At the End of the Day

Basil blames his car

Human beings will always blame the inanimate

Have you ever noticed that descriptions of, and verbs about,  inanimate behaviour are a bit weird at times? In the old days of drive-time radio and traffic reports, I always got a slightly queasy feeling when the announcer said, “A lorry has shed its load”. I’d have visions of double incontinence and a nasty smell.

This tendency is especially true of matters financial. Sovereign debt, it seems, is contagious. How can this be? If we’d cut off Greece from all contact with the outside world – like some isolated mediaeval village with the plague – would Ireland have been OK?

Tonight the FT notes that ‘Euro debt woes have battered risk assets’. This puts me in mind of a fish n chip shop run by Salvador Dali: ‘Our award-winning chef Debt Woes will be battering the assets tonight, and as ever there’ll be chips with everything and mushy peas for them as wants ’em”.

Courts target Twitter. Markets peak. Commodities top out. I mean, no they bloody don’t.

What happens is that drivers going too fast cause lorry-loads to slide off, politicians overspend, economic theorists laud globalism while its adherents link the overspending via banks to commercial property, lawyers target free speech as yet another way to make money, and panicky traders overbuy stocks and gold. It’s all part of the human need to blame the inanimate, to make something we created the culprit.

The classic example is ‘The market must decide’. And if the market gets it wrong – well Hell, that’s ok: it wasn’t us. Don’t be daft: markets are just large groups of kids yelling at each other in fancy dress.

Another is The Rogue State. Well damn me, Iran – what a pain in the ass you are. But let us not for a second imagine that male loonies with a misogyny problem are busy building a nuclear bomb to flatten and irradiate Israel for all eternity. Noooo no no: it’s that pesky rogue State what done it.

Homo sapiens just loves to blame the inanimate. ‘Tree kills driver in Tornado Horror’. ‘Ash cloud grounds flights throughout Europe’. ‘Monsoon drowns 80,000 somewhere else not here’. Bollocks. Sh*t happens: sometimes it’s nobody’s fault (sorry lawyer guys, but it’s true) and far too often, human beings should’ve spotted that volcanoes erupt, religions get perverted, proper defences stop floods, and trees have gone rotten.

Fooling ourselves is intrinsic to the human condition. The famous think they have the right to hide from those who made them rich. The anonymous believe that tweeting about the rich will make them famous. So the famous take out superinjunctions, and the anonymous make an exhibition of themselves on Facebook.

David Cameron fools himself into believing that knowing the soccer-shagger to be Ryan Giggs makes him in touch. Ryan Giggs fools himself into believing that chucking money at lawyers can hide his shame.

And every newspaper or 24/7 news channel says that there’s a problem with superinjunctions. Wrong: the problem is that unethical lawyers exploit the deluded egos of those who think they deserve to be above judgment.

Even bloggers like me say The Tabloids give famous people the excuse to indulge themselves in this way. Wrong: the problem is that amoral gargoyles who own news groups think sales, salacious stories and rising advertising revenues excuse any and all anti-social behaviours.

It’s the culture, stupid? But culture too is an inanimate object. It’s the species, stupid. We are the species. It’s our fault, and ours alone.