Christina Patterson: We are all following the gospel of recyling

Share
Related Topics

In a wonderful short story, first published in 1939, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges introduced the work of a minor French writer called Pierre Menard. In an extended passage of literary criticism, he contrasts the contemporary prose of Menard with that of Cervantes. While Cervantes, he says, indulges in "mere rhetorical praise of history," Menard's work, much "richer in illusion", explores ideas, about history and truth, which are "staggering". The texts he is comparing are, by the way, identical. The (fictional) Pierre Menard has sat down with Don Quixote and copied every word.

Whatever else is said in the General Medical Council's disciplinary panel in Manchester this week, it's a fair bet that Raj Persaud will not be praised for the "staggering" originality of his ideas. He may be praised for his consistency, in excuses he has offered for allegedly producing work that bears a Menard-like resemblance to the published work of others (excuses ranging from "cut-and-paste" computer errors to variations on "the dog ate my homework", involving sub-editors). He may be praised for his energy, and he may be praised for his drive. And on these counts, the praise would be entirely justified.

In The Motivated Mind, the book he published before the one on "How to Catch and Keep your Perfect Partner", he describes the habits he pursued in studying for his degree. He was, he says, "the first to arrive in the library each day and the last to leave", so that "eventually the librarian would consult me if she couldn't find something". After gaining his degree ("First Class Honours" he tells us three times in three pages), he pursued his other goals – clinical psychiatrist, media rent-a-gob – with similar dogged determination. Motivation, he explains "is clearly a psychological conundrum because on the one hand it is what takes us to the pinnacle of success, but on the other it plunges us into the abyss of hopelessness when we encounter setbacks."

Poor Raj Persaud. If not exactly in an "abyss of hopelessness", he can hardly be feeling cheerful as he awaits the verdict of the GMC panel this week. All that work. All those hours in the library. All that sheer, exhausting, self-promoting grind. All, possibly, thrown away – and for something that everyone else does all the time. Don't they?

Well, students certainly do, according to Professor Geoffrey Alderman, who yesterday warned that "league table culture" at universities had led to an explosion in plagiarism that was being ignored by the authorities. And journalists, it has to be said, do rely rather heavily on the ideas of other newspapers, and on the Cervantes of our day, Miguel de Google. Indeed, if the author of Ecclesiastes, writing more than 2,000 years ago, sometimes felt that there was "nothing new under the sun", he should try morning conference on a daily newspaper. By the time you've had your shower with John Humphrys, and your breakfast with all the papers, and your coffee with the newslists, a sense of world-weariness kicks in – to the point when each new day is merely a hook on which to hang your latest thoughts on David Davis or Wayne Rooney.

Politicians preach the gospel of recyling, but they really needn't worry. Today, we recycle everything. Our thoughts. Our words. Our clothes (skinny, wide, long, short, new black, new brown) but not for free, of course. In the age of information overload, we have, it seems, no choice, but to make our money out of really rather frayed old rope. It's called postmodernism. It's called entertainment. It's called exhaustion. It's probably best, however, not to call it original research.

Not just a pretty face (or two)

War criminals, like Dove models, come in all shapes and sizes, but a surprising number of them are big, burly white men with mean-looking eyes and steel-rimmed glasses. It has, of course, been pretty obvious for a while that Donald Dick, as one might term the two-headed mastermind of the American invasion of Iraq, follows in some pretty nasty footsteps.

With the publication of a new book, by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris, however, the case for the prosecution becomes even clearer. Standard Operating Procedure: Inside Abu Ghraib tells the stories of the young soldiers who took, and appeared in, the snapshots of orchestrated humiliation that shocked the world. Bad apples? Yes, and Donald Dick's a banana.

* It's hard to know whether to rejoice or despair. Every day seems to bring more postcards from the edge of the sexual frontline, offering further evidence that the design differences between men and women are so profound that we might as well give up the whole exhausting, soul-destroying struggle to get on and ape female chimpanzees in dropping the communication lark for a never-ending orgy of wild, promiscuous (and sneakily silent) sex. The latest ammunition, from the Stockholm Brain Institute, is brain scans indicating that gay men and straight women have symmetrical brains, while lesbians and straight men have right hemispheres significantly larger than the left. Where does this lead us? I have no idea. Except that those of us with a large number of gay male friends might feel vindicated that we do, indeed, have things in common beyond a preoccupation with clothes and shoes. And we can surely all agree that the pictures – blue lagoons, floating next to golden swirls, intensifying into a lovely terracotta – are very pretty indeed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
SEEN graffiti Wonder Woman  

Warner Bros’ bold stance on Wonder Woman opens the door for Hollywood evolution

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us