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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Finally revealed! The literary inspiration that drives our glorious leaders

It is said that Beethoven and Schubert were walking down a street one evening when they heard someone nearby playing Mozart.

“You and I will never write anything that good,” said Beethoven.

I recalled that anecdote when the other day I read this:

“Like all of us sinners, General Betrishchev was endowed with many virtues and many defects. Both the one and the other were scattered through him in a sort of picturesque disorder.”

Every time I read something that well written, it lifts my heart.

It is from “Dead Souls”, by Gogol, which I never read until now because the title sounds gloomy, when it is actually a comic novel.

I also found in the book a description of a ramshackle Russian village which was clearly the inspiration for something very familiar to anyone who lives in this country.

This village was owned by a mad colonel. Now I will quote:

“The village was scattered all over: construction sites, reconstruction sites, piles of lime, brick, and logs everywhere in the streets. There were some houses built that looked like institutions. On one there was written in gold letters: FARM IMPLEMENTS DEPOT, on another: MAIN ACCOUNTING OFFICE, on another: VILLAGE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE; SCHOOL OF NORMAL EDUCATION OF SETTLERS – in short devil knows what was not there!”

Anyhow, when the hero wanted to get something done, the colonel said:

“In that case, put it in writing. It will go to the commission for diverse petitions. The commission for diverse petitions, having made a note of it, will forward it to me. From me it will go on to the village affairs committee, where all sorts of decisions and revisions will be made concerning the matter. The steward in chief together with the whole office will give his decision as soon as possible, and the matter will be settled.”

The hero suggested that things would take too long that way.

“Ah!” the colonel said with a smile, “there’s the benefit of paperwork! It will indeed take longer, but nothing will escape: every little detail will be in view.”

Does this sound familiar? Gogol goes on to explain that:

“The commission for diverse petitions existed only on a signboard. Its chairman, a former valet, had been transferred to the newly formed village construction committee. He had been replaced by a clerk who had been dispatched on an investigation to sort out things between the drunken steward and the village headman, a crook and a cheat.”

The hero’s guide (an official for special missions) explained to him:

“Everything here is senseless. Here, you may be pleased to note, the building commission directs everything, disrupts people’s work, sends everyone wherever it likes. The only ones who profit from it are those on the building commission.”

And so it goes on, a small village bedevilled by bureaucratic bullshit and corruption, with high-sounding jobs for rogues and idiots. Clearly the model for our current government.

Please, dear reader, don’t imagine I think things will be better under the Conservatives. They will only improve when someone comes along who thinks less about policies, visions and photo-opportunities, and more about simple, sensible ways to get things done. Unfortunately very few of the people in politics today have had jobs where getting things mattered.

They are nearly all professional bullshitters and have either done nothing but politics - a sort of extended course in dishonesty - or worked in things like the law or teaching.

Success in the first mainly requires an ability to deal in half-truths and get overpaid for it; in the others, as we can see from the present state of education, there is no skill involved - just stunning incompetence and an intimate knowledge of the politically correct.

Cameron was in PR - which is a real worry. I rather miss Prescott, who may have been an illiterate drunk but did at least provide a little entertainment now and then.

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