We who grew up in Britain in the second half of the 20th century have been spoilt bloody rotten.
We are more privileged in every respect than almost any group of people in human history. We have lived through a period of unexampled domestic peace. We have a temperate climate and effective anaesthetics.
Our supermarkets groan with blemishless produce flown from all over the world, and we have more entertainments, and more entertaining entertainments, than any society since the invention of boredom.
We do not choke in pea-souper fogs. We are not tortured to death over our beliefs regarding the holiness or otherwise of the Blessed Virgin. Female circumcision is rare.
We seldom have to cart the bodies of our children off in tumbrils because the Black Death is back in town.
It says much about our decadence, then, that so extensive is our cult of grievance that anyone who suggests we, as a society, count our blessings is deemed to be "insensitive".
Those who “don’t believe” in inheritance might care to explain why they have failed to reject this inheritance.
“We are not tortured to death over our beliefs regarding the holiness or otherwise of the Blessed Virgin.”
No, instead we face the prospect of terrorism perpetrated by those with insistent views on the holiness of the vision of Mohammed.
“We seldom have to cart the bodies of our children off in tumbrils because the Black Death is back in town.”
No, instead we face the return of diseases such as TB, once thought to have been eradicated. Having to take a TB test concentrates the mind upon such matters wonderfully.
“It says much about our decadence, then, that so extensive is our cult of grievance that anyone who suggests we, as a society, count our blessings is deemed to be “insensitive”.
One wonders whether Linda O’ Boyle considers living here to be a blessing.
Asuming that Sam Leith got a job with The Daily Telegraph on his own merits and not because his mother is Penny Junor (journalist and biographer of the Prince of Wales) and that his grandfather father was Sir John Junor (newspaper editor), this article was still written by a member of the hereditary commentariat who’ll probably never have to see the inside of a call centre in order to earn his living; who doesn’t know the difficulties that the society he lauds throws in the path of disabled people who wish to stay independent of the state; and who should just shut up, and take a three-cornered flying one to himself.
Islamist terrorism is going to kill maybe four failed terrorists and their hamster this year. Hardly comparable to the Inquisition.
TB is still rare, and still curable unless you also have AIDS.
Linda O’Boyle would have died long before now had she the misfortune to contract fatal cancer even five years ago.
Working in a call centre is better than working in a pit; disabled people at least *have the fucking option of depending on the state rather than a choice between the workhouse or starvation*.
And you should go and fuck yourself.
Martin, it’s also just possible that young master Leith is no worse than a youngish bloke for whom nothing much has ever gone wrong in life, and unwittingly assumes that he’s immortal and impregnable. It’s not uncommon. Some such are shits; some aren’t.
“Working in a call centre is better than working in a pit; disabled people at least *have the fucking option of depending on the state rather than a choice between the workhouse or starvation*. ”
Is it? Have you done both? Although I have never worked in coalmining, I have worked in call centres, and know that the work is largely shit – which is why obe that i worked in had a staff turnover rates of 15% per week – not per month, per week . I would never venture an opinion on whether working in a call centre is better than working in a pit – upon what basis do you make that judgment? Or do you just talk a lot?
Have you ever been put in a position of having to take a TB Test through no fault of your own? I have. Not nice. Tim posted an item some months back on Orwell’s TB – if memory serves, his was incurable due to him being allergic to streptomycin. Not everyone is curable, you know.
You know what, I don’t think you can read. When I was commenting on this disabled, I was complaining about the obstacles put into the path of those disabled – are you disabled? I am – who wish to stay independent of the state. Having the option of going onto £80 per week Incapacity Benefit is not analogous to being compelled to take that option. This is what happens if you act like an honest broker and tell prospective employers that you are disabled. This has been my recent experience.
The only real insight about you that I get from your comment, John, is that you like to tell people to go fuck themselves. Bit shallow, not very well thought out, quite uncibil, but whoklly reflective of modern British society. I’m not interested in reading the opinion of someone who was born into their line of work telling me how grateful Ishould feel. That, to coin a phrase, is a load of crap – much like your own observations.
And you may kindly go fuck yourself – ya dick.
Dearieme, the inheritance people object to is the excessively uneven variety that privileges one child with a vast estate and another, born to the mother in the next hospital bed, with nothing except a dependency on the former for the means of livelihood.
In the words of Adam Smith, writing in precisely this context – inheritance of great estates: “… the most absurd of all suppositions…[is] that every successive generation of men have not an equal right to the earth, and to all that it possesses.”
Smith was opposed to inheritance tax, it’s true. But he was also opposed to inheritance. I’m going to post about this soon because people rarely investigate the details of his view when wheeling him out in support of policy ideas he’s actually have detested, and opposed.
Martin, contemporary imperfections aren’t comparable to those of the past. Would you prefer to have been disabled in, say, the nineteenth century?
John & Tim,
My apologies for the last sentence of my previous post. It came from a rather more heated,earlier draft, which the enthusiasm to rush to reply omiited to edit.
In fact, that was clumsily put. It’s not the inheritance that’s the problem, it’s the unevenness.
“Is it? Have you done both?”
Call centre yes, coal mining no. I’ve been to old pits, studied 20th century social history, and spoken to old miners (those who hadn’t died of lung disease); this made me fairly certain that although working in a call centre is crap, I’d prefer it to an order of magnitude than working in a pit. (note I’m talking deep cast here – I’d probably rather drive a digger on an open cast site than work in a call centre).
“Have you ever been put in a position of having to take a TB Test through no fault of your own?”
Yes – for some reason I came up positive in the Heaf test when I was a kid, so had to have a chest X-ray. Not sure what you mean by “through no fault of your own” tho’ – as I understand it, TB is an infectious disease, not a punishment for sin.
“Having the option of going onto £80 per week Incapacity Benefit is not analogous to being compelled to take that option.”
I completely understand that. But Leith’s point is not that being British today is perfect, it’s that it’s better than being almost anything else in time or geography. I’m not clear what your situation is (if employers really are turning you down purely because you’re being honest about a disability which doesn’t affect your work, then you should report them to the EHRC because they are breaking the law), but prior to relatively recently here and still in most countries, if you couldn’t work through disability then it was relatives, the workhouse, or starvation…
“My apologies for the last sentence of my previous post.”
Re: call centres vs. down’t pit. I’ve never worked in either (but I’ve written software for call centres and have observed their operations over a lengthy period of time). Working in a call centre is monotonous, repetitive work, but it has to be said that your likelihood of being crushed by a cave-in or incinerated in an explosion is markedly lower than if you were a coalminer. Most jobs are pretty bloody awful, but at least these days most of us are only condemned to do them forty or fifty hours a week, with minimal risk of death or dismemberment.
I vividly recall being in the bar of the local Conservative club after telling at a poll booth in a local election. A couple of Yorkshiremen and their wives were playing darts. I was roped in to keep score as they were too pie-eyed to subtract. It turned out they were ex-miners. What were they doing in the Conservative club, I wondered? Didn’t Maggie take away their livelihood? “Every day, I get down on my knees and thank God for Maggie Thatcher,” says one, “because she made it possible for me never to have to go down the bloody pit again.”
“Dearieme, the inheritance people object to is the…”: but that’s the point. By what principle can you object to the discrepancy with your neighbour but happily accept the discrepancy with 90% of the world? I suspect that people object to discrepancies by which they believe they lose but not by which they gain. Very natural, but by their own lights it changes their point from a point of principle to a point of greed.
That was gracious.
“We are more privileged in every respect than almost any group of people in human history.”
And there’s something else to be grateful for – men especially – it’s that if you were born after 1930, in England, your chances of dying in battle were almost nil unless you joined up voluntarily.
The fruits of your parents’ labours or crimes are not accessible to me, or to someone born in the Burmese jungle. Antibiotics, quantum theory and Israeli oranges are equally accessible to us all. We all inherit the accumulation of human knowledge.There are other factors that prevent the Burmese person accessing these things – political ones, and we should surely strive to help them come to our happier state. But where knowledge and trade are not zero-sum, land ownership is.
You’re comparing zero-sum with positive-sum, which is wrong. Your inheritance from your parents is in no way comparable with our cultural inheritance. I want other cultures to inherit what we do, and if they did I’d actually be richer as a result, because that’s what happens when free economics and knowledge spread.
But only one person can inherit my father’s house.
On a point of fact has anyone ever been tortured to death over beliefs regarding the holiness or otherwise of the Blessed Virgin? Just curious.
I was born after 1930 and missed going to assorted wars in Malaya and such places by failing the medical.
Also I think most would prefer the pits and call centres to the 1930s. No work at all – well almost.
Even then it was better to live in England than most of Africa.
“I want other cultures to inherit what we do”: fair enough, but then they wouldn’t be ‘other cultures’.
Well, yes. That’s an interesting point. There is a certain homogenisation that accompanies globalisation, the spread of knowledge and so on. But that’s probably a worse thing for me than for the people in the Burmese jungles. I’d perhaps find National Geographic less interesting, but I wouldn’t want to live in a hut in a jungle, with a life expectancy lower than my present tally of years. I don’t suppose they do either, when it comes down to it. But if they did, they’d have that option, just as I could live in a hut-boat, catching eels, if I really wanted to.