Thursday 23 May 2013

The global race

I lost count of how many times the Prime Minister used the phrase 'the global race' in a lengthy radio interview earlier this week, but it was at least half a dozen, perhaps more. He used it to suggest that we are, as a nation and as individuals, participants in this highly-competitive, international race and we all have to do everything we can to win it.

What race is that? When did it start? When and how will it end? Who are the competitors? Who judges the winners, and what do they win? And what about the losers? Are there prizes for those who come second? Third? What rules, if any, govern participation? Can cheats be disqualified? 

Of course there is no global race and never has been. There's global competition, of course, involving what some romantic economists used to call 'market forces', and there's that even more cobwebby expression 'the class struggle'. What there isn't is a race. Or, if you insist on the dull analogy, if there is a race it's a race we've long since lost and we're sitting by the track, breathlessly knackered. Or, rather, there is a race but we're not even invited to take part as the Asian super economies sprint to the finish, watched from the dilapidated grandstand by superannuated runners with only their memories for company.

What's lost in today's political rhetoric is any degree of intelligence or originality. Left or right it's the same slick balls, articulated in those oh-so-predictable tri-partite chunks because that's how they've been taught to speak by consultants - and because tripartite chunks are effective, they're efficient and above all they're memorable. And one has to wonder whether our political leaders use this shagged-out old trope because they think it's effective (in which case they're stupid) or because they think we fall for it (in which case they're even more stupid). Because while tripartite chunks and 'race' metaphors appear to have the form of thought they have no substantial content because they lack what linguists call 'propositional value'. So Cameron can peddle his fluent twaddle and talk and talk and do his breathless keen-as-mustard giggle and yet never say anything.

For more on Cameron's pisspoor rhetoric click HERE

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