London Marathon today on the day the Sunday Times published its annual ‘Rich List’.
Crowds of runners pelted past Canada Water (renamed for the day following a sponsorship deal with a bottled water company) as we learn the collective wealth of Britain’s richest 1,000 people now stands at a staggering £547.126 billion. Astonishingly, despite the world economy suffering a decade-long recession this figure has more than doubled since a total of just under £250bn was recorded in 2005.
Alongside this we’ve had a decade that has seen food banks become an essential component in a new, skinnier, meaner welfare state, a hike in fees for further education and an explosion in house prices and rent costs. Zero hour contracts proliferate; we’ve seen a mushrooming of part time jobs and a spike in the numbers of people calling themselves ‘self-employed’ – earning on average around £10k annually.
It’s 2015. By any standards we are becoming a more unequal society. It beggars belief.
Watching the pack of runners go past, the cheering crowds are awash with banners (‘Keep Going Jayne!’), inflatable sticks, oversized spongy hands and and all manner of things to wave. It’s a fantastic atmosphere. People are shouting out all manner of encouragement. Then Simon – in our gang – bellows out through his loud haler “Don’t forget – it’s not a race, it’s a marathon!”
I like that advice. ‘Marathon’ seems to be more about bettering yourself, beating your own time, self-improvement and somehow completing in one piece. Rather than simply competing and racing against others.
A good society sees life is more ‘marathon’ than ‘race’ – about improving myself and finding solidarity and camaraderie with other runners and the crowd. It’s less about a race that involves stepping over others.
More inequality means the richest disappearing off into the distant, racing off and loosing touch with those they started out with – not good for the rest of us. They forget about those left behind.
Libraries of research tell us inequality is bad – an unequal society breeds division, extremist reactions, higher crime and poor health – not good for civilisation. So, if we need better, sharper regulation to ensure more equality, it’s disappointing with an election around the corner, all political parties avoid this stuff.
In the race for No 10, we need to be speaking up, using a loud haler and calling for small incremental changes that create more economic and financial equality. That’s the prize! After all – life is not a race, it’s longer and tougher, like a marathon!