Saturday, 30 September 2017

John Stuart Mill and the decline of the West

I bought a leather bound copy of Mill's On Liberty for 50p when I was 16 and haven't read it. I assumed I knew what it said and that J.S. Mill was an arch libertarian, a Thathcherite avant la lettre. I should have read it and shall do so now, followed by Maurice Cowling's arch-conservative demolition. How I wish I'd gone to Peterhouse and Cowling had taught me.

Only today I was wondering yet again whether my personal philosophy of finding an authentic life by relating to people openly, regardless of their nationality or class (or sex for that matter) and keeping a distance from conventional or fashionable ideas, was really my own or was one I had taken from elsewhere. I see now that it is J.S. Mill, mediated through 
John Fowles, whose novels and philosophy greatly appealed to me when I was 18. It is an admirable but somewhat adolescent philosophy.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

A poem for National Poetry Day

For National Poetry Day I post this, one of my favourite poems. It's not a favourite because it's an elegy for the demise of Catholic folk religion at the Reformation, but because I simply love it. It is comparable with, though not as good as, Shakespeare's 'When icicles hang by the wall' from Love's Labour's Lost.


FAREWELL, rewards and fairies, 
Good housewives now may say, 
For now foul sluts in dairies 
Do fare as well as they. 
And though they sweep their hearths no less 
Than maids were wont to do, 
Yet who of late for cleanness 
Finds sixpence in her shoe? 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Islam, Europe and Christianity

“It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”
Pope Francis, May 2016

Monday, 18 September 2017

Top ten enclaves

Here is an interesting list of enclaves made by John Rentoul, maker of fascinating lists. I had only known about one of them, Llívia, in Spain but surrounded by France. 

When the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659 gave all villages north of the Pyrenees to France the Llívians adduced evidence that Llivia had been accorded the status of city by a Roman Emperor. It therefore remained in Spain. It is Catalan, as are the villages given to France.

This is interesting:
Since the rationalisation of the India-Bangladesh border last year abolished Dahala Khagrabari, the world’s only third-order enclave (a piece of India inside a piece of Bangladesh inside a piece of India inside Bangladesh), Baarle’s second-order enclaves are as complicated as it gets – there are pockets of the Netherlands inside some of the Belgian enclaves. The border is so complicated, said Robert Kaye, “they operate a front-door rule where the country of your front door determines which law applies”.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Hillary Clinton is “not very bright” - something she has in common with Theresa May


During his Sunday night interview on the US television show 60 Minutes, Steve Bannon said something I already knew, that Hillary Clinton is “not very bright.”

This is one of the things she has in common with Theresa May. They are also both introverted and (not the same thing) shy. Both are boring speakers, partly because they never have much to say that's interesting (though I except Theresa May's remark that a

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The decline of the West and the loss of Homeric virtue



"Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice."
G. K. Chesterton

People are too apt to think war is a great evil and no cause worth dying and killing for, and yet the West has launched a number of disastrous and foolish wars recently, not from self interest but for liberal values. The older I get I see how few wars were worth fighting. Worth fighting by England at any rate, which has almost never been endangered since 1066.

On the other hand men (how I dislike inclusive language) are very frightened of moral corruption which they identify with being racist, sexist, ageist, Islamophobic or Eurocentric.


Edward Luttwak has written a fine essay about Europe's loss of heroic, Homeric virtues.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

It’s 258 years today since Wolfe took Quebec

Churchill was asked how to make children proud to be British and replied 'Tell them Wolfe took Quebec'. Are they still told this and if so do they think it was an unjust, colonial war?

Image may contain: 10 people, outdoor

It’s 258 years today since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
I read about it when I was four in the book that most influenced me in my life The Royal Portrait Gallery, published in the early 1890s. Here is how the battle is recounted in another, much more famous book. Our Island Story: A Child's History of England is a book by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, first published in 1905.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The sanctity of the revelation of Mahomet

"Since 1989 the texts, ideas and even images of Islam have become so heavily policed and self-policed even in Western Europe that it would be understandable if a young person becoming politically and religiously aware in the last few decades might have arrived at the conclusion that the one thing our societies really do hold sacred and impervious to ridicule or criticism are the claims and teachings of Mohammed."
Douglas Murray - 'The Strange Death of Europe'


[Had Charles Tours not defeated the Muslims in 704] "perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet."
Edward Gibbon - 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'




“I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
Richard Dawkins, the scientist and proselytising atheist, 2010

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Strange Death of Western Europe and why is Eastern Europe different?




I am currently reading, am deeply depressed and alarmed by and am lost in wonder at Douglas Murray's new book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. Please read it people, if you read only one book this year.


The opening sentence is:
Europe is committing suicide.
and he continues
By the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive, Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place we had to call home.
He deals with Eastern European attitudes to migrants in a couple of pages and says this, under the rubric "Why is Eastern Europe so different?"
"....In January 2016, when the Swedish authorities, the European Commission and others began publicly to acknowledge that the majority of people they had taken in the previous year had no right to claim asylum in Europe, Jean Claude Juncker continued to insist on the Commission's proposed quota system to share out the migrants between each country. Slovakia refused to have any part in what its government described as a 'nonsense' and 'complete fiasco'. The left-wing Slovakian Prime Minister, Robert Fico, said in despair, 'I feel that we in the EU are now committing ritual suicide and we're just looking on'. The other Visegrad countries held the same view as Fico.


"....Chantal Delsol noticed the seeds of this difference in the mid-1990s. Spending time in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, she saw that Eastern Europeans increasingly considered us as creatures from another planet, even while at a different level they dreamed of becoming like us. I later became convinced that it was in these eastern European societies that I should seek some answers to our question -- the divergence between us and them led me to the belief that the last fifty years of good fortune had entirely erased our sense of the tragic dimension of life'. That tragic dimension of life had not been erased in the East. And nowhere have the consequences of this been more clearly displayed than in the attitudes of Eastern European leaders, with the support of their publics, to the migration crisis." 'The divergences between us and them led me to the belief that the last fifty years of good fortune had entirely erased our sense of the tragic dimension of life'."
To understand why Eastern European attitudes towards migrants and Islam are different from ones that obtain (at least at an official level) in the West, you have to look at Western, not Eastern, Europe. Eastern Europeans (those who have not been educated in the pieties of Western universities) retain the common sense ideas to which everyone in Western Europe subscribed in 1945.

Eastern Europeans love their countries the way they are, homogeneous and cohesive ethnic states with long and beautiful traditions, as everyone in Western Europe did until a moment ago.

But there are other reasons too. Eastern European countries have all been oppressed by empires (Ottoman, Russian, Hapsburg). They rightly see themselves as victims of imperialism, most recently by that imposed in the name of the proletariat by the Soviet Union. They do not feel post-colonial guilt, because they had no colonies. They were colonised. 

And they are much poorer than the West, though nowadays quite a lot richer than the Third World. They are emigrant countries, not immigrant societies.

Most Romanians I know think mass immigration from Africa and Asis to Western Europe has been a disaster, but all, without exception, think it is a just punishment for colonialism. 

A young, left-wing Romanian friend who won a scholarship to Yale told me that she hopes in her lifetime (she is about 30 now) that Italy will have an African majority. This, she says, will be a fitting punishment for Italy's short-lived and small colonial empire in Africa.

Mr. Murray swats away this argument effortlessly.
I’ve particularly never heard, for instance, that the country of Turkey should have a large infusion of Yorkshiremen or people from Wales, Dublin, in order to not only diversify that country but to make some kind of reparation for the Ottoman Empire.
In Eastern Europe, patriotism and the martial, masculine virtues are considered virtues. Eastern Europeans have not rethought their values to be as unlike Nazi values as possible. Communists blamed Nazism on capitalism and the recent horrors of Communist rule have in most countries (not in Poland or Serbia) displaced from folk memory what the Germans did. 

Most Eastern European countries were allied with Hitler, in any case, and many Eastern Europeans, if they are not Jews, gypsies or Slavs, think that they would have been better off had he not Stalin won the war.

Eastern Europe used always to be an ethnic mosaic and Eastern Europeans know, as a cursory reading of history, especially the history of 1939-45, or simple common sense teaches, that ethnic minorities living side by side do so unhappily and often violent conflicts arise. 

Ethnic minorities lived side by side in Eastern Europe for a long time when Eastern European societies were essentially mediaeval. With the coming (imposition would be a better word) of modernity, that changed. 


Conflict between Muslims and Christians led to the forced migrations of millions of Greeks and Turks before and after the First World War. In 1945 and 1946 a Procrustean reordering of East Europe's ethnic minorities took place across the region. An ethnic war was fought between Ukrainians and Poles which the world ignored. Ethnic Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Czechs and Ukrainians were expelled from the places across Central and Eastern Europe in which their families had lived for many centuries. The whole story of displaced persons - the so-called DPs- is calamitous. Coming after the slaughter of the Jews by the Germans, by 1950 a terrible simplicity had been imposed on Eastern European countries which had hitherto been ethnic mixtures. 

Attlee, Stalin and Truman at Potsdam in 1945 ordered these vast movements of people to get rid of the ethnic patchwork that had led to war in 1939, stipulating that they should be "humane and orderly". They were, of course, neither. 


At almost the same time as Attlee agreed this, oddly enough, ethnically homogeneous Britain began to become rapidly multi-ethnic. 

In his last chapter Douglas Murray concludes

By the middle of this century, while China will probably still look like China, India will probably still look like India, Russia like Russia, and Eastern Europe like Eastern Europe, Western Europe will at best resemble a large-scale version of the United Nations. ...This place where international cities develop into something resembling international countries will be many things. But it will not be Europe anymore.
I shall blog more about the ideas with which this very readable and well-written book fizzes. But much as I love interesting, original, perceptive ideas, this is desperately sad work. The saddest story ever told. 



A pedant writes: I wish he knew what disinterested meant and did not split infinitives. I do not necessarily expect good grammar from Oxford men, but I do from Etonians (Douglas Murray won a scholarship there).

Quotations

"Even today, I think one’s relation to one’s alma mater is fraught with haute-bourgeois peril. In descending order of coolness are:



1. Dropped out of prestigious college;


2. Graduated from prestigious school, never bring it up unless asked—then as joke;


3. Graduated from prestigious school with honors, bring up quickly, no irony;


4. Graduated, have become garish, cheerful head of alumni booster committee."


Paul Fussell, Class: A Guide Through the American Status System


Had Israel not prevented Assad having the bomb, would Syria be at peace now?

Had Israel not prevented Assad having the bomb would Syria be at peace now? 

Or would Syria have made a solitude with the bomb and called it peace? Would an atom bomb be used in a civil war like Syria's, where the populace of any given region probably does not support the forces ruling it?

Interesting questions, which occurred to me reading this article by Zev Chafets, a writer was a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Mr. Chafets thinks Begin's

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Syrian war is ending – and Assad has won


According to Robert Fisk writing in the Independent a couple of days ago, the Syrian war is ending – and Assad has won.


This is good news for Russia, Iran, but most of all for Syrians who want peace. It's bad news for Turkey, the Saudis and the Saudis' de facto ally, Israel, who prefer ISIS and a failed state to a victory for Assad. It is not such bad news for Qatar who are now on reasonable terms with Iran.


The journalists have told us since the war began and even after Russia intervened that the regime could not win, but journalists only know what people they trust tell them. Alistair

Friday, 8 September 2017

Edward du Cann has died

Sir Edward du Cann, bounder, smoother than silk, once the seemingly perpetual Chairman of the 1922 Committee (the Tory backbenchers' trade union), has died. Simon Hoggart in Punch said that, asked the time, he replied: 
What time do you want it to be, dear boy?
Alan Watkins, whose Observer column brightened my Sunday mornings, said
Talking to Edward du Cann was rather like walking downstairs and somehow missing the last step. You were uninjured but remained disconcerted.
I remember the Private Eye headline, over a story of an Edward Du Cann City scandal, was:

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Diana and the politics of emotion

Diana, Princess of Wales changed the monarchy and changed Britain in a way that is still very evident today.

Diana's famous sad-eyed TV interview with Martin Bashir in 1995, in which she said there were three persons in her marriage, was a cleverly stage managed display of fake emotion. There were, in fact, several other people in the marriage too. She made displays of emotion mandatory, especially when she died, which is why Theresa May lost a lot of what support she still had (not much) by not crying at the Grenfell Tower and why Corbyn wept at the mosque where a British Muslim was murdered by a white man (but not at the locations where the reverse happened). Even H.M the Queen now emotes though she found the Diana epoch hard to adjust to. I remember that Diana was said to have tried having a heart to heart with the Queen and to have said, 'I need space'. A mystified HMQ replied, 

'Well, Kensington Palace is not exactly bijou'.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

5 quotations


One might as well legalise sodomy as recognise the Bolsheviks.
Winston Churchill to David Lloyd George in 1919.


Every country has the government it deserves.
Joseph de Maistre

Cardinal Mazarin could not suffer unhappy people around him. When he considered employing someone, his first question was, "Is he happy?" This really meant: "Is he lucky?" By means of this, the wise and superstitious Mazarin surrounded himself with the best people in the government.
Memoirs of the Duchess of Orleans, Princess Palatine (so it wasn't Napoleon)

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Diana – Queen of Tarts

Diana has now incredibly been dead for twenty years. The world rotates on its axis and we go about our lives but Diana is no longer here. 

The quality press sneered at coverage of her and the Royal Family but the history of royal families is the history of Europe. When I visited the Taj Mahal it was the famous photograph of her alone there (apart from hundreds of pressmen out of shot) and Diana's cynical bid for sympathy from the public that was in the forefront of my mind. Certainly not the visit by the King-Emperor George V in 1912.


Alex Woodcock-Clarke has kindly given me permission to reproduce his brilliant little essay about Diana, Princess of Wales. I do so not just because Alex is an absolutely brilliant comic writer, but because I agree with every word and did so back in the time when 85% of England was for Diana and a handful of gnostics sympathised with the Prince. May she rest in peace.



DIANA – QUEEN OF TARTS

Why the People’s Princess was actually the Queen of Mean who invented a new cult of self-serving, self-inflating victimhood – and got the world’s poor to worship at it.

Ted Kennedy tried to get the Russians to help him win presidential election

How Ted Kennedy tried to get the help of the Soviet leader to help him win the 1984 presidential election. Andropov seems not to have taken up the offer.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Quotations

The past is a beautiful sunset.

Calistrat Hogas


Whether you believe you can or can't - you are always right. 

Rocsana Borda

I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights,’ with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety. Feminists ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to ‘unsex’ themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings and would surely perish without male protection.


Queen Victoria, 1870