Friday, 14 January 2011

Reason? Who Needs That?

There was, as I recall, a striking similarity between the first few presidential and prime ministerial (respectively) speeches of Barack Obama and David Cameron. The nature of both of them was something along the lines of, "Times are hard. Voting in one chap and one government isn't going to suddenly make everything better; we all need to club together to make our country a better place." This attitude of realism is not new - JFK famously talked about not what the USA could do for its people, but what its people could do for it. My argument is this: everyone wants to be a popular leader, and people are (arguably rightly) angry with Nick Clegg for making promises he couldn't possibly keep. However, the problem is not with his actions, but the very fact that he made these promises in the first place. I'm not advocating the dramatic lowering of public expectations per se, but instead proposing that outlandish, principle-driven promises can often fail once power has been attained. Being the voice of reason and being realistic is a far more acceptable prospect to a public that has already braced itself for widespread changes. False hope is, as ever, unforgivable in such a situation.

While helping a colleague translate a work experience handbook, I was reminded of the stunning difference in lexicon size between French and English. I shall use the French word stage as my example. This word can mean, in no particular order, training course, internship, apprenticeship, work experience, and various other things which are of less importance here. You will notice that, while we distinguish between the subtleties of each respective enterprise, French does not, making their lives a lot easier. My colleague's suggestion of internship could not have possibly been right, as the work undertaken by these students has certainly nothing do with any form of cerebral training. They are, to put it bluntly, the drone bees who repair machinery in factories, and drone bees do not go on internships. I had to settle for practical work experience. Who'd learn English, eh?

Charlie x

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