The footage of the UK Health Secretary putting his arm around a colleague as he entered the House of Commons, after telling everyone for months to social distance, has caused unsurprising criticism in the media, and in me too. I had to laugh when Matt Hancock told the BBC he was ‘so sorry for a human mistake on my part’. He could hardly make a horsy or a fishy mistake.
But then I stopped because, hang on, I’m a human too – just one who doesn’t admire the UK government or its handling of COVID, for which the Health Secretary is responsible. My finger was already pointing at Matt Hancock, so this latest gaffe was a gift, reinforcing the simple equation: Matt Hancock = government = bad.
But humans aren’t equations. They’re stories: great big messy ones, full of sense and nonsense, kindness and cruelty, good and bad and everything in between. As well moving that arm so thoughtlessly, Matt has encouraged, shouted, lied, celebrated, worried, loved, forgiven, not forgiven, feared, laughed, remembered to phone his mum, forgotten to phone his mum, and picked his nose when he thought no one was looking, just like me.
Stories build compassion and connection. Whether we write or draw them, dance or act, they explore the greys between our black and white.
So thanks to the Irish Government for providing €25 million to the Arts Council when compassion was never more needed. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/arts-sector-gets-25m-to-help-offset-impact-of-coronavirus-1.4280483
And maybe Matt Hancock and his government will listen to Ireland’s story.