Not your average Joe: Tinker, Tailor, Tory, Spy

With a history of spying and dirty tricks galore – has trust died in the city of spires?

Do we live in an age where paranoia reigns and suspicion rules the day?

At first it may seem like the rant of a disillusioned politico; the last reflections of a disappointed man. If only. It is instead an empirical fact, a gaping wound at the heart of our society. From lying politicians to philandering partners, the result is clear – we question all, we challenge everything. The simple explanation cannot be true, there must be some ulterior motive. We are a generation unable to trust, incapable of belief, and we shall pay the cost.

However, in a city like ours – bustling with ambition, a hotbed of power, and thousands of wannabe leaders – is mistrust a rational safeguard? From phone bugging in elections to leaks to the press, can we really trust anyone? The importance of the matter being that this derision of the very fabric of relationships is corroding the foundations of our society. True friendship seems near impossible, with each new bond determined by the benefits accrued, its time limited, and its depth shallow. Our student leaders, from OUCA to the Union, seem unable to trust their peers and companions: fostering a bitter nexus of competition and factionalism, preventing genuine progress and turning all into vanity projects.

A lack of trust descends into a culture of paranoia – where the action or inaction of each individual is over-analysed and misinterpreted. This week alone I have been implicitly accused of fraud and deemed ‘more suspicious than ever before’, merely because of my absence. Where such a culture dominates, repairing old wounds is impossible. Paranoia becomes self-fulfilling; all suffer in a Stalinist regime.

Why does it matter? Is it resolvable? A degree of distrust is important, complete distrust is disastrous. Next time you feel the paranoia creeping, just ask yourself ‘is it really necessary?’. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction – in politics, the risk of a chain reaction looms high, every prior slight, perceived or actual, being repaid in kind. Notwithstanding this, however, I do think I may have stumbled upon a Chinese spy ring; government money, information exchanged outside lectures, dropped SIM cards in the gravel; I shall continue to investigate. But, I must ask myself, have I fallen, am I the latest victim of Oxford paranoia?