Friday, 9 July 2010

Efficiency Savings

And so, a new decade has dawned and yet, in contrast to the previous ten years of excess, squander, and living beyond ones means, the spirit of this age has turned out to be ‘thrift’, ‘cost cutting’ and ‘austerity’. To it’s credit the government has turned to the people for ideas on how the bloated deficits of the world’s nations can be slashed, their departments downsized and the over-privileged fat cats of the public sector quangos pulled back from the trough and sent to the slaughterhouse.

In keeping with this zeitgeist I have been thumbing through my books in search of inspiration. Take this example from one of my father’s tomes entitled ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam’ by Yahiya Emerick. Next to a technical diagram showing the major postures of the Islamic prayer is a text box called ‘Ask the Iman’. It reads:

‘When a person or group begins to pray, any angels who are nearby come and join in the prayer. The angels then report back to God and tell him what His servants are doing, though he already knows.

Now this strikes me as a prime example of an unnecessary and frankly gratuitous extra level of bureaucracy. Why Allah the almighty – an omniscient being, let us remember – needs a vast department of cosmic civil servants running around spying on his creations is anyone’s guess; especially when He can read their minds whenever he feels like it. What we see here is state spending out of control; creating unsustainable government jobs merely for the sake of it. Axeing whole of this lower tier of angels would be a considerable efficiency saving and achieve at least a 40% spending cut.

Matters get worse when we refer to the pit of hellfire; probably the worst run subterranean organisation outside of London Underground.

Nineteen angels patrol the summit, their sole role being to push the damned back in when they try to crawl out; a simple electric fence and a coating of Vaseline around the sides of the pit would do the job just as well without having to shell out market rate for 19 jailor’s salaries and their inventory of ‘smiting’ equipment. Furthermore there is no need for seven separate levels of hell fire, particularly when the last of these has to be heated up to 70 times hotter than fire on this planet. A single incinerator with inmates housed at different levels would be much more efficient without sacrificing on the unpleasantness of the overall inmate experience. Here too there is room for some consolidation, for example there is no need for the haughty and the mighty to be subject to different levels of temperature when the facilities can be centralised and standardised.

Nor do there really need to be separate forms of punishments for the damned. According to the book, faultfinders have to ‘scratch their faces with iron nails’, liars have to ‘rip out their cheeks with iron bars’ and greedy ‘will be bitten by snakes’. Instead it would be far cheaper to issue the whole lot with copies of now redundant New Labour papers on ‘Best Practice Strategies in Public Sector Management’ and ‘Controlling Wellbeing in the Work Force’ and have them read passages aloud to one other.

These cuts will be painful on the celestial workforce. Some of them might even join Shaytan and his devils. But it will be a price worth paying for a leaner, more sustainable organisation which will serve as an example to mankind.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Genealogy and Sexual Misdemeanor

The real problem with Darwin’s theory of evolution is that it makes the entire pursuit of genealogy a total laughing stock. As a case in point, somewhere on the wall in my childhood home there hangs a framed certificate. It displays the face of William the Ist of England, a man who –in one of the more audacious pieces of rebranding known to history – began his life with the nickname ‘the bastard’ and ended it as ‘the conqueror’. Underneath his portrait is emblazoned text which proudly proclaims that – according to the findings of the William the Conqueror Society - the Clarke family are related by blood to the man himself, and can presumably bask in all the vicarious glory this entails. Although, in my experience, this rarely impresses anyone down the pub; not least because -thanks to our moribund education system - most of the population have either never heard of him or think he fights for the World Wrestling Federation.

Similarly, the Clarkes are also connected – through a series of poorly documented and implausible ‘begats’ - to the mysterious Kings of Donegal. These fellows apparently took their genealogy very seriously indeed, even going to the lengths of tracing themselves back to Noah. This they achieved by the time honoured and scientific technique of locking the best scholars they could lay their hands on in a room and threatening to execute them if they couldn’t deliver the goods. Sadly you can no longer use this technique on IT departments.

Of course, none of this matters a jot. Thanks to the aforementioned theory of evolution and the discovery of common descent I am now related – not just to William the Conqueror, the Donegal glitterati and the apocryphal Noah – but also to dung beetles, mosquitoes, skunks, tapeworms and genital herpes. In fact I could probably produce a plausible genealogy certificate for every ‘slimy thing’ that crawls ‘with legs upon the slimy sea’. Hopefully the whole ghastly business can be suppressed.

In the past few weeks I have been greatly entertained by the number of marital infidelities that have come to light in the media. These were gleefully documented and regaled to me by my better half as she trawled the ‘Perez Hilton’ blog site. Perhaps in amongst all that celebrity coaching and counselling, Tiger Woods, Ashley Cole and John Terry should have been exposed to the teachings of Sextus the Pythagorean. This –ironically named - 3rd century Stoic advised that those who found it difficult to practice celibacy should castrate themselves, extolling them to 'cast away every part of the body that misleads you to a lack of self control, since it is better for you to live without the part in self control than to live with it to your peril'.

One can take this attitude too far though. At around the same time Sextus was delivering this advice, Arnobius remarked that it blasphemous to believe that Jesus was 'born of vile coitus and came into the light as a result of the spewing forth of senseless semen, as a product of obscene groping’ and extended this to refer to all intercourse as ‘filthy and degrading’. Following this general attitude the Patristic figure Tertullian decided to publicly renounce sexual relations to his wife and composed a lengthy treatise to her, explaining his reasons for doing so and admonishing her to suspend her lustful desires and lead a celibate life. Her reaction sadly has not been recorded for posterity. I can pretty much guarantee that if I tried this with my wife I could expect a harshly worded treatise in reply admonishing me to suspend my abject silliness and take the rubbish out. Quite right too.