The Truman Show

The Truman show is a 1998 film in which Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, the star of a TV reality show. Only he doesn’t know it’s a show, just everyone else on the set does. He’s happy enough in what he believes to be real but in every instance where he tries to rewrite the script or sees incongruity in events, he’s gaslit and persuaded that what he’s experiencing is reality. Of course he eventually joins up the dots and escapes.

It’s a lighthearted, funny film even though the underlying theme is monstrous. The film ends with Truman opening a door on the horizon and walking off set. The emotional trauma such a person would have to deal with, having realised he had been a human guinea pig, is not hinted at but then it’s not a serious film. Yet the concept of the film is not as ridiculous as it plays out.

@RoadsideMum trended on Twitter yesterday with the story of one company, Chartwells (part of the Compass Group), handing out £5 worth of food to families when they’d been contracted by the government to provide food packs worth £30. According to Howard Beckett (Unite),

Compass post yearly revenues of £25 billion & profits of £1.2 billion. The Chair, Paul Walsh is a Tory donor & signed the Captains of Industry letter telling us to vote Tory.

The story of Dominic Cummings driving to Barnard Castle for an eye test is now woven into the tapestry of lies and deception that make pathetic attempts to justify themselves. It’s become normal to roll our eyes at every announcement by the government, not because we think they’re lying to us but because we know they’re lying to us. Surely, if they were committed to a campaign of corruption and embezzlement they’d make some attempt to cover their tracks. Yet, like a child who believes he can get away with brazen lies and petty theft, they become bewitched by their perceived impunity.

We know that corruption makes the world go round and, like retailers accounting for shoplifting in their forecasts, we have to build in the assumption that it exists regardless of the government. In a crisis where we are looking at over 100,000 deaths, thousands losing their jobs and thousands of families seriously behind in rent payments, you’d think that we, as a nation, would pull together and the government would take their responsibilities seriously. Instead we are seeing corruption on a massive scale that is literally taking the food out of children’s mouths.

Britain traditionally considers itself to have certain standards of fairness and compassion and you often hear appeals to those traditions when the government fails to act properly. You would think that governing morally was the norm. In contrast, countries like China are condemned for their history of human rights violations. There is a cognitive dissonance where our perception of Britain holding itself to certain values persists while the evidence to the contrary stares us in the face. The suspended belief that helps us accept that Han Solo and Indiana Jones are not the same person is utilised to persuade us that Matt Hancock is not an extra on Eastenders.

Anyone who has seen anything of the revived Spitting Image will know that it’s as about as funny as gastroenteritis. The original series ran from 1984 to 1996 and was both cruel and incredibly funny. The characters were grotesque and ridiculous yet were more honest about those they portrayed than any news item. In a somewhat different genre, yet hitting some of the same notes, The Thick of It portrayed the inner workings of Westminster so honestly that fact followed fiction as if the show was prophetic. Even though the Malcolm Tucker character was clearly based on Alistair Campbell, it was entirely fictitious.

In a decade, politics has degenerated so much that parody can’t touch it. Satire works in so much that it exaggerates reality to the point of absurdity yet retains a nugget of truth. But to be funny it must transcend the grinding reality we see on the news. Yet what we witness now, on a daily basis, is too absurd and beyond comprehension. We truly are living in the kind of dystopian society portrayed in the sci-fi films of my youth and it’s nothing short of grotesque.

Let’s not pretend that government ministers, those who excuse their lack of humanity and the directors of these government contractors are not disgusting human beings. They are profiteering from human misery and pretending they are only actors. If this were the Truman Show, Truman Burbank would be living in a cardboard box believing cardboard boxes were the way forward.

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