Following a brief spell inside – a “shit and a shave” as they call it in such circles – Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce are out of prison. Too soon for all those who believe they’re getting special treatment. Too soon, also, for those who dread the announcement of lucrative book deals: special treatment of another kind. Some don’t want them to “profit from their crime”; others have just had enough. Who cares about those losers?
Well – I do. Sort of. This is a gripping story, after all – Shakespearean in its scope – and I’d welcome an honest inside account. Tragedy grew from an everyday moment of wifely compromise – self-sacrifice even – when Pryce took her husband’s speeding points. Then he betrayed her anyway and went off with another woman. Next, she took the kind of revenge most of us only dream of. Yes, there are good reasons why we’ve only dreamed of it, but I can’t help admiring her a tiny bit. Was it exhilarating? Was it liberating even for a moment? Was it – in any sense – worth the awfulness that followed? Her account could be a searing insight into the power plays of high-profile marriage... or any marriage for that matter. It would certainly by more illuminating than The Politician’s Husband, the TV drama that recently attempted the same territory.
Sad to say, I don’t think this is the book that Pryce is going to give us. She said yesterday that she’d write about the economics of the criminal justice system – so it sounds as if her searing insights will be practical rather than emotional. However, I still hold that her book could be a force for good. As for Huhne, perhaps he too will be motivated to put some of his expertise into prison reform.
One thing is for sure: we humans like good things to come out of bad experiences. It was Nietzsche who said, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, and his homily survives because we all like to believe that suffering is transformative. Unfortunately, today’s psychologists are pretty sure that Nietzsche got it wrong. Evidence shows that trauma is bad for you – unsurprisingly – and that the strong survive hardship because they are strong, not because of the hardship.
Still – that doesn’t mean that we can’t create meaning. In fact, psychologists also say that humans are “meaning-making machines”. We like to say, “This led to that”. We like cause and effect: it makes us feel that God isn’t dead as Nietzsche also famously claimed. So Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce will most probably create something good from their terrible experiences. And later they will say that prison wasn’t so bad because – look what came out of it!
Let’s wish them luck on their journey.