The more we know about corruption, the less we can handle it
When I was a boy I woke one night to the noise of the gasworks working late. Lorries going and coming, men shouting at each other as if it were in the middle of the day.
The first thing I noticed was that my heart had stopped beating. I was dead. I had no pulse. Green liquid was probably flowing out of my ears. I was dead and soon I would be buried.
I got up and went into my mother’s room in a terrible state and said: “Mum, I’m dead.” She groaned and rolled over from her slumbers to face me and said: “You will be if you don’t get back into bed.”
My father’s hard bark joined my mother’s threat. They would be up in hours and they didn’t need a little hypochondriac hanging around the foot of the bed saying he was dead.
By some miracle I survived the night and lived many decades after this event. And still live, still breathe as I knock this piece of stuff out on a computer made in China. My fingers, which jump over the keyboard, still have blood in them, in spite of my countless attempts at killing myself through drink, drugs and daredevilry.
Now, of course, I try very hard not to wake up and find myself dead. Nor do I want to wake up in the morning and listen to the blistering radio comments of commentators, who show that overnight Britain died; asphyxiated on its own political vomit, or that its disjointed, colossally greedy financial sector is haemorrhaging skip-loads of our deposits.
As I have said so many times, and say again, fear is a very expensive commodity sold by the media, and given away freely by the public sector media. And like the little boy above who is frightened into finding himself dead, we are likewise frightened each morning, noon and night.
What is going on? Are we being frightened into social, political, cultural hypochondria? Are we being made nervous about our state of affairs? Are we being robbed of tomorrow?
I think all of these things. I see the instant answers without analysis. I see that all the problems in the world flow from the banks. I see that the patient – the economy, the culture, the politics – has really outlived its life on Earth, and to some extent is just a dead body going through the motions.
The good thing about the Olympics is it will take us away for a few weeks from betting on the sudden extinction of all life on Planet Britain. Now, what will be more important is not that everyone is so corrupt and that everyone is after a secret bonus, but the hope that our people will run faster, jump higher, throw further or punch harder than people from a different geography.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not ‘not’ cheesed-off with the venal, filthy, self-seeking grasps for bonuses, or the memory of an MP’s duck house, or the sight of people losing their jobs while others put on enormous financial weight. No, I am gutted.
But accumulating the knowledge of corruption, of misdealings, will not lead, I believe, to us building the kind of political and social alliances that will end this corruption. Unless we do our own politics, build anew the political arena, then we are doomed to hypochondria and an endless, ceaseless, insipid inability to actually know what is going on. The more we know about corruption, the less we know about corruption. And the less we can handle corruption.
The ‘chums’ who run politics will not give you the answers. Stop expecting. Only our involvement will change anything. And this is no time for any kind of hypochondria. Or panic, or fear, or foolish uninformed commentary.
Forward to the Olympics! So that we can drench ourselves in the irrelevant, and hooray for the vanity of human wishes that desires us to get lost in some side show. It certainly takes the pressure off of facing reality. A few weeks without reality will be a blessing.
John Bird is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue. If you have any comments: email@example.com or @johnbirdswords