Lord Belhaven and Stenton, a wonderful man and the quintessential English gentleman, died at 93 just before the end of the crappiest of years. But Robin was lucky in a way: no tubes, no hospital beds, not another virus statistic. His widow, Lady Belhaven, gave me the bad news over the telephone, and although she was devastated after a very long and happy marriage, she is very smart and realises that it was a perfect death. He asked for a gin and tonic, went to bed, and never woke up.
Acknowledging the death of others is one thing, accepting one’s own demise quite another. That’s why old men send young men to die in war, a confidence trick perfected after the Napoleonic Wars. Greek and Roman generals led from the front, as did many subsequent kings. Prince Bagration died in the Battle of Borodino, Sir Thomas Picton at Waterloo, and Field Marshal Prince von Blücher, aged 73, had two horses shot from under him while charging to save the day for Wellington. I suppose we live on in those we’ve touched, and they, in turn, live on if they’ve touched us. Death is the force that shows you what you love most and wish most to continue living. Remembering those who have died makes them immortal.
Robin was of a generation that didn’t suffer from PTSD — that’s a medical word for trauma — a term invented by Big greedy Pharma so it can sell expensive medication to people convinced they’re suffering from psychological or chemical wounds. As a child I met many soldiers who had returned home having had horrendous experiences, yet all I remember are the funny things they told me, like my uncle who, having been stabbed in his backside by a panicky Italian Alpini he had captured, drew his pistol, took away the Italian’s stiletto and forced him to dress the wound he had inflicted.
Trauma is now as American as apple pie, and purported to be caused by many things: betrayal, moral injury, an abuse of authority, the loss of a pet, the closing of a nightclub, or the malfunction of a television set. Actually, it’s a spiritual void that afflicts those who use social media and take celebrities seriously. Therapists and quacks are having a field day. Corny American columnists blather on about a culture that has rites of passage, communal moments which celebrate a moral transition, whatever that means. I’ll tell you what it means: more mumbo-jumbo by quacks. Second world war and Korean war veterans didn’t make a fuss about their suffering; Vietnam vets did. Ditto 1960s shipwrecks. The nihilism and cynicism that burnt-out hippies and drug addicts made commonplace back in the 1960s spelled trauma later on. In stepped charlatans, mystics and consciousness-raising gurus — for a price, of course. The great emotional therapist Taki has always called it a big con.
The rising suicide and depression rates in America flow, I think, from dependency on schlock music, TV and movies that depict the world upside-down: what is good and law-abiding is presented as bad; what is vulgar, violent and rotten is presented as good. Andrew Roberts wrote a very important article in the Daily Telegraph on this subject, concentrating on how Hollywood almost unfailingly depicts evil-doers as corrupt white male members of the governing class.
One family from around these parts who decided to do something about America’s spiritual void and enrich themselves in the process is the Sackler family. Its company Purdue Pharma developed OxyContin, bribed doctors to prescribe it rather vigorously, and the opioid epidemic it contributed to managed to kill more Americans than the two atom bombs dropped in Japan did Japanese. Not only that but alongside those 450,000 deaths, and as early as 2007, the Sacklers began to transfer $10 billion to their private accounts. As it now stands, they’ve got an estimated $10 billion between them — and they give me dirty looks because I dared to call them what they are, killers who belong behind bars. Some say they’ve transferred even more, but I choose to lowball on that one. There are more lawsuits against Purdue than I’ve had hangovers, but the moolah is already overseas, and the family is cutting ties with Purdue, its baby. I will badly need some OxyContin if they get away with it.
One who should have taken OxyContin last week was The Donald. He handed Biden a moral victory, buried his own legacy, and ensured the media’s grotesque un-reporting of Antifa and BLM violence will become standard. The hysteria following The Donald’s stupidity in a paper like the New York Times actually made me laugh. Where was the outrage when cities and private businesses were burned to the ground, when innocent bystanders were killed, and police stations overrun and blown up in Portland? I’ll tell you where: they were turning a blind eye while Kamala Harris helped raise $35 million to defend rioters, that’s where. Throughout the summer and autumn, criminals were lionised, while rioting and looting by leftist thugs were called ‘legitimate acts of protest’ on National Public Radio. While appearing to condone violence or, in the case of the NY Times, ignoring it, the fourth estate is now shocked — shocked that Trump thugs attacked ‘our democracy’. Even Captain Renault would be ashamed of such double standards.