There is an immutable law that states that if you repeat something often enough people will believe it. “Britain is on the verge of bankruptcy”. It is not, but how many times have you heard this in the last six months? How many times have you heard David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg say that last week’s cuts were fair? They have told us repeatedly that they are, but they most certainly are not.
As soon as George Osborne mentioned the word fairness, the experts dived for their calculators and fed the data into their computer models to check the fairness factor, measuring and comparing every pound, weighing every welfare advantage and disadvantage. They could have saved themselves the bother.
How is it possible to determine what is ‘fair’ in an unequal society? It isn’t. What we are being asked to accept is a fair distribution of pain. How can that be fair? As a result of the coalition’s cuts, the less well off are going to suffer much greater pain than the well off. Why? Because their pain will be much more than a financial one. It is a sad reflection on the state of our society that fairness is only seen in economic terms.
We have become so insensitive to the effects of seeing things only in economic terms that our moral sentiments have been corrupted. Years of unregulated, unfettered self-interest have produced a selfish and divided society: self-enrichment no matter what the cost, self-advancement at any price. The greatest casualty of this folly has been trust.
Trust has to be at the heart of any civilised society. We have to be able to trust those in positions of responsibility. Politicians, businessmen, bankers or heads of department have to be trusted to act honestly and in the best interests of the majority. When they do not, or they make catastrophic mistakes, they have to take the blame and take the pain. This is the responsibility of leadership.
The captain and the navigating officer of the nuclear submarine Astute, will be the ones who take the responsibility, the blame and the pain for the grounding of their vessel, not the able seamen. That is how it should be.
I think that the concept of responsibility has been totally forgotten – maybe it has never been properly understood. It is neither fair, nor just, that the less well off should be paying any price for the current financial crisis. It is not their responsibility. Indirectly, they will pay a high enough price without cutting what little they have.
The well off may complain that this is unfair, and that the cost of welfare ‘handed out’ to the poor is too high, but it is often forgotten that they get hand outs too. They inherit their handouts and it’s not just money. They enjoy the bounty of class, nepotism, advantage and security – and it’s all taken for granted. This puts them in a position of permanent advantage. Isn’t it fair to expect that as they benefit from these advantages, they should demonstrate responsibility towards the society which allows them this privilege? Shouldn’t we expect them to be shaking trees on behalf of the poor to ensure that Britain becomes a more equal society? I think we should.
It is a great pity that politicians have failed to grasp that the measure of success of a society is not how affluent it is, but how equal it is.
Unfortunately, as a result of last week’s announcements the disparity between rich and poor will become greater. Britain is destined to become a more divided, more unequal society. Welcome to the Great Disconnect.