I’m not successful. Certainly not by the standards of modern politicians. I’m working for a living wage (and a bit more, if I’m honest) and providing for my family. My wife works and brings money in too, and we have a reasonably comfortable existence.
I’ve never used a food bank. I’ve never used a payday lender. I’m unbelievably relieved that it hasn’t gone that way. On the face of it, what David Cameron tells me matches my existence. I’m working hard, and I’m managing to get by. I’m a worker, not a shirker.
Hard work equals success. We back the people who work hard. I didn’t fall for the lie that we could all work hard and find success together, because that’s as disingenous as Michael Gove’s “Everyone above average” sweetmeats; but I did fall for the fallacy that success equals hard work. Much success comes as a reward for hard work, but they aren’t mutually exclusive. Heredity, chance, grift and bald cheek are usually partial co-factors.
So when we’re told that hard work brings success, it’s not quite true. Accepting that is true leads to a bigger lie – that failure is sin.
If you are not successful, the logic goes, you can’t be trying very hard. And not trying is a bad thing. We’re all in this together, after all. You need to pull your weight. Redundancy shouldn’t hold you back. Get up and carry on. Mental resilience and good health be damned, we must work hard to achieve success, and until you’re successful you’re not working hard enough. Should you not succeed, you’re failing, and that’s a sin. That’s why we must punish the people who don’t succeed. Helping them would remove their need to succeed like we have. OK, we should help a bit, but not too much. Certainly, we should decide how much they do or not get, and when they stop getting it. After all, that’s our money they’re spending. It’s like those with money own those without. That’s sickening, when you think about it. We moved on from people as property years ago, didn’t we?
I think we could spend a lot more effort getting large companies and high earners to pay their taxes in the spirit of the law rather than finding ways to adhere to the letter while evading the purpose. You can have your high salary and huge profits, and you’re welcome to them. Well done. Just don’t hold back your due share from the bounty you have received. Invest in the country literally if you have the capability. Personally, I think if you or your company hold a majority of your wealth offshore, your voting rights should be rescinded. Unless you’re investing in the country with your money, your time and your care, you are no more one of us than you are a penguin. You are not in it together with us, and we should relieve you of the burden of deciding how we run our country.
Monetising success has further unfortunate consequences. Care of the elderly, infirm and vulnerable is under fire because it’s done with low paid workers some of whom are not invested in their patients. Care of children is now regulated to within an inch of its life partially because we can’t trust people to do a good job for the love of it. Schools have genuine fears about losing chunks of their budgets in legal fees because litigious parents sue them for not offering their child a place. The price of freedom is the also paid in the cost of prisons for those we deem too dangerous to be in mainstream society. Everything and everyone becomes a price tag. Never let it be said I “dig” Jessie J, but she has a point.
How best to fight this? I’m right behind Russell Brand’s revolution. Quite a way behind actually, probably rolling bandages or something. I’m not the adversarial type. I do believe in making things better by doing and setting an example others can follow. I won’t be abstaining from voting, but I will be hoping for change. Join me in mastering some of the small stuff. Be nice to people. Invest in them by listening and caring and wanting the best for them. There is a word in English (with French and Latin roots) which has origins in the concept of feeling with your fellow human, rather than putting a relative value against them. Vive la compassion.