Life

I’m not cynical, just realistic - Jake O’Kane

View the world as it is, not as you would like it to be or even as it should be

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, soaked by rain, walks back into 10 Downing Street after issuing a statement calling a General Election
Cynic-cum-realist Jake believes Rishi Sunak is calling an election in July not out of genuine concern for the public but because he believes it's his only slim chance of winning (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“What happened that left you such a cynical old man?” was the question a friend asked me recently. Initially I laughed as it was a pretty good put-down, but later I wondered if he had a point. After some thought, I suspect he’s right and I might even have an answer as to why I’m an old cynic.

Firstly, I’m painfully aware of my own moral frailties and am by nature a pessimist. In my worldview, not only is the glass half-empty but it’s also chipped, and the toast is expected to land buttered side down.

On top of this, my life has spanned a period where great institutions which were formerly cornerstones of our society, such as the Catholic Church, have been found wanting.

During my life, the world of politics has become a cesspit of lies, corruption and cronyism, where the rich and powerful are rewarded while the poor and powerless are punished.

In Britain, for example, the trains are late and overcrowded, while seas and rivers have been turned into sewers by greedy water companies, motivated only by profits and enriching their shareholders and directors.



Our beloved NHS is on its knees due to chronic underfunding, with an inquiry this week confirming that 30,000 patients had been given contaminated blood resulting in 3,000 fatalities, a scandal covered up for decades with the help of successive UK governments.

Even the Post Office allowed hundreds of innocent employees to be jailed for embezzlement, all the while knowing there was a problem with the accounting software package it had installed. Public inquiries into corporate criminality will no doubt continue indefinitely.

And then there’s the police - the PSNI has been systematic snooping on troublesome journalists who have had the temerity to ask uncomfortable questions.

Rather than ask why I’m a cynical old man, I think I’ll turn that question round and ask my friend why he isn’t? At least as a cynic I’m neither surprised nor shocked when those in authority or power are exposed as frauds. Rather, I expect it.

Rishi Sunak will, of course, lose, and we will have a Labour government; not that this will make much of a difference to ordinary people as Sir Keir Starmer could easily have sat on the Tory benches

So, when a politician wearing a Christian badge on his suit lapel is accused of grave sexual crimes, I’m not shocked. And when a former US President is on trial for paying hush money to a sex worker, I’m not shocked.

Take, for example, the announcement by Rishi Sunak of a general election in July rather at the end of the year as expected. Do I think Sunak is doing this out of genuine concern for the people? Not for a second - he’s calling it because his pundits have told him this is his only slim chance of winning.

He will, of course, lose, and we will have a Labour government; not that this will make much of a difference to ordinary people as Sir Keir Starmer could easily have sat on the Tory benches.

So, in a few years, when Labour fails to fulfil its election manifesto commitments, I will not be shocked as that’s what has happened following nearly all elections.

What some people see as cynicism I would argue is realism. And as a realist, I view the world as it is, not as I would like it to be or as it should be.

Nor does being a realist mean I’m negative or fatalistic - quite the opposite. I am perpetually surprised and heartened by the humanity, love and compassion I see exhibited by people working neither for wealth nor fame but for the common good.

People like the wonderful Filipino nurse who treated me recently, whose infectious good nature and laugh couldn’t help but raise the spirits. Or both Sister Eithne, who empties collection boxes to help poor children in Africa, and the mainly poor people who put their pennies in those boxes.

I have no feelings of cynicism towards such people; how could I? No doubt you know many like them - people who simply do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

To re-establish my cynical credentials, let me ask, what’s worse than a journalist worrying they’ve been hacked by the PSNI? A journalist worried that they haven’t been hacked by the PSNI...