Christina Patterson: A life-affirming brave new world

Londoners actually smiled at each other because spring had, at long last, sprung.
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The Independent Online

In the four and a half months since I last wrote for these pages, the following things have happened: The economy emerged from an 18-month recession, with growth so fragile that if you breathed it might just blow away, but still, at 0.4 per cent, considerably stronger than predicted.

An earthquake wiped out most of the capital city of a small Caribbean country, and America responded promptly, without fuss or fanfare, and the IMF promised to work to cancel the country's entire debt, and Britons, still reeling from the deepest recession since the Second World War, gave £46m in 10 days.

An American president who the world expected to walk on water, but who, within months of being elected, appeared to much of it, apart from the Nobel prize committee, to be not waving but drowning and who was castigated by many Americans as a foreigner, a communist and probably a Muslim, and by many commentators as a bit of a ditherer and even a bit of a bore, achieved a goal that had eluded American presidents for a century, passing a bill which ensured that 32 million people who, in the world's richest country, couldn't afford to see a doctor, now can. He also stood up to Israel and signed the most important arms agreement since the end of the Cold War.

The head of an institution which has, for centuries, unofficially sanctioned the systematic rape and abuse of children, and enabled the rapists and abusers to indulge their violent sexual pleasure freely, unencumbered by the constraints of the law, and taken measures, when there were whispers of trouble, to ensure that the rapists and abusers were transferred to a place where they might find new children to sodomise, was presented with evidence of paedophilia perpetrated by those under his jurisdiction, that he could not refute. And although he himself had failed even to answer letters about a man suspected of abusing more than 200 boys, he finally agreed that the rape of children by adult men ostensibly committed to their pastoral care was not good.

A nice man in a nice yellow tie chose, in a room full of people, not to look at the people, but at a camera, and he spoke clearly, with all the confidence and charm of his public-school background, and his fresh, fresh face made even the smooth face of the man standing next to him look old, and made the gaunt face of the man standing further away from him look very, very old, and the 10 million viewers elected him the new Susan Boyle, and some of them even thought about electing him prime minister. And over the next few days the smirk on the smooth face disappeared and the smirk on the gaunt face reappeared, and the right-wing press, having done its deals, which it thought were in the bag, stamped its feet, but it was too late, the genie was unleashed, the genie that showed people that politics could be interesting and matter.

An email from an employee at the most successful investment bank in the world indicated that some bankers knew exactly what they were doing when they mixed lethal little cocktails of debt, and sold them on, knowing that they would poison whoever bought them, and that the poison would spread – and an American regulator decided to charge that bank with fraud. A few days later, the IMF proposed a FAT tax on the fat profits of the fat cats in the banking sector, giving rise to the revolutionary thought that the people who broke the global economy might actually be involved in mending it.

A volcano erupted, but people did not lose their lives or their homes, and the skies were, for the first time in living memory, entirely clear, and levels of pollution went down, and people living near airports could sit in their gardens and hear each other speak, and the world did not end, and millions of people were reminded that our dominion over the planet, and even over our lives, even for those of us in the West, is, in the end, limited.

The coldest winter for 30 years went on and on, but snowdrops and crocuses finally gave way to daffodils, and trees that had been bare for months and months suddenly burst into clouds of blossom, and the sun shone and children ate ice creams in the park and Londoners actually smiled at each other because spring had, at long last, sprung.

And I lost a breast, and had it brilliantly reconstructed with tissue from my stomach, and gained, I hope, please keep your fingers crossed, a life.