Tuesday 24 July 2012

The Russians are coming!

I picked up this story about pensioners in rehab yesterday. As Janet Street-Porter points out, rehab is a relatively new invention, so it's impossible to conjure up any meaningful statistic to compare current geriatric alcohol dependency today with the situation decades ago. She refers to Joan Bakewell as Tsarina for the elderly - and that's what's getting my goat today. Why Tsar or Czar, to give it its more usual modern spelling, in the first place? Why not Chief, or Manager, or Adviser, or any of the other perfectly acceptable English words to describe the function?

Remember Keith Hellawell Labour's 1990s Drugs Czar? I do, because he's the first one I really remember. The title annoyed me then and it annoys me now, but now they're everywhere. We have Czars in our eyes and reach for the Czars. Czars for this and Czars for that, Czars for tit and Czars for tat. Czars for cancer, Czars for industry, Czars for immigration, Czars for bars, Czars for cars, cars for Czars, and no doubt a Street Czar named Desire.

Back then the term just confused and annoyed me, but now I've got Google... and Wikipedia. And it turns out it's all the fault of the USA, and it's a much older phenomenon than I'd imagined. Over there the term was adopted early in the twentieth century and has clung on despite the ridiculous connotations with Imperial Russia and despite the public opprobium heaped on such transparent chronyism. Why not just call them government stooges and be done with it?

I'm not sure I can recall a single case of a so-called Czar's role ever coming to any helpful conclusion... which is bizarre. So, should we send all the Czars to Zanzibar? Clearly, we need to look into the effectiveness of the system, to which end I propose we appoint one, last key Czar to oversee the study. This is a search to rediscover the nation's soul, so it's very important we choose the name carefully.

Soul Czar.

Repeat after me and say it loud: soul czar, soul czar, soul czar,soul czar soul...

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