18 APRIL 1987, Page 8


Three game wardens, seven hunters and a cow


St Thomas Aquinas, in his answer to that most absorbing of all questions in moral theology — why did God create evil? — divides evil into three. First, there is malum in corruptione rerum — the evil of old age, disease and death which, he suggests, is necessary to the order and perfection of the universe.

Next, there is malum poenae — the necessary evil of punishment, which might also, by extension, be held to include most of the evils of poverty, the problems of unmarried mothers, the miserable life of drug addicts, the pains of a bad hangover etc. Finally, there is malum culpae moral evil or sin, the product of that most inscrutable of all divine creations, free will. While it would be wrong to say that God is the author of sin, since, if that were so, he would be responsible for it, and so cease to be God (whose holiness is His essence) it is plainly true to say that God permits moral evil for wise and holy ends, and even brings good out of it. The classic example is the malice of persecutions which allows mar- tyrs to win their crowns.

I am not sure I go all the way with Aquinas here although I remember using these Thomist arguments a few years back to call loudly for the martyrdom of a previous archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Donald Coggan, and his immediate translation to the heavenly host as St Donald a Duckett. Martyrdoms may be all right for some, but they are surely, on balance, bad things. Or not? I do not know. Perhaps it would be the most unselfish — ergo good — act to go out and martyr Mgr Derek Worlock, too. But there must be some sort of balance between the amounts of good and evil involved. One foolish cleric murdered might easily, as an evil, be outweighed by the good of one more saint added to the celestial congrega- tion. But it would be absurd to pretend that Nazi genocide was a good thing because a handful of victims were thus given the opportunity to act heroically.

Yet this seems little more than an extension of the attitude shown towards the Soviet Union by such observers as Mr Graham Greene, whose judgment on near- ly everything else is bound to command the greatest respect. Indeed, it has become rather a fashionable attitude to take, that a system which can goad people to heroism in opposition to it must, for that reason, have some admirable qualities. One of our greatest experts and pro- foundest thinkers on the Soviet Union, Mr Christopher Booker, who attended the Moscow Olympic Games and spent nearly two weeks there in 1980, concludes his seminal work on the subject (The Games War, A Moscow Journal, Faber Paper- backs, 1981) thus: One of the themes which has run through this book is how much more serious a business life in the East is than it has become in the West. We have paid a terrible price in the West for our decades of material abund- ance, our obsession with the media and the playthings of affluence. Never more • than today, as President Reagan succeeds Presi- dent Carter, and as the West slides into the worst recession for 50 years, has the Western way of life, in many respects, looked less attractive, less able to measure up, in Solzhe- nitsyn's words, to `the mortal weight and complexity' of human existence.

. . And if we look back over the past ten or fifteen years and ask which of these two systems has produced the more remarkable individual human beings, there can be little doubt about the answer.

It is one of the great paradoxes of our time that it should have been Communism . . .

Of course Mr Booker's prophecy has been proved absolutely right. The 'unpre- cedented crisis' in the West since August 1980 has indeed involved the 'worst reces- sion for 50 years'. In Newcastle, single mothers are being eaten by cockroaches at this very moment. In London, marauding gangs of racists' are setting fire to Pakistani sweetshops on every corner. See the evi- dence of John Pilger, passim. Even so, dare I say that I do not yet find the Western way of life less attractive than the way of life he describes behind the Iron Curtain? One misses the seriousness, of course. I suppose that this absence of seriousness is indeed a terrible price to pay for our obsession with the media and the playthings of affluence. Even so, give me the playthings of affluence every time. I might even allow a certain obsession with the media if it keeps the mortal weight and complexity of human existence at bay.

Talking of which, I was disconcerted to see an extraordinarily rude piece written about me recently in the News of the World, of all places. It referred to a This is Your Life programme on which I had appeared to pay tribute to William Rush- ton, and advertise the Literary Review. The newspaper's television critic, 'Queen of the Box' Nina Myskow, took grave exception to my use of the word 'bum', which she represented in her newspaper by asterisks. This is what she wrote, under the enticing strap: 'Tune in to Britain's Wit- tiest TV writer':

Oh-oh, not such a lovely Waugh. I've whin- ged that This is Your Life fails to get to the bottom of things. Now I'm not sure. I was wondering why this week's victim Willie Rushton had a son with an American accent when Auberon Waugh declared in rhyme: `When you're feeling glum, stick a finger up your It went on for four lines. WHY? To make it worse, it was a pre-recorded `to- bute'. Why let this public schoolboy smut out when it could have been cut? Is it because Waugh's supposedly an intellectual? Brains? He was sitting on them.

Fair enough, many will say. Except that this witty Miss Cow is the same woman whom I defended at enormous length on this very page (Another Voice, 11 January 1986: 'Under the enormous shadow of Ms Cornwell's bum') after a High Court judge had penalised her for the memorable critic- ism: 'She can't sing, her bum is too big and she has a stage presence which blocks lavatories.' Now this marble-headed fiend, more hideous than the sea-monster, re- bukes me for using the same word, and even puts it in asterisks . . . . Booker was present at the Tribute, I have been told, although unfortunately I missed it. Perhaps he regretted the un- seriousness of the occasion, reckoning Rushton a lesser man than Solzhenitsyn. hope not. Rushton has always struck me as truly great, a presiding spirit of our times. It may be a criticism of the times that he spends them playing personality word- games on television, but it is scarcely a criticism of him. He would have to do worse things in Russia. One of my life's ambitions it to find an impresario who will cast Rushton as Lear. I would be happy to play Gloster, Ingrams could be the Fool, Booker play Edmund and Myskow (`Queen of the Box') the front and back legs of Goneril 'n' Regan. Then we could ask the gloomy old sod Solzhenitsyn to go back to a hero's welcome in Russia, and settle down to our different enjoyments.