It has come to our notice that some Parliamentary Committee or other has suggested replacing the Order of the British Empire with an Order of British Excellence.
I was rather amused by the term “excellence”. My dear friend Miss Falconer once greeted the statement that some Americans have a sense of honour with the terse comment: “Honour? They can't even spell it.”
While this may be unfair to Americans, it is hardly unfair to anyone to say that when members of the Commissariat speak of “excellence”, not only have they no notion of the concept, but they probably think the word has an apostrophe in it somewhere*.
I wonder if you have ever had the misfortune to enter a classroom in an urban Comprehensive school. You probably were not aware of it at the time, as it will not have resembled anything you might understand by the term “classroom”; however, if you have ever found yourself puzzling as to whether you were in the Riot Incitement Workshop at an Al Quaeda training camp or the monkey-house at Chessington Zoo, that would have been said classroom. My reason for evoking such a painful memory is to point out that this is the sort of thing the Commissariat has in mind when it uses the term “excellence”.
I can fully understand the desire to expunge the term “British Empire”. Not only is that Empire defunct, but its decaying hub is now preparing itself to become a minor colony of the Franco-German Empire, complete with a joyless but fatalistic acceptance of all the indignities of colonial rule and a dark foreboding that while “colonial exploitation and tyranny” may be a lie about the past, it is the truth about the future.
However, with all due respect (I leave the reader to divine the exact connotation of this expression), may I suggest that “Excellence” is not the word these wallahs are groping for. If I may be permitted to do my bit for the Cockney Raj, may I suggest the Order of British Enervation as the perfect solution. It sounds sufficiently like “innovation” to satisfy the official penchant for vague dynamism; its actual meaning is precisely accurate; and the word is so scholarly (by village-schoolmistress standards) that no New Brit will know the difference.
Returning to our Parliamentary Committee (which may or may not be a relief after the Danteesque vision of a Comprehensive Classroom), another suggestion was that knighthood be removed from what was termed “the mainstream honours list”, while it was conceded that it might still be awarded by the Sovereign as a personal gift.
I for one heartily welcome this suggestion, the possible implication of which is that, instead of a Commissariat-sponsored list of political hacks, millionaire spivs and corroders of the social fabric passing as “entertainers” of one stripe or another, the dignity of knighthood would be conferred only on a small group of individuals of genuine quality and merit selected by the Sovereign herself. Of course such a group would be very small. Perhaps even negligible.
But given the nature of the times, that really goes without saying, doesn't it?
* The reader may be tempted to dismiss this remark as a hyperbole. However I have it on good authority from a senior civil servant that in his Department (i.e. Ministry), communications from minsterial level now adopt the “safe course” of employing no apostrophes at all, because nobody is sure exactly where they should go.
I reiterate — this is not a joke. It is actually happening. [Return]
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