Monday, November 28th, 2022 09:32:42

Unparliamentary Expressions

Updated: February 4, 2012 12:23 pm

India That Is Bharat

“English as she is spake’’ in our Parliament is unpardonably unparliamentary, it seems to Satiricus. Why otherwise would it be necessary for the Lok Sabha secretariat to bring out a 900-page tome titled Unparliamentary Expressions? Having gone through the recent report about this book Satiricus has come to the conclusion that calling a spade a spade is unparliamentary, calling it an instrument to dig with is not—or, for that matter, calling a barber is unparliamentary, calling him a hairstylist is not. Actually this opens up interesting possibilities for the fine art of how not to tell the truth without telling an untruth. Take, for instance, this injunction of the book—an MP cannot be accused of (giving or taking a) “bribe”. Has not the problem of this inconvenient constraint been satisfactorily solved outside the Parliament? For only the other day some business bigshots publicaly declared that a bribe is not a bribe, it is “facilitation payment” or “ speed money”. Then there is that other injunction—MPs cannot be called “thieves”. Fine, but in that case what about Pritish Nandy describing those MPs who are ministers as running a government of robbers, rogues and rascals? Would it be permissibly parliamentary to split hairs between a thief and a robber? Are thieves and robbers as different as chalk is from cheese, or is there the “same difference” as between tweedledum and tweedledee? Then again, an MP cannot be accused of telling a “lie”—but how about expressing a terminological inexactitude, as some one once truthfully called a lie? To cap it all, the book says an MP cannot be called a “rat”. That is quite right. For the present government run by some of our MPs can certainly not be called a government of rats. It is a government of mice. And finally our MPs cannot be called “fools”. Of course not. Anyone using that obvious word should certainly be made to retract. And there is a previous historical precedent. The reputed 19th-century British essayist Addison was an MP, and once he said, “Half the Members of Parliament are fools.” Naturally there was a righteous uproar, and it was demanded that he withdraw the unparliamentary expression. Addison was contrite, and said, “I’m sorry. I take back my words. Half the Members of Parliament are not fools.”

Fast Food For Thought

Satiricus has been told that the way to a man’s heart lies through his stomach. What Satiricus has not been told is that the way to a man’s brain can also lie through his stomach. More specifically, he has been shown that a hamburger is actually an educational aid. He is not joking. For it has been recently reported that a college in Mumbai is planning to attract online applicants for admission by offering them gift coupons with which they can get a free burger at McDonald’s. Well, now, isn’t that fast food for thought? Maybe this palatable principle could be subjected to some culinary categories. For example, if a burger is good for biology, a pizza could be good for poetry and garlic bread for grammar. But there may be a slight problem. It is that burgers, pizzas et al are known as junk food, and recently researchers in Britain have found that eating junk food lowers a child’s IQ. They carried out a study of 4000 kids and found that children over the age of four eating a diet of processed food, fat and sugar have a lower brain power at the age of eight, and the damage is permanent. But that is okay. For the boys going to this particular college for a free burger are not under eight, so there is no fear of their low IQ sinking still lower. And in any case who needs brain power to get a college degree? At least Satiricus didn’t. Still a college is an educational institution, and education begins with the Rs. Then how about a coupon for Rice and Roti?

Artificial Intelligence

Many years ago, the government of Japan had tried to use the computer to formulate its foreign policy. What came of it Satiricus does not know. But now Britain’s Prime Minister is reportedly going to use a special iPad app to help him run his government. Satiricus is not surprised. For with every passing day it is becoming clear to him that a machine of any type is always better at a man’s job than a man doing that job. In fact, he is actually looking forward to the day when some machine will take over the job of writing this column—and produce a better column. Then Satiricus can happily sit back—and get up only to get the cheque.

But can a machine or a robot or a computer or what have you take over the government of India? Satiricus doubts. For in the first place a machine cannot be bribed, even when it is called speed money, as speed is in its very nature. Secondly, it may not be equipped with secular circuitry with which to distinguish and differentiate between “secular” and “oh-so-secular”. As a result, it might treat Hindus on par with Muslims—which would be a communal calamity. And thirdly, despite its formidable artificial intelligence it may not be savyy enough to know the going market rate for a politician on sale. The only saving grace may be the report that somebody is teaching robots to crawl like babies. We could certainly use a robot that crawls tomorrow like the government that crawls today.

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