High life

The myth of American freedom

6 February 2021

9:00 AM

6 February 2021

9:00 AM

Gstaad

Imagine a beautiful, sexy woman, an Ava Gardner or a Lily James, with a wart on the end of her nose. It stands out, whereas on an ugly mien it would go almost unnoticed. Noise in stunning and peaceful surroundings disturbs more than it would in grating, jarring cities. Last week, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, after yet another record snowfall, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind. They were using the new skating method of cross-country skiing (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track).

A cloudless and very blue sky accentuated the beauty of the landscape. I haven’t seen that much snow in the 62 winters I’ve spent here and the mountains were looking their solemn best — inaccessible as there is too much snow for skiers to handle and too great a risk of avalanches. I’m hardly one to talk, but had the Alps remained pure and inviolate, instead of being full of brothel resorts, this would be a far, far better place.

A bearded man of 30 or so arrived, took something out of his duffel bag and suddenly all hell broke loose. Dogs howled, birds took off, sleepy farmers opened windows to find out what the racket was. I had no idea what was going on until Patricia’s young son pointed at the jerk and the machine he was holding which controlled a drone that was making all the noise and scaring away the wildlife.


At times such as this one needs Aristotelian logic. Old Ari insisted that fine language should be kept for moments where action and argument are not presented. (He was referring to theatrical drama.) Not being Aristotle, and this being real life, I asked the bearded jerk first in French, then in bad German, why he was doing this. No response. Finally I called him an asshole in English and he turned, smiled and said, ‘Tip Top’, a particularly annoying Swiss expression to signify that everything’s hunky-dory. He brought the drone back down, picked it up and disappeared down the valley. Where the hell was the abominable snowman when we needed him?

Mental health professionals and other busybody phonies would have diagnosed my reaction as SPS, small penis syndrome, or LLS, lockdown logorrhea syndrome, but it was nothing of the kind. Most psychotherapists today agree that one-to-one therapy is the answer for people who are standing up for themselves in the face of some modern outrage. The richer the patient, the more therapy is advised. Mental health professionals would invent a syndrome to describe my perfect definition of that jerk as an asshole and strongly advise treatment. I don’t buy any of that. Actually, what he did was a form of aural assault. It was almost as bad as interrupting a Schubert concerto with rap crap. Another German, Herr Schopenhauer, said it best: the higher one’s tolerance for noise, the lower one’s intellect.

But there is no use trying to intellectualise what we humans tend to do, which is to tell somebody else what he or she should be doing. The media now have a chokehold on it, but soon Big Tech will have the media by the throat. I just finished Barbara Black’s autobiography, and boy, did the hacks ever do a job on her. (I’ve already written on the subject in a previous column, with reference to excerpts from her book.) Far worse is what certain gossip columnists and writers dealing in falsehood did to our ex-proprietor Conrad Black. The man is close to a genius as far as knowledge is concerned, but he had a great flaw, something no self-respecting hack will ever forgive: he was born rich and worse, he was a conservative. That’s a no-no nowadays.

Never mind. Envy is a sin but it is the strongest of emotions. Somebody up there must have read this column before I wrote it (the perfect snow conditions and all that sunshine), looked down at all those less fortunate locked up in their houses and flats, and called for Louis Bromfield’s The Rains Came. Three days of constant, tropical downpour did to the snow what political correctness has done to American culture. It had to be divine retribution, what with my poor wife locked up alone in London while I frolic around getting sun tanned and healthier by the minute.

Mind you, one is thrown in on oneself during a pandemic, and not everyone deals with it positively. Aristotle believed that human curiosity was infinite, and that no subject was unworthy of systematic study. Poor old Ari, he never met an American liberal academic. Or a woke American student, not to mention lefty American and Brit journalists. Aristotle believed that democracy was uniquely Greek since he thought only non-Greeks would accept living in despotic conditions. This was a natural state of affairs for foreign people, just as self-rule or wise monarchical governments were for the Greeks. The irony today is that Americans keep bragging about their land of the free, yet they cannot tell a joke, whistle at a pretty girl, or even worship an ancestor without losing their careers and livelihoods. PC tyranny rules supreme: media, Hollywood, Big Tech and academia follow strict orders, and foolish Americans pretend that they’re free.

We Greeks, in the meantime, are freer than ever and are laughing all the way to the beach. This summer, that is.

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