09 Jan

“The Governess, Part III”

Take your seats today for the third and climactic act of this three act pantomime starring Theresa May. “The Governess” was the tile given to this show only after other suggestions had been examined and rejected: these included: “The Stunt” and “The Art of Self-advertisement.”

Acts I and II were hugely enjoyable. The first contained the memorably comic scene in which Mrs May, with the assistance of the Department of Cliches and Political Hand-me downs, is seen composing several articles for publication in national newspapers. How we roared with laughter at her subtle articulation of “Let me be entirely clear.” Then came her side-splitting, “My first priority” – for which due credit was acknowledged in the programme to the Department of Tautologies and the EU Commission on Pleonasm.

In the second act, Mrs May pretended to be a serious politician – the prime minister, no less -  and was seen giving an extended television interview. Our theatrical correspondent commented favourably: “This was the most brilliantly effective political satire we’ve seen since the days of that great comic actor Harold Wilson.”

I attended the dress – and what a dress! – rehearsal for today’s final act which begins in total darkness. In mock horror a disembodied voice calls out, “Now then boys and girls, what are the most terrifying words in the English language?”

At this point there was a palpable sense of unease and apprehension. Suddenly the stage was a fountain of light and Mrs May rose from a trapdoor in a gorgeous leopard skin leotard and answered: “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help!”

I swear the audience laughter continued for all of five minutes.

There were some breath-taking moments of sheer bathos as when Mrs May began to sing the smash hit number “The Shared Society.” It began with the rising chromatic line in parody seriousness: “I’m going to do something about mental illness.” But yet again the tension was relieved quite hilariously as she went on to sing, “Oh no I’m not! I’ve already done that – when I said I want to make Brexit work for the Remainers!”

The rest of the act was the enumeration of all that Mrs May is going to do to make the country better and spread happiness. I won’t spoil it for you by going into details. “”(Actually, Mrs May didn’t go in for details either).

At the end I strolled into the green room which was crammed with theatrical journalists and literary people from the upmarket weeklies. Hieronymus Bosh from The Guardian interestingly denied that what we’d witnessed was a pantomime at all: “It was really a social comment piece – put me in mind here and there of Brecht, particularly in her evocative minimalist phrasing of “The Handouts Song “ and the rousing strains of “immigration, Immigration, Immigration” and its unforgettable refrain, “You ain’t seen nuffin’ yet!”

The Times Literary Supplement’s Jean-Paul Fartre seemed angered by Bosh’s remarks and he screamed back, “Social comment piece my arse! It was pure theatre of the absurd. Didn’t you get the Sam Beckett reference when the demon king character (Boris Johnson) tells her, “You can’t go on!” and Theresa slaps her leather trousers and replies, “I must go on! I’ll go on!”

The editor of The Tablet said, “What really did it for me was at the end of her moving song about all her magnificent achievements, the Theresa May-like-character vowed to make us all love one another and to abolish Original Sin.”

I ventured to ask, Where is the great lady, by the way?”

And the whole chorus erupted, “She’s behind you!”

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08 Jan

The uncritical critics at SAOS

I don’t usually find myself in agreement with fascists and book-burners, but I do agree with the students of the University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies (SAOS) – who are fascists and would-be book burners – when they say, “White philosophers should only be studied from a critical perspective.”

I would go further and say that all  philosophers should only be studied from a critical perspective.

The SAOS students’ statement only goes to show that they have no understanding of what philosophy is. Criticism and argument are the very substance of philosophy. In fact they are the requirements for the pursuit of the knowledge of every subject.

Of course there is a subtext here: the demand that white philosophers should be singled out for critical study implies that black and Asian ones should be studied uncritically.

Actually, it is not possible to study anything uncritically. When we begin to study a topic, the first question – I mean first in the sense of logically prior to – must be, “What is this subject about?” This opens up the critical process as one participant replies, “It is about X” and another one chips in, “No, it is about Y”

The SAOS students do not study black and Asian philosophers critically simply because they are not capable of doing so. They have proved their incapacity by their failure to understand the meaning of criticism.

Give these SAOS ideologues, bigots and thickos the credit for practising what they preach. For indeed they do not study black and Asian philosophers critically: instead they sit at their feet and swallow whole every half-baked morsel which emerges from the mouths of their heroes.

In fact their heroes are not philosophers at all, but ideologues and political propagandists and sloganisers just like the students themselves.

I began by expressing my agreement with the students of SAOS. Let me end by doing the same.

Yes, they should study more black and Asian philosophers. Let them start then with St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)

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01 Jan

May, or May not?

Theresa May has delivered us a New Year message in which she begins 2017 in the same style as she ended 2016: in a paroxysm of indecision and malintent. She says she is to develop policies which will appeal to Leavers and Remainers alike. And after she has accomplished this, she will make supporters of Rangers and Celtic vow a vow of perpetual amity, Benjamin Netanyahu lie down with Hamas and Sunni and Shia kiss each other.

Why should anyone ever believe anything said by this woman?

When she was the longest-serving home secretary since 1945, she did nothing to prevent the infiltration of Birmingham schools by Muslim advocates of jihad and nothing to stop the rape and sexual abuse of underage girls by Muslims in a score of British towns over decades. Charged with reducing immigration to “the tens of thousands,” she stood back and supervised its doubling. When challenged about this, she said she was “powerless” because of EU rules on free movement of populations. Then, with characteristic perversity and double-mindedness, she voted Remain.

When it comes to duplicity , she makes Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson look like amateurs.

She described the near year long, catastrophic disruption to Southern Trains as “unacceptable” – and then accepted it. This trades union action is an openly declared outbreak of class war. It is costing the economy £11million each day. For hundreds of thousands of commuters, this is more than an inconvenience. Many have lost their jobs because they cannot get to work on time. Many more will do so in the next few months. Others have been obliged to move house.

Corbyn and the unions, defeated at the ballot box, have turned to anarchy. This is not in dispute: they have clearly stated time and time again that their aim is to bring down the Tory government. What Tory government? Under Cameron, but increasingly under May, their policies are indistinguishable from socialism. Business taxes have increased and the burden of regulations has got heavier. While business rates are set to rise once again.

Theresa May’s response to the chaos which surrounds us and the dangers with which the economic life and the social stability of the country are are threatened is to make another speech and avoid her responsibilities.

The only matter on which she has shown decisiveness is in her choice of a pair of fancy trousers to enhance her ability to compete in the mutton-got-up-as-lamb stakes.

While May the inept, May the Remainer, is in charge, things will only get worse.

Theresa May has always had only one interest in life: and that interest is Theresa May.

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31 Dec

Dear Arthur…

An open letter to my teacher and friend Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Dear Arthur,

I don’t know whether you’ll be able to read this – or,. as today’s quaint phrase has it, “access this” – where you are. And, of course, I don’t know where you are or even if you are. In your great work Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, you drummed it into us that the secret of life is to extinguish the relentlessly insistent will – including the will to live. So perhaps you don’t want to be anywhere. I can’t quite get my head around this. (Another of our irritating modern phrases). You wouldn’t like it here. That incoherent upstart Karl Marx, who was only just getting going in your day, has been tremendously influential all over the world: even so-called “conservative” governments pursue socialist policies these days.

But really I want to tell you about something else. In Britain today there is a national organisation, paid for out of taxation and called the BBC, which tells us what to think and which things to regard as valuable politically, ethically and aesthetically. It doesn’t use books or newspapers to achieve this. Instead every home has a device which enables families to hear, and even see, the BBC propaganda. (I know you will find this far-fetched, but it’s true) The BBC is particularly keen on three things: that we should all be socialists and like crap – excuse my language – “music” and celebrate dead nihilists.

A very rare occurrence: you, dear Arthur, got a mention on the BBC yesterday. It was like this…

There is a feature on the BBC called A Good Read in which celebrities – usually ones who know nothing about literature – talk about the books they are reading. Yesterday, one of the participants mentioned a book by a psycho-thoroughpissed. (It was about death, so I thought you would be interested). The participant was impressed by this book and he praised the thoroughpissed author in  words such as the following, (I paraphrase, but here’s the substance of what he said):

“This is a wonderfully interesting book. The author writes about philosophers such as Nietzsche (worth reading, Arthur) and Sartre (a nihilistic narcissist and not worth reading) and…Schopenhauer. He provides a superb three pages summary of Schopenhauer’s writings. It might encourage you to go on and read Schopenhauer for yourself. But you don’t have to read him: these three pages are adequate in themselves for an understanding of him.”

So, Arthur, finally I come to my reason for writing. I want to apologise. You see, the BBC is not only full of socialists with bad taste in music, it is also – to use another of our tiresome modern expressions, irretrievably “dumbed down.” The very idea – the offence! – that your many thousands of penetrating and entertaining insights in Die Welt  and Parerga und Paralipomena can be distilled into three pages written by a throughpissed is a travesty and an insult.

So, wherever (or if) you are, please accept my renewed thanks for all your glorious works and my embarrassed apology. For I know you won’t get an apology from the BBC. There the philistines are proud of their ignorance and casual in their rudeness

With the best will in the world, I am your devoted pupil and friend

Peter

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30 Dec

PHE has placed me under house arrest

It’s a bit parky out there this morning, so I’d better not stray beyond the front door.

Public Health England (PHE) has told the aged to stay indoors. And they define an aged person as someone over 65. Well, I’ve been aged for nine years, going on ten and I’m afraid I’ve not been behaving myself. When, aged 70, I was living in North London in the coldest winter for a decade, I used to run round the park in shorts and t-shirt. According to PHE, it’s a miracle I’m still here to tell the tale.

That’s nothing. My grandfather Jim Priestley (born 1882) was a newsagent. For more than fifty years he walked five miles twice each day in all weathers, often in the dark, through the back streets of Leeds with two bags of newspapers to deliver. He was well-known among the locals for singing as he went and one of his songs was, “Poor little Joe, out in the snow.”

There were only two days in the year – Christmas and Good Friday – when there were no papers. Mind you, he had it easier on Sundays when there were no evening editions.

So I reckon he walked, heavily laden, 65 miles every week. 3300+ miles each year. About 165,000 over fifty years. That’s equivalent to nearly seven times round the earth or two-thirds the way to the moon.

He was still working aged 75. Energetic, enterprising and popular, he built up his business until he owned three shops: one on the railway bridge, near the Crown Wallpaper warehouse in Armley Road; another on Oak Road opposite the jail; the third on Tong Road by St Mary’s church.

In the coldest winter of the 20th century 1963, when the frost, fog and ice stayed from the end of December until Easter, Jim, aged 81, retired, and having recovered from three strokes, regularly walked the mile from the Tong Road shop, past the Oak Road establishment and down to the shop on the bridge taking messages, as he said, “To help out.”

His diet was porridge for breakfast, a pint of beer at The Brunswick pub – “The Brunny” – on Oak Road after the morning round, with stew and dumplings for lunch. About 4.30pm he would have tea and toast and some Epsom Salts and then set off with the evening bags.

He died a month short of his 88th birthday.

According to PHE, he should not have ventured out in the winter months after attaining the age of 65, in 1947.

Good job Jim Priestley didn’t know that.

Good job Winston Churchill didn’t have PHE to nag him either when, aged 67, he flew – making a long diversion to avoid enemy fire – in a converted freezing Liberator bomber to meet Stalin in Moscow in 1942.

Given these two examples, I think I’ll risk a stroll through the fog to collect the morning paper.

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28 Dec

Arrest the Prime Minister of Japan

Speaking at Pearl Harbour, Japan’s prime minister has offered Americans his “eternal condolences” for the deaths inflicted by his country on US soldiers in the 1941 attack. I believe the emperor of Japan is regarded as a god by his people, but it’s a bit presumptuous for a mere prime minister to express “eternal” condolences: he should leave such promises to the one true God who alone can deal in the business of eternity. Condolences – eternal or not – are one thing while apologies are another. The PM stopped short of making an apology. But he did make an astonishing promise: he said his country would “never wage war again.”

The man should be arrested, charged with treasonous intent and locked up.

“Never” means “never.” I think, in this case, the Japanese for “never” is “zettai ni.” And it means “In no circumstances.”

So the PM has pledged that Japan will not go war even if his country and people are attacked. That is a contemptible promise for a statesman to make.

Of course, there are those – so called “pacifists” – who would never make war. And pacifists tend to get a very good press. The fact remains that pacifism is fundamentally immoral. I may on my own behalf refuse to fight, but to refuse to fight to protect those for whom I have responsibility is both cowardly and wicked. To refuse to defend my country when it is under attack is a betrayal of all upon which I rely for my safety and well-being.

War is a very bad thing, but there are things worse than war: for instance, surrendering to tyrannous aggression. Redemption can indeed come through war – when men are prepared to shed their blood to redeem us from the enemy. I would go further and say that when our soldiers give their lives in battle, their sacrifice is joined to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

It is a bit much when so called “peace activists” presume to lecture soldiers about the nature of war. Soldiers do not like war – because it is they – and not the peace activists – who are called to fight. But soldiers know that there is a worse thing than war, and that is the triumph of evil. Sometimes war is the moral, the righteous, thing to do. The soldiers are the true peace activists, because peace is what they are fighting for. This is the lasting peace which only comes after victory. And the Bible itself warns us against those who “…cry peace where there is no peace.”

I wonder where soldiers get their courage from? Surely their love of our country and their fierce attachment to their Regiment. Through the knowledge that they are fighting a good fight. Through their loyalty to their comrades-in-arms.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

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26 Dec

The sport of blasphemy

“When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” We’re going to have to revise Shakespeare and for “princes” substitute “pop-stars.”

Another went down in the night. First thing I heard on the wireless on waking – accompanied by several sample blasts of noise. The air waves will be infested with hysterical “tributes” all day long.

The adoring journalists and broadcasters can’t quite get the nomenclature right though. They refer to these dead cacophonists as “artistes” and “musicians.”

That can’t be right.

Ah but suddenly they hit on the right word and describe their dead heroes as “iconic.”

Spot on. Blasphemous, yes. But still spot on. For an icon is something you may worship. And pop-stars are what the devotees of our debased culture worship.

And the object of worship says as much about the character of the worshipper as it does about itself. What we worship defines us.

Show me what you value, and I will tell you what you’re worth.

I think I shall show uncharacteristic reticence and say no more.

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25 Dec

Begone gloomy prelate!

“2016 has left us awash with fear.” Thus spake that leader of the Church Militant in this state of England, the Arch-community dirge-chanter of Canterbury, Justin Welby. We are haunted, he chants, by “the fear of terror and the economics of despair.”

If you Google SKY News, you can see a picture of him actually looking haunted and afraid.

Speak for yourself, Mr Welby. I’m not. I would rather believe the angel who said, “Fear not” than the wimpish Primate of all England.

The aim of terrorists is to make us afraid. I’m not going to oblige them, and I am confident most of my fellow countrymen are not going to succumb to fear either.

And what’s all this about “the economics of despair”? Foreign investment, since the referendum, is at the highest level on record. There are more people in work than ever. A score more economic indicators register strongly on the plus side.

There are so many things to be thankful for. Obama has (nearly) gone. We were spared Hillary Clinton. Trump is (almost) in the White House. The England XV went through the year unbeaten. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow scored a stack of runs.

Welby himself has served another year at Canterbury – which means he has one fewer to go until the day he leaves office.

And Leave won that referendum.

Best of all, it’s Christmas Day. The Word is made flesh and dwells among us, and we behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father: full of grace and truth.

So Lord descend to us, we pray: and take that Justin Welby away.

I’ve got a better motto for us: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus…”

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23 Dec

And the word was made trash

“And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

When it comes to the Church of England, we feel obliged to ask, “What mind?”

The Church authorities have produced a two minutes film “Joy to The World” presented by Gogglebox vicar and Songs of Praise presenter Rev’d Kate Bottley. It has been designed to compete in the “Advertisement of the Year” competition with the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco

The film begins unpromisingly with Ms Bottley, dressed in civvies, trying to appear…. well, like unto her imagined audience. And behold, she openeth her mouth and spake unto the people these words: “My idea of Christmas is me, in my ‘jamas, sat (sic) on the sofa watching a lovely film.”

The rest of the two minutes does nothing to make amends for this philistine irrelevance and I wondered for a long time what the purpose of this film might be. Clearly, it was meant to portray the priest as unclerical and untheological as possible. I don’t think she found this difficult.

And yet the image she projected was also a cliche – the cliche of the thoroughly modern vicar or vicaress who is not at all churchy, but just like you.

But the authorities haven’t grasped the irony that this image is exactly what the Church is like today: vacuous, suburban attitudes and mores – no different in fact from the world to which St Paul said we are not to be conformed.

The film offered a short resume of what it wanted us to perceive as the modern clergyperson’s Christmas. But there was nothing about the Incarnation. No glimpse of the Christmas gospel. A lot of excited rushing about bathed in a soft focus cloud of sentimentality.

Since the Church of England omits to preach the Christmas Gospel, the least I can do is to write out the words here, John 1:1-14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

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21 Dec

A black day for Rose

From the seat of her high-ranking position as chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a black woman, complains that there are not enough black and ethnic minority clergy being promoted to high office. Her own office as chaplain to the speaker is a fine hideout from which to make such accusations. It reminds me of Soren Kierkegaard’s riposte to Bishop Mynster: “This prelate in all the majesty of his ecclesiastical regalia ascends the pulpit of his glorious cathedral and preaches on the text, ‘God hath chosen the humble things of this world’ – and nobody laughs!” 

Ms Hudson-Wilkin blames “institutional racism” within the Church of England. And still nobody laughs.

She had better report this deficit to the second highest-ranking cleric in the church then, the Archbishop of York who was, last time I looked, a black man.

We are accustomed to hearing from class and race warrior Rose on these matters. A couple of years ago, she was interviewed on Radio Four and talked of little else in half an hour. She is a sort of ecclesiastical Doppelganger of Diane Abbott.

The occasion of the reverend lady’s renewed expostulations was the consecration of Karowei Dorgu as the new Bishop of Woolwich. He too is black.

Am I still the only person laughing? 

I don’t think we should get overly theoretical about this perceived deficiency of black and effnik hierarchs. Let’s concentrate on the practicalities instead. If a remedy is thought to be required, how is this to be accomplished? Are there to be quotas to ensure that black candidates are promoted, that is preferred over white candidates solely on the grounds that they are black?

If so, this amounts to racism. It may come as a surprise to diversity-mongers, but black people can be guilty of racism too. (Indeed, the claim they cannot be guilty of this offence is itself an act of racist prejudice, albeit against whites) The race warriors talk about “positive discrimination.” But there is no such thing. One person’s positive discrimination is another person’s victimisation.

There are only two criteria for the promotion of clergy into positions of high office in the church – or indeed for the promotion of anyone anywhere – and these are ability and suitability.

All the clamour for special preferment to be given to black candidates is manifestly unfair and unjust.

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