Wednesday, November 30, 2011
In her masterpiece "Atlas Shrugged" ten years in the writing and published over 50 years ago, Ayn Rand paints a picture of a future where the state controls everything and the individual is unable to create wealth or to use his natural talent to progress.
My life experience tells me that her premise is right. Despite what the equality legislators would have us believe, we are not all equal. Some people are better than others in business, while others are better athletes, some can sing or are virtuoso musicians. Passing a law cannot change that.
Our education system has held back the gifted whilst discouraging the ordinary in a vain quest for homogenation, for making everyone the same.
We're not. We can never be the same. We are all different.
I was listening to the radio the other day and every singer sounded different. They each had a unique sound to their voice. It has to be that way. What people remember about Sinatra, or Ella, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Annie Lennox, Amy Winehouse was that they were instantly recognisable by the sound and quality of their singing. When all the fuss about their private lives has subsided, what will remain is the quality and distinctiveness of their voice. We are not all alike. We can never be. We should never aspire to be the same as everyone else.
So why is it that when I turn on some TV shows or open up my paper I'm confronted with an image of someone who's apparently constructed from an identikit?
The same hair, the same fake tan, the same makeup, the same teeth...and as for the women.......
Since I was a teenager I've smiled at the absurdity of young people eschewing school uniform is a vain attempt at individuality, only to dress in t-shirt and jeans, and thereby looking exactly the same as everyone else. I almost laugh out loud at the fat useless lumps of lard walking around town in sportswear, trying to look cool when it's pretty apparent that they couldn't even run for the bus, let alone do anything remotely sporting.
OK, I've made it clear that I don't want to be one of the herd. I don't want to look like them, dress like them, act like them and most of all, think like them.
This makes me potentially dangerous to the state. Because government policies are worked out by sociologists who have studied the behaviour of large crowds, they can cope with a few like me adding static to their graphs and charts. But what if there were more like me? What then? What if the masses refused to conform? What if the masses refused to consume what they were fed, whether it be in the supermarkets or through the media?
In my life as a musician, I've tried to avoid following the crowds or the latest fashion, except when it suited me. The music that excited me was never played on Radio 1 or shown on Top of the Pops. I discovered it for myself, through underground and specialist press and word of mouth (usually John Peel's).
In my working life I've tried many jobs. I'm pretty adaptable and can turn my hand to most things but the fact still remains that when up against a naturally talented businesman he beats me hands down. When up against a skilled painter and decorator my rudimentary DIY skills leave me at the start line. My friend (a painter and decorator by trade) could finish painting my living room ceiling before I had the lid off the paint tin. People are different, have different skills and therefore have different earning potential.
I had quite a lot to do with young people in recent years. As my son grew up I got to know his friends and for a time I was involved with a church youth group. In my working life I met and worked with a lot of young people. About twenty years ago I noticed that the youth seemed in my eyes to be more compliant, less rebellious, less questioning than my generation back in the 60s. That may seem a surprising thing to say, but remember, my generation changed the world. I think the education they received stunted their enquiring minds.
More recently I've been working in a solicitor's office and I regularly receive CVs from students seeking job experience or a training contract. I sometimes laugh out loud at what they write. The grammar is either non-existent or cut and paste googlespeak. I'm not certain if these young people writing and sending out these flowery pieces of fiction actually comprehend exactly what is written. Yet I also sense an air of expectation, of entitlement, that somehow they deserve a job, just because, well, just because of who they are.
Which brings me rather circuitously back to Ayn Rand. One theme that recurs in her book is the sense that various characters deserve a break, deserve a job, deserve a good wage, deserve the same as the hard working hero who earned his wealth through his own enterprise, hard work and imagination only to have the state steal it from him in the name of equality and fairness.
Life isn't fair. Let's get that straight. I may play a musical instrument and sing a bit, but that does not entitle me to the same riches as Paul McCartney or Elton John. I may not have had the same success as those two, but I cannot expect to have, because I didn't travel the same hard road as them, I didn't get the lucky breaks as them (mainly because I didn't put myself in the right situation or meet the right people). Most of all, I didn't have anything like the same talent as them.
The thinking that Rand rails against is the idea that somehow legislation should be passed that forces the better and more successful musicians to give up their wealth or squander their talent in order that the little guy like me might have a chance.
What nonsense. Yet governments still try to do this.
So what can little insignificant me do about this?