Monday, December 02, 2019
Alternatives to Self-preservation
If you’ve ever watched the TV series ‘Downtown Abbey’ you’ll know that the aristocracy were very kind, back then. Once a year Lord Grantham organised a massive Fête in the extensive grounds and invites all those poor, poor people from the village to come and grab some free food and entertainment. Also, once a year, The Family allows the servants to sit at the big table and the toffs deliver the courses - Role Reversal for a night.
It’s a good idea. It means the lower orders are damn grateful for their lives, and harbour no resentments against those who are seemingly more important and higher up the social ladder than them. And if there’s even more - well, if the Lord gets off his fat backside and turns up at a hovel to deliver sustenance and support to the sick - that’s a bonus.
Actually, it’s a case of Self-Preservation. It’s the only way that British society has avoided a revolution for the last four hundred years. Strangely, the new breed of rich people, the so-called ‘One Per Cent’ seem to have no conception of this approach, which is why they are doomed.
The ‘Oncers’ may have made money, but they seem to lack basic Common Sense. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’ve read a book by Nicholas Taleb, the author of ‘The Black Swan’, amongst others, you will be familiar with the fact that he moved to New York in the ’90s and was confronted by taxi drivers whose favourite phrase was, ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ The assumption was that, since this was the Land of the Free, then everyone was able to start work and make themselves a fortune, if only they would apply themselves. Mr Taleb found the opposite to be true. He set up as a Trader, and worked in the Stock Exchange, the Futures Exchange, the Derivatives Exchange and the Commodities Exchange. He met plenty of successful traders. His question was, ‘If you’re so rich, why ain’t you smart?’ Because he discovered - much to his chagrin - that there was no relation between being clever and being rich. Some people made money in his business, some didn’t. It wasn’t the brightest who made the biggest fortunes. Far from it. In fact, it seemed totally random.
If you’ve read any books by Robert Kiyosaki you will know his Dad was a University lecturer, a very ‘smart’ man. But then he was made redundant at the age of 50. He enjoyed a comfortable but not poor life up to that age, and was struggling ever after. Robert called him his ‘Poor Dad’. But then the young man met the father of his pal, Mike. Mike’s Dad was a successful businessman, and owned shops, a transport firm, property, land and investments. He was the ‘Rich Dad’ who Robert was drawn to, and swiftly adopted his way of looking at things and working methods. Using Rich Dad’s methods in the world of business, Robert became rich - oh, after failing four times. Sorry, did you miss the bit about his bankruptcies? Yes, acolyte Robert didn’t have a smooth ride from ‘Poor’ to ‘Rich’. He tried, he failed. He tried again. Maybe he got lucky.
My point is this: people who start ‘with nothing’, might like you believe that they achieved wealth through their own undaunted efforts and sheer cleverness. The reality, as with most philosophies, is a little more mixed. As Tina Turner once said, ‘What’s luck got to do with it?’ Quite a lot, actually. If you’ve ever listened to a programme on BBC Radio 4 called ‘Desert Island Discs’ you may or may not have noticed that MOST actors, singers, artists - and even business people - will, when telling their stories, get to a point where they say, ‘Oh, and then I was really lucky. I met this person, (or, got this part, or was offered a commission), and everything grew from there’. Right, they are being honest, but few listeners ever hear that part. They are too in love with the idea that effort, brilliance and talent is what makes people famous, when the reality is more murky. My point is - if you’ve been lucky, how about helping others? If you’ve got a lot, how about sharing? Just like ‘Downton Abbey’ !
The alternative? Well, London has seen protesters camping out and throwing bricks through shop windows. New York has seen ‘Anti-Capitalists’ on Wall Street. Well, if I was a capitalist, I’d start giving to charity, right now. Quick. Before anything else bad happens. Unfortunately, the new rich lapse into ‘You’re just envious’, while forgetting there are other Deadly Sins apart from Envy. Would these success stories admit, ‘Me, I’m Greedy, Gluttonous, Dissolute, Vainglorious and Sexually Depraved’? No, I thought not. The list is just too long.
As I said, Britain hasn’t had a revolution since 1642, but France did, in 1789. At that point, the poor - and even the Middle Class - who had had enough of being vilified and deprived, rose up and overthrew the Monarchy, then started murdering the aristocracy, one by one, on the guillotine. That wasn’t very clever, was it? No, the rich need to be less distant, less self-absorbed, and more generous - not because it’s a Good Thing, (which it is), but because it’s a matter of Self-Preservation.
I know, Jonathan, I know. You're stumped.