In the seventies there didn’t seem to be any conspiracies. Sure, the local butcher was caught injecting the chicken with water to make more pounds per pound, but it was hardly an international bugger-the-proles kind of event. Nowadays, however, you can’t look at the headlines without the busting of a conspiracy. Have we all become experts in finding the truth, or is something else going on?
When John Bray, the local butcher, was convicted of bringing the roast chicken dinner into disrepute by injecting carcasses with brine and selling them at inflated prices, it was treated as a bit of a joke by the chattering community of Berkshire. No one was really harmed, and the extra money helped Mr Bray pay his mortgage and put an extra pork chop on the table. It was the kind of crime more beloved of the back pages of the Maidenhead advertiser than the front page of the Financial Times, and most people didn’t really begrudge the man.
You could hardly call it a conspiracy. Perhaps Mr Bray and his wife got together and that would constitute some kind or conspiracy, but that’s the seventies. The biggest conspiracy theory I recall causing any excitement was MI5’s involvement in ousting the Wilson government, and that was never proven.
Planet sized fraud
Now, you only have to open the paper to find a planet-sized conspiracy that seems, or really is, true: burning fossil fuels to open up the North West shipping passage through the arctic; poisoning bees to make profits from insecticides; nuclear power as a sop to foreign governments; Doctor’s being goaded, to give cause for breaking up the NHS – conspiracies are too numerous to count, and that’s just one day in the Guardian.
That’s without the really famous ones. There’s scarcely a better example than Alistair Campbell’s sexed up dossier; the Iraq invasion based on dubious intelligence and making-up evidence to fit the already-decided policy for regime change. Over 600,000 lives lost – according to the Lancet – based on the slip of a Press Officer’s pen and the ability to twist a headline or two.
Let’s not forget the Collateralised Debt Obligations creating a destructive merry go round in the financial markets and a lost decade for most of the western world. Twenty-two trillion dollars wiped out, austerity for the masses, and a return to polarised politics of the thirties.
The fact these conspiracies have been unmasked has done nothing for the public’s trust in politicians or for trust in the establishment in general, to say the least.
It’s not the guy in the turban
We could, and should, get angry. Not just angry, fucking incensed. But instead many of us are caught blaming the coloured man next door, or the chap with the eastern accent, or that woman wearing a strange swim suit, as if they were responsible for screwing the world’s financial market or for single handedly melting the ice caps with a hair dryer.
Yes, local injustice still exists, but a simple fraud can have global consequences in a way that was not previously possible.
The great chicken conspiracy
And so we return to Mr Bray the butcher. His crime was unremarkable even in its local effect and apart from a few pence, did very little to harm to anybody. But in 2013 the UK’s Guardian reported, “Frozen chicken breasts on sale in leading supermarkets are being pumped up with water and additives that make up nearly a fifth of the meat to the point where consumers are paying about 65p a kilo for water…”
The Bray’s simple conspiracy has been exported across the world by faceless organisations that trade without boundaries and without a home jurisdiction.
Within half a lifetime we have allowed a world where petty crime is the standard for international business. The slightly offensive local has become the obscenely global.
For the love of Sunday roast, we’re all in the chicken poo now.