David Bouchier

The Chinese leaders have been studying George Orwell again. They have devised a new plan for what they call “social credit,” which will be a kind of ranking by good or bad behavior. Citizens with good social credit will receive privileges like better jobs, access to travel visas, and cheaper insurance. Those with bad social credit will get a much less agreeable experience. How will the Chinese government know who’s naughty and who’s nice? By monitoring their internet use.

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Not everybody enjoys paying taxes. Some citizens regard them as a kind of legalized robbery. They agree with Tom Paine who said, when income tax was introduced in 1792, “What at first was plunder has assumed the softer name of revenue.” Just as medieval kings brutally robbed their citizens to finance their wars and comfortable lifestyles, so the democratic monarchs of the present age have found less violent means to the same ends. The extreme anti-tax position embraces a kind of anarchy in which central government ceases to exist, and only the fittest survive.

When I was a very junior journalist the news cycle was literally a cycle – my form of transportation from one local story to another. The news was delivered as fast as it took me to finish my reporting rounds, pedal back to the office, and type it. This took time, but we had the time, and there never was much news anyway.

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Italy is a theatrical nation, the home of grand opera and operatic politics, as well as a population who perform life as if every night was an opening night. It was therefore not surprising to read about a village near Siena called Monticchiello in which the inhabitants, every year, stage a theatrical performance in which they act out the dramas and anxieties of their own lives. The script is put together by the community during the winter and then staged in summer with villagers playing themselves.

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Nobody loves a complainer. Complaining is a whiny, weak, ineffective habit, not likely to produce any result except irritation. The modern world demands something more. A grievance must be inflated until it reaches the level of outrage, at which point it becomes worthy of media attention. Residents’ complaints over (say) broken elevators in a public housing project are not worth any attention. Anger, outrage, and perhaps violence over discrimination that leaves poor people to struggle up flights of stairs in the summer heat quickly attracts the cameras and the commentators, already pumped up with fury on their behalf – an emotion that is about as real as the passion of an actor playing King Lear.