15 Oct

Progressively worse

Hillary Clinton is promising “a progressive presidency.” I was wondering what this piece of jargon might mean when happily I received a clue – from the horse’s mouth, you might say.

Emails between two of Mrs Clinton’s closest colleagues have been made public. John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, and Sandy Newman, president and founder of the campaign group Voices for Progress, have disparaged what they refer to as “Catholic Middle Ages teachings.”  

Why, when modern types seek especially to denounce a particular viewpoint, do they refer to it as of the Middle Ages or Medieval?

Some of the most profound philosophical and theological thought was gifted to Europe and the world by Medieval churchmen. Adapting Plato and Aristotle, they established a system of logic and enunciated fundamental presuppositions of rational thought which, despite the efforts of 17th and 18th century detractors, continue to provide a basis for metaphysics and epistemology. Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Anselm and Francis Bacon were among the clearest and most imaginative thinkers of any historical period. It is no overstatement to say that such men as these created modern Europe. And their creation was embodied in the founding of the first universities, the great cathedrals, schools, hospitals, the beginnings of western music in Gregorian plainchant and that near-miraculous administrative instrument, the parish.

These were only some of the achievements of an age so contemptuously sneered at as “Medieval.”   

Another of Hillary’s “progressives,” John Newman, wrote: “There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a Middle Ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.”

But Christendom was not a dictatorship. It provided a decent set of political liberties. If it’s dictators you’re looking for, John, look no further than your cherished “progressive” modernity: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot. No “Medieval dictatorship” slaughtered human beings on a scale anywhere approaching the genocides committed by those men – who were fervent atheists, by the way. And there were more people killed in the wars of the “progressive” 20th century than in all previous wars put together

In another email, John Halpin of the Centre for American Progress mocked the conservatism of Catholics, especially converts: “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”

It is difficult to attach any meaning to a statement as clumsy and convoluted as that, but I think we get the gist.

Medieval Christianity at least provided some practical guidance for our discerning of what is right from what is wrong – which the moral and social squalor of absolute ethical relativism cannot do. No doubt the practice of chastity is arduous, but the “progressive” alternative is unspeakable: every person, regardless of their, “gender” an opportunity for casual sexual gratification and millions of the unborn ripped untimely from the womb simply because people are sexually incontinent.

Listen – Hillary, John and Sandy – to words written by T.S. Eliot in 1934:

“Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws? She tells them of Life and death, and of all that they would forget. She is tender were they would be hard, and hard were they like to be soft. She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts. They constantly try to escape from the darkness outside and within, by dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”

27 Sep

The Church of St Jargon & All Gobbledegook

The Church of St Jargon & All Gobbledegook – formerly known as the Church of England – is affectionately called “Jarg’s” or “Gobs” by its devotees. It is “a resource  where exciting things are happening.” Last year, for example, they appointed Mike Eastwood, Liverpool Diocesan Secretary, to the “exciting” two days a week job of Director of the nationwide Reform and Renewal movement, aka “The Welby Babes.”.Mike has held exciting posts before his current appointment. He was Director of the Directory of Social Change – and they don’t come more exciting than that in the social engineering and class warfare sector!

The official announcement of Mike’s appointment mentioned that he had previously worked for the not quite so exciting Resourcing the Future Task Group and that, “He brings knowledge of the Church to support the programme into the delivery phases.” His responsibility at R&R will be, “…to bring the current work streams together and co-ordinate the activities in a way necessary for delivery.”

When we read such invigorating sentences as these, we can see at once that the new name, The Church of St Jargon & All Gobbledegook was chosen with brilliant aptness. 

The announcement continues in the same exciting style: “Mike will retain his role in Liverpool, with some changes in day-to-day activities to ensure manageability of workload.”

The tired old C. of E. is in its death throes – thank God. The stuffy old diehards, Prayer Book lovers and the like are dying off too. The numbers attending church show relentless decline. We should see this as a blessing, as the dead wood makes way for the exciting new ethos of R&R with its stimulating rock music “worship groups,” its informal, pass-the-parcel style liturgy and its scintillating shoals of “management teams.” 

The chronic shortage of priests is “enabling” R&R “to explore exciting new possibilities for lay leadership.” 

The future is bright. The future is all Jargon & Gobbledegook (with charismatic choruses obbligato).

24 Sep

From the horse’s mouth

A team – it’s always a team, isn’t it? – of scientists in Norway claims to have discovered that horses are more intelligent than we thought; and that they think like humans.

Dr Cecilie Mejdell of the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, who led the research, says her team has found a way to ask the horse whether it likes wearing a blanket. In Nordic countries, it’s common for horses to wear blankets in all weathers. No surprise there, then. The team trained horses, by offering slices of carrot as an incentive, to touch a board with their muzzle to indicate if they wanted to wear a rug.

I don’t suppose for a minute that the horses touched the board in order to be given another slice of carrot? 

Dr Mejdell added,  “Horses are often considered to be not very intelligent…” By whom, Dr Mejdell? – “but this shows that, when we use the right methods, they can actually communicate and express their opinions and they can make choices that seem sensible even to us.”

Even to us, eh?

“Express their opinions”?

“Tell me, Trigger, what is your opinion of Jeremy Corbyn?” But horses don’t express opinions any more than we eat hay and neigh.

In trying to evaluate the meaning of these results, we might well remember a saying of Wittgenstein’s: “If a lion could talk, we wouldn’t understand it.”

For intelligence is related to a particular form of life, Lebensformen. And the life of a lion – or a horse – is a different form of life from the life of a human being. Horses don’t usually do crosswords, for example, or play the piano very well.

Of course, some animals can be taught to make responses to stimuli provided by humans in order to receive a reward: it’s called classical conditioning.

But this doesn’t allow us to conclude that, for instance, a horse understands the meaning of the symbol on the board in the same way that humans understand what it means.

In other words, horse sense is different – and necessarily different – from human sense.

The horse might well return to its stable and boast to a horsey colleague: “Guess what? I’ve trained human beings to give me a slice of carrot when I want one.”

Perhaps the experiment shows that horses are more intelligent than Dr Mejdell’s team?

Anyone for a carrot?

08 Sep

There but for the grace…

Do we now live in an autocracy? Is the prime minister the only public servant in the country who is actually doing something? Is Mrs May the Queen’s first minister, or only the general factotum?

We see her here, we hear her  there: this wonder woman is everywhere.

“May slams Southern Trains shambles…May backs grammar schools…May to lead trade talks…”

And, when she has a minute, perhaps she’ll go out and choose my Christmas cards for me.

If there is a minister responsible for the efficient running of the trains, surely that should be the minister of transport. Grammar schools: that’s the secretary of state for educashon innit? And perhaps trade talks have nothing to do with ministers of the Crown and should be left to businessmen who know what they’re talking about?

Churchill was known as something of an autocrat, a man who liked to get his own way. But he knew he couldn’t do everything. He delegated.

Quite apart from the fact that no one person can have day-to-day knowledge of all the nation’s affairs and exercise control over the whole sphere, it is not the job of the prime minister to manage the minutiae of public life: her job is to guarantee the integrity of her administration. She is not there to poke her nose – however considerable – in at every verse end. She appointed her ministers. She should trust them to get on with the job; and when they fall short, it’s her privilege to sack them. She is certainly not there to provide headlines for the press.

There are many ills for which Theresa May is to blame, but this isn’t one of them. I think the rot started with the appalling Tony Blair.

Now there was an autocrat. When I think of Blair, I recall Winston Churchill on Sir Stafford Cripps: “There but for the grace of God goes God.”

06 Sep

Onward Christian Soldiers!

Here follows the cheeriest, most encouraging, sentence I’ve read in a long time: “A Christian militia has liberated a village in Iraq from Islamic State.”

This victorious Christian militia bears a name with sonorous biblical resonance. They are called the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, in number about 3000 men, and they have just taken back control of Badanah in south-east Mosul. The group published video and images on Facebook of NPU fighters driving Islamic State from the village.

Praise be to God!

NPU commander Bahnam Abush told the Iraqi press: “The operation is a step towards the restoration of confidence and hopes for Christians to stay in the land of their grandparents.”

The Nineveh Plains were captured in 2014 by Islamic State who murdered many Christians and drove 125,000 from their homes. Since the Muslims took control of the area, they have used torture extensively. They also destroyed a number of historical landmarks in the area such as the walls of Nineveh and the 4th century Mar Behnam Monastery.

Well now, thanks be to God and the Christian militia, they have got their come-uppance.

Christianity has a long and noble military tradition employed frequently against imperialistic Islam. Charles Martel raised a Christian army and defeated a huge Muslim incursion at Tours in AD 732. The Knights of St John relieved the siege of Malta in 1565. When the Muslim general crucified captured Christians and floated their bodies across the strait on crosses, the Abbot rounded up 1000 Muslims, beheaded them and fired the severed heads back at the enemy from his cannons. Papal armies raised a fleet and routed the Muslims at Lepanto in 1571. And it was a Christian army under Jan Sobieski which lifted the siege of Vienna in 1683.

Now that what’s left of the European civilization created by Christianity is once again under Muslim attack, the words “Christian militia” never cross the lips of our archbishops and bishops. They prefer to appease our enemies and persecutors. You might say the policy of the church’s contemporary leadership is pre-emptive self-abasement. In Europe, the Middle East and much of Africa, Christians are being slaughtered wholesale and dispossessed on the grand scale. But all the bishops’ talk is about “Islamophobia” – in other words, don’t blame the Muslims; it’s our own fault.

Don’t hang around for Welby’s Christian militia to turn up: you’ll have to wait a very long time.

On at least four occasions in the last 1400 years, Christian militias have defeated the barbarians. This time it looks as if the barbarians are going to win. Not because we lack the resources to fight, but we lack the will. A courageous people under threat of subjection or annihilation can always hope to defeat the enemy. But once a people has lost the will to fight, has lost confidence in itself, there is no power on earth that can save it.

Things will have to get worse before they get better. When the threat became severe and critical in Iraq, there emerged that wonderful Christian militia to smite the enemy. The Muslim threat is only going to intensify here in Europe.

So we should all sing Psalm 68: “Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered: let them that hate Him flee before Him. Like as the smoke vanisheth, so shalt thou drive them away: and like as wax melteth at the fire, so let the ungodly perish at the presence of God.”

Shall we, in our extremity, produce a Christian militia too? Let us pray in the words of The Book of Common Prayer:

“O Almighty God, King of all kings and governor of all things, whose power no creature is able to resist, to whom it belongeth justly to punish sinners and to be merciful to them that truly repent; save and deliver us, we humbly beseech thee, from the hands of our enemies; abate their pride, aswage their malice and confound their devices; that we, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore from all perils to glorify thee, who art the only giver of all victory; through the merits of thy only Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

01 Sep

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Here come our minders again. Here come the thought police. We’ve all been naughty – both Leave and Remain – in the EU referendum campaign. “It was dogged by glaring democratic deficiencies” with voters turned off by big name politicians and negative campaigning, says the Electoral Reform Society.

The Electoral Reform Society attacked both sides of the referendum campaign, saying people felt “ill-informed” by the “dire” debate.

Of course the debate was dire. It was hustings red in tooth and claw, a first-rate political punch-up. Have these nannies in the ERS never witnessed a political campaign close up before, complete with lies, scandals, rotten eggs and jiggery-pokery wholesale? That is the nature of political campaigns – I’m delighted to say.

As for the accusation that the public were “ill-informed,” well, who’s fault is that? If the public wishes to be informed, then the public  must inform itself. We know a politician is lying to us every time we see his lips moving. It’s not the duty of political opponents to fight according to the Marquis of Queensbury rules. Politics is a bare knuckle fight and there will be blood.

So, when they’ve finished smacking the bottoms of both Leave and Remain, what do the apparatchiks, prigs and trendies in the ERS recommend?

They call for a “root and branch” review of the way referendums are run. There should be “a public body appointed to intervene when misleading claims are made by campaigns, to review the broadcasters’ role and to publish a rule book to govern the conduct of campaigns.”

And then, as a prelude to the repudiation of Original Sin, the ERS will monitor every political speech and itemise every “misleading” claim.

Impossible. For who is to decide which claims are misleading? It is conflicting claims which are the very issue and substance of political campaigns.

And who, pray, are to be made members of the “public body appointed to intervene”? A committee of MPs perhaps with their well-known devotion to truth? Or the BBC with its famed lack of bias? Maybe the ERS itself?

This chastisement from the sanctimonious busybodies in the ERS marks a new low in the ongoing process of politically-correct thought control

Never mind Project Fear. This is worse: it is Project Infantilisation.

30 Aug

Beethoven’s Funk

My first meeting some fifteen years ago with a man who is now among my closest friends ended up in a triple-forte row. Over supper in the restaurant, I mentioned that I had just bought Andras Schiff’s recordings of all the Mozart piano sonatas. My friend, who shall remain nameless – but who’s name actually is Alexander Boot – a man with a well-tuned ear for the apt phrase – said, “I call him Andras S**t!”

He was right. I hardly played the recordings and last year i gave them away. I feel rather guilty about giving them to someone else, feeling it’s a bit like serving your pal a piece of dodgy pork.

Well, I must be a glutton – not for dodgy pork, but for punishment. For last evening I switched on the wireless to listen to Schiff – now Sir Andras – conduct the excellent Leipzig Gewandhaus in a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the Proms. The Leipzig musicians played with their usual clarity and tone: but what they had to play, how they were directed to play was an atrocity. I have never heard anything so palpably awful since a performance of Mahler’s Second by James Loughran in the Free Trade Hall in 1975.

That Schiff could do such dirt on Beethoven’s Seventh, one of the liveliest symphonies in the repertoire! It dragged along like a lump of dead meat.

But you know how you do: I persevered, hoping for it to get better. Surely in the presto scherzo he would liven up a bit? No. Not in the allegro con brio finale either – the movement which Nietzsche extolled as “the apotheosis of the dance.” Last night it was more like the apotheosis of lumbago. To say it was spiritless would be to insult all the shades in the graveyard.

Beethoven’s first two symphonies are conventional 18th century style pieces recalling Haydn. (Characteristically, Beethoven, having had lessons from Haydn, claimed he learnt nothing from him. Yes, well, even Homer nods now and then. But the third, The Eroica burst into the world like an exploding galaxy. Music was never the same again. Beethoven seemed – yes, even Beethoven – to need a period of recovery after The Eroica and indeed the fourth is a fairly conventional affair – and no worse for that, by the way. Then he’s back to being a whirling dervish again in the tearaway fifth: that dazzling C-major chord which erupts towards the climax of the last movement…well, it’s what he heard in Haydn’s The Creation, isn’t it? The revelatory “Let there be light!” after the representation of chaos.

The old man needed a breather again and he takes it in the leisurely pastorale of his sixth. Only then does he feel ready to hurl the seventh at us. Another breather in the (almost) dainty precision of the little eighth; before the desert storm of the ninth.

How could Sir Andras perpetrate such an affront to Ludwig van? He made even the costive lushness of Karajan sound spritely. I could have done with a dose of Furtwangler or Leonard Bernstein.

Did Sir Andras get his knighthood for rescuing stray dogs, or what?

(I hope Mr Boot doesn’t mind my telling you this. But you were right, Alex. By hell you were right!)

29 Jul

Prescribing the disease as the antidote

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

I’ve been reading about pop music again. To make matters worse, I have compounded my fault by reading a BBC preview about tonight’s “Bowie Celebration Prom.” Here is what it said:

“How to turn a David Bowie tribute from an evening of cover versions into something better? The key seems to be the Berlin collective Stargaze, a young group of post-jazz players who will be the backdrop against which a sequence of guest singers (including Marc Almond and John Cale) will perform Bowie classics. Earlier (7.30pm), veteran maestro Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony.”

I am having difficulties with some of the wording in that preview.

What is “post jazz”?

How can the word “classic” appear next to the word “Bowie”?

Blasphemously, the providers of this rubbish describe Bowie as a rock “icon.” In truth, he was an overblown representative of the trashy mass culture industry, which is not about music of any sort, but about advertising and money.

Remember H.L. Mencken: “Nobody ever lost money by underestimating public taste.”

I don’t mind – big of me, eh? – if those deprived of a decent education by generations of lousy state schooling and the dumbed down mass media want to get together to listen to trash.

But I do mind when the trash is imported into the realm of what formerly stood for quality. Classical music concerts are the antidote to the banal noises of pop music.

The devotees of pop music have hundreds of TV and radio stations which broadcast nothing but pop and rock.

Is it so unreasonable to ask that one station might remain clear of this disease?

(That review reveals very clearly the Beeb’s order of values: “Veteran maestro Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony” is appended as an afterthought.)

Furthermore, Father, I confess to being an elitist. But what’s the alternative – to be a mediocratist?

29 Jul

The Religion of Peace and Love: Overseas Branch

The European mass media has devoted hundreds of hours and thousands of pages to the murder of an elderly priest in Normandy.

Understandable, because this occurred in our own backyard. But let’s put this atrocity into perspective.

David Curry, president and CEO of Christian Watchdog Group Open Doors, has reported that in 2015, more than 2,000 churches in Africa were attacked by Muslim arsonists and murderers and more than 7,000 Christians were killed. Muslim terrorist organisations such as Islamic State, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram are particularly keen to perpetrate wholesale slaughter inside Christian places of worship.

Mr Curry added, “In Nigeria, an average of five churches are attacked every Sunday.”

Similar figures are reported for the persecution of Christians by Muslims in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

Syria and Iraq were home to populous and flourishing Christian communities for two thousand years.

But Christianity has been almost completely wiped out in those countries.

The same goes for all the North African nations, as well as for Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the face of these massacres, genocide by any other name, taking place across three continents, I don’t want you to be disheartened.

Instead you should turn for reassurance to the people in authority, and to those who really know what’s going on: The BBC, The Guardian, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope.

These luminaries constantly give you all the reassurance you could possibly need. they are unanimous in saying:


There now, that feels better, doesn’t it?

28 Jul

Defiling the stars

Evil communications corrupt good manners.

The brilliantly successful programme to land a spacecraft on a comet has come to an end. Contact has been lost with the module and there is no possibility of its being re-established.

So – the ineffably fatuous BBC Radio Four programme Inside Science, presented by Adam Rutherford, mourned this moment of loss, said how touching and evocative the whole experience had been

So – how does the BBC do “touching” and “evocative”?

By saying  goodbye to the spacecraft by means of five or six extracts of rock music

I thought; O music of the circling spheres, accept this audible filth, our only tribute