Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Jolly Hockey Sticks
Enid Blyton was recently voted the UK’s most loved author by some literary pole or other. I must have been about eight or nine when I moved on from the Famous Five and the ‘Adventure’ series. Living in a council house in a village in the mining districts of south Durham, I suppose the books represented a safe escape from those restrictive circumstances. But they also contained an element of the exotic for they described a tribe beyond my comprehension. It was an early introduction to social anthropology, if you like. They had their own, distinctive mores, a freedom from adult intervention and a lingo that seemed both of my world and not in the sense that I got the drift but not the nuance. I can’t honestly remember to what degree they used words like spiffing, wizard and jolly hockey sticks but, even if these outbursts of pleasurable excitement never actually appeared on the page, they existed between the lines.
On the BBC’s science web site today, reference is made to the recent triangulation of whole sets of data regarding global warming. The initial hypothesis, in 1998, based somewhat on tree-ring theory, suggested that after a thousand or more years of steady state (the handle of the hockey stick) there was an abnormal recent upsurge of global temperature (the bit that hits the puck). Scientists who owed their living to either the US Government or the vested interests that drove that government, sought to discredit the hockey stick hypothesis, even demanding disclosure of scientists’ bank accounts, thus insinuating that the hockey stick was paid for by a conspiracy of loony, renegade lefties. Bush made speeches of denial and all the US industries that poured toxic gases into the atmosphere gave more funding to the Republican Party – and any research that would take the hockey stick out of the global picture.
Denial is something humans are rather good at. At one extreme it can make us noble and heroic in appalling circumstances but at the other it can make us greedy, uncaring and dangerous. The thousands of senior managers and the millions of workers in dirty industries, who owe their living to Government patronage, take their wages without protest, even as they deny to themselves that the work they are doing has the potential to make their children’s and grandchildren’s futures a rabid misery. And even those of us who are not quite so obviously morally unclean deny that we are culpable, even as we put technology on standby or leave the tap running as we clean our teeth or run the car a half mile to the shops.
Thus it is that Enid Blyton is our favourite author. Her hockey stick is jolly and innocent. Her world is environmentally perfect, a pleasure ground for young adventurers. Reading her books amounts to entering a nirvana of denial.