Category Archives: Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell)

The pleasures of denunciation

Young people, Dalrymple writes, are creating

a totalitarian environment in which they denounce one another.

Thus

the social media that were going to set opinion free and give voice to everyone end by stifling expression and creating fear.

The world is full of people like Madame Defarge. Denunciation, Dalrymple notes,

combines the delights of self-righteousness with those of revenge and the contemplation of the discomfort or worse of other people. It requires no courage and is within the capacity of all. In Nazi Germany and occupied France people wrote denunciations of their neighbours and others by the millions, often for the sheer pleasure of doing so and usually in the hope that they would have serious consequences for the persons denounced.

The day cannot be far off

when people will viscerally understand the danger to themselves of saying certain things on social media and will censor themselves automatically. If this continues long enough, certain things will not only become unsayable but unthinkable, for habit eventually is transformed into character. This is the point of political correctness: it aims at the most radical of dictatorships, that which requires the enforcement of no police because everyone is incapable of breaking the rules.

Meanwhile the appetite for public expressions of contrition is insatiable. Dalrymple points out that

it is not contrition that is wanted, but the humiliation inflicted on those who are forced to express it. The enjoyment is in the spectacle of the squirming of the wrongdoer.

The logic of the combination of social media and a taste for burning witches at the stake

will reduce us to a strange state of malice and blandness. The ambitious will refrain from saying anything that could offend anyone; the bland will lead the bland. Any deviation from current orthodoxy will be punished with vengeful vituperation or worse.

The orthodoxy to be adhered to

will change — as the enemy changed during the two-minute hate sessions in Nineteen Eighty-Four — as a test of the obedience and loyalty of the population. The politically correct will find new orthodoxies to enforce, new locutions to prescribe or proscribe, to keep decent society in a state of subliminal fear.

Surely no human existence can be as empty of meaning as this

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-28-10From time to time Dalrymple receives invitations to attend conferences on something called medical leadership. The invitations ask,

Do you want to be a leader?

The answer, in Dalrymple’s case, is

No.

The latest conference on medical leadership, Dalrymple reports,

has 80 speakers and lasts three days. The organisers seem to believe that the longer the conference and the larger the number of speakers on so patently dull a subject, the more impressive it is, no doubt in the way that a big box of chocolates impresses a greedy person more than a small one. All things considered, I’d rather stay at home and read the collected works of Kim Il-sung.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-25-28Dalrymple looks at the biographical details of a couple of the speakers, taken from the list at random.

Mr R.

is founding Director of Harthill Consulting. His extensive practitioner background includes working with senior leaders from organisations such as Fujitsu, Danone, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Volvo, Eli Lilly and Microsoft. Co-author of HBR’s award-winning article ‘Seven Transformations of Leadership’ (April 2005) it has since consistently been named as one of HBR’s ‘Top 10 Must Reads’ on Leadership. He recently co-authored and contributed to the large-scale 2015 PwC study on leader transformation and retention. His expertise is exploring leadership as a process of evolving ‘wisdom’ — enabling individuals to integrate discernment, courage, power and compassion.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-31-37Ms A.-M.

is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Chief Executive of Real World Group (a University of Leeds spin-out company). She is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Business and Enterprise, University of Southern Queensland. She has been working with Real World Group for the past 15 years, supporting leadership development with both individuals and groups up to Board level globally. She has a particular passion for a focus on positive psychology and diversity & inclusion in leadership. She has helped establish Real World Group’s approach to Engaging Leadership, based on uniquely proven research involving tens of thousands of people across the world, and has authored or co-authored most of Real World Group’s diagnostic instruments. The research she has been involved with has established the common sense but often missing behaviours that distinguish leaders from managers, and effective leadership among teams and organisations. They are factors that drive productivity in a sustainable way, even when resources are diminishing. As a result of her research and experience in working with organisations, she has been invited to speak at international and national conferences, and consults on behalf of Real World Group with organisations from the UK, North America, South East Asia and the wider Asia Pacific region. She has worked extensively in Higher Education, including at leading Universities and with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. She has authored and co-authored a number of articles in practitioner and peer-reviewed journals, as well as book chapters in academic books by leading publishers on leaders’ career development. She is Co-Chair of the Steering Group of the government sponsored Engage For Success movement (www.engageforsuccess.org) and the editorial committee of the International Congress on Leadership, Management and Governance. She has an MSc in Occupational Psychology from the University of London, Birkbeck College and an MSc in Positive Organization Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-22-57In case, says Dalrymple, the above

should be insufficiently enticing to prospective attendees,

it is explained why they should attend the conference:

Be a part of the first Leaders in Healthcare conference, which will bring together both the future generation and most senior of healthcare professionals and managers. The event aims to focus on the leadership challenges all nations face in healthcare to improve the care we deliver for our patients. Learn about and be part of widespread discussions including standards, professionalism and the opportunity for a step change in quality, the leadership challenges facing healthcare on a national and international scale and how we, as a profession, will face these, and contemporary leadership theory from international experts. Attend interactive workshops and hear from inspiring speakers exploring the essentials of what you need to know to continually grow your leaderships skills, how innovation in healthcare can change the way we work, and how medical education can improve leadership, clinical performance and patient safety. Represent the voice of medical students by planning your leadership skills development at an early stage of your career. Explore sessions to understand the essentials of leadership and how to take charge of your own development, and network with peers and senior medical leaders. Develop essential skills for being an effective leader who can motivate and inspire others in the team, influence the way care is given, ensuring it is high quality, compassionate and responds to individual needs, and network with the full spectrum of healthcare leaders from all professional backgrounds. Network with a broad range of healthcare professionals, develop a shared understanding of what good leadership is and how working together can benefit service delivery and patient care, consider how we can encourage greater involvement of healthcare professionals, service users, communities and the general public in shaping healthcare services that are fit for purpose, and network in a unique multi-professional healthcare leadership event embracing all levels and sectors. Leaders in Healthcare 2016 welcomes other professionals who share our passion for excellence in leadership and management.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-38-20After reading a few lines of such prose, Dalrymple’s mind

goes fuzzy as if I were suffering from a hangover, or as if an almost physical shutter comes down in my brain, just as it does on reading a paragraph of Kim Il-sung. The prose destroys my capacity, even my will, to concentrate or fix my mind on anything. My remaining thoughts are fleeting and desultory: ‘Can anyone really have a passion for diversity and inclusion in leadership?’ or ‘What can the life of someone who does have such a passion be like?’ I try to imagine it, but nothing comes to mind. Surely no human existence could be as empty of meaning as that.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-23-09Then Dalrymple begins to wonder what Alexander the Great or Napoleon would have made of the conference on leadership.

Would they have been able to reach a shared understanding of what good leadership is? If Alexander had only been better able to integrate compassion into his discernment, courage, and power, would he have found new worlds to conquer? If Napoleon had learned about leader transformation, would he have crowned himself emperor earlier in his career than he did?

Who would pay good money for such a conference?

The taxpayer. He would not attend the conference himself, of course, but he would pay for employees to attend it who needed or desired a three-day break from their work in a public hospital or as part of their mandatory continuing professional development. He would also pay the fees of the speakers, some of them flown in from distant lands.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-40-36The attendees, Dalrymple notes, would learn about something called lean management, one definition of which is as follows:

If someone tells you that ‘lean management is this’ and not something else, if someone puts it in a box and ties a bow around it and presents it in a neat package with four walls around it, then that someone knows not of what they speak. Why? Because it is in motion and not a framed picture hanging on the wall. It is a melody, a rhythm, and not a single note.

This, says Dalrymple, is

the mysticism of apparatchiks, the romanticism of bureaucrats, the poetry of clerks. From my limited observations of management in public hospitals and other parts of the public health care system, it seeks to be not lean, in the commonly used sense of the word, but fat, indeed as fat as possible; nor are large private institutions very much different.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-43-08We have entered, writes Dalrymple,

gradually and without any central direction or decree, a golden age of langue de bois or of Newspeak. Langue de bois is the pompous, vague, and abstract words that have some kind of connotation but no real denotation used by those who have to hide their real motives and activities by a smokescreen of scientific- or benevolent-sounding verbiage. Newspeak is the language in Nineteen Eighty-Four whose object is to limit human minds to a few simple politically permissible thoughts, excluding all others, and making doublethink — the frictionless assent to incompatible propositions—part of everyday mentation.

Langue de bois and Newspeak

are no longer languages into which normal thought must be translated; rather they have become the languages in which thought itself, or rather cerebral activity, takes place, at least in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that rules us. If you ask someone who speaks either of them to translate what he has said or written into normal language, it is more than likely he will be unable to do so: His translation will be indistinguishable from the words translated.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-49-41It is therefore clear that,

where culture is concerned, the Soviet Union scored a decisive and probably irreversible victory in the Cold War.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-52-17