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It is right that we drink heavily when David Cameron says ‘It Is Right That.’

April 28, 2014 1 comment

(Or: how to start a sentence without pissing everyone off)

 

Here’s a drinking game. You may already have found yourself playing it from time to time.

[Spoilers: you will get drunk.]

The game is a simple one: when David Cameron says, ‘It is right that’ you have a drink. You might already feel the urge to take to drink whenever David Cameron says ‘It is right that.’ It has become something of a linguistic tick for our prime minister, sprinkled across his utterances in the way other people use actually, basically,  literally, or apparently, after years of mockery over the former, figuratively.  He uses it three times in this speech. It often prefixes something of dubious rectitude, whether factual or moral.

In general, people use these little words to couch the words that follow, to shield themselves from the baldness of a simply uttered statement.  And so ‘We will address immigration’ becomes ‘It is right that we address immigration.’ Another person might try ‘I think we should address immigration.’ And yet another: ‘I feel we need to address immigration.’

All of these are used, by all sorts of people, in politics, in journalism, in pubs, in workplaces. But our dedicated followers of Westminster fashion do seem peculiarly addicted to the ‘it is right’ formula, and I worry about it spreading to the rest of society. I’m not sure my liver will cope.

Why does it annoy me so? Because these phrases do carry different connotations, and do affect the way in which argument, dissent, disagreement and debate is conducted.

 

It is right that my statement carries an unexamined moral certainty, deriving authority from on high. What need I for facts, when I can channel infallibility? Don’t ask where I read about this, or how I came up with this idea, the statistics which informed it or the people I have spoken to. Such measures pale beside the simple omnipotence of my statement. The sun rises, the sun sets. A child of three could tell you this. I am Q. (From Star Trek, not James Bond.)

Thusly are my anti-clerical hackles raised when Mr Cameron tells me what is right. He is not Q.

 

I feel that my view is an absolute and measurable fact, drawing certainty from the perfection of my personal existence. Good luck arguing with my feelings; there is absolutely no way you can win. You could try to feel your view at me, and you could even feel it more strongly, but my feelings would have greater power, because they are mine. This could end in tears. My tears will only prove I was right all along.

 

 I think that I draw upon the Enlightenment when attempting to engage in this conversation. Here are some facts. Here are the conclusions I have drawn from them. Here are some footnotes. Here’s a link to the sodding peer review. WHY WON’T ANYONE TALK TO ME?!

 

So for those getting paid for expressing an opinion, or for those attempting to begin a meaningful debate, it would be helpful to start a few sentences with ‘I think.’

It would be even nicer if they did.

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