31 Aug

Is the faux-estuarine seer here?

The brilliant faux-estuarine seer Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser came on Thought for the Day for our further enlightenment. Of such incandescence was his thought that the wireless was briefly on fire. He started by talking about the Notting Hill Carnival – that annual celebration of druggery and thuggery before which honest men board up their shops against the looters and at which  the police traditionally ignore gross acts of violence and the ingesting of illegal substances – out of respect for diversity and our multicultural utopia

Come to think of it, the carnival is mono- rather than multi- and the word culture is inappropriate here unless, I suppose, we are using it according to the usage of the pathology lab..

But the BBC’s in house semi-sacerdotal Trot went on to discover a far more profound meaning of carnival. After much ferretting around in the archives of the bleedin’ obvious, the seer took us back to the carnivals of the Middle Ages, to the Feast of Fools, the Festival of the Boy Bishop and the Lord of Misrule. Gratuitously, and out of the copious resources of his unsearchable understanding, Dr Fraser informed us that these were high days when the usual hierarchies were turned on their heads, the lowly were exalted for a day or a weekend and the high and mighty were put down.

The seer thought that this was a jolly good thing and that we could all – especially the church – do with a lot more of this role-reversal.

What he failed to notice, however, is that the reason we don’t keep these feasts of social inversion, insubordination, rudeness and ubiquitous oikishness as special days in our calendar is because our society, and particularly the church, is now like that all the time.

Perhaps, Dr Fraser, the Church of England and the rest of the nation might actually invert the inversion and, for just a couple of days in the year – it would be impossible to do it all the time of course – be serious, dignified, noble, reverent, God-fearing and proper?

By the way, I wonder if, when he becomes leader of our great nation and inaugurates misrule as a fundamental principle of society, Jeremy Corbyn will appoint the faux- estuarine seer as his chaplain?

19 Aug

Is the social engineer here?

When you notice two items side by side, do you get the urge to join them together?

A report on the BBC’s Today Programme this morning told us that Tony Blair’s 1999 ambition – “Educashun, Educashun, Educashun,” remember – to have 50% of all youngsters attend university has been achieved. But the reporter confessed that this is not quite the roaring success it appears to be. For many graduates are going into jobs which don’t require a university degree.

This item was followed immediately by the announcement that the number of houses being built in Britain is a lot lower than the country’s needs. The main reason given for this was that building companies can’t find the carpenters, electricians and other skilled tradesmen they require.

I’m not normally fond of Americanisms, but their pithy phrase, “Go figure” seems apt here.

For when we’ve gone and figured, we understand that youngsters who might, better advised, have been inclined to learn a trade, instead found themselves saddled with a government loan in order to waste three years “reading” Golf Studies with Tourism or, as it might be Applied Social Policy and Hairdressing.

Quite apart from the important point that our higher education system is not producing the numbers of people to do the work that the country requires, Blair’s impudent piece of social engineering guarantees that many young people are not fulfilling their vocations, exercising their aptitudes and settling into suitable and rewarding work.

Square pegs and round holes. Lives are being spoilt – and all for Blair’s arrogant obsession.

We are now told, of course, that universities shouldn’t be elitist. What should they be, then mediocritist?

For centuries the university was a place where that minority of people interested in such things – and who perhaps experienced a calling to study them – devoted themselves to philosophy, theology, literature and the theoretical sciences. Most people were neither interested in these subjects nor called to study them. Fine – there are many other noble and respectable ways of spending one’s life. You could be an electrical engineer, a plumber, a joiner or any one of a hundred different trades.

Proficiency in a trade such as engineering or carpentry is not inferior to theoretical activity; only it is different. Wittgenstein was an engineer. Jesus was a carpenter.

Now we are living in the mess caused by Blair’s perverse desire to send half our youngsters to waste their time in universities

And what, pray, is Tony Blair? Is he an intellectual? Is he a practical man? No, he is that most arrogant and destructive of creatures: a social engineer.  

17 Aug

Capitalism, wot capitalism?

A report claims that, under our unfair capitalist economic system, the wages of senior executives are 183 times those of their workers. But now here’s a funny thing:

“in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Marx’s dreaded capitalism was at its peak, robber barons were at their most oppressive and, according to Freedom House, democracy did not exist, the average ratio of income earned by US corporate directors and their employees was 28:1. Yet in 2005, when history had ended, democracy was in full bloom and egalitarianism proudly reigned supreme, this ratio stood at 158:1 (a study jointly conducted by MIT and the Federal Reserve). – Democracy as a Neocon Trick by Alexander Boot.

In other words, western economies are much more socialised than they were a hundred and fifty years ago. Today governments control the economy to a degree undreamt of in Victorian times. Taxes are higher and there is considerably more public spending – and yet the pay ratios between the top and the bottom are more extreme.

How much capitalism do we actually have?

50% of Britain’s GDP goes to the public sector. In so called communist China it is only 17%. At the height of their totalitarian tyranny, the Soviets were only spending 10% more than we do today. Never mind the anti-capitalist rhetoric, examine the facts. You are taxed on your wages. Then you pay 20% VAT on nearly everything you buy with the money on which you have already been taxed.

Fuel taxes are at an outrageously high level. If we have a car we pay road tax. If we drink or smoke, the price of our pints and fags are artificially inflated by taxation. Governments ask people to save, so to reduce the burden of taxation. But the prudent who do save are paid little or no interest. In fact, with rates as they are, savers – especially among the older generation – are actually losing money by their thrift. If we do save, we are taxed again on the meagre interest

If we do our bit by buying shares in British companies, we are taxed on our dividends. There are further taxes on share dealing. The state broadcasting propaganda department fiercely polices an annual tax called the TV licence. The industrial, commercial, financial and manufacturing companies which generate income for the country pay large sums in Corporation Tax and other business taxes. And, in the form of Inheritance Tax, we have to pay up again even when we’re dead. British businesses which ought to be leading our economic recovery are prevented by labyrinthine corporate and state regulation.

Is this what today’s report calls “capitalism”? These levels of taxation and regulation are combining to hinder economic recovery. And such taxes are required only because the government needs them to pay for its massively expanded army of civil servants, its quango mountain, its legions of useless box-tickers, its lousy education system, the failing and scandalously corrupt NHS, and its bloated state welfarism. Then there are the orchestrated protests against “the cuts.” The truth is that this government will be borrowing and spending more when it leaves office than it did when it came in. Whatever economic and social system is currently being operated in our country, it is not by any shadow of meaning capitalist.

13 Aug

Hey dude, Mozart never got downloads!

At last that upstart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been put in his place. Following something that was billed as A late night Ibiza prom, became the most downloaded of all thirty-five proms so far this season, “disc-jockey” Pete Tong was heard to exclaim “Take that, Mozart” after conducting a rendition of Cafe Del Mar, the 1993 Ibiza classic by Energy 52.

One aficionado of this work of inspired genius cooed:

“Tong kicked off proceedings with Fatboy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now, a dance classic with a whole lot of violins. Other tracks included ATB’s Till I Come, The Shapeshifters’ Lola’s Theme, and a host of other ‘90s and ’00s house music classics. If you’re an Ibiza regular or you remember the days when your legs worked properly and you could down a pint in seconds rather than hours, then this particular Prom will provide goosebumps, neck tingles, and perhaps even a tear or two.”

I confess that, after having listened to only a few bars, I shed many tears. In fact, I couldn’t stop weeping.

“Our arm muscles were burning… but we didn’t care,” said violinist Kerenza Peacock in an interview for the BBC’s Newsbeat. “That was during the epic rendition of Insomnia by Faithless, one of the most iconic dance tracks to ever grace Ibiza’s shores.”

We must be glad of such progress in our aesthetical assessments. In Mozart’s day we had to rely on hearsay and the mere opinions of fogeys such as Joseph Haydn who told Mozart’s father, “Before God and as an honest man, I say your son is the greatest living composer.”

But heck, what did Haydn know? His was just one opinion – and the opinion of a notorious elitist fuddy-duddy at that.

At last – led by the BBC Proms’ brave DJs and other innovators – we are emerging from centuries of stuffy pseudo-musical appraisal into a truly scientific, and genuinely democratic, method by which to judge the quality of music. I speak, of course, of what will surely come to be referred to as the Democratic Phenomenon of the Oiks’ Download (the D-POD).

The beauty of this is that, when it comes to forming a judgement, no musical understanding whatever is required. The D-POD ingeniously by-passes the issue of quality and provides us with a method which is purely quantitative and thus truly objective.

And, as we have belatedly recognised, this is the only way to arrive at valid aesthetic judgements.

In future, don’t ask of any piece of music, “How good is it?” Just count the downloads.

And, if further proof of the superiority of the new method is required, just think of this: Mozart didn’t get any downloads, he never went clubbing in Ibiza and was never known to down a pint in seconds.

Thanks then to the BBC for providing us with what will become our one true Centralised Register of All Performances (CRAP)

12 Aug

The Pope is not a Catholic

How many marbles has the Pope got left? He seems to have lost quite a few over the summer.

The Washington Post reports that Pope Francis told a Roman Catholic audience on 27th July:

“Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed
to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world.
For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to
segregate our faiths.

“This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people,
as nations, and as a world bound by faith. Together, we can bring
about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a
state is respect each others beliefs, for we are all children of God
regardless of the name we choose to address him by.

“We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our
faiths, and the time for such a movement is now. No longer shall we
slaughter our neighbours over differences in reference to their God.”

Before we decide what sort of psychiatric treatment the Pope should receive for his psychotic delusions – Freud, Jung, Adler, operant conditioning or perhaps ECT? – we really ought to correct the factual errors in his extraordinary statement.

Jesus Christ is not the same as Mohammed. Jesus Christ is not even the same as Jehovah. The world faiths are not the same. The New Testament, The Koran, the Upanishads and the Torah are distinct texts with their own narratives and particular teachings. Mohammed did not rise from the dead, as Jesus did. Jesus Christ did not make a pilgrimage (hegira) from Mecca to Medina in AD 622. It was Mohammed who did that. Certainly a Muslim would rightly be offended if anyone suggested – as Pope Francis suggests – that Mohammed is the same as Allah.

Of course, devotees of the world religions should respect one another’s faiths and abide by a mutual etiquette – but that is not all the Pope proposed in his statement of 27th July.

There are further questions. For instance, would the Pope extend his wider ecumenism to Christian Scientists, Scientologists, Spiritualists, Ancestor Worshippers and the rest of the myriad cults and sects which claim to be true religion?

Does the Catholic Faith have any truth value, as the Fathers, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and all the great theologians have taught down the Christian centuries – and, by the way, as The Catechism of the Catholic Church still teaches? If not, then it is hard to see why anyone should pay any attention to it.

Even more importantly, why does the Pope reject the teachings of Our Lord? Specifically, what does he make of Jesus’ commandment to his followers: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (St Matthew 28:19)?

I find all this papal incoherence most fascinating for a personal reason. I think Anthony Burgess’ Earthly Powers is among the best of all novels. I now see that it is also true prophecy, for it features a Pope who intends precisely what Francis has proposed.

Send for the men in white coats.

10 Aug

What a piece of work is man!

“I don’t use social media and I’d really appreciate it if you did tweet, blog, hashtag the shit out of this one for me. I don’t mind this, this is part of it, photographs, whatever, outside — fine. But Inside I can see cameras, I can see red lights in the auditorium. And it may not be any of you here that did that but it’s blindingly obvious. It’s mortifying. I don’t want that to happen,”

So spake Benedict Cumberbatch outside the stage door to fans who had been filming his performance in Hamlet.

It does give pause for thought. What is going on in the heads – I don’t say minds – of people who would so distract an actor? More to the point, what were such morons doing at a performance of Hamlet in the first place?

I venture it’s because Cumberbatch is their pin up boy: a man they are accustomed to seeing on the telly in parts that are a million miles from Shakespeare.

They weren’t there for the bard but only for the theatrical crumpet.

I may be right if Kate Maltby, writing in The Times is correct. She says, “This production is Hamlet for kids brought up on Moulin Rouge.”

I can believe that Kate: I’ve sat through Hamlet designed for kids brought up on The Flowerpot Men and Macbeth for those raised on Sabrina the Teenage Witch

I usually assume that some actions are simply unthinkable – such as deliberately driving on the wrong side of the road or slipping rat poison into your little sister’s orange juice. Flashing red lights in the eyes of an actor going about his trade is such a thing.

Not these days. Not in the dumbed-down, infantilised, gadgeteered phantasmagoria that passes for real life. Here there is no room for etiquette. It’s worse: I bet those gormless fans were – as they would put it gobsmacked – when their favourite actor took them to task. They wouldn’t have dreamed they were doing anything wrong.

There is an ever-increasing section of society made up of people who are not fit to be let out, because they are so ill-equipped for social life and maladjusted to it.

And it’s not just the kids, addicted as they are to their phones and Facebooks and Twittering. You can’t go to the theatre or pictures unless it’s to the accompaniment of people of all ages talking, giggling and eating and drinking noisily and ostentatiously throughout.

Sometimes it’s the so called grown up people who are the worst.

Two old ladies behind me at a concert in Eastbourne – and talking all through the Haydn slow movement.

What a falling off there has been! What words are there to describe the public realm these days?

A foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. Sound and fury signifying nothing, but spoiling everything. O brave new world that hath such people in it!

08 Aug

A bit on the side

It is only a couple of weeks since the swindle and deceit – sorry, I mean the transparent historic deal which will promote world peace – that allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons was announced. Already some of the predicted consequences are beginning to take effect.

New satellite images show Iran may be trying to scrub out evidence of its past nuclear experiments before international inspectors are allowed to investigate a controversial military facility.

Recent photographs of the Parchin military complex, eighteen miles southwest of Tehran, where for years Iran has worked on developing nuclear arms, show increased activity since the nuclear deal was reached in Vienna.

Pictures taken on 26th July and analysed by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) – a respected Washington think tank and not to be confused with the acronym for Islamic State – show a bulldozer at the base, as well as oil spills, which indicate heavy machinery at work.

“What the activity is precisely remains unknown,” said Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, an ISIS analyst. “But the concern is that Iran is potentially trying to get rid of any evidence of past experiments.”

What a surprise!

Access to Parchin, a vast military base with a corner devoted to nuclear research, is one of the most controversial elements of the entire nuclear agreement.

(The next sentence I shall write in this article is unbelievable – but true.)

The US and the other five world powers involved in the negotiations do not have access to the document containing the details of the nuclear deal.

It was left to a US congressman to articulate the blinking obvious: that “side deals” have been done with Iran.

So the US Congress is suddenly waking up to the fact that the Iranian government has fooled the IAEA inspectors.

The director of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, visited Congress last Wednesday to try to reassure senators but said his agency could not show them the details of the documents.

“My legal obligation is to protect safeguards and confidentiality,” he said, which, being interpreted, means We promised the Iranians we wouldn’t let the cat out of the bag.

Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, said the meeting with the IAEA chief was “not reassuring.”

In plain language, this means that the West has signed up to deal while not knowing what’s in it and effectually the safety of the West has been entrusted to the dodgy bureaucrats who run the IAEA – and who, of course, will do exactly what Mr Obama tells them to do; neither more nor less.

So Obama will have his legacy and Iran will have its bomb.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, Obama’s legacy is worth about as much as Mr Chamberlain’s piece of paper. Munich is next door to Vienna, after all.

If we seek to know the reality behind Obama’s shady deal with the Mullahs – the same Mullahs, by the way, who even after the deal are still crying “Death to America and death to Israel!” – observe the reaction of those who are at the sharp end.

Obama’s criminal sell-out has been condemned not only by Israel – which country Iran has promised time and again to “wipe off the map” – but also by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Neither Egypt nor the  Saudis can afford not to try to produce their own nuclear weapons. So now we can look forward to the bonus of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, to add to the joys of that colourful region.

Observe also the faces of jubilant, well-heeled Iranians in their limousines as they give their V-signs to the West’s media, while shouting, “We won! You lost!.” No wonder they are grinning ear-to-ear. The deal guarantees the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran – thus providing an additional $150billion for Iran to spend on its main industry, which is the promotion of terrorism worldwide.

And, in the process, greatly increasing the wealth of the V-signers

06 Aug

God, what a prayer!

Can you imagine, even for half a minute, anyone actually sitting down and composing this:

God, you are the Father of all the families of the earth,
and call the nations to live in peace and unity.
We remember with sorrow the devastating destruction and death
unleashed on this day upon the city of Hiroshima,
and later upon the city of Nagasaki.
We pray for the people of Japan,
and all whose lives are disfigured by war.
We pray for ourselves,
the often unwise stewards of the powers of the universe.
Transfigure the lives and cities scarred by conflict
by the revealing of your glory
and move us by your uncreated energies
to advance your sovereign purpose of peace.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ,
our light and our salvation.

It is the Church of England’s official prayer for Hiroshima. What a nerve they must have to talk to God like that! The first line is at best offensive and at worst blasphemous. Notice, the utter lack of reverence, the failure to indicate the great inequality that separates our existence from God’s existence. The eternal maker of all that there is, the sun, the moon and the stars is addressed in a perfunctory manner. What upstart could think to begin speaking to the Almighty with, “God, you…”? You wouldn’t talk to a dog like that.

The model for formal prayers is the Collects in The Book of Common Prayer, and no one trying to frame words of thanksgiving or petition can afford to ignore the Collects, masterpieces in miniature all of them. The first thing to notice about the Collects is that they establish a proper courtesy by regarding God as infinitely greater than ourselves; “Almighty and ever-living God…” for instance. “O Lord and everlasting Father…” Or “Blessed Lord…”

Next the Collects do not presume to tell God his business; “God, you.” God’s activities are referred to by means of subordinate clauses: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.” To say the least, this is astonishingly beautiful. It is also polite. How would the illiterate, self-elevating thug who produced the prayer for Hiroshima have begun that Collect of thanksgiving for the Scriptures?

We know, because he has himself provided the model: “God, you wrote the Bible.” And then the prayer is a confusion of notions and sentiments with heavy words all rushing together: “families…nations…peace…unity…sorrow” and so on, so that the worshipper is not helped to focus attention on a theme.

And what is the sentiment of the prayer? This – insofar as it exists – is evasive and imprecise. I can imagine someone sincerely writing that we remember Hiroshima with penitence – because he believes we were wrong to drop the bomb. I can imagine someone else praying, “We remember with thanksgiving” – because the dropping of the bomb shortened the war and saved many lives. But sorrow only reveals the prayer as muddled, inarticulate and indecisive.

And – because the bomb was dropped on the Feast of the Transfiguration – there is this cack-handed attempt to weave together banal contrasts: disfigure, transfigure, powers of the universe, uncreated energies.

Just when you think the church’s liturgists couldn’t get any worse, they discover new depths of incompetence whereby God is insulted and mocked.

05 Aug

Brighter than a thousand suns

“And Jesus was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” – (St Matthew 17:2)

“The atomic bomb – brighter than a thousand suns”  – Robert Jungk

Is it only a fearful coincidence that the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and the dropping of the atomic bomb are on the same day, 6th August? C.G. Jung thought not. With the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Jung developed a theory: Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. This was meant to throw light on parallel events, neither caused by the other, yet they seem to relate to each other.

I don’t know what to make of this as a theory, but there’s no denying that some coincidences are very striking and this leads people such as Jung and Pauli – men of utterly different temperaments and inclinations – to suggest that they are somehow meaningful

Of course, back on the ground on the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, we are regaled in all the usual quarters with remonstrations about the horror of war. As if we didn’t know that war is horrible. But what war, when, where and how?

In the Potsdam Declaration of 26th July 1945, the US told the Japanese government that the alternative to unconditional surrender would be “prompt and utter destruction.”

The Japs knew they were bound to be defeated – not just by the massive naval and air forces deployed against them by the Americans, but by the imminent invasion of one and a half million Soviet soldiers.

Consider: if the Americans had been obliged to fight the Japs island by island, it is estimated that it would have cost them more than half a million lives

What rational and humane president – such as Truman certainly was – would elect for a policy that meant he had to write letters of condolence to 500,000 mothers and widows?  

Consider the blame that would naturally have been attached to him if he had not used every means and every weapon in his armoury to end the war as quickly as possible.

The Japs were told straight that their refusal to surrender would mean “…the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.”

And, by the way, it was the Japs who started it all: the USA was always fighting a defensive war after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Moreover, the Japs fought in an especially cruel style: their treatment of prisoners of war was despicable and their sadism infamous.

I do not need to be told that war is terrible. I am not impressed by emotive arguments which amount to nothing more than looking again at the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and being asked to hold up my hands in horror.

I know that waging war is a terrible thing to do. I also know that sometimes it is the right thing to do. And it was right in the Far East in 1945

03 Aug

Come with me along “a real avenue” in Rotherham

Barnardo’s children’s charity has received £3million to pay a team of specialists to tackle child sex abuse in Rotherham. The charity intends to hire fifteen workers to help victims and those at risk of child sex exploitation (CSE). This is a direct result of last year’s Jay report which revealed that 1400 children, mainly indigenous white girls, in Rotherham were abused by gangs of men, mainly Muslim, between 1997 and 2013.

Why this preference for white girl? Why don’t the Muslim men pick on their own girls? Ah but they do. But, as a BBC  File on Four documentary some months ago discovered, the mothers of abused Muslim girls tell them they must not report the abuse to the police, “In order not to bring dishonour to the community.”

Funny use of the word honour. We were told there is honour among thieves. Now it seems that we must believe there is honour among rapists.  

The three-years programme, funded by the government, Rotherham Council and the KPMG Foundation, will start in the autumn.

Council leader Mr Chris Read said the scheme was an “innovative project.” That phrase tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t know before: of course it’s innovative – it wasn’t happening earlier and it will happen now only because it is being funded by the tax-payer, Rotherham council tax-payers and KPMG shareholders.

It’s a waste of money, a gimmick designed to persuade the public that something is being done to prevent the rape of children. 

Strangely, the Jay report found Rotherham Council had “failed to tackle the abuse.” Strange, because it’s not the job of the council to do that. Odd choice of words, that tackle the abuse. I can attach no meaning to it.

What is actually required is the arrest of the perpetrators, and that is the job of the police. But this was never done, because practitioners of the well-known religion of peace and love – who also happen to be rapists – scream “Islamophobia!” if anyone ever dares suggest their conduct falls short of perfection.  

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan says the project “will help teach organisations working with children in the town how to spot the signs of CSE.”

Well, I’m sure Mr Khan is delighted to be informed that his charity is to be better off to the tune of three million quid. But there’s no need to spend money trying to spot the signs. The abused children themselves complain frequently to the police. The problem is that they are not listened to because the police are shy of offending practitioners of that well-known religion of peace and love. 

In succulent bureaucratese Mr Khan said, “A project like this will be a real avenue for people to get that support and we have got to work really hard to make sure we don’t let the children of Rotherham down,”

What the hell is a real avenue? And the children of Rotherham have been let down already.

Here is the scandal and here is the disgrace: in today’s Britain there is a particular and very identifiable section of the community which is above the law.