‘No Such Thing as Society,’ Implies Cummings

If you think about it, the recent actions of Dominic Cummings illustrate perfectly the Thatcherite maxim there’s no such thing as society.* In putting himself and his family first, in neglecting the needs of others and the common good, he exemplified that maxim in action. Me and mine come before you and yours; that’s what it boils down to, plus an egoistic plan to interpret the rules in your own way. Supposing we all did this? Supposing we applied our own interpretations to, say, the speed limit? I might say ‘Well, I know it’s supposed to be thirty round here but it’s fairly quiet so I choose to interpret the speed limit as forty-five.’ Or, on the motorway I might say ‘Yes I know it’s actually seventy but I take that as a rough guideline. The road is clear so I interpret seventy to mean up to eighty-five.’ And so on. This is the worst kind of egoism and yes, we are all prone to it; I cannot hold my hand up and say I’ve never broken the speed limit. I find it very hard to stick to thirty mph on a straight road with no traffic; I am often tempted to exceed seventy on the motorway. However, were I caught I would absolutely expect to suffer the penalty. I would I hope admit my mistake.

* To be fair, Thatcher may not have been suggesting that people should be quite as selfish as this implies. She was telling people to look after themselves and their families first; it was an argument against the state rather than ‘society’; however it has been interpreted by Left and Right alike as a call to rampant individualism.

And therein lies the problem. Had Cummings only apologised his job would not now be under threat. Had he acknowledged the insult to the rest of us who followed the rules; people dying alone, people unable to see dying members of their family, people risking their lives to self-isolate; his job would not now be under threat. Instead he came up with an ‘explanation’ that insults not only our suffering but also our intelligence. Yes, we are all prone to error and should be slow to judge others who err. But as Rev Richard Coles pointed out (on his Facebook page) you cannot be a law-maker as well as a law-breaker. You must hold yourself to a higher standard. Cummings must go – and the sooner the better. Now. Today.

And here, Marina Hyde in the Guardian has a brilliant and witty analysis of why Johnson is reluctant to sack him.But I shall conclude with some words of Oscar Wilde might have uttered in this situation: ‘Never speak slightingly of society. Only those who can’t get into it do that.’

Kirk out

Cummings and Goings and Staying Put

I don’t honestly think I can add anything to what others have said about the disgraceful behaviour of the government’s chief advisor in going to visit his parents for no good reason when others are not allowed to visit their dying children in hospital, and the even more disgraceful response of the Prime Minister in defending the indefensible. He’ll regret doing that; as Withnail said of another rat, the fucker will rue the day!

Then the fucker will rue the day.

But enough; I need to stop thinking about that before I choke with rage. Aaaaaaaand breathe! So, what else has been happening in lizardyogaland? I’ve finished Girl, Woman, Other and have a slight hiatus in my reading as I’ve now caught up on just about everything. It’s a great feeling, and there’s room for more so I’ve ordered Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe about which I will tell you more when it arrives. On the TV front I have rediscovered the classic series from the 1980’s The Jewel in the Crown. Starring Art Malik, Tim Piggott-Smith and Geraldine James it covers the final years of the British Raj in India. I was utterly glued to this when it came out and am delighted to have found it again. it’s based on The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott which of course I read as soon as the series was over. More of this anon.

Have a good day, whatever you’re doing. It’s a delightfully sunny one here in lizardyogaland…

I’ll just leave you with this:

Kirk out

Foretelling the Present

There’s been a lot of chatter in the media lately about so-called super-forecasters. They do love a new phrase, don’t they? As far as I can tell this latest one comes from a Dominic Cummings’ latest and somewhat disastrous hire to the Civil Service, Andrew Sabisky, a man whose views would not have been out of place in the Third Reich. Sabisky has now been sacked, but he should never had been allowed anywhere near government – that much is obvious – but then neither should Dominic Cummings. Yet here we are.

So what, if anything, is a super-forecaster? Apparently the word comes from this book which suggests that people with a certain kind of native intelligence do better than so-called experts when it comes to forecasting. Which, surprise surprise, fits in precisely with Johnson and Cummings’ hatred of experts. Why trust someone who’s been in the Civil Service for decades and built up a detailed knowledge of their area when you can hire a maverick with special powers? It sounds kinda appealing, a bit like MacGuyver or Poirot, but this guy was no Sherlock. In fact he was more of an Eichmann with a final solution in his head. It’s not that his views are utterly repellent; it’s that he was allowed to bring them into government – that is the scary thing. He’s the sort of person you’d expect to find beavering away on a mad blog somewhere in a basement, perhaps preparing some sort of terrorist attack. He has no place in Whitehall.

This hatred and distrust of experts is also a power-play. Mavericks are dangerous allies but if their views are in line with yours you can cut through red tape like a knife through butter without all of that tedious paperwork and research. Let us not forget that in the end, Thatcher’s worst enemy was not the Labour Party or the trade unions but the civil service. She, having at least some principles and respect for democracy, shrank from using the sort of power-plays Johnson resorts to. God, it’s a sad day when I start praising Thatcher.

But I’m getting off the point here which is that forecasting, or prophecy, or whatever you want to call it, is basically just seeing the present. If you observe the present clearly you will see where it’s leading, just like this traditional story shows (Nasruddin is a figure known throughout the East as the archetypal fool.)

One day Nasruddin was pruning the branch of the tree. He was sitting on the branch facing towards the trunk and sawing it in front of him. Along came a man.

Oi!’ said the man.

What?’ answered Nasruddin.

If you carry on doing that, you know what’ll happen?

What?

The branch will fall and you’ll fall with it!

Interfering idiot! thought Nasruddin, and he carried on sawing. Sure enough, several minutes later the branch fell to the ground and he fell with it. No bones broken, he jumped up and ran after the man, crying ‘Stop! Tell me more about the future!’

Lol. So – today I predict that I shall finish a blog post and have a cup of tea. More than that I cannot say… except that it’s possible Cummings will overstep the mark once too often and end up having a very short shelf-life.

Have a good one. Day, that is, not shelf-life.

Kirk out