Now my charms are all o’erthrown —
Or, the trouble with making things up …
And what strength I have’s mine own
Which is most faint.
Aye there’s the rub.
For what strength has he that were ever his own
save for that he had first stol’en.
Using « spirits to enforce », « art to enchant » ;
painting busses, zip-line tangos, work-events.
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destructions
Sorcerer of death’s construction
— Black Sabbath
Which might well be why Eddie Mair’s reminder to, really reproach of, Boris Johnson on The Andrew Marr Show in 2013, so whilst he was Mayor of London, that « The Times let you go after you made up a quote », might remain the most damning indictment of him. At first glance, it might be somewhat surprising that fabricating quotes about the life of a late-13th century aristocrat would take precedence over lying about an affair or, even worse, giving out a phone number so that a potential violent crime could occur. Simon Hoggart certainly thought so, capturing this sentiment in his commentary for The Guardian: « I can understand why he shouldn’t have lied to Michael Howard or helped a friend who wanted to beat up a journalist. But how could a ‘sandpapered’ quote about Edward II’s lover get a man sacked in the late 20th century? »
But this is where Hoggart fails to see in this seemingly-innocuous act (at least to him) that which reveals the most: Boris Johnson would go to any lengths to write his own narrative.
To piffle. Or, de Pfeffel … if you must.
The trouble with making things up is that you have to have a good memory; and it really helps to not be saying different things to journalists. Oh, but how else to get into the papers: « Lonely, I’m My Lonely / I have nobody for my own … » (Bobby Vinton).
He really should have listened to Kenny Rogers: « You’ve got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em / Know when to walk away / And know when to run ». But we always also knew he only listens to, is solely capable of hearing, the sound of his own voice.
Especially when it is uttering « whiff whaff ».
Sometimes form and content do come together.
And if we were feeling a little New-Agey, one might even say he was learning to listen to himself: for, to be Boris is to fight, to overcome (from the Slavic root *bor-). Since we’re already here, we might as well go the whole hog (hey Hameron) and be all millennial-chic: perhaps by attuning his antennae to his inner being (quite possibly when he was in that fridge), Johnson discovered that his raison d’être is to defend men (from the Greek, Alexandros), and thus has to stand his ground, stay-the-course, not back-down.
Well that bloody Boris …
He just won’t go away!
— Miriam Margolyes
Even if, to Johnson, the only man (andros) that counts is, well, him: « when I am King/ You will be the first against the wall ».
Ah, you little paranoid android.
Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking and squealing Gucci little piggy
The risk, though, with listening too much to oneself is that you might just fall into a hole (from PIE root *bhorh-). See: he had long told us that he were a boor. If only we had learnt to listen, to see what was lying right in front of noses.
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
— Pink Floyd
It is often tempting to compare Johnson to Donald Trump but that would be making a grave error. Not because they are actually different — we should resist attempting to comfort ourselves with the notion that unlike Trump who doesn’t know that he doesn’t know what he is doing, Johnson is merely putting on a performance, that behind the mask lies some sort of mastermind, that it’s all part of some overall strategy — but that they are, as our Thai friends might say, same same but different. And here, we should try not to forget this phrase is usually utilised by a shopkeeper when you ask said person why they were trying to sell you something you just saw a few minutes ago at a higher price: this means there is no actual difference in this « different », that the two objects that said vendor is attempting to sell you at a higher price is the same one, might as well be the very same one; that the only reason (s)he can say that it is same same but different is the fact that the situation is now different (such as between the US and the UK), that it is different simply because (s)he is telling you it is different (hence the need for the two sames, for the tautological set-up). And the very surplus that (s)he is attempting to conjure will only exist if you manage to see behind the façade that they are the same object.
In short, if you manage to generate the difference by telling yourself that they are different. That you shouldn’t trust your eyes because there is something more you will be able to see, if only you tried.
He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you.
He really is an idiot.
— Groucho Marx
But that we should resist this temptation to equivocate Johnson and Trump as it gives the former a too-easy pass: for, by being Le petit Trump he gets to hide behind the shadow of the Moron-in-Chief.
Instead, we should try never to forget: Boris Johnson is his very own idiot.
And perhaps, we also shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, beat ourselves too much about being taken in by his buffoonery, by him performing the idiot that he is for us. For, as Jean Baudrillard remains to teach us, « the great stars or seductresses never dazzle because of their talent or intelligence, but because of their absence. They are dazzling in their nullity … ».
They seduce us by letting themselves be whatever we want them to be.
Completely and utterly empty.
And we were all — quite literally — awestruck.
Which might well be why climate-change deniers (the true beliebers, not the cynical ones who play-along for personal gains like certain politicians, industrialists, academics, lobbyists, talk-show hosts) refuse to even consider the possibility of its validity, refuse to even look at, turn their heads towards, catch a glimpse of, what is going on around them. For they know that once you look at a car-crash, train-wreck, any catastrophe, you’ll never be able to turn-away again.
But, if we were to be a touch empathetic, and why not (we can’t all be like Johnson), one can feel a little for the boorishness: unlike his namesake, it took him a full 22 years longer to reach his pinnacle. To further rub salt into the wound — as Sid Waddell continues to remind us — Eric Bristow was only 27.
And speaking of that burning ambition, the only thing one cannot accuse Johnson of is being an amateur. Not because he is completely incompetent at (any of) his jobs: of course he is. But that to be an amateur one has to be doing something out of love (amore) — that we know he certainly doesn’t. For Johnson only does something when there is something from it to gain, be it power, status, position, or (usually ‘and’) money. In that sense, one might even say that Boris Johnson is the consummate professional, that being professional consumes him. As long as we also take note that this professional has absolutely nothing to profess: he might very well have been on the minds of Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz when they penned their immortal lyric, « you say it best when you say nothing at all ».
Oh, that sinking feeling … by now probably funny, familiar, and forgotten, at exactly the same time, too … oh sing it Mr Humperdinck …
Don’t believe in yourself, don’t deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death’s release
Aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah
— David Bowie
But even as he should have long been sacked — perhaps even thrown into a sack (especially since Johnson be so fond of being in the sack) — one should never completely fully count him out. After all, it be rather hard to hold down a greased-pig (hey David, again).
If you want to see what bulletproof Teflon looks like,
you just have to look at Boris Johnson’s political career.
— Lim Lee Ching
But, like with all things, we can only hope …
Can’t you see it in my eyes?
That this might be our last goodbye
… well vote, yes vote too.
One can imagine that after wanting to be — « since he was about 4 years old », as his sister, Rachel, has told us — « World King » for such a long time, as he steps over the threshold of No 10, Boris Johnson would be muttering to himself:
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
And we’ll all be saying is:
oh « we’ll release [you] from [your] bands / with the help of [our] good hands » …
… now piss off already …
And everything is green
— Pink Floyd
About the Author
Jeremy Fernando reads, writes, and makes things.
One could well say that « looking at a dining table » and, « instead of thinking about dinner », inventing a game is hardly a good thing — and might well explain the state of English cuisine — but why let such facts get in the way of a good story. Johnson certainly wouldn’t.
 This maxim probably best heard in the voice of our favourite Slavic philosopher Slavoj Žižek.
 « When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … Bristow’s only 27 » (Sid Waddell)
 « when he was about 4 years old, he told a family friend — when asked what he wanted to be when you grow up — ‘World King’ »: youtube.com/watch?v=DmjLUKSEOqU
Photograph by Hello I’m Nik (Unsplash).