I remember Ian Arlett as brilliant, funny, and inherently deeply wacky; basically, he had my favourite combination of personality traits in a person. He was often reciting things, and when I asked how he could possibly remember so many long sequences of poetry or prose in such detail he said, “It’s easy when you love it.”

For decades afterwards I thought often about one particular recounting of an article he’d shared with me. It must’ve been around 1981. The internet had only reached select universities by then in a pure text format. And every time I wanted to write something on my own computer, I had to take a couple minutes to re-load my entire word processing program from a 5.5 inch floppy disk onto my computer before I could start.

That was the technological context when Ian told me about an interview he’d read with a former chief of the KGB, the infamous secret-service paramilitary police force that some thought actually ran the Soviet Union for many years. This KGB chief had been asked how he would create the perfect police state, said Ian. That would be very easy, the KGB chief had answered; he would simply require everyone to use a credit card for practically everything, and then network all computers everywhere together. “That way you’ll know where everyone is all the time and exactly what they’re doing,” the KGB chief had explained. Ian evidently thought that notion was significant and concerning enough to recount and impress it upon me.

And today it’s clear to me that Ian had always had another personality trait I really like: he was capable of insight into humanity and society to the point of being prophetic.

© Rob Wipond, 2014

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