Tuesday 25 August 2020

Democracy is important in Great Britain as well as in Belarus

Lots of high minded British people want democracy in Belarus but spent two years trying to prevent the Brexit referendum result being implemented.

They like democracy but not the demos, not hoi polloi, now referred to as the white working class. They prefer foreigners who think like them, which is fine if you are organising a dinner party but not as a way to run a country.

A lot of Americans want democracy in Belarus but hate it that ordinary, un-bookish people defied the bipartisan political establishment and brought Donald Trump to power. They then draw parallels between President Trump and President Lukashenko. Many of these people are very clever, very silly academics.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Good news about train travel

I took a series of trains from Munich to Florence this summer, via Innsbruck, Verona and Venice, travelling first class in almost empty carriages, and had no worries. Now I'm pleased to read Peter Hitchens today in the Mail on Sunday reporting scientists saying we are not likely to catch the Coronavirus on trains. 

Certainly we are not if they are almost empty. I hadn't really noticed, till this pesky virus, how very rare windows you can open are now. I regret this anyway and especially now.

"The [British] Rail Safety and Standards Board recently concluded after experiments that the risk of infection per passenger journey is only one in 11,000.
" The German train operator Deutsche Bahn made a safety survey and found: ‘We see remarkably few infections in trains. No infections occurred in persons on board with a stay of less than ten hours.
"Not a single contact tracing has been identified in Germany and Austria as having been triggered by an infection on the train journey.’"

Three days ago CNN informed us that air travel is relatively safe.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Imperial heroes

Discover Nelson in Norfolk

Miss Jae Ikhera, 19, sprayed 'V for Vendetta' on a statue of Lord Nelson in Norwich on two occasions, to protest against Nelson's opposition to abolishing slavery and, as she said, 'to start a debate' on the issue. She pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal damage and was given a 12-month conditional discharge by Norwich magistrates.

Cleaning off the graffiti cost almost £2,400.

She is only a teenager and I do not think she should have been punished severely or sent to prison, but had a white teenager daubed "White lives matter" or "Pubs closed, borders open" on a statue of Mandela or Gandhi (who years ago replaced Nelson and Wellington as the greatest British heroes) I wonder if he would have got off without gaol.

Miss Ikhera is no doubt an idealist. So, I am sure, is the anti-BLM man who went to Parliament Square to protect statues from damage. He urinated close to a monument to a policeman murdered by terrorists and was sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment. (Mayor Khan has closed all the WCs in the area, for reasons known to him.) The young man also received an impertinent sermon from someone called the Chief Magistrate and was roundly attacked in the press and on social media including by Conservative MPs.

When Churchill was asked how to make children proud of being English, he said, 

'Tell them Wolfe took Quebec.'
That wouldn't work nowadays. Wolfe was as unworried about slavery as Nelson, as far as I know, and was a great imperial hero.

Modern England would not approve of Churchill. What would he have thought of modern England (he always spoke of England not Britain)?

I doubt he would have been delighted by it. In January 1955, a few months before he reigned as Prime Minister, he said to his cabinet

'"Keep England White" - that would be a good election slogan.'
That is the sort of remark, whether spoken or scrawled on monuments, that magistrates take a very dim view of these days. 

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Romanians are Tao

“When a cat falls out of a tree, it lets go of itself. The cat becomes completely relaxed, and lands lightly on the ground. But if a cat were about to fall out of a tree and suddenly make up its mind that it didn’t want to fall, it would become tense and rigid, and would be just a bag of broken bones upon landing.In the same way, it is the philosophy of the Tao that we are all falling off a tree, at every moment of our lives. As a matter of fact, the moment we were born we were kicked off a precipice and we are falling, and there is nothing that can stop it. So instead of living in a state of chronic tension, and clinging to all sorts of things that are actually falling with us because the whole world is impermanent, be like a cat.”

Alan Watts, 'What Is Tao?'

"The Romanians possess to the highest degree the capacity of receiving the blows of fate while relaxed. They fall artfully, soft and loose in every joint and muscle as only those trained in falling can be. The secret of the art of falling is, of course, not to be afraid of falling and the Romanians are not afraid, as Western people are. Long experience has taught them that each fall may result in unforeseen opportunities and that somehow they always get on their feet again."

R.G. Waldeck, 'Athene Palace' (1943)

"In Bucharest I met lots of people, many interesting people, especially losers, who would show up at the cafe, talking endlessly and doing nothing. I have to say that, for me, these were the most interesting people there. People who did nothing all their lives, but who otherwise were brilliant." 

Emil Cioran, 'On the Heights of Despair' (1934)

Saturday 15 August 2020

Reflections on the Revolution in Belarus

I spent forty-eight hours in Belarus once, at the start of March. The country was going through a freezing cold spell. Hrodno or Grodno was full of beautiful (Polish) baroque buildings, but was lifeless, empty and astonishingly cold in every sense. 

The pavements were dazzlingly clean and police cars sat at street corners. You had the feeling of constantly being watched.

There was almost no advertising. I opened one door in an important street to find a deposit for cleaning materials. The next door, unmarked, led me into a busy supermarket with mostly local products. 

In the one free presidential election, in 1994, Lukashenko won after making uncorroborated allegations of corruption against the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (who now lives on a very meagre pension)

Lukashenko promised to save Belarus from being pillaged in the name of privatisation, as happened in neighbouring Russia and Ukraine. 

It's a promise he kept and Belarus is in many ways like the Soviet Union. 

The biggest difference is that the USSR had an ideology, a reason for being different from and poised for war with other countries. Belarus has no reason for being the way it is and no very convincing reason for existing.

Like in most of Ukraine most people here and everyone in the towns speaks Russian. Will Belarus (White Russia) return to the motherland? 

Or model herself on the West? That would be very dangerous.

If there is a threat that Belarus may become a democratic state Russia is likely to intervene and she would argue that she has the right to do so under the CSTO treaty. 

It looks tonight that Lukashenkho may ask Putin to come to his aid and if he does that Putin will do so. He must be anxious about another domino falling. 

Armenia became democratic but remains a Russian satellite, because hemmed in by closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Belarus borders three NATO and EU states, plus the American satellite Ukraine.

Lukashenko will be a liability to Putin, but he cannot be replaced easily without holding fresh elections. 

It's a very perplexing chess problem. Putin is sometimes described as chess player, but the game he really plays is poker.

I chatted to a man in a bar in Grodno who complained that most of his friends had gone to the West.

How do they get visas? 

I don't know. That's why I'm still here.
Bucharest taxi drivers often tell me the old days were better than now and in some ways they were much better. In those ways Belarus is much better than her neighbours. Everyone has a flat, everyone has enough to live on reasonably decently. Prices are low. The unemployment rate is  between 4% and 5%. The unemployed have to pay a fine for parasitism.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Pope Francis, corruption, sodomy and Communist China

“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the church are the Chinese.”

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 2018.

“Earlier this month . . . a Sunday Angelus address in which Pope Francis would express, in the mildest possible way, concerns about the new national security law in Hong Kong and its chilling effects on human rights was distributed to reporters . . . Then, shortly before the Pope appeared, reporters were told that the remarks . . . would not be made after all.”

George Weigel, July 22 2020
"Pope Francis’s deliberate silence over the forced abortions of Uighurs means that ‘Holy Father’ has no more credibility than ‘Dear Leader’." 

Damian Thompson, until this year editor of the Catholic Herald.
“These three elements – heresy, sodomy, and corruption – are so recurrent that they are almost a trademark of the deep state and of the deep church.”

Archbishop Vigano, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America who has called for the Pope to abdicate.
"I think Vigano has gone off the rails, but I also believe he *did* tell Francis about McCarrick back in 2013. And Francis, not for the first or last time, chose to ignore the disgusting behaviour of one of his allies." 

Damian Thompson

"... Francis is accountable for ignoring the abuse of deaf kids, other crimes against minors by Karadima in Chile, Grassi in Argentina (more to come)... offering top job in Vatican finances to suspected sex abuser Bishop Zanchetta, promoting Abp Pena Parra, notorious suspected abuser, rehabilitating sex abuser McCarrick, inviting incestuous sex abuse enabler Danneels to Synod on the FAMILY. All done by His Holiness.

"Meanwhile Francis tells the crook Maradiaga not to worry about Church investigation, while dragging his heels over Maradiaga’s best buddy Bishop Pineda – yup; another sex abuser. And disgraced Wuerl, who lied about McCarrick, still sits on the Congregation for Bishops.

"And what happens to Becciu, who authorised Vatican funnelling of millions into property deals etc? He gets made a Cardinal by Francis! As does McCarrick’s flatmate Farrell, who knew NOTHING about the beach house." 
Damian Thompson
"The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight." 
Hilaire Belloc

Prophetic words by Carl Sagan

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness..."

Carl Sagan was an American astronomer and best-selling writer about science. These words are from his 'The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark' (1995). 

Tuesday 4 August 2020

The malign philosophy of the Economist is pure 19th century liberalism

Until recently the nineteenth-century liberalism of the Economist, the Financial Times and Miss Anne Applebaum looked pretty similar to conservatism. Now they seem a million miles apart. I bought the Economist a couple of times recently from a newsagent but shall not again. It seems not just annoying but to get most things wrong.

Not everything though. I largely agreed with an article about poor Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's first supporter in Congress and first Attorney-General, to whom, as it says, Donald Trump behaved vindictively, ruthlessly and with astonishing ingratitude.

But what interested me was this that the article said about Mr Sessions.
"He saw America not as an idea, as most Republicans professed to, but as a place of communities and traditions besieged by immigrants, criminals and a liberal elite unleashed by the first black president."

Leave aside the slimy last six words, which are intended falsely to suggest that Mr Sessions is a racist and are obviously inaccurate, because Mr Sessions attacked liberal elites long before Mr Obama became president. Look at the rest of the sentence.

What the Economist dislikes, clearly, is that he does not believe in America as an idea (Whig and nineteenth century liberal ideas) but instead believes in communities and traditions.

Communities and traditions are what I believe in and what I think are worth fighting for. The liberals want young working class men to die not for communities or traditions but for ideas. This is why liberalism is malign.