Thursday 28 July 2011

Not Sure

Is it really so bad that Sure Start centres are closing? That depends what is being put in their place.

Small children need their mothers. It used to be the pride of Social Democratic and Christian Democratic West Germany that matters were carefully arranged to ensure that mothers did not need to go out to work, unlike in East Germany, where they were conscripted into the labour force and where their tiny tots were duly put into institutions suspiciously similar to Sure Start.

Not only in this regard, the Surveillance State of Bloc Party Britain seems to want to be East Germany rather than West Germany.


Isn't more Blairite private provision exactly what we need?

If it's radicalism that you want, then try this: an essential service, paid for by the NHS, the council, or some combination of the two, should be delivered by the NHS, the council, or some combination of the two. In buildings and on land owned by the NHS, the council, or some combination of the two.

The Very Same

That James Purnell, is he the same James Purnell who made his name kicking people out of their wheelchairs and stamping on their heads?

That James Purnell, is he the same James Purnell who was partying with the Murdochs just before the Milly Dowler revelations?

That James Purnell, is he the same James Purnell who has still never been punished for stealing housing expenses that would have had benefit claimants sent to prison, if they had not been beyond the wildest dreams of benefit claimants?

Yes, we are indeed talking about that James Purnell.

Hardly The Fairest of Them All

Piers Morgan is one of very few British journalists to have emerged with honour from the run-up to the Iraq War.

So the knives are out for him.

Still The Bush Telegraph

Michael Weiss’s appalling effort can be read in full here.

The Washington Post reported this week that the US State Department has blacklisted Russian officials implicated in the death of Moscow attorney Sergei Magnitsky, the enterprising young Moscow attorney who exposed a $230 million state-perpetrated tax fraud

Implicated how and by whom? And this is America’s business how, exactly?


How, exactly? And by whom, exactly?

Senator Ben Cardin

Who should know better.

Putin’s ideologist-in-chief

What does that mean?

Despite a few treaties on nuclear arms reduction

Obviously a trivial matter. Tell that to Ronald Reagan, whom Weiss’s neocon godfathers used to compare to Neville Chamberlain while he was still alive and in office.

We still don’t agree on what to do about Iran

“We”? Aren’t you supposed to be British? And your political tendency might not agree with Russia on “what to do about Iran”, but everyone else in the world does.

Russia threatens to veto any UN Security Council resolution on Syria

Thereby saving the ancient indigenous Christians from the fate of the ones in Iraq and Palestine.

Anti-Americanism remains the prevailing mood in the Kremlin

If this article is anything to go by, then I’m not surprised.

The large but disorganised anti-Putin opposition movement in Russia is routinely blamed on the CIA and the State Department


Colour Revolutions that swept Ukraine and Georgia

“Revolutions”? “Swept”? Dream on. Notable that you only list those two, arguably the least unsuccessful, though certainly no more than that.

78 per cent of the Russian elite have a KGB background

And the background of the British and American elites is what, exactly?

Consider the All-Russia People’s Front, a Kremlin-concocted “grassroots” organisation that adores United Russia, the ruling party, and yet which registers signatories at the speed of quantum mechanics

Can’t imagine why...

In a single day, 39,000 employees of the Siberian Business Union joined, no doubt without many of them even being aware of the Front’s existence

No doubt...

I registered as a Muscovite housewife called Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

That’s Telegraph journalism now, is it? And you neocons could do with reading Solzhenitsyn.

Cold War-style paranoia

Rich beyond Croesus.

The Washington Times

Now we really have found the level.

This post is a disgrace, but only too typical of Britain’s supposedly conservative and Tory media, which, like the party that they support and like the faction that they favour in the other party, are consistently more loyal to America and Israel than to their own country, a situation which exists in no comparable country, and possibly in no other country on earth.

Where is Peter Oborne? Peter Hitchens, Stephen Glover, Peter McKay and Andrew Alexander may be signed up elsewhere. But has the Telegraph never heard of Geoffrey Wheatcroft, or Stuart Reid, or John Laughland, or Freddy Gray, or Anthony Daniels/Theodore Dalrymple, to name but a few? The crowd around The American Conservative, and perhaps especially around its Post-Right blog currently in abeyance while it pursues other projects, would also serve as a very useful antidote to the sort of “Sarah Palin for President/George Bush was the greatest and most conservative President ever” drivel that appears both below and above the line. Email addresses available from

All those listed as already signed up by someone else have specifically been signed up by the Mail newspapers, which not only are, but always have been, British-owned, in contrast to the rootless cosmopolitanism of Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black, whose view of America is the same as that of those who have thence transferred their former affection for the Soviet Union. Not for them Russia’s pre-eminence among the Slavs as the gatekeepers of a civilisation defined precisely by the Classical-Biblical synthesis in Jesus Christ and His Church. The similar historic role of France is also nothing to them, except something against which to define themselves.

The only viable opposition to Putin and Medvedev is the totally unreconstructed Communist Party of the Russian Federation, although the neocons and the BBC are also very fond of the Islamist terrorists in Chechnya, and also of the National Bolsheviks, with their Nazi flag apart from the black hammer and sickle in place of the swastika. As during the Soviet period, Russian “dissidents” are routinely deeply unpleasant in themselves and are frequently guilty of offences such as would lead to imprisonment or more in any jurisdiction in the world. It is a generation since Edward Norman pointed that out. But he is hardly on any neocon reading list.

If anyone were good for the readies, then I have every confidence that a site similar in format to Telegraph Blogs or to Harry’s Place, but giving a platform both to proper Tories and to those in the patriotic, socially conservative tradition of the real British Left, could be up and running within a working week.

Lessons From Latvia

Lord Keynes writes:

With the Republicans basically preparing to destroy the US economy over the debt ceiling, we might wonder what severe austerity means in human terms. For this, we can go back to 2009 and review the wonderful “achievements” of austerity in Latvia, as displayed in the video below, where an unusually extreme form of it was imposed on the population.

At one point Latvia’s unemployment rate hit 20.1% (December 2009), and by some reports was 22.9% in January 2010, the worst in the EU (it is unclear whether this is data from the Latvian State Employment Agency which provides the official registered unemployment rate, or a better estimate). In the first quarter of 2011, the unemployment rate was 16.9%, and the reported registered unemployment rate as of July 2011 was a lower but still disastrous double-digit figure of 12.4% (and that might, at any rate, be an underestimate).

GDP growth in Q1 2001 was a miserable 0.2%. All in all, a wretched result after the level of suffering that was inflicted on the country.

The export-led growth that the country has experienced in 2010–2011 could have been achieved by currency depreciation, which would have allowed a space for stimulating the domestic economy as well.

The Cult of Centrism

Paul Krugman writes:

Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price.

The Blame Game

Conor Friedersdorf writes:

Were sympathy a finite resource, this week's ration would belong to the citizens of Norway, especially the survivors of the attacks and the families of the dead. Fortunately, giving them their share doesn't diminish our store. It is therefore appropriate to spare a thought for the writers named in the Oslo killer's manifesto. Had my name been among them, I'd have felt awful even had I done nothing wrong. Aside from the Unabomber, it's likely that everyone cited by the killer as influences were horrified by his acts, and would never advocate anything like them.

But it's too easy to say that killers always bear sole responsibility when people die by their hands. Think of the propagandists whose broadcasts urged Hutus in Rwanda to slaughter their Tutsi neighbors. In stark contrast, recall the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Contrary to what some have argued, it is wrong to assign any blame for that incident to Sarah Palin and her banal cross-hairs poster, unless we're all guilty of assault with carelessly deployed metaphors.

Where is Oslo on that spectrum?

Certain writers named by the killer, like Mill, Locke, Burke, Twain, and many others besides, are innocent of wrongdoing. In the public conversation, that's basically how they've been treated. But other writers known for their zealous anti-jihadism -- Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Mark Steyn, and several others -- aren't getting off so easily. The killer shared their particular belief that European liberals are enabling a Muslim takeover with their multicultural philosophy. Thus critics of these writers insist that irresponsible rhetoric on their parts helped shape and poison the mind of the terrorist. The writers have plead innocent and are defending themselves.

The matter is complicated by the fact that it's impossible to know the killer's mind. Ideas surely matter, but assigning culpability for bad ones is difficult enough when the relevant party is a rational actor.

Here, he is a murderous sociopath.

Were I judge and jury (I'm speaking metaphorically -- everything we're discussing is rightly protected by the First Amendment), I'd throw out the most serious charges against the defendants, despite my objections to their work. It isn't just that normal people don't react with violence to the arguments they've articulated. Only one person, among all the nut jobs in the world, has done so. Absent future incidents (heaven forbid), it just isn't fair to hold them culpable.

But all three writers are guilty of a lesser journalistic crime: whether due to a penchant for rhetorical excess or genuinely held but wrongheaded beliefs, each exaggerates the threat that radical Islam poses to Europe, which isn't to say that it poses no threat, or that radical Islam is a verboten subject of discussion. It is both a vital subject and a volatile one. But a closer look at their rhetoric reveals as much bluster as rigor. In a single item, it is hardly possible to take on the whole of their oeuvres, but we have room enough to address some representative examples.

Take Pamela Geller. Here is what she said when President Obama pondered moving terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to a maximum security prison: "Obama is bringing his jihad to Illinois. Has anyone asked the people of Chicago if they want KSM's soul mates in their state? Obama's treachery is breathtaking." Characteristically, it wasn't enough to object to the president's policy. Instead she bizarrely asserts that Obama has himself taken ownership of a jihad, that Illinois residents were to be its victims, and that he is guilty of treason. Were all that true -- if the president of the United States really was a traitor waging Islamic holy war on the citizenry -- a lot of people would conclude that radical action was needed to end a dangerous situation. Only because no one actually takes Geller seriously did her rhetoric prove harmless.

Robert Spencer is one of the writers who exaggerates the prospect of sharia law being implemented in the United States. Put another way, although there is no chance of it happening, he treats it as an imminent threat that requires a legislative fix. And when sharia bans are found unconstitutional? The judge is deemed a "dhimmi" and Spencer asserts it as a sign that "the people... have ceased to be their own rulers." Again, if sharia law as understood by Spencer was about to reign in America, it would be cause for serious alarm. Luckily, few take him seriously.

Mark Steyn is a far more talented and careful writer than Geller or Spencer, and his alarm at challenges to free speech in Europe and Canada is justified, as is his critique of the less defensible aspects of multiculturalism, always captured with an anecdote at the ready. But his method of argument is too often just series of allegedly telling anecdotes marshaled in service of an ultimately unpersuasive, defeatist narrative: that demography and a lack of civilizational confidence among Europeans dooms America to stand alone against a future dominated by Islamists.

Here let's focus on the impression he gives that he is alone in objecting to violent and illiberal manifestations of Islam. "Mark Steyn's book insistence that we recognize an extraordinary threat and thus the possible need for extraordinary responses," Christopher Hitchens writes in his mostly positive review of America Alone. "He need not pose as if he were the only one with the courage to think in this way." Quite so. Despite the extraordinary changes to American life since 9/11, some justified, others not, and most supported by liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, you'd think from reading Steyn that Islamist aggression is the lonely concern of a few Cassandras, rather than the central preoccupation of the national security state.

The common flaw among Geller, Spencer and Steyn: all ratchet up more anxiety about Islam than is justified by the facts. Ponder the arguments outlined in this essay alone. An impressionable person reading the trio in succession would conclude that a somnambulistic America is the world's only hope to avoid living under sharia law; that viable attempts to impose it on American citizens are ongoing even now; and that President Obama himself is supportive of the civilization-threatening jihad!

How many people can assert such things before small numbers of the disaffected take them literally? If all that were true, wouldn't a lot of people respond violently? Overheated, hyperbolic rhetoric must come naturally once you've immersed yourself in the hard core anti-jihadist blogosphere. Regulars there lose the conviction that words have precise meanings, and the belief that arguing with integrity requires staying within their bounds. Shortcuts are so much easier, hence the frequent descents into ad hominem, the constant reliance on hyperbole, and the crutch of playing on the civilizational anxieties of the audience, in an effort to shake them into awareness.

Jeffrey Goldberg offers sound counsel. "Free speech means free speech," he says of Geller. "But she should be aware now that violent people look to her for guidance, and she should write with that in mind."

Quite right.

That doesn't mean that she or anyone else is at fault for the killings in Norway, or that she or anyone else should stop writing about the threat posed by radical Islam. It merely means doing so more responsibly, as any number of other writers manage to do, as a sensible precaution -- one that is onerous only insofar as it demands going no farther than the unexaggerated truth. "If Norway responds to this as the left appears to wish, by shriveling even further the bounds of public discourse," Steyn writes, "freedom will have a tougher time." Having gone on trial in Canada to defend free speech, he's earned the right to be wary of overzealous speech restrictions. But he'd be wrong to conflate mere requests for less calculatedly hyperbolic punditry with that specter.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

The Means To The Middle

James Purnell has emerged from beyond the grave to denounce universal entitlement and its payments to the middle classes.

But Herbert Morrison professed never to have seen any conflict "between Labour and what are known as the middle classes". Aneurin Bevan denounced class war, calling instead for "a platform broad enough for all to stand upon" and for the making of "war upon a system, not upon a class". Both served under Clement Attlee (Haileybury, Oxford, the Bar and the Officer Corps), who was succeeded by Hugh Gaitskell (Winchester and Oxford). Harold Wilson was a Fellow of an Oxford college, and the son of a chemist and a schoolteacher. Jim Callaghan was a tax inspector. Michael Foot's public school may have been the Quakers' Leighton Park, but it was still a public school, which duly sent him to Oxford. Neil Kinnock's father may have been a miner, but he himself was a lecturer. John Smith was a QC. We all know about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

And why not? The median household income in this country is £21,320. That is the middle. Ninety-three per cent of children attend state schools. Every business is dependent on them, as it is on public transport and the National Health Service. Indeed, hardly anyone has private health insurance, and a large proportion of those who do, have it through their trade unions. And so on.

In the present state of affairs, extremely few are those who could do without their Child Benefit, or their tax credits, or their state pensions, or their winter fuel payments, or their free bus travel, or their free prescriptions, or their free eye and dental treatment, or their free television licenses. Taking away consumer spending power is hardly the way to aid economic recovery. On the bus travel, on the prescriptions, and on the eye and dental treatment, the question is of why anyone should have to pay for them upfront. As it is of why anyone should have to pay upfront for hospital parking, or for undergraduate tuition, or for long term care in old age, when this does not apply in certain parts of the United Kingdom. Which brings us back to Morrison's principle that all parts of the Kingdom should benefit equally from social democracy. And to the fiercely Unionist Bevan, with his platform broad enough for all to stand upon.

Paid for by what? Not by any private sector, as that term is ordinarily used. Thus defined, there is no private sector. Not in any advanced country, and not since the War at the latest. Take out bailouts or the permanent promise of them, take out central and local government contracts, take out planning deals and other sweeteners, and take out the guarantee of customer bases by means of public sector pay and the benefits system, and what is there left? They are all as dependent on public money as any teacher, nurse or road sweeper. Everyone is. With public money come public responsibilities, including public accountability for how those responsibilities are or are not being met.

If you believe that there ought to be a middle class for social and cultural reasons, then you have to believe in the political action necessary in order to secure that class's economic basis. Look at Britain today, and you will see the "free" market's overclass and underclass, with less and less of a middle except in the public sector. Public sector haters and the enemies of middle-class benefits are no more in favour of a thriving middle class than they are in favour of family life, or British agriculture, or a British manufacturing base, or small business, all of which are likewise dependent on government action in order to protect them from the ravages of capitalism.

Middle-class French people refuse to believe the stories of the underclass (or the overclass) in the "Anglo-Saxon" countries. But they are still horrified at the activities of their own, which would be too minor to attract comment here or in the United States. And they are still in a position to take a stand against those activities, because France continues to will, not only the end that is the existence of a large and thriving middle class, but also the means to that end in terms of government action. James Purnell does not will those means. So he cannot will that end.

A Muslim-Dominated Conservative Europe?

Bonald writes:

One big issue is how Christianity and Islam relate. Is any alliance between the two as intellectually incoherent as Frank Meier’s fusionism or Tu Weiming’s Enlightenment-friendly Confuciansim? I don’t think so; I would say that Christianity and Islam are rivals but not opposites. Libertarianism and social conservatism, and Confucianism and the Enlightenment are movements in opposite directions. There’s no coherent way one can push both at the same time. One can advance Christianity and Islam at the same time. Their morals and ours are mostly compatible (far more so than are Christian and liberal morals), and in a broad sense, Christians and Muslims would like to push Europe in the same direction (less public blasphemy, less pornography, less usury). The particularities of our own traditions can be pursued at the local level, since Christians and Muslims usually live in different places, so a robust localism can serve us both. What’s more, this is the means of coexistence endorsed by both our traditions. Muhammad himself said that Christians should be unmolested in our own enclaves, while we Christians are obliged to promote subsidiarity when possible. Both Christians and Muslims accommodated religious minorities through ghetto arrangements in the Middle Ages; it’s the sensible thing to do. The liberals, by contrast, think they have a right to indoctrinate other people’s children.

Let’s also not loose sight of the contemporary reality. A Muslim-dominated conservative Europe may not be the ideal, but at this point I think it’s by far the most viable alternative to a completely Leftist Europe. Christianity is toxic in the public mind. Europeans think we’re all a bunch of bigots and mass-murderers. And let’s not forget that half of those European Christians are Roman Catholics, who in the public mind are all child molesters. No one would ever vote for us. On the other hand, Islam, as they’ve been told ad nausium, is the religion of peace. Also, while the genetic differences between us and Turks or Arabs is small, they are regarded as non-white for some reason, which automatically gives them higher status in the European mind. Finally, they are a more formidable force because of their self-confidence. They really know that they’re right, and they don’t care what the New York Times says. Christians conservatives, on the other hand, are use to defeat. We’ve known nothing else for two centuries. We’ve come to expect it. We go into every fight demoralized, worried more about how to avoid social ostracism for what we know will turn out to be an unpopular cause than about how to make it a popular cause. The Muslims are psychologically better equipped to fight than we are.

Most importantly, between Islam and hedonistic nihilism, I’d choose Islam hands down.

We need to re-learn structured daily prayer, setting aside one day in seven, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, the global community of faith as the primary focus of personal allegiance and locus of personal identity, the lesser outward and greater inward struggle, the need for a comprehensive and coherent critique of both capitalism and Marxism, the coherence between faith and reason, and a consequent integrated view of art and science. The answer to the challenge of the Sunna is Sacred Tradition. The answer to the challenge of the Imamate is the Petrine Office. The answer to the challenge of Sufism is our own tradition of mysticism and monasticism. Liberal Catholics will be the last to see the point.

Changing Times?

Might Rupert Murdoch be meeting Michael Gove quite so often because he intends to set up his own "free" schools?

Militant Mandy

Peter Mandelson? He's dead, isn't he?

No surprise that he wants the Heir to Blair to beat the Heir to Attlee, Gaitskell, Bevan, Wilson, Callaghan, Healey, Shore, Kinnock, Smith and Brown. And no surprise that he expresses it in a newspaper which has supported the Lib Dems at the last three General Elections.

What does it say about Cameron, that he is so enthusiastically endorsed by Tony Blair's closest ally, a former European Commissioner who cut his teeth in the Young Communist League during the Cold War?

Time was when Labour used to expel parties within the party.

Time To Get Out Of Libya

We await the Libyan recognition of anything that might happen to declare itself the Transitional National Council of the United Kingdom, though preferably not a body of Islamist insurgents such as we have recognised in Libya. Meanwhile, over in The Daily Express, Neil Clark writes:

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach, the great sage Aldous Huxley once wrote.

It’s hard to think of a more appropriate judgment on Britain’s military involvement in Libya. After the disastrous invasion of Iraq – a war based on dodgy dossiers and misinformation which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, you would have thought that the British Government would have done all it could to keep our country out of any more unnecessary Middle East military conflicts, especially as the war in Afghanistan is still ongoing.

Indeed when David Cameron became PM last year many people hoped that he would make a clean break with the foreign policy of New Labour and its enthusiasm for sending Britain’s armed forces around the globe to act as world policemen. But he has cruelly disappointed by taking us into yet another ill-thought-out military adventure. When the NATO military action against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime started in March we were told that it would be over quickly because the Libyan dictator was “isolated” and had very little public support. But we’re now heading into August and Gaddafi is still very much in power.

It’s a huge understatement to say that the war has not gone according to plan. After the NATO action began on March 19, with the stated aim of protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s forces, the line from Britain, France and the US was uncompromising: there could be no negotiations with the Libyan regime and that Gaddafi had to step down. And when Libya’s leader was indicted by the International Criminal Court in late June for crimes against humanity, Foreign Secretary William Hague declared: “The warrants demonstrate why Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy and why he should go immediately.”

But in the past few weeks the line has changed again. Last week French foreign minister Alain Juppé declared that “one of the scenarios being envisaged” was that Gaddafi would be allowed to stay in Libya, provided he “steps aside from Libyan political life”. Now Britain has softened its position too, with the Government saying that what happens to Gaddafi is “ultimately a question for the Libyans to decide”. And while it was the Libyan government that was calling for negotiations earlier in the summer, it’s now the NATO powers who are contemplating a deal which would keep Gaddafi in Libya, with talk of him being sent to the Hague to stand trial quietly dropped.

How has it all gone so wrong? It’s clear that in their rush to commit to military action the NATO powers greatly overestimated the strength of anti-government forces and underestimated the public support that Gaddafi still had. The Libyan rebels were promoted as the genuine voice of the Libyan people. But the reality is that away from their strongholds in the east of the country the rebels do not have enough support to take over the whole county without the deployment of a sizable number of NATO ground troops, something which is simply not going to happen.

Gaddafi may be a ruthless dictator with a record of supporting acts of terrorism in the Seventies and Eighties but he has brought his country stability during his 42-year rule and living standards have risen for the majority. His secular rule has also been supported by those who fear a hard-line Islamist takeover of power. There have been huge pro-Gaddafi demonstrations in Libya this summer, showing that many Libyans still prefer him to the rebels. The opposition, moreover, are not a united group – in fact the only thing which brings them together is their hatred of Gaddafi’s government.

Alongside those who genuinely wish to see a more democratic Libya there are others with more extremist agendas. Former CIA officer Brian Fairchild has claimed that the anti- Gaddafi revolt is “rife with projihad sentiment”, while one of the Libyan rebel commanders has admitted that his forces have links to Al Qaeda. Neither are the rebels whiter than white when it comes to human rights.

“Opposition forces say they are committed to human rights but the looting, arson and abuse of civilians in captured towns are worrying,” says Joe Stork, of Human Rights Watch.

“This raises concerns about how civilians will be treated if rebels capture other towns where the government has support.”

And of course there’s the enormous financial cost of our involvement in Libya’s civil war to consider. If military operations continue until September it is estimated that the cost to the taxpayer will be more than £1billion – far more than the “tens of millions of pounds” Chancellor George Osborne predicted when the NATO action began. And all this at a time when the Government tells us that because of the poor state of public finances we need to cut spending and freeze public-sector pay.

If you’re in a hole, as the NATO powers are in Libya, the best thing is to stop digging. Although it might be unpalatable for some there is no more sensible option for the Government now but to end British involvement in this foolhardy venture and allow the African Union to broker a peace deal between the Libyan government and the rebels.

And the lesson must be learnt by David Cameron that Britain must take part in no more costly military adventures which do not affect our national interest or our national security.

Fortiter Defendit Triumphans

All right, so Geordie Shore and Geordie Finishing School are not exactly aimed at me. In any case, people from County Durham are not Geordies, as Geordies would be the first to tell you.

But the latter, since it was made at public expense, is still the most pig ignorant BBC depiction of the North East since it sent some Jolly Hockey Sticks reporter to walk around upmarket Tynemouth, which always had a Tory MP until 1997, and marvel that the Conservative Party had managed to win a few council seats anywhere so improbable.

The question should have been how it ever managed to lose them. Even last year, it still did not managed to win back the seat in Parliament. Have you ever been to Tynemouth?

Until this year, Newcastle had had a Lib Dem council for some years. That authority was under Tory control for much of the post-War period, and the city regularly returned Tory MPs for certain seats.

There is still a strikingly high number of privately schooled children, a posh university with Princess Eugenie at it, a thriving arts scene that is certainly not reminiscent of the pitmen painters, several gentlemen’s clubs, a racecourse of some importance, and no shortage of the swankier sorts of shops, restaurants, bars, and the like.

There are poor places around it (as well as several very rich ones), but there are very few poor areas in it, although the ones that there are, are undeniably very poor indeed.

Any chance of a programme in which the products of somewhere like the Central High are sent to somewhere like the South Coast or numerous parts of London in order to learn how the other half live?

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Rupert's Little Helper

Michael Gove has had six meetings with Rupert Murdoch in the last year, including two dinner dates last month.

Fresh out of Oxford, the Conservative Research Department could find no link between Gove and its party. Yet look at him now.

Entryism, plain and simple. And that in the service of what can reasonably be called a foreign power.

Tripoli Treachery?

Not a bit of it. So no Frog-bashing, please.

In la France éternelle, the land of Charles Martel, his heirs are valiantly engaged in a demographic war, not only against the rise of a semi-feral underclass which is in any case nothing on that in the “Anglo-Saxon” countries that have ceased to will the means to a properly functioning bourgeoisie and proletariat, but also against the Islamic expansionism that dismembered France as recently as 1962, when she was mutilated by the loss, not of three colonies, but of three départements, integral parts of the French state and nation. Calls for what would then have been a second, parallel Western Alliance, against Islamic expansion rather than against Communism, have been part of mainstream French politics ever since the 1950s.

That was the perspective from which, in and through the person of a decorated veteran of the Algerian War, France opposed the greatest catastrophe since 1962 for what was originally Christendom on three continents, covering every inch of the Mediterranean’s shores. For what remained of that, 1962 was the greatest catastrophe since 1948 (itself the greatest since 1923), and 2003 seems set to have been the greatest until a similar intervention in Syria. That will doubtless also be resisted, even if not by Sarkozy, then certainly by of la France éternelle, the conscious, literal rebirth of which will have tremendous consequences in, for example, the United Nations Security Council, where they can expect the support of Russia and will also deserve that of the United Kingdom and the United States.

If You Say That They Will Say It

He knew that they would call him mad.

So he isn't.

The Seven Percenters

They are paid by the number of people whom they fail, so the wonder is not that they have found 93 per cent of claimants fit for work, but that they have found seven per cent unfit. Are 93 per cent of doctors dishonest, incompetent or both?

Those deemed fit are not going to get jobs. There are no jobs. And even if there were, they are medically unfit for them. Just ask their doctors. So they are still going to be on the dole.

A Right Royal Missing of The Point

The Royal Wedding was bad for productivity. A public holiday was declared and, would you Adam and Eve it, the public only went and took a day's holiday. Who do they think they are?

The little people used to do something like that on Sundays. Every bleedin' week! So the law was changed to prevent them. They still do it every 25th December. Every bleedin' year! When is the law going to be changed to prevent that, too?

The Conservative Party tried, the last time that they were in. Well, they are in again now, and almost all of those Old Tories who co-operated with the unions back in the day have since been pensioned off or joined the choir invisible. So come on, Dave. What are you waiting for? Where do you think this is, Germany?

Leave To Remain

So Colonel Gaddafi can stay on in his own country after all, so long as he gives up power? How very gracious of us.

Of course, while Blair was pretending to believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (he sent in British forces without the necessary protection against such weapons, so perfectly well did he know that they did not exist, and he has since blithely admitted that knowledge on television), he was perfectly prepared to allow Saddam to remain, not merely in Iraq, but running Iraq. So long as he "disarmed".

Bye, George

First, Osborne pushed for Andy Coulson.

And now, he has delivered today's growth figures.

What do you have to do to be sacked from this government?

In Extremis

Not before time, the dreadful events in Norway are forcing us to pay some attention to the burgeoning white nationalist movement centred on the EDL. It has deep, deep roots in the “casual” football hooliganism of the 1980s and 1990s. It is foreign-funded and foreign-controlled, by the Fox-brewed Tea Party and by the secular Israeli Hard Right, which is currently in government, and whose American branch office was recently addressed by one Rupert Murdoch. But there is also the (often desperately ignorant) African-American takeover of our black politics, which is of overwhelmingly Afro-Caribbean or African origin, and barely, if at all, related to African-American culture.

All political parties in certain Midland, Yorkshire and North-Western towns and cities are now being run as, by no means always predictable, proxies for rival factions in Pakistan, to the extent that the rally designed to name Asif Ali Zardari’s son as sole Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party was held in Birmingham, with a large rival demonstration outside. Glasgow is heading the same way, as both Labour’s selection of a candidate for its safe seat of Glasgow Central, and the scramble for the Conservatives’ list seat at Holyrood, made abundantly clear. We now have a London Borough in which political life is being directed from Bangladesh. We have thriving scenes loyal to each of Hindutva and Khalistan, both of which were significant at the Ealing Southall by-election, and both of which have their own ties to the EDL.

We are subject to the legislative will of the sorts of people that turn up in the coalitions represented in the European Parliament and in the EU Council of Ministers. Stalinists and Trotskyists. Neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis. Members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura. Neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany. Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women as candidates. Before long, the ruling Islamists of Turkey. And their opponents, variously extreme secular ultranationalists and Marxist Kurdish separatists. When Jörg Haider’s party was in government in Austria, the totally unreconstructed Communist Party was in government in France. In the Council of Ministers, we were being legislated for by both of them. In the European Parliament, we still are, because we always are. People who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland may not take their seats at Westminster. But they do at Strasbourg.

More broadly, British law is subject to that of the EU. EU law does not need to pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. British Ministers attend a legislature which meets in secret and which publishes no Official Report. Rulings of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights, and of the “Supreme Court”, have effect in the United Kingdom without any resolution of the House of Commons. That House is elected by a system which does not reflect public opinion. Nor does the general electorate have the decisive say in selecting party candidates as well as in choosing among them and others. Our foreign and defence policies are effectively subject to the United States, the foreign and defence policies of which are effectively subject to the Israeli Hard Right whether or not it happens, as at present, to be in government in its own country. There is a separatist administration in Scotland. A borderline separatist and undoubtedly language-fascist party is in government in Wales. Northern Ireland has been carved up between a fringe fundamentalist sect and, again, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to the sovereign body throughout Ireland.

Our Political Class is awash with the likes of John Reid, Peter Mandelson and the Communist Party of Great Britain, in their day the paid agency of an enemy power. With the likes of Alistair Darling, Bob Ainsworth and the International Marxist Group. With the likes of Charles Clarke, Jack Straw and the nominally Labour but entirely pro-Soviet faction that controlled the National Union of Students. With the likes of Alan Milburn, Stephen Byers and Trotskyism; Milburn’s only ever job outside politics was running a Trotskyist bookshop called Days of Hope, known to its clientele as “Haze of Dope”. And so on, and on, and on. Including the assembled New Labourites who sang, not Labour’s Red Flag, but the Communist Internationale, at the funerals of Donald Dewar and Robin Cook.

Our Political Class is awash with the old cheerleaders for the Boer Republic set up as an explicit act of anti-British revenge in a former Dominion of the Crown, as well as the old defenders of Pinochet’s Chile and of other Nazi-harbouring pioneers of monetarism in Latin America. In those circles, it was also normal to demand the dismantlement of the public services, the legalisation of all drugs, the abolition of any minimum age of consent, and so forth. Again, these views have never been recanted; indeed, they have largely come to pass.

And our Political Class is awash the SDP. Apparently unable to see that the trade unions were where the need for a broad-based, sane opposition to Thatcherism was greatest, it was hysterically hostile to them, and instead made itself dependent on a single donor, later made a Minister by Tony Blair without the rate for the job. It had betrayed Gaitskellism over Europe, betrayed Christian Socialism (and, contrary to what is usually assumed, Gaitskellism) over nuclear weapons, adopted the decadent social libertinism of Roy Jenkins, adopted the comprehensive schools mania of Shirley Williams, and carried over her sense of guilt at not having resigned over past Labour attempts to control immigration. Faced with Bennism and Trotskyism on one side, and with the forces around Margaret Thatcher on the other, it advocated exactly the wrong thing, “more, not less, radical change in our society”. Alliance with the Liberal Party committed the SDP to constitutional agenda scarcely distinguishable from those of Tony Benn. Many of those have now been enacted. Many of the rest are now the policy of all three parties.

Congressmen Cabled

Interference in the other side's internal affairs? Within the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States? Imagine! With allies like America, who needs enemies? By no means only the British experience, although certainly that. More to the present point, Cable's targets' own party seems to agree with him, preparing to nominate Mitt Romney in order to plug the gap until 2016 and David Petraeus, a serving member of the Obama Administration. By, I say again, their own party, the right-wing nutters are just going to be told to like it or lump it.

Romney is probably not going to win, and he is not really supposed to in the Grand Old Party's Grand Plan. But a President who literally believed that America was the Promised Land would be both a poignant and an amusing last hurrah. Did those Tea Party banners and placards say "Made In China"? They should have done, and they might as well have done. Both this budget carry on and the fortieth anniversary of Nixon's War on Drugs call to mind that there was once a Republican Party of Nixon's suspension of the draft, his détente with China, and the ending of the Vietnam War by him and by Ford, an old stalwart of the America First Committee.

That was the Republican Party of Nixon's belief in wage and price control as surely as in the Clean Air Act and in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as surely as in the War on Cancer and in the War on Drugs, as surely as in Title IX and in the desegregation of schools in the Deep South, and as surely that the United States should launch no war over the Soviet Union’s treatment of its Zionist dissidents, who have turned out to have been just as unpleasant in their own way as were many other categories of those who happened to dissent from the Soviet regime, and who now constitute a significant obstacle to peace in the Middle East, where they are busily engaged in denaturalising both the indigenous Christians and the Haredi Jews.

The Nixon and Ford Administrations still stand in stark and welcome contrast to the pioneering monetarism and the Cold War sabre-rattling of the Carter Administration.

Taken In Error

Daniel Larison writes:

"The Suez Crisis heralded an era of American leadership and action, while Libya has shown that, though powerful, America intends to rely on its allies to carry larger burdens, and take responsibility for their own regions. America once drove and financed western security, but due to fiscal shortfalls and a decade of conflict, it no longer intends to guarantee European security." ~Patrick McKinney

Let’s think about this for a moment. We can agree that the Suez crisis and the U.S. response to it “heralded an era of American leadership” in the Near East, or at least it marked the eclipse of the old imperial powers, but one thing that Suez and Libya have in common is that neither one of them really had much to do with European security. Perhaps Britain and France believed attacking Egypt served their respective interests because they feared Egyptian control of the Canal, but the security of Britain and France was never really at stake. Taking sides in Libya’s civil war certainly had nothing to do with securing Europe, and the limited U.S. role in the Libyan war should not be taken to mean that the U.S. will ignore existing security commitments to Europe. That’s something very different from throwing massive resources into a war of caprice waged by two European governments embarrassed by their prior dealings with unsavory North African regimes.

As McKinney noted, Eisenhower objected to the attack on Egypt in these terms:

"We believe these actions to have been taken in error. For we do not accept the use of force as a wise and proper instrument for the settlement of international disputes."

In the Suez crisis, there was at least some agreement between the U.S. and its European allies that Egyptian control over the Canal was the cause of an international dispute that needed to be settled, but the U.S. objected to the means they employed. The Libyan war was the result of an Anglo-French hunt for a justification that would permit them to involve themselves in Libya’s internal affairs. As Eisenhower saw it, the Anglo-French policy was a misguided response to a real international dispute, and their attack undermined international peace and security. The Libyan civil war was not a conflict that jeopardized international peace and security, but it was one that Britain and France, this time with U.S. support, chose to internationalize.

In fact, what we are seeing in the Libyan war is a willingness on the part of the U.S. to enable Anglo-French military adventurism in a part of the world where the U.S. had previously opposed it. If this is evidence of receding U.S. power, it is a very strange one. The curious thing about this is that Britain and France are no longer equipped to indulge in this adventurism without U.S. help, but even at a time of “fiscal shortfalls” and after “a decade of conflict” the U.S. has facilitated and supported their ill-conceived adventure anyway.

Monday 25 July 2011

Chipping Norton Set Up

Much comment on Anders Behring Breivik's favourable quotations from the Daily Mail column of Melanie Phillips. But Melanie Phillips is nowhere near any centre of power.

Whereas Breivik also quotes favourably from the Sun and Sunday Times contributions of Jeremy Clarkson. Yet there is little or no comment on that.

How odd.

Remind me, who owns the Sun and the Sunday Times? And of which very prominent politician indeed is Clarkson not only a near neighbour, but also a very close personal friend?

No Need

Neocons have of course been mass murdering teenagers for quite some time, including British teenagers sent to the front lines of the wars to further their deranged and venal schemes. But note that, suddenly, this has become a problem, now that the victims are white and, unlike squaddies, middle-class.

Douglas Murray's Neoconservatism: Why We Need It manages not to mention Trotskyism or Max Shachtman at all in its supposed study of its subject; that's Leo Strauss for you, I suppose. And on page 170, we read that, "As soon as blond Swedish men get into the habit of plotting and committing acts of terrorism against Western society, then blond Swedish men should be stopped and searched."

So, that's still all right, then. Isn't it? Don't you believe it. These matters are in the hands of people who cannot tell an Arab from a Somali, from a South Asian, from, in one notable case, a Brazilian. So blond Norwegian men are by no means the only people who now need to give Britain a very wide berth indeed. Or have I missed something?


In considering the rise of India, we must be mindful that we are not necessarily dealing with India as we have known her.

The BJP is now about as likely as the Congress Party to be the principal party of government, within and allied to it are violently fascistic elements such as the Shiv Sena and those who massacre Christians in Orissa, and the party centrally is increasingly seeking to join forces with political Islam around such causes as the strong nationalism that has always been expressed by the Darul Uloom Deoband, the conduct of Waqf Boards, and the recognition of Urdu as one of the “authentically” Indian languages to be promoted at the expense of English. However, the BJP has little or no understanding that patriotism must include economic patriotism.

If there is a third force in India, then it is made up of Far Left parties, it is led by the party that followed Chairman Mao when he broke with the Soviet Union, and it includes the successors of Subhas Chandra Bose, who raised an army in support of the Japanese during the Second World War.

All in all, India’s nuclear weapons, like those of Israel and perhaps also those of the United States, should be regarded with no less trepidation than those of Pakistan or North Korea, and with considerably more so than those of China, Russia or, purely hypothetically, Iran.

Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum?

Not any more. Malta can now look forward to the British-style social breakdown against which she has been warned from across the political spectrum, to much hilarity over here. The Philippines could look forward to American-style social breakdown if the same change were ever enacted there.

The End of Catholic Ireland?

Only in the Republic. Where it was always weaker.

The Pope first gave the Kings of England the Lordship of Ireland. That he was English is neither here nor there. He was the Pope. A Papal Blessing was sent to William III when he set out for Ireland, and there hangs at Stormont a painting depicting his crossing of the Boyne with, in the sky, a vignette of the Pope with his hand raised in blessing. The Lateran Palace was illuminated for a fortnight when news of the Battle of the Boyne reached Rome.

During the 1798 Rebellion, the staff and students of Maynooth sent a Declaration of Loyalty to the King. That Royal College of Saint Patrick would not have existed without the patronage to which its name bore witness, the only means whereby the formation of Catholic priests was possible on Irish soil. The tiny number of priests who adhered to that Rebellion were excommunicated, the bishops calling them “the very faeces of the Church”.

Into the nineteenth century, Catholic priests participated in the annual prayer service at the Walls of Derry, an ecumenical gesture with few or no parallels at the time. Jacobite and Hanoverian were always united in supporting the closest possible ties among the historic Kingdom of England (including the Principality of Wales), the historic Kingdom of Scotland and the historic Kingdom of Ireland.

Prominent Belfast Catholic laymen chaired rallies against Home Rule, with prominent Catholic priests on the platforms. There were numerous Catholic pulpit denunciations of Fenianism, which is unlike any of the three principal British political traditions in being a product of the French Revolution. Hence its tricolour flag. And hence its strong anticlerical streak, always identifying Catholicism as one of Ireland’s two biggest problems.

The Orange Lodges opposed the Act of Union of 1800, the best thing that ever happened to Ireland, which incorporated one of the most backward countries in Europe into what became in the nineteenth century the most advanced country in the world, an advance not least by the efforts of Irish Catholic labourers throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The consequent improvements in Ireland’s agriculture, industry, education, infrastructure, welfare provision, honest and responsible administration, and so on, were almost incalculable, and enjoyed the strongest possible support of the Catholic Church, without which many, most or even all of them could not have happened, especially at local level.

There may very well be a Protestant work ethic, but there is at least as much of a Catholic one, forming and defining half of the Germans, more than half of the West Germans during their post-War economic miracle, half of the Swiss, half of the Dutch, and great tracts of the working classes of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand during those countries’ industrial heydays.

What about the Potato Famine? Well, what about it? It was a natural disaster, which would have happened anyway. It was not as if Queen Victoria had poisoned the potatoes. But trying to make that point can be like trying to explain to the blight-wavers that they must be descended from survivors rather than exclusively from victims, a point which it can be almost as difficult to make in relation to the Holocaust, suggesting that that will be just as difficult when the 1940s are as distant as the 1840s are today.

Furthermore, what does anyone imagine to have been the conditions of the rural poor in England, Scotland or Wales in the 1840s? That is the context in which it is necessary to assess the enormous efforts made by Westminster, in partnership with the Church, to relieve the Famine, efforts of which an Ireland outside the Union could not have dreamt. And it must be repeated that an Ireland outside the Union would still have had to have dealt with exactly the same situation.

But to the Orangemen, the Union meant Catholic Emancipation, and indeed the necessary Unionist majority in the former Irish Parliament was secured on that very basis, by Protestant Emancipationists who secured the votes of the Catholic commercial class by promising to deliver the Union that would deliver to those voters the right to sit in Parliament.

Those voters delivered that majority, that majority delivered the Union, and the Union delivered Catholic Emancipation, which the old Irish Parliament would simply never have countenanced. Protestant pioneers are sometimes produced by Republicans as a sort of trump card. But those believed their own Protestant, “Saxon” nation to be the only nation, as such and with all national rights accordingly, on the Irish island.

They had no more interest in or regard for Gaels or Catholics than their contemporary, Thomas Jefferson, had either for the “Indians not taxed” (in a context of “no taxation without representation”, and therefore also of the reverse) or for his own slaves. They viewed those other inhabitants of Ireland as anti-monarchist opinion has regarded the Australian Aborigines from the Victorian Period to the present day, as Hendrik Verwoerd regarded the non-white peoples of South Africa, as Ian Smith regarded the Mashona and the Matabele, and as Golda Meir regarded the Palestinians when she denied that they existed at all, a view still widely and deeply held.

Such notions have been ridiculous when viewed from east of the Irish Sea at least since Dr Johnson asked, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” But when the Stormont Parliament and its supporters opposed integration because integration meant Civil Rights, then they were in no way out of keeping with the anti-Unionist thinking of their ancestors.

In the meantime, separatist leaders as late as the 1870s had seized on the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, with all its implications for the system of tithes, as a nullifying breach of the Act of Union. However, that the only Established Church in Ireland’s history was an Anglican one, however few people might have been in it, is an important example of what is still the utter Englishness of numerous Irish institutions, created by or as a result of the Act of Union. Ireland is an English-speaking country with a Common Law system, the most English place in the world outside England herself.

The only way to maintain the Catholic school system in Northern Ireland is to keep Northern Ireland within the Union. For each of this Kingdom’s parts contains a Catholic intelligentsia, whereas the Irish Republic’s is the most tribally anti-Catholic in the world. The Republic’s Catholic schools, among much else, are doomed.

As would be Northern Ireland’s, if Sinn Féin had its way. Under the pretext that they teach through the medium of Irish, wholly and militantly secular Sinn Féin schools are being set up at public expense, in direct opposition to the Catholic system, by that party’s Education Minister. Her exclusion of Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist clergy from their historic role in the government of schools is the dry run for her party’s openly desired exclusion of the Catholic Church from schools throughout Ireland.

That red saltire on the Union Flag was, and is, no word of lie. The Irish were vigorous participants in British imperialism, and especially in its military aspects. It was under that Flag, and by those means, that they propagated the Faith to the ends of the earth. When he visited Ireland, Blessed John Paul the Great condemned “the use of force by Irishmen, overwhelmingly Catholic Irishmen, against the continuing British presence”.

Princely absolutism was incompatible with the building up of the Social Reign of Christ. Likewise, ethnically exclusive nation-states deriving uncritically from the Revolution do not provide adequate means to that end. By contrast, the absence of any significant Marxist influence in this country has been due to the universal and comprehensive Welfare State, and the strong statutory protection of workers and consumers, the former paid for by progressive taxation, and all underwritten by full employment. These are very largely the fruits of Catholic Social Teaching.

Such fruits have been of disproportionate benefit to ethnically Gaelic-Irish Catholics throughout the United Kingdom. Even in the 1940s, Sinn Féin worried that they were eroding its support. She who led the assault on these things remains a Unionist hate figure. The Civil Rights Movement was explicitly for equal British citizenship. Even the old Nationalist Party, never mind Sinn Féin, was permitted no part in it. And it was classically British Labour in identifying education, healthcare, decent homes and proper wages as the rights of citizens, who are demeaned precisely as citizens when they are denied those rights. The fruits of Catholic Social Teaching, indeed.

The Right Gone Wrong

A lack of Mossad, even if “rogue” Mossad, involvement in this atrocity is about as likely as a lack of ISI, even if “rogue” ISI, involvement in the harbouring of Osama bin Laden. This gathering had just, as predicted, held a pro-Palestinian rally, and was taking place in support of a government about to recognise Palestine and withdraw from Libya.

The attacker’s website called for all Jews in the world to move to “a liberated and Muslim-free Zion”. With views like that, he could be a member of the present Israeli Cabinet. What next? No link between 7/7 and Iraq? No link between 9/11 and the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia? This is far more an Israeli attack than 9/11 was an Afghan attack (9/11 was in fact a Saudi attack).

It is no wonder that the neoconservative wars have been and are most enthusiastically promoted by media moguls who, far from being conservative figures, are somehow all and yet none of Australian, American and British, or somehow all and yet none of Canadian, American and British. They were and are also keenest on Margaret Thatcher.

Those media have been the prime movers in turning first New Labour and then also its imitators who have taken over the Conservative Party into what most of Britain's supposedly conservative newspapers have long been, more loyal to the United States and to the State of Israel than to the United Kingdom, a position as unconservative and as far removed from Labourism as it is possible to imagine, and without parallel in any comparable country, if in any country at all.

Here We Are

It was always going to happen eventually. Although I had almost hoped that it would come as attacks on Arab churches in the West, since that really would have made the point. But here we are, an attack by a man who has been heavily influenced by the likes of Daniel Pipes and who, via the EDL, is tied into that whole world of Harry's Place, the Murdoch media, the American Enterprise Institute, the Henry Jackson Society, and so on, with a religion straight out of John Hagee, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Tony Blair, and with the staggeringly racist party of Israel's Foreign Minister in the driving seat.

Gone In A Hari

Johann Hari has deleted his website. So, no more ignorant Pope-bashing and blaming of the Catholic Church for this, that and the other. But no more social democratic critique of this Blairite Coalition, either. And nothing more from a man who recanted his previous support for the Iraq War. Ah, there's the rub, and the explanation why this country's soi-disant voice of orthodox Catholicism is by all accounts still campaigning online for Hari to commit suicide.

What 2011 Is All About

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

Suppose you had read an article on January 1, 2011 predicting that popular uprisings would topple President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and seriously threaten a whole host of other long-established and corrupt Arab regimes; that the Murdoch media empire would be facing meltdown, with Rupert Murdoch himself humiliated by a custard-pie thrower at a Commons select committee hearing; and that bookies would be offering odds of 6-1 in July that David Cameron would be the next member of the government to quit.

You would have dismissed the author of the piece as a fantasist. What on earth is going on?

What I believe we are witnessing is the reversal of a 40-year trend. The big story of the first three-quarters of the 20th century was the Rise of Everyman - the way that ordinary people gained political, social and economic rights which the rich had denied them for centuries.

But since the 1970s, a counter-revolution against the people, which began with the coup in Chile in 1973 when the democratically-elected leftist Salvadore Allende was replaced by the right-wing General Pinochet, has become the new reality.

The counter-revolution, which has been about putting the people back in their place and re-establishing the dominance of the rich, received an enormous boost with the victories in Britain and the US of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, whose 'free-market' economic reforms ushered in the age of globalisation.

Since the 1970s, as the veteran British socialist Tony Benn has observed, political power has effectively been transferred from the ballot box to the wallet and all over the world, democracy - real, true democracy - as opposed to the banker-friendly faux-democracy aggressively promoted by the US State Department and neo-con think tanks, has been on the retreat. That is until now.

Some may not see the connection between the toppling of a decrepit dictator in the Nile Valley, the Arab spring in general, anti-austerity riots in Greece and the fall from grace of News International, but I would argue there's a strong one. Namely that all are manifestations of the growing public anger against undemocratic and unaccountable elites across the globe.

The people are in revolt and the elites - be they based in presidential palaces in Cairo or comfortable offices in New York and London - are on the back foot.

While there was bread on the table, people didn't seem to care too much that the people calling the shots in their country were so powerful, so arrogant and so obscenely rich. But in the current economic crisis, where everyone (except, of course, the global elite) are having to take a hit, people quite rightly are questioning why things have to be this way.

And it's not just the Left who are asking searching questions about the economic order we live under and asserting that we've all been had by one gigantic con-trick: Conservatives are beginning to smell the coffee, too.

In a Daily Telegraph article entitled 'I'm starting to think the Left may actually be right', the paper’s former editor Charles Moore wrote this weekend: "One thing that is different is that people in general have lost faith in the free-market, Western, democratic order. They have not yet, thank God, transferred their faith, as they did in the 1930s, to totalitarianism. They merely feel gloomy and suspicious.

"But they ask the simple question, 'What's in it for me?', and they do not hear a good answer... It turns out - as the Left always claims - that a system purporting to advance the many has been perverted in order to enrich the few."

Remember that's Charles Moore, biographer of Baroness Thatcher, penning those words, not Tony Benn or Noam Chomsky.

In Britain, what has appalled so many about the News International scandal is not just the phone-hacking, but the light it has shone on the undemocratic way in which we are governed. Political power in a democracy is supposed to reside with the people; in fact it resides with a small clique of elite media and financial figures, who the elected politicians, of all parties, feel obliged to cosy up to.

And while establishment voices have tried to assure us that 'Murdochgate' is a storm in a tea-cup, hyped up by those awful lefties at the Guardian and the BBC, the reported slump in sales of other News International titles and the calls on social media for a boycott of Murdoch-owned papers suggests that the public thinks very differently.

"I did it for all the people who couldn't," declared Jonnie Marbles, the comedian who 'custard-pied' Rupert Murdoch in Westminster last week. "Maybe what I was trying to do was remind everyone of that - that he is not all-powerful, he's not Sauron or Beelzebub, just a human being like the rest of us, but one who has got far too big for his boots."

Bringing down people who have got far too big for their boots is, in essence, what 2011 is all about. And with the global economic situation only worsening, it's highly likely there'll be a few more undemocratic tyrants publicly humiliated before this truly extraordinary - and refreshingly rebellious - year comes to an end.

Eerily Similar

John writes:

As more details emerge about Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged perpetrator of Friday’s vicious terrorist attacks in Norway, I can’t help but notice how eerily similar some of his rhetoric is to some of the ideas floating around on the American Right, and not just the underground far-right. The wild claims that President Obama was somehow leading or abetting a Marxist/Islamist alliance to destroy Christian America were not just found on extremist neo-Nazi websites, but could be seen on Tea Party signs and heard on right-wing talk radio.

Of course, none of this means that Tea Party members or avid listeners of right-wing radio host Michael Savage are going to go out and kill people. However, ideas have consequences, and it is important to be wary of certain ideas that threaten to dehumanize people. Before left-wingers start to gloat, it is also important to remember that the Left has also had its share of violent terrorists as well, and that the language of class war, taken too far, can also lead to violence.

Politics has always involved strong language, and I would not want to see a “speech police” developed to quiet firebrands, including those who develop the conspiracy theories that often fuel (even if unintentionally) extremist violence. But the fact that so many people believe tales about a Marxist plot to take over the world, when Marxism as an organized, active ideology is perhaps at its weakest point in over a century, is just one example of how conspiracy theories can take one’s mind off of understanding the world from the standpoint of reality. Once we understand the world as it is, then hopefully we can change it for the better. As Pope Leo XIII advised: “There is nothing more useful than to look at the world as it really is — and at the same time look elsewhere for a remedy to its troubles.”


The July 21, 2011 Los Angeles Times opinion piece by Mary Ellen Harte and Anne Ehrlich is pretty much what you would expect from the Malthusian elite. Malthusianism is one of those bad ideas that just won’t die. My guess is that, like many bad ideas, Malthusianism continues to live because certain very rich people find it an attractive vehicle for their prejudices while all the while declaring their prejudices to be nothing more than the "inconvenient truths" of science. John Médaille wrote an excellent blog post on the subject of Malthusianism back in 2008 and I highly recommend it as an answer to the likes of Harte and Ehrlich.

Besides Malthusianism, many other nasty ideas originating from the dark recesses of classical liberalism are making a comeback, and laissez-faire economics is perhaps the least worst. Biological determinism, for example, has made a major comeback in the last several decades on the back of exaggerated claims of some scientists and journalists who are willing to bend the truth in order to gain more grant money or more profitable advertisers. Malthusianism and biological determinism are useful tools for the elites because they put a brake on the discussion of social reforms that may harm their interests.

For the followers of Malthus, the problem is too many people, not too little development or an uneven distribution of the Earth's material product. For biological determinists, the problem of poverty has little to do with government policy that favors the wealthy or with an unfair distribution of power within firms. Instead, it is entirely the result of the basic biological inferiority of the poor.

Not surprisingly. Malthusianism and biological determinism end up feeding off one another. If one believes that poor people, and especially poor people of color, are simply too biologically deficient to develop proper economies, then it makes more sense to limit their reproduction so that they do not become a burden on themselves or on the wealthy societies that end up having to support them.

Malthusianism and biological determinism are perhaps the most extreme examples of the "there is no alternative" ideology promoted by Margaret Thatcher and others like her. When liberalism is challenged in a sufficiently powerful manner, it has always fallen back on supposedly scientific arguments to avoid dealing with the hypocrisies that characterized the original liberal revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While traditionalist conceptions of the "Grace of God" or the "Mandate of Heaven" were always pregnant with the idea that a ruler could lose the favor of the Divine, especially if they were cruel or unjust towards the poor (look at how the powerful were reprimanded by the prophets of the Bible for crushing the poor!), bourgeois liberalism has always supported a kind of conceited, pseudo-scientific meritocracy that, in its worst moments, produced significant human suffering.

A Generous Sprinkling Of Sugar

Louise Mensch may be a practising Catholic with an interest in good causes such as the fight against Internet pornography. But by her remarks about Piers Morgan she still made a fool of herself and of the Committee on which she serves.

Her Twitter antagonist, Lord Sugar, may once have published a Sun article claiming never to have heard of Gordon Brown. But he is now the single largest individual donor to the Labour Party. Just as any real Labour Movement must recognise and celebrate the role of business in providing employment, generating wealth, sustaining communities, supporting good causes, and so on, so any businessperson with an ounce of common sense must recognise and celebrate the importance to economic efficiency of decent healthcare, education, housing, transport infrastructure, wages, working conditions, and so on.

Not Too Rich For Their Blood

From the EDL-endorsed Harry's Place to the BNP-endorsed Boris Johnson, who would not otherwise have won and who is accordingly keen to downplay the Far Right element in favour of lone lunacy.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Just Say No, No, No

RIP Amy Winehouse.

Imagine if all that you knew about her was the sound of that voice.

But she is gone at 27. Like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones.

Just say no, kids. Just say no.

A Place In The Sun

The travails of Matthew Freud and the death of Lucian Freud call to mind the former's father, the latter's brother, the late Sir Clement Freud. He did eventually join the Lib Dems, but at least once he threatened to stand as an Independent Liberal against them, having sat as an MP for the Liberal Party, which still exists and which continues to use the orange sun symbol of old. Very appropriately.

I have written here in the past that Fleet Street needs Lib Dem columnists, not least because the Lib Dems need the scrutiny. The Sun, of which Sir Clement's son's father-in-law was and is not only the proprietor but also the editor-in-chief, for many years would not even send a reporter to the Lib Dem Conference. Yet, now that I think about it, it also carried fairly or very regular pieces by Sir Clement over a good number of years, making him the only regular Liberal or Lib Dem, as such, on Fleet Street.

The Lib Dems are probably feeling very smug at the moment. After all, that is their usual aspect. They should consider, and be reminded, that their only newspaper voice over a prolonged period was in a paper of which Rupert Murdoch was not only the proprietor but also the editor-in-chief, the voice of a Liberal and then a Lib Dem whose son was by happy coincidence married, and still is, to Murdoch's daughter.

"That Wasn't What The British People Voted For"

Oh yes, it was, John Redwood. Oh, yes, it was. And you know it. Though not as well as your fellow Any Questions panellist, Tony Benn, knows it. He said it all at the time, that the thing was a federal state.

Anyone who had read the legislation would have known that, anyway. Presumably, next to no one in the general electorate did so, which is entirely their own fault. There has never been any such body as "the Common Market", and I am as amazed at Benn's allowing Redwood to use the term as I am heartened by the panel's unanimity (Benn, Redwood, Dominic Lawson and Maria Eagle) in always having been opposed to the euro.

Eagle, a member of the Shadow Cabinet, could muster up no more enthusiasm than the admission that she had supported accession to the EU itself, "but I was only 13 or 14 at the time". Well, since she is a member of the present Shadow Cabinet, that makes her a raging Europhile by its standards. Most of her colleagues either would have been actively opposed to accession or actually were so, and a key role has been given to an MP who voted against Maastricht.

Whereas the man who signed it on the United Kingdom's behalf is now a Cabinet Minister, and John Redwood was in the Cabinet that pushed it through. Redwood no more joined Peter Shore in opposing Maastricht than he joined Peter Shore is opposing the scrapping of the Royal Yacht, a move now regretted even by the SNP. Like Maastricht, I expect.

Of Masonic Conspiracies

Yes, the Masonic Lodges were key to the circulation of the ideas that became the French Revolution against which all three of Gaullism, the non-Gaullist French Right and the non-Marxist French Left are to many extents ongoing reactions. Yes, the Masonic Lodges have been organisational bases of attacks on the Church and Her interests in the Latin world ever since. And yes, the Masonic Lodges were key to the circulation of the ideas against which the several States had to demand that the First Amendment to the American Constitution protect their respective Established Churches.

But while Freemasonry has been, and to some extent remains, part of petty anti-Catholicism in this country (it was, for example, why Catholics found it so difficult to secure promotion while working for the Consett Iron Company), it is impossible to imagine a band of men less likely to conspire to overthrow the economic, social, cultural and political order, simply because it is impossible to imagine a band of men which better epitomises the economic, social, cultural and political order.

To them was and is addressed the message, formulated while he was still an Anglican clergyman, of Fr Walton Hannah, who had no time for lurid Masonic conspiracy theories: it was precisely because the original Masonic rituals in this country had drawn heavily on the Book of Common Prayer, itself drawn heavily from Medieval and earlier sources, but had later been redacted to exclude expressions of orthodox Trinitarian and Christological doctrine, that they were now unconscionable to those who continued to adhere to that orthodoxy. That argument is unanswerable.

And what of the far more politicised Freemasonry of the Continent and of its former Empires? The only recent example of a conspiracy of that kind has been in Italy, and it consisted precisely in the P2 Lodge's support for the Far Right. But then, of course it did. The Far Right is the continuation of that which overthrew the old, organic, Catholic states of the Italian Peninsula (and the old, organic, often Catholic states of German-speaking Europe) in precisely the spirit of the French Revolution, in precisely the spirit of the attacks on the Church and Her interests ever since, and in precisely the spirit against which the several States had to demand that the First Amendment to the American Constitution protect their respective Established Churches.

The spirit that, in Norway, we now see only too clearly.

Only Ourselves To Blame

Note that Scandinavia has been going downhill since it started moving away both from social democracy and from very entrenched traditional Christianity, of which there now remains little of the former and almost none of the latter. To what consequence, we now see.

This reaction was inevitable. Nothing could be less conservative than the attempt to make the world anew, in accordance with some academic blueprint, by means of global war: sex, drugs and rock’n’roll at the barrel of a gun. The West is the recapitulation in Jesus Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism and the Roman Empire. I would die to protect it, on whatever shore it found itself, and it now finds itself on every shore. But if by “the West”, you mean the rootless, godless, globalised, hypercapitalist, metrosexual wasteland of usury, promiscuity and stupefaction, then I hate it as much as does any Islamist.

Including the Islamists to whom, whatever they may pretend, the neocons have been allied from 1980s Afghanistan through 1990s Bosnia to today’s Turkey, Kosovo, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia (whence came the 9/11 attacks), Xinjiang and elsewhere. Including by taking out the bulwark against them in Iraq. Including in the form of Jundullah, the neocon-backed Islamist terrorists against the present government of Iran. Including in Libya. And including by means of the capitalist system that cannot function without unrestricted global migration.

We have only ourselves to blame.

A Left Turn Worth Taking

Patrick J. Deneen writes:

If only such voices as that of Lord Maurice Glasman received a hearing in today’s Democratic Party. According to this remarkable article in the Guardian, Glasman has the ear of Labour’s leader Ed Miliband in urging an alternative direction for Britain’s Left – one that he calls “radically traditionalist.” According to the article, Glasman “is making a plea for rootedness, an organic rather than an atomised society, the reassertion of place and identity, and the re-creation of a society founded on stable work, or as he prefers to call it ‘vocation’ – a key word in his lexicon.”

He is urging adoption of significant reductions of immigration (which he believes suppresses the wages of lower income workers and which he understands to be a policy of “the bosses’ agenda that overwhelmingly benefits the highest earners).” More broadly, he seeks to recommend policy that places a central focus on “rootedness” – particularly the contributions of those seeking stable work in support of families and communities – and not itinerancy, as current policy throughout the West now favors. In his critique of the free market ideology that pervades the thinking of today’s elites – whether on the Left or Right – one hears distinct and definite echoes of G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc.

What’s all the more striking is how similar many of Glasman’s arguments are to those of Phillip Blond. While Blond has the ear of Tory’s PM Cameron (now in a bit of trouble), Glasman is the “conversation partner” of Labour’s Miliband. If the spectrum of political possibilities in England looks more attractive than that in the U.S. today, perhaps there is yet hope for the FPR agenda on this side of the pond.

Getting There?

Charles Moore writes:

It has taken me more than 30 years as a journalist to ask myself this question, but this week I find that I must: is the Left right after all? You see, one of the great arguments of the Left is that what the Right calls “the free market” is actually a set-up.

The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work harder, in conditions that grow ever more insecure, to enrich the few. Democratic politics, which purports to enrich the many, is actually in the pocket of those bankers, media barons and other moguls who run and own everything.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was easy to refute this line of reasoning because it was obvious, particularly in Britain, that it was the trade unions that were holding people back. Bad jobs were protected and good ones could not be created. “Industrial action” did not mean producing goods and services that people wanted to buy, it meant going on strike. The most visible form of worker oppression was picketing. The most important thing about Arthur Scargill’s disastrous miners’ strike was that he always refused to hold a ballot on it.

A key symptom of popular disillusionment with the Left was the moment, in the late 1970s, when the circulation of Rupert Murdoch’s Thatcher-supporting Sun overtook that of the ever-Labour Daily Mirror. Working people wanted to throw off the chains that Karl Marx had claimed were shackling them – and join the bourgeoisie which he hated. Their analysis of their situation was essentially correct. The increasing prosperity and freedom of the ensuing 20 years proved them right.

But as we have surveyed the Murdoch scandal of the past fortnight, few could deny that it has revealed how an international company has bullied and bought its way to control of party leaderships, police forces and regulatory processes. David Cameron, escaping skilfully from the tight corner into which he had got himself, admitted as much. Mr Murdoch himself, like a tired old Godfather, told the House of Commons media committee on Tuesday that he was so often courted by prime ministers that he wished they would leave him alone.

The Left was right that the power of Rupert Murdoch had become an anti-social force. The Right (in which, for these purposes, one must include the New Labour of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) was too slow to see this, partly because it confused populism and democracy. One of Mr Murdoch’s biggest arguments for getting what he wanted in the expansion of his multi-media empire was the backing of “our readers”. But the News of the World and the Sun went out of the way in recent years to give their readers far too little information to form political judgments. His papers were tools for his power, not for that of his readers. When they learnt at last the methods by which the News of the World operated, they withdrew their support.

It has surprised me to read fellow defenders of the free press saying how sad they are that the News of the World closed. In its stupidity, narrowness and cruelty, and in its methods, the paper was a disgrace to the free press. No one should ever have banned it, of course, but nor should anyone mourn its passing. It is rather as if supporters of parliamentary democracy were to lament the collapse of the BNP. It was a great day for newspapers when, 25 years ago, Mr Murdoch beat the print unions at Wapping, but much of what he chose to print on those presses has been a great disappointment to those of us who believe in free markets because they emancipate people. The Right has done itself harm by covering up for so much brutality.

The credit crunch has exposed a similar process of how emancipation can be hijacked. The greater freedom to borrow which began in the 1980s was good for most people. A society in which credit is very restricted is one in which new people cannot rise. How many small businesses could start or first homes be bought without a loan? But when loans become the means by which millions finance mere consumption, that is different.

And when the banks that look after our money take it away, lose it and then, because of government guarantee, are not punished themselves, something much worse happens. It turns out – as the Left always claims – that a system purporting to advance the many has been perverted in order to enrich the few. The global banking system is an adventure playground for the participants, complete with spongy, health-and-safety approved flooring so that they bounce when they fall off. The role of the rest of us is simply to pay.

This column’s mantra about the credit crunch is that Everything Is Different Now. One thing that is different is that people in general have lost faith in the free-market, Western, democratic order. They have not yet, thank God, transferred their faith, as they did in the 1930s, to totalitarianism. They merely feel gloomy and suspicious. But they ask the simple question, “What's in it for me?”, and they do not hear a good answer.

Last week, I happened to be in America, mainly in the company of intelligent conservatives. Their critique of President Obama’s astonishing spending and record-breaking deficits seemed right. But I was struck by how the optimistic message of the Reagan era has now become a shrill one. On Fox News (another Murdoch property, and one which, while I was there, did not breathe a word of his difficulties), Republicans lined up for hours to threaten to wreck the President’s attempt to raise the debt ceiling. They seemed to take for granted the underlying robustness of their country’s economic and political arrangements. This is a mistake. The greatest capitalist country in history is now dependent on other people’s capital to survive. In such circumstances, Western democracy starts to feel like a threatened luxury. We can wave banners about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but they tend to say, in smaller print, “Made in China”.

As for the plight of the eurozone, this could have been designed by a Left-wing propagandist as a satire of how money-power works. A single currency is created. A single bank controls it. No democratic institution with any authority watches over it, and when the zone’s borrowings run into trouble, elected governments must submit to almost any indignity rather than let bankers get hurt. What about the workers? They must lose their jobs in Porto and Piraeus and Punchestown and Poggibonsi so that bankers in Frankfurt and bureaucrats in Brussels may sleep easily in their beds.

When we look at the Arab Spring, we tend complacently to tell ourselves that the people on the streets all want the freedom we have got. Well, our situation is certainly better than theirs. But I doubt if Western leadership looks to a protester in Tahrir Square as it did to someone knocking down the Berlin Wall in 1989. We are bust – both actually and morally.

One must always pray that conservatism will be saved, as has so often been the case in the past, by the stupidity of the Left. The Left’s blind faith in the state makes its remedies worse than useless. But the first step is to realise how much ground we have lost, and that there may not be much time left to make it up.

The Remnant of Aeneas

Brad Birzer writes:

Virgil’s Aeneid opened a “mass of religious ideas” to a teenaged C.S. Lewis. The Roman epic poem, combined with Lewis’s tradition of rigorous skepticism up to that point, forced the young man to consider two ideas, neither of which was wholly compatible with the other. The tension resulting from these two notions would raise a number of important questions in the person who would become perhaps the finest Christian apologist of the 20th century.

First, Lewis thought, the Aeneid proved that Virgil’s form of Roman paganism was a whole and comprehensive religion, legitimate in itself, and therefore equal to Christianity in its scope and strength. After all, Lewis reasoned—a bit cynical from the shallow pieties imposed upon him by his schooling—“In the midst of a thousand such religions” stood Christianity, assumed by many to be “true.” In reality, he thought, Christianity was merely the “thousand and first” religion.

More importantly for Lewis, a second idea arose in the form of a question. What if Christianity, rather than being one religion among a thousand and one, were true because it answered the longings of the earlier faiths? What if, rather than seeing various paganisms in opposition to one another and to Christianity, one saw Christianity as the fulfillment of all previous religions? Could there exist a line of continuity between the ancient and the Christian?

Thoughts of this kind shaped some of the most incisive minds of the 20th century. Though he may not have recognized them as such, Lewis had intellectual allies in Romano Guardini, Christopher Dawson, Jacques Maritain, T.S. Eliot, Eric Voegelin, Russell Kirk, Hans urs von Balthasar, and Carl Ratzinger, to name a few. Friends closer to home, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Owen Barfield, not only asked the same questions but did so in the same college rooms as Lewis, finding answers together through their Oxford literary society, the Inklings.

As Lewis would explain:

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference, that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remember that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.’

Myth, properly understood, means “story,” but especially in terms of man’s relationship to the divine in history. One would be hard pressed to find words better describing the Christian humanist impulse of the 20th century.

As Lewis came to realize, the Aeneid provides one of the finest bridges possible between the ancient and Christian worlds. Famously, at least from the Christian standpoint, Virgil seems to have predicted the coming of the Incarnate Word in his Fourth Eclogue, leading Dante to choose the Roman poet as his guide through the Inferno and the Purgatorio.

The last great age the Sybil told has come;
The new order of centuries is born;
The Virgin now returns, and the reign of Saturn;
The new generation now comes down from heaven.
Lucina, look with favor on this child,
—Lucina, goddess, pure—this child by whom
The Age of Iron gives way to the Golden Age.

Equally important, one cannot read St. Augustine’s City of God without seeing innumerable references to the Aeneid, with Augustine claiming Virgil’s eternal city of Rome to be a shadow of the real eternal city, the New Jerusalem.

C.S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid shows just how great an influence Virgil’s epic poem was upon a later Christian apologist. An Oxford- and Harvard-trained classicist and now a teacher of classics at Groton, A.T. Reyes has done an admirable job editing Lewis’s previously unpublished translation of parts of the Aeneid. During his life, Lewis only completed translations of two of the epic’s 12 books. Books 1 and 2 appear here in full. But only fragments of Books 3 through 7 and Book 12 remain. No reader should purchase Lewis’s Lost Aeneid expecting a complete translation or even a comprehensive introduction to Lewis’s thought on Virgil.

Reyes’s book is deep rather than broad. Within the constraints Lewis’s extant papers place upon any scholarly study, Reyes does a fine job of explaining the text, comparing Lewis’s translation to the original, and discussing the nuances of the poem itself. Most importantly, though, especially for someone interested in Lewis and his voluminous writings, Reyes provides an index of every reference to the Aeneid throughout Lewis’s corpus, attempting to find what words Lewis might have used had he continued his translation beyond November 22, 1963. (Should the reader need an exact index to every reference to Virgil in Lewis’s scholarly writings, he should turn to Walter Hooper’s C.S. Lewis: A Complete Guide.)

What will most spark the imagination of Lewis aficionados in this book is not Lewis’s translations, incomplete in scope and thought. Rather, Lost Aeneid forces one to reevaluate the role of Virgil’s poetic and intellectual pull not only on Lewis but by extension on 20th-century Christian humanism. Frankly, the implications are huge, especially if one compares Lewis’s thought on Virgil with that of another literary giant, Theodor Haecker (whose Virgil, Father of The West was edited by Christopher Dawson). As much as I admire both Lewis and Virgil and have studied each extensively, I had never made a strong connection between the two until seeing C.S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid.

Perhaps I should have.

Intrigued, I went back through Lewis’s letters, scholarly works, and fiction to trace the influence. I will never be able to look at Lewis in the same way again. From the earliest part of his intellectual awakening to his very deathbed, Lewis was enrapt by the Aeneid. Truly, the ghost of Virgil haunted the great Christian apologist.

In the middle of his academic career, Lewis revealed explicitly the influence of Virgil in two of his best essays, “Virgil and the Subject of Secondary Epic” and “Historicism.” In the former, Lewis described the Aeneid as brilliant precisely because it satisfied Roman longings. Unlike the Greeks, who seemed only to care about eternal things, believing time to be “mere flux,” Virgil’s poetry proved incarnate and sacramental, recognizing things as eternal within the necessity and bounds of time.

Virgil, Lewis argued, took “one single national legend and treat[ed] it in such a way that we feel the vaster theme to be somehow implicit in it.” Further, Virgil offered the listener or reader “a legendary past and yet make[s] us feel the present, and the intervening centuries, already foreshadowed.” For the Romans, time, space, place, and family mattered. As Lewis persuasively claimed, Virgil’s Aeneid speaks to us because, like the hero Aeneas, we know ourselves to be a remnant, “survivors, and, as it were ghosts,” Old Western Men trapped in the whirligig of modernity and postmodernity. The old, the ancient, and the venerable become key words in the Aeneid, Lewis believed. But not content with the traditions of the past, the attentive reader of the Aeneid also realizes that “Latium—Lurkwood, the hind place of aged Saturn—has been waiting for the Trojans from the beginning of the world.”

As Lewis understood it, the Aeneid represents a critical moment in history, the hinge upon which the door of the world opens, introducing the age of paganism to the age of Christianity—“the little remnant, the reliquias, of the old, [developing] into the germ of the new.” Lewis is no reactionary devoid of hope for the future.
As with the Christian humanists of the 20th century, Aeneas “is a ghost of Troy until he becomes the father of Rome.” He “is compelled to see something more important than happiness,” obedience and duty, recognizing eternal Justice as that which orders all things, including our roles within the community of the living and the dead. “To follow the vocation,” as Aeneas did, “does not mean happiness: but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow.”

Lewis’s Space Trilogy—Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, some of the best fiction of the century past—especially bears the imprint of Virgil. Who cannot read of the hero Ransom’s ultimate victory, with the figure of Venus descending upon the House of St. Anne’s, named after the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and not think of Venus, the mother of Aeneas, betraying her own father to help her son?

Lewis’s Venus possesses a voluptuous aura that fills the entire House of St. Anne’s with the desire to live and to procreate. In the last paragraph of the finale of the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, the protagonist Jane—previously self-centered, unable to sacrifice for what she loves—walks out of the House of St. Anne’s, itself sanctified by the very being of Venus. No real love can exist, Lewis argued, without sacrifice. There is no resurrection without the crucifixion. As Jane walks, she notices the area around the house, doused in “the liquid light and supernatural warmth of the garden and across the wet lawn (birds were everywhere) and past the see-saw and the greenhouse and the piggeries, going down all the time, down to the lodge, descending the ladder of humility,” Lewis writes, and “she thought of her obedience and the setting of each foot before the other became a kind of sacrificial ceremony. And she thought of children, and of pain and death.”

Plagued by the doubt that she is not worthy of the sacrifices made by her husband, she enters his lodge. With this, the book ends. But the reader is left with this thought: because sacrifice equals love, love too has its own rewards. Because of their respective sacrifices for one another, humanity, and God, Jane and her husband are about to experience their just rewards, thus continuing the story of goodness, truth, and beauty upon the future generation, just as the remnant of Aeneas, the armed exiles fated to found Rome, once did for the entirety of the West.