Getting away with itNo one said life was fair, and we can all point to examples of people who have either ended up with more than one would consider a fair dose of troubles, and others who, frankly, glide through life with silver spoons showering all round them.
We tend to favour the term ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ to describe such individuals, mainly, probably, to keep our thoughts about these apparent injustices and our personal opinions safe, secular and uncontentious. Unlike, of course, Roy Moore, a prospective Senator in the US who eplained the mass shooting of children in Sandy Hook in 2013 as ‘a punishment for forgetting God’ – a view which really does, in my view, take the concept of original sin to an all-time low.
So there are the events which befall us over which we apparently have no control, and then there are the times when we invite fate by taking a risk, and then getting away with it. Every one of us has done this, and we can all point to occasions in our lives when somehow the unseen powers-that-be were kindly looking in the other direction and we were off the hook.
I can think of many examples from my teenage years: once a group of us was caught ‘out of bounds’ hanging out at break in the empty junior school playground, where we had no business to be. We were sent back by a prefect to the correct part of school, but, wonder of wonders, she had turned up just after we had stubbed out the shared cigarette someone had brought in. So we got away with it.
How many times was I the one who was messing about in class yet managed to produce a decent piece of work while another poor bod who had listened intently got marked down for poor spelling or something?
Mind you, my childhood lucky breaks pale into insignificance in comparison with the YouTube clip I came across of a bunch of kids in a US Wal-Mart. They filmed themselves skateboarding around the store – and getting away with it.
Yet once we finally grow up and begin to understand the real consequences of our own and other people’s actions it gets a lot more tricky. Most of us have driven faster than the speed limit, or driven with one extra glass of wine on board. Most of us have facilitated a bit of tax dodging by paying someone in cash. Conversely, how many times have we dutifully bought a train ticket, not had it inspected and allowed our lower self to momentarily wish we hadn’t bothered, before feeling self-righteous and pleased we had ‘done the right thing’.
Two years ago I was a juror on a complex ten-week fraud trial involving eight defendants. At the end we had to decide, beyond reasonable doubt, on the guilt or innocence of each of the defendants. We found one of them not guilty, not because we didn’t think she’d done it, but because there wasn’t sufficient evidence in her particular case. She burst into tears as I read out the verdict – but I will never know what, if anything, she got away with.
One of the most extraordinary examples of getting away with it, yet with perhaps more dire consequences than anything I have seen in my lifetime, was the sight of David Cameron, on 24 June 2016, the day after losing the Referendum on Britain’s future membership of the European Union. Standing in front of No. 10 Downing Street he announced his resignation as Prime Minister and then turned round and walked back into his residence, happily and insouciantly humming a tune to himself, as if there was nothing on his mind other than what he was going to have for lunch. If you can bear to watch this, here it is: