The thing is, I don't believe that anyone is born solely for the benefit of others. But neither is anyone born solely for themselves
That looks like an odd thing to say, I realise. But what I mean by it is this: unless you live in total isolation, you're part of a society of some kind or size. It may be as small as your immediate family. It may be as big as the world, and all the sizes in between. We are not born to be a solitary species: we flock, we gaggle, we clump, we clot. And when we do that, we have to deal with other people.
There are many different ways of doing that, of course, and they range from the intimate to the extreme remote, from simple to difficult, from pleasant to vile. We have to learn to adapt, to refashion, and, yes, to compromise.
Compromise is a dirty word these days. It's seen as weak and measly, as a halfway house that pleases and helps no one. But daily life is all about compromise, about negotiation, anyway, like it or not. We share space, we share resources, we hold open doors and exchange assistance. We walk further than we really wanted to, because the bus only goes so far or our friend can only drop us on that route. We make do, and, by-and-large, those around us do likewise. We co-operate. We do our best. Ideally, we do our best for others, as well as ourselves.
And we deceive. It seems that in every period and places, those clots of humans have sorted things so that some people get more than others, that some people get away with more than others, that some people receive less and give more. A lot of the time, those people who serve and don't receive have been women. Sometimes, shamefully, they have been slaves. Pretty much always, they are the poor. And more and more the justification is heard that those on top, those gaining most, somehow deserve that. They were born to it. They possess the right genitalia, the right skin colour, the biggest army or bank balance. They're special. They're above the rest, above regular social exchange, above -- it often seems -- the law. And when this happens, we get to the sentence with which I started. Some people are told they were born to benefit others. Other people are told they deserve to get the best of everything. It breeds resentment and worse. It breeds suffering and exploitation, needless death and pain, abuse and exploitation. It breeds oppression and violence. It breed entitlement behaviour and victim-blaming. It breeds laziness and cruelty and prejudice. It breeds a culture in which people believe they have rights but refuse to accept they might also have duties, in which they happily grab for themselves but begrudge giving anything, however small, to others. It breeds refusals to compromise, to consider the needs of others, to give up any piece of privilege or comfort, however small.
And that, frankly, stinks. You can believe, with Hobbes, that humans are naturally self-seeking and unpleasant, or, with Rousseau, that we are naturally decent and cooperative: that's up to you. But we are a social species: we can't get on without some form of society. But you cannot have a decent, liveable society without compromise, without limits on selfishness, on privilege and narrow-mindedness, and greed and entitlement.
We live now in a society where we are told that some of us are worth more than others based on financial value. We are told to support the interests of the rich at the expense of the interests of the many, of the poor, the deprived, the excluded -- and of ourselves. We are fed, frankly, bread and circuses, while the banks fiddle and society burns.
You can, of course, call me a hopeless idealist. ("You're a hopeless idealist, Kari.") When it comes to human nature, I fall somewhere between Hobbes and Rousseau. But I believe this: we can learn. We can think, we can ask questions, we don't have to let the big machines -- Big Money, Big Media -- roll over us. We can compromise. My comfort doesn't have to mean your misery. Your success doesn't have to mean you grind me under your heel. We can find a medium, if we have the will. We can share and support and be just a little kinder. It may not be the easy option. Usually, it isn't. And perhaps you can sleep at night, knowing you put yourself first, last, always. That's your choice. But I can't do that.
And so, Mr Cameron, I don't agree. I don't believe in me first and devil-take-the-hindmost, I don't believe in My Country Right Or Wrong, in I'm Alright Jack. We are, you claim, all in this together. That's true. But here's the thing: it's your turn, yours and your financial sector friends', to shoulder some of the burden and share some of the pain.
In traditional marquise fashion, I'm lobbing something at the internet and promptly vanishing for a while. I don't do it deliberately, I swear. Tomorrow, the marquis and I are off to look for yet more castles in Spain, and my internet access may be patchy. But I will listen and read and respond, I promise.
Skirt of the day: denim.