This phrase is one of those things that authority uses when it has lost control of a situation. When the child, or doctor, or second lieutenant has gone and done something that can neither be condoned nor hidden. It is the phrase that attempts to disconnect the owner from the dog after it has bitten the baby.
Uh-uh. If you have not bothered to prevent the disaster, it is no good trying to make the thing better by getting a minion to grovel. If there has been no moral responsibility beforehand there is precious little of it afterwards.
It is also a phrase we see when someone has decided that injustices to someone’s ancestors can be punished in current days – generally by an effusion of crocodile tears and public money. In a pinch they are prepared to forego the tears…
I should be interested to see someone take the opposite injunction – ” Say you’re not sorry ” and see where it might be correctly applied. I think it would make many activists and a great many of their lawyers unhappy.
In every company, club, or social group there are identifiable types. You’ll have seen them all your life. Or, if not, you can be sure they’ll have seen you…
- The politician. The treasurer who wants to be secretary, the secretary who wants to be president, and the president who wants to be hereditary emperor. You can do yourself a bit of good by furthering their ambitions and you can do yourself a world of good by shunning them completely.
- The clown. Whether the selected medium is ethnic slurs or dad jokes, the clown is playing it, and you, for laughs. Beware if they see you as a useful butt for these merry japes. Try to switch their sights to someone else.
- The sponge. Whether it is knowledge, work, or money, the sponge will absorb all you can provide. While you are pouring out your life blood for them you’ll be patted and stroked. When the flow stops you’ll be cast off and laughed at.
- The victim. The range of hurts that the victim will parade for your sympathy will stagger you. Beggars in Bangladesh have fared better than they, and you are always encouraged to help with tears and money.
- The expert. Now they might very well be an actual expert, and well worth listening too because of this. Equally, they may be windbags who gain a puffed pleasure telling you what to do…but whose advice is valueless. Try them out. Do as they say for a little while and see if things go better. If it is all shit, just ignore them ever after.
- The lemon. Just as there is a victim, there will always be a lemon. Sour, hard, and unsavoury. If you listen to them your milk of human kindness will curdle. And it is illegal to hit them with a shovel. A signal failure of the law, eh?
The best thing that the average person can do – faced with this daunting list of venomous predators – is pick a category and get in there first. If you are going to be closeted with idiots, do yourself a favour by being the biggest idiot in the closet. You may be treated to bad language and horrified looks, but at least they’ll give you elbow room. If you take off your clothes you’ll get quite a lot of personal space.
I do not call thee fool or knave, yet you I’d shun as shun a grave.
For in thy head sit thoughts unknown: I speak to brain – I’m dumb to bone.
Your plaints and pleas no fire hath lit – I’ve long despaired of sharing wit.
I long to leave, yet always stay – the clubman’s life is sad that way…
We spend our gold on yearly fee and put in pawn our liberty.
Oh, for the courage to depart – before you break our very heart –
A club’s a fine thing wielded well – but in your hand’s a stroke from Hell.
The bestest hope’s to turn your gaze to other victims – other days –
And slink away despite the taunt – relinquish gold and suffer want.
Find other clubs and other sports – and leave you to your rants and rorts.
I do not mind your sneer or spurn – but Oh, Dear Lord, please let me learn…
They often say that practice makes perfect. I think rather that it makes for inchoate fury – if you are not careful. I propose to calm the situation and make it worse.
The term “practiced upon ” is one from the 19th century – used to describe someone who was being imposed upon – or worse – who was being mocked by a group of people for their amusement. It appears in the literature of O Henry, Mark Twain, and countless others. The stories feature some tenderfoot to the west or unfortunate country fellow brought into the salons of the East who sis et upon as a figure of fun and told any number of tales. Initiation rites are imposed and the basic humour is always the native savaging the newcomer.
In some tales revenge is extracted and the tables turned. In others the whole thing is just a sneer in print. It can also include the humiliation of foreigners in Britain or France on a cultural basis. Most of the impositions of Italy or Middle Europe are financial fleecings. Hence the title of this piece – the business of selling antiquities to a New World rube on the basis of history and unfamiliarity therewith.
Consider: how many times have you been imposed on with drop bears and yowies and sniggering references to Australian things? And how many times have you done it to overseas visitors? And who has gotten all the amusement out of it? Is there any less pleasant feeling than realising that you have stumbled into a nest of native wits and are being practiced upon?
What do you do?
Good manners suggest that you do nothing except excuse yourself at the earliest opportunity and leave. Kindly religious feelings abjure you to forget and forgive. But you always feel that you have been got at. The Guild has a far better suggestion when you detect a sell going on; participate fully.
Most native wits do not know when to stop. If you give them the slightest encouragement they will enlarge upon their jokes until they go from puerile to puffy. They cannot stop themselves from extravagance and bluff – eventually they will arrive at the point where even they feel that it has gone too far.
You must compel them to go further – getting wilder and more obvious until someone in their own group is compelled to prick the bubble. Even then, rise to defend the prime jokester and keep asking pointed and intelligent questions – compelling them to eventually start to sweat and look for an escape.
Then, grasp them firmly in the iron embrace of friendship and steer them round to everyone in the room in turn, telling them to repeat the joke for the benefit of the newcomers. You will be hated as you have never been before, but will never, ever be preyed upon again.
It’s a small price to pay.
” Sorry to hear about your problem. But keep at it – if you try to have a thought every day – even a little one – eventually thinking comes easier.
But thank you for the complement in the latter part of your speech. You might leave a little pause between the first sentence and the second, so people understand that there is a full stop there… ”
Well, there you go. A ready-made Uncle Dick squelch for the person at a party who wants to be offended and take over your conversation upon that basis. You could cede it to them by apologising for whatever it was you said – but you would have a difficult time getting it back. This way you leave them wondering what the holes are on both sides of their mental cockpit and what that whizzing noise was. It was a 40mm Bofors squelch.
There are lots of what the Readers Digest used to call Perfect Squelches to be had – and lots of times when they are needed – but unfortunately we often miss the cue and fail to fire. Or we are a little slow in the fusing, and the target flies away. A squelch delivered too late bounces off the ground and can detonate in your face.
The best thing to do is practise – and nowadays we are given this opportunity nearly every day when the Indian call centre scammers ring up to try to take control of our computers. There is a brief pause after you lift the telephone receiver and then often a hiss or the sound of a background camel market as the scammer reels out their spiel – you can have up to ten seconds to collect your wits, fuse a squelch, slam it into the breech, and reach for the trigger.
Use these scammers as practise targets. Do not be rude or profane – don’t even be vulgar. Be nice. Be logical. Be honest. Draw a bead on them and tell them that you are Billy The Old Kid and that you rob railway trains as a pension. Tell them that are looking for a Russian bride but all the agencies will offer is Vladimir Putin in a dress. Tell them that you are the ghost of John Diefenbaker looking for butter tarts. Do it in a serious voice.
Note: When an Indian scammer blows up the results can be spectacular. They are only human, after all, and it must be hot and sticky there in the market. They are often only one call away from running amok.
On the contrary, my dear.
I am afraid that no-one will be offended. Because if that is the case I have failed to read the social currents and have cast my bait onto a lee shore. All my effort is in danger of being disregarded. I have done my best work and it is languishing…
This is 2019. We’re in the Offended Zone. Everything we say can be taken amiss. Oops, sorry…that should be taken aMs…no, aperson…
We may be the least controversial, kindest, and blandest of creatures but we are still bound to be guilty in someone’s eyes. And with the internet it will not only be their eyes that condemn us – they’ll be able to post no end of condemnatory essays about us. We’ll be memed to death, if we’re lucky. The best outcome for most of the witch hunting will be a quick stake and bundle of blazing sticks.
Now I’m a hunted man. Oops, I’ve just admitted that I’m a man and written the word ” hunt “. I can hear the convoy of activists starting their engines and heading for me.
Is there no end to the torture? Can I never please everyone?
Well, no. No, I can’t. I’ll offend someone by being a Jew and someone else by writing Jew instead of jewish. I’ll anger someone by being male and someone else by doing it since 1948. I will make one section of the country angry by being healthy and another section by writing. Lord God, don’t let us consider what I’m about to cook for dinner…the criticism would be all too much.
So what do I do? Do I jink and dodge like a Halifax bomber whenever someone attacks my tail or do I just sail along and shoot at them with the quad .30’s? Do I try to buy the admiration and approval of people who are determined to neither admire or approve? Or do I eat my dinner, drink my toddy, and brush my teeth before bedtime as I have for 71 years – bidding defiance to politics, trends, and rituals of others?
Ask me tomorrow, it’s just about dinner time.
But I think I got away with it.
You would be a brave person these days if you held anyone else** up to contumely and ridicule on a public stage. Far more so if it was the internet and the social media. The gaff that you inserted into your victim would be as nothing compared to the gaffe that you would put into your own career.
The lawyers would have a field day. They would look at you, at the social media site, and at the electronic servitors who had broadcast the slur to the world. Their gaze would fix upon two things; your guilt and who has the money. Were you just a beggar in the market place shouting imprecations they would be satisfied with whipping you and then moving on to the real sources of compensation. If you had money you would also stand the ire of injured reputation and moral outrage.
Perhaps they would be right to do this. After all, we should not defame others. Perhaps their efforts would only be to right a wrong and prevent a sin. When you think about it, Torquemada had only the spiritual interests of his victims at heart when he lit the fires under their stakes.
I am not brave. I quiver at the least danger. So I never publish scurrilous attacks upon people – even when they are patently deserving. I forebear. I forgive. I just keep watching them to see their next stunt. Eventually what I essayed to do will be done by the mainstream press and possibly the magistrate’s court – and then I can be virtuous and moral. And when they are finally cut down, I will ask for a piece of the rope as a remembrance.
* Before you pop a vein and write to the editor, it’s a reference to ” Fawlty Towers “…If this show has not been seen in your section of the Ozarks look it up on Netflix.
** You can do it to yourself and make a good deal of money from the networks…