The awful news out of our long-term care homes punctures whatever myth of exceptionalism we held about ourselves.
It will be harder to claim: “We’re better than that” when cockroach infestations are a feature of how we care for the very old, and not a bug.
I was going to write about this inconvenient truth, but then I read Andre Picard’s column in the Globe and Mail who wrote what’s on all our minds: “Enough of the empty words. Enough of the chronic dithering. Residents wallowing in their own urine and feces, hungry, dehydrated, overmedicated, in pain, frightened, alone and ignored. Is that really the best we can do for our elders? Fix it. Now.”
But speaking of cockroaches, have you seen what’s happening with Boris Johnson?
It seems his chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, violated the lockdown guidelines he drew up for Britons to shelter under, got caught (a lot!) and now is being told to resign by pretty much everyone in Britain, except his boss. Cummings is, as they say, a polarizing figure, slashing and burning the British bureaucracy – the outsider with a can of gasoline now on the inside.
His story of why he had to leave his home would make Pinocchio weep in disbelief. Cummings told it to the world this week in the worst example of hubristic enthusiasm since Prince Andrew said: “Yes, I’ll go on BBC and explain my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.”
So far, Johnson won’t budge because…..well, some say because Cummings is a lot smarter than Boris and without him, the PM would have to rely totally on bluster and not just the 99% of it as he appears to do now.
Cummings is wicked smart, a brilliant policy wonk whose blog shows that his ideas are ‘fraid o nuthin’. On January 2nd, he issued a call for Britons’ best and brightest to make their way to Whitehall to fashion a new post-Brexit nation. His call was titled: “We’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…”
Cumming’s father was an oil rig project manager and his mother, a teacher. He did spectacularly well at Oxford, described by one of his professors as “fizzing with ideas, unconvinced by any received set of views about anything”.
Compare him to his boss. Boris Johnson went to Eton and then Oxford where he developed “the eccentric English persona” for which he’s become infamous.
It’s tempting to think of these two men as opposites attracting absolutely.
Actually, they’re the same: Cummings is all about intellectual entitlement; Johnson, emotional entitlement.
For Cummings, there’s no defense against the force of a new idea.
For his boss, well, here’s a letter written to his father, Stanley Johnson, on April 10, 1982, from Martin Hammond, Master in College at Eton.
“Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies. It is a question of priorities, which most of his colleagues have no difficulty in sorting out. Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticized for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time he was not appointed Captain of the School for the next half). I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligations which binds everyone else.”
Two clever cockroaches.