Thursday, 11 April 2013

Needed: More Inspiration, less Aspiration.

The death of Lady Thatcher this week has aroused (again) considerable emotion about what she did and did not do during her term of office from 1979 to 1990. It is, however, agreed by virtually everyone that in certain ways she changed the face of British politics and has left subsequent party leaders (of left and right persuasion) eager to emulate her in certain ways.

And to the British public at large she infused a sense of what we have come to term 'aspiration'. However, what does that term really mean ... and does it really take us in the direction we should be aiming for?

In fact, by bringing in this aspirational concept, Mrs. (as she was then) Thatcher had the affect of nearly burying some trends that were beginning to be popularised in the 1970s towards green concepts ... the notion that was developing among certain groups of people that Mother Earth was being hard done by, that we were steaming ahead in extracting fossil fuels and creating much dangerous waste. Greenpeace was born and the western world was beginning to realise that we had reached the post-industrial age and that we had to nurture what remaining resources the earth possessed. A report by an intellectual panel called 'The Club of Rome' (1971) enforced that view and their overall perspective has been found (in more recent years) to be correct.

It could be said that in her own way Mrs. Thatcher took the country towards a greener philosophy in her stand against the coalminers, but I doubt that any analysis of those times would reveal that Mrs. Thatcher took that line on the basis of green issues. Nor did green issues play much of a part in the government's general policies of the time.

But what her terms of office did infuse in the working populations of the north was a sense of both hate and fear and a survival lifestyle. They did not have the luxury of considering the green issues and what was spiritually or materially a good philosophy ... they became perpetually concerned in how to feed their children and put shoes on their feet.

The message put out from Number 10 was to get on yer bike, and for those who were prepared to give up their place of upbringing and community it could be said that material improvement could be found elsewhere. But the north had been maltreated by the Tories in decades still in living memory, and there was not too much willingness to obey Number 10's advice. The northerners felt that yet again they had been betrayed - and independent observers could understand why.

The south - given the stimulus of a changed financial sector enterprise culture - took on the challenge of aspiration, and largely discarded the concerns of environment. Making money was the issue of the day, and it led to the creation of pyramid businesses and other scams of a dubious nature. And an attitude in the banking sector that ultimately led to the collapse of 2008. A detailed history of the enterprise culture from 1983 to 2008 would make interesting (and, perhaps, appalling) reading.

What is it that aspiration has brought us to (in the main, I add)? Essentially greed and the want of more than the person next door, and a government that has been willing to move a disabled person to smaller accommodation even though the third bedroom is used for the storage of essential equipment for the disabled person. Other disabled people have been told that they are elligible to work - even though they are clearly not, while Remploy was dismantled. And the notion is being put out that it is perfectly OK in this aspiration-led deficit era to treat the innocent in such a way.

The Tories blame the previous government for the deficit, yet it was the Tory notion of aspiration that started the trend towards a predictable end.

The following of 'aspiration' has done what kind of good for civilisation? Precious little. It has reduced us closer to the level of animals in our perception of life and it has taken away dignity. The numbers seeking help for stress seem to increase by the dozens every day. Increasingly it would seem, the rich seek which country to live in to pay the least amount of tax.

Perhaps we should have taken the Club of Rome's report more seriously and properly thought through what was to be done to develop in a sustainable way. But it is not too late to change and perhaps change has to start with each of us - individually - towards a worthwhile sense of what is really important: towards an intelligent all-for-one-and-one-for-all philosophy of sustainability.
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