My trigger was The Observer where amusingly I read that ‘Now we tend to stick much more to our “own”; we read the newspapers written for people like us...’ Well not I. I like to know what the enemy is thinking. I remember sitting in a coffee shop with a couple of Persian friends in Kuala Lumpur and one of them hushing us in order to listen briefly to a conversation between a couple of Arabs who had sat near us.
“You speak Arabic?” enquired my silenced friend once the hushing hand was lowered.
“I’m learning it. You want to know what they’re talking about” he replied before turning to me and earnestly saying, “Kathryn, promise me you’ll never trust an Arab.”
I’m still on the fence regarding that issue but it stood out as a real time example of appreciating the views of those you disagree with (and being ever so slightly paranoid).
I don’t really see readers of The Observer as my enemy but I don’t think it’d be healthy if I read the Torygraph like my mother. I think I’m a little too right of field not to continually challenge my ideas. I feel that I ought to rationalise and be able to defend my beliefs in a reasoned way and not in a knee jerk way which incidentally seems to be the one I encounter from those that don’t like the Tory’s because they aren’t nice. (Bite me)
So the rules of the game?
It’s not nice.
It’s not fair.
It’s just life.
I don’t hold much truck with idealists. While certain degrees of socialist utopia sound lovely, the reality is they don’t work and frankly I don’t want to pay for the dependent.* Equally, I don’t want supporting. I’m happy to play the capitalist game knowing that I’m never going to be one of the field leaders. The whine by Danny Dorling entitled ‘Britain’s growing pay divide – is it really fair’ that set me off on the course of this column could easily be viewed solely within the capitalist game context but look deeper and a different picture emerges.
‘A recent poll by Compass and the Joseph Rowntree Trust showed that only 1% of people think that top executives should be paid as much as they are. Another striking figure revealed that 64% believe that a chief executive should take home an annual salary of less than £500,000.’
Seriously. Why? Why care what the super rich earn? Personally £500,000 as an annual salary is as unrealistic as £15 million as an annual salary is to me. So what is this view of the (interviewed) majority based on? My personal opinion is that it’s mostly a case of hating the player not the game.
I don’t hate the game. As a result I’m incredibly ambivalent towards the players (that I don’t have a personal relationship with) and I feel rather sorry for those that get so impassioned with the injustice. For me injustice worthy of passion is human trafficking and being in actual danger on the basis of the colour of your skin or your sexuality. Frankly I lack the energy to feel very much for someone who earns huge sums but is otherwise probably quite like me in that they have a relationship, a family and a job. How tragic to exert energy on a stranger who spends their time in meetings before returning to a big house to watch the same TV program as you after tucking their kids into bed under the same duvet cover design as your kids.
I think your view of the big earners says a lot about the degree of contentment you have in your own life. I think my ambivalence stems less from my being rather right wing than it does about my being happy in myself. I can recognise that a cap on earnings being £500,000 (which incidentally raises all kinds of questions about entrepreneurs) would make me no happier than if earnings were uncapped and I’d argue that it is the same for anyone. By focusing on fairness in this sphere you only increase your sense of being cheated of something. Let it go, and more importantly, look inside.
Now, of course money buys a degree of happiness. The fiancé flippantly suggesting we go for a drink before going to the theatre and not thinking twice about spending £10 on half an hour of time filling is great. I’m happier with this life than I’d be in one where we couldn’t afford to do that. But would I have been any happier if he’d ordered a bottle of designer champagne? No. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice but it wouldn’t make me happier than my glass of house white. Because what really made me happy about that drink was spending some unexpected time with the man I love in a nice environment. This realisation means I have no envy of the couple drinking designer champagne. I’m certain they aren’t happier than me.
If the key to happiness being making peace with the game of life sounds defeatist then I’m sorry but no matter what the system in operation the basic rules seem to be the same everywhere. Still, if hating the game is what you must do, then do so but for your own sake, don’t hate the players!
You can be better than that.
* Certain exclusions apply. I believe in free education for everyone who wants it up to the age of 18, welfare for the elderly and (genuinely) disabled, support for good mothers and I love the NHS.