Whenever any of our school friends told a tall story, which was quite often in the years after WW2, when there were no Barbie dolls or video games or any of the trivia that surround the lives of young people with delight nowadays, we wouldn’t yell ” liar, liar pants on fire” as mentioning pants wasn’t polite even for impolite kids. We’d shout “ Munchhausen, Munchhausen’ after an infamous German Baron of that name who was an accomplished soldier, but above all a teller of tall stories about his exploits. Whether he travelled the forests running from enemies on a sleigh pulled by wolves, or travelled to the moon, the Munchhausen tall stories were entertaining. Such a pity that his name was given to a psychiatric condition which is used to describe people who live in a world of make believe and seem incapable of telling the truth!
In his day, people made their own entertainment; and so tall stories might not have been unusual. Followed though by the hold taken over Europe by Lutheran austerity and then Victorian prudishness, tall stories lost their attraction for the ascendant middle classes for whom ‘truth’ was anything but variable and for whom those who didn’t adhere to it were nothing short of criminal.
Fast forward then to our global world and it’s capture by spin doctors in just about every aspect of life and, oh, how innocently entertaining Muncchausen seems! Heaven knows what he could have achieved, how many people he could have convinced, had he the tools that the current spin doctors have at their disposal.
One such tool, that was never intended as such, is the Internet. Those of a Munchhausen bent can spin to their hearts’ contents hiding behind false persona or photo shopping their features (particularly for the dating sites). We seem to accept easily that the young are radicalised through webpages and that young women and children are deceived by paedophilesthat spin stories around themselves that seem harmless.
However, what do we do about it all? The answer really is to become less gullible, less willing to believe everything in print or in any medium whatsoever. We need to inform ourselves about these wonderful toys that have been created “ to make life easier” for us.
I put it to you, ‘ Is life easier when governments, twisted individuals and anyone who gets a thrill out of the power of ‘snooping’- the Peeping Toms of this world - can reach out and find you? Life has never been so dangerous!
We all love those mobile phones, so much so that hardly anyone bothers to pick up a landline anymore. It is great to take your phone everywhere you go, think of all the people you can contact; and think of all the peoplewho can contact you, not necessarily those you know. Think of the scams you are open to!
Why blame mobile phones, the teenagers’ delight? Advertising on the web is another path full of pits and potholes: not for the advertisers but to those being addressed. I wonder how many of us have booked hotel rooms selected on the web that haven’t turned out to be quite so splendid when you turn up as a client to occupy them? It is said the camera doesn’t lie, but oh it does! You’d better believe it.
Governments preach democracy --- not quite everywhere, North Korea seems to be fiddling an entirely different tune! When it comes down to it though, the more they preach, the closer they come to Orwell’s 1984. There are Commissions for this and that and at the rock bottom of their mandates is that nasty little set of words ‘must do’, ‘can’t do’, ‘can’t say’; and followed of course by the great slogan ‘political correctness’. Political correctness has a lot to answer for if only because it is the best tool of totalitarianism there is. Whoever thought it up deserves a ‘ dictator par excellence ‘ award.
What is meant by political correctness is actually social correctness; and it is I suppose a movement to overcome racism. Yet one doesn’t overcome racism by punishment setting one faction against the other. This supports the mistaken assumption that only one race is racist, which is of course completely untrue. Sometimes we can be racist and prejudiced without even realising that we are. Some of Nepal’s premier newspapers run social columns in which the hip young columnists throw out the term ‘kuirey’ with great abandon. They say it isn’t prejudice or racism just a factual statement. So why do mainstream media programmes in the English-speaking/writing media take such care to refer to ‘people of colour’ one wonders? Why can’t we say things as they are without treading on toes?
I think we can’t simply because political correctness has been taken to the extremes. In doing so it has definitely taken some of the spice out of life!
So many children’s stories used to be written around the heroic acts of an African child, Epaminandus, whose Mama was always sending him on impossible trips through a dangerous jungle to bring back her cooking ingredients. Despite his lackadaisical approach to everything, Epaminandus always emerged victorious. One story has him going to buy butter so that his mother could make pancakes. On the way to market a tiger comes after him and Epaminandus catches the tiger’s tail, the tiger catches him by the seat of the pants and they chase round and round a big tree until the tiger melts into butter with which Epaminandus’ mother manages to make 150 pancakes – all to be eaten by her darling son. This was one of our favourite stories; and if it doesn’t have the mark of Munchhausen I’ll eat my hat! I assure you I can tell a Munchhausen when I hear and see one. Like the rest of you, I see, read and hear them every day.
Every time a politician gives an interview or whenever seemingly generous promises are made or we are assured of some return to normalcy in political and economic affairs we are being Munchhausened.
Surely the rest of you don’t need me to tell you that we are being promised pie in the sky, a trip to the moon and Potemkin’s village all in one!