High life

I dream of my perfect state: Sparta

24 February 2018

9:00 AM

24 February 2018

9:00 AM


It was nostalgia time at Prince Victor Emmanuel’s birthday party here, with many old friends reminiscing about our youthful shenanigans in times gone by. Victor, the pretender to the Italian throne, and I go back a long way — more than 60 years. In a very roundabout manner, so do our families. His namesake and grandfather King Victor Emmanuel III facilitated Benito Mussolini’s rise to power, although he was the one who dismissed him in July 1943 and declared Italy no longer a combatant. My mother’s youngest brother wrote a fan letter to Il Duce, aged 12. Benito invited the boy to visit Italy as his guest, and sure enough my uncle went and stayed with him in Villa Torlonia for a fortnight. Ironically, he fought against the Italians in Albania and died of his wounds after the war. Victor and I have talked about this many times, and both of us remain admirers of Il Duce — up to a point, that is.

Back then nationalism was what counted. Nationalism and patriotism were one and the same thing. Today both are considered suspect, Trump-like gaucheries; concepts that only an unsophisticated rube can believe in. Sovereignty ditto. We are, or so they tell us, one big family, and those three ideas are bad for the common good. Davos Man, being a paragon of neoliberalism and a paid-up member of the globally networked elite, is the type who frowns on nationalism-patriotism. D-man would sell his mother for a shekel, but his country for an even lower price. When lost in the mists of alcohol, I dream of my perfect state, Sparta, and wonder how Davos Man would deal with it. Given how slick and lubricious D-man is — a cross between Anna Soubry and Jean-Claude Juncker — the Swiss should name the convention centre in Davos after Ephialtes, the traitor who led the Persians to the path behind the gallant 300 at Thermopylae.

Our ex-editor Boris got it right when he said that if we’re going to accept laws, we have to know who is making them. Not some faceless, unelected bureaucrat in Brussels, but someone we can vote out the next time.

This is where the falseness of the argument against Brexit stands out, the ‘contemptus mundi’ of the self-proclaimed elites. How can those unelected bureaucrats of the EU accuse Poland and Hungary and the Visegrád states of being undemocratic when their leaders have all been elected democratically? If this isn’t Nineteen Eighty-Four then what is? (And how can Israel accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust — the Poles were victims — while running the largest concentration camp in the world, Gaza?)

How can George Soros undermine Balkan countries with his billions and go after the democratically elected Viktor Orbán, when he couldn’t get elected water boy for an all-girls tiddlywinks team? And what’s he doing attempting to undermine the will of the British people with paid clowns like this Malloch Brown fellow? Georgie Porgie wants a borderless Europe but he ain’t gonna get it, billions or no billions, and he won’t get it because it is unnatural.

The betrayal of Germany by Angela Merkel is a lesson for all of us. The Italian people have seen the light, as have the Greeks, but Brussels is a hard nut to crack and it has the media behind it. The latter are so consumed with rage against Trump that they made a heroine of little rocket man’s sister. Forget about the mass torture, starvation and murder; if Trump dislikes the little rocket man, he must be good.

Recovering in my chalet after Victor Emmanuel’s party, I happened on a wonderful film, Suite Française, an adaptation of tragic Irène Némirovsky’s novel of the same name. Némirovsky never finished her book — she was arrested for being Jewish and murdered in a camp — so the movie does it for her. I read it when it was discovered in 2004, and I was not disappointed. The love affair between a French beauty and a wonderful German officer rings true, as do the pettiness and hatreds of the French bourgeoisie and peasantry.

Another thing that the director got right was the politeness of the Wehrmacht officers, and the looks of the German soldiers. I was four when they came to occupy our house in Athens and I remember Major Henry Murgen very well. He was charming and played with me and told me all about his own boys, and I can still smell the leather and brilliance of his boots and belts. He was tall, blond and handsome. As were the majority of Germans at that time. Films nowadays portray them as bullet-headed Slavs. But I was there; modern Hollywood types were not.

Never mind. The national idea is as natural as loving one’s children. D-man and Georgie Porgie don’t like it, so it’s up to us to overcome their billions with willpower. We won at the ballot box, and the losers are crying foul. They do it in Africa and in small South American countries. And now they’re doing it in Britain too.

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