fresh cold salad
1) Privatising Speakers Corner 2) ‘Olympian absurdities’ 3) standardising Europeans 4) apothegm. Next distribution scheduled for 31 August; earlier distribution not excluded
The government has announced plans to ‘valorise Speakers Corner in London as one of the outstanding examples of the best in the British way of life and one of London’s most attractive tourist attractions.’ The proposal is to privatise Speakers Corner by 2015, with a sale by tender freely open to all applicants, who must be judged fit and suitable persons to maintain public order under the guidance of the Metropolitan Police. As a first step an Order in Council will set up a corporation, 100% publicly owned, of which the directors (to be appointed by the Home Secretary) will be responsible for organising a code of regulations to guarantee and extend the freedom of speech and the enhancement of the experience for visitors. These regulations will cover such matters as the number of speakers allowed at any one time, the boundaries of the space and time allowed to each speaker, the charge to be made for permission to speak, specification of acceptable topics, the establishment of a booking system for would-be speakers, and satisfactory arrangements to ensure equal numbers of male and female speakers. The directors would also issue contracts for the provision of refreshment and restaurant facilities for visitors.
Interest in purchasing the site when the corporation is offered for sale is already high. Among those reported to have made preliminary enquiries are a Russian consortium said to be close to Vladimir Putin, and a member of the royal house of Bahrein.
Trying to distentangle the claims about the current state of the Olympic movement from the vestiges of fact that we could detect hidden within the ‘news reports’ we sensed a puzzling failure to fit. We decided to investigate and obviously the best way to get an authoritative view was to consult Baron Coubertin using the services of a highly recommended medium. Despite his tendency to seasickness the Deputy Editor’s part-time assistant, Jeremy, was sent on the ferry to Southampton where this lady holds her seances. Unfortunately the effort was a failure. Her usual guide, an Algerian slave beheaded in the sixteenth century, told us that because of the extraordinarily heavy ‘traffic’ all topics related to the Olympics had to be ‘routed’ through a special enquiry centre. It was a full five minutes, interspersed with various squeaks and groans from the medium, before this centre picked up the link with a rather nasal London accent, immediately informing us that the call was being monitored for training purposes and was not to include any material of a disrespectful or offensive nature. It then went on to list the many ways in which it claimed that the centre was providing an excellent service to the still living public, ending with news of a special ‘promotion for Estonians wishing to communicate’, before beginning a long list of heading words – eg ‘lifebelt’ for personal messages to competitors in the swimming events – which had to be given in order to achieve the contact desired. None of the twenty or so headings seemed to fit Jeremy’s enquiry and a long silence ensued, before the nasal whine returned with a curt announcement that in view of the failure to use any of the headings the centre assumed the connexion was no longer desired and the line would therefore be cut. There followed from the open mouth of the apparently unconscious Mrs Goverthorpe what sounded like a loud series of angry expostulations in Arabic, followed by a choking cough in her own voice, after which she awoke and the séance was at an end.
We were about to give up our attempt to report on the reality of the modern Olympics for this distribution when we heard that here on Guernsey there lives a retired schoolmaster who made it his hobby to gather all the information that he could about the Olympics since he had attended the games in London in 1928 at the age of ten. He kindly agreed to assist us, assuring us over a telephone link that he still had a razor-sharp mind at the age of 96. At that moment he was in Germany just beginning a 150 kilometre walking race, but he dictated to his wife by mobile phone a number of comments on remarks we had culled from the media. She brought those to us, headed (on his instructions) by the phrase Eight Olympic absurdities.
‘The Olympics are still the greatest athletic contest on earth’ Wrong! The Olympics are primarily a clutch of show business extravaganzas, principally an opening ceremony and a closing ceremony with a great number of minor ceremonial spectacles sandwiched between those. Their secondary essence is as a sort of trade fair to promote companies which pay a great deal to take part.
‘The United States won more gold medals than any other nation.’ Wrong! No nation won any gold medals at all. No nation sprinted down the track or soared over a sandpit. All gold medals were won by individual people, or in a few cases by small groups of individuals, nearly all of whom trained hard and long and individually – not excluding those who took part in the beach volleyball spectacles – while the rest of the nation that shares a passport eligibility with them was, for the most part, sitting on its backside watching coloured shapes flickering on a screen. Humans have a very peculiar mental apparatus which allows them not merely to say things which are directly contrary to directly observable facts but to believe them, and by no means only in politics. (Incidentally this remarkable capacity might suggest that technology has a very long way to go before it can produce computers that match human intelligence, if intelligence is the correct term.)
‘The Olympics promote goodwill between nations.’ Wrong! The Olympics do, on the whole, promote goodwill between athletes taking part, as shown inter aliaby the massive supply of contraceptives arranged by organisers; also to a limited extent between individual spectators. But it is well known that the overall effect on the national scale of international sporting competition of all kinds is to increase rivalry and hostility between nations. Consider whether relations between the Chinese and the Americans have been improved by the recent events in London. Evidence is also plentifully available in the well documented vast increase in police pay and emergency admissions to hospitals frequently observed on the occasion of international sporting encounters.
The Olympics are supposed to be a series of contests of individual sporting excellence, bringing together competitors from all round the world. The reasons why they are organised in ways to stir up rival nationalistic feelings, with flags, anthems, and medal table organised by nationality are presumably the fairly obvious ones.
‘United in joy’ (The group united is of course a nation). A different mental aberration here. Why ever should all in a nation be joyful at the victory of some competitor whom they have never seen, and will never meet, and whose victory brings no advantage to them whatsoever, especially a competitor brought up in another country and now living in yet a third nation? There is simply mass agreement to be joyful for an arbitrary reason. A crowd might more sensibly agree to be joyful at seeing a chicken successfully crossing a road, more sinisterly at hearing a rabble-rousing nationalistic speech. Mass hysteria!
‘The Olympics bring out all that is best in the world’s youth.’ Wrong! The Olympics bring out all manner of things in all manner of people. Prominent among these are three: chauvinism (see earlier comment on ‘goodwill between nations’); progress in developing drugs to artificially enhance natural ability, and authoritarianism. On the latter, cf Usain Bolt being refused admission to the arena while wearing a tie, disqualification of badminton players who had trained for years to take part and were playing according to the structure prescribed for the contest, and above all the nearly demented pursuit of individuals offending against an ad hoc and outrageous set of ukazes about the use of certain symbols, and even – almost beyond belief – words of the English….
At this point the list ended. Our office had submitted another three phrases, but our advisor’s wife said it appeared that the battery on his mobile phone had given out, and she did not expect to hear from him again until after the all-night party that would almost certainly follow the race.
Rumours have emerged of a secret project launched last year at a closed session of the Commissioners to support a billion-euro research programme aimed at standardising the size and shape of EU citizens within approximately 10% by 2040. Initially, it is said, the plans for height envisaged that all male adults would be between 165cm and 185 cm tall, while all women should be between 160cm and 175cm but following vehement protests from the female commissioners the same limits were set for both sexes, at a minimum height of 163cm and a maximum of 180cm. It was, however, accepted that different gender limits would apply in the case of chest and stomach measurements, the figures for which are not as yet known, although it is reported that temporary exemptions from the latter will be granted to pregnant women on provision of medical evidence. Similar arrangements would be put in place with regard to weight and posture.
The plans have been advanced in the confident expectation of making immense savings in cost in many spheres of daily life, notably in the building and retail clothing industries and in transport, as well as in convenience for citizens, while it is understood that some Commissioners argued vigorously that the new limits would be a powerful force for the much greater degree of social cohesion they felt desirable and even necessary.
It is not clear what sanctions will be applied in the case of those who are unacceptably tall or who fail to reach the minimum circumference. One option is thought to be the possibility that some particular region (perhaps one not favoured by ‘standard’ citizens, as they will be known) could be set aside as the the territory in which they would be required to have their permanent residence, though another possibility would obviously be a discriminatory tax rate.
from Grandnephew’s Treachery published 2008
Thought for the fortnight: traditionally scholars were described as learning more and more about less and less. Few still exist. Instead we have the generation of the social networks whose millions learn more and more about matters of less and less importance.
honor honestique floreant