The Rat Race
I don’t often drive nowadays. Monday was an exception as I borrowed Annie’s car to pop down to Central Manchester and meet with Ravi Singh and his senior management team at Archway Dental. Leaving at 17:00 I was required to do something for the first time in a couple of decades – join the rush hour traffic heading out of the City for the southern suburbs and leafy Cheshire. Nothing has changed on Princess Parkway since the 90’s – brake lights, stop/start and Radio 4. I seem to recall that back in the 90’s we were treated to a daily summary of what a bloody mess the world was in. Back then, oil prices were skyrocketing, Arabs and Jews were in conflict, politicians were posturing and telling us what our moral standards should be, banks were gambling in Mexico with our money, a series of UK financial institutions collapsed, investors lost money and the Government decided to bring in a Financial Services Act to protect us all – LOL. On Monday this week I listened in amazement as I heard about energy companies increasing their profits by 500% in 4 years, RBS systematically asset-stripping their business clients to pay off their losses – and the usual round of celebrity exposures. This week not in the jungle – cocaine snorting chefs and kiddy-fiddling singers. I used to be a regular Radio 4 listener as a driver – “Today” in the morning and “PM” on the way home. A daily diet of doom. Since I sent my car back and started using train and planes – I don’t watch or listen to the news any more – and somehow life seems to have become a more positive place. My mother was a telly-addict, especially as a widow and I can remember her telling me many years ago how worried she was about a bunch of miners buried in Argentina (when was that?). I suggested that there was little she could do by worrying in a Manchester council house – but recognised that this had become her life after Dad passed away (that and The Shopping Channel – you should have seen the crap I had to clear out when she passed away). I can see how a lonely widow would live vicariously through the media – and I’m sure it is a solace to many in that situation. But when you have a life – work, kids, stuff to do – why would you want to sit there and listen to problems and issues over which you have no control? Russell Brand (who I don’t click with as a person but respect as a writer) has recently been criticised for suggesting that young people should refuse to vote as a protest on their lack of representation in Parliament and in “the system”. Commentators have reminded Brand that men and women died to secure those votes – and that countries without democracy are places of corruption and dictatorship (and your point?). I agree that dictatorship is never benevolent but to argue that democracy is “clean” is a myth. Brands detractors have reminded us that “sitting on the sidelines” achieves nothing and that exercising your vote is the first step on the path of influence, culminating ultimately in your standing for office. As if to encourage the young to vote, Boris Johnson uses the media to suggest that “greed” is a healthy component of modern society.
He argued that a new generation of “Gordon Gekkos” – a reference to the character in the film Wall Street whose mantra was “greed is good” – should do more to help the wider population but that their greed was a “valid motivator”. “For one reason or another – boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants – the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever,” he said. “I stress, I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”
No doubt Johnson watches The Apprentice avidly and applauds that pile of televised dung as “contestants” use every means, fair or foul to maximise profit and stab their colleagues in the back. People like him seem to forget that in the last 2.5 million years, mankind evolved to collaborate, not to compete. The advent of the agricultural revolution 5-6000 short years ago created the need to protect a crop and thus introduced the principle of “win:lose” that has haunted us since. Include me out please. Here’s a confession – I have never, in my 60 years, ever voted in an election. Years ago I was sat on a bus in Longsight, Manchester – on my way home from work and I saw some graffiti that I can recall to this day
don’t vote – it only encourages them
Wise words indeed. Watch Question Time and tell me that politicians aren’t mainly plonkers – and that the younger ones are insufferably up their own posteriors. So on Monday I was dragged screaming back into the world of actually having to give a sod about what was happening in the wider world – and, like someone who had returned from being marooned on a desert island for years and years – I discovered that everything was just the same as it ever was. My own social responsibility will be exercised by the work we do with Bridge2Aid, by encouraging best practice in dentistry and by tipping the bloke who sits on the pavement outside Sainsbury in Hale a few quid every time I see him – but only after I have crouched down and had a chat with him for a few minutes about how he is getting along in his life. The happiest people I ever met were:
in Nepal, 12,000 feet up in wooden huts
in Tanzania in the bush
the bloke outside Sainsbury
You can strive all your life to be financially independent and powerful and claw your way to the top of your paper-thin life. Or you can become independent of finance. Either way you are out of the rat race. Thanks Annie B, for showing me the way all those years ago.
He was a self made man Made a killing on copper mine Loved beautiful girls Got a taste for fancy wine And the suits he wore Were paper thin He built a big white house In the valley of the kings Took a beautiful wife Bought her every possible thing And the silk she wore Was paper thin Well they traveled in style Paid cash for everything Had a beautiful child Had a champagne christening But as they raised their glasses in toast to him He saw the crystal was paper thin So shadows came Whispering words to him Sold the company out And cashed all those futures in But it all still looked so Paper thin Well it was late one night And the rain was streamin’ down He called his wife’s name out And said honey it’s over now I’m gonna burn it all I can’t take this anymore But as he struck the match She took a pistol from the drawer She said I ain’t going down with you Pulled the trigger in And the bullet it passed right through Like he was paper thinDel Amitri – Paper Thin Lyrics | MetroLyrics