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Wednesday 1 June 2016

Working the Angles.

The previous post "Who's the Man," touched on the identity of a character in Iceline, a voice heard over the telephone and referred to as The Man. Suggesting a person of power and influence, but leaving the details of legitimacy vague and unexplored, the insinuation of the context is that the power is illegal and beyond reach of the civil power.

The thought stayed with me and provoked a look at Rudyard Kipling, and his six honest serving men; What, Why, When, How, Where and Who! A handful of troops I've mustered to unravel a number of situations, both fictional and real.

That pushed me towards a veteran British politician;  the late Tony Benn. Elected to the House of Commons as an MP, Benn was forced to stand down when he inherited his father's title and became Viscount Stansgate. He campaigned for the ability to renounce the title and succeeded with the Peerage Act 1963. He returned to the Commons in the Labour Government of 1964. Eventually he would become the oldest member of the Commons; the Father of the House. A member of the Labour party and identified as a Democratic Socialist; Benn was described, probably not by a political ally, as one of the few UK politicians who became more left wing after holding Ministerial office.

My particular interest was piqued by a BBC pod-cast in which has was quoted as having five questions for a tyrannical National Government or Political leader, a test of their legitimacy and authority (Benn's questions are at 13m 00s in part two).

What power do you have?

Where did you get it from?

In whose interest do you exercise it?

To whom are you accountable?

How do we get rid of you?

The questions came up in a BBC World Service pod-cast looking at the "Useful Idiots," a term attributed to Lenin and describing otherwise intelligent people who would lend their support to dictators and tyrants. Part one explores the historical context of those in the west who would extol the virtues of the Soviet system between the two World Wars and ignore the reality of the suffering and incarceration endured by the people.

One of the interviewees is Doris Lessing, Nobel Laureate for Literature and she is frank about her experience as part of a delegation to the Soviet Union in 1952 admitting to her role as a useful idiot. (02:33 in part one of the podcast).

They would be given the polished tour of how wonderful the new Soviet world was and return to the West full of admiration for what they had seen. Part two of the pod-cast looks at more recent examples and in an interesting twist the reporter finds himself standing charged as a "useful idiot" for the BBC.

The questions, scribbled into a notebook and on to a card hanging from the desk light over the desk where I am currently typing may be useful. A tool for a writer to explore a relationship, or power-play between characters, a useful prompt with the parameters adjusted to the fictional universe.

A prompt in the quiet moments, hanging in the air, questions looking for answers and solutions waiting to be located and run to ground.

With the six honest serving men investigating the boundaries between the two characters and determining where, if anywhere, lies the connection between them.

In the meantime, have a listen to the pod-casts. They can be downloaded from the BBC website.

Incidentally, In Benn's eyes the European Union failed the test as a democratic institution, a stance he was not alone in taking hence the considerable number of people in the United Kingdom who are asking; how do we get rid of you?

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