Saturday, 26 September 2015

Imposing diversity on Eastern Europe

A Eurocrat called Frans Timmermans has tweeted:
Our societies are getting more diverse. It's the job of politicians to prepare their people for this new reality. @TimmermansEU 
In other words it is the job of politicians to tell people their societies they have to be more diverse, not allow the people to decide. If a politician decides not to, like Viktor Orban, he arouses fury. Though there is nothing in EU law that requires the free movement of Syrians in Europe nor even any strategic or moral reason why they should be allowed to enter, nor did the EU decide on the question. Angela Merkel in an unexplained spasm decided that they should. 

I never believed Nicholas Ridley's assertion, for which he had to resign from Margaret Thatcher's cabinet back in 1989, that the EEC was a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe, but whether that was their intention this seems to be the result. Frau Merkel has been able to force Eastern European countries, against their will, by qualified majority voting, to take refugees. 

Slovakia, which had agreed to take 200 so long as they were Christian, is fighting this in the courts. Romania, predictably, agreed to do as she was told. So did the Czech Republic and, oddly, Hungary.

I wonder if Frau Merkel can insist that refugees settle permanently in member states. The numbers this week were thousands, but presumably she could have required millions to enter Slovakia or Romania and change forever those countries, had she got the majority of votes to do so. Do you think this normal, dear reader? 

The EU Migration Commissioner might do. He wants politicians to be bolder in disregarding their electorates' wishes. He denied yesterday that the Commission was to blame for the chaos in Europe and blames it on elected politicians. 
The Commission does not take the blame because it does not care about the political cost. ...The Commission is here for five years to do its job and we did it with vision, responsibility and commitment. Because what is driving us is not to be reelected. That is why for us the political cost means nothing.
Elected leaders, he thinks, should be similarly blasé.
This is the message I would send all around Europe: stop thinking about the so-called political cost.
He is a Greek - have they not done Europe enough harm? - and so he has reasons of national egoism for wanting migrants landing in Greece to go elsewhere.

Are diverse societies going to be melting-pots, like America has partly been? It depends on whether the melting pot idea works in what are essentially  ethnic states, but more importantly it should depend on whether Europeans want their countries to be melting pots.

European societies are not tabulae rasae but still to a very large extent extended families. More diverse societies mean each society is going to be a different society, less a community and more a community of communities. They will, at least to some extent, cease to be organic societies, with unspoken ways of doing things, and become rationally designed by experts and directed by the police.

The danger is that diverse societies belong less to the people, because instead of one people there are a number of groups, and more to the state which polices diversity.

The great liberal philosopher John Start Mill put the danger of diversity very well.
Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

This week's quotations




Two quotations from Jackie Collins to mark her passing.

People can smell fear like coffee. 

Many people talk about writing. The secret is not to talk but to write.

The silly and untrue stories about David Cameron doing obscene things with a dead pig bring to mind Churchill on pigs:


I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.


A psychopath I know loves Balthasar Gracian, the 'Catholic Machiavelli'. This aphorism suggests why.

Find out each Man's Thumbscrew.’Tis the art of setting their wills in action. It needs more skill than resolution. You must know where to get at any one. Every volition has a special motive which varies according to taste. All men are idolaters, some of fame, others of self-interest, most of pleasure. Skill consists in knowing these idols in order to bring them into play. Knowing any man's mainspringof motive you have as it were the key to his will. Have resort to primary motors, which are not always the highest but more often the lowest part of his nature: there are more dispositions badly organised than well. First guess a man's ruling passion, appeal to it by a word, set it in motion by temptation, and you will infallibly give checkmate to his freedom of will.
Here are more things that I read recently.
It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.
Bertrand Russell
Socialists, therefore, by endeavouring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life. What is of far greater moment, however, is the fact that the remedy they propose is manifestly against justice. For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own.
Pope Leo XIII
So long as wisdom in its projects relies upon wisdom, or relies upon its own strength, it forms none but chimerical schemes, and runs a risk of making itself the laughter of the world. But it is certain of success, and may reckon upon aid and admiration, when it finds a place in its intellectual plans for barbarism, rapacity and superstition, and can render the selfish passions of mankind the executors of its purposes.
Schiller
In his time he struggled mightily, planning and inventing innumerable schemes, but when his days were at an end, for all his sagacity and dignity, he departed. The world will not keep faith with you, nor will she show you her true face.
Shahnameh, The Persian Book of Kings
THE cross is a thing at right angles pointing boldly in opposite directions; but the Swastika is the same thing in the very act of returning to the recurrent curve. That crooked cross is in fact a cross turning into a wheel. Before we dismiss even these symbols as if they were arbitrary symbols, we must remember how intense was the imaginative instinct that produced them or selected them both in the east and the west. The cross has become something more than a historical memory; it does convey, almost as by a mathematical diagram, the truth about the real point at issue; the idea of a conflict stretching outwards into eternity. It is true, and even tautological, to say that the cross is the crux of the whole matter. . . In other words the cross, in fact as well as figure, does really stand for the idea of breaking out of the circle that is everything and nothing. It does escape from the circular argument by which everything begins and ends in the mind.
G K Chesteron

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Closing time in the gardens of the West

Image may contain: sky and outdoor
A British Pakistani friend wrote to me yesterday that
"We are seeing the invasion and destruction of Europe. Hundreds of millions of people are thinking of heading towards Europe now. We need to determined to keep them out and to preserve Western Europe. Instead, people have gone all soppy and sentimental."
A British West Indian friend tells me she feels much the same. 

So does an Albanian Muslim friend.

A black American friend just sent me this message:

"This is much worse than 9/11 in the long run."
I agree with them. 

I never generally get downhearted for long by the news but this army of economic migrants crossing Europe and breaking through immigration borders makes me almost hopeless.

Just when it should have been clear to most people that, if European countries were to keep their identities and indigenous majorities, they - regrettably - have to stop taking refugees from outside Europe, this huge migration erupts, accompanied and caused by an extraordinary outbreak of sentimentality among virtue signallers. Their noise is great, even though opinion polls show that most voters, in the UK at least, do not want to admit any refugees. 


What European countries should do, by contrast, is make reservations to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, removing their obligation to accept refugees from outside Europe. This would be a return to the status quo ante. The UK and other countries made such reservations when they originally signed the Convention.

Mr Viktor Orban is widely attacked for pointing out that if refugees in numbers continue to be accepted Europe will eventually have a Muslim majority. Though Mr Orban is in many ways a very unsatisfactory hero he is obviously right on this, but being right does not make you friends when most people are wrong. What would the BBC and the Economist have made of Charles Martel, Stephen the Great of Moldavia, John Sibiesky, John Hunyadi (Ioan de Hunedoara) or the Albanian hero Skanderbeg, who all fought wars to protect Europe from Muslim invasion?


This is a turning point more important than September 11th and comparable to 1989 and to 1979 - 1979 being the Iranian revolution.

I saw immigrants in Belgrade on Wednesday. Some were families but many were young men in their twenties without women. The older people looked bewildered but some of the young men looked like cunning opportunists, which you have to be to make such a journey. Quite a number obviously came from Central Asia (the Stans at a guess?), not Syria. 

The PERGIDA people (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) were not Nazis or racists, not at first at least, but originally nice, concerned East Germans who simply thought there were enough Muslims in Europe. For their pains they were accused by Mrs. Merkel, just a very few days after the Hebdo massacre, of
"having hate in their heart."
They look justified today, though not in her eyes.

I am told since then PERGIDA has changed for the worse but I do not know.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Syrians, though I am not sure how many of these migrants are fleeing danger. I'm not sure how many are even Syrian. 


I'd like to allow asylum seekers to enter Europe, on the very strict condition that they must leave after a maximum of three years. As Australia does. Many will leave voluntarily and return home, but the majority will not and once in Europe it would prove very difficult to make them leave, even did the will to do so exist. They would mostly disappear. 

So that won't work. What would work would be to fund the refugee camps in neighbouring countries - as Saudi Arabia is doing - and turn back the people smugglers instead.

What would also work is for EU countries to allow suitably qualified immigrants to enter and work in Europe on the understanding that their right to stay ends when their contract does. In this way we get the economic growth Europe needs and preserve European countries as organic communities, as nations.

The only alternatives to my suggestions are Fortress Europe or an immigrant society that draws people from every part of the world, what America, Canada and Australia have become since the 1960s.

Hungary's robust response to illegal immigration is admirable. Dozens of young men lobbing stones at the Hungarian police were captured on film. These youths were trying to harm Hungary before they had even got in. People who lob bricks at border guards are not people who should be given asylum and yet on Facebook and Twitter silly people are cross with Hungary, not the invaders. These silly people include many journalists and historians -including ones who write for allegedly conservative papers.

Serbia is safe for asylum seekers so why should Hungary accept them? As for Germany - the government there has made a problem for itself. Why should other countries help? But Germany is trying to use majority voting to force Eastern Europe to do so.  To change East European societies to make up for Angela Merkel's inexplicable decision to accept eight - hundred - thousand people in her country. 

And another thing. If she wants the migrants, why isn't she sending buses and trains to get them?

Germany has ensured that a huge flood of immigrants will continue year after year unless people are prepared to use the arguments Viktor Orban deploys against the idea of migrations. My money unfortunately is not on him winning the debate. Hence I feel so despondent. After all these years Count Oxenstierna is still right. 
"Thou dost not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed."
And then there's the issue of terrorism. Most Muslims are exemplary people but some are not. We have a problem with Muslims born in Europe who want to kill people to restore the Caliphate. That problem is going to get much worse.

A Lebanese minister has said that his gut feeling told him that about one in fifty of the Syrian refugees is likely to be an ISIS terrorist. If he is right, for those wanting to follow Pope Francis' admonition to take in a refugee, your chance of taking a terrorist into your home is only about 2%. 

The number of ISIS sympathisers and Islamists among the genuine Syrian refugees is, however, probably very much higher than 2%. 22% of Syrians think that ISIS are a positive influence in their country, according to a recent poll by a British market research company. I imagine that a similar proportion of the Syrian refugees like ISIS too. After all ISIS supporters are attracted to life in Germany as much as Syrian democrats. 

Quite a few other migrants do not like ISIS in the least but are still Islamists, radicalised by the cruel war against a tyrannical, secular government. These would be the moderate rebels that we read about. Assuming that decades of secular government means Syria  does not have as many Islamists as Egypt, where Islamists won the recent election, we can still expect, on a conservative estimate, that a quarter of the refugees will be by European standards extremists.

If only people as resolute as Margaret Thatcher or as cunning as Francois Mitterand were still in charge in Europe. 
It may be closing time in the gardens of the West, in Cyril Connolly’s  words. It certainly feels like amateur night.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Great Invasion


The Invasion of 1910 was the name of William Le Queux’s 1906 bestseller warning the readers of cheap British thrillers of the danger from the Kaiser’s Germany. The Invasion of 2015 is the best way to describe what is happening in Europe today. Europe is being invaded - this is just the start – and refugees are likely to change Europe more than would have victory for the Kaiser.

Did I miss the moment when people in Europe decided that they wanted their countries to become immigrant societies like the USA and Canada?

Mrs. Merkel’s decision to admit 800,000 refugees from the Middle East may be that moment. It may therefore be much more significant than the opening of the Berlin Wall.

In fact there are two choices. European countries can remain ethnic states, the large majority of whose inhabitants are indigenous people whose forbears lived in that country since the Middle Ages, or they can become immigrant societies. The choice most politicians and business leaders in Western Europe want may be the latter, but they do not say so.

Instead people who want immigrants talk about economic growth and those who don't mention pressure on schools and hospitals. This would not make sense to Wellington or Napoleon.

Presumably, using this as a precedent, from now on Europe will accept scores or hundreds of thousands of refugees from every war in the Eastern hemisphere. The whole thing is a mass hallucination as rational as the outcry over Cecil the lion. But that outcry only hurt one dentist. This hallucination may transform Europe forever, unless people defeat the philosophical arguments for taking asylum seekers into Europe.

This week Romania has agreed to take 1,500 Syrians and the EU wants the country to take another 3,000

Romania should not and nor should any European country. This army of migrants worries me very much - it is symbolically and actually an invasion. David Cameron, were he a statesman possessed of authority and eloquence, which he sometimes is,  should explain that these boat people are not fleeing danger and that we can pay to house the people in camps, who have already fled danger, in various other countries. So should all the European leaders.

But instead soft headed, soft hearted people confuse the migrants trying to find refuge in Europe - the ones who have the money to do so - with the war refugees who in fear of their lives live in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Sam Cameron does and so do opinion formers who have no excuse.

Why has Angela Merkel summoned up this invasion which, like the children’s crusade, winds across Europe forcing its way through international borders?

Nobody knows. 

I suspect it is something to do with political calculation - to appeal to idealistic German voters. It is certainly about Germans' admirable revulsion from the racial ideas of the Nazis. (The whole history of Western Europe since 1945 is a meditation on the Nazis.) Cynics think she needs immigrants because Germans have one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and congratulate her because she will thereby get the best ones, the most courageous and self-reliant. 

In fact if she thinks that she is an even bigger fool than it is manifest that she is. A British Pakistani friend of mine told me he knows from personal experience that those who make these tough and illegal journeys are not only the physically fittest ones, but also the biggest rogues, charlatans and chancers. Who can doubt it? 

And then there is the question of Muslim extremists, Islamists, admirers and members of ISIS. They exist in Europe already in sizable numbers and they are for sure among the refugees. An ISIS commander gloated about his to the press a couple of days ago.

Mrs. Merkel has just made herself the toast of the world's people traffickers. If she insists in taking 800,000 Syrian refugees, which is a huge mistake, she should take them from the camps in Jordan (as the UK is doing). By accepting those who turn up, she's creating a massive market in the illegal movement of people and will be responsible for many more drownings.

Most Eastern Europe people have very different attitudes from Angela Merkel’s, even though she is one of them. Most East Europeans do not want to allow large numbers of Muslims or non-Europeans to settle in their countries and become citizens. The question is why Western Europe does not feel this way and the answer is that they the majority, according to polls, do but their rulers do not.

I don't like Viktor Orban at all, a demagogue with worryingly undemocratic tendencies, but he is the only leader who is right about the refugees. He is a nasty piece of work but, since 1945, the nice people have been wrong about immigration and the nasty ones right. He sees what Eastern Europeans see, that Hungary’s and Europe’s identity is in danger from immigrants.

Eastern Europeans, at least the wiser ones, sees this as a Muslim invasion of the kind Eastern Europe fought and lost in the early modern era.  They ask why these refugees are strapping, young and exclusively Muslim men ready to fight their way to the welfare-rich lands of northern Europe? Where are the Christians? Where, if they are fleeing danger, are the women and children?

Monday, 7 September 2015

A street called twisted

Last week I found myself in Constanta in a street called Labarinta, which was as straight as a die. 

This is typical of life, I feel.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Third World War has broken out

General Mircea Chelaru, who was Chief of the General Staff of the Romanian Army in the late 1990s, said last week that the asylum seekers proceeding across Europe, and the possibility of millions more coming represent the start of  the Third World War. He fears the destruction of European culture and the Islamisation of Europe.


This is reminiscent of Admiral Chris Parry of the Royal Navy who made a warning about asylum seekers and migrants being Britain's great security threat back in 2006. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Asylum seekers are Europe's greatest defence threat, say Syrian refugees

My Syrian Christian friends - refugees themselves in Bucharest, though affluent refugees- strongly oppose admitting Muslim immigrants to Europe. They have reasons.

Quite by chance, one just called me, on business. He is an intelligent man of good family. (Christians make up much of the middle class in Syria.) He didn't call to talk politics, but he did anyway. 

His parents are in Syria, in a place which is pretty safe, close to the Lebanese border. But the forces of law and order have no power. If you were to commit a murder in Syria no-one would arrest you. Yet life goes on. 

He is horrified by the influx of refugees into Europe. He says it is caused by the people smugglers dropping their prices from $10,000 to $2,000 per person. He thinks the waves of refugees, if unchecked, will lead to 'civil war' in Europe.

The refugees are not poor, nor in fear of their lives, he says. They all have money to pay the smugglers, they all want to go to rich countries, not countries like Romania or even Hungary, and quite a few of them are ISIS supporters. He fears Muslims gradually taking over Western Europe.

Of course he exaggerates.

We all feel so very, very sorry for the 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian child, the picture of whose dead, cold body, lying on the shore, has gone all round the world. 

We all feel very sorry for his grieving father, Abdullah Kurdi. He said he simply wanted to give his children a better life. He is absolutely admirable and brave and reckless - and an economic migrant, not a refugee fleeing danger. By his folly he is responsible for his sons’ and wife’s deaths. He must live with this.

The family were not in Syria, but in Bodrum in Turkey, a pleasant seaside town where there is no war and where rich people whom I know choose to holiday. Mr. Kurdi worked as an odd job man. The family had been in Turkey for three years. They were in no danger till they boarded that boat.

They were Kurds. Turkey, which has a very large Kurdish community, is a much better place than the other countries where Kurds live, Syria, Iraq or Iran. As Kurds their life should have been much easier in Turkey, where millions of Kurds spoke their language and shared their culture, than had they been Arabs. They could have integrated much better into Turkey than into Europe. But for very understandable reasons Mr. Kurdi wanted to join the burgeoning Kurdish communities in Western Europe instead.

Beside the Turkish-Syrian border is Hatay province which includes Antakya (Antioch). Turkey stole Hatay from Syria in 1939, when Britain and France were preoccupied, and it always had many Arabs. It has huge numbers of Syrian refugees now and it seems a good place to house Syrians, rather than in Europe.

Yet 104,460 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last month and over 800,000 this year, part of a revolutionary change not only in Germany but in the whole of Europe. 

The Australians insist asylum seekers move on after three years. For some reason that I do not understand in Europe asylum seekers are not given asylum for a year or two and then asked to leave but allowed to settle permanently, which is why centuries from now Germany will always have large Arab and Kurdish minorities. This will be irrevocable.

Refugees have every reason to want to live in Europe. It is Europe's duty to the refugees and, more importantly, to future generations of Europeans to stop accepting any asylum seekers from other continents. No-one drowns trying to get to Singapore because Singapore accepts no asylum seekers. This is the only way the drownings will stop.

We can pay poor countries to take them for us. I wonder how many Syrians and Libyans will accept refuge in Bukino Faso. We can try the experiment and see.

About half of the Vietnamese 'boat people' who managed to reach Hong Kong during the 1980s were repatriated by the British to the Communist regime – somewhere between sixty and seventy thousand. Many went to the United States. Many others were kept cooped up in squalid conditions for the best part of a decade. My feeling is that times have changed and Europe will take many of the tidal wave of asylum seekers and economic migrants. As more are taken, more will come.

Some think the population of Africa alone may grow by one billion over the next thirty years. As populations grow and developing countries grow richer the numbers of migrants, legal and illegal, will increase by leaps and bounds. The only alternative to indigenous inhabitants becoming a minority in each Western European country is to do what former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently said we must not do – create a Fortress Europe.

Admiral Christopher Parry, one of the Royal Navy’s cleverest strategists, warned in a paper in 2006 that Britain and Europe faced being overrun by mass migration from the Third World within 30 years, because of population growth and environmental destruction. The Internet, cheap flights and free international phone calls would hinder assimilation. (Is there anything left to assimilate to, nowadays?)

He compared the plight of the West to that of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. The Blair Government liked to encourage senior public servants to indulge in blue sky thinking but Admiral Parry had taken it too far. He was silenced and accused of racism.

Nine years have gone past since then and he seems prescient.

What is clear now is that while Vladimir Putin is bad news, and ISIS much worse news, the real threat to Europe is not from Russia but from asylum seekers.



Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Four men and a tent in Albania in 1879


One day last autumn I was sitting in my Temple chambers, wondering what I should do with myself in the Long Vacation, when I was aroused from my reverie by the entrance of my clerk...
And so begins for E. F. Knight the journey that led him to write 'Albania: A Narrative of Recent Travel', which he published in 1880. A friend showed me a first edition of the book a couple of years ago. I loved the flavour of Oxford, Cambridge, public school and England at the zenith of her imperial self-confidence. In many ways 1879 does not seem so very long ago - it's on the horizon that separates the recent from the distant past. Buildings built in 1879 we do not consider old. Yet how very distant the world that Knight describes. 

He and his three companions, whom he calls Brown, Jones and Robinson, say good-bye to their friends at Spiers and Pond's refreshment-bar at Victoria Station and take the boat train to Paris, a train to Venice and thence a ferry along the Adriatic coast of Austria Hungary. They disembark and ride to post-war Montenegro, which the Congress of Berlin had made an independent kingdom the year before. They take with them across the continent a number of Robinson's cumbersome inventions, including a huge unwieldy tent they call the White Elephant. They sleep in it for a total of two nights.

it's slightly like Jerome K. Jerome but our four are upper middle class, not lower middle class and the laughs are fewer. Though Knight can be funny.

Victorians were usually careful observers. They are disparaged now by terrifying women who write critical apparati detecting sexism and racism, but their comments generally sound perceptive to me, often more so than those of contemporary academics.


The four travellers were repeatedly told that they would not come back from Albania alive. I was told that in Hungary before I came to Romania for the first time in 1990. What impression did the first Albanian city, Scutari, now Shkoder, make on them?
The first thing that strikes one is the utter lawlessness of the people. The Turks have never assimilated their remoter possessions. It is not in their character to do so. They seem, even after so many centuries, to be merely temporarily encamped in Albania.
An Albanian gendarme who befriends them points out
an ill-featured Albanian Mussulman
to the travellers and says,
This is a brave man ; much respected ; has killed more of his follow-townsmen than any other Scutarino.
An Albanian Christian, however, assures Knight that Albania is safer than Trieste, despite the fact that the police have been on strike for months. He says that blood feuds, whereby the family of a murder victim is required to revenge him, keep the peace more effectively than the police.
"Does not this system lead to a good many lives being sacrificed over one quarrel?"
"It acts well as a rule. But, as you say, it does lead to some bloodshed. Just before I left Scutari a man shot another's pig, which had strayed into his field; the owner of the pig immediately walked over to the other man's house and blew his brains out, which he was bound to do as a man of honour; then a relation of the slain man shot a relation of the other behind his back as he strolled into the bazaar,totally unaware of the existence of any quarrel between the families." 
"Was that looked upon as fair play?"
"Everything is fair in our blood feuds. This very man was himself shot a few days afterwards as he was coming out of a mosque, by the brother of the man he had killed, who was waiting for him behind a wall.Several others on both sides were killed in this pig dispute, till at last the two families met and settled the matter amicably, and without dishonour to either party, for it was shown that an equal amount of damage had been inflicted on both families--ten men of one having been slain; nine men, one woman, and a pig of the other."
Blood feuds were suppressed in Albania under Communism but sprung up again as soon as Communism was overthrown.

It is a mistake to imagine the Ottoman Empire assimilated her subjects, as some clever men nowadays think. Muslims, Christians, Jews and gypsies  lived in separate quarters of towns, in different villages and under their own laws.

interestingly, the way of life of the Christians and the status of Christian women was thoroughly Oriental. In Albania Christian women lived in purdah. Marriages were arranged in the following way.

Courtship is curiously managed among the Scutarine Christians. The lover--if he can be so called--never sees his intended till the day of his marriage. A young girl is confined in her father's house for a few years before she arrives at a marriageable age. No men but her nearest relatives ever see her. When her parents consider she is old enough, they let it be known among their friends that they have a marriageable daughter on hand. Probably the young lady's brother will come up to you--if you are a good catch--some day in the street, and say,
"You are just the man I wanted to see. My sister is now fourteen years of age. You must marry her."
It is an insult to refuse such an offer, for it is generally looked upon as a great honour. However, if the Benedick be rather doubtful as to the advantages of the match, and is desirous of ascertaining whether his proposed bride be endowed with personal attractions, he goes off to an old woman, whose profession it is to intervene in such cases. She calls on the bride, inspects her, and returns to give him an unbiassed summing-up of the young lady's qualities. If he is satisfied, the wedding-day is fixed, but not till the last moment does he view his bride.
I like this compliment to Albanian and English womanhood by Knight, which is accurate. 
The women of this country do not wither up into old hags by the time they are thirty, as do most orientals and southerners, but preserve their peachy complexions and youthful beauty as long as do the women of our own island.
This comment seems topical. 
In this valley are Ipek [Peja], Jakova [Gjakova], and Priserin [Prizren], three of the most interesting cities of Albania.... But the population of these towns is ferociously fanatical. Surrounded as they are by Christians, knowing that the day is not far off when the rising ambitions and energies of the oppressed race will drive them from their homes eastwards and southwards, the Mohammedans here hate the Christians with a hatred more intense than even the followers of this fanatical creed entertain in other parts.
But there is more to it than Mohammedan fanaticism. These towns are in northern and eastern Kosovo. The newly independent Kingdom of Serbia, then as now, considered Kosovo her ancestral homeland. I am told by a friend who knows Kosovo that this conflict was always more ethnic than religious. The Christians in those regions were Serbs and the Muslims were Albanians. Elsewhere in Kosovo Catholic Albanians had no more wish to be ruled by the Serbs than did the Muslims.

At one point Knight is advised by a diplomat to go back to Montenegro to witness the outbreak of war between Montenegro and Turkey. He does goes back to Podgorica but to his disappointment the war is inconveniently delayed and he returns to Scutari.

Knight and friends were travelling in the aftermath of the Bulgarian Atrocities, committed by Muslims against Balkan Christians, which had led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, Mr Gladstone's Midlothian campaign and almost to a rerun of the Crimean War between Britain and Russia. In the London music halls, the words of the great hit song of 1877, sung by the Great MacDermott, went:
'We don't want to fight,
'But by jingo if we do,
'We've got the ships,
'We've got the men,
'We've got the money too.'
I once heard an ancient recording of the Great MacDermott singing it in a very thin voice. How poignant the past is.

As every schoolboy used to know, Mr. Gladstone declared to a crowd in the Midlothian campaign that he wanted to get rid of the Turks from Europe 
bag and baggage. 
He meant, I assume, Muslims rather than Turks, though Englishmen in his day tended to think all Balkan Christians were Greeks and all Muslims Turks. In any case, Gladstone was arguing for ethnic cleansing. 

Odd how what is liberal in one age becomes illiberal later. But this happens a lot.


Disraeli, who had travelled around Albania as a young man, knew much better and was pro-Turk because the Sublime Porte was the legitimate ruler of his domains. Disraeli was not a classicist like Gladstone and was possibly a less sincere Christian. 

Disraeli's views on ethnic cleansing were expressed with his customary feline playfulness in his account of his Albanian journey in the 1830s. He spoke of the pleasure, when he was the guest of Ali Pasha,
of being made much of by a man who is daily decapitating half the country.
Funny, almost Wildean, but unpleasant. 

Very unpleasant indeed.