PM Hacker: If it costs £ 5 billion pounds to maintain Britain's nuclear defences, and £75 a year to feed a starving African child, how many African children could be saved from starvation, if the Ministry of Defence abandoned nuclear weapons?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: That’s easy. None. They’d spend it all on conventional weapons.
One is often reminded of PM Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey’s verbal jousting when coming across the kind of laments one sees on social media asking how many hospitals could be built or ventilators bought if India stopped making statues or didn’t have nuclear weapons.
The answer usually is none but that’s not why we are here.
Why are we here? What is the point of it all? Of course, times have changed.
While my father's generation dealt with existential angst by joining the Naxals, we now deal with our ontological issues by outraging on social media about the quality of kombucha available during the lockdown and the paucity of avocados.
Frankly, we are here because, you obviously have nothing better to read on the internet and this author – after spending 30 days alone – is starting to lose his mind.
So, here’s an attempt at what was known back in the newspaper heyday as the third edit, which is as conspicuously absent from today’s newspapers as basic copy editing.
What is a third edit?
A third edit, in Jug Suraiya’s eloquent words: “The ideal third edit is like a snowflake*: a transitory whimsy that is timelessly unique that it can never be replicated. A third edit might deal with any topics---the historical ramifications of the length of Cleopatra’s nose; the cost of a prime ministerial bed; the pleasures of smoking a cigarette made of ‘tomacco’, a hybrid of tomato and tobacco---but what it is really about is itself; it’s not what is said, but how it’s said that makes a third edit. Like a Faberge paper-weight, which would never be used for so mundane a function as holding down sheets of paper, the perfect third edit serves no purpose other than imparting delight to connoisseurs of the genre.”
(*Dear millennials, we are not talking about the modern-day Twitter snowflakes who outrage about lack of diversity amongst tropical beavers.)
The third edit could also be obsolete – like unbiased journalists or the dodo bird – because journalists no longer need to write 300 words to showoff their knowledge. They have a better medium to stoke their amour propre – Twitter. What thrill can writing give us, when one tweet with whatboutery can give a 10,000 RTs.
This is not a third edit, but more a cry for help by a soul who has been self-quarantined for 30 days now and only has Twitter outrages and news to keep him company.
So, to quote, the old Hollywood movies – here goes nothing.
Watch this space.
Ever since he was a kid, Nirmalya Dutta always dreamt he would be the new Bob Dylan. Sadly, he soon realised, he was only a freewheeling brat asking his dad for freebies.
The author is the Web Editor the Free Press Journal and tweets at @nirmalyadutta23.