Magazine article The Spectator

Are We All Becoming Better Informed - or Is It Just Me?

Magazine article The Spectator

Are We All Becoming Better Informed - or Is It Just Me?

Article excerpt

The difference between the debt and the deficit, I quite often find myself telling people, is like the difference between your overdraft and the gulf between what you earn and what you need.

Even if you could reset the former to zero, somehow, the latter still be there, forever dragging you down.

'But aren't you the guy who writes a whimsical made-up diary in which you pretend to be Cheryl Cole, or tell sex jokes about Silvio Berlusconi?' they'll frequently reply. And they're right, because that's exactly who I am. But I'm bloody clever, too.

I know loads of stuff. Lots of us do. More, I increasingly think, and more.

I never expected to know stuff. I never thought I was the sort. It doesn't seem so long ago that I'd have thought that devolution max was a cough drink, or that Sunni and Shia were the couple who sang 'I Got You Babe'. Yet here I am, all of a sudden, broadly understanding what a Higgs Boson is, aware of why it matters that Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun, and liable to not even snigger, at least half the time, when I hear the name 'King Bhumibol'.

This isn't just me showing off, you understand. Not wholly. I might be kidding myself, I might be wrong, I might be doing that unforgiveable thing that so many journalists do, in which they blithely induct the universal from a clutch of homogenous berks at a dinner party. But I think we're all getting a bit smarter, aren't we? There's just so much news all the time; so much more than there used to be. It gets flung at our collective consciousness, like mud against a wall, and some of it surely sticks.

I've been asking around; hardly anybody still thinks quantitative easing is a laxative.

My taxi driver the other day was discussing the sectarian make-up of Syria. 'Wouldn't want to be an Alawite, mate, ' he was saying. This honestly happened. A year ago, I'd barely heard the word myself. Next time I go to the hairdresser, I half expect the bloke in Crouch End Toni & Guy to explain that he needs to cut the top to make it grow via an Are we all becoming better informed - or is it just me?

analogy about expansionary fiscal contraction.

Maybe life has always been like this, and I've only just started noticing. Maybe 20 years ago it was all 'Danish Maastricht referendum' this and 'Boutros BoutrosGhali' that, even in the changing rooms at Topman. But I don't quite believe it. A couple of months ago, I read about somebody or other's theory about Leonardo da Vinci (everybody will know about it soon) which held that part of the reason the chap seemed so damn clever was that he lived at exactly the last point when it was possible for one person to know everything that anybody else did. …

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