Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cynicism and St Tony

According to Oscar Wilde, a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. There is something deeply corrosive about cynicism, which makes it all the more worrying to see how widespread it is, particularly in our media.

Tony Blair, a man who has made it practically a profession to cultivate saintliness – actually, rather a well-remunerated profession – has had the magnanimity to hand over the earnings from his new book to the Royal British Legion. This association of British military veterans will use the money, in particular, to build a rehabilitation centre for those injured in the services. It’s hard to see how this can be anything but a wholly welcome move, particularly as it involves a personal sacrifice by the very man who, as Prime Minister, was responsible for committing forces to so many conflicts – Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

So there's something profoundly discouraging about headlines like the one in today’s Guardian: ‘Generous gesture or guilty conscience?’ You see how this cynical attitude is permeating the media? Not even a publication committed to the highest journalistic standards is wholly immune to its effects.

The problem is that this is Tony Blair we’re talking about. This is the man who told us on TV that he was a ‘pretty straight sort of guy’ and then used fabricated intelligence to take us into what it is becoming, as each new revelation is made, increasingly difficult to deny was an illegal war in Iraq. In other words, he has all the integrity of a market trader, indeed all the integrity of any man who has to tell you just how honest he is.

Which rather suggests that the Guardian has a point. In fact, I’d personally go further. I doubt it was either a generous gesture or the product of a guilty conscience. I think he’s making so much money from other sources that to give up the earnings from the book wasn’t such a huge sacrifice. Since it would buy him brownie points in the circles that are paying him a fortune to get him to speak at their dinners, he probably sees it as a highly judicious investment.

Shameful isn’t it? I’m contributing to spreading the very cynicism I abhor. And about such a saintly man too.


Martin said...

Succinct and to the point!

Anonymous said...

I think Blair is clinging on to the delusional belief that he is a straight sort of guy after all. Self belief is something he feels is priceless. And as you say, he is making such a lot of dosh anyway!

Awoogamuffin said...

What about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates? The two richest men on Eath, and the media have generally praised the them for apparently donating most of their considerable earnings to various charities. Or have I been taken in by a PR ploy?

David Beeson said...

Neither of these guys has involved us in a disastrous war, so I'm perfectly happy to applaud their altruism, whether or not it's more apparent than real.