When we formed our little NGO a few years back it was noticeable how many disparaging comments about the third sector focussed on comparing it to the ‘useless third’ of the population chucked off the planet Golgafrincham in the novel The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. None of us, to our shame, had read this extraordinarily popular book at the time but, aware that many people we admire also found it addictive, we gave it a read
At LFG we’re big fans of Douglas Adams. In fact you won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big our love of Douglas Adams is. That’s why our name is taken from his novel The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, specifically the tale of Golgafrincham in which two thirds of the population of the planet Golgafrincham – the ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’ – send the ‘useless third’ of their population (telephone sanitisers, public relations executives etc.) away in a space ark so that they can get on with their lives more productively.
But hang on a minute, you’re thinking, don’t I often see right-wing commenters invoking the tale of Golgafrincham to disparage the third sector of civil society here on earth? Aren’t the below line comments sections of newspaper websites stuffed full of people mocking charities and non-profit organisations in our societies by comparing them to the Golgafrinchan B-Ark captain, always in the bath overseeing endless committee meetings on absurdly trivial minutiae?
Why, yes they do. For example:
Hilariously, though, the joke is on them because we eventually discover that while the doers and thinkers were able to enjoy a short period of unmolested productivity, it was all over when a virulent disease wiped them off the face of the planet for good. The source of the disease? A dirty telephone.
You see, while ‘good old Douglas’ had some fun at the expense of the ‘useless third’ it seems a fair bet, considering their catastrophic fate, that his real target was the hubris and misplaced confidence of the other two thirds who thought they could get by all on their own.
That dirty telephone? Transfats; CO²; Sugar; alcohol; methane; stigma.
That virulent disease? Heart disease; climate change; obesity; liver failure; suicide.
Good old Douglas indeed.