Prince of Jibes; Human Rights; Virgin Shaglantic
The more conservative Daily Mail spluttered in indignation that "Prince Philip is losing his marbles... Can't the Queen pension him off in the attics of some distant palace?" while The Times thundered that Philip suffered from put-foot-in-mouth disease. Only the Daily Telegraph reported the story in context, quoting what people actually thought of the jocular remark.
What really happened was that Prince Philip mixed up his cowboys and Indians; he is, after all, 78 years old. The joke had nothing to do with Indians from India, but what is known in the trade as cowboy electricians, freelancers who more often than not rip one off. Never mind. The republican newshounds were not about to give a man they loathe a break. Out came the knives, the abuse and the phony righteous indignation of the scummiest media anywhere on Earth.
Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the definition of racism grows ever wider. This is so because multiculturalists and the politically correct wish it to be thus. Multiculturalism masquerades as an earnest endeavor to boost esteem of ethnic minorities, but is actually thinly disguised anti-Westernism, often amounting to antiwhite racism. The fact that Britain, or America, is weakened by the spreading of an ideology that seeks to undermine and replace the mainstream culture with a farrago of other cultures and subcultures is beside the point. Multiculturalism saps the foundations of national unity by undermining the nation's culture. Dead, white, European males are the demons of the multiculturalist religion, and p.c. is the Praetorian Guard of the multiculturalists.
What does Prince Philip's joke have to do with all this? Nothing, and a hell of a lot. Multiculturalists are an authoritarian and humorless lot who do not suffer free spirits gladly. George Orwell hit it on the nose when he described the humorless ones and their newspeak almost 50 years ago.
But back to the Duke of Edinburgh. In my not so humble opinion, he is a hell of a fellow. Although familiar with the ways of the world, he refuses to observe the ordinary conventions. About four years ago, again in Scotland, Philip expressed good-natured surprise to a driving instructor that any of the locals remained sober long enough to pass their tests. It was a gentle quip aimed to defuse tension. Based on truth, of course. Scots are known to get paralytic. Many drinkers, myself included, were delighted. Leftist p.c. busybodies went bananas. His remark, far from being impolite, perhaps had something to do with the band that greeted him and the Queen as they went on their walkabout. The tune it played was a popular Scottish melody, "Campbelltown Loch, I Wish You Were Whiskey."
In 1993 he told a Briton he met in Budapest that "you can't have been here long, you haven't got a pot belly." More screaming from the left. But, as usual, Philip was right. Hungarian food is delicious and extremely fattening. As anyone who has been to Hungary will testify, a slim person is as unusual as a Clinton telling the truth. During a royal visit to China in 1986, he told some British students that if they stayed in China much longer they'd all be "slitty-eyed." This one almost resulted in war between China and Britain?according to the British press, that is. In reality, the Chinese didn't mind at all. Even educated Chinese are in the habit of referring to Westerners as "round-eyed barbarians." Philip was answering in kind.
And now for Indian electronics. Even if Prince Philip had meant what he said, was it a huge insult to the nearly one billion Indians? "It's a huge insult to the Asian community," said the publisher of the Asian newspaper Eastern Eye. Horseshit, says I. The last time I was in India I received electric shocks on a regular basis, principally in the shower of the best hotel in Delhi. The chairman of the city's electricity board was known as "the Prince of Darkness." Most friends I knew used to crank up the generators and other crude devices to get through a dinner party without a blackout. The biggest problem in Delhi is theft. Forty percent of the city's power is stolen by private lines hooked up to the main power cables. If the billion Indians who have to put up with the electricity board were informed of Philip's remarks, they would demand that he become president. The publisher of the Asian rag, safely showering in London, must be related to Al Sharpton and other race pimps.
Isn't it about time we stopped fussing about racism? Back in 1966, before Betty Friedan, Prince Philip declared that "British women can't cook." Which at the time they couldn't. Just imagine what would happen if he tried it today. The rancorous despotic proletarian society usually identified with the feminist movement would lynch him. Philip was being lighthearted about a bloody fuse box and all hell broke loose. He was made to apologize, but I wonder who actually was insulted?
The elevation of self-pity into a political doctrine is an American invention and has been picked up by the Brits. It is the only reason candor is nowadays treated as being worse than treason. What I would like to see is Prince Philip with the likes of Sharpton and Marion Barry. A "crack" about Barry's pipe would be just the ticket.
Sam Schulman HAMLET
Human Rights in Our Time Has it ever been a better time to be human? David Rieff doesn't think so. In The New York Times Magazine last week Rieff announced the triumph of something he calls "human rights," without ever defining what he means by this phrase. The Kosovo war was fought in the name of human rights, Rieff tells us. So we do know what human rights can't mean: It can't mean no ethnic cleansing, because it's in the name of "human rights" that Albanians slaughter Serb civilians and drive them from their homes?even if the NATO commander Brigadier-General Jackson now calls the Albanians as bad as the Serbs ever were. It doesn't mean the defeat of totalitarianism, because Rieff is indifferent to the collapse of the Communist empire and the closing-down of its death camps. He is uninterested in the squalid details of how the Hitler, Tojo and Gorbachev regimes were defeated, and thus made the glory years of human rights possible.
The New York Times' headline for Rieff's essay suggests that the time when the Berlin Wall fell, when murderous regimes in East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary collapsed, when the Baltic nations regained their independence, were the dark ages as far as "human rights" are concerned. An important date to remember is 1992?when Bill Clinton was elected, and brought such luminaries as Harold Koh, David Scheffer and John Shattuck into government. Want me to repeat those names?
For Rieff, "human rights" begins only after hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sailors have died, billions of citizens' dollars have been spent, atom bombs have been dropped, politicians and leaders who have taken great risks have left the stage. In its own view, the achievement of "human rights" depends not upon leadership, sacrifice and bravery, not upon the survival of bourgeois democracy, but upon the pressure of a group of people called "human rights workers," who apparently draw pretty good salaries to live in dangerous places like Washington and Geneva and jeer at ordinary people for not being as good as they are. "Human rights" can't happen when something called "colonialism" is going on, even though the most egregious examples of the absence of human rights come in territories that used to be peaceful colonies. (When the armed men from Western Europe and North America who used to police these territories were withdrawn, it was a good thing for "human rights.") Now, "human rights" must be imposed in these former colonies by importing armed men from Western Europe and North America (their arrival is a good thing, and they must stay a good long time).
Rieff flatters himself and his political heroes that it is a novelty to act out of pure principle rather than self-interest. But if he knew any history he would know of another great idealistic movement that prefigured his, between the wars of this century: the pacifist movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Rieff speaks grandly of how well the human rights establishment might have done had they been around in the 1930s and an "enlightened" German government tried to stop Hitler. But in Britain, the idealistic precursors of his "human rights worker" were definitely in the saddle during the crucial years in the early 1930s when Hitler seized power and Germany could have been bottled up. The moral equivalent of "human rights" in the 1930s was the belief in "peace" and "disarmament."
Unfortunately, the political strength of pacifism in these crucial years only made Hitler stronger and the Second World War inevitable. Good intentions abounded. The members of Britain's "Peace Pledge Union" wanted to oppose aggression and tyranny, but using only the weapons of understanding, moral example and exemplary disarmament. And these idealists, demanding that there be no rearmament in the face of Hitler's seizure of power during 1933 and 1934, won eight by-elections in Britain in a row. As a result, in a democracy like Britain, politicians found it easier to flatter this public's belief that Hitler could be stopped?as long as it didn't involve fighting him, or taking any measures to protect British self-interest.
The pacifists of the 1930s, like today's human rights professionals, believed in a value higher than mere national self-interest. They convinced themselves that others they dealt with had the same high ideals they identified with themselves. They, too, were parasitic on the sacrifices of others.
Thanks anyway?I'll choose national self-interest any time. Self-interest has a kind of reality that means you can defend yourself against others. It's important to remember that there has been nothing so deadly in all of nature than the kind of idealism that appeared in 1789. After all, it was an idealism that didn't allow itself to be "trumped" by the national sovereignty that enabled Russia, China and Germany to transform themselves into mass exporters of death during the greater part of this sad century.
Virgin Shaglantic On the face of it, Virgin Atlantic's adoption of Austin Powers as its corporate poster child seemed like a stroke of marketing genius. Shortly after the release of The Spy Who Shagged Me, posters started appearing on bus shelters all over the city. "Five times a day? Yeah, baby," bragged the International Man of Mystery, advertising the fact that Virgin now has five daily flights from New York to London. The posters have largely disappeared now, but you can still spot Mike Myers straddling a Jumbo on a billboard at the beginning of the LIE. At one point, the company even renamed itself "Virgin Shaglantic" and christened one of its planes "Austin Powered." For Richard Branson's airline, which has long been trying to position itself as Cool Brittania's carrier of choice, the snaggletoothed secret agent is the ideal carnival barker.
Or is he? What if a literal-minded customer takes the ad campaign at face value? On one level, the swinging 60s relic seems to be inviting people to join the mile-high club on Virgin flights. Obviously, this isn't the message the ad agency behind the campaign, CMG Communications, intends to send, but the man in the street has an annoying habit of misinterpreting these things?sometimes even deliberately.
This struck me as an ideal opportunity for a bit of stunt journalism. Why not put Virgin Atlantic's groovyness to the test? My plan was to fly to London with my girlfriend on the "Austin Powered," strip down to my Union Jack underpants and whisk her off into the bathroom in a conspicuous attempt to join the mile-high club. As we emerged, glistening with sweat, would the flight attendants greet us with cries of, "Yeah, baby!" and "Oh, behave"? Somehow, I doubted it.
Unfortunately, when the time came to execute my plan, my girlfriend got cold feet.
"What's the matter, baby?" I asked. "Don't I make you horny?"
If the truth be told, the experience of flying across the Atlantic in coach didn't do much for my libido either. The fact that Virgin calls its first-class section "Upper Class" didn't help. The section I was jammed into, along with 339 other people, was called "Economy," but it might as well have been labeled "Working Class." Not even the combined efforts of Alotta Fagina and Ivana Humpalot could have restored my mojo.
However, had we decided to do the nasty, I doubt we would have got into much trouble. For the flight attendants on board Virgin flight VS002 from Newark to London, catching people shagging in the toilets was all in a day's work.
"I caught a couple once," recalled Jonathan Maclellan, the flight supervisor. "They said they were brushing their teeth. I've never heard it called that before."
Occasionally, though, the cabin crew do have to take action. Flight attendant Manuella Moore told me the Chippendales were banned from flying on Virgin Atlantic after an incident several years ago.
"They started to strip in the aisles," she said, "and there were lots of ladies and young children on board. One of the Chippendales disappeared into the rear toilet with a young girl who came out 10 minutes later with her dress tucked into her G-string. That was a big talking point for a while."
Nevertheless, for those passengers inclined to take Austin Powers up on his offer, the flight attendants were brimming with helpful advice.
First of all, make sure you time your dash to the bathroom correctly. The "facilities," as the flight attendants call them, are checked every 20 minutes, so if you want to take the plunge you should wait until the cabin crew have made their rounds.
Second, if you're going to do it, the "facilities" to use are the two at the rear of the aircraft. In addition to being strategically well placed?all the other passengers will be facing the other way when you and your partner sneak in?they're slightly larger than the rest.
Third, don't get too carried away.
"It's easy to fall against a call button," laughed Manuella Moore. "I've seen that happen before."
Oh and one other thing. Technically, it's the 5.7-mile-high club.
Eventually, I did manage to persuade my girlfriend to enter one of the rear "facilities"?strictly for research purposes, unfortunately. Even in the comparatively spacious environment of the aircraft's honeymoon suite it would have been next to impossible to have sex. How did anyone manage it?
Judging from the number of people I've met who claim to be members of the mile-high club, it's about as exclusive as Club Monaco. However, when questioned about the exact mechanics of making love at 30,000 feet, many of these same people became suspiciously hazy. Only Lucy Moore, a beautiful, 28-year-old British historian living in New York, convinced me she'd actually done it.
"It helps if you do yoga," she cooed. "The man sits down and the woman squats on top of him. It's what the camel stretch is for."
So how did Mark D'Arcy, the creative director of CMG Communications, feel about his ad campaign being taken literally?
"The funny thing about 'Five times a day? Yeah baby!' as my wife points out, is it's obviously a work of fiction," he joked. "I joined the mile-high club once, but I wouldn't try it on Virgin. I wouldn't want to lose my job."
Manuella Moore, the Virgin flight attendant who's seen it all, couldn't understand why the prospect of shagging someone while hurtling through the air at 400 mph would make anyone horny.
"After seeing the state of the toilets," she confided, "it's the last place I'd want to do it, to be honest."
For those who can afford it, the most sensible thing to do is to hang on until next year when, Virgin will be introducing double beds in Upper Class, complete with screens to create a sense of privacy. The rest of us should wait until we've got both feet on the ground before hopping on the good foot and doing the bad thing.
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