Saturday, 29 June 2013

Matutinal thoughts on Lord Hattersely

I admire Roy Hattersley for (only) two things. For liking ironing (do I believe him?) and for opposing abortion. He said that as an atheist he thinks life is the only thing that is sacred.

People think Lord Hattersley got more left-wing as he grew older but it is not so. Tony Benn did, for Freudian reasons, because his son Hilary was very left-wing. Gladstone also became more radical as he aged. But Hattersley simply remained Old Labour 
(right-wing, Gaitskellite version). He remained the well-meaning paternalist who believed in a multiracial society and improving the lot of the working class, as it shrank steadily, while living in a nice house in the country, outside Birmingham, and travelling up to the Reform Club in London.

He was a curiously old fashioned figure in various ways. The son of a Catholic priest who left the priesthood to marry Hattersley's mother, he was a fervent atheist who interviewed the last Archbishop of Canterbury and was shocked, shocked, to find His Grace believed in life after death.

Was he really saying George W Bush and Tony Blair - and the rest of us - would, after death, still be able to feel guilt and remorse? Again, there was no doubt about the Archbishop's certainty. In the next life we will all be 'cognisant and conscious' beings, capable of suffering the torment of the truth about ourselves. 
Putting aside the implication of that doctrine for the Prime Minister and the President, it seemed - in my atheist ignorance - astonishing that a man of such obvious intellectual sophistication should speak in such fundamentalist language. 

So now you know that when many people, including leftists who write for or read The Guardian, but not only they, talk about fundamentalists they include people who believe in life after death. The interview is very funny.

Politicians always stick in their period. After the banking crash I watched interviews with Lawson and Howe expecting wisdom and just got recycled 1980s ideas without any insight. Howe was horrified by the idea of nationalising banks. Lawson said something equally unenlightening, which I forget. Likewise, Ian Gilmour advised  Tony Blair not to let Labour become Thatcherite. Most people become old fogeys and get stuck in the past. (Though we young fogeys don't. You can draw a parallel between young fogeys and the TV series, Dad's Army. Dad's Army was only one of a number of equally popular television comedy programmes in its day but because it is set in another era it never aged or dated.)

A journalist once told me that she knew a secretary in the Commons who surprised her flat-mate in the bath with a well-known overweight Labour politician whom I shall not name for fear of defamation proceedings. I was told the sight scarred her.

Hattersley is a pompous bloke and not very bright. He wrote for the BBC magazine, The Listener, his spiritual home and fancied himself as a belle lettrist in the style of Augustine Birrell, but wrote ponderously and had little insight. He said, to give you an example. in one of his articles that John Gielgud always played the same part whether in Chariots of Fire or Brideshead Revisited. He thus coupled Gielgud at his finest in Brideshead with Gielgud at his most quotidian. I am sure Hatters is equally bad on art and books.

I remember that when Neil Kinnock and he, as Party Leader and Deputy Leader, appeared together at a staged for television event to launch the 1987 Labour manifesto it was described as resembling a gay wedding. In 1987 that seemed an uproariously funny idea. It was a more innocent age. 

Where did a quarter of a century go?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Why is Mandela admired more than F.W. De Klerk?

What should my attitude be now towards Nelson Mandela, as he lies dying? 

He is a man of enormous dignity and magnanimity and was a passable President of South Africa, better anyway than his successors, but why are so many people around the world, including white South Africans, so attached to him and not his fellow Nobel Prize winner, F.W. De Klerk? I would compare De Klerk to Gorbachev, although De Klerk is the better man. Gorbachev is or was a Communist, as was Mandela, and De Klerk a Christian. De Klerk saw that apartheid had to go and became President privately determined to abolish it. In this he differs from Gorbachev who saw that communism was not working but believed it would work with reforms. If only Vorster or Botha had been a statesman, the whites could have shared rather than given away power and the terrible violence which has not abated to this day might have been avoided.

De Klerk, not Mandela, is the man who is responsible for majority rule in South Africa. The whites could have held onto power a very long time. They could of course have retained power indefinitely had they been prepared to use the ruthless methods of Communists or Nazis - and had they used the methods of black governments in Africa they would have executed opponents like Mandela - but the National Party was led by Christians.

I like freedom and therefore disliked apartheid but the Communist and other black regimes in Southern Africa were much worse than the National Party regime. I felt a slight sadness when De Klerk handed over the Presidency to Mandela and wished the inevitable could have been delayed, but most people inside and outside South Africa seem to have been pleased.

I first heard of Mandela when some students at London University wanted him to be Chancellor instead of Princess Anne and I, as a child, thought, like most people, how irritating students are. But that was long ago, in another world. Mandela gradually became in the early 1990s and remains an international hero, unlike Lech Walesa. Very unlike the brave Hungarian pastor, Laszlo Tokes, whose heroism started the Romanian Revolution. Tokes is considered too much a Hungarian nationalist, but what is Mandela but a nationalist who dedicated himself to his people? Meaning, in effect, to the elite of educated blacks who wanted to take power from the white elite. 

All the white South Africans one met in London in the late 1980s told me that we in England could not understand the situation in South Africa. The same sort of people in the 1990s sung Mandela's praises. Without doubt he was a unifying figure who reconciled whites and blacks.

Apartheid was unjust, minority rule was by no means a bad thing in itself but majority rule was inevitable and Mandela made the transition peaceful and made democracy work. But people in Eastern Europe know that rule by Soviet-style Communists like Mandela's colleague Joe Slovo would have been very much worse than apartheid, for all its brutality and unfairness. So it proved in countries which, despite white South Africa's efforts, went Communist, like her neighbours, Mozambique and Angola. Yet, to take one random example of double standards, Pope John Paul II visited those countries and avoided visiting apartheid South Africa.

In fact double standards abounded wherever you looked when South Africa was discussed in the 1980s. Killings by the South African authorities, such as the death of Steve Biko in custody, were causes celebres. The many thousands of 'necklacings' by or in the name of the ANC of blacks accused of collaborating with the authorities were much less reported. Necklacing was putting a rubber tyre, filled with petrol, around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim might take twenty minutes to die. Mrs. Winnie Mandela, the great man's wife, notoriously and very wickedly endorsed the practice. 

Liberals tend to disapprove of nationalists, not for Metternichian reasons, but because they do not approve of nations. They do however approve of nationalists with brown skin. Mandela is a nationalist who wanted to fight for his people, but instead he was arrested and gaoled. This makes him a hero, but not to a Metternichian legitimist, which is what I try to be. It is not easy but legitimism is  essentially akin to pacifism: legitimists think revolutions are - almost - never justified. 

I dislike Garibaldi and the scoundrel Washington. But unlike the American revolution and Italian unification, which I consider were not inevitable, by the 1970s black rule in South Africa was. In any case Mandela spent his time in prison not leading a rebellion.

I certainly wish Washington had been hanged and the rest of that crew of slave-owners. "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" asked Dr. Johnson. If Christians are required to obey the powers placed over them by God the ANC cannot be admired and, very much worse, they were Communists. On the other hand, what to think of a rebellion against Brezhnev or Hitler? Here I become puzzled.

Until the nineteenth century governments were considered legitimate regardless of whether or not their subjects wanted to be ruled by them, but this changed, first for Europe and after 1945 for the rest of the world too. This is why the twentieth century has been marked by genocides and mass expulsions of peoples. Legitimism, whether right or wrong as a doctrine, does not provide legitimacy any more. It was replaced, as far as brown-skinned people were concerned, by the idea that they had to be prepared over time for self-rule, but this idea never appealed to the South African whites and also got overtaken by events. This idea is now considered racist and instead we have attempts to make Iraq, Libya and soon Syria democratic immediately, by force of arms.

People are being taught that racial discrimination is worse than Communism but Communism was much worse than apartheid, both in theory and practice. Apartheid was reviled for good reasons but also because it fed into an idea that blacks were widely victimised by whites around the world. The Liberian- Americans ruled the vast majority but though the Liberian American were a tiny elite descended from American colonists no-one cared or even noticed because they were all black. Likewise with Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, etc etc etc. 

So I admire Mandela up to a point. I like him slightly more than Martin Luther King and Gandhi, who together with Mandela make up the triptych of  modern secular saints. Though Mandela wanted to overthrow the regime by force and the other two opposed violence, Mandela in the end made South Africa a much less violent place than it might have been while Gandhi's campaign of independence led to up to a million dead when India was partitioned. King's followers were responsible for a lot of violence too and I blame them for the anti-discrimination laws which, in most countries nowadays, limit freedom of contract. I have no very strong opinion about Mandela, I suppose, but I do feel that he is praised too much and the real story today and over  many years is the many racist murders of whites, especially white farmers, that are slowly driving the whites out of South Africa. I am increasingly doubtful about how black rule in South Africa will look in thirty years' time and hope it does not end in chaos and tyranny. It may do, but if it does it would not be fair to blame Mandela.

The National Party apologists claimed that the Afrikaaners arrived in South Africa before the Zulus. I do not know who arrived first but I strongly suspect that the Zulus and other tribes did not treat the peoples they conquered nearly as charitably as did the Dutch. African history, like European history, is a series of tribal wars, though most African wars were not recorded by historians. 

Most of the Afrikaaner tribe may be driven out in time, not because they were aggressors who once conquered and ruled the other tribes but because of the colour of their skin. As Romanians say. 'Asa este viata', a melancholy phrase meaning 'That's life.' I hope I am wrong and that whites have a future there, for the sake of all South Africans, but I wish the Western Cape had become a separate country. Half the population there are coloured and only about a third are black.  This would have been a statesmanlike move on the part of Botha or of De Klerk, though by De Klerk's time it might have been too late.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Turning trauma into a strength

"Do you realize that those things that are considered hurtful and which are causes of unhappiness by human standards may be transmuted into advantages within the Grace of God? I am totally convinced that human beings who have been traumatized in their lives either physically or psychologically have tremendous potential to become truly great."

Bishop Athanasios of Lemesos

The Queen's Birthday Party

The Queen's Birthday Party at the Bragadiru Palace was enormous fun on Tuesday evening, much more so than the ones Robin Barnett, the last Ambassador, threw. The Prime Minister and Crin both made speeches. The PM speaks good English with a strong accent. Crin's English reminded me a bit of Dr. Johnson's comparison between a woman preaching and a dog standing on its hind legs - 'It is not done well but one wonders to see it done at all'. My ironing - I iron once every 15 years or so - is also like that.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Thoughts for today

We come fresh to the different stages of life, and in each of them we are quite inexperienced, no matter how old we are. Rochefoucauld

The brighter you are, the more you have to learn. Don Herold

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. Ernest Hemingway

Architecture is frozen music. Hegel

We make our buildings. Thereafter they make us. Churchill 

At bottom [inclusiveness is] an attempt to do away with forms of social organization other than global markets and transnational expert bureaucracies. James Kalb

I don't want the past back, I just think we chose the wrong future. Peter Hitchens

I agree with all these but, a propos of the last one, even I, reactionary though I am, am not happy to think that had the Sixties social revolution not happened The Sound of Music would be considered an iconic Sixties film.

John Kersey tells me that 'Architecture is frozen music' was said 'by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted in Peter Eckermann’s Conversations with Goethe [The phrase had been used earlier, by Friedrich von Schelling, in Philosophie der Kunst: “[Architecture] is music in space, as it were a frozen music.”]." His source is the  Encyclopaedia Britannica. I find it is attributed to both Goethe and Hegel on the net but I suspect it does indeed belong to Schelling. I read Eckermann's very dull book in my early twenties when one is still young enough to read everything, before life begins. I love table talk but this is not a good example at all, almost as dull as Hitler's, which at least has this fascinating remark:

Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers — already, you see, the world had fallen into the hands of the Jews, so gutless a thing is Christianity! — then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies heroism and which opens up the Seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so.

Adolf Hitler, the Islamist. Had he invaded the Middle East instead of the USSR who knows how history might have read. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

One of the last Victorians has died

I see from the Daily Telegraph obituaries, read on my telephone in a swelteringly hot Turkish restaurant in the back streets of Bucharest, where I eat every day, that my former boss, James Stuart-Smith, Q.C. Emeritus, known to me as the JAG, to rhyme with hag, has died.

I worked at the JAG's office in 1988, at a time when most traditions seemed to be dead (they do in every era) but when in fact (as in every era) the hearts of a lot of traditions were still beating.

Nancy Mitford said that the 'Victorians did not talk like us.' She meant of course the Victorians of her class, the ones who, in Evelyn Waugh's phrase, 'came to the front door'. 

For example, they put a 'eey' sound after the letter 'm'. When they said of someone that 'He is not a marrying man', a phrase in those days pregnant with meaning, they pronounced it 'meey - arrying meey-an'.
The JAG, who had an extraordinarily old fashioned and terribly smart accent, was the only man I ever knew who kept up this pronunciation of the letter 'm'. None of the peers in the House of Lords, where I worked before the JAG's office, did so, as far as I noticed. 

I remember once borrowing an old, unwanted audio tape from the office to record something and it had by chance one of the JAG's summings up on it. I found myself unable to stop listening to it with wrapt attention, admiring his curious diction. He was summing up in a case involving a soldier and - I forget the details of the case - a well-known type of sweets called Murray Mints, which the JAG had to refer to over and over again. He always did so, very carefully, as if gingerly handling a vase of great value, with the pronunciation of the upper middle classes of Mr. Gladstone's day.

The defendant said he put down the Meey-urray meeynt...

And so on. 

I suspect that people who went to Eton like Mr. Gladstone and Lord Curzon might have spoken differently. Curzon always used a short Derbyshire 'a' and considered  a long 'a' middle class and we know that Gladstone retained the short 'a ' of his native Lancashire because he famously said

 All the world over I back the masses against the classes

which does not work if you pronounce 'classes' with a long 'a', as required by Received Pronunciation nowadays. 

(Does Received Pronunciation as a phrase still exist? I don't want to get in a sneer at modern living in everything I write, which I am in danger of doing, I know, but it sounds very ('frightfully' is the word the JAG would have used) inegalitarian and undiverse for our compulsorily egalitarian and diverse age.

Monday, 24 June 2013

'Saudi Arabia is the best place in the world for women'

My feminist and militant atheist woman friend, posted to Riyadh, says Saudi girls tell her it is the best place in the world to be a woman. Women, they say, are treated like queens there and, my feminist friend says, there is a lot of truth in this. 

She does not forbear to point out though that many Saudi girls are fat. My feminist friend is a standard issue left-wing Yale graduate but she is also a Romanian girl and cannot help noticing these kind of things.

She is a passionate anti-racist who hopes that in her lifetime the majority population of Italy will be African. This she thinks is a just consequence of Italy's colonisation of four countries in Africa for less than half a century. But her anti-racism falters when it comes to gypsies. I am not anti-gypsy, although almost everyone I know in Romania is, but this does remind me of Kingsley Amis's remark,
Everyone is reactionary about the things they know about.
She is in her twenties and part of a new generation of clever young Romanians educated abroad who believe in the left-wing orthodoxies of Western universities and the ideas of the Frankfurt School of Marxism, despite what Romania endured under two generations of Marxists. 

Everything flows.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Night of the Sânziene, June 23rd- 24th

My friend Sarah last year wrote one of her enchanting blog posts about tonight, the night of the Sânziene.  

It puts me in mind of one of my very favourite poems, Bishop Corbet's wonderful lament for Catholic England. In Catholic England magic and fairies existed, as they still do in Romania which never had a Reformation to remove what the old churches subsumed of paganism, pre-Christian magic and a close connection with the earth. 

Witness those rings and roundelays 
Of theirs, which yet remain, 
Were footed in Queen Mary’s days 
On many a grassy plain; 
But since of late, Elizabeth, 
          And later, James came in, 
They never danced on any heath  
As when the time hath been. 

Sarah, who left Romania years ago, knows a hundred times more than I about this country and makes me ashamed. But like me (and very unlike some foreign bloggers) she loves Romania with a passion. 

More here about the Night of the Sanziene.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The death of King William IV

Frederic Harrison said his first memory was of his father paying a very rare visit to the nursery and saying, 
'Frederic, I am going to tell you something now that you will remember for the rest of your life. The King is dead.' 

'I said, "Oh, papa, who will be King now?" and my father said, "We are not going to have a king. We are going to have a queen." 
'And I said, "So it has come to that." '

'Whose lovely little girl are you?'

Sabine Baring-Gould once said to a little girl at a children's party: 'Tell me, whose lovely little girl are you?' She replied: 'Whose lovely little girl am I? Why yours, papa.'  

I sympathise. I have a bad memory for faces too. 

I researched Baring-Gould more on the net - how wonderful to have ones own university library in a small box perched on a table in my sitting-room - and discovered on a BBC page these interesting details that I did not know about the author of Onward Christian Soldiers.

The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould is best known for writing the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers. But he is also thought to have inspired his friend George Bernard Shaw to write Pygmalion - which was later made into the film, My Fair Lady.He took Holy Orders in 1864 and became a curate at Horbury in Yorkshire.It was in Horbury that he met mill girl Grace Taylor. He sent her away to be educated and then married her in 1868.The couple were married for 48 years until Grace's death in 1916 and they had 15 children! However Baring-Gould appears to have had little understanding of his offspring. Apparently at a children's party one evening he called to a young child "And whose little girl are you?" The child burst into tears and said "I'm yours Daddy".

Baring Gould wrote Onward Christian Soldiers while at Horbury, and was amazed at its popularity.He said he had dashed the words off in no more than 10 minutes as an occasional piece for a procession of school children.

He returned to Lewtrenchard in 1881, where he was the squire and parson.It's believed he had more than 200 works published, but the thing he was most proud of was his collection of folk songs from Devon and Cornwall, called 'Songs of the West.'

He spent 12 years travelling in the two counties, learning the songs from old singers and then publishing them.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Only an all-out war can depose Assad

A wonderful article that everyone should read by Patrick Cockburn (the son of Claud Cockburn) on Syria. He convinces me that if England and France intervene they will in effect take over the war. 

I still haven't got round to having coffee or lunch with my Christian Syrian refugee friend but whatever his opinion and however vile the atrocities committed by the Government I know that I do not want us to intervene. I do not even want the rebels to win. I want a negotiated peace.

Assad has done far worse things than Gaddafi. Saddam was much worse still, in that he went to war with Iran and Kuwait, though he was not a threat when he was unjustly attacked by the USA and UK. It would be better for  everyone were Saddam and Gaddafi still in power, thoroughly bad though they were.  What Assad is doing to his people is worse than what Saddam and Gaddafi did but I think an intervention to topple him would make matters still worse, although it might have the very valuable side-effect, who knows, of preventing war in Lebanon, which I think otherwise overwhelmingly likely.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Wind farms perform the role of Ceausescu's tower blocks

Russell Taylor has written a diatribe against wind-farms (I abominate them too) in which he draws an interesting parallel with tower blocks that were intended to be built in Communist Romania had the Revolution not intervened. 
Wind turbines serve an additional purpose for the Left, similar to that performed by the tower blocks Ceausescu built in the middle of farmland, or the factories found on the horizon of Soviet rural scenes: they are statements of power. These steel sentinels remind country-dwellers that they are within the gravitational pull of the capital’s dark star, and that if they believe they are free to reject the beliefs of the metropolitan elite, they can think again.
The countryside has long been an object of suspicion for liberal townies, who consider it a viper’s nest of erroneous thought, inhabited by toffs, retired colonels, golf-playing Rotarians and other conservative bogeymen. The propensity of country folk to choose their own values, to observe age-old traditions and to rely on each other to get by puts them in conflict with everything the Left stands for. In the liberal worldview, you’re either one of them, one of their flock, or an enemy of the people whose way of life must be destroyed. First they banned fox hunting, then they ruined the landscape. What next? Collectivised farms? Internment camps for UKIP voters?
Into my mind come these lines from Betjeman:
Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,
Pouring their music through the branches bare,
From moon-white church-towers down the windy air
Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.
Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
Too many babies have been born in there,
Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
Carried the old their garden paths along.

I have a Vision of The Future, chum,
The worker's flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
"No Right! No wrong! All's perfect, evermore.

Girl guides go Godless

A sad piece of news from the Independent.
For decades, Brownies and Girl Guides have promised to “love my God,” and “serve the Queen and my country”. But now, in a triumph for secularists, the organisation has decided to drop references to the deity – and the nation – from the oath taken by members.

Instead the Guide will promise

  to be true to myself and develop my beliefs.

What a narcissistic, pagan and empty promise and how appropriate for the age. What tedious young women these new guides threaten to grow into. I also discover that bob-a-job was abolished twenty years ago, but that was boy scouts.

"However, the Guides decided to retain the pledge to serve their patron Queen Elizabeth II in the Promise. Anti-monarchy campaigners told The Independent that the organisation had “missed” an “opportunity” to truly open up the organisation."

It sounds like a parody, perhaps written by Evelyn Waugh. Who are these anti-monarchy campaigners?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Things people told me today in Jerusalem

A foreign Protestant clergyman:

Islam is a very insecure religion. Why? Because it has always lived alongside two more developed cultures, Christian and Jewish.

Hitler made war on the Jews because he was making war on God. The Jews introduced the world to the monotheistic God of love.

The paedophile crisis in the Catholic Church is mostly a crisis of homosexual priests and most of their victims were boys over the age of puberty.

The current multiculturalist ideology will give way in the USA to its opposite: racism and discrimination. Americans do not find a middle course.

An experienced foreign journalist, Jewish with Zionist sympathies:

Arab Christians often say they get on well with Muslims but the truth is different. The Christians are often scared of Muslims. In particular there are many cases of Muslims sleeping with Christian girls with no intention of marrying them. In some cases raping them. Muslim youths would not dare sleep with Muslim girls before marriage because the girl's tribe would take revenge. Christians tend not to be organised in tribes and to be less vengeful.
A Christian television station in Palestine was finally forced off the air after the owner had received death threats and his headquarters had been fire-bombed.
Arab Christians in Israel suffer from religious and social discrimination but they have absolutely secure legal rights. On the West Bank they suffer from those forms of discrimination and do not have the rule of law.
From a well-guarded building in Jerusalem Christian missionaries are sent to all the Middle Eastern countries. They often face great danger. 
The foundations of first century Nazareth were discovered by accident in 2000, while preparing for Pope John Paul II's visit. The place is called Nazareth Village and is kitsch but impressive.
In the last three years the Catholic Church has been organising affordable housing for Christians and this has slowed emigration. 

An American Christian theology teacher and missionary, who speaks Arabic well:

In my experience, almost all Arab Christians have a public discourse in which they say that they and the Muslims are brothers and a private discourse in which they complain about the Muslims and say they are ill-treated by them.

I asked all the Muslim converts to Christianity that I know if they think that the God they worshipped while they were Muslims was the same God they worship as Christians. To my surprise, I would say 60% of them said no. I had not expected so big a number to say that.

An Arab taxi-driver from East Jerusalem, who is an Israeli citizen:
Things would probably be worse if the Arabs got back East Jerusalem. Why? It would be corrupt, taxi licences would only be obtained though bribery. The Israelis award them fairly, with no bribes.

A Muslim who kept a religious souvenir shop in the Christian quarter:
I spent ten years in prison for being one of the leaders of the first Intifada. I love that man [points to picture of Yasser Arafat]. See what they are doing? Beating up women in West Jerusalem for wearing veils. [Points to story in his newspaper.]

This is certainly not any kind of representative sample, of course. On other visits to Jerusalem I have met plenty of Christians and Muslims who complained in strong terms about the Jews, for good reasons. Some Christians told me that they had problems with Muslims but all said they had much worse problems with the Jews. I do not think the Israeli Jews are more sinned against than sinning.

My journalist friend said few people had written about Muslim ill-treatment of Christians in the West Bank but that Peter Hitchens had. I found this, from an article he wrote in 2010.
[In the West Bank] I saw the outline of a society, slowly forming amid the wreckage, in which a decent person might live, work, raise children and attempt to live a good life. But I also saw and heard distressing things.
One – which I feel all of us should be aware of – is the plight of Christian Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. More than once I heard them say: ‘Life was better for us under Israeli rule.’
One young man, lamenting the refusal of the Muslim-dominated courts to help him in a property dispute with squatters, burst out: ‘We are so alone! All of us Christians feel so lonely in this country.’
This conversation took place about a mile from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tourists are given the impression that the Christian religion is respected. Not really.

I was told, in whispers, of the unprintable desecration of this shrine by Palestinian gunmen when they seized the church in 2002 – ‘world opinion’ was exclusively directed against Israel. I will not name the people who told me these things.
I have also decided not to name another leading Christian Arab who told me of how his efforts to maintain Christian culture in the West Bank had met with official thuggery and intimidation.
My guide and host reckons there are 30,000 Christians in the three neighbouring municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit-Sahour and Beit- Jala. Soon there will be far fewer. He has found out that 2,000 emigrated between 2001 and 2004, a process which has not stopped. What is most infuriating about this is that many Christians in Britain are fed propaganda blaming this on the Israelis.
Arabs can oppress each other, without any help from outside. Because the Palestinian cause is a favourite among Western Leftists, they prefer not to notice that it is largely an aggressive Islamic cause.

The West Bank was once predominantly Christian but the Christians are leaving. Bringing the story up to date is this very alarming news item from three weeks ago.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back in Jerusalem

'If English was good enough for Jesus Christ it is good enough for me.' 
(Allegedly said by a politician in the American South, but really a canard.)

I should write a book about Americans. If I did I might get to understand them. I am on the internet in the Notre Dame centre which is an odd and very American combination of  religious institution and four staff hotel, just outside the walled city.  It was built in the 1880s but restored in the 1970s and feels very 1970s. Every guest (pilgrim) seems to be American.  

Around me are Americans talking across me at the top of the voices. One offers to send me a video about the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When I suggest we cannot know if the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built on the site of Calvary he looks absolutely furious. As if I had doubted the existence of God. He is not going to send me that link. I feel like a dangerous freethinker. I begin to understand for the first time why some people are pleased to be atheists.

One expects more subtlety from Catholics, but American Catholicism is very Protestant, just as Romanian Catholicism (happily) is very Orthodox. The Catholicism of this place seems breezy and cheerful, like the late Senator Edward Kennedy's grin. It has none of the darkness of the Spanish baroque, for example. On the first floor the interior of an English Gothic church has been created. Mercifully, though, the evening Mass is half in Latin.  I wish the last pope had ordered every church in the world to say or sing the Gloria, Credo and Sanctus in Latin, but I tell myself to be self-forgetful and obedient.

I saw this poster in the kasbah in the Christian quarter, from the good old days. 'No photographs' read the sign alongside it.

I like travelling alone and coming closer to ones true self than when at home. I like meeting new people. I like the solitude though there is perhaps faint undercurrent of not displeasing melancholy. I like this quotation from Thomas De Quincey which I just came across:

Solitude, though it may be silent as light, is like light, the mightiest of agencies; for solitude is essential to man. All men come into this world alone and leave it alone.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia

"If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts."

"A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman and it is confirmed only by other men. Manhood coerced into sensitivity is no manhood at all."

"The trauma of the Sixties persuaded me that my generation's egalitarianism was a sentimental error. I now see the hierarchical as both beautiful and necessary. Efficiency liberates; egalitarianism tangles, delays, blocks, deadens."
"Every day along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one can watch the passage of vast oil tankers and towering cargo ships arriving from all over the world. These stately colossi are loaded, steered and off-loaded by men. The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role — but women were not its author. Surely, modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!"

"I am troubled by the provincialism and amorality of the gay world and as a lesbian, I'm sick and tired of the gay rights movement being damaged by the cowardly incapacity for self-examination of many gay men."

"History shows that male homosexuality, which like prostitution flourishes with urbanization and soon becomes predictably ritualized, always tends toward decadence."
"Homosexuality is not 'normal' On the contrary it is a challenge to the norm...Nature exists whether academics like it or not. And in nature, procreation is the single relentless rule. That is the norm. Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction...No one is born gay. The idea is ridiculous...homosexuality is an adaptation, not an inborn trait...."
"I have written repeatedly about my theory that homosexuality is an adaptation, rather than an innate trait, and that it is reinforced by habit. With its cant terms of “oppression” and “bigotry,” gay activism, encouraged by the scientific illiteracy of academic postmodernism, wants to deny that there is a heterosexual norm."
"Every man must define his identity against his mother. If he does not, he just falls back into her and is swallowed up."
"The more woman aims for personal identity and autonomy ... the fiercer will be her struggle with nature - that is, with the intractable physical laws of her own body. And the more nature will punish her: 'Do not dare to be free! For your body does not belong to you.'"
"Television is actually closer to reality than anything in books. The madness of TV is the madness of human life."
"To me the ideal education should be rigorous and word-based—logocentric. The student must learn the logical, hierarchical system. Then TV culture allows the other part of the mind to move freely around the outside of that system . . . I want schools to stress the highest intellectual values and ideals of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions. Nowadays, “logocentric” is a dirty word. It comes from France, where deconstruction is necessary to break the stranglehold of centuries of Descartes and Pascal. But to apply Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault to American culture is absolutely idiotic. We are born into an imagistic and pagan culture ruled by TV. . . We need to reinforce the logocentric and Apollonian side of our culture in the schools. It is time for enlightened repression of the children."
"Teenage boys, goaded by their surging hormones run in packs like the primal horde. They have only a brief season of exhilarating liberty between control by their mothers and control by their wives."

"Men know they are sexual exiles. They wander the earth seeking satisfaction, craving and despising, never content. There is nothing in that anguished motion for women to envy."
"Out with stereotypes, feminism proclaims. But stereotypes are the west's stunning sexual personae, the vehicles of art's assault against nature. The moment there is imagination, there is myth."

[My gloss on the last quotation. I am too old to know what the word stereotypes means exactly but I hear intelligent people using this clunking word to shut off argument. Of course stereotypes are in principle good. Prejudices can be ancestral wisdom but some people in universities hate ancestral wisdom on principle. Ancestral wisdom can be wrong but to assume it is as a default setting is a sign of decadence.]

Read more here.

Monday, 10 June 2013

King Michael and Queen Ana celebrate today 65 years of marriage

I  wish them a happy Sapphire anniversary.

Tony Blair in Bucharest last night

Tony Blair and Victor Ponta were dining upstairs at Casa Doina last night while we celebrated Emilian Dima's wedding. The newly weds had their picture taken with Mr Blair but Emilian, who is more English than the English,  wishes it had been Margaret Thatcher Norman Tebbit.

According to the press:

Victor Ponta said that discussing with somebody who was prime minister for ten years was an extraordinary opportunity. “On the labour market and in the investment area, Romania has to be taken increasingly more serious and I believe that, although I am not overly optimistic, just realistic, I believe Romania can become a Poland in its geographical area,” said Ponta after meeting Blair. Also he said that when he asked him for a piece of advice for Romania, Blair said Romania should increase its self-confidence. “Self-confidence was his advice, because if we do not have confidence in Romania nobody else will have more confidence than we have,” says Ponta. 

This was a very astute judgment on the part of Mr. Blair. Giving countries self-confidence is hard to do but can be done. Margaret Thatcher, whatever one thinks of her legacy, did this and so, with the same caveat, did Ronald Reagan and Charles de Gaulle. I cannot see any political leader doing something in similar in Romania. it will be up to Romanians themselves then.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A fact about Albert Einstein

After he left university Albert Einstein took a job as a patent clerk, in order to have time to think about what became his great theory. While doing so, Einstein was the patent clerk who patented the Toblerone. 

This fact is like a poem or a beautiful woman. It makes the universe slightly more coherent.

As Michael Caine would say, 

Not a lot of people know that.

Now you do, dear reader. Or perhaps you don't, depending on whether it is really true.

I read this decades ago and posted it without consulting the net but find it is mentioned there in many places. However, it seems that Einstein's work at the small Federal Office for Intellectual Property in Berne involved assessing electromagnetic devices. In 1908, he took up a post at the University of Berne. Thomas Tobler applied for a patent in 1909. Does anyone know more? I begin to think my fact which seemed to explain slightly the universe is not very solid.

Bad verse and worse

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling, said Oscar Wilde and this is usually, though not always, true. I love really good bad verse. Somewhere in Bucharest I have the commonplace books I wrote by hand aged 22, with scores of examples, but they are not to hand. Still, here are some bad poems.  Does anyone have any other more?

The first everyone knows.

UP the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And a white owl's feather!

William Allingham, a better diarist than a poet.

Few months of life has he in store
As he to you will tell,
For still, the more he works, the more
Do his weak ankles swell.

Across the wire the electric message came.
He is no better. He is much the same.

Said to be by Poet Laureate Alfred Austin on the illness of the Prince of Wales but someone read the whole of Austin's dreadful verse and it was not there. How much better life is now we have computers. Gladstone thought of appointing Christina Rossetti as our only female Poet Laureate but instead left office with the position vacant and Lord Salisbury unforgivably preferred the hack, Austin

And now, kind friend, what I have wrote,
I hope you will pass o'er,
And not criticise as some have done
Hitherto herebefore.

Eliza Cook wrote this. She was American equivalent of William McGonagall. I have not bothered to read very much or quote him here. Perhaps I am put off by the fact that Spike Milligan liked him. The Goon Show was great but before my time and in my time Milligan had ceased to be funny.

Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?

Browning, Mr. (Rabbi Ben Ezra)

Will you oftly

Murmur softly?

Browning, Mrs.



The barges down in the river flop.

Flop, plop,

Above, beneath.

From the slimy branches the grey drips drop...

To the oozy waters, that lounge and flop...

And my head shrieks-"Stop"

And my heart shrieks-"Die"

Ugh! Yet I knew-I knew

If a woman is false can a friend be true?

It was only a lie from beginning to end-

My Devil- My "friend."...

So what do I care,

And my head is empty as air-

I can do,

I can dare

(Plop, plop

The barges flop

Drip, drop.)I can dare, I can dare!

And let myself all run away with my head

And stop.



Plop, flop.


"A tragedy" by Theophile Marzials

I am one of the few people, I suppose, who has read a whole book of Marzials' verse. I was at Cambridge and not studying for my degree. Betjeman put me onto him.

I also read much of James Russell Lowell's poetry and essays. They left me with the abiding suspicion that Americans cannot write. How much indiscriminate reading I did. Had it been harnessed to some cause...

"Over his keys the musing organist,

Beginning doubtfully and far away,

First lets his fingers wander as they list,

And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay..."

"The Vision of Sir Launfal" by James Russell Lowell

Lowell of course was one of the famous Brahmins, who gave rise to a very good poem:

And here is to good old Boston,

The home of the bean and the cod,

Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots

And the Cabots talk only to God.

I could have added most of certain poets, of course, like Southey, for example, another Poet Laureate. The only good thing he wrote was his Ode to Gooseberry Pie, which led me after reading it to buy my mother six pounds of gooseberries (my father said they were only in season for about a week so I bulk bought them when I saw them in the greengrocers). She made and I now love the eponymous dish. How ancient that makes me sound. Greengrocers. Fruit being in season. Reading Southey (though probably few people did, even then).

By the way I had a completely mistaken idea of how to pronounce Southey's name until I read Byron rhyming it with 'mouthy'. (I did, however, know how to pronounce Carew and Cowper.)

I do not like TS Eliot much, except for Prufrock, which I love, and thought of including something of his, but instead I shall cheat and give you the first stanza of a parody of Eliot which he himself admired, Chard Whitlow by Henry Reed. Parodies are something else I once collected and are of course not bad poems at all.

As we get older we do not get any younger.

Seasons return, and today I am fifty-five,

And this time last year I was fifty-four,

And this time next year I shall be sixty-two.

And I cannot say I should like (to speak for myself)

To see my time over again— if you can call it time:

Fidgeting uneasily under a draughty stair,

Or counting sleepless nights in the crowded Tube.

When I was twelve I thought Lord Macaulay's essay on Robert Montgomery the funniest thing I had ever read. Lytton Strachey called Macaulay's humour elephantine but it still makes me smile.

Carl Jung in Time, February 1955

TIME Magazine Cover: Carl Jung -- Feb. 14, 1955

TIME Monday, Feb. 14, 1955 

What drives the psychic machine? Libido, says Jung, but he uses the word differently from Freud: Jung's libido includes all psychic energy. It can flow, says Jung, in either of two directions, in either of two dimensions. When it is flowing forward, from the unconscious to the conscious, a man feels that life is running smoothly as he goes about his business. Psychic energy must also flow in reverse, from the conscious to the unconscious, as when a man relaxes from an active to a pensive or dreamy state. But if this backward flow lasts too long, the libido is being attracted to something in the unconscious that is stirring toward consciousness. If this is not made conscious, it will attract around it similar material which then forms a knot or complex. 

In a religious age, according to Jung, man would not need to get consciously acquainted with his archetypes, because religion provides its own symbols. But Christianity has become so weakened in this respect — largely through the Protestant Reformation, says Protestant Jung —that to millions its symbols now mean nothing. For this reason, says Jung, Roman Catholicism is generally more effective today than other churches, and he rarely finds Catholics in need of individuation. . Says Jung: "[Catholicism] is a full-fledged religion. Protestantism is not. Religions consist of a doctrine and a rite. The ritual does not exist in Protestantism : it has only one leg to stand on — justification through faith alone. The Catholic Church has the rite too, with all its magic effects." Jung himself has not been to church for years, but when asked if he believes in God, he says: "I could not say I believe. I know! I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God." 

Fathers & Sons. One of modern man's troubles, according to Jung, is that he has lost touch with his roots. Americans, for instance, he thinks are not yet at home in their unconscious on a continent wrested so recently from nature; this produces tension and helps account for America's go-getting energy. 

The majority of Jung's patients have been women, and he has had some down-to-earth things to say about the status of woman in the modern world. She has, he thinks, lost the old ideal of marriage ("He shall be thy master"). The tradition that it is the man who generally breaks up a marriage is no longer true: "Today life makes such demands on man that the noble hidalgo Don Juan is to be seen nowhere save in the theatre. More than ever, man loves his comfort . . . There is no longer a surplus of energy for window-climbing and duellos." Woman, meanwhile, will go to greater lengths than ever to find a husband, "by that quiet and obstinate wish that works . . . magically, like the fixed eye of the snake." As men and women adopt more of the roles and interests traditionally attributed to the other sex, Jung thinks a new relationship between them is developing, based on equal partnership. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Adventures of the Rt. Hon. John Bercow in Romania

John Bercow: Eastern European immigrants are better workers

I sent this John Bercow story to the Daily Telegraph and it is today's lead story on the front page. I scooped the world. 

This was the blog post I wrote and sent to the papers.

By the way, this story is not about Romania but about English politics. I have no objection whatsoever to what Mr Bercow said about immigration or anything else but I have the strongest possible objection to the Speaker of the House of Commons saying anything that anyone in the House of out of it could reasonably disagree with. He is meant to be a silent impartial semi-judicial figure in a wig and gown.

The Telegraph and Daily Mail headlines both inaccurately quoted the Speaker as saying 'Migrants are harder workers than Britons.' The other newspapers, even the left-wing Guardian, followed the Telegraph.

The Telegraph contacted Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, who stood against Mr. Bercow at the last election. Mr Farage said, reasonably:
“It is outrageous that Mr. Bercow is happy to overthrow the wisdom of ages and think it acceptable to comment on matters that are both highly political and deeply contentious. He is a disgrace to the office of Speaker.There are very good practical and constitutional reasons why the Speaker is neutral, reasons that he obviously believes are beneath his own august self image.”

Some people in England are getting fed up with the behavior of Romanian gypsies and this makes the story more topical than would otherwise be the case. However, the  story is not about Romania or about immigration. It is purely about English politics and the once revered (what is left of it) English constitution. The English Constitution, unlike the ones of every other country in the world (Bhutan might be another exception) is ‘ unwritten’. That means it is not contained in any one document but in thousands of them, including Acts of Parliament, books of constitutional theory and  old court decisions. This means it is constantly being changed by inadvertence or on purpose. Mr. Bercow has been driving a coach and horses through it since he became Speaker.

Personally, I think Romanians and other Eastern Europeans make the perfect immigrants. I wrote about this here. I also think it is disgraceful that the UK is taking immigrants from outside Europe when there are Romanians and Bulgarians available, who are European and Christian. 

A British diplomat mentioned to me today at lunch that the British Government intends to make visa even easier for Indians to obtain. 

For those who want to know more of Mrs. Bercow, a photograph of her, wearing only a bed sheet, with the House of Commons in the background, appeared in the London Evening Standard, along wsith an interview in which she  said "Becoming Speaker has turned my husband into a sex symbol". She later said, "It was just meant to be a bit of fun, but obviously it has completely backfired on me and I look a complete idiot. This makes me feel for her. She is a rather jolly upper middle-class girl trying to have some fun but it never goes right for her. She took part in the Big Brother competition in 2011 and was, predictably I feel, the first person to be evicted.

Below by the way is Mr Bercow's coat of arms, which amused or disgusted his countrymen. The ladder represent the fact that he climbed to his present eminence from the lowly beginning as a taxi driver's son. The motto 'All are Equal' might seem very odd for a man who was a Conservative politician but nowadays conservatives and liberals in England seem to believe in equality as much as socialists. The words of the motto are punctuated by pink triangles, representing his support for equal treatment for homosexuals.

To the ladder born: Speaker Bercow's new coat of arms