This was the subject of one of Russell Brand’s latest editions of the Trews. Now let me start of by saying that if you hate Russell Brand then most likely you won’t like me but what I intend to do here is to challenge Russell Brand and his handy sidekick (who I also have a lot of respect for) George Monbiot.
I like Russell Brand and I like him for a number of reasons: he’s a West Ham fan, he does not hold himself up to be somebody who is infallible and readily admits his faults, he’s extraordinarily articulate, he questions the system, he challenges societal norms and he also tries to stand up for the “underdog” (New Era Estate, Fire Fighters union etc.). On the other hand he makes me bloody angry at times.
There are a number of things he says in his latest book Revolution which I see as unnecessary, bordering on racism and quite simply ignorant. This is not a time when he has made me angry but I think it necessary to question him.
Russell Brand ever so eloquently manages to describe the means by which Lord Rothermere came about his vast fortune (reportedly around £720m):
“What he brilliantly done was he came out the vagina of this lady who was married to a person whose name was also Lord Rothermere.”
There is no denying that for many people in the position of Lord Rothermere this is often the case. It is a problem that we not only as a British society but also as a global community have and also a problem that some people consider our political processes to have. For a select few, who are then able to become part of the law making process, they have not been selected or proven their ability to be good at anything but have instead been put in a position of power simply by being born to rich and powerful parents.
Now I believe that anybody with an ounce of intelligence about them can see how there are flaws within that system. Lord Rotheremere is (obviously, he owns the Daily Mail) a supporter of the Conservative Party who, by definition, believe in the idea of individual freedom and that when people work hard they will be rewarded for their hard work. No, I am also unaware of what hard work Rotheremere has done in coming to his position of influence.
At this point I am struggling to do anything but agree with Brand. I’m quite sure that the good Lord Rothermere’s mother did more hard work in forcing a child out from a hole which stretches beyond belief through the process of child birth. Rothermere owes his position of wealth and influence to his parents who owe their position to their parents and so and so forth. There is, at least in the case of the current Lord Rotheremere no form of social mobility involved in attaining wealth and influence.
What I want to do at this point is to try and highlight cases where a person of wealth or power has not simply inherited a business – regardless of whether they have then become part of that system and consequently passed on parts of their wealth to their offspring.
Lord Sugar is a well-known businessman and now TV personality, if you can call making a mockery of daft wana-be businessmen and women a TV personality. His story of rags to riches is one which is often told to aspiring entrepreneurs. He started off by selling electrical goods from the back of a van working his way up to become one of Britain’s wealthiest men. He grew up in east-London, not be confused with the trendy east-London of today, and his parents had little money and no titles with which to gain privilege. This is a man who has worked his way into being given a title and earning a place in the House of Lords.
Charlie Mullins is another example of a rags-riches story, although one which is much less well known. Mullins is the Director of plumbing firm Pimlico Plumbers – well known for the number plates on their vans. Mullins left school at the age of 15 before completing an apprenticeship in plumbing and starting the company in 1979. It is now London’s largest independent plumbing firm turning over approximately £20million.
No I am not right-wing in my views. No I do not think the current system is particularly fair. No I do not believe that individuals should hold such a disproportionate volume of wealth. And finally I neither hate nor love Russell Brand. I simply believe that everyone should be challenged and people should constantly question what they see, hear or read – especially in the mainstream media. Social mobility for the most part is a myth but this is not to say that it is non-existent.
What are we supposed to do as a society? I agree that titles and sitting in the House of Lords based on what your great-great-great grandfather did is wrong but for as long as we have private business how are we supposed to stop people handing over the reins of their multi-national company to their children? If the company then fails well who is to blame? Redistributing wealth more evenly would clearly be a start but that is not to say that people will stop helping their own children.
It is a disgrace that people can hold positions of influence because of their parent’s wealth or because of where they were educated and who they attended school with but one way it is possible to start moving away from this is to champion those people who have made a success from a standing start. Brand and Monbiot are right to highlight this issue but at the same time why are they not then saying that there are examples of self-made millionaires? I completely agree with their stance on individuals holding more wealth than a collective mass of poor but is it really wrong to celebrate the achievements of some people who have done well through the age old “myth” of social mobility?
Yes we need to start living in a more fair society but to some extent those people who have built an empire from nothing are surely examples of the lower classes, the poor, the “unprivileged” taking the matter into their own hands. No, they may not have built their wealth on a socialist agenda and they may not be sharing it amongst the lower class from where they once came but they have surely had to work bloody hard to get to their current position in life.
With some more time and a bit more research I may have found examples of people starting with nothing and spreading wealth out amongst the poor but I did not this time. If you can find any examples of this please point me in the right direction so I can highlight what some people are doing to make a difference to the life of other and sharing the wealth. Robin Hood does not count of course.