It has been recorded that some kingdoms among the islands of Polynesia developed a practice whereby visiting emissaries from other islands when granted audience would lay gifts before the Chief or King; when the visitors had gone the King then distributed these sometimes costly gifts amongst his subjects, keeping nothing for himself.
An admirable practice, although quite adverse to the present ‘greed-is-good’ culture. However, it does bring into focus the word admirable ─ that which is admired. Since to be admired is the most cherished pleasure available in the human spectrum of delights, those who have the power to bestow that pleasure hold a formidable weapon indeed.
Tactical admiration, administered and directed skilfully might be a useful new tool for the social revolutionary ─ who shall we choose to admire next?
Our culture is composed of several hierarchies of institutionalised power. At the top of one such pyramid sits the Pope and an Anglican Archbishop; a similar structure supports the Royal Family and the Queen, whose true value of course is the ability to bestow knighthoods on the great and the good. While at the top of another, the Prime Minister, surrounded by a circle of senior Ministers who maintain that status in order that they too may one day achieve the position for themselves. At the bottom of the pyramid dwells Joe Bloggs and the rank-and-file, while at various levels in between the great struggle goes on.
This view can stand as metaphor for Heaven above, and Hell beneath. Heaven in this case providing caviar, champagne, cigars, honours, stretch-limos, a house on a Caribbean island, offshore accounts and last but not least, a plethora of private pole-dancers.
Hell on the contrary seems mean and malevolent, but at least the potatoes rarely run out, and can be served in many ways: Boiled, fried, baked or even eaten raw if you’re some kind of pervert. Once eaten however, and a certain satisfying fullness of belly obtained, there is no way of distinguishing potato fullness from caviar and smoked salmon fullness ─ fullness is fullness.
Science too obeys the laws of these tri-angular structures but also in this instance provides another useful metaphor. Experiments have proven that the eye at a primal level sees the world ‘upside down’; the brain however, reverses this view to make the world appear ‘the right way up’. Wear a pair of spectacles with the lens ground to reverse the vertical hold and the brain, after a day or two, readjusts it to ‘normal’. Now take the glasses off and you see ‘upside down’ again. It is being suggested here that the hierarchical pyramid of power and wealth which seems to represent ‘Heaven’ at the top and ‘Hell’ at the base is in fact quite the reverse ─ the pyramid is standing on its apex. It could be said that happiness depends on the degree of suffering involved, or not as the case might be, and looking at the apex of these pyramids it is quite obvious that this reverse has some truth in it. When the share indexes fall, rich men anxiously gulp down their heart-attack pills, while some, unhappily occupying a ground floor, cannot even seek solace through an open window.
Horror of a high magnitude possesses them, on a scale mercifully withheld from the potato eating prole. He might for instance have to take his sons out of private school; sell his wife’s jewels, or even forego the gold re-plating on his second Roller, a situation that any right thinking man might abhor.
Now were the common view of this natural but highly distorted hierarchy reversed, and the apex of the pyramid seen for what it really represents: The booby prize; pain, anxiety, and a complete loss of personal freedom. Such a view might call forth a great deal of public sympathy for these poor misguided unfortunates. They would become objects of pity rather than envy; and since Joe Bloggs’ envy is surely one of the major perks of those lofty heights, while an object of pity has no status at all, and quite the reverse, is subject to various degrees of shame, such a regard would make their position untenable. So wash them in pity, these poor and hungry souls. Swamp them in great waves of public sorrow for their pain. Let them feel (however uncomfortable it makes them) our compassion.
Pity and admiration; the two mightyest weapons in the hands of the common man.
From ‘POWER LINES’, a collection of pieces illustrating the syndromes of political power and its sources in the common man.
(Price £6 inc p&p). cheque to D. Tomlin. Flat 1a, 68, Pilgrim’s Lane. London. NW3 ISP