Looking at the wider world, there is no shortage of things to be worried about. Real, incontrovertible things, murder, cruelty, abuse of many kinds, each uglier than the last. Yet we are increasingly caught up with how we are seen in relation to our response to symbolic issues. “There is an urge to be good,” the narrator begins. “To be seen to be good.”
It is a disturbing possibility that we worry about the wrong things, or worry about the right things in the wrong way, with an eye to self-congratulation and branding rather than justice or fairness. Sometimes, resilience requires finding a place to put those anxieties: having something to pin uneasiness on is a great gift that a story can give (that and making you feel smarter for having read it). This is one such story.
First published in The New Yorker in July 2018 and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in Grand Union, Hamish Hamilton, 2019