A world in which no one is responsible for anything

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 00.05.44Telephoning a newspaper for which he has been writing for some years, Dalrymple is forced to listen to an automated answering announcement. It is made

by a woman with a terrible nasal whine, the kind of voice that is increasingly chosen for public announcements in Britain and nowhere else in the world.

The voice says:

Switchboard is very busy today.

Dalrymple comments:

Switchboard has been very busy today for several years. The lie is in the today, with its implication that other days are different. They never are. But if taken literally, it might be true that switchboard was very busy today as every day (because of an inadequate system, say). This is an admirable example, from a phenomenological perspective, of telling the truth and a lie at the same time, and in the same words.

The voice,

half-slut, half-harridan, requests callers not to ask for the e-mail addresses of individuals working at the newspaper.

This is because, the voice says,

we will not be able to help.

Dalrymple remarks:

No doubt there is a good reason why e-mail addresses should not be given out incontinently. The world is full of maniacs. But ‘not able to help’ confuses unwillingness with inability and encourages a world in which no one is responsible for anything, where there is no distinction between can’t and won’t.

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