…from the quill of Antisthenes
A long time ago, when I could not speak English but very much wanted to, I, in order to educate myself, used to buy various magazines only heard of in my native country. It was not easy to select wisely, considering my limited income, even though the foreign publications at the time were relatively cheap. (Later the Australian dollar went down and so the prices went up, but when our dollar went up; guess what? The prices went up. Today one can borrow some politically correct overseas publications in libraries.)
I sought the advice of natives and it was recommended to me to buy Playboy, strictly for its articles and to apply an advertisement test to the others. I was to peruse the advertisements in any given publication and consider to whom they are addressed, in particular if I have anything whatsoever in common with the addressees or if I would ever want to. The assumption was that the advertising agencies knew what they were doing and would not waste their clients’ money too obviously. Advertising a black powder reloading electronic scales in Women’s Weekly would probably be a good example. By and large, the test works. Try it sometime.
The formerly serious magazine, The Economist, which a discerning reader today does not read for its articles, but only for its graphs and statistics, air-brushed as they may be, is a perfect proof. On page 14 of the Economist of 20th August this year is the advertisement by International Finance Corporation – World Bank Group for “Global Head of Knowledge”. It is not a joke. Soon, in Washington DC in one of the many plush offices of the World Bank there will sit a human being called the Global Head of Knowledge. In case you are wondering what he or she, very likely she, is supposed to pretend to do – “The GKO’s goals are to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of business operations, strengthen industry and functional expertise, establish global thought leadership in private sector development, and create sustainable knowledge and learning culture on a corporate and departmental level.” GKO is Global Knowledge Office, which, with a bit of luck and usual public apathy, will soon have a monopoly of knowledge. I like “global thought leadership” and “sustainable knowledge”. Unsustainable knowledge does not last long, in my humble opinion, but, enforced by the “global thought police” a.k.a. the UN, it might.
It is a long time ago since somebody asked me at a party, “what do you do for a living?” Or “what do you do for a crust?” Nowadays, the question is likely to be, “still alive, then?” But can you imagine having to answer, “oh, I’m the Global Head of Knowledge”? Surely somebody would call the men in white coats. In my time, yes; now the men in white coats are in charge of the World Bank™ and of The Economist.