I don’t intend to make a habit of this kind of thing but I read something recently that was just so brilliant I wanted to share it.
I first became aware of Caitlin Moran when she used to appear on “yoof culture” programmes in the ‘80s, interviewing the likes of Claire Grogan or Billy Bragg. At the time there seemed to be something about her personality that lifted her out of the ranks of gobby teenagers who got lucky. Strangely, I can’t find anyone else who remembers her, even my brother who sometimes watched these programmes with me. Then again, I seem to have a lot of memories of the era that no-one shares with me, like Frida from Abba’s solo career or that brief period when NME told us Dollar and Buck’s Fizz were cool. Maybe I spent the ‘80s in a parallel universe.
Time moved on, I stopped watching “yoof” programmes, and Caitlin Moran faded from my memory. Until I opened a copy of The Times and there she was, older, wiser and very readable. It would be no exaggeration for me to say that, in my opinion, she is one of the best columnists in Britain today.
I once sent her a fan email. I have never sent a fan email (or letter) to anyone before. A few months ago, you may recall, people were publicly stating that they would personally be willing to capsize boats carrying Syrian refugees to Europe. Not many people, but enough – quite frankly, one is enough. She wrote a piece about this that so perfectly encapsulated my feelings that I was on the verge of tears. I had to tell her how much I admired her for writing this, hence the fan email.
Sadly, I received an automated reply telling me she never checks her emails but would usually respond to comments on Twitter.
I don’t tweet. Besides, the moment had passed.
I haven’t liked everything she’s written. In particular I’d gladly burn her novel, How To Build A Girl, not because I’m a Fascist who is opposed to freedom of expression, just because it’s rubbish. But on subjects as diverse as female genital mutilation, the futility of space exploration, and her love of Aslan from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, she has thrilled me with her perceptiveness. And she has achieved this without recourse to convoluted sentences or unintelligible language.
So where am I going with this?
According to a recent report by Oxfam, 62 people own 50% of the worlds wealth. If that doesn’t shock you, read it again. 50% of all the money in the world is owned by just 62 people – that’s 0.0000084% of the population. As if that’s not bad enough, the other 50% isn’t shared in any equitable way between the rest of us, so that we can all enjoy luxuries like clean water, enough to eat, shelter from the elements. No – if you think about it, the remaining 50% of the world’s wealth is divided between the entire world’s population minus 62, including kids in the slums of Calcutta, stick-thin famine victims, you, me and Donald Trump (the world’s 405th richest person in 2015).
In an article in The Times magazine, Caitlin Moran makes the point that, above a certain level, money is meaningless. If you have – let’s say – 10 billion pounds sitting in a bank account another billion isn’t going to make much difference to your life. She suggests that people like the 62 are, in fact, just hoarding money, just as some people with mental health issues hoard baby clothes, or junk mail, or takeaway packaging.
I’d love to include a link to her article but The Times protects its content with a paywall. I’ll content myself with including a quote from the end. I realise this is breach of copyright but I’m hoping no-one will mind – if anyone from The Times or even Caitlin Moran herself objects, I’ll take it out but for the time being I offer it here in admiration of its author.
And what you (the 62) are really hoarding is change. For money is an object whose properties change, depending on where it is placed. Money in a bank account – making you one of the world’s 62 richest people is, to all intents and purposes, dead. It can do nothing.
Put the money somewhere else, however, and it becomes magic: it can build a park, transform a town, change a future, save a life. Save hundreds of lives. Save millions of lives. It can put books on shelves and lights in homes and food in bellies and clothes on backs – it can divert the courses of rivers. You could be collecting a million tiny revolutions and joys. You could be one of 62 people making 50 per cent of the world’s progress.
Instead, you keep all that potential locked in a vault – you are, merely, one of the world’s 62 richest people.
Sometimes I read something and just wish I could have written it. I even forgive her for the time I wasted on How To Build A Girl.