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Graeme Archer

Graeme Archer is a statistician and a former winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Blogging.

“Some of them were fully grown men, and should have known better. It made me ashamed to be from Telford. I cannot understand how people can be so evil.”

Kelly Porter-Smith has a lot to learn. She was expressing her disgust at scenes in Telford, where a crowd of citizens had gathered in order to encourage a distressed man to jump to his death from the roof of a municipal car-park.

The crowd were successful, and the total headcount of Telford has been reduced by one. We may be permitted to infer, I’d suggest, that the reduction occurred within the less productive segment of the town’s population. The sort of man who’d end his own life: what worth had he, when weighed against that of the mob who gathered in order to encourage his final act?

Brave citizens of Telford! How easy it would have been to give in to a sense of compassion. But that would have been too easy. Too weak. Too embarrassing.

For imagine the man had decided to kill himself anyway, even had the crowd been composed of angels, imploring him to think again, to hold on, to fear not, to believe that this pain will pass; just to believe that such a hope could be possible, though the darkness of his misery made that hard, so hard, to see?

His last thoughts before oblivion, had he not been surrounded by a gang of baying wolves, might have been “at least.” “I cannot bear this pain any longer, but at least I die knowing that I have lived among the human, the decent, the kind. At least part of me can hope for the world, even though I can’t stand to be part of it any longer.”

As it is, in the words of another witness, a Ms Taylor: “People were recording it [his pre-death state] with their phones and yelling at him to jump. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

With pride, I’m sure she means: she can’t stop thinking with pride of the actions of the Telford mob.

The urge to bully is not new. Ask the men who killed Bijan Ebrahimi:

“On the Thursday evening [before his death] everyone came out and they were calling him a paedophile. There were about 20 people out there all having a say. They had him down as a 100 per cent paedophile.”

Mr Ebrahimi, of course, was “zero per cent” paedophile, had done nothing wrong, other than wish to live his life in peace. His “neighbours” decided to kill him anyway. The urge to join the mob is not specific to Telford.

And the urge to despise the weak is universal: you have it, it courses through your veins, yes it does. Do you think handing over a few quid to a rough sleeper proves I’m wrong? Do you think he missed the spasm of irritation on your comfortable face, irritation that your comfort was distressed by another’s misery, before you reset your mouth into “embarrassed concern”? Universal.

Even reading about the Telford man introduces a resistance to love into your system. Those guys sat next to me in the coffee shop: why should my instinct be to think well of them? Would they not run with the wolves? “What is evil?” ask theologians. Isn’t it obvious? Evil is not (just) the opposite of love. It is the antibody to it.

What we’re seeing in modern Britain, at last, is the defeat of embarrassment. Why should we feel embarrassed enough to care? Telford has shown the way. Only “I” matter, and “I” like to be part of a pack. Packs can’t exist without outsiders. Find them, chase them, laugh at them, watch them scurry through the piss-smelling underpasses, and climb the bleak concrete stairs of the municipal car-park, then cheer as they throw their worthless bodies onto the deadening embrace of the Earth that life taught them to fear.

Then go home, and show your family the footage on your phone. Man up, kids! Grow a pair! It’s dog-eat-dog out there.

*****

Tomorrow there’s a solar eclipse. In England, about 85 per cent of the sun’s “totality” will be obliterated by a body we once, as children, gazed upon with fondness, and believed to be gentle. Whatever the claims of the astronomers, in Telford the eclipse has come early. Remember to cover your eyes.

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