Debbie Magee meets Verbal Kint.
My recent blog focused on what I term the slippery slope of totalitarianism. And for the last time in a while, I’d like to beg your indulgence as I return to a theme that has no doubt been far more eloquently and cogently advanced by political scholars using lots of supporting evidence. But hey, I’ve no shame in playing the brain damage card and I’m playing it now.
Anyway, my latest contention is the idea that whilst this sort of totalitarian malarkey might well happen somewhere else, it could never happen in a stable democracy like ours, one with secure land borders, partly on account of it being an island. One with the rule of law, a legislature elected by the people within those borders to make those laws, an independent judiciary and a police force created for the purpose of enforcing those laws and punishing those who transgress. One that has a free press, free from government interference, a broad media landscape, which encourages a plurality of views, even if those views are dissenting. And so on and etc…
But, and here’s the thing, the other day when I wrote about how one boils a frog, one puts in cold water and then gradually heats it up until too late does the frog have any idea something is wrong, well it got me thinking. Specifically about Verbal Kind from ‘The Usual Suspects’. Now I’m about to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but then if you haven’t seen it yet then my question to you is why haven’t you seen it. The film follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time con man, who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. Through flashback and narration, Kint tells an interrogator a convoluted story of events that led him and his criminal companions to the boat, and of a mysterious crime lord—known as Keyser Söze—who controlled them. The twist is that at the end of the film, after Verbal is free of the police station does the interrogator realise that Verbal and Keyser Soze are on and the same.
Everything Verbal has said is almost certainly a lie. The cinema audience, like the interrogator in the film, is primed through prior experience to believe him. We have been complicit in hoodwinking ourselves. Much as Verbal has done in fooling us with an entertaining lie, my contention is that whilst we are told that other regimes are or have been totalitarian, we fool ourselves into thinking we are different.
Bear in mind what I wrote about a slippery slope in a previous blog. That the best kind of slippery slop is one that doesn’t appear as a slope at all until you’re at the bottom of it.
The rule of law? Exactly who elected the current PM and his predecessor? Since 2001 we’ve had six general elections but eleven PM’s. Most of whom were never elected by the electorate but by a two tiny self-selecting vested interest groups. The legislature is made up from an increasing unrepresentative section of the population, one which make laws that they then interpret as they see fit. Of course of these laws ruthlessly enforced by police force which is often denounced by the press as being a bit too much this and not enough of that. That would be the free press that is, and always has been, owned by a few very wealthy individuals with equally few moral scruples. Speaking of which, social media, which has all the morality of a sex addict at an orgy and can always be relied upon to create a crisis and watch it go.
So are we on the slope or not? It’s just as Verbal says, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Sometimes it feels as if our democracy is bit like Debbie Magee, the famous assistant to the magician Paul Daniels. We look at her when we should be looking at him instead. But the sun is shining, it’s nice and pleasant here in sunny Southwold, far too nice to think about all this. Instead what I should be thinking about is ‘Where and when will I ever get a decent steak and kidney pie?”