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Frogs, tadpoles, delusion and Boris Johnson

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Frogs, tadpoles, delusion and Boris Johnson

Post by Jill Segger on Sun Dec 15, 2013 11:26 pm

The fright wig and jester's mask slipped last month. Boris Johnson, delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, showed the ugly reality behind the motley as he made his bid for the support of the Tory right and attempted to position himself as successor to David Cameron.

The London Mayor claimed that inequality is essential to fostering "the spirit of envy" and described greed as a "valuable spur to economic activity". Justifying his belief that it is “futile” to attempt to end inequality, he cited some statistically questionable facts about the proportion of “our species” who have a low IQ, with the subtext that it is their lot to endure poverty while wealth and success is the deserved outcome of intelligence. It is a comfortable fallacy for those who have inherited wealth, position, connections and self-confidence.

The opponents of egalitarianism so regularly confuse uniformity with equality that one must assume they are either malicious or less intelligent than their genetic supremacy argument claims. The Christian Socialist Richard Tawney provided what should be the defining criterion in this non-debate: “While ... natural endowments differ profoundly, it is the mark of a civilised society to aim at eliminating such inequalities as have their source, not in individual differences, but in its own organisation."

This is a troubling idea for those who prefer to believe that their comfortable position in life has nothing to do with intrinsic privilege and everything to do with their own industry and intellect. Of course, these qualities are significant, but when given as unquestionable by those whose lives demonstrate the serial advantage gained from a society designed to permit them to succeed, they serve only to enable the demonisation of the 'failures'. The lot of such people must be the outcome of laziness, fecklessness and an inability to apply themselves. It's a neat let-out.

The 'greed is good' philosophy espoused by Boris Johnson is an extension of this delusion. Poverty means you are inadequate, therefore wealth means you are admirable and its increase must command an even greater degree of admiration. For evidence of the impoverished and deforming nature of such deception, look no further than Johnson's remark that a £250,000 salary from his previous second job as a Daily Telegraph columnist was “chickenfeed”. If he really thinks we should be envious of such dysfunction and dissociation from reality, his moral IQ is gravely defective.

To return to Tawney: "It is possible that intelligent tadpoles reconcile themselves to the inconveniences of their position, by reflecting that, though most of them will live and die as tadpoles and nothing more, the more fortunate of the species will one day shed their tails, distend their mouths and stomachs, hop nimbly on to dry land, and croak addresses to their former friends on the virtues by means of which tadpoles of character and capacity can rise to be frogs.”

Perhaps the Mayor could do us all a favour by refraining from further distension of his mouth and stomach.

This blog first appeared on Ekklesia and is reproduced with acknowledgement. www.ekklesia.co.uk

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen
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