Chitra Ramaswamy: Let’s get cynical

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THE other day I was in the supermarket buying a Pot Noodle for lunch. Please, no judgment.

This is what it means to be living in a nutrition recession, or whatever it is we’re calling the fact that we’re still screwed this week. Yet the thing is, I must have felt a twinge of guilt because I decided to read the label (a Pot Noodle should always be accompanied by a twinge of guilt, tasting, as it does, like a student hangover laced with Proustian regret).

Whatever it said, I didn’t really believe it. The fact is, I don’t trust food labels. As far as I’m concerned, they exist purely in order to give my cynicism a good airing. They usually offer some indigestible information about calories and saturated fat, and a bit of marketing spin about some organic farm in West Sussex where Pot Noodles are left to roam freely. Whatever. I bought it, and ate it with a devil-may-care attitude in the canteen.

That evening I spoke to a friend who had fallen off her bike (it seems that the streets of Edinburgh aren’t trustworthy either). She was in pain but refusing to see her doctor because “my GP is useless and I never believe anything he says anyway”. Then I watched the news; yet more on how we no longer trust the BBC, politicians, the police and so on.

So, we are a nation that has lost its ability to trust. The scales have fallen from our eyes one too many times. We’ve seen too many people say sorry and then step down (or, indeed, ‘aside’) to an enormous pay-off. We’ve swallowed more lies than Pot Noodles. Too many abuses of power. Too many cover-ups. The upshot is that the only thing we seem to collectively have faith in right now is the power of Gangnam Style.

The list of people I don’t trust grows by the hour. Apart from the obvious – corporations, politicians, bankers, estate agents, (ahem) journalists – there are the folk who litter, refuse to help a woman struggling with a buggy and sign off professional e-mails 
with a kiss.

But, of course, there are still people worth trusting in Britain. Aren’t there? Surely? I decided to come up with a list. Ten minutes later, faced with a blank page and a Pot Noodle craving, I phoned my least cynical friend. “Who do you trust?” I asked. A cavernous pause. Finally, she said very slowly,… “You know that guy in Ring of Bright Water? I trust him. I mean, he was into otters. He must be OK.”

Reluctantly, I stuck his name at the top of the list. So far, the list was a bit niche. I turned on the telly for some more inspiration and the first thing I saw was a young, exuberant man, filmed in black and white, peering out of foliage. David Attenborough. Sixty Years in the Wild. Aha! A man who has devoted his life to revealing the world to the rest of us. A man who has always stayed excited about the fact of life on earth. A man who, no matter what lies and disappointments have been swirling around him, has continued to crouch on rainforest floors and marvel at the progress of an ant. 
A man to trust.