Being offended seems to be the new norm. I am offended, was offended, will be offended. I probably will be offended (when a media-storm demands I am) – and I probably was offended (had I known that I should be offended).
Right now in the UK the expectation of a certain report about a certain Prime Minister is one big media storm. There has been a steady trickle of leaks and allegations followed by denials and dismissals. About a Prime Minister who has chosen to run his office as a perceived benevolent dictator as we have no formal title of “President” (yet) in the UK.
A Prime Minister who needs to be the public voice of all announcements and all policies. Yet who seems to have mastery of very few. A Prime Minister who we – the Great British Public – elected into office because he was different – he was cavalier – he cared not two hoots for the establishment and its way of doing things. A Prime Minister who sees a hairbrush as an irrelevance … who speaks the English language not as we know politicians to speak … who is endowed with an ego to match his boundless optimism (mainly in himself).
In short a very “British” Trump. One who also seems to have an interesting relationship with the truth. One who carried the nation with him. Who sided with The Brexiteers when no one (including himself) thought Brexit would carry the vote. Who quickly scarpered from the scene as soon as the Brexit result came in. Who plotted from the sidelines as others tried and failed to “Make Brexit Happen”. And who then slid-into the position of Prime Minister on the bullish promise that he was the one to “Make Brexit Happen”. And he did. Brushing over the huge and intractable “Irish Conundrum” with a solution we were told would work (before later poo-pooing the same legally binding Protocol he had insisted was the answer).
And to “Make Brexit Happen” he surrounded himself with those loyal to the cause of “Making Brexit Happen”. Which made a small political pool of talent even smaller by that essential requirement.
And then along came covid.
In that moment of national and global crisis his personal ego, optimism and “get it done” attitude was lauded and applauded. Freed from the slow and grinding self-serving-inclusivity that remains “The EU” (with all its back-room dealing, “feathering of nests” and the public pronouncements of unanimous agreement) the UK was nimble and fleet of foot – proud to lead the way in countering this pernicious virus. Even though with hindsight every decision seems to have been led less “by the science” and more by what would play well to the voters. A strategy almost every country adopted because that’s how politics the world over works.
But every crisis becomes a way of life. Either for good or bad. And covid has become a way of life.
Two years into the pandemic and we are all weary of death, fear and fear-mongering. We all crave a return to the freedoms we knew before: a social life planned and spontaneous, holidays abroad or at home without the additional cost of testing and the worry of lockdown cancellations, and this weird needed-freedom from wearing these pesky masks – and the even peskier having to decide whether being vaccinated (or not) is for (or against) my human rights (or “entitlement”). This odd entitled mindset we have here in the prosperous standard of living we enjoy (in the main).
And so back the media-inspired “Partygate”.
Why the media need to stick “gate” after every media scandal and outrage is beyond me – other than it makes the bandwagon of “being offended” so much easier to board. Right now we have memes of personal attack, of personal accounts of grief and deprivation, of many individuals rising up in the media with their personal tales of how they saw loved ones die and were not allowed to be with them – how partners were not allowed to be present at the birth of their own shared-creations – how adult sons and daughters were not allowed to see their aged parents in the care-homes into which they had placed their aged parents …
Tale upon tale of real suffering and real grief – all true and all part of this life-changing pandemic. Against which “Partygate” is presented as an entitled “them” who make the rules being above the law both in fact and intent. It is a moral vacuum perfect for filling with outrage and offence.
Of course our Prime Minister hasn’t helped himself or his office by being a “good politician” – distracting deflecting dismissing belittling berating and bullshitting at every question in what has become the popular bandwagon of “Partygate”.
I am not sure how we can blame him for being a “good politician” now – as that is what he was voted in for being then. But we can and we do. Because we are entitled to be offended. It is our right.
As I reflect on this circus of noise and toxic crescendo … I remember making a decision not to become “the (informal) covid police” over the past two years.
I remember being locked away in “lockdowns” and seeing/hearing neighbours partying in their own houses and gardens and others’ houses and gardens. I remember being torn up inside at my own sacrifice whilst seeing/hearing others so cavalier and uncaring of themselves and others (like me). I remember slowly realising that carrying this “judging and judgemental” mindset was fixing nothing and no one – like always it was just harming me and my wellbeing – it was me causing me to burn inside without any consequences to anyone else.
And I remember the hypocrisy as so many broke the rules (when they could) or kept the rules (as their own martyred self-flagellation). I remember how the rule-keepers rose-up against the (perceived) rule-breakers. How poisonous this “being offended” allowed both sides to be – allowed all to vilify “them” of every self-defined definition and description.
Guess what? I pushed the rules. I interpreted the rules.
It brought about “The Hug“ when no hugging was allowed. It brought about “The Helmet” when I was told I would die if I caught covid.
It brought about our Christmas family get-together when no family get-togethers were allowed. And had we been caught we would have paid the fines without question. But we weren’t and we didn’t.
But I know that if we were now to be subject to “an impartial investigation” we – I – would be banged to rights. Just as I’m not so sure how many of us would come out of such investigation with our heads held high looking squeaky-clean. We tried to uphold the spirit of the law by putting no one at harm and in doing so we broke the fact of the law. Just as I have seen and heard many who have no “spirit of the law” in their own breaking the “fact of the law” these past two years.
But we ordinary people aren’t subject to any “investigation” – and that allows all of us to sit on the terraces and boo and jeer. Just as audiences booed and cheered the gladiators – the public floggings and hangings – the guillotines – the stonings and abuse of other human beings – all the legally sanctioned and encouraged consequences of “rule breaking” down the centuries.
And I wonder where is our love – our Prime Minister’s and ours? Where is this wondrous thing we call Love that always underpins The Law?
A Law and all laws necessary only because we prefer to not Love than to Love. Love means not throwing the first stone. But the Law says we are entitled to throw that first stone – it is our human right. We must punish – and be seen to punish – those found guilty of breaking The Law – the Law itself says so!
Two thousand years ago I read of One who said Love is The Way. Yet two thousand years later the institutions that were the movement that followed the way still prefer The Law and laws.
I think it’s because we all prefer The Law and laws to Love. The Law and laws allow us to be offended, to be entitled, and to have rights.
And what does Love do for us? We don’t get offended, can’t lean on being entitled, and we all live with “rights” that apply equally to all … even when against our personal preferences and entitlements. The Law is so much easier. Not least because we only “break the law” when we are caught breaking it.
Is it any wonder we love the Law more than we love Love?