On 29th December, 1170, four knights of King Henry 2nd killed Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus created a martyr of a man who’s principles had forced him to behave in a manner that was anathema to his King and his one time friend. It’s usually accepted that the King hadn’t actually ordered this assassination, but that the knights took it upon themselves to dispatch the Archbishop after they’d heard him utter those now infamous words ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest’.
(Actually – it’s likely the King was more long winded than this – his actual words are thought by contemporary historians to have been “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?”, which whilst not as punchy as the short version to me indicates more of his anger with his knights and household.)
Becket eventually became a Saint to both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, and it might be said that King Henry began the still practised political and military doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’. After all, why run the risk of getting caught telling someone to ‘Go kill the beggar’ when you can just as easily say, whilst winking your eye and coughing theatrically, “I sure hope that the UN Weapons Inspector doesn’t have an accident and fall off that balcony…cough!”
Whilst we might not personally be in the big politics bumping off game, I do wonder how often people second guess each other and get themselves in to a world of trouble? One of my resolutions for 2010 is to take people much more at the value of what they explicitly say, and in return I intend saying exactly what I mean (whilst staying within the boundaries of polite and civilised discourse, of course!!). I’m not sure that some of my acquaintances will like this too much, though, and I’m bracing myself for a bit of a backlash.
After all, one of the great advantages of playing the plausible deniability game with your friends and family is that by being suitable circuitous in what you say you can absolve yourself of all responsibility when people try and read your true desires and act accordingly. If it all goes well, you can congratulate yourself on your subtle hints; if it goes pear-shaped you can simply tell yourself and anyone who’ll listen that ‘Oh dear, I didn’t mean that at all…’
So come on, folks – let’s get back to being straight talking, in a polite and civil manner, with those we love and care for. It shows respect for them, and exhibits honesty in your own behaviour.
Let’s all get back to calling a spade a spade, and not a manually propelled vertical earth slicing appliance.