George Walford: Editorial Notes (25)

IN THIS issue we print letters from Austin Meredith and Shane Roberts; further Letters to the Editor are invited. Please try not to exceed 500 words – “Small is beautiful.” If you want your letter to appear unedited or not at all, please say so.

ANARCHISTS proclaim themselves in favour of freedom, and they (sometimes at least) extend this to approval of indulgence in hard drugs. But there are limits; we recently attended an anarchist meeting which spent most of its time expressing concern over the popular liking for junk-foods and seeking ways to put an end to it.

ONE TROUBLE with motoring in the cities is the waste of all that good parking space out in the middle of the road; people will keep driving over it.

WHILE SHEPHERDS watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, an angel of the Lord came down and said: “This is cattle country.”

IN “EVOLUTION AS A RELIGION” (London, Methuen, 1985) Mary Midgley notes some of the strange things in which people place their trust and adds that some of them even have faith in money, “as odd an entity as any that religion has yet invented.”

ERIC KORN (TLS 12 Sept 86) draws attention to the “memorable” remark of a correspondent in the New Statesman: “of course censorship has its dangers, especially in the wrong hands.” (The emphasis, Korn assures us, is Milton’s.)

ALASTAIR SCOTT reports that Icelandic fishermen put their trust in cod. (TLS 19 Sept 86)

ARMY biscuits are known as manhole covers.

EVERY gardener’s dream: Self-raising flowers.

DOES “hors d’oeuvres” mean “out of work?”

THE RULER of a developing state is reported to have advertised for a one-handed economist. He was tired of getting advice that went: “Well, on the one hand… But then on the other… ”

JENKINS CO., rare book dealers of Austin, Texas, announce that since a fire damaged much of their stock their business has expanded. They now deal not only in rare books but also in well-done books.

IS MARX’S grave a communist plot? (For that one, acknowledgments to S. E. Parker)

LESLIE DOW classified the archaeologists who attend meetings and social functions: 1. The Archaeologist proper. 2. The Harkaeologist, who comes to listen. 3. The Larkaeologist, who comes for the fun of things. 4. The Sharkaeologist, who comes for the luncheon.

THE CHARGE that we dislike competition is quite unfounded. Competition is fine; what we can’t stand is losing.

JESUS said to them ‘Who do you say that I am?’ They replied:’You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma of which we find the ultimate meaning in interpersonal relationships.’ And Jesus said: ‘What?’

AMONG BBC officials is one entitled: Engineering Information and Electrical Installation Officer. ‘Pendennis’ of the Observer notes that the acronym comes out as EIEIO.

A CORRESPONDENT tells us that human sacrifice has been abandoned (and, the argument runs, if that advance can be made, why not a further step, to anarcho-socialism?) Human sacrifice abandoned? The last time we raised our eyes from the keyboard people were being slaughtered in the names of some of the isms as enthusiastically as they ever were for the old gods. The motor-car has had more lives sacrificed to it than Moloch ever got.

WENT to the ballet last week – ‘Duck Pond.’ It was to have been ‘Swan Lake,’ but the swans went on strike.

IN THE Observer of 2 Aug 86 Katharine Whitehorn writes of a girl having been seen “topless on a Greek beach.” But the point of these “topless” displays is that the young women presenting them do possess quite noticeable tops.

English is a more subtle language than is always realised. When people speak of “our street,” “our firm,” “our country” and the like, they usually mean not that it belongs to them but that they belong to it.

TAXES It is reported (Sunday Times of 24 August and elsewhere) that the American tax system is being not so much reformed as revolutionised. They have had a system similar to our own, with penal rates which are largely nominal, legal avoidance schemes being available to many of those in the higher brackets. Now they are eliminating most of the complications which open the routes to avoidance and reducing the top rate to 28%. Sounds a splendid idea. At present many of the brightest people are engaged either in devising new legal tax dodges or blocking them, the end effect being that they cancel each other out. The new arrangements will tend to release them for less futile things.

TRICKY DICKY. Some years ago the academics rediscovered Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Always a sucker for a new fashion we joined in, and were particularly impressed by the statement that the President “can neither be bribed, NOR CAN HE EMPLOY THE MEANS OF CORRUPTION” (London, Saunders and Ottley, 1835, Vol I p.173, emphasis added). Then the news of Watergate broke and we lost interest in de Tocqueville. Recently we have been having second thoughts. Nixon was exposed and ejected from office; he was lucky to escape impeachment. In that instance, at least, the American system worked to prevent an American President continuing to employ the means of corruption. It is not clear that the British system would produce an equivalent effect. We shall have to go back to Tocqueville’s book.

from Ideological Commentary 25, January 1987.