Monday, 5 September 2022

This superficially selfless concern for strangers

Back in August while we were on holiday, Joe Nutt had an interesting piece on levelling up in The Critic.

Levelling up to where?

The chatterati are in no place to lecture

It’s clear that levelling up is looking every bit as intransigent a political goal as social mobility — which shouldn’t surprise anyone who thinks that both phrases have never been anything more substantial than slogans, the former replacing the latter as soon as voters started to smell a rat. The idea that British citizens can, in these first few decades of this new century, stand back and admire their children’s progress up some increasingly slippery social ladder, is an idea that merits fierce interrogation. That’s not just because global events and nervous economies have rendered the prize more elusive. It has always rested on some hugely questionable premises.

As Nutt says, the advocates of social mobility are not acting out of selfless altruism. It is not about improving the lot of others, of the great mass of strangers comprising the general population.

Where does this desire to level up and to improve total strangers really come from? If levelling up is merely about dishwashers and trips to Disneyworld, what professor Goldthorpe calls inequality of condition, then why not just go hell for leather down the road of a universal basic income and embrace the idea that the State really is everyone’s Nanny McFree? I suspect it’s because the most enthusiastic advocates of social mobility and levelling up are doing something else entirely, and it’s really all about them.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a call to look after our own lives and reject what Nutt calls "this superficially selfless concern for strangers".

What’s needed is a radical reversal of this superficially selfless concern for strangers. If you can’t care for your own offspring, successfully enough to transform them into stable, secure adults willing to do the same, what can you possibly offer others less well-resourced in either material or human terms? We should primarily focus on our own lives, our own immediate family and that miniscule part of the real world that any of us ever occupies.


Sam Vega said...

I'm not sure whether the "levelling up" agenda is about people wanting to grab opportunities for their own children, or whether it is just a form of virtue-signalling.

What's clear is that once things are all nice and level, the rich and powerful will have ascended a different peak without us noticing, and we'll have to start all over again.

A K Haart said...

Sam - yes, I'm sure the rich and powerful intend to ascend to a different peak and are well on the way to it already.

Tammly said...

But I thought we were all supposed to be in it together? You mean to say they lied to us?

A K Haart said...

Tammly - let's say they were economical with the truth... no, let's say they lied.