Why are we so cynical?

Posted: July 23, 2012 in life
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So, bankers fix interest rates, politicians fiddle expenses and Tom and Katie are divorcing… Have we become so blasé that we’re now immune to scandal?

But of course the bankers were fixing interest rates. Of course they were. They’re bankers! They’re not a raggle-taggle gang of zany misfits who’ve just come together for a smoke and a bit of a laugh. They’re bankers – they’re out to make as much money from us as possible and damn the consequences. Of course they were fixing interest rates. I’m the opposite of surprised. I’m desirprus.

Similarly Leveson. Which wide-eyed, probably blonde, innocent was shocked to hear that the tabloids tapped phones, or intercepted messages, or offered bribes in order to publish the most salacious stories first? Where did these gentle naifs think the News of the World got its glamorous celebrity scoops from every single week? Ask Jeeves?

And then who was actually shocked by the stories themselves? “Rich man takes drugs!” “Actor has baby out of wedlock!” Who was genuinely amazed when those questioned in the inquiry claimed they couldn’t remember key details of their work, who hmm-ed skywards and tapped their lip to signify “thinking” when asked what their employees actually did? When we discovered that millionaire comedians and pop stars shuffled half their cash off to Jersey, aside from the initial frisson of excitement that comes with that first flush of transparency, was there anyone who was properly stunned? At most, surely eyes just rolled.

There is little in the news that doesn’t make me shrug exhaustedly any more. That expenses scandal. Yeah, politicians’ moral compasses are a bit wobbly, I know: next. A footballer has been shagging around. Durr. Tom and Katie to divorce? Obv. Anonymous dicky commenters on the internet are vile to women. It’s horrid; it’s our life. But all these various nastinesses, all these tiring revelations that things are, yes, exactly as I thought, have noisily alerted me to my own cynicism.

When did I become this monster? This dead-eyed cynic trailing between guillotines, this ogre that expects the worst from the world? When did I decide that people were evil? And how can I regrow the scales on my eyes? I’m not alone. A US study shows that while 65% of people trusted their banks in 2007, only 35% do so this year, and that’s reflected in their lack of trust of government and business.

In Britain, the Hansard Society‘s audit of political engagement revealed that, despite less than a quarter of us believing the system of coalition government is working well, a paltry 48% said they’d vote if an election was held tomorrow.

“It appears that the economic crisis, the summer riots and phone hacking did not lead to any greater interest in or knowledge of politics,” said the director of the audit. “The public seems to be disgruntled, disillusioned and disengaged.”

That’s us! An island of cynics. For all our Twitter outrage and our tutting, at our core few of us aren’t quietly resigned to a life lived crookedly.

But the unravelling of these stories does begin to chip away at my cynicism. Being reminded by headlines that this is not the way things should be done – that helps. Being reminded that the quick sidesteps around morality that we take for granted are in fact front-page news. Reading the dense intricacies of a tax dodge, or the unpicking of a banking scam in uncomplicated language, sometimes with a colourful graph, makes me think about these things differently, more simply. These are choices people make within systems they support – this is not just the way we are.

I’m not aiming for full innocence and joy. I will not fall to the ground when another Premier League footballer is photographed brawling in a brothel, or the next politician is revealed to have been in cahoots with one of our more life-affecting industries. But I am open to hope. Some hope.

  1. That was an excellent post today. Thank you for sharing it. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a great day.

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