Saturday, 28 March 2015

Christianity is Middle Eastern, but Christians are being forced out of the Middle East

loved Syria so much that I extended my ticket two times and I visited Maaloula. Maaloula is one of the 5 villages in the world where Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, is still the mother tongue. 

I love so much the Christian Middle East. I lo
ve how Jewish and how Middle Eastern Christianity is. I want to do my little bit to draw attention to what is happening to Christians in the Middle East and therefore I am linking to the essay Janine Di Giovanni has written in the current Newsweek.

The story of the elimination of the Christians from the Middle East is tragic indeed. Most people in the Middle East were once Christian and the place would be much happier were they still Christian. Even in 1900 they made up a fifth of the people in the region. As an old (Arab, of course) Greek Orthodox priest told me in Nazareth, Israel and the West Bank are the best places for Christians. Interestingly Christians are making many conversions, especially in Iran, where numbers are growing by 5% a year.

A Syrian Christian friend whom I made when I visited the country years ago and who now lives in Bucharest made this comment on my post.
such a sad story. Well yes Christian houses are being sold to all other communities of the country.but i don't only blame Muslims. Christians are being kicked out also in Europe. take France as an example. Ask what happened to the napoleon theatre in Paris. Unfortunately money talks. and it is a sad news also for Muslims not to have Christians among them. They would not be able to show their love to their loved ones in the the Christian neighbouring areas hiding from their families..they would no longer be able to flee extremism that always accompanies the correct practice of the religion. Christians of the Orient never fought nor killed . Unfortunately westerners did fight and do support fighting. they are not as Christians as they claim to be. They should at least treat Assyrians ans Ashourita and Aramites as endangered species. They are a fortune to humanity. They are the source of all your believes. Muslims never attacked alone. Anyway i have a hope that Christians would work as the yeast in the flour anywhere they are... and i still believe that some Muslims are as sad as we are for what is happening to Christians now in the middle east. We should write a book about middle eastern Christian treasures.

The West started the current war in Iraq and by removing Saddam and Gaddafi bears very much of the responsibility for what has happened, though by no means all of it. Westerners are not as Christian as they claim to be? I don't think the West any longer considers that it is Christendom and in thirty years or so it no longer will be, which is incredibly sad. 

Trevor Howard was a psychopath

Watching for the first time in many years The Third Man - it's still my favourite film - last night, I googled and found this 2001 story about Trevor Howard that I missed living far from England. 

'Although stories of his courageous wartime service in the Royal Corps of Signals earned him much respect among fellow actors and fans alike, files held in the Public Record Office reveal that he had actually been discharged from the Army in 1943 for mental instability and having a "psychopathic personality".' 

I must catch up on decades of scandal. Redgrave being a sado-masochist, Olivier and almost everyone being homosexual...

Three-quarters of Western Europeans would refuse to fight for their country

An opinion survey shows only 27% of Britons (a word I dislike, by the way, conjuring a mental picture of bearded druids) would fight for their country. Only 25% of Western Europeans would do so. 44% of Americans were willing to fight and 77% of residents of the Middle East and North Africa. 

I wonder what the figures for Romania and Eastern Europe would be. Much higher than 27% I hope and think.

I'd fight to keep Northern Ireland British, but would I fight to make some Middle Eastern country safe for democracy and human rights? 

This reminds me of the following exchange between Enoch Powell and Mrs. Thatcher. 

‘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.’ 
‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’
Now, as in the Cold War, the real enemies are within. I think now the danger is terrorism and Muslim disaffection at home. Other threats to the UK are from Irish, Scottish, Welsh nationalism, the EU and the ever growing body of international law. The main threat, however, and a very urgent one, is from mass immigration. There is no other credible threat of foreign invasion, which is partly why so few people say they would fight for their country. 

People in England in the 1930s joined the Peace Pledge Union, the Oxford Union voted in 1933 that 'This House would not fight for its country' (Germans took note) and yet in 1939 Oxford men and everyone else went to war. But also there is another factor: two generations of people who have been taught patriotism is suspect. Thanks perhaps to that wonderful, dangerous play/film, Oh What a Lovely War, and to being taught the First World War poets at school, thanks to the decline of deference and the dissolution of social cohesion due to a cocktail of relativism, pluralism, affluence, loss of faith in God and multiculturalism.

Would one fight for a Communist government? Millions fought under Stalin against a foreign invader. They were not fighting for Communism or against fascism but for their country. On the other hand, it is true that the Nazis could have posed as liberators and won support and thereby reached Moscow . And of course some people in the Ukraine fought against the Bolsheviks, despite the Nazi contempt for Slavs. Yugoslavs and Albanians fought the Germans under Communist leadership out of patriotism - were they right or wrong to do so? The Hungarian ruling classes in 1919 backed Bela Kun's Communist government of 1919 as a way of defending Greater Hungary against her enemies. 

Loyaulte me lie
was the motto of Richard III: 
"Loyalty binds me"
and loyalty is not to ideas. As Joseph de Maistre said, a nation is not made of ink.

But sometimes, very rarely, despite Christian teaching about being submissive to the authority placed by God over us, patriotism means opposing the lawful government as the White Rose resistance group did in wartime Germany. Absolute obedience to the temporal power is easy to preach in theory (easy to preach to arch-conservatives anyway) but it is not a satisfactory answer. 

I don't like to quote the words of Nurse Cavell whose statue the first Labour Government erected close to Trafalgar Square, with these words prominently displayed, but patriotism is not enough and, in any case, the White Rose were the true patriots. As were the German plotters who tried to seize power in 1944. So I agree that one fights for ones country not values, except that love of country is a value and if one truly loves one country that supposes other values.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Turkey unveils Great Synagogue as Jewish population fades

This is a sad story of how the synagogue in Edirne (Adrianople is its real name)  has just been rebuilt and yet there is only one Jew left there.

I love Edirne very much and recommend it - my favourite place in Turkey - but it is  a shadow of the city it was until the Balkan Wars or the1920s. Like other cities in Turkey was a mix of Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians and Turks etc. Multiracial societies in Central and Eastern Europe were brutally simplified in the first half of the 20th century, while the homogeneous societies of Western Europe became multiracial in the second half. 

I think people have learnt the wrong lessons from history but they always do.

Germanwings crash: pueri aeterni die young and like flying planes

The Germanwings plane which crashed did so because the co-pilot deliberately crashed it, killing himself and 149 others. He waited till the main pilot went to the WC and would not let him back in.

Despite speculation on Twitter the pilot did NOT have a Muslim name. He was Andreas Lubitz, aged 28.

No-one has any idea why this happened. Nor do I. But one thing comes to my mind.

According to Jung's cleverest disciple, Marie-Louise von Franz, who wrote the classic book on the subject, 
The Problem of the Puer Aeternus, pueri aeterni (boys who never grow up, Peter Pans) are especially attracted to careers as air pilots. Airlines, she said back in 1960, try to avoid employing them. 

Pueri often die in their late twenties or early thirties. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who crashed his plane and died in his early 40s, was certainly a puer. 

Pueri, according to Miss von Franz, are also apt to join extremist organisations like the Nazis and Communists. It is pueri, she says, not real men, who become the torturers.

I imagine jihadi terrorism attracts pueri, and the Catholic priesthood, the civil service and the armed forces.

This possibly has absolutely nothing to do with the crash. Terrible things always happen and always will. 

Germanwings has asked for its adverts to be removed from the London tube. They read: 

"Get ready to be surprised. Visit Germany."

Note on Saturday:

Lubitz did it because his dream of a job as a long haul pilot was impossible, due to his history of depression, claims his ex-girlfriend. Malignant narcissism in other words. Self-pity is very close to the root of evil, as is envy.

I have no idea if he was a puer aeternus. Probably not but pueri, I remember, are said to have a cruel and callous shadow that they repress.

The vast Empire of Censorship in Europe - and how to fight it

I recommend this article by the wonderful Brendan O'Neill, on how little freedom of speech still exists in (Western) Europe. He is allowed to argue for free speech because he is a Trotskyite and not a conservative and therefore cannot be accused of thought crimes like racism, sexism or nationalism. He says:

Some people say Turkey isn’t fit to become a full member of Europe because it’s too authoritarian. On the contrary, Turkey’s willingness to punish and fine and imprison people for speechcrimes shows that it has all the necessary credentials to be European in the 21st century.

In Germany, a 74-year-old woman is currently struggling to pay off a fine imposed on her by the courts for the crime of carrying an offensive placard.
She was on a march against immigration when she held up a sign that said “The arrogant Turks and Muslims are threatening Europe”. For this, for expressing her quite hardcore, not-very-nice political views, she was convicted of incitement to hatred and fined 1,000 Euros.

Past McDonald's and KFC, the last of the Plantagenets makes his final journey

The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things;

There is no armour against Fate;

Death lays his icy hand on kings.
I've never before wanted to visit Leicester but I wish I could be there today for the funeral of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king. Though, of course, his funeral should be in a Catholic church, not a Protestant one. He was a bad Catholic, which Brendan Behan said was the only thing to be. 

Actually he was a child murderer, which is not funny even after 500 years. Still there is a divinity doth hedge a king.  

The funeral is here.

I know I have quoted these words of Lord Chief Justice Crewe in the Oxford peerage case rather often on this blog and recently but I have to do so again.
Where is Bohun? Where is Mowbray? Where is Mortimer? Nay, which is more, and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are entombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality!

This is an excellent article about how Richard III's England was less developed (civilised was the old word) than Roman Britain. And this moving account of the funeral by Robert Hardman, with the wonderful headline

Past McDonald's and KFC, last of the Plantagenets makes his final journey.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Short story set in London

Ernest Hemingway’s friends bet him that he couldn’t write a complete story in just six words. He wrote:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
They paid up. Hemingway said it was his best work.

Facebook statuses can have  a similar terse brilliance, rather like haikus. This is a status posted today by a beautiful, very right-wing Romanian girl, who recently graduated from the University of London. It's much better than Hemingway's six worder, but it does use 105 words.

So I'm sitting next to a middle aged couple having their first date. The lady, which is dressed very well, is a single mom with a newborn in her arms. I sit next to them and I admire the baby, we start talking she says 'oh just have him' and she placed him in my arms continuing her date. He is continuously on his phone texting while she is ignoring her baby and asking her date if he had a prenup with his ex wife... Then he suddenly leaves and she pays the bill and takes the baby away... I am loosing hope in love.
Someone asked me if this were an urban legend (I have experience of those)  but my friend, an honest woman, promises me she heard this yesterday.

Talking of haikus, dreary things we had to write at school when I was reading Byron in my spare time, it is one of the semi-religious duties of the Emperor of Japan to compose these. I always have in mind this one of Hirohito who sat on the throne when I was in my twenties.

We had intended

To visit the flower show at Kyoto

But were prevented by ill health.

Mrs. Clinton tells whoppers and slept her way to near the top

From 1952 to 2004 inclusive only one American presidential election didn't have a Nixon, Dole, Bush or Clinton on the ticket. Now, after a pause for two elections, we may be back to normal. 

I think it's reassuring that American presidents almost always have good English or Scotch names. It means America is still our child, despite everything, at least for the time being. It's also reassuring to see that the hereditary principle is deeply engrained in human nature. We see it even in North Korea.

I think only seven presidents did not have English or Scotch names, of whom three were Dutch. As the New York Dutch and the English were the rulers of the 13 colonies and as the Dutch are Protestants surely they count as honorary WASPs - unlike any Spanish who might have been left in Florida. Apart from the Dutch, I think Eisenhower was the first whose name was neither English nor Scotch.

I don't suppose having an Anglo-Scots name is necessarily an indication of ability. I know people disagree about whether the Roosevelts, Kennedy and Obama were any good. I have some doubts about them all. Eisenhower now looks good, though - who would have thought it? Especially as he was a lacklustre general.

I used to know something about Martin Van Buren but forgot it completely. However my friend Mark Griffith informs me:
Martin van Buren's first language was Dutch and is (supposedly - according to some quite ropey-sounding family-tree research) the only US president not descended somehow from King John. Although an awful lot of people are related to King John by now.
John Kerry once lyingly claimed to be Irish. Bill Clinton said 'I look Irish', which he does. Mr. O'bama also has some Irish blood, but Ronald Reagan is the only other Irishman, excepting Ulster Scots, who are different. Since Ronald Reagan's grandfather converted to Protestantism, no-one counts him as Irish, although this does not make sense, I know.

I hope Mrs. Clinton will not be president. She has bad karma. I think 2008 was her chance and hope it is now too late. She is a woman who has got where she is purely by marriage and it would be shocking and very un-feminist indeed if she thereby became President. 

I think her sense of entitlement may annoy everyone and ensure her defeat. But the Democrats have no-one else and the GOP are unpopular, partly for demographic reasons. There are not enough white voters.

She allegedly persuaded her husband not to buy Osama from the Taliban on the ground that it would be wrong to give money to a regime that oppressed women.

During her 2008 campaign, Mrs. Clinton lied, not once but in a succession of speeches, about trying to escape hostile fire while flying into Bosnia during the war. A video surfaced of Mrs. Clinton’s trip, embarrassingly showing her being greeted by a little Bosnian girl carrying flowers. Please click here.

I suppose, if she is the candidate, the racist Republicans will be transformed into sexists.


Ellen DeGeneres
In the beginning there was nothing. God said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.

Calvin and Hobbs

People think it must be fun to be a super genius but they don't realise how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.

Robert Morley

Show me a man who loved his schooldays and I shall show you a bully and a bore.

When Robert Morley wanted to choose a school for his son [Sheridan Morley] he put an advertisement in The Times:

Father with horrible memories of own schooldays at Wellington is searching for a school for his son, where the food matters as much as the education and the standards are those of a good three-star seaside hotel.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Victor Ponta is now Prime Minster, Minister of Finance, Justice, Health,Transport and Culture

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta is a renaissance man. Or a Stakhanovite. As well as being Prime Minister he is now acting Minister of Finance, Justice, Health, Transport and Culture, as colleagues are disappear or, in the Minister of Finance's case, are arrested (gold bars and a Renoir were allegedly discovered in one of the Finance Minister's safes). 

Peter Simple's (a.k.a. Michael Wharton's) Alderman Foodbotham comes to mind, the 25-stone, crag-visaged perpetual chairman of the Bradford City Tramways and Fine Arts Committee. 

Christianity and European Culture

I keep coming back to this quotation, which seems to have more meaning and a different meaning from what it had years ago when I first came across it. Suffixed with the terse word 'Discuss', it would make a good question in a history general paper.

“It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe--until recently--have been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all of our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning...I do not believe that 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. If Christianity goes, the whole culture goes.”

T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940)

Monday, 23 March 2015

Had Richard III won at Bosworth, would England now be Catholic?

Yesterday King Richard III was given, as he would have wanted, a Catholic Requiem Mass, his body having been discovered under a car park in Leicester, not far from where he died on Bosworth field. His body was taken to the church where he will be buried this week, the procession being attended by thousands. As one man said,
You don’t go to a king’s funeral every day.
Richard III will be buried in a Church of England church, despite having been a Catholic. He was given a Requiem Mass, naturally, by the Catholic Church but his funeral (actually reinterment, because he was given a very perfunctory funeral in 1485) should have been Catholic, sung and in Latin.

Had he won at Bosworth, Henry VII's son, Henry VIII, would not have been king. Would England still be Catholic?

I'm glad that the fact that Richard III was a child murderer and usurper does not prevent his receiving royal honours. There is a majesty doth hedge a king, even one who kills a king. When I was a boy King Edward V, the boy-king whom Richard had murdered, was my favourite king and he still is, poor boy.

Thank God the monarchy and the class system do something to keep England, or rather Great Britain, united - I wish residual Christianity did, but I am not sure it does.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Europe is changing

Blogging, below, about immigrants in Sweden led me to these interesting statistics.

A total of 81,300 political refugees, almost half from Syria, found refuge in Sweden last year, compared with 54,300 in 2013. The 2013 figure represented almost 20 percent of the EU's asylum seekers in 2013, more than any other country in the union. 

It is not just Sweden that is changing rather quickly but Western Europe. 626,000 asylum applications were made in 2014 in the E.U. of whom about 200,000 asylum seekers applied for asylum to Germany.

The figures for asylum applications in Europe for the first half of 2014 were

Germany: 94,200
Sweden: 41,250
France 36,680
Italy 30,755
UK: 17,505

The top four countries account for 70% of all applications

More gang violence in Sweden, racism and deprivation to blame

Another story about gang killings in Sweden in the Guardian.

Sweden used to be a country with extremely low levels of violent crime and a great deal of social cohesion. Now, because of immigration, this has changed.

When crimes are reported from Sweden the link with immigration is often not mentioned. The press reported widespread rioting in Sweden in 2013 without for some time mentioning that the rioters were Muslim.

Now two people have been shot in Gothenburg and the Guardian hint that the 

deprived borough where Wednesday’s killings took place... has high levels of recent immigration and overcrowding.
The Guardian is able to imply that ethnic minorities are responsible for these crimes by providing what is nowadays called a narrative and the narrative is this:
Poverty, racism and segregation are driving young men from immigrant backgrounds into gangs and gun crime.
I imagine there's much more poverty in their parents' countries. Is it really the fault of the racist Swedes?

Yes, if you begin with the assumption that people are basically good, unless things happen to them to make them bad, and that people of different religions and ethnicities are basically the same and should be able to live happily side by side, given reasonable goodwill. In other words, if you are a liberal, which is a kindly, high-minded and, in the face of history and of human wickedness, a foolish thing to be. The strange thing is that clergymen, who should have a strong belief in original sin, are often the most liberal people of all.

Back in 2006 a Swedish sociology student  Petra Åkesson found that 90% of all robberies reported to the police in Malmo were committed by gangs, not individuals. These gangs, according to the blogger Fjordman and other sources, are mostly composed of Muslims. She interviewed gang members who told her
“When we are in the city and robbing we are waging a war, waging a war against the Swedes.”
22% of the population of Gothenborg are not ethnic Swedes, much fewer than in Malmo where 30% of the population was born abroad and another 11% of the population was Swedish-born to foreign born parents. Most of the newcomers in both cities are from the Middle East or the Horn of Africa. It is very possible that in twenty years Malmo will have a Muslim majority, as may other cities in Europe, probably including Brussels.
Malmo is said to have nine times more robberies per head of population than Copenhagen. I wonder what the reasons are and what connection, if any, exists between crime and Muslims. 

In Sweden I don't think official figures are kept but all sorts of alarming figures are on the net. Someone posted three days ago an article that said 77.6% of all rapes in Sweden are committed by Muslim males, who total only 2% of the population (it is very much higher in big cities). An anonymous policeman was cited as the source for this, so the evidence is not very good and I did not vouch for the accuracy of it. But I do think that as we have ethnic and religious breakdowns for so many things these days, accurate statistics would be useful. 

Tony Blair and other leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

An interesting article in today's Independent by Patrick Cockburn compares Tony Blair with three previous British leaders whose careers were wrecked over the Middle East: Churchill, Lloyd George and Eden. 

This is inaccurate. Turkey is in the Near East not the Middle East. It was war in Turkey that caused Lloyd George to fall and caused Churchill's resignation after the Dardanelles campaign (the admirals, not Churchill, were in fact to blame for that debacle).

However, I agree with Patrick Cockburn on this.
The invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain in 2003 was in some respects a re-run of the Suez crisis, except that this time it was the US that had outrun the limits of its power. 
And this:
.....Blair complains to this day that Iranian intervention destabilises Iraq, as if it was likely that Iran would ever again accept its Iraqi neighbour being ruled by an enemy. Bush and Blair destroyed the Iraqi state and nobody has succeeded in putting it together again. The doors began to open for Islamic State.
Had the USA not prevented Britain and France seizing back the Suez canal in 1956 the history of the region would probably have been much happier and we might have been spared Gaddafi and Saddam. What bad imperialists the Americans have made compared to the British and French. 

Part of me thinks it might be time to let Iran sort out Iraq and Syria, perhaps with Vladimir Putin's help - he might be good at that. But Iran is backing the Assad regime and therefore is responsible for its barbarities. General Petraeus and the Americans think Iran more frightening than IS and, much as I wish we had never intervened in Iraq and wanted us to get out, I see no alternative to our intervening against IS.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

E.M. Forster predicted the internet in 1909

What would the great writers have made of the internet? It's impossible to know, except in the case of E.M. Forster, who wrote about them in this story in 1909
I started reading this long ago, in my teens when I read most things, but can't remember if I finished it. Now I read it with fresh eyes.

On the subject of dystopias, this article tells how in 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher, Aldous Huxley, comparing 1984 to Brave New World.

Five quotations for Saturday morning

Christopher Morley

If we had our way, we would set aside one day a week for talking. In fact, we would reorganize the week altogether. We would have one day for Worship (let each man devote it to worship of whatever he holds dearest); one day for Work; one day for Play (probably fishing); one day for Talking; one day for Reading, and one day for Smoking and Thinking. That would leave one day for Resting, and (incidentally) interviewing employers,

Roger Scruton
People desecrate their own relations, and in particular they desecrate sex. Eveybody knows that our society now is under the scourge of pornography which wipes away the human face from the sexual encounter, leaving something that’s not only unworthy of us but also brings us down from the world in which we exist as free beings into to the realm of polluted objects. The reaction of people to that suggests to me that people really do have a sense of the sacred and the human sexual relation is part of it. So how do we rescuscitate this idea? It’s not an idea that has a place in scientific theory and yet it’s there in all our experience. That’s one of the roles of philosophy.

Walter Bagehot
The trouble with mysticism is that it is true.

Martin Amis could have been talking about Bucharest.
Your purpose when driving is not to arrive at your destination safely or quickly. Your purpose when driving is to impress your personality on the road.

Katharine Whitehorn
My brother only reads about what has happened, not what will happen, and it's astonishing how little he misses.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Petraeus: The Islamic State isn’t our biggest problem in Iraq

This analysis by General Petraeus, who  took charge of the US 'surge' in Iraq, is worth taking the time to read. He says, inter alia,

I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran. 

....I am also profoundly worried about the continuing meltdown of Syria, which is a geopolitical Chernobyl. Until it is capped, it is going to continue to spew radioactive instability and extremist ideology over the entire region.

I don't quite understand why General Petraeus fears the Shia militias and Iran more than IS or ISIS, since once it was decided to remove Saddam it was inevitable that Iraq would be Iraq's satellite. 

Perhaps we should leave Iraq to Iran to sort out, possibly with the help of Russia?

Had we not toppled Gaddafi would Assad have contained and defeated the Syrian rebels? I wonder. But that is in the past. 

As AJP Taylor said, we learn from the mistakes of the past how to make new mistakes.

Grammar Nazis

The Oxford English Dictionaries have their own blog and this piece on it is worth reading, entitled

7 grammar myths you learned in school

In fact whenever people write about grammar they are really writing about politics or philosophy. And philosophy (he starts sentence with conjunction) is really, as Nietzsche taught us, disguised psychology.

In fact, it reminds me that I heard Harold Macmillan in his maiden speech in the House of Lords make his analogy between nannies and economists.
It is quite true, many of Your Lordships will remember it operating in the nursery. How do you treat a cold? One nanny said, 'Feed a cold'; she was a neo-Keynesian. The other said, 'Starve a cold'; she was a monetarist.
He could have been speaking about grammarians. Some are strict and some relaxed. Though as we know, you should feed a cold - and starve a fever.

With English grammar there are things that are done and things that are not done and there are even ways of doing the things that are not done. But split infinitives almost always sound awful. You don't have to be a clerico-fascist to know that. 

Am I the only one who tries reasonably hard to use will and shall correctly but doesnt do so automatically. E.g. I say or write 'I WILL' and then correct it to 'I shall' all the time?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The day satire died: Dieudonne‬ receives a suspended sentence over his Charlie Hebdo joke

The French 'comedian' Dieudonne‬ received a suspended sentence today over his Charlie Hebdo joke. Which seems beyond irony. So much for free speech in France

He's a ghastly man but then Charlie Hebdo is or was ghastly too. I wrote about this here.

Netanyahu's surprise election victory is a terrible blow to Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu's victory is the first great defeat Israel has had in its not very long history.

By siding with the Republicans against President Obama, by delivering that shocking speech to the U.S. Congress two weeks ago and by seeming to reject in the final hours of the campaign the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state he sacrificed his country for his own career. He has gravely weakened the only special relationship  America has, the American special relationship with Israel.

It will never recover completely. Never glad confident morning again!

The first European Union

My chum Andrew MacDowall has allowed me to copy this, his latest Facebook status. He is a journalist based in Belgrade.
Chat with a Belgrade taxi driver today: "We [Yugoslavia] were the European Union before the European Union!" He has a point, but perhaps not a reassuring one.

No more Muslim prayer services in churches, says bishop

A bishop has investigated the Muslim prayer service that took place in a Church of England building in London and has pledged that no such service will take place again.

I should like to know what the prayers were. The bits of the Koran I heard on TV being chanted in Zanzibar - I remember 

'God loves those who fear Him' 
did not sound like the God I believe in - though the hotel concierge watched spellbound. But Allah is simply a word for the same God all monotheists worship and Muslim prayers might be ones in which Christians can join. I wonder whether Muslim's would object to saying the Lord's Prayer.

Still I sympathise with the clergyman quoted in the article who said

"At a time when Christian men, women and children are being slaughtered in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria and elsewhere for their belief in the unique salvation delivered by Christ Crucified it is a scandal and an offence that a clergyman of the Church of England should embrace an act of islamic worship in a consecrated building dedicated to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
Interestingly, I have a friend, an Episcopalian layman, who spent years in Nazareth instructing Muslims who were converting to Christianity and he told me half of them said the Muslim God is not the same as the Christian God.

Bishop Richard Holloway of the Episcopalian Church once described people protesting against an inter-faith service as 'the distant cousins of the National Front.' What an unpleasant man he is.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Jeremy Clarkson, Nigel Farage and the death of the outsider

This is an interesting article by Brendan O'Neill on faux outsiders such as Jeremy Clarkson and Nigel Farage. 

I liked this line about the Guardian pretending to be an outsider:
When actually the Guardian is the house journal of every stultifying, misanthropic orthodoxy of our age, whether it’s on the environment (murdered by human hubris), economic growth (bad), or the massive, creaking welfare state (the best thing ever invented because the poor are fat and stupid and can’t look after themselves).
The points the article makes are good ones but I agree rather less than I usually do with O'Neil. I normally agree with most things he says, Trotskyite though he is.

In fact I think many right wing Conservatives including Mrs Thatcher WERE outsiders. Rupert Murdoch considers himself one in a way that, say, Anglican bishops and Supreme Court judges do not. The ultimate outsiders are people who don't like homosexuality or immigration even if they are hereditary peers. 

I wonder how it happened that people born into the establishment and holding very conservative views became outsiders. It is not a recent phenomenon. The Monday Club the right-wing. anti-Immigration. pro-Empire political group within the British Conservative Party numbered a number of hereditary peers among its members, including two Marquesses of Salisbury, but was always on the outside. How this happened we need a historian to investigate. Rather urgently.

On the other hand people can choose to be insiders or outsiders. Chippy people like being outsiders. Rupert Murdoch, despite being the son of a newspaper baron chooses to be one. So do many malcontents, levellers, the kind of people that Squire Haggard would shoot.

In any case, what England does need are more characters, more eccentrics, real ones, not false ones. I am told they are almost extinct. I almost wish we could have some Squire Haggards, but I don't approve of shooting papists.

The disappearance of a traditional English way of life

I just read a blogger say that John Wyndham is usually regarded as being a writer very concerned with the likelihood of the disappearance of a traditional English way of life that he loved very much. This is exactly my philosophical position. Even though I have lived abroad for sixteen years. 

But then I probably live in Romania to escape many aspects of modernity that I don't care for.

A footnote to the history of tattoos

Admiral Lord Charles Beresford

I once met a Canadian when I was sharing a dorm in a youth hostel whose arm bore a tattoo and who told me middle class Canadians went in for them. So do many Romanian women of gentle birth. Perhaps it is only in Great Britain that tattoos are a specifically working class thing, usually an unskilled manual worker thing. But it was not always so, even in England. King Edward VII's entire 
body was covered in them.

Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, according to legend, had a tattoo on his back of the Waterford Hunt in full cry, of which the notable feature was the fox. All that could be seen of it (and only by Lady Charles, one imagines) was the fox's brush disappearing into what Americans would call his Lordship's ass cleavage.

'Gone to earth'. Quite droll, in a rather naval sort of way.

Andrei Vasilescu pointed out to me that in 1881, visiting a port in Japan as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, the future King George V of England had a blue and red dragon tattooed on his arm. Andrei says that in Romania before the 1989 Revolution only convicts and sailors had tattoos. 

Moving from history to fiction, but staying in the same historical period, here is the story of a commercial traveller who had the Fall of Icarus tattooed on his back, thinking Icarus was a city that was captured by Wallenstein in the Thirty Years' War, but who was unable to pay the tattooist's bill.

The end of Christendom

The West IS still Christendom but in 20 years it will not be.

Even the United States may not still feel explicitly Christian.