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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Of hypocrisy

A concatenation of events in April ledme to consider aspects of hypocrisy.Early in the month I had attended theopening of the annual conference of theNational Union of Teachers. Estelle Morris,education secretary, tried to speak tothe conference in the inelegant surroundingsof the Bournemouth InternationalCentre. I say tried because a smallgroup of activists jeered as she took thestage and then affected to ignore her. Ata distance of 20 metres their antics wereas of a class of rebellious 13-year-olds infront of a well-meaning but powerlessteacher. Ms Morris pointed out that allthe good work of the conference wouldbe unnoticed and that the followingday’s headlines would refer only to theirdisplay of petulance.She was very nearly correct. That Saturday’slunchtime headlines referred tothe disturbance but all other bulletinsthat day, and for the ten days, wereconcerned with the death and funeral ofthe Queen Mother.TartuffeThe following Saturday I saw Tartuffe atthe National. It was a matinée and whatlay before the Thames-side concourse byWaterloo Bridge surprised and movedme. It was the middle of the queue waitingto pay its respects to the QueenMother, then lying in state in WestminsterHall. There had been column milesof commentary on the death but whatsurprised me most was the reference ofsome cynics to the commonplace of thedeath of someone aged 101.I turned to Molière’s compatriot,Michel de Montaigne, for some illumination.In his essay ‘Of Age’ he said,‘What an idle fancy it is to expect to dieof a decay of powers brought on byextreme old age… since that is therarest of all deaths and the least customary!We call it alone natural, as if itwere contrary to nature to see a manbreak his neck by a fall, be drowned in ashipwreck, or to be snatched away bythe plague or pleurisy… Death of oldage is a rare, singular, and extraordinarydeath, and hence less natural than theothers…’Has anything changed in 400 years?Indeed, I can recall instantly twoprincesses who died young in car accidents,but only one former queen whodied naturally aged 101.Molière’s Tartuffe beguiles the hypocriteOrgon with the 17th centuryequivalent of New Labour, namely NewReligion. Martin Clunes as the monkbehaving badly was part of an all-starcast each of whom delivered RanjitBolt’s rhyming couplets with relish andpanache. There was a surprise conclusionwith an apotheosis of Louis XIVdelivering justice from on high. Themessage was clear. Institutions, of whichthe monarchy is but one example, offermore stability and succour to themasses than do transitory, fashionableideas. Those queuing by the Thamesknew that well.Bournemouth Symphony OrchestraI returned to the Bournemouth InternationalCentre for a BournemouthSymphony Orchestra Proms concert.They began with Walton’s ‘Spitfire Preludeand Fugue’ and then Coates’s‘Dambusters March’. This was highlyappropriate as the Windsor Hall is an aircrafthangar masquerading as a concertvenue.The second half opened with Walton’s‘Crown Imperial’, composed for thenever-to-be coronation of Edward VIIIand first performed at the coronation ofGeorge VI and Queen Elizabeth. Therefollowed the usual silliness. Flags werewaved, feet were stamped, and theaudience went bananas. Why do we dothis? Could we not as a tribute to theQueen Mother abandon ‘Land of Hopeand Glory’ as our second nationalanthem and forgo the jingoism thatbelongs quintessentially to her childhood?Too late! The BBC has justannounced its reintroduction to its2002 Proms season.