Enslavement to high standards

Standard

From a recent Guardian article:

“By almost any standards, most people born in Britain since 1960 have won the historical lottery. Although the financial circumstances in which they are raised remain an unfair determinator of how their lives will likely turn out, they have not had to fear invasion or TB and are far less likely to be killed by a car. But what has happened is that decades of relative peace and prosperity have turned a people who anticipated the worst into a population that expects the best.

“So a mid-air explosion on a plane in which not a single passenger is lost or injured is treated as a catastrophe, and hospital boards are dragged through the courts by cancer patients denied another few weeks of drug-driven life. But both of these reactions come from living in highly privileged times, in which survival is perceived as a human right. Those who determinedly invoke lost golden ages should be forced to say whether they would choose to board a flight now or in the 1960s.”

It is gratifying that someone else (other than me) thinks our expectations culturally are now too high. Fairly recently there was a TV programme in which we were invited to feel sorry for a young family who “couldn’t” live together because they were unable to get a mortgage. In reality it was their refusal to rent that was keeping them apart.

Waking up and realising how privileged we are is not as easy as it sounds though, when we are constantly being fed expectations that are impossible to meet; endless TV programmes parade the rich and successful around in front of us, looking for their second home in the countryside or abroad. I remember when I was younger there were a lot of holiday programmes on TV. Now it’s all about buying property abroad.

Post-credit-crunch house prices drops have been reported mainly in very gloomy tones, often questioning whether the government should do something to stop it. Hardly anyone seems to view it as an inevitable and healthy correction to the market. The people who stand to lose most are the ones who’ve invested the most. Recent first-time buyers may struggle with increasing mortgage costs but I think there are a lot of ways to save money that people don’t even think of. But I think people don’t think they should have to. That’s the point.

I think quality of life is increasingly being impaired by chasing material expectations. Yes, we are living with much higher standards these days, but our enslavement to those standards is making us less happy. It takes an incredible independence of will to resist that, which I have certainly failed to do lately. I will quote from a couple of the comments on the article.

“A flexible insecure job market means that you can’t put down roots, requires ridiculously long hours and you may never know when you may be out a job.

“A still over inflated housing market which basically means that many people under age of the 35 may never have their own home, and many may never have families. A fall in house prices will crash the economy, putting people out of work whilst panic measures by the government are likely to stoke inflation and erode money saved as a deposit.

“The debt of many graduates is more than the annual salary of their first jobs.

[…]

“Rising rates of childhood behaviour problems and obesity, are pretty clear indication that people aren’t happy. Especially in the UK where children have the worst lives in the developed world. It is ridiculous to say childrens lives are better than 40 years ago.

“Inadequacy of pension provision means that if you live as if it is a Golden age now, you will live and die in chronic destitution.”

“Expectations have improved enormously since the sixties, running ahead of the status quo at an ever accelerating pace so much so that people feel worse off !!!!!!!

[…]

“Likewise with our growing sophistication and access to expert information, why is the gap between what I will call the moral opportunity and moral delivery ever widening? The failure of the G8 Conference last week to deliver its previous promises of aid to Africa and its failure to agree to dismantle trading arrangements that imposed tariffs unfairly disadvantaging the Third World are abominations. We all know better than we used to what is going on and the economic processes that affect it, but too little is done even so.”

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