A long, long time wasted in the pursuit of stupidity

Tuesday, 20 November, Year 4 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Let's quote from 'Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror', the 30th episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Cut to a city gent in his office. A sign on his desk says a 'Charman Knebter'. He is waiting to answer his phone. It rings; he answers.

City Gent : Hello? Ah, Mr Victim, I'm glad to say that I've got the go-ahead to lend you the money you require. Yes, of course we will want as security the deeds of your house, of your aunt's house, of your second cousin's house, of your wife's parents' house, and of your grannie's bungalow, and we will in addition need a controlling interest in your new company, unrestricted access to your private bank account, the deposit in our vaults of your three children as hostages and a full legal indemnity against any acts of embezzlement carried out against you by any members of our staff during the normal course of their duties... no, I'm afraid we couldn't accept your dog instead of your youngest child, we would like to suggest a brand new scheme of ours under which 51% of both your dog and your wife pass to us in the event of your suffering a serious accident. Fine. No, not at all, nice to do business with you. (puts the phone down, speaks on intercom) Miss Godfrey, could you send in Mr Ford please. (to himself) Now where's that dictionary. ah yes - here we are, inner life... inner life ... (a knock on the door) Come in. (Mr Ford enters, he is collecting for charity with a tin) Ah, Mr Ford isn't it?
Mr Ford That's right.

City Gent How do you do. I'm a merchant banker.
Mr Ford How do you do Mr...

City Gent Er... I forget my name for the moment but I am a merchant banker.
Mr Ford Oh. I wondered whether you'd like to contribute to the orphan's home. (he rattles the tin)

City Gent Well I don't want to show my hand too early, but actually here at Slater Nazi we are quite keen to get into orphans, you know, developing market and all that... what sort of sum did you have in mind?
Mr Ford Well... er... you're a rich man.

City Gent Yes, I am. Yes. Yes, very very rich. Quite phenomenally wealthy. Yes, I do own the most startling quantifies of cash. Yes, quite right... you're rather a smart young lad aren't you. We could do with somebody like you to feed the pantomime horse. Very smart.
Mr Ford Thank you, sir.

City Gent Now, you were saying. I'm very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very rich.
Mr Ford So er, how about a pound?

City Gent A pound. Yes, I see. Now this loan would be secured by the...
Mr Ford It's not a loan, sir.

City Gent What?
Mr Ford It's not a loan.

City Gent Ah.
Mr Ford You get one of these, sir. (he gives him a flag)

City Gent It's a bit small for a share certificate isn't it? Look, I think I'd better run this over to our legal department. If you could possibly pop back on Friday...
Mr Ford Well do you have to do that, couldn't you just give me the pound?

City Gent Yes, but you see I don't know what it's for.
Mr Ford It's for the orphans.

City Gent Yes?
Mr Ford It's a gift.

City Gent A what?
Mr Ford A gift.

City Gent Oh a gift!
Mr Ford Yes.

City Gent A tax dodge.
Mr Ford No, no, no, no.

City Gent No? Well, I'm awfully sorry I don't understand. Can you just explain exactly what you want.
Mr Ford Well, I want you to give me a pound, and then I go away and give it to the orphans.

City Gent Yes?
Mr Ford Well, that's it.

City Gent No, no, no, I don't follow this at all, I mean, I don't want to seem stupid but it looks to me as though I'm a pound down on the whole deal.

Mr Ford Well, yes you are.
City Gent I am! Well, what is my incentive to give you the pound?

Mr Ford Well the incentive is - to make the orphans happy.
City Gent (genuinely puzzled) Happy?... You quite sure you've got this right?

Mr Ford Yes, lots of people give me money.
City Gent What, just like that?

Mr Ford Yes.
City Gent Must be sick. I don't suppose you could give me a list of their names and addresses could you?

Mr Ford No, I just go up to them in the street and ask.
City Gent Good lord! That's the most exciting new idea I've heard in years! It's so simple it's brilliant! Well, if that idea of yours isn't worth a pound I'd like to know what is. (he takes the tin from Ford)

Mr Ford Oh, thank you, sir.
City Gent The only trouble is, you gave me the idea before I'd given you the pound. And that's not good business.

Mr Ford Isn't it?
City Gent No, I'm afraid it isn't. So, um, off you go. (he pulls a lever opening a trap door under Ford's feet and Ford falls through with a yelp) Nice to do business with you.

Is this stuff funny ? It depends. I laughed, for one. The reason I laughed, however, is the reason anyone ever laughs : I was surprised. What surprised me was the actual showing of somebody behaving sanely on TV. I honestly didn't expect that.

The absolutely authentic attitude of Cleese who simply does not follow half a proposition ("I give you money... and ?") contrasts beautifully with the banal stupidity embodied by Terry Jones. "Everyone does this, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever but I fully expect you to do it because everyone does this" is his unspoken line. He's so far gone down the chasm of dumb he can't even articulate what the actual proposition is. But it's "I want you to do something nonsensical because everyone else does it".

The sketch then continues with a re-education bit. Various inanimate objects and incongruous characters "engage in a life or death struggle".

Voice Over (German accent) In the hard and unrelenting world of nature the ceaseless struggle for survival continues. (one of the pantomime horses turns tail and runs out) This time one of the pantomime horses concedes defeat and so lives to fight another day. (cut to stock film of sea lions fighting) Here, in a colony of sea lions, we see a huge bull sea lion seeing off an intruding bull who is attempting to intrude on his harem. This pattern of aggressive behaviour is typical of these documentaries. (cut to shot of two almost stationary limpets)

Here we see two limpets locked in a life or death struggle for territory. The huge bull limpet, enraged by the rock, endeavours to encircle its sprightly opponent. (shot of wolf standing still)

Here we see an ant. This ant is engaged in a life or death struggle with the wolf. You can see the ant creeping up on the wolf on all sixes. (a moving arrow is superimposed) Now he stops to observe. Satisfied that the wolf has not heard him, he approaches nearer. With great skill he chooses his moment and then, quick as a limpet, with one mighty bound (the arrow moves to the wolf's throat; the wolf does not move) buries his fangs in the wolf's neck. The wolf struggles to no avail. A battle of this kind can take anything up to fifteen years because the timber ant has such a tiny mouth. (distant shot of two men fighting violently)

Here we see Heinz Sielmann engaged in a life or death struggle with Peter Scott. They are engaged in a bitter punch-up over repeat fees on the overseas sales of their nature documentaries. (another man joins in) Now they have been joined by an enraged Jacques Cousteau. This is typical of the harsh and bitchy world of television features. (shot of honey bear sitting about aimlessly)

Here we see a honey bear not engaged in a life or death struggle about anything. These honey bears are placid and peaceful creatures and consequently bad television. (shot of pantomime horse running along in a wood) Here we see a pantomime horse. It is engaged in a life or death struggle for a job with a merchant bank. However, his rival employee, the huge bull pantomime horse, is lying in wait for him. (pantomime horse behind tree drops sixteen-ton weight on the horse running under the tree) Poor pantomime horse. (shot of pantomime goose behind a small tree with a bow and arrow)

Here we see a pantomime goose engaged in a life or death struggle with Terence Rattigan. (we see Terrace walking along) The enraged goose fires. (the goose fires and hits Terence in the neck; Terrace looks amazed and dies) Poor Terence. Another victim of this silly film. (shot of an amazing-looking large woman with a crown waiting in the undergrowth by the side of a path)

Here we see an enraged pantomime Princess Margaret, she is lying in wait for her breakfast. (a breakfast tray appears being pulled along the path by a length of wire) The unsuspecting breakfast glides ever closer to its doom. The enraged pantomime royal person is poised for the kill. She raises her harpoon and fires. (the pantomime Princess Margaret does so, hurling the harpoon at the moving tray) Pang! Right in the toast. A brief struggle and all is over. Poor breakfast! Another victim of the.... aargh!

Basically the thing attempts to recode healthy minds into broken records. Supposedly natural moral is somehow invalidated because some random douche (in this case Gilliam) made two papier mache rocks which aren't fighting with each other ha-ha-ha. The timber ant and the wolf, the princess and her breakfast, oh but how incongruous this "fight of life" is hi-hi-hi.

Yes, obviously, I get it, "it's just humor". Sure. Cultural immersion works like this : you take the average schmuck, repeat the same broken record to him every single day in myriad forms and soon enough you have... another socialist. Another idiot wanting to make others "happy", whatever that means. Another idiot solving the problems of others rather than his own simply because going about it this way there's no need to do anything hard. Another idiot who thinks he can "occupy" Wall Street, as if Wall Street gives two shits about his wants. Another lamb figuring themselves Jesus.

Ever since the war this has been going on ceaselessly. I suspect most English speakers are by now so completely immersed in all this goopy nonsense that the two minute hate is just around the corner. Buncha lambsies going baaaa! at the rotating blades.

It will be most satisfactory to watch, honestly. To quote a song I like slightly adapted,

I have seen it in the watch-fires of one million secret camps,
You can see it everywhere - there’s a million tiny stamps;
I can read his righteous sentence under dim or flaring lamps:
The time has finally come.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
The time has finally come.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“All the multitudes that cower shall be fished out by the creel;
For the meek is only here for the strong to have a meal;
It shall be done by dawn.”

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
It shall be done by dawn.

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4 Responses

  1. Ever since the war this has been going on ceaselessly. I suspect most English speakers are by now so completely immersed in all this goopy nonsense that the two minute hate is just around the corner. Buncha lambsies going baaaa! at the rotating blades.

    Unfortunately it would seem a lot of people are kinda caught in the middle of the herd and likely will get swept along, like it or not. The major fault of democracy - mob rule.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 20 November 2012

    Certainly the main disadvantage of "being good" : one is then stuck in whatever herd issued that certificate, and when they go over the cliff they're liable to drag that one along too.

  3. I suspect most English speakers are by now so completely immersed in all this goopy nonsense that the two minute hate is just around the corner. Buncha lambsies going baaaa! at the rotating blades.

    Make sure you save the world Cock Connor.

  1. 4
    The Need to Know Why (via Pingback)
    Wednesday, 21 November 2012

    [...] a recent post, Mircea Popescu discussed a sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I suppose that I must [...]

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