Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wildely Inappropriate

(I had a hankering for attempting an Oscar Wilde pastiche, and having a stab at his particular style of densely-packed paradox. Today's government spending review seemed an interesting setting. It's not exactly Wilde quality, but I threw this together on a coach in a couple of hours, so one can't expect miracles. A fun project. Like Henry Wotton, views expressed are not necessarily my own, or indeed anybody's.)

A Spending Review Pastiche

"Ah, David, so good of you to drop by. Can I offer you a drink?"
"Delighted to. One should never engage in a conversation about money if one is sober enough to understand it." With that he flung himself into a wing-backed armchair and took out his cigarette case.
"Whisky or brandy?" said George, and spun the top half of the globe-shaped drinks cabinet.
"I always suspected it: your model world revolves around alcohol", said David as George's globe clicked open to reveal a cluster of expensive bottles. "He who drinks whisky never wants to taste anything else. He who drinks brandy never can."
They clinked glasses, and George sat in the opposite armchair.
"This plan of yours, is it colourful?" said David.
"Colour is unique to the beholder. I cannot look at the bleak hues of this Talisker or the sanguine of this chair and be sure that you see the same. There are as many shades of purple as there are eyes, and in that sense my plan is to the Harlequin as he to the chessboard."
"Capital. Anything which is bad for the public should be colourful so they don't notice how bad it is. Anything which is good for them should be dreary so they don't notice it at all."
"I saw your speech about the armed forces. Very courageous", said George.
"Courage is the triumph of the necessary over the unpleasant. A soldier knows nothing of pleasantness, and forgets everything of necessity. He is the perfect citizen."
"Two aircraft carriers?"
"A strong navy is the envy of its enemies. A stronger one doesn't have any. We shall fill our carriers with American stealth aircraft, which are like thieves. A thief sneaks up on you and empties your wallet; an American aircraft empties your wallet so you can sneak up on everyone else. Enough of this - if a military doesn't shoot you to death, it bores you to death. That is its distinguishing characteristic. Tell me of of your budget plan."
"Well," said George, "my plan is a thing of rare beauty, which is to say that its beauty is scarce within it, but the whole is the more beautiful for it. I cannot abide things which are beautiful throughout, the perpetual ravages of sensual bliss cloy in my eyes. No, the most beautiful gallery is one with a handful of beautiful paintings among a multitude of mediocre ones; that way they have a crowd to stand above, and a darkness to shine from. My budget is minutely crafted on these aesthetic principles. It is beautiful only because of its studied lack of beauty."
"What, then, is its ugliest painting?" said David, extinguishing his cigarette and leaving it smouldering in the ashtray.
"I had no choice but to cut half a million jobs from the public sector."
"I wouldn't worry about that. A public sector worker has a job for life, and has no life at all. I would trust my life to any of them, but I don't have one either, so I instead trust them with my job. A nation shouldn't make work for idle hands, that is the devil's job, and he alone will never be unemployed." David spun his wedding-ring around on its finger.
"The funding to the police has been cut."
"Any nation which needs a police force doesn't deserve one."
"We will abolish dozens of quangos" said George, refilling their glasses.
"We cannot make up our minds whether we have quangos, but we have them to help us make up our minds. A quango should know everything and say nothing, while the government says everything and knows nothing. As soon as they know everything, they must be destroyed. They are the notebooks of a nation; to be written on, then written off. What of the BBC?"
"The BBC is a true work of art, and every other broadcaster in the world fills out the gallery from which it shines. I worship its beauty, and like any worshipper I sully it by my very worship. It is the priest who sullies his religion, the bishop doubly so; thus my worship of the BBC must inevitably destroy it, and its burning embers may I in time douse with my tears." George stared at the lavish wallpaper opposite. "Such a pity."
"And the other home nations?"
"Affected equally."
"Good. England is a nation crippled by its superiority. Wales invented its superiority, Scotland's inferiority is its strength, and both halves of Northern Ireland are inferior to each other. The result is a Britain possessing an inferiority superior to all other nations." David emptied his glass.
"The crowning beauty was that I cut less than the other side said they would." said George.
"I've a very poor opinion of a Chancellor who can't give you nothing and make you thank him for the privilege".

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