It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it
Graeme is with a merchant bank; the bank is run by faintly soiled European people with chin beards and wandering wives; the money it handles is tainted with narcotics, exploitation and misery, but Graeme does not feel diminished by this in any way. His flat, muddy eyes are filled with visions of Porsches and equity. He is wearing thick hateful corduroys and a cornflower-blue Charvel shirt, and his right eye twitches frantically, scanning the room for negotiable instruments. One day you will meet him, in a moneyed room not quite on Eaton Square, furnished just-so, smelling of wine and impermanence; you will meet him, and hate him, but you won't have the balls to shout "Twitch at me, would you, you grim rapacious swine?" and nut him in the face, so he will seize his chance. "And what do you do?" he will say.
Young people! This will happen! Believe me! Have a boiled sweet, and listen! I know you are only interested in Bros, and motorbikes, and drainpipe jackets, but listen. When Graeme asks you what you do, there are some things you just cannot say. You cannot say you are in Small Claims, or Goods Inward, or that you are Stationary Supplies Manager for the Halifax. You cannot say that you are the PR man for Connex South Eastern (although, curiously enough, you can say that you are the PR man for Mohammed "al" Fayed). You cannot say that you are an inner- city GP, or a chemistry teacher, a designer of conveyor-belt drive systems, an optician, or the north-ern regional sales manager of anything at all. And most of all, you cannot, must not, ever, ever say: "Well, Graeme, for my sins, I am in toilet paper."
It's an unfair world. Someone has to be in toilet paper. But, young people, do not let it be you, or you will end up like the Toilet Paper People. I do not know the Toilet Paper People, but I can tell you that they are wracked with unease, desperate for assurance, so anxious to attenuate the social consequences of their honourable trade that they have called in the services of the Mission-Statement Men. Go into Fatty Arbuckle's bar'n'restaurant, and then, after your delicious Fatty's 24oz Belly-Buster has done its noble work, visit the house of easement. And there, on the wall, you will see the bog-roll holder and its terrible message. "Chemical Express," it says. "Helping Create A Cleaner World."
So sad. So vulgar. So full of jaunty bom- bast, yet so doomed to failure, drawing attention to the very thing it was designed to conceal: that behind every roll of toilet paper, there are Toilet Paper People, living lives of quiet desperation, in fear that, one day, they will meet Graeme. "And what do you do?" "Actually, I Help Create A Cleaner World." "Ah. Bog roll. How interesting. Oh look; there's Roger. Excuse me."
This mission statement business has got to stop. It convinces nobody. The only people entitled to make mission statements are missionaries, and they never have done. What would they say? "Missionaries: Ruining Your Culture Because We Know Best"? Even their boss, God, never had a mission statement ("God: Watching Your Step"), contenting Himself with rambling, vainglorious, ghost-written apologia and the odd plague and volcano. But every dodgy company, every supermarket chain, every multinational burger joint, dumb-ass council, privatised railway line and new university has to get the Mission- Statement Men in, with their pens and clipboards, their late-night "focus meetings", their fatuous "presentations" and their even more fatuous ideas. And the objective of the whole dismal exercise? Almost invariably, to disguise from us, the "customers", that our role in things is to adopt the missionary position: on our backs, getting screwed.
What we need is a law insisting that all mission statements should represent the true activities of the companies concerned. Large organisations, used to flannelling the public at every turn, may find this difficult at first, but I will be prepared to help them. For a fee. I have already carried out preliminary studies on a number of prominent concerns and my initial proposal may help others get the hang of it. "Virgin Railways: Better Late Than Never." "McDonald's: Seeking Worldwide Ownership Of The Ancient Scottish Patronymic 'Mc' " (how they make me want to start a restaurant called "McSnotBurger" just to see if they sue). "Harrods: Run By A Rather Unappealing Man." "New Labour: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss." And, of course, "Chemical Express: Making Toilet Paper". It won't help with Graeme, but you can't have everything.
Next week in our ongoing series "Things You Don't Want To Do With Your Life", we bring you Part Two: Spending The Night With Bernie Ecclestone. Until then, have a nice week - Michael Bywater: Making Them Get Their Kit Off. !
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