MPs have voted 2:1 to launch Article 50, the official notice of withdrawal from the EU.
A Fable for Our Times
There was once a young man who set out to found a good business that would sustain him and his family for generations. He drew up a business plan and took it to the bank. Your plan is watertight, said the bank. Here is the money you need. All we want in return is a charge over your home.
You know what banks can be like!
A clever engineer, the young man soon developed a reputation for making components other businesses relied on to manufacture their products. He was invited to join a trading group of manufacturers that worked together to set high standards of quality and safety.
Within a few years he had attracted a coterie of loyal clients. He knew what they wanted, and was able to make it for the right price, delivering it in a timely fashion and in reliable quantities when and where needed, engineering it with precision to precisely the customers’ unique specifications, within very fine tolerances indeed.
His customers could see not only that the engineer was reliable, but that they were also becoming more profitable as a result of their association. As a reward they paid him on time, and in some cases even enjoyed friendly social relations, visiting one anothers’ homes and going to the races.
When they asked him if he could also meet their higher ethical standards for treating their employees, the young engineer soon found ways to make the minor adjustments needed, and his workforce – though not overpaid – were nevertheless content in their jobs, knowing they were secure and there were no higher standards available anywhere in the industry.
In turn, the engineer developed similarly good relations with his suppliers, paying them on time and inviting them to Wimbledon. He too imposed rigorous standards on their products, and was able to rely on timely delivery and preferential prices; he was sure, too, that their own workforces were stable and content. Soon, the best of them joined the group, and all enjoyed friendly business relations.
This well-run economy went on for many years and the young man prospered.
But at last the engineer grew old and became increasingly fractious. ‘Why have I let myself become a tool of all these people, these suppliers and these customers, with their endless demands on me, their desire to attend boring sporting events? Why have I designed my entire business around their needs? What have I to do with them?” he railed. “I am a great engineer, I should be the one to say what I will make and when, how much I will charge and what design specifications I will follow!”
And so one day, after brooding all day on his misfortunes, he wrote to all his customers and all his suppliers, telling them that starting Monday, unless they agreed new terms of his devising he would no longer do business with them, but would go out into the world and seek out new customers and new suppliers with whom to do business.
He called together his workers, to ask what they thought. “Yes, we think we are fed up doing the same thing every day” they said, “and want more money and bigger TVs. Besides, whenever we grow old and retire on our pensions you hire all these strangers instead of our children. Okay, they can’t read or write, but even so. Where are these strangers living? How much are you paying them? Why do they speak funny and eat foreign muck?”
And one man more than half the workforce raised his hand: “No more moaning, we’re leaving the group!” the majority cried. The others bowed their heads in silence, fearing the worst.
So the workforce had spoken. And they went back to their workbenches to see what would happen.
Monday came, and there was no work to do. So the old engineer set off for America, leaving some very angry and disappointed customers and suppliers behind, as you can imagine.
“Sure, we’ll be glad to do bidness with you, Sir”, said the first American he met, and the second, and the third. “This is encouraging,” he thought. “I’ve obviously made the right decision.”
Duly, he was invited back to view their terms of trade. Each American wanted his components manufactured in different ways, in different colours, for different products and to different specifications for many different countries. He even recognised some of his old customers in the list.
“How am I to manage all this?” he despaired. “I’ll need three factories!”
Each of them expected to receive different numbers of components for different machines on different days, in different parts of the country and at different prices, with one strict performance guarantee: one mistake, and you lose the contract. “This is going to cost me much more!” he thought.
And each of them wanted to pay him so little, and with such long lines of credit, 240 days in some cases, he would have to let many of his loyal workers go, on whom he had come to rely for their expert knowledge of systems which, let’s be honest, at his age he no longer understood much about; and pay the others less for working longer hours.
“This is not enough money to live on!” he protested. “So, that’s okay, Sir, we’ll source the components from India instead” replied the Americans, one after the other, politely showing him the door (Americans are very polite).
And then the engineer made a tour of all the suppliers in America, and came to the conclusion that what they made was not up to his exacting standards; and besides, their workers were all miserably underpaid, astonishingly overweight, sloppy, rude, inefficient, spoke mostly in Spanish and carried guns.
So when the the engineer returned, a sadder and wiser man, he telephoned round all his old friends, his customers and suppliers, begging them to go back to the old way.
And guess what? That’s right, children! They told him in many ways to go fuck a duck.
“Oh, what have I done? I’ve been so foolish.” sobbed the old engineer, as his children gathered angrily in the boardroom to hear why there was no business left and no money for them to inherit.
“I let my pride destroy everything I created, I threw away the good things I had, imagining I could so easily replace them with new customers and new suppliers, because of my reputation for excellence and fair trading, and now we have nothing.”
“Don’t worry old man,” consoled his eldest son. “America just invaded China. Iran too. And Belgium. They’ll soon be wanting our components for the army, if we don’t all die first in a nuclear fireball.”
At that moment, the telephone rang. It was the bank.
“Er, we’d like our house now, please…”.
The End (literally)
“The data confirms previous indications that local results were strongly associated with the educational attainment of voters – populations with lower qualifications were significantly more likely to vote Leave. (The data for this analysis comes from one in nine wards)
“The level of education had a higher correlation with the voting pattern than any other major demographic measure from the census.
– Report of the most detailed investigation yet of polling results by ward in the June referendum, carried out for the BBC.
In other words, the ‘Will o’ the People’, as Tory cunts like arch-cunt Bill Crash persist in sloganising to support their Little England power-grab against the forces of reason, was, as many of us retired liberal metrolitan elitist snowflake traitors suspected all along, the ‘Will of a Lot of Deluded Dimwits Who Hadn’t the Faintest Idea What the Fuck They Were Voting About But Thought Leave Sounded Like a Good Idea’.
The approaching extinction in a methane fireball of all life on earth is too good for these people.
Corporal Punishment: Beating the System
I suppose I was lucky to have been beaten only once during my whole school career. I’d been packed off to boarding school at the age of seven to learn how to become a little British gentleman running an empire. In my fourth year, the headmaster lurking in the passage outside the dormitory heard me telling a ghost story after lights out, and came in to tell us all to go to sleep. I stupidly denied being the narrator (he was quite enjoying the story, he said) and was punished for lying.
It was a very minor beating, two slaps with a slipper, to embarrass me I suppose. It didn’t stop me lying, I just got better at it.
I have to say, that experience of being sent away so young into a world of total disempowerment and hopeful reliance on the kindness and wisdom of large strangers with the power to hit me with sticks has stayed with me all my life, and is somewhere at the root of my seemingly lifelong depression and feelings of hostility towards authority of any kind. The minor punishment, however, although remembered over half a century later, was of far less consequence than my sense of abandonment: beating got the matter over and done with in the shortest possible time, trust was restored, life went on.
I’m certainly not the only one who experienced being formally bent over and beaten on the bottom. There must be thousands, tens of thousands, of people who remember the ‘old days’, as I suppose I must learn to call them, when corporal punishment – beating – was not only permitted in British State schools, as well as boarding schools, but was considered by its administrators and pupils alike as a Good Thing, that did no-one any harm. Children were to be kept in their place, discipline was encouraged and enforced by responsible adults in a measured and appropriate manner: ‘This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you’ being the favourite motto of many a teacher, flexing his weapon of choice.
Until I suppose the 1960s, the police were also able to administer punishment beatings in their stations, the burly station sergeant being empowered to give a youth offender ‘six of the best’ and a caution, as opposed to charging them. I hate to say it, but it probably worked to keep quite a few teenagers out of the dispiriting cycle of remands, youth detention and adult prison. Corporal punishment was seen by many as an adjunct and sensible precursor to capital punishment for the crime of murder: people who believed in the efficacy of the one tended to support the other on a sliding scale of proper retribution; believing without a shred of evidence that the criminal recidivist would pause for thought halfway.
There was also no prohibition against parental beatings in the home, as long as they were proportionately administered and caused no lasting physical scars. The sight of mothers in shops smacking their children around the legs when the infants’ behaviour became too exasperating was quite unremarkable. And there are still many people today with an overweening sense of moral purpose who long for a return to those days, believing that physical punishments ranging from smacking, beating and flogging, to torture and deterrent execution, with possibly added drawing-and-quartering, are the best, the only sure method of encouraging order in our vicarious times; that we have ‘gone soft on crime’.
But there were boys at my school who were forever being beaten, sometimes quite viciously. There seemed to be a kind of co-dependency between them and certain teachers, or ‘masters’ as we knew them, or senior boys empowered to beat their juniors, who liked to administer a good thrashing. It’s a cliche now, occasionally revisited in comic sketches, that boys thus flogged would receive their punishment in silence, with gritted teeth, then turn with a manly smile and an unbidden tear in the eye to shake hands with their assailant and agree that it had all been for the best; all over now, until the next time. No hard feelings.
I grew up therefore with a sense that something was not quite right about the system, and was glad when it was ended in State schools in 1986 – although astonishingly, masters in private schools were allowed to go on thrashing away vigorously until as recently as 1998. The right to smack one’s own children is still a cause of mild confusion, being legal but only up to a vaguely defined point. Red marks appearing to be the bottom line, as it were.
Thousands upon thousands of British people will therefore have experienced corporal punishment being administered, either as ‘victims’ or teachers, or even witnesses, as beatings were often ritually performed in public, in front of the whole school assembly; adding an extra degree of shame and humiliation to the experience.
Are we now about to put all those retired or still just about serving teachers in prison for complicity in a system once approved by law? Serves them right! And the House Monitors too?
Seriously, this morning our modern ‘victim culture’ – you can do a degree in ‘victim studies’ at certain trendy universities – finally caught up with the elderly Thwackums when a reporter on the BBC’s Today programme carelessly described a group of former public schoolboys who have recently thought to complain over being beaten while at a Summer school for young Christians in the 1970s, as ‘survivors’; and their experience at the hands of an overenthusiastic flogger as ‘abuse’ – albeit that beating was at the time perfectly legal. (I should think the emphasis on Christian doctrine was the worse abuse, but that’s just me.)
So now, suddenly, there are tens of thousands of ‘survivors’ of this once quite common experience, let’s call ourselves ‘Bunters’, yaroo chaps! – and thousands of newly categorised ‘abusers’ who can be hunted down, exposed in the press, their door battered down, premises searched for historic evidence, families shamed and broken up; put on trial, and given extended prison sentences by vengeful judges perhaps remembering rheumy-eyed how, in the day, they themselves were being flogged on a weekly basis for failing to master the intricacies of Greek irregular verbs.
This alleged abuser is an Evangelical Christian (no comment) called John Smyth QC, and he was, or may still be, a part-time judge. He has been tracked to his lair in South Africa and hotly confronted by a Channel 4 investigator possibly too young to have experienced the era of beating for himself. I wasn’t sure from the half-heard report if Smyth’s crime was that of religiously chastising young Bunters, or of having been briefly a colleague of the current incumbent of Lambeth Palace, The Right Revd Dr Justin Welby; a possibly incidental detail that has added spice to the story.
Archbishop Welby in turn, although entirely innocent of being an equally prolific wielder of the holy stick, has been forced to humbly apologise on behalf of the Church of England for the unpardonable actions of one sadistic flogger among hundreds.
Now, there is a degree of seriousness in the charge, as Smyth’s beatings were apparently of a higher order. A boy is alleged to have attempted suicide rather than submit to another one. Boys would run away from my school, and there would be police manhunts to return them to their misery, although I was fairly happy there and never encountered the dark side. It could all be quite nasty beneath the fee-paying surface, and I have since read that the school had a reputation for an enthusiastic brutality I never personally experienced. But it was not that uncommon in private schools, and those who held the authority to impose their brand of discipline violently on children were invariably in the right.
Despite recent controversies involving the clergy, there has been no imputation of sexual impropriety in this case; although even at the time it was my belief that some of our torturers very probably got their jollies from the sight of grey flannel tautly stretched over skinny, trembling buttocks as they prepared to thrash away with gay abandon. Some were clearly out-and-out sadists who kept a special selection of canes in their studies adapted to inflict various kinds of pain. Undoubtedly, many of my immediately postwar generation of masters were themselves ‘survivors’ of a different kind of brutality, who had been damaged by their experiences.
I’m afraid however my philosophy is that, barbaric as it was, it’s just how things are with the human race. I can’t think of physically attacking children in a disciplinary context as anything other than normal behaviour, albeit deserving of modification and even abolition in favour of other, possibly less immediate methods of instilling fear and respect for discipline and good order. I certainly never attacked my own children in that way, and thus never needed to.
It was I suppose one way of ensuring the smooth running of establishments for taming little savages which have never, frankly, been fit for purpose, and which specialised in cowing generations of pupils. Beating reinforced conceptions of hierarchy and dominance and the abuse of power, the mute acceptance of irrational rules and regulations, the importance of ‘tradition’, the cleansing joy of pain and unquestioning religious observance as valuable elements of social organisation, to which high-spirited children needed ‘breaking’.
Primate behaviour is a complex thing, full of obscure power relationships, hidden sexual motivations, material ambitions, social conventions, violent fantasies, mad beliefs, obsessions and desires; individual stories (alright, call them ‘journeys’, I dare you) of pleasure and pain. It is absolutely not susceptible to rigid interpretation in a court of law.
Unfortunately, that is the tortuous position we have got ourselves in today, in a (hopefully temporary) fit of media-driven Puritanical obsession with rectifying past misdeeds regarded by our enlightened generation as current crimes – heedless of the obvious, that you cannot modify past attitudes or correct behaviours once considered normal by inflicting punishments in the here and now; nor is there a point in doing so when the condition is no longer present. It is like giving someone a ‘flu jab after they have got over the ‘flu. Only retribution lies at the heart of this keen persecution, the revenge of the self-declared victim class, and overflowing prisons.
The whole education system was rotten right through, but it’s just how it was, and to describe everyone now who went through it as a ‘survivor’, and everyone who administered it as an ‘abuser’ is in itself an abuse, both of process and of language. Not many died. The best you should hope for from the perpetrators at this remove is a sincere admission of wrong thinking, since corrected. The unalterable wrongdoing is a matter of legal nicety.
The word ‘survivor’ has joined the lexicon of lazy hyperbole we indulge nowadays for want of anything interesting going on. Any mildly remarkable achievement is hailed as ‘awesome’; anyone who can point to a disagreeable experience in their past is branded a ‘survivor’. If you walk away from a car crash unscathed, in which others have died, you are indeed a survivor. Plucked from pending slow death trapped under a collapsed building, you would be a survivor. If the chemotherapy is successful, you have survived cancer.
Surviving – from the French survivre, to go on living – implies that you have safely come through a life-threatening experience. The Gloria Gaynor song, ‘I Will Survive’, describes a woman’s response to the merely metaphorical death of a relationship, and thus set the tone for the modern usage of the word in an overblown emotional, ironic sense.
I doubt I would deserve the accolade of ‘survivor’ on emerging from two hours in a darkened room rebonding with my student son watching the Star Wars prequel, ‘Rogue One’, in 3D; although I might privately feel like one and seek solace in a hefty Scotch. Surviving abuse by cretinous Hollywood scriptwriters and rampant special-effects men doesn’t really cut it.
Being beaten at school is not pleasant: the principle was wrong, the power-relationship skewed, but it hardly counts as an experience which it was necessary to survive, since it was so seldom life-threatening.
At school we had a splendidly dismissive word we used against those weedy boys who whined about some imagined petty discomfort or unfairness we would surely have borne more stoically (this might even run, say, to the recent loss of a parent):
For a religious person’s perspective on this issue, go to:
S for tolen
Omygod. (Awesome moment)
Yesterday I posted another sagacious and well-informed comment to a popular news site but had to go back for a second time to apologie for all the missing letter ‘s’, on account of how the key doen’t nowaday always work as they should.
You’ll see some ‘s’ here but that’s because I’ve edited this bit more carefully. With those comments, only illiterate fascist Russian corporate oil bidness lobby trolls read them, so it doen’t really matter if the ‘s’ works or not. Nevertheless, one has tandards.
I’ve Posted before about letters vanishing from this, muh li’l lapthing, but it’ the lettering on the keys wearing away, not the keys not always working.
Just now I read about a forthcoming TV documentary, Black on Black, about the funny and thought-provoking, Swiftian SciFi author Terry Pratchett when he was dying from Alzheimer.
In the programme, Wilkins recalls the day in autumn 2007 when he and Pratchett realized something strange had happened. He says Pratchett came into his office saying: “The ‘S’ on my keyboard has gone … Come on, what have you done with it?”
Did he just write that or did I?