If I am asked whether I am more offended by the things most politicians say or the way they say them the answer is yes. Their ponderously empty verbiage is a seamless cloak; the lack of style is the warp and the lack of substance the woof on which these endless sheets of pretentious banality are woven.
Next time you hear one of our would-be Solons droning pompously on, measure their woolly remarks against this quotation I just stumbled across in my late father’s papers. Excusing a pun in a scholarly presentation, he said:
The apparently inappropriate frivolity of my remarks is excused by the Rev. Charles Kingsley: ‘no man feels himself master of his work, unless he can afford to jest about it; and … a frolicsome habit of mind is rather a token of deep, genial, and superabundant vitality, than of a shallow and narrow nature, which can only be earnest and attentive by conscious and serious efforts’.
Kingsley’s remark, published in 1860, unmasks our politicians whose ponderous rhetoric conceals their shallowness rather than revealing their profundity. Should they venture a joke, they would either accidentally illuminate an inconvenient truth, forget what they were talking about, or hit a jarringly offensive note, because their grasp of the moral as well as intellectual import of their material is so feeble.