In risu veritas

“Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!” – Chaucer

I have cracked the secret of productivity in this blog-writing lark. All one needs to do is continually draw a parallel between something that has happened recently and a previously published post. If there is some sort of connection – however tortuous – with an even more recent post, implying a plan or a theme to one’s writing, then so much the better. And so it is today; indeed I am going to drag in yesterday’s post, one fairly recent post and one from two years ago.

Before Christmas I briefly altered my policy of quoting from the great minds of the past and instead included the words of the fictional lead character in the funny but much over-repeated on British television ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Another tolerable US sitcom ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine’ started its new season in the UK last night. As I watched it with a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cherry and chocolate loaf cake (recipe available on request) it occurred to me that the plot was very familiar. It involved a new precinct captain issuing tablet computers to his staff, ostensibly for communication purposes, but really to allow him to exercise close control over them. A highly paid crack team of writers expertly exploited this idea for comedic and satiric effect.

But hadn’t I come across just such an example in real life and written about it as well, probably less funnily and certainly less well remunerated? Yes I had, and the proof is here. Reluctantly I shall not be consulting my lawyers. The real credit must go to the half-witted yet unaccountably prominent Yorkshire businessman who gave the presentation in the first place.

“Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” – George Orwell, 1984

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The Old Etonian Stalinist

And I don’t mean Guy Burgess.

Czeslaw Milosz wrote in ‘The captive Mind’ that Eastern European intellectuals, reading 1984 in clandestine editions, were amazed to find that its author had never visited the Soviet Union. Among the insights that Orwell had was his understanding of how important the falsifying of statistics was to the regime:

‘For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at one-hundred-and-forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than one-hundred-and-forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small.’

On Boxing Day, large parts of the centre of Leeds were under water. In 2011 the government of which David Cameron was head cancelled a flood protection scheme designed to stop that happening. Yesterday that same David Cameron, still Prime Minister, stood up in the House of Commons and flatly denied that any flood schemes had been cancelled since 2010. He will get away with it, because – as in Stalin’s Russia – the mass media have been corrupted and intimidated into quiescence.

Nikita Krushchev – a Russian peasant Stalinist – once said “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge where there is no river”. Cameron – the old Etonian Stalinist – has updated this for the twenty first century: don’t build anything and the river will come to you.

 

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ ” George Orwell, 1984

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