SALLY SALT: Who are you really? Baron Munchausen isn't real. He's only in stories.
BARON MUNCHAUSEN: Go away! I'm trying to die.
BARON: Because I'm tired of the world. And the world is evidently tired of me.
SALLY: But why? Why?
BARON: Because it's all logic and reason now. Science. Progress. Laws of hydraulics. Laws… of social dynamics. Laws of this, that… and the other. No place for three-legged cyclops… in the South Seas. No place… for cucumber trees… and oceans of wine. No place for me.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Terry Gilliam, 1988)
Increasingly, I see myself morphing into a latter-day version of Baron Munchausen, the fictional fabulist whose tall tales and extraordinarily impossible adventures seemed to paint the rationalism of his Eighteenth Century into sharp relief. Terry Gilliam’s 1988 production starring John Neville is one of my fondest movies and, at heart, I’ve always stood on Munchausen’s side of reality.
My child-like view of things just doesn’t cope well with the weird, authoritarian and quite joyless ways that people in charge of other people construct purposeless, labyrinthine and abstract methods of controlling work. I have no grasp of the rigid, tightly-structured world they inhabit. I’ve long believed that this was done to simply provide those in charge with their psychopathic fix of exerting humiliating power over others and wanting to stamp their PowerPoint-bulleted brand on the souls of those whom they command. I saw it as a result of individuals – a lot of individuals, mind you – rather than something systemic. Now, I’m coming to the realisation that it’s something even darker: it’s a viral joylessness. An infection of the spirit. One that insists on rules and laws and narrow, reductive ways of doing things. It spreads on the tongues of managers and festers in the very desperate being of those who’ve been relentlessly taught to servetheir whole lives. It feeds on apathy and fear. And it is wrong.
If something is joyless then it is definitely something to resist. The choice is stark: resist or serve.
I will continue to resist.
In the movie, the Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson, the rationalist leader of the war campaign against the Turks encounters the Baron and tells him “I’m afraid, sir, you have rather a weak grasp of reality.” Without hesitation, the Baron retorts: “Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash… and I’m delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!”
Your reality, sir… Your reality.