From arguments over whether £80,000 is "rich" to the bizarre spectacle of average earners defending the rights of billionaires, a deeply-held belief in exceptionalism has poisoned political debateby Christiana Spens / November 26, 2019 / Leave a comment
“The rich are different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his novella, The Rich Boy, with a sense of romantic longing. “Yes,” his rival, Ernest Hemingway was said to have replied, mockingly: “they have more money.” As Hemingway wrote later on, in a 1936 issue of Esquire magazine, “that was not humorous to Scott. He thought that they were a special glamorous race and when he found out they weren’t, it wrecked him.”
The American Dream, as Fitzgerald would come to know, was based on this flawed assumption about ‘the rich’—that their wealth signified some elusive, intrinsically superior personal value, which set them apart from everyone else. That this magical dream could be acquired through charm and work; that having money—having things—would validate the dream of yourself that you, if no one else, believed in. And if it didn’t? Well, you still had your dreams; you were still ‘someone’ just through the strength of your own imagination. Worthy through imagined association, if nothing else.
Although it’s an American idea, the British, with their deeply ingrained class system and colonial past, have a similar set of assumptions and problems, which to this day divides society and undermines any hope of a fair and equal political system. This dream—that shot at an imagined, doomed superiority—continues to divide and mislead, and yet even as it does so, swathes of the population are ready to vote for it again.
Tory austerity has already been linked to thousands of deaths. Hundreds of benefits claimants, faced with destitution and homelessness due to sanctions and cuts, not to mention scarce access to mental health services, have taken their own lives. Cancer treatment has been delayed for the sickest patients leading to preventable deaths. Ambulances turn patients away or arrive hours late. Doctors and nurses are driven to the brink due to staff shortages. Those suffering from substance abuse problems—and their families—are left to fend for themselves due to a lack of funds and care from the central government.
This has all been well-recorded. We know that the country is struggling, that the poor are getting poorer, that economic growth is slow, that infighting and shame are endemic. At every level but the very, very top, people are suffering.
And yet approval…