I BECAME very excited last week. The hysterical woman presenter on Radio Four announced a tortoise race. I adore tortoises and the classic story about the contest with the hare is Aesop’s best fable.
What a let-down it was then when I discovered the presenter had not been advertising a tortoise race after all, but something ineffably tedious called the Iowa caucuses. It conjures visions of something hard and irremovable you find on the sole of your foot.
Why do we have to endure a whole year’s fanatical devotion to the US elections? It’s bad enough having to put up with wall-towall coverage of our own political scene. It’s not as if any outcome will make the slightest difference to our real lives in the here and now. For politics on both sides of the Atlantic have rotted down until they are only an aspect of PR and the advertising industry. The ubiquitous media propaganda has succeeded in brainwashing us to imagine that politicians, in their various ways, are dedicated to the public good.
They are not. They are, like any other aspect of advertising and sales, dedicated only to selling themselves. The worst thing we ever did was to start to pay politicians, and how handsomely they are paid and then pampered with extravagant expenses. Even then, they cheat. We should stop paying politicians: it only encourages them.
And the quality of the political coverage is inane. All the excitable commentators give us is like a ringside running-commentary at a flea circus. As the “race” for the US presidency “hots up”, yes, it’s cliches all the way, the BBC will spend millions sending scores of observers to the States to report on this long drawn out fatuity.
The most glutinous of these is the avid leftie James Naughtie of Radio Four’s Today who is to radio interviewing what Fatty Arbuckle was to limbo dancing.
His every question to every interviewee takes an aeon. And he has never been known to ask a pertinent question. One loses track half a dozen times over breakfast I think the BBC Publications Department should collect all his interminable questions in a book entitled The Collected Speeches of James Naughtie: Master of the Irrelevant Question. Its appeal to our sense of all that is ridiculous would guarantee massive sales.
All the candidates in the US elections are ghastly apparitions with impossibly dazzling teeth, over-coiffeured, over-exuberant and unfortunately, thanks to the satellite link, over here. And, if there is such a social crime as “nameism”, like “sexism” and “racism”, then I confess I am guilty of it.
Mitt Romney sounds like a glove puppet.
Newt Gingrich revives nightmare recollections of Ken Livingstone, and Herman Cain sends us rushing back to The Book of Genesis and the firstborn son of Adam and Eve.
Frankly, I’d prefer the race between the tortoise and the hare. Back to the classics, to Aesop and to Zeno, whose philosophical mathematics proved that the tortoise always wins. Zeno’s argument was that, fast as he is, the hare can never win because by the time he has caught up with the tortoise, the tortoise has moved on. I know it sounds daft.
Many years ago I was severely told off by my teacher for mocking Zeno’s reasoning.
After he had clipped me round the ear, he said: “Look, lad, there are maths professors still trying to get their heads round this one.”
It sure beats the Iowa caucuses.