Political Wonderland . . .
“You don’t tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive.”
Margaret Thatcher’s words may be considered straight talk on the surface, though they lead us into a labyrinth epitomized by the Walrus’ words in Alice in Wonderland:
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”
Walrus talk echoes spin-doctor talk does it not?
We who find it reprehensible are not alone. It’ll come as no surprise to Canadians there’s a dedicated group of people seeking plain talk in a world obsessed with slang and frilly dilly words aimed at subterfuge.
A group, from the home of the language, recently concluded: “There is an increasing concern about the number of people who feel distant from politics and politicians, and there is a need for Parliament to reconnect with the public.”
This group call their mission the Plain English Campaign, and fittingly live in England. Recently they analyzed some political speeches where the speaker lost points for jargon and convoluted, drawn-out sentences.
A speech by their chancellor, Gordon Brown, the fellow touted to follow Prime Minister Tony Blair, landed a score of 84.6 per cent, meaning one in every six words he used are not considered everyday English.
His script had an average of one everyday English word in 27, “and most of those were people’s names.”
Makes one feel at home does it not?
Edith Stilwell summed it up succinctly with plain talk: “A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed in keeping rabbits.”
May we be forgiven for using this single example to jump to the conclusion, that this is a pox on the language of people the world over.
Sir Winston Churchill, a leader famed for his straight talk is epitomized in an exchange with Mr. A. Eden whom he’d sent to Turkey in the Second World War, with the assignment: “Convince them to join the Allies to fight the Axis.”
Eden sent a message back, “Progress slow, what more can I tell Turkey?”
Churchill replied, “Tell them Christmas is coming!”
And so it is, and so are some Yukon elections, and straight talk would make a fine Christmas, and election present.
I’d like my election, and early Christmas present, to be promises wrapped in plain talk. I can promise that promises wrapped in Walrus talk are guaranteed to give my “X” wings that it may fly away to a straight talker.
Paraphrasing the Walrus, the time has come to talk of simple things: of potholes, of sewer, of water, of home-grown food, of work able to put roofs over heads, warm beds to sleep in, and bread on tables, with less fussing about castles on hills, and hills in valleys, while highway bridges, not just London bridges, begin falling down.
Though the seas may not boil, voters surely will when the tax bills roll in for our ego castles in the sky scattered about the land while infrastructure crumbles beneath our feet.
Ah, but we are a forgetful and fickle lot, are we not?
We have oft been promised the moon, and settled for cabbages while the kings of waste frolic about tossing accountability and responsibility aside like leftover bones.
Ah, but we are indeed a fickle lot, we voters, with short memories are we not? G. B. Shaw hit the nail on the head, when he said: “We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.”
Though perhaps our time has come?
A tip of the hat to straight talk, which I suggest is honesty.
A second tip of the hat to honesty in high places where our past experience reveals the actions of too many in the halls of power often treat it as if it were excess baggage.