BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
Whilst I cannot claim expertise in the multitudinous idiosyncrasies of the English Language (a fact the once optimistic yet, alas, ultimately disenchanted publisher of my lesser-known novel Osprey would undoubtedly attest – if he still took my calls*), whenever the use of a particular word or phrase gains unexpected traction in general usage, it seems I cannot help but notice. Especially so when it is misappropriated and used as an instrument of oppression.
In his recent excellent article for Country Squire Magazine, Paul Read made an eloquent study of the theft of the word ‘progressive’ by those who would appear to be anything but. He was absolutely right. Progressive (an adjective which, until recently, was probably best known for preceding ‘disease’) has certainly been dragged into the national ‘narrative’ (which, incidentally, is becoming another). Of course, language is always evolving, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows us all, for example, to literally be the best at whatever activity we choose. However, like Mr Read, I, too, have my own particular bête noire.
For some years now, the word ‘ethical’ has been stolen away by those who know best. Utterly convinced of the rightness of their convictions, the bien pensants have cornered the market in ethics. Justin Trudeau-types loudly extol the virtues of so-called Fair Trade, environmentalism and ethical investment. This latter is practised by financial institutions (well-known bastions of scrupulous probity that they are) that laughably claim to be socially responsible. Speculating on businesses producing wind turbines that don’t actually work is acceptable. Placing pension funds into, for example, ‘arms’ company stock is not (though I’d imagine anyone who has ever been plucked from a snowy mountainside or lifted clear of an angrily roiling sea may have a somewhat different perspective).
By rather obvious implication, anything that isn’t ethical must be unethical. Anyone daring to harbour a view that does not accord precisely with those prescribed must be a bad person. If, let’s say, you choose to question the efficacy of so-called Fair Trade policies, if you dare to suggest they could be doing more harm than good, that they might exist purely to salve the beleaguered conscience of the western consumer and that they may actually serve to enrich the charities behind them while condemning the majority of third world farmers to remain in poverty, then I’m afraid you’re demonstrably unethical. You’re probably even some sort of -ist.
Thankfully, for anyone unsure what to think, there are plenty of radiant moral arbiters from which to take guidance. And boy, are they keen to offer advice. Where to start with the politicians: perhaps Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat who isn’t? How about Al ‘Gulfstream’ Gore, jetting around the world in luxury to berate the little people for using fossil fuels? Chris Huhne, Keith Vaz etc. etc.? We’re rather spoilt for choice.
The world of celebrity is fairly helpful too. Aligned, as they are, with all that is morally correct, these guardians of rectitude can be counted on to light the way. Just make sure you follow their instructions, rather than their example.
For advice on matters financial we can always look to the good old Co-op. The Co-op is famous for its principles, and isn’t afraid to tell us what to think. Strangely enough, certainly where its banking arm is concerned, it doesn’t seem to have kept too close a watch on those principles itself. Anyone can make a mistake – as the entire financial services industry frequently demonstrates – but the Co-op is different, right? The Co-op is a caring, sharing kinda bank. So much so that it once appointed a board based on friendship. Isn’t that sweet? The Co-op apparently put friendship – though some cynics might prefer the term ‘political cronyism’ – ahead of, y’know, actual experience and acumen. Naturally, they made a few mistakes, but what’s £700 Million between friends?
If only it had ended there. Though I’m not suggesting that former chairman the Reverend Paul Flowers did anything other than ensure the Colombian farmers involved were paid a fair price for their produce, getting rumbled trying to buy a bagful of Class A just might have looked a little bit dodgy. And that wasn’t his only vice. It turns out the Crystal Methodist was forced to step down from his role as a Labour councillor, after ‘inappropriate material’ was found on his (taxpayer-purchased) computer. Nice.
How about just giving the bloody word back.
*A joke. I have an excellent relationship with them, even though my sales continually disappoint.
Matthew Corrigan is a Country Squire Guest Writer and a superb author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here