April 18, 2016
April 12, 2016
This Be the Panama Papers
by Henderson Downing
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the cash they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By lawyers hiding coins and notes,
Who hid their shares and all they earn,
enough to buy you extra votes.
Man hands on property to man.
Amnesia deepens like offshore wealth.
Salvage your reputation if you can,
And publish your tax returns yourself.
(With apologies to Philip Larkin.)
‘Admit anything you safely can…deny everything else…and you’re all right.’
(1) Trippingly off the forked tongue of Harold Adrian Russell Philby, also known as Kim, thereby concluding his address to the assembled bureaucrats of the Stasi, also known as the East German secret police.
Philby, formerly a high ranking officer in Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, defected to the Soviet Union in 1963. Converted to the Communist cause in the 1930s (greatly Depressed decade of disillusion with capitalism), for decades he routinely passed on top secret information to Moscow contacts.
He lived a further quarter century on the other side of the Iron Curtain, where he was accorded privileges pertaining to a KGB officer but also regarded with suspicion. Some of Kim’s ‘comrades’ saw him as a turncoat who had never fully turned.
Beginning his speech with a True Brit bit of self-deprecation (no public speaker am I; my whole life spent avoiding publicity), Philby’s speaking voice is the baritone of Britain’s ruling class (pater governed millions as district commissioner in India, before ‘going native’ and turning to Islam). Frequently fruity with occasional Noel Coward cadences – syllables rising like soufflés above their stationary function.
But for all the variations, gradations between sonorous and sylph-like, Philby’s delivery remained consistently theatrical, deliberately demonstrative – until the final four words:
‘And you’re all right’.
These words are lighter, less commanding. Not propelled as in previous pronouncements but drifting like smoke in the direction of Philby himself. As if in that moment he is talking mainly to himself, reassuring himself or trying to that decades of double cross could not have been all wrong.
But jaw muscles tightening, fidgety fingers more mouth-hiding than chin-stroking; such involuntary gestures mirror his private uncertainty.