State of denial

A few days ago, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger released two politically charged songs targeting what he sees as the uncertainty and surrealism permeating politics in the age of Brexit and Donald Trump.

One song, titled “England Lost”, represents Jagger’s mocking take on Britain’s split from the European Union. The second, “Get a Grip”, describes an “upside down” world full of “lunatics and clowns”.

“The poet is always right” once said the French poet Louis Aragon. And yes, all this is very disappointing !

On September 16, more than 10 months ago, I published a long-form post on LinkedIn about Brexit talks.

At the time, my feeling was that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and her team were in a dangerous state of denial about the consequences of leaving the bloc. The worry over Britain’s unrealistic expectations was already starting to be a a main topic of discussion on so called “EU27” side.

And, with a bit of irony, I told this old “once upon a time” story :

In Persia many centuries ago, the holy man Nasruddin was arrested after preaching unorthodox teachings in front of the Shah’s palace. Dragged by palace guards to the Shah’s throne room, he was immediately sentenced to death.

As he was being taken away, however, Nasruddin cried out to the Shah: “O great Shah, if you spare me, I promise that within a year I will teach your favourite horse to sing !”

Admiring the audacity of the old man, and being a gamble at heart, the Shah accepted the proposal, promising to execute the sentence if within a year, the horse doesn’t sing.

The next morning, Nasruddin was in the royal stable, starting to teach the royal horse. The animal, however, was more interested in his oats and hay, and ignored him. The grooms and stablehands laughed at him : « You old fool, what have you accomplished by promising to teach the Shah’s horse to sing? You are bound to fail, and when you do, the Shah will not only have you killed – you’ll be tortured as well, for mocking him! »

Nasruddin turned to the groom and replied: « On the contrary, I have indeed accomplished much. Remember, I have been granted another year of life, which is precious in itself. Furthermore, in that time, many things can happen : I might escape. Or I might die anyway. Or the Shah might die, and his successor will likely release all prisoners to celebrate his accession to the throne. Or the horse might die. Or … »

Nasruddin smiled : “or, perhaps the horse will learn to sing ? »

At the time I told this story, ten months ago, I tried to draw optimistic conclusions, stating that what this parable was saying was that whether in personal life, business, or politics, nothing is ever lost in dialogue.

But as I told, there was irony in the story too !

We are fourteen months after the vote …

Whoo !


Iconography : a horse with elaborate saddle and harness being led by a groom, album leaf on paper, India, Mughal dynasty, late 18th century, 23.4 x 17.8 cm © the Trustees of the British Museum, UK. One part of this post was originally published on LinkedIn.


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