18 Oct

University turns you mental

Today 18th October is St Luke’s Day. I am reminding myself of this fact because I suspect it might actually be April Fools’ Day. Why?

Because I have just read an article in that esteemed organ the Daily Telegraph  – by its Educational Editor, no less – that the whole staff of Buckingham University “from professors to cleaners and gardeners” are to be given a half day course to help them discover evidence of mental illness among their students: “the signs and symptoms of stress.” Quoted experts in the subject of mental illness advise us that “dropping off to sleep in class may be such a sign.”

Buckingham’s half day course looks like a typical example of the sort of barminess that we expect from today’s universities, so why do I suspect an April Fools’ joke? Because the university welfare officer’s name is given as Dee Bunker.

So have I been had?

For the moment at least, let me suppose not. In any case, certainly mental illness is widespread among young people, as the BBC and all the newspapers tell us every day. And I’m not surprised when “health professionals” and the fascistic operators of political correctness and social engineering tell youngsters they can be any “gender” they fancy; when the academic authorities redefine university as a safe space wherein students must never be challenged by what used to be an enjoyable rough and tumble of debate and argument; where on no account must the “vulnerable” little dears be offended; where they’re all obsessed with “saving the planet” but can’t so much as turn off the light or shut the door when they go out; who threaten their pet dogs and cats with vegan meat and fish substitute.

(By the way, do the youngsters have sex any more – or do they just hang out behind the university counselling centre for a bit of “gender”?)

In other words, a university in no way resembles what universities have been since the days of Plato and Aristotle. Therefore, to pay nine thousand quid a year to attend such an institution for three years is a complete waste of time. The cognitive dissonance produced by the pretence involved is enough to drive anybody crackers.

The modern university produces mental disease as surely as New Orleans brothels produce cases of the clap.

Dare I suggest there are other causes of mental derangement? Spending nine-tenths of your time on an electronic gadget. Imbibing and ingesting substances guaranteed to lead to confabulated consciousness. Staying out all hours to listen to head-banging “music” while partaking of such substances.

That there is mental illness among students is very evident. Here are some examples… There are students who won’t wear a poppy because they psychotically imagine that to do so glorifies war. Or again, Manchester University students have removed from their wall a copy of Kipling’s If because they say he was a “racist.” Others refuse to wear the sombrero for fear of the accusation of “cultural appropriation” – by which only Mexicans should be allowed to wear that kind of hat. How far do you want to take this sort of thing? It’s only a matter of time before such rampant insanities decree that no one should act in Shakespeare unless he actually is Hamlet, or she is Desdemona.

PS May I conclude with a personal reflection? In our quiet little Close here in Eastbourne we have endless trouble from these young intellectuals as they charge past our doors and windows in the early hours often shouting and screaming their academic language – “F****** and C******” at top decibel

It’s a long way from Gaudeamus Igitur and traditional high spirits.

I have complained twice – no reply of course – to the vice chancellor. I am sorry I did this and I repent. For now I realise that the rampaging mob are not insensitive, sociopathic yobs who have been spoilt to death.

They can’t help themselves, for they are mentally ill.  

28 Jul

Why do we stay in the Church?

“Why on earth do we stay in a Church in which clerics commit sexual abuse?”

The question is asked by Dr Tim Stanley, a columnist and leader-writer for the Daily Telegraph and a contributing editor to Catholic Herald.

Let me reply with a question of my own: why do we continue to read newspapers when journalists tell lies, make up stories and drink too much? In fairness to Dr Tim, I should say that when he says clerics commit sexual abuse, he means some clerics. And when I say that journalists are liars and drunkards, I mean some journalists. I don’t believe for a minute that Dr Tim is a liar, and he’s probably not a drunkard – though he does admit to a session of over-imbibing. This was when he applied for the job of welfare officer at Cambridge university and explained: “This application is hand-written, because I was too drunk to write a manifesto.”

No doubt this was a singular lapse. In any case having a few too many – or even being a regular sot – is nowhere near as bad as being a sexual abuser of children.

But, well, you know, just in the interests of that most rare phenomenon in both Fleet Street and the Church – I mean logic – let me try to keep the conversation going for a bit. Just suppose that Dr Tim is a heavy boozer, a purveyor of fake news or even a paedophile, what the blazes has this got to do with the Daily Telegraph; and heaven forbid with Catholic Herald?

Those newspapers are not to be held responsible for the moral conduct of their journalists; and neither is the Church as an institution to blame for the behaviour of individual priests. And that is the crux: moral conduct is the responsibility of the individual; it is the expression of that individual’s freewill. The concept and the reality of freewill, Dr Tim, is the basis and ground of Catholic theology. It comes from the Bible, you know Dr Tim:

“They shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth a sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” – Jeremiah 31: 29-30

Let me qualify what I have just written. In the light of all the abuse scandals, the Church as an institution should examine its own procedures, such as the training and pastoral guidance it gives its priests – what in the good old days we used to call Christian formation – but still the individual sinner is responsible for his own sins. And when I mention the Church as an institution, I must ask myself whether such a thing exists. And I suspect it doesn’t. What can the Church as an institution, including its hierarchy, be except individual cardinals. archbishops, bishops and priests? Furthermore, I think that, rather than convey the evil of child abuse, the Church’s obsession with its own supposed institutional shortcomings actually diminishes our sense of the wickedness of the occurrence of abuse in each particular case.

Institutionalising sexual abuse makes no more sense than institutional racism or institutional sexism. In fact it’s a cop-out. And it’s a cop-out of a very particular sort: the sort that belongs to bureaucracies which are the peculiar curse fallen on our times. Our institutions have collapsed into bureaucracies. And bureaucracies are conspicuously where the individual malefactor can easily hide behind the smokescreen of institutional culpability.

Why do I still listen to The Archers given that some BBC reporters tell lies? Why do I still patronise the taxis when I know of a taxi driver who clubbed an old lady to death?  

Or to return to Dr Tim’s question: “Why on earth do we stay in a Church in which clerics commit sexual abuse?”

Because the Church is not only a place  – I mean its parishes, seminaries, schools and even sacristies – where the sexual abuse of children sometimes regrettably takes place. The Church is a place for sinners – and we are all sinners. The Church is the custodian of the Sacraments and the source of all spiritual truth: the House of God and the Gate of Heaven. And for all its faults – and they are legion – the Church is still the Bride of Christ.

06 Jun

Show me what you value and I’ll tell you what you’re worth

By six o’clock in the evenings, I have finished the day’s work and so I put down my pen and turn on the wireless to hear what’s going on

Last evening I first tried the news on Radio Four. So now, let me ask you a question: to how many questions are you able to give the complete answer in a single word? Well, at least I managed one such answer last evening. The BBC correspondent, invited by the newsreader to contribute asked, “Are government cuts the cause of a great rise in the number of cases of syphilis?”

That was an easy one: NO

The next item was the news that the Maida Vale recording studios, used for the last eighty years, are to close in spite of the fact, as the newsreader told us, “They have been home to some of our greatest musicians such as David Bowie and The Beatles.”

Now surely no one of a charitable disposition would wish to say anything too severe about Bowie and the Beatles – as one might easily be tempted to say something very severe about Elton John or Arianna Grande, the singer of near-pornographic songs to great crowds, including many preteens. But Bowie and the Beatles are/were not among “our greatest musicians.” They are popular entertainers with a goodly amount of the sort of talent required in order to pursue that vocation. The fact that Bowie and The Beatles were described as among our greatest musicians tells us all we need to know about the musical and aesthetic competence of the BBC

After all, if that newsreader had wanted to mention some of the truly great musicians who have preformed at the Maida Vale studios, he might have mentioned Vaughan Williams or Myra Hess, one of the finest pianists ever: for Maida Vale was the home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra

I switched from the news to Radio Three , the alleged classical music channel. This was a mess described as “In Tune mixtape” which interspersed snippets of the sort of music I wouldn’t want to listen to anywhere or ever with acres of mindless promotional chat

There was nothing for it then but try Classic FM. At that time in the evening the station offers “uninterrupted, the big piece after 6pm” – presumably in the hope of winning back listeners who tired of hearing music chopped up into minute excerpts and punctuated by advertising jingles.

Here surely there were grounds for hope. We were promised Dvorak’s lovely New World Symphony. I pricked up my ears, as they say. But “the big piece after 6pm” turned out to be only the little piece after six, the truncated piece after six: for they played only the last movement.

What insane cultural vandalism! Like reading an Agatha Christie thriller – but only the last fifty pages. Whodunnit? It would be rather a case of Whodunnwot? Do we need to spell out to the people in charge of classical music provision on national radio that the symphony is one of the most sublime musical forms ever developed? The first movement sets the scene, as it were, and the succeeding movements develop this and bring it finally to resolution. Thus it is impossible to make sense of the final movement without our having heard what went before.

But then we should hardly expect even such elementary discernment from the sorts of folk who regard David Bowie and The Beatles as “some of our greatest musicians.”

I think in future when it gets to 6pm I’ll download old episodes of Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent.

Why do that? Because at least I know that those programmes are utter rubbish. So I won’t be disappointed because I was hoping for something better.

19 May

Let’s hear it for the populists!

It looks as if the character of our Brexit is going to be softer than a soft-boiled egg. It was always going to be so – not just because of the strenuous efforts of Remainers in all parts from the House of Lords, the left wing press and even including the Church of England, but because Theresa May has repeatedly declared herself to be a Remainer. There was never a chance that she would deliver what the people clearly wished for – and voted for in the Referendum. I have said so before, but I make no apology for repeating myself for the issue is by far the most momentous political decision made by the British people in a century. So I said it before and I’ll say it again, as I did in this blog last year: “May will wreck Brexit.”  And now she has done.Jacob Rees-Mogg’s terminology is exactly right and we are going to have Brino, Brexit-in-name-only

The word – well, at least the polite word – most commonly used by the Remoniac establishment for Brexiteers is “populist.” And suddenly I discover there are populists everywhere.

This morning The Independent reports: “Two  populist, Eurosceptic parties have reached an agreement to form a government in Italy, the Eurozone’s third largest economy, setting up the single currency bloc for a possible new crisis. March’s national elections in Italy delivered a hung parliament, but also left the virulently anti-immigrant Lega Nord and the radical anti-establishment Five Star Movement as the two parties with the most seats. After a week of intense wrangling, the leaders of the two parties – which have sharply divergent outlooks in a host of areas – announced on Friday that they had agreed upon a common programme.”

Great! – who said there’s never any good news!

Certainly The Independent doesn’t like it. Look at some of the other words the newspaper uses alongside “populist”: “virulent” and “anti-establishment” for example.

(You’d never get a reference in The Independent – or any of her sister red sheets – describing a “virulently pro-immigration” party)

Suddenly the word “populist” is, so to speak, popping up all over the place. In Hungary, Mr Orban’s sensible, patriotism is dismissed as “populist” – and that’s when Orban is not being excoriated as as  a “fascist” or damned as a “Nazi”

Elsewhere there is the “populist” Geert Wilders, founder of the Dutch Party for Freedom which has long warned of the threat posed to The Netherlands in particular and Europe generally by massive Muslim immigration.

And in Britain UKIP and unreconstructed Tories of the old school – but are there any left? – are always dismissed as “populist.”

So I pondered long: what and who is a “populist”?

There’s a simple and straightforward answer: a populist is someone who is very popular – but who is thoroughly disapproved of by the left wing papers and the BBC 

14 May

It’s BECAUSE it’s successful–stupid!

“Israel’s 70th birthday” is all over the news. I suppose then that Abraham was the nation’s original patriarch in the 1940s and 50s, Isaac came along in the 1960s – about the same time as The Beatles – and I could swear I saw Joseph in his coat of many colours by the bandstand here in Eastbourne only last Thursday. Well, really!

Moses was a legendary character from around 1250 BC, but we know that King David was an historical figure who made his capital in the old Jebusite city of Jerusalem in the 9th century BC. His son Solomon built the first temple there, and the reigns of those two monarchs are well-documented in the Old Testament books Kings and Chronicles. We know also that Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the people were carried off into exile: “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered thee, O Sion” (that is Jerusalem) – Psalm 137:1

But the biblical legends go far back into the second millennium BC when “Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) brought forth bread and wine and he was the priest of El Elyon (The Most High God)” – Genesis 14:18

So the Israelis can claim an association with Jerusalem which goes back many centuries, and so it’s not surprising that they should now declare the ancient city to be their capital once again – though of course this irritates the left wing press and especially the BBC no end

The second and dominant part of the name Jerusalem connects with the word שלום (shalom), meaning peace, while the root of this word, שלם (shalem), denotes completeness, wholeness and soundness. In Greek, the first part of the name Jerusalem resembles the words ιερος (hieros), meaning sacred, and ιερευς (hiereus), meaning priest.  Back to Melchizedek, the legendary priest-king whose name means King of Righteousness.

Why do all the world’s lefties hate Israel? And why has antisemitism – a despicable thing never entirely dormant – returned with renewed ferocity? It’s been around a long time. The prophet Isaiah described Israel as “despised and rejected” – Isaiah 53: 3. Isaiah also identified Israel as God’s Suffering Servant. Certainly the people suffered under the Babylonians and again at the hands of the cruel Antiochus Epiphanes. And many times since in pogroms and genocides.

That’s some of the history which The Guardian and the BBC speak not of. Never mind, let’s adhere to the brief history referred to in the media’s short term memory and go back to the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Since then, Israel has been forced to fight four defensive wars. The country is a tiny sliver of civilisation in a vast desert of barbarism. Its enemies – on all sides – declare every day their intention to obliterate the country.

But what about the Arabs, especially the poor “Palestinians”? Why does Israel deny them the living space they demand in the form of the so-called “two state solution”?

Well, Israel has tried that. In 1998 the Israeli leadership held talks, sponsored by Bill Clinton, with the “Palestinian” leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David and all sides appeared smiling on the lawn to agree on that two state solution. But then the treacherous Arafat returned to Ramallah and declared the second Intifada – a terrorist uprising – against Israel. By all accounts, when she heard the news, Hillary Clinton’s language was unrepeatable.

In 2018 Israel has a strong leader in Benjamin Netanyahu whose first name means “son of right” and whose surname means “YHVH God has given.”

Historically and in modern times, Israel has shown itself to be one of the most brilliantly successful nations the world has ever seen. Its achievements in philosophy and theology, in the arts, science and medicine are unsurpassed. It is the only genuine democracy in the Middle East.

Why then should all the lefties treat Israel as a pariah?

Let me try to explain: they hate Israel precisely because it is successful.

12 May


The government has promised £50miilion to support the expansion of grammar schools. It’s small change when compared with the £2billion each week we pay to the EU. But, credit where it’s due, it’s a start

Naturally the socialists who run state education are against it.  The teachers’ unions have accused the government of pursuing an “elitist policy” during a funding crisis. Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “The government cannot point to a single piece of evidence that shows strong educational benefit of this misguided policy. While it may benefit a small minority, it will not close the gap between rich and poor pupils and if anything will increase the divide.”

Let me interrupt Mr Brook’s secular sermon for a moment to say that education is not meant to be social engineering but about the business of teaching and learning.

Some perspective wouldn’t go astray: there are 3268 comprehensive schools in England and only 163 grammars. So, while grammar schools are certainly a good thing, they are a side issue.

The nub of the matter is that state education in this country is so poor that it amounts to a betrayal of our children, child abuse. The government actually comes close to admitting this fact. The department of education’s own statistics show that 43% of pupils leave school after eleven years of compulsory, full-time education unable to read, write and count efficiently.

In the OECD rankings, the UK comes 23rd in literacy and 24th in numeracy: behind South Korea, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Belgium and…. Oh forget it – just about everywhere really.

The teachers’ unions have a single explanation for this abysmal showing and it is that “we” – by which of course, being socialists, they mean the state –  don’t put enough money into state schools. This is not the explanation. How can it be when education expenditure on junior and secondary schools has increased by 900% in the last fifty years – and that is in real terms, after allowing for inflation?

The problem is with the whole ethos and style of state education. Often it is informal to the point of formlessness. “Child-centred” – which seems to mean letting the children do just as they like. Here’s a bit more jargon from the educational pros: “open-plan”; “non-structured”; “non-selective”  and above all, in that verbal icon, “comprehensive.” This last word – “mixed ability” is a variant – connotes a classroom where children who find learning easy are obliged – by the lying socialist mantra “equality” – to be dragged back to the same pace as those who find learning difficult.

The concept of “knowledge” has been abolished as the traditional idea that teachers were supposed to impart information – actually tell their charges something – has been anathema for the last fifty years. Unsurprisingly, today’s children know nothing, or next to nothing – as indeed is revealed in those appalling OECD rankings in literacy and numeracy and the education department’s own figures which I have quoted already. If the children are not meant to be at school to be informed, why are they there? Answer, “To express themselves.” But no one has a self to express until that self contains something. And they are meant to be “creative.” But you can’t be creative until you’ve mastered the basics. Tell it to Mozart who said, “I had to sweat and struggle once that I might find it easier now.”

Or, as C.H. Sisson said, “We learn by rote before we learn by light.” The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent stresses this truth and we are admonished to “Hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, that by patience…” Impossible if you’re running about all over the place and generally “expressing” yourself. What self?

The awfulness is compounded by the fact that the highly-unionised teachers themselves know next to nothing too. How could they when, given half a century of comprehensive education, they have all come up through the same failed system? Moreover, the near anarchy of the comprehensive school classroom does not encourage intelligent and competent men and women to consider spending their working lives there. So, if they yet have a desire to teach, they go into the grammar schools or the private sector.

Whenever the subject of education comes up, the totalitarians – such as the Leeds Grammar School boy Alan Bennett – who want to abolish the grammars and all private schools, I am always told. “It’s all right for you: you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” Silver spoon? Wooden spoon, more like. I was brought up in Armley, that is in the same grimy Leeds suburb as Alan Bennett. A question: if grammar schools don’t improve social mobility, how did Alan “make it” then? By the way, Alan’s father had the local butcher’s shop and was widely known to be “a miserable bugger” – which might account for a lot. 

May I finish by telling you about my schooling in the 1940s and 50s, which was excellent? Armley County Primary School was a Victorian building between the jail and the Leeds-Manchester railway line. When trains passed, great clouds of white steam would fill the playground – what we called “the yard” – and we laughed as we momentarily lost sight of one another! There were forty-three boys and girls in my class. Our desks were in lines. I sat next to Josephine Wilson who was adorable and had very hairy arms. We learned times tables by chanting them out loud. We learned to read by phonetics, by being read to for hours on end and by being introduced to books – by being enrolled in Armley Municipal Library (Junior Section). Aged about eight, I read Hans Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, The Coral Island  and A Christmas Carol. By the age of eleven, we had learned fractions and decimals, parts of speech and the beginnings of clause analysis. No silver spoons, then: some of my classmates wore clogs. Others went hungry, so that if someone was eating an apple at playtime, a small crowd would gather round to beg the core. We had morning assembly – unashamedly Christian – every day: a Bible story read from The King James Version, a hymn and a prayer.We were taught to sing. And we listened to Handel’s Largo and the overture to The Marriage of Figaro on Old Macdonald’s wind-up gramophone. (I suppose Mozart wrote it to “express himself”!) We trekked beside the tram tracks to Armley Park to be coached at cricket. We were given a third of a pint of milk a day in a glass bottle 

By contrast with these poor but glorious beginnings – which amounted to a real start in life – today’s state education is plain lousy. What words can we use to evoke the intellectual, moral and spiritual bankruptcy of it? It is institutionalised child-neglect.

“Or what man is there of you whom, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone.Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent” – Matthew 7: 9-10

PS Some years ago there was an advertisement in The Times Educational Supplement for a post in a “grammer” school. Says all that needs to be said about the education establishment, dunnit? 

11 May

GDPR: Goddam Data Prote-ction

Simon Richards, chief executive of The Freedom Association, has come all over strange with me.

I’ve known Simon for nigh on twenty years: we’ve been to cricket matches together; I’ve attended countless TFA meetings; and we’ve been out for scores of lunches and dinners. Then suddenly, he writes to me and asks if he can have my permission to continue to write to me. I was flummoxed. Simon is a stout Brexiteer, a better-off-out man if ever there was one. He doesn’t go in for bureaucratic procedures. So what was it all about – could he have permission to keep writing to me and phoning me up? Was he joking? Well, in that case, what sort of a joke was it? Not a very funny one. Has he been watching too many old videos of Monty Python?

But hang on, it’s not just Simon who’s come all over funny with me. I buy a specialist diary every year called The Parson’s Pocketbook. I’ve bought it through the post from Preston in Lancashire every year since my ordination in 1970. And very handy it is too with all the saints days, feasts and fasts and the table of lessons for every day of the year. Now the supplier of that book has written to ask if he can keep on writing to me.

There’s seemingly no end to it. Every day another letter or email asking the same weird question. I’ve been chaplain of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots since 1999. In fact I was at one of their court meetings only yesterday. But now they’re writing to ask the same damn fool question. Ditto the Fuellers Company of which I’m a Freeman. Ditto my friend Edward Spalton of the Campaign for an Independent Britain.

Any minute now I’m expecting a letter from my wife asking the same question – even though we’ve just breakfasted together

Well, finally I’ve found out what all these letters are about. They are required by the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which come into force this month.

What’s the source of these regulations? I’ll give you one guess: the EU of course. Their purpose is supposed to be to ensure our privacy. That’s fine by me: I like to be private – but I don’t want privacy at the expense of contact with my friends. What sort of nonsense are we embarked upon when someone from whom I’ve enjoyed receiving messages for half a lifetime suddenly has to ask my permission to continue to do the same?

It’s bureaucracy, and bureaucracy is mad. But it’s not just mad: it’s malign. Bureaucracy – particularly state bureaucracy – is not at all about defending my privacy but about control.

And the new GDPR mightily inconveniences me – and not just me, but you and everybody else. I have to write to tell welcome correspondents that they are at liberty to carry on corresponding. This lunacy puts me to some trouble. What if, by an oversight, I forget to give permission? Will they never write to me again? Shall I be altogether cut off from the land of the living, like a dead man out of mind?

Let me think about it.

Meanwhile, Simon, I’ve ticked the box on the form you sent me and returned it in the prepaid envelope you kindly supplied. So please don’t stop writing to me…

10 May

The Truth that Makes Us Free

It was the day when Ed Miliband finally went off his head. Fortunately, this happened in the House of Commons and the sage Jacob Rees-Mogg was on hand to calm him down

As all socialists do, the Labour party was aiming to curtail the freedom of the press in yesterday’s debate about what has become known as “Leveson Mark II.” Under new proposals, newspapers would have been legally obliged to pay the costs of mischievous litigants – even when the court had found against them. Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, was the man all set formally to propose these new strictures on the press. Can you imagine the results if members of The House of Commons had passed this iniquitous Bill? Rogues, scoundrels, anyone with a vested interest or crudely on the make or to settle personal scores would have been able to make all manner of false claims – that is to lie to the court – and yet still have his costs paid after the court had judged he was telling lies

Yesterday’s vote was a damn close run thing which the government won with a majority of only nine.

If the government had lost, the law of the land would have institutionalised perjury and financially rewarded the telling of lies.

Of course, we would have expected the Labour party to vote for this iniquitous motion nonetheless. But it was disappointing, if not entirely surprising, to note that five Conservative rebels voted with Labour: Crispin Blunt, Peter Bone, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Philip Hollobone.

I shall remember those names.

The DUP voted with the government and saved the day 

So what was Ed Miliband’s tantrum all about?  He told ministers that their decision to axe Leveson had been “contemptible” and it was a “matter of honour about the promises we made” to the victims of phone hacking, saying the then Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged in 2012 to launch the second part of the inquiry, Leveson Mark II. That was when Mr Rees-Mogg applied the poultice and  quietly reminded the feverish Red Ed that today’s ministers are not bound by the policies and intentions of their predecessors. If they were so bound, any political change involving statutory process would have been rendered impossible: in other words, the abolition of practical politics

There were pleasing reactions outside the House. It’s always a delight to see the sanctimonious self-regarding luvvies in Hacked Off – John Cleese and Hugh Grant for instance – being sent away with a flea in their ear. Hacked Off actually backed the new draconian legislation which was being proposed. They claim that the vote “was not the end” and the “fight goes on in Parliament and the courts.”

Oh here you are, John and Hugh – you can borrow my hankie! 

Meanwhile, the News Media Association, which represents local and national newspapers, said the freedom of the press had won the day in the face of “dangerous anti-media” proposals. Had the proposals become law, local newspapers would have been wiped out by their having to pay the costs of thousands of lying litigants.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said the proposed new legislation would have made it “near impossible” to uncover stories of abuse, and he highlighted the work of The Times’ chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk, who uncovered the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

Yesterday’s vote was a victory for truth. We should never forget this. For it is the truth that makes us free.

06 May

The Evil Trinity

I am grateful to my friend Alexander Boot for debunking Dominic Sandbrook’s preposterous article about Karl Marx in yesterday’s  Daily Mail. So much bunk was contained in Sandbrook’s piece that the process of debunking it must have taken Alex all morning. Well it’s done now. So open a bottle of that beer you like, Alex and put your feet up.

Sandbrook’s article was very, very Daily Mail, which is to say all golly-gosh and girly.  You can see the exclamation marks winking at you. He wrote of Marx’s “titanic intelligence.” Well, we all know what happened to The Titanic. He would have been more accurate if he had spoken of Marx’s “moronic” intelligence.

Look out, Karl, here comes the iceberg!

Alex has done such a fine job on both Marx and Sandbrook, so I will not waste much effort trying to add to it – save to point out, from the stinking, rotten heap of Marx’s “thought,” just one of the ripest pieces of idiocy. Marx talks a lot about history. Or rather, being something of a sub-Hegelian hybrid, he talks about “the historical process.” And the historical process, says Marx, is “inevitable.” Notice what this means: not just that, as Marx says, “the Communist revolution and the punishment of the capitalists” are inevitabilities, but that if a horse called Emily Thornberry wins the two o’clock at Goodwood on Tuesday, then that horse’s win was also inevitable. Because that horse and that race are also part of “the historical process.” And, at the risk of flogging a dead horse (so to speak), let me say also that if I win £50 by backing Emily Thornberry, then it was always inevitable that I should win £50. So, according to Marx, everything that happens was always inevitable – even his writing Das Kapital ; which means, logically, we can’t even enjoy the pleasure of blaming him for it.

Now look what you’ve done, Alex, bro! Just as I was about to get out into the Sunday sunshine: you’ve made me think about those other two titanic intelligences of which you yourself treat in your yesterday’s splendid blog. That pair of 19th century mystagogues Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud.

It turns out that these these two titans are firm believers in inevitability: what in the trade philosophers call “determinism.” For Freud everything we do is caused by “unconscious motivation.” And for Darwin it’s all determined by our genes and natural selection.

Eager as I am to get outside, I can’t help but pause and quote a delicious paragraph from Jerry Fodor concerning Darwin:

“The crucial test is whether one’s pet theory can distinguish between selection for trait A and selection for trait B when A and B are coextensive: for example,were polar bears selected for being white or for matching their environment? Search me; and search any kind of adaptationism I’ve heard of. Nor am I holding my breath till one comes along.”

As for Freud, what is there left to say about a man who supposed that the whole range of human thoughts and feelings owes its origin to what goes on in the last eighteen inches of the alimentary canal?

The three titans Darwin, Marx and Freud were all atheists. And their disciples, mostly atheists too, often praise them for their supposedly having freed us from the shackles of religion.

My religion – Christianity – teaches the existence of freewill

Whereas the “liberation” celebrated by the numbskull followers of Evolutionary Theory, Communism and Psychoanalysis leads us straight back into the prison house of determinism.

PS These three determinisms contradict one another: is it my genes which make me a Marxist? Or is it my historical inevitability that makes me a Freudian. Or unconscious motivation which convinces me of genetic determinism? Three nonsenses in one nonsense in which we find ourselves – with reference to Darwin, Marx and Freud – confounding the persons and dividing the substance.

03 May

Gresham, Cricket and Saying Our Prayers

“Good money drives out bad” is a law formulated by the City of London financier Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579). Good money is money that shows little difference between its nominal value (the face value of the coin) and its commodity value – the value of the metal of which it is made, often precious metals, nickel or copper.

For example, silver coins were widely circulated in Canada until 1968 and in the United States, until 1964 for dimes and quarters and 1970 for half-dollars. when the Coinage Act of 1965 was passed. These countries debased their coins by switching to cheaper metals thereby inflating the new debased currency in relation to the supply of the former silver coins. The silver coins disappeared from circulation as citizens retained them to capture the steady current and future intrinsic value of the metal content over the newly inflated and therefore devalued coins, using the newer coins in daily transactions.

This law has application in areas of life away from financial concerns: in unlike subjects such as professional cricket and the way we say our prayers in church.

When I was a boy in the 1950s, professional cricket in England was the county game and the Test Matches. There were seventeen counties in competition and each played twenty-eight three-day games in the season and points were awarded according to win. lose, draw or tie. At the end of the season the team which had amassed the most points were declared County Champions. Test Match cricket was the international game. Seven national teams – England, Australia, West Indies, South Africa, India, New Zealand and Pakistan – arranged Test Match series, usually of five five-day games. So there would be, for example, a Test series between England and Australia and another between New Zealand and South Africa and so on. The best players were chosen from the county sides to represent England in the Tests.

For decades this was the form taken by the professional game.

Beginning in the 1960s, the county game saw some innovations. There began a one-day competition featuring  sixty-overs-a-side matches played by all the counties. It was a knockout competition with the final held towards the end of the season at Lords. In time the sixty overs were reduced to fifty and a Sunday League of forty overs games was set up

The reasons offered by the cricket authorities for these changes were, first, that spectators liked the one day game because they were guaranteed a result for the entrance fee and the time expenditure on a single visit. Secondly, it was said that many found the three-day game “boring” and “long-drawn out.” They wanted more sixes and fours struck and wickets tumbling regularly. Even this new, fast form of cricket did not satisfy the crowds’ craving for yet more of the smash, bang, wallop stuff. So twenty overs matches – Twenty20 – were introduced to the accompaniment of most un-cricket-like razzmatazz: dancing girls, fireworks and loud blasts of rock music every time the batsman struck a boundary

As Gresham would have predicted, this bad cricket began to drive out the good. County matches nowadays play to empty grounds and attendances at Test Matches have decreased. In their latest wheeze, the authorities have decided to take this dumbing down of the great game to extreme and absurd lengths. Twenty20 provides the sort of cricket that could be enjoyed only by those with minds like the grasshopper’s, but it has been adjudged too long. So there is to be a new competition in which teams will face a mere one hundred balls and no match shall last longer than three hours. The deleterious results are piling up thick and fast: attendances at “real” cricket are falling further and some of the best international players have decided that they will play only in the far more remunerative short forms of the game. The catalyst for further radical change is the monstrous pantomime of the Indian Premier League which is funded by commercial sponsorship and attracts gambling on a cosmic scale. Is the IPL a vast vehicle for rampant corruption? Is there water in the Indian Ocean? For decades India has been renowned as a country of cricketing fanatics with crowds of 100,000 turning up for five day test Matches. Now the Test Matches are neglected and some have suggested the previously unthinkable: that first class cricket in India will cease to be played.

Does any of this matter? Millions are still turning out to watch cricket matches. Only dinosaurs and fuddy-duddies reject change. The point is that the new forms of instant cricket cannot supply the subtleties of the traditional, longer forms of the game: there is the world of physical, intellectual and aesthetic difference between a contest fought over four or five days in which each side bats twice and a slog-fest which is begun and ended in an evening. Inevitably, and soon, the skills required to play proper cricket will be forgotten. There is only one thing wrong with the new game: it’s not cricket. 

From cricket, I turn for a minute to the form of Anglican worship. For four hundred years this was conducted from The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and The King James Bible (1611). All Anglican churches – High, Low and Broad – used these books which were composed when the English language was at its freshest and richest: the age of Shakespeare and Donne, of Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. But then in the 1960s, bishops, synods and the like decided that the church needed to provide alternatives to these texts. First there was The New English Bible (1961) and various forms of liturgy in booklet form which pretended to be written in modern English: but it was neither the English we speak in the street nor the good modern English written by the best 20th century poets. In short, it is the verbal equivalent of Twenty20 and the IPL. The new forms of service do not contain the substance to carry the religious weight of the BCP and the KJV. And so in the Church of England, there began that process of decay and decline that was being paralleled in the game of cricket. In 1980 the Church gathered the contents of all these booklets into a single bulbous excrescence – three times as long as the BCP – called The Alternative Service Book (1980). The Church of England authorities publicised the ASB as “the greatest publishing event in four hundred years.” Twenty years later they banned it. Yes, banned it! It makes a fine headline, doesn’t it: CHURCH BANS BOOKS. Just like the Nazis. Anyhow, the ASB was replaced by something even longer called Common Worship which – like the shape-shifting monster of the horror films – comes in a great variety of forms. You can buy a copy. You can download bits of it at will. You can adapt and edit as you please – no one will mind. What passes for liturgical texts in today’s Church of England is something that would be adequately described by the title Prayers for the New Babel .

I haven’t the space here to compare the new texts with the KJV and the BCP. If anyone seeks such a comparison, it can be found in my book A Partial Vision. But I will give one example to let you have the flavour. In The Solemnisation of Matrimony, the bridegroom utters the words “With this ring I thee wed.” Six words which exactly fit the rhythm of his placing the ring on his bride’s finger. The new version has instead, “I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage.” Eleven words for six. And the sentence must have been composed by an idiot: for, if the groom has to tell his bride that the ring is a sign, it just means the sign isn’t working!

The comparison with what has happened to cricket over the same period is pretty exact. in neither cricket nor in liturgy do the new forms bear the weight, the richness and the subtlety of the traditional forms. Bad prayers and bad cricket have driven out the good.

Predictably, the churches – like the cricket grounds – have emptied.