Monday, December 30, 2013

Absolutist surveillance, anyone?


   ... unless a statesman
   feels some sense of re-
   vulsion when he has to
   choose to commit a nec-
   essary evil, he is far
   more likely to commit
   an evil when it is not

Noel Annan could capture the Wodehousian enchantedness of Comrade Stalin perhaps better than the master, himself, given the latter's absorption in record-keeping. In the surreal ditziness of the doddering ornithologist, Saxby senior, there were flashes of unanswerable penetration, resembling Stalin's on hearing that his spy, Kim Philby, was being a huge success in Spain, even as Franco was advancing. That isn't logical, Stalin objected. It's rather the way one feels to be given excuses of endearing innocence for a President, on the strength of his liking for Topolobampo, who's amassing a dossier on the entire world. Nice taco, Comrade?

 It's enough to engender the ennui
 on which repression always relies,
 to be greeted with the identical
 intimidations one voted against, 
 all one's life, as the culture's
 descent into the paranoia of the
 Cold War climaxed in the incred-
 iblest confection of invisible e-
 mergencies, in every corner of a
 soccer child's locker room. Al-
 ways there was the complaisantly
 clever "reformer," who'd promise
 relief from domestic injustice in
 broad daylight, who'd dare us to
 risk our lives and our hopes with
 worse. Now we admit, this isn't
 logical, and with the clear-eyed,
 crazy ornithologist, we observe, 
 there's no such bogey in the sky.

 It's where we go to breathe.


Noel Annan
Dean of the Cold War
The New York Review of Books©

P.G. Wodehouse
Cocktail Time
op. cit.

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