Monday, 21 September 2015


He must be a socialist! After all, nowadays the pettifoggers are all socialists!
Arthur Schnitzler – Lieutenant Gustl (1900)

Lieutenant Gustl is himself a pettifogging fool who cannot see beyond his social caste and military rank, cannot even work out how to respond to a trivial slight from a local baker, other than commit suicide.

Pettifogging seems such a mild criticism, but sometimes I wonder if vast legions of pettifoggers are shaping up to become one of the world’s great social movements. 

Pettifoggers provide us with mountains of social stodge, endless supplies of intellectual slurry, a whole universe of checks and rules, procedures and processes which never lead anywhere because the whole point is that they should never on any account lead anywhere.

They tend to be socialists too, because they believe in planning, neatness, order and a world with no loose ends, let alone loose cannon. Perhaps it isn’t so much the politics of socialism as a pettifogging inability to cut to the chase and see things as they are for a change. People pursue their own interests, it's a fact of life, a feature of survival. 

Fear seems to be at the back of it, fear of the unknown, the unplanned, the strange. Often fear of truth, especially harsh truth where the sharp edges are.


Demetrius said...

Where can you get a Master's degree in pettifogging?

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - it's a points-based system delivered via approved training courses together with appropriate mentoring and a certain amount of online work too. The exact requirements are subject to change at short notice though. The current version is PFoG 67.34782 12b rev 3.6a44.