Friday, 25 January 2008

Heroes and villains

We’re a strange lot. We like things to be perfect and have trouble understanding when they are not.

For example, we expect our doctors to be fit, healthy and in the peak of condition. Were they dogs we would expect them to have a shiny coat, a wet nose and nuzzle our genitalia with evident relish. When we find doctors stressed, deathly pale, and wincing as they move, we worry.

But why? A deaf musician might be thought a contradiction, but it was little trouble to Beethoven, or Fauré. The painter, El Greco, had a serious eye complaint. Then there’s the double amputee Oscar Pistorius, one of the fastest runners in the world, widely referred to as ‘The Fastest Thing on No Legs’.

Why can’t our dentists be snaggle-toothed? Why can’t our doctors get ill? Surely, some of them will get the flu. One or two may even die. What’s wrong with that?

In Britain we love a little harmless eccentricity. Indeed, we revel in it. We adore our corrupt politicians, for example, and when they emerge from open prison we interview them at length on television and give them high-powered jobs in government. When they prove to be drunks, we experience a fellow-feeling for them. Sins of the flesh – we all suffer from that.

Yet, somewhat unfairly it seems to me, we insist on strict sobriety and cold detachment as the proctologist advances towards us with a glinting scalpel. This is an unfortunate double standard.

Luckily though there are fresh avenues opening all the time in our brave new world for those who like to be eccentric and wish to benefit from our national attribute of tolerance. For example, it has recently become clear that society at large no longer requires communicators to be able to communicate. Specifically, reading and writing is not considered a necessary skill in the job. No longer do communicators have to be able to listen to people and explain their ideas cogently. Jargon and the use of buzzwords are now fine. And thank heavens for that. It will certainly make things easier.

What a relief it is to be able to look at these people with the same tolerance and love of eccentricity as our politicians. They add a touch of colour and amusement to our otherwise drab lives. After all, isn’t there something heroically distinctive about writers who can’t write?

And when you come right down to it, there is much to be said for those that gun down others in the street. All right, they exhibit no strict sense of community, and seem bad mannered. But who cares about manners these days? It’s so rear-view mirror. Aren’t these people just doing what we would like to do ourselves? It would be hypocritical and intolerant to condemn them, and we can’t have that.

Perhaps I should stand for parliament.

© Roger Murphy 2008