I am under no illusions about my fitness to rule. I once appeared on the panel of BBC Question Time and very quickly bumped up against the limits of my own enthusiasm for politics. When David Dimbleby turned to me to ask my opinion on some story of the week, a voice inside my head was screaming, “You know, I really don’t give a damn.” I’d love to be enthusiastic about saving the world but I fear that even as the starving hordes of the developing world were storming a fortified Islington, I would be slumped behind the barricade studying a book of antique maps.
Another trait of mine is that I say yes to too many things and end up spreading myself too thin. Ruling the world might be a disaster unless I learn to delegate. So let’s just assume that I have consulted good people, and they have tackled all the tedious logistical problems like feeding and housing the poor and providing good healthcare and education.
My rulings would be pretty arbitrary—some serious, some trivial. As an artist, I’m used to making impulsive decisions and running with them. I understand that if there is no perfect way to do things then it is usually a question of committing to an okay solution and adapting.
All of my governments would be entirely female for at least a generation, or until men learnt to adapt to the modern world. Individually, of course, women can be as corrupt and bigoted as men, but collectively I think they would produce a more empathetic and pragmatic form of politics. Men seem to be preoccupied with concepts like “honour” and “respect.”
I would make emotional intelligence, along with public speaking, a much bigger part of education. To be aware of one’s subtle feelings, responses and desires, and to be able to articulate them well, are truly great gifts. We have no choice but to look at the world through a lens coloured by our feelings, and therefore we must recognise and try to correct its distortions. People need to be educated into awareness of their own subjective experiences so they can make the right choices for themselves and help others to do so as well.
I would ban advertising and branding. All products would have to be sold on their own merits. Chain stores full of overpriced tat we don’t need might disappear. Creativity and quality would be spread by word of mouth. I have no idea if this would work. Few people seem to have the confidence to measure subjective experiences: what makes us truly happy, what makes a good life, what makes good art? People want reassurance, and marketeers are queuing up out there to sell it to them in the form of brands. It seems toxic to me. My reforms might encourage a more humane assessment of what constitutes a good life.
I would also ban the business suit. It is a symbol of the corporate blandness that has spread like a muffling duvet over the world’s cultures. People hide behind it as a cipher for “seriousness.”
A lot of the world’s troubles seem to be caused by young men with an adrenaline addiction. I know I was one. I would put in place schemes to harness their energy for good and make them grown-ups; we seem to have too many 40-year-old teenagers who can’t take responsibility.
I would raise the age at which people could drive a car to 30 for women and 35 for men. This would halve the accident rate at a stroke, and also cut traffic and reduce obesity in the young, who would have to walk and cycle.
The smartphone is causing a harmful love triangle to develop in parents’ relationships with their children. I would run campaigns to make it socially unacceptable for mothers, fathers and carers of young children to spend so much time ignoring their charges by calling and texting. The pre-verbal development of children is the bedrock of their mental health.
Taking photographs at social gatherings would also become taboo; people miss many great experiences whilst taking a bad photo of it. This is part of a wider trend in society where people are living their lives so that they look good to other people rather than paying attention to how they nourish them from within. Life is more than the sum of its photogenic peak experiences. For every hour spent planning a wedding or a birth, at least a day should be spent on thinking about how to have a good relationship and how best to bring up a child.
I expect my world to be pretty chaotic, but at least it will be less concerned with status, and concentrate more on the quality of experience.