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THOUGHTS ON PETER STRINGFELLOW’S “ASPIRATION” COMMENTS
Firstly, much kudos to you for all your efforts politically and for animal welfare – and of course for all the music the last 40 years I’ve been listening!
I watched the Big ideas spot you took part in on the BBC recently and some of Peter Stringfellow’s comments got me thinking; the word ‘aspirational’ is used so often these days to justify what is basically greed.
If you believe that those who can afford it should contribute accordingly, you’re accused of being ‘anti-aspirational’. We’re all supposed to be a part of the ‘aspiration society’.
I think this attitude is very pernicious. It assumes that the only outcome of aspiration is financial gain. People who aspire to help others, to invent things, to heal the sick, to teach, to grow things, to inspire – are never assumed to belong to the ‘aspirational class’; this class is reserved solely for those who strive at all costs to have more money than everybody else.
Indeed, the word ‘aspirational’ is used as a stick to beat down those who would promote values other than wealth.
Of course we should be promoting ‘aspirational’ people – we should laud anyone who aspires to achieve great things – to do good, to change the world, to help. But why is it that financial gain is ranked so high among those aspirations?
I’m all for Peter Stringfellow being able to enjoy his wealth. But if his chosen aspiration is simply accumulating money, he should realize that his contribution back to the society that allows him those opportunities is financial – and he should be taxed accordingly.
For those whose aspiration is to heal, to do social work, to teach kids, to paint, to mentor, to farm, to invent and on and on; they may never make as much money, but they should be praised and championed as the truly aspirational – and rewarded with our respect and thanks – and the added benefit of not paying so much tax.
Again thanks for all you’re doing – especially getting people talking and thinking,
Bloody Hell, Matt – if you’ll pardon the expression.
Right on the button.
This is exactly the root of the evil in the Cameron kind of Conservative philosophy. The worth of everything is judged in terms of money.
Did we learn nothing as a human race over the last 2 thousand years ? Do we really still worship the false God of Money ?
To me, it’s a clear as day. And you have expressed it perfectly here. Big Ideas ? Well, as a species we’re great at earning and spending money … and covering the world with concrete … and using and abusing other species, and eliminating them if they are no use to us. But morally, aspirationally, in the true sense of the word, I believe we are bereft. We have lost the plot.
In a TV discussion like that one with Peter Stringfellow and Heather Rabbatts, I’m always trying to think on the hop, and catch hold of the points being made. I’m also trying to find spaces in the conversation to say what I believe, treading the fine line between assertive enough to be heard at all, and being over-aggressive towards the other panelists, and denying them their say. And TV time, when you’re truly live, runs about 5 times as fast as normal time – or even Radio time, I find. It’s all over in a flash. When I come off, and for days afterwards, I am doing ‘post-mortems’ in my mind, about what I could have said and didn’t. For instance, I didn’t actually say “Please visit www.commondecency.org.uk” to contribute to our scheme”. I wish I had, because, trying to explain how it worked, I was cut short.
But also I was caught quite unawares by Stringfellow’s “aspirational” word. When he launched into that, for the first few seconds I had no idea what he was trying to say. “Aspirational” to me is indeed a word about having dreams, about bettering oneself, achieving something great for the people around us. I think of people like Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King when I hear this word. By the time I realised that Stringfellow’s kind of ‘Aspiration’ was just about making money (I should actually have known that up front), the moment had passed for me challenge his words. Maybe I have just not been keeping up with current Conservative buzz-words – in the world I inhabit, nobody takes any of the rhetoric from Cameron’s rich and privileged clique seriously. Sadly, because of the way the endless propaganda shouts at us, we’re encouraged to think that material wealth is all that is worth discussing in the run-up to the election.
I’m just going to quote your last paragraph verbatim … because it’s exactly what decent people need to be reinforced in believing:
“For those whose aspiration is to heal, to do social work, to teach kids, to paint, to mentor, to farm, to invent and on and on; they may never make as much money, but they should be praised and championed as the truly aspirational – and rewarded with our respect and thanks – and the added benefit of not paying so much tax.”
To me this is the kind of insight that ought to be governing our next parliament. I believe it would be perfectly possible to tax heavily all wealth made which does not benefit society … from the banks and the iniquitous Hedge Funds all the way down to greedy swindling landlords. And I would, as you say, reward people who do great selfless work by giving THEM tax-breaks, and better wages. Maybe we’ll start with the Nurses !
“Indeed, the word ‘aspirational’ is used as a stick to beat down those who would promote values other than wealth.”
Yes. Through Common Decency, let’s try to change that.
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