing interesting to say about current politics.

An example is Hobsbawm asking, in 2009, in The Guardian, last home of Communist intellectuals:

‎"Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next?" 

He was completely wrong, as always when he wrote about politics. Capitalism had not failed but socialism had won, though not Leninism. The collapse of the USSR liberated the Left in Britain and around the war from defending the economically indefensible. The new Marxism would not try to take over the economy but society and culture, via the universities and the left of centre media. A rather similar decision that had been taken at about the same time by the Labour modernisers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The result is political correctness and the ideology of equal opportunities, which seems reasonable and charitable and concerned only with justice but smuggles left-socialist hidden premises into its arguments. As Frank Johnson said of the Left: 

They have given up trying to nationalise companies and want to nationalise people instead.

In any case, at least seen from the viewpoint of an imaginary time traveller from 1900 or even 1935 the developed world nowadays is socialist. I, like most people, could not accept or have the courage to imagine a return to the small state of 1900 or of 1935 but our very big state, equality considered as a public goal, plus anti-discrimination laws, excessive health and safety laws and innumerable other laws seem to me to be socialism, a.k.a. social democracy, even if it is called Christian democracy or modernisation. What would have been surprising thirty years ago is the concomitant lack of freedom of speech and the left wing consensus in university arts faculties.

I suppose it is about defining terms and I always prefer to look back several generations before defining them. Socialism does not mean Old Labour, much less communism. Herbert Spencer thought free school dinners meant socialism. Edward VII said we are all socialists now. I remember Michael Parkinson asking the left-wing trade unionist Arthur Scargill (in the late 1970s?) where socialism had worked and his replying, 'Cuba.' Socialism has worked, rather well in some ways, up to now, but certainly not in Cuba. It has worked in Sweden, Norway and Denmark and in Western Europe generally, not in the Soviet bloc. In the UK it worked less well than on the Continent, though I am not sure why.

I cannot forbear to add that it was not economic problems or lack of freedom that brought down the USSR but the discovery of nationalism on the part of the communists in charge of the fifteen union republics. Nationalism is not 'false consciousness', however much peace studies lecturers 
disapprove of it, and may yet pose great questions for the Nordic countries and all the Western European social democracies.

Monday, 1 October 2012

"'Whom are you?', he asked, for he had been to night school."

An article in the Economist discusses whether the word whom is on the way out and concludes it is not. For reasons of social control. This causes a tinge of guilt.

Do you sometimes use whom in informal conversations? I do fairly often but wonder after reading this if I do so to show off. I sometimes say, 'It is I' but when I do I am not sure if I am joking. Usually, like everyone, I say 'It's me'.

From The Lady in the Lake, my favourite Raymond Chandler novel:

"One moment, please. Whom did you wish to see?"

Degarmo spun on his heel and looked at me wonderingly. '"Did he say 'whom'?"

"Yeah, but don't hit him," I said. "There is such a word."

"I often wondered where they kept it. Look, buddy," he said to the clerk, "we want up to 716. Any objection?"