Saturday, 24 January 2015

Message From A Serf

I made space for catching up  with some telly this week. Perhaps I should really stick to  Miranda in future because  rather than having a relaxing night of goggle box watching I got  angry...really angry. So what it that got my goat so much?  It was both episodes 'The Super Rich and Us' that's still available to watch on the BBC i-player.  By the way today's arty offering is 'The Worship of Mammon' by Evelyn de Morgan.

These are words from Lady Bathurst who was interviewed in the programme that I wrote down.  She was asked what she thought about the increasing polarisation of wealth.  This is what she said.

I think that human nature by human nature will always be a little envious of those who have more they do. And I think that there is an element of envy and I think that there is also an element, of shall we say, not realising what it means to be somebody like us.  You know, we do work incredibly hard.  I think that people don't realise what responsibility it is.  They don't realise sometimes what a worry it can be.

Now I've since done some reading about Lady Bathurst and it seems that she's not a bad egg.  Like many of the wealthy people I've met she's one of those who takes the responsibility that goes with having a historic estate to maintain and her fortune seriously.  She also understands the significance of charity at a personal and organisational level.  Yet she got it so seriously wrong here. Most of us are not envious of excessive riches.   We are incensed by the injustice that is brought about when a few line their very deep pockets really thickly.  Just when was it that greed became so perfectly acceptable?   It wasn't  the way that I was brought up. And what makes the rich think that we are all so bloody jealous. Many, like me, count their blessings daily and feel entirely happy with our lot.  Materially I have enough and my greatest riches are the interactions with the good people that count as my friends and family.  Give me a pint in a pub with my mates rather than hob nobbing with 'important people' at a cocktail party at a select venue anyday.  I've done that and didn't find it fun at all.

And guess what!  Lots of us who are not in the super rich class work incredibly hard too.  We are not slacking here.  In order to maintain high levels of service to the people I see in my job in the NHS, I take regularly work home, study for a master's degree in my own time and rarely have a lunch break anymore.  I work harder than ever before.  Yet my pay has not risen with inflation for years, my pension and expenses have been cut and there is no current prospect of promotion for clinical staff.  And I'm one of the lucky ones.  I earn a reasonable wage and have a secure contract.   I also get way more satisfaction out of what I do than when I worked as a tax consultant for the super rich in one of the big accountancy firms.    There's many on the minimum wage that work their socks off in employment that they find meaningless who have way less security than we've ever got and who still struggle to feed themselves and their families.  I'm not sure that she meant it intentionally but what Lady Bathurst said seems to undermine our efforts.  Don't even get me going on that comment about what a worry huge wealth brings!

The programme made me realise is that we need to be much more informed about how inequality is being bolstered by domestic and international policy.  And speak out.  Really I don't give a toss that some people want to adorn themselves in really vulgar two million pound glitzy watches just to show how successful they are.  That's their bag. What really bothers me is that such extremes of wealth present a really severe threat of civil unrest that puts the lives of all of us at risk.  As Nick Hanauer, a stonkingly wealthy entrepreneur said on the programme.

'You show me a highly unequal society, I'll show you either a revolution or a police state'.

Now that, Lady Bathurst, is what bothers me about the polarisation of wealth.  It has the propensity to affect us all.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I know no people personally who I think have jealosy or even envy of the very rich. Like most, having health, friends, family and everyday security to meet financial obligation is front of mind. Greed is not admirable, but sickening. Greed and selling others out to amass ridiculous sums is immoral.

  2. I saw the programme. I agree with everything that you have posted here. As a teacher I have seen my salary stagnate and my pension date retreat by the best part of seven years. Nevertheless, I am happier to face life on a smaller income where I actually enjoy the way that I spend my money. Jx

  3. I agree too. And expand your theory to a global world and you get Isis and the like...