Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Solved Exercise for Precis writing with Title “The Tyranny of Neighbourliness” Precis for Class 9, 10, 11, 12 and Higher classes.

Solved Exercise for Precis writing with Title “The Tyranny of Neighbourliness” Precis for Class 9, 10, 11, 12 and Higher classes.

Passages with Solved Precis

The thief who neither knows nor admits that he is a thief seldom comes into court. And this is the most dangerous sort, because the market value of his stolen property cannot be economically assessed: he is the thief of his neighbour’s privacy, patience, time, energies, and of his very identity. How are such thefts licenced? By the general axiom that man, being a gregarious creature, enjoys or should enjoy, casual visits from his neighbour whenever he is not ill, or working concentrated at his trade or profession. He is held to have stored up a certain amount of social pleasantness, and this he must share with his fellow-creatures when they are impelled to call on him by a vague feeling of self-insufficiency — with which they also credit him. Like themselves, he mint need ‘company’. Thus they are following the conventions of social interchange: being neither decently interested in his personal problems, nor willing to accept any burden of responsibility towards him. This neighbour dogma is Prick’s to the theory that all aberrations tromp normal behaviour are ‘news’ and therefore public property (social pleasantness heightened to social excitement); the person who first secures the news, far from being a thief, is entitled to a reward from the news-hungry public. Indeed, nine out of every ten people are willing to share themselves with the public to a most generous extent – the hatchet-slayer summons the reporters and asks anxiously: ‘this is front-page stuff, isn’t?

Neighbour-dogma is strongly held by country people, for whom any refusal by a newcomer to go further than ‘good-morning’ and ‘good-evening’ when amicably greeted in the shop or post office, constitutes a social danger; and his privacy will be assailed in a hostile, though surreptitious, way. Yet once he has admitted the first caller (the local person) inside the house, his time and energies will be at the mercy of all neighbours belonging to the same social class, who feel entitled to share his humanity. And in the city, where nobody is expected to know even the occupants of the fiat above, or the flat below, there is always the State—brusquely presenting itself, on one bureaucratic pretext or another, with inspections, demands, subpoenas, and forms to be completed. Such thefts of time and energy are excused on the plea that everyone is a member of the State and enjoys a claim on the attentions of all fellow-members; the assumption of social community being based on that of national community. If a private citizen feels victimized by thievish officialdom, the remedy is held to lie in his own hands as a national or municipal voter. Furthermore, continuous thefts are committed in the name of Business, Politics, Charity—invasions of privacy, draining of energy, wasting of time, legitimized by an extension of the neighbour-dogma. That this organized theft is hardly ever challenged, suggests that few people still consider themselves private individuals.

The question of what may rightly be called one’s inalienable own, safe from encroachment, grows most confused in the case of private amenities. According to the democratic view, each of us may control his immediate surroundings to a reasonable extent, only the too ‘particular’ people being regarded as freaks and troublemakers. Between one person and another a no-man’s-land of property is assumed to exist, over which neither has any special control. And if we dislike the new buildings going up along a favourite old street of ours, the sole grounds on which we are allowed to protest are those of impersonal artistic taste: though entitled to our private opinion, we can claim no right to be consulted. The favourite old street is ‘ours’ only in manner of speaking. Its architectural effect must be regarded as public property subject to our control through the municipal system, alone; our personal reactions as individual citizens do not, and cannot, interest this remote and stubborn authority.

Few even of our purely local amenities are protected by Law. A successful action might perhaps be brought, on economic grounds, against the planting of a glue-factory next door to a tea-garden, or of a kennel next door to a hospital for psychopaths. But no remedy can be found against the spoiling of the view from one’s rural sitting-room by the creation of a gasworks or a neo-Gothic castle. Nor can a neighbour be prevented from raising a tall structure in his garden which will command a view of our own and thus destroy its privacy, unless his actions when posted there are noisy, offensive, or menacing. Again, though we may sue a neighbour for stealing flowers from our garden (and recover their market value), we are powerless against him if he steals the affections of our cat by giving it richer food than we choose to give it at home. Actions have been successfully brought against fashion-pirates who make surreptitious sketches of new models at a private preview; but can a woman prosecute a neighbour who plagiarizes her individual way of dressing and thus steals from her the sense of looking fastidiously like herself? I may sue a publisher for an infringement of copyright, but not a man who tells my favourite story or joke as his own, and thus steals from, me the peculiar flavour of wit that is part of my social identity. An inventor may sue a manufacturing company for an infringement of patent, but what remedy have I against an acquaintance who copies the interior decoration of my house and thus steals the dignity of its uniqueness?

Private taste is, in fact at the mercy of public depredation. If we enjoy a particular view, we cannot prevent its being spoilt, precisely because our liking rests on taste, not on mere material considerations. If we fancy a particular combination of colours and express it in the decoration of our sitting-room, we are powerless to prevent a visitor from imitating what can be described as “only a matter of taste”: the sensibilities associated with taste being too subtle for recognition in the register of public property. We do not really own the view on which we have bestowed thoughtful choice when we designed the house, and which has played an important part in our local orientation; nor do we own that thoughtfully devised sitting-room colour-scheme. We possess no more than a taste for a certain kind of view, or a taste for a certain colour-scheme. Our consolation must be that this taste cannot be taken from us by even the cleverest of thieves.


The Tyranny of Neighbourliness

 As against the thief who steals and is tried for the crime there is the more dangerous one who intrudes on our privacy. Man is a social animal and visits and is visited by his fellow-beings just for social pleasantness. These visits bring news and scandals which delight every one.

This neighbour-dogma is particularly held by country people who grow informal with their neighbours without caring to find out whether their intrusion is palatable to the host. In the city where exclusiveness is quite common a person is very often visited by government officials for inspections, demands and the filling up of forms. Moreover, there are visits in the name of business, politics or charity resulting in thefts of time and energy.

There are, also, encroachments on one’s private amenities. Municipal buildings come up without anyone caring for the opinions or tastes of the persons residing in the locality. Legal action is possible in case a glue-factory is planted next door to a tea-garden but there is no remedy if the view from one’s rural sitting-room is spoilt by the erection of a gas-works. No action, again, is possible if a person raises a tall structure in his garden even if it results in the destruction of his neighbour’s privacy unless, of course, this structure proves noisy, offensive or menacing.

A neighbour can he sued for stealing flowers from a garden but there is no remedy if he steals the affections of his neighbour’s cat by giving it richer food. Actions have been brought for stealing sketches of new models but one is helpless if one’s mode of dressing is copied. Copyright is protected but one can tell another’s favourite story or joke as one’s own. Infringement of patent is punishable but not the theft of the scheme of one’s interior decoration. These are cases where privacy and individual tastes are being constantly robbed without providing any remedy to the owners.

One may have designed one’s house thoughtfully incorporating one’s individual colour-scheme, but if it is copied one can have only this consolation that this taste cannot be stolen by even the cleverest of thieves.


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