My favourite quote of all time comes from John Stuart Mill:
‘War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.’
The willingness of the British armed forces to sacrifice their lives on a daily basis – not for their country these days, but for the far greater goal of freedom in the fight against Islamofascism – quite rightly brings home to the more intelligent of us precisely how lazy, shallow and just plain dull most of the ways we make a living are. People with a healthy level of self-esteem can accept that they are cowards compared to these men and women and get on with their lives.
But those who are fragile and narcissistic cannot accept the fact that they should naturally have to look up to some people, and it makes them feel defensive. The comedian Eddie Izzard made me laugh for the first time ever when he recently spoke thus to the Times: ‘I would have been a soldier if I’d knew which war I’d have to fight. I was ready to apply but when you join the armed forces you fight where you’re sent so I parked the idea.’
So I was interested to hear of Izzard’s apparent exact opposite, the soldier Chloe Allen, who joined the forces in 2012 – then going by the name of Ben – and now after transitioning gender from male to female has described how honoured she is to be making history as the first female infantry soldier since the British Army was established in 1660. Shamefully, ever since then women have been banned from front-line combat roles, serving merely as medics and such, but one of David Cameron’s last acts as Prime Minister was to announce that by the end of this year female soldiers will be able to join armoured units and take part in ground fighting. By the end of 2018, they will be allowed to apply for all close ground combat roles, including the SAS, after service chiefs unanimously backed the decision following two years of investigating whether women are fit for the rigours of combat (one word: childbirth) and whether they would undermine the Armed Forces fighting power.
This latter worry is probably something to do with the idea that the ladies might cause fisticuffs among their male comrades should a pair of Privates take a shine to the same filly, and comes from the same Neanderthal place as the scientist Tim Hunt’s suggestion last year that women should work in same-sex laboratories ‘Because three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and – when you criticise them – they cry.’
Luckily, the forces seem a great deal more enlightened; Chloe Allen said ‘My transition has been as easy as it could have been for me – the battalion has been brilliant, the Army has been brilliant, the lads have been brilliant.’ In a very jolly combination of Carry On film farce and British stiff upper lippery, she *came out* after being caught cross-dressing as she prepared to guard a royal palace, bringing to mind the old legend that the late Queen Mother is supposed to have yelled down the servants stairs – ‘Which one of you old queens is going to bring this old queen a gin and tonic?’
Obviously a glass half-full-person, Allen declared promptly that being surprised in chiffon was ‘a blessing in disguise’ because it prompted her to ‘get on and deal with it…if it hadn’t happened I’d still be living a lie now. It was the kick up the a**e I needed.’ Chloe Allen is 24 years old and her commander spoke of her thus: ‘I’m delighted to have our first woman serving in a ground close combat unit. The British Army is really proving itself as an inclusive organisation where everyone is welcome and can thrive.’
As much as I admire Guardsman Allen, the same monotonous old bell tolls – as it has in everything from sport to the catwalk to the Kardashians recently – that men who become women are in some way superior to those who are merely born them. But let’s look on the bright side – ‘ground close combat’, if I didn’t mention the definition already, is best summed up shortly and sweetly as ‘to close with and kill the enemy.’ In situations like these, I always ask myself ‘What would the Special Snowflake Social Justice Warrior Safe Spacers do?’ and I must admit that it gives me a great deal of pleasure to imagine their eyes crossed in Violet Elizabeth Bottish rage and confusion. They would like the idea of transgendered people doing as they please: but they would rather they were squabbling about who should use whose toilets, rather than killing Islamists. But hey, Israelis do it, Kurds do it, and now we’re going to let British birds do it – let’s do it, let’s kill some fascists!