politics wealth

We’ve never had it so good, probably

I had to laugh at the Japanese minister who was forced to resign last week. “Being justice minister is easy” he told constituents in the joke that would cost him his job, “as I only have to remember two phrases, either of which I can use in parliament whenever I’m stuck for an answer”. The two phrases “I will not comment on specific cases’ and ‘we are dealing with the matter in line with the law and evidence’ are apparently all you need to bluff your way through as justice minister, but as any good poker player will tell you, if you admit to bluffing people won’t trust you again. I imagine it was said in jest, but if you’re ever watched parliament in session you’ll know there’s a ring of truth about using stock answers.

It reminded me of the other resignation in the past week for telling the truth. Lord Young told a reporter over lunch that most British people had “never had it so good”, despite the recession. Cue media outcry, attempts to retract the statement, and then the fairly inevitable stepping down.

Now, Lord Young is a millionaire and is unaffected by spending cuts, and his complacency is disturbing. His comments were made during a meal in a very expensive restaurant and come across as fatuous and hypocritical. But they’re still largely true.

Despite the problems, those of us alive in Britain today are some of the luckiest creatures to have ever lived on this planet. We enjoy rights and liberties unheard of for most of human history, and instant access to almost anything we are curious to know. We have more possessions and better diets than kings and queens would have had not so very long ago, and our life expectancy is double that of the poorest parts of the globe. Opportunities to travel and enjoy the best of the world are not only unprecedented, but could well be unique, unless we find an alternative to oil. If you’re not convinced that you are in fact fabulously wealthy, I refer you to this website.

These are easy things to forget. While I’m not sure that it’s what Lord Young was driving at, being grateful for what we have is one of the best forms of protection against the stress and worry of uncertain economic times.

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