High life

Why 1919 wasn’t the year it’s cracked up to be

12 January 2019

9:00 AM

12 January 2019

9:00 AM


The funny thing is that I was at school with a man called Ted Widmer, and I recently read that one Ted Widmer is a ‘distinguished lecturer’ at a New York university and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. The Ted I knew was anything but ethical and dressed rather strangely. Never mind. Whether or not he was a schoolmate, Widmer has written a treatise on the year 1919 and called it ‘1919: the Year of the Crack-up’. It’s very good. Basically, he says that what took place in 1919 shaped the world for the rest of the century.

One hundred years later, his crack-up looks to me like a tiny fissure — a chink —yet in a funny way it did shape the rest of the century. The war was over and the German, Austrian and Ottoman empires were gone. The chirpy and confident Americans, headed by a vainglorious blowhard named Woodrow Wilson, had decided to impose on the inbred Euros a thing called ‘self-determination’. The Yanks, after all, had arrived at the last minute à la John Wayne with his 7th Cavalry and saved the Allies from the hated Bosch. Self-determination became le goût du jour and that is all le Tout-Paris talked about. In fact, Paris dropped Proust and talked only about the Fourteen Points, just as, a hundred years later, London has forgotten all about Kate and Eugenie and Meghan and babbles on about Brexit.

A few centuries before that, a silk stocking called Louis defined the state as follows: ‘L’État, c’est moi.’ Some 400 years after Louis baby, an ass by the name of Jean-Claude sort of thinks l’État is him. He conducts referendums in which only a few bother to vote, but when the ‘self-determined’ who do bother to vote don’t vote the way JC would like them to, he makes them vote again — and again. The irony is that the only real self-determination took place in 2016, on an overcrowded island northwest of France, and unless you’ve been living in Beverly Hills, you know what the result of that one was.

The word democracy has become the elixir for all ills, but democracy and self-determination are not always in synch. After the murderous 20th century, the early 21st has seen a mass mania of the minority supported by lies and hysteria. The tweet #CancelWhitePeople by a female Korean-American installed on the editorial board of the New York Times, along with other tweets by her too filthy for the Speccie’s elegant pages, illustrates that self-determination has become a phrase that means only ‘I can do and say anything I like as long as I aim my insults against the rich, the white, the Christian, the heterosexual and the male’.

America came into her own in 1919. She was a thriving nation of European immigrants and innovation; a country of farmers, small towns, bustling cities and large corporations. Europe was reconstructing, but slowly. Hitler’s rise was predictable after the terms imposed on the defeated Germans. Magnanimity in victory would have been a far better option, but the Frogs had other ideas. After the second world war, the victorious powers were wiser. They had to be, what with Uncle Joe and his nukes threatening from the east. Uncle Sam became No. 1 and has remained top banana ever since. Poor old Europe looked around and came up with the EEC, now the EU, or, if one’s a realist, a dictatorship of the bureaucrat.

As I write, the people of Europe and America have never been more divided. If there was a crack-up in 1919, then 2019 looks like Krakatoa. Doomsayers are having a field day, but the great Greek philosopher Taki begs to differ. All we have to do is accept that there is a war being waged against us, a cultural onslaught fuelled by the academy, the media, Hollywood, Netflix, you name it. The left has imposed a new language, with universities hounding those who dare speak from an incorrect perspective, and its media lapdogs police those who don’t fall into line. ‘White and male’ is now a pejorative term, and the past is judged by the scruples of the present that the bigots of the left have imposed on us.

Civility on the part of the left has gone fishing. Rashida Tlaib, a newly elected member of Congress from Michigan, calls President Trump ‘a motherfucker’, and no one in Congress dares censor her or suspend her. Facebook leads the disinformation campaign by banning accounts accused of having an affiliation with the far-right. My friend Gavin McInnes has been singled out by the left as a fascist — he is nothing of the sort — and he has become a non-person thanks to Facebook. This is a company that makes $5 billion in profit per quarter and is the arbiter of global speech.

So, as someone better known than the greatest Greek philosopher said: what is to be done? Resist, I guess, and start the resistance by refusing to use gender-neutral words such as ‘humanity’ for ‘mankind’. Sing ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ at every opportunity, and sneer at the mobs walking through life with their mobile phones either clapped to their ears or held out in front of them like monkeys performing in a circus. Insist on the referendum’s result and turn off any BBC programme that hints otherwise.

And while I’m at it, baby, it really is cold outside here in Gstaad.

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