ANOTHER press conference, another dose of uncertainty, another dash of targeted fear. More talk from Boris Johnson of ‘hope’, yet fewer chances this year to see children in their first school play or a long-anticipated sports fixture. Less chance of sitting in a café and reading a magazine amongst a hubbub of chatter whilst taking in the comforting smells of coffee and newly baked lemon sponge. Simple pleasures continue to be reduced to clingfilm-covered vacuum-packed nothingness. For a promise to be ‘kept safe’, that is very far from my notion of safety.
We long ago lost our ability to judge risk rationally or appreciate the good times. My earliest days in the ambulance service should have warned me of the capitulation to state control that we now see. The inability of the masses to do anything without googling it first; the danger of seeing irrational terror in every media story; the replacement of trust with suspicion; the obliteration of common sense or reason in favour of procedural commands or a YouTube video.
That the government have juxtaposed this latest dessertspoon offering of sawdust with a widely broadcast vaccine campaign of ‘hope’ illustrates only the cruelty of their messaging and their certainty that they can control. Hope is something that this government has near-extinguished. Politicians like Matt Hancock think hope exists in a grand gesture of a large number and a saccharine-laced song. It does not. Hope exists in the briefest of hand-holds; it shines in a reassuring smile; it whispers in the warmth of a loved one’s kiss. All things too precious for too many leaders in this country to understand. We live in times where hope is carelessly shouted around for virtuous grandstanding or empty philanthropic adoration. Hope is intrinsically stronger and better than that.
I have a faded gilt-framed print, positioned awkwardly on a lounge wall of lushly coloured original artworks and vintage mirrors. The print is a cheap copy of the oil painting by George Frederic Watts – a woman, blindfolded, sitting on the world, resting on a broken lyre. A painting that is simply entitled Hope.
The fact that this print is so sun-worn, so previously overlooked and so old, only reiterates its message. It probably passed through many hands till I happened to find it at a house clearance sale. So many inferences can be read into the composition. Increasingly, I take from it that for hope to grow, you need to be temporarily blinded to what is being overtly presented to you, so that you can really feel what is important. We must remove the cloth from our mouths and place it over our eyes so that, like a nervous horse, we can be led out of the stable into the wider world where we can then be set free again.
In past military battles, armies used to send in a ‘forlorn hope’ – a group of soldiers who went ahead to embolden the troops behind them. They took a huge risk, and many died, yet without their daring others may not have followed. Hope was therefore never completely forlorn – it was repeatedly deployed until the conflict turned.
Never in my life will there be a more apt time for us now to send in our own ‘forlorn hope’ charge to challenge the overbearing narrative. We must cheer as we send in our liberty marchers, our free speech champions, our few dissenting journalists. A breach of the tyrannical walls by these pioneers must then initiate a true and mighty fightback from us all. When people eventually remove all restrictions from their mouths, and shake the propaganda from their eyes, they will appreciate exactly what lies behind the enemy façade.
And realise too that hope means something far more precious than a blustering press conference and a catchphrase.