Look, I'm not a professional writer - well, who the hell would pay me? Probably only Mr. Magoo and he walked in front of a bus years ago! Anyway, like my acting I am definitely an 'am' not a'pro' which is a nuisance really because this week's 'Speccie' is terrific not least because, unintentionally, I am sure, it has a sort of thread running through it and it needs a better writer than me to piece it together for you. I suppose the answer is for you to go to The Spectator site and buy a year's on-line subscription, they're going cheap.
However, if you are a tight-wad then you are stuck with my meandering summary. It begins with a truly thought-provoking article by Owen Matthews in which he describes "Putin's masterplan". Of course, we all know that 'Vlad the Impaler' is a patriotic nationalist whose politics are somewhere to the Right of Genghis Khan, but I for one had underestimated his driving ambition to lead a re-actionary world movement against the forces of western liberalism. I knew from the anti-homosexual laws he has passed that he was virulently opposed to the 'Open Societies' of the west. What I did not know was that Russian diplomacy is now very focused on building a global alliance of governments who share his re-actionary stance.
If your response is to shrug and mutter 'so what?' let me tell you that one of his aims, supported by his allies, is to wrest control of the internet from the hands of the American-based ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. This non-profit organisation has effective control of the internet and Putin is determined that it should be broken up and more control should pass to individual states. If you wonder just how much support he is likely to attract for that idea then just pause and check out the majority of governments represented at the United Nations, the finest collection of thugs, crooks and murderers the world has ever seen. Together they make the Chicago mob look like a scout troop! If national governments take control of the internet it will instantly cease to be a world wide web.
The other interesting thing that Mr. Matthews tells us is that what I might call Putin's 'High Church/High Tory' view of a politically and socially correct society is attracting recruits in strange places. He points to Pat Buchanan, a leader of the Moral Majority movement 'over there'. Buchanan moved in presidential circles (well, not today, of course!) and is the co-owner of The American Conservative magazine and he is full of praise for what he calls Putin's 'paleo-conservative movement'. And Putin's pull is spreading, according to Mr. Matthews who tells us that the Illinois-based World Congress of Families has accepted an invitation to hold its eighth world congress in Moscow. Its leader, Mr. Larry Jacobs, is quoted as saying "Russia could be a great ally for conservatives, on issues like defending the family, abortions, even strenghtening marriage and promoting more children."
'The times they are a-changin'', me thinks. Whilst I can look back in history and see and understand nations going to war over, say, the 'Schleswig-Holstein problem' which is, if not concrete, at least soil and cities, I can't help wondering whether we shall find ourselves at war over our approach to abortion law, marriage and divorce arrangements, feminism and homosexuality? As always there is a snigger or three to be had in this controversy, not least the fact that 'Vlad, the born-again Puritan Christian' managed to 'ditch the bitch' and shag the young dancer although whether or not he married her remains lost in a Russian mist! (That sentence would not make it through an internet controlled by Vlad!)
Needless to say, the first casualty in all of this is poor, old, gang-banged Christianity with all parties from the low liberals to the 'High Tories' claiming Christ and his teachings as their social/spiritual guide. That takes me to a book review in the Speccie by Douglas Murray. The book is called Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism by Larry Siedentop, a distinguished professor of political philosophy. Mr. Murray is usually something of a hard-hitter but it's fair to describe his analysis of this book as 'a rave review'! The second paragraph of his review instantly gripped the remaining few of my Book Tokens (from SoD at Christmas, appropriately enough!):
At the very opening of 'Inventing the Individual' Larry Siedentop lays this problem out. People who live in the nations once described as Christendom 'seem to have lost their moral bearings', he writes:
We no longer have a persuasive story to tell oursleves about our origins and development. There is little narrative sweep in our view of things. For better or worse, things have just happened to us.
And the final paragraph of his review clinches the now indisputable fact that my suitcase is going to be well over the weight limit when I fly to Rhodes in May!
At the very end Siedentop asks, 'If we in the West do not understand the moral depth of our own tradition, how can we hope to shape the conversation of mankind?' Indeed. All that need be said is that there can be few better ways to understand that depth of tradition, or feel appropriate gratitude for it than to read this magisterial, timeless yet timely work.
Finally, I was delighted to see an article by Julie Burchill smouldering on page 20. I have been an ardent fan of this lady for years but recently she has fallen from favour in certain high falutin', journalistic circles and I have missed her. If I tell you that she makes the late, great Auberon Waugh, who had acid running through his veins, sound like your local vicar that will give you some idea of her vinegar nature! As you may vaguely remember, she fell foul of what she calls the 'non-working class Left' when she leaped to the defence of her impeccably Left-wing friend, Suzanne Moore, who had rather carelessly referred in an article to the fact that so many women were angry with themselves "for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape - that of a Brazilian transexual". Cue: ten tons of politically correct 'poo' being poured over Ms. Moore's head but, of course, immediately enter stage Left (natch!) her friend and champion, Julie Burchill:
Repelled by the filthy threats which were flying fierce and fast at my friend, I began to talk trash on my Facebook page - though even my trash-talk, it must be said, has a vicious elegance that most people's A-game lacks [Hear Hear!] I opined that a bunch of gender-benders trying to tell my mate how to write was akin to the Black and White Minstrels advising Usain Bolt on how to run. I stated that it was outrageous that a woman of style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chick's clothing and their snivelling suck-ups. The usual cool, calm and collected sort of consideration I'm famous for.
Oh, truly may it be said that 'age shall not weary her, nor the years condemn' - thank God! And what a friend to have in a time of need. Read it all in this week's 'Speccie'.