Why Boris Johnson is wrong about equality

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Originally published on The City Scoop

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It must be tough to get to the top, and you sure as hell can’t be thoughtless buffoon to get there. Hence, you might of been surprised by our mayors now infamous comments at a speech on Wednesday, addressing the Centre for Policy Studies in London, a free-market neoliberal British policy think tank.

Boris mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 and called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130. He declared that inequality was essential to foster “the spirit of envy” and hailed greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

I must admit however, I was not entirely shocked by the Mayors latest bout of pleb bashing, the Eton bred, Oxford Graduate in Classics, following a similar outburst last week. The Mayor was lambasted after he defended the rich, claiming they have been unfairly ostracised by the British public. According to Boris, life sure is tough being in the top 1%.

His most recent remarks reflect a very troubling trend, a deeply concerning misconception when it comes to causal link between poverty and intelligence. Boris’  ‘interesting’ remarks about the poor in this country shows there is something inherently wrong with the Mayors conception of equality.

While it’s not particularly out of the ordinary for our bumbling mayor to talk utter shite, his recent slew of comments attacking the poor and rallying behind this nations elite has left a sickly taste in my mouth. And I would assume the five million people living below the Mayors ‘London Living Wage’ were none too pleased by the remarks either.

Boris, who is a person known for not mincing his words, said that economic inequality is something that is inescapable, in a world where there are ‘natural differences’ between peoples aptitudes.

Boris is wrong about equality. Economic inequalities will not cease to exist, not because of inherent differences in natural ability, but as long as people hold onto this unwarranted assumption that poor people are somehow inherently inferior. While I am not condoning deterministic bred apathy, for us to understand the issue of income inequalities as they stand, we must understand what the reasons for these differences in ability are. Once we understand the reasons, we can attempt to find the solution. Simply accepting that inequalities will always exist is lazy and ill-conceived means at tackling the problem.

But it is easy for people like Boris to feel morally and intellectually superior when they have been educated to such a high standard. The former journalist, and now heavy weight political figure, has had ample opportunities in life that only a very small fraction of us could ever hope for. His success, despite what he may think or believe, is not necessarily due to his aptitude, but a combination of circumstances that propelled him into the limelight.

And it is not necessarily wealth that has been the key ingredient in this recipe for success, and I say this as someone who has grown up in relative poverty. During my childhood, all around me my peers and I were subject to obstacles that Boris could hardly fathom in his sheltered upbringing.

Could a man like Boris, suckling from the teats of aristocracy and privilege, ever know the frustration of growing up in poverty? Has he ever felt the anxiety of hearing parents bicker over unpaid bills? Has he ever had to share a 80p bag of chips for dinner with his family? Has Boris ever experienced bailiffs coming to his home as a child and taking all his possessions? Can he appreciate the stigma and low self-esteem that comes with being the child of poor, working class immigrants? Can he comprehend the difficulty of growing up with parents who can barely speak English? Has he lost a parent and been brought up on meagre benefits? Has he had family members succumb to a criminal life just to survive?

This kind of life, while it doesn’t necessarily close doors for you, it makes it so much more difficult to succeed, and this I have experienced first-hand.  While I concede these obstacles can be overcome with hard work, with determination, and most importantly, a whole lot of luck – for a lot of people, it just doesn’t pan out like that.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to have the right people around me, to give me guidance and help me understand this world and my place within it. But many of my peers, my friends, and even family members, have not been so fortunate; they have not been given the same nurturing and encouragement to reach their full potential. To hear Boris say that some humans are just inferior, I find deeply insulting, and incredibly frustrating. If we don’t believe in people, if we don’t give them the means to attain success, then how can we ever expect to irradiate inequality?

Yes, the problem is a natural difference Boris, but not in intelligence, but in privilege. Because I can guarantee you, if you’d gone to my school, located in a working class constituency in East London, and not the grand halls of thorough bred Eaton, you’d not be the same person you are now. If you’d grown up in poverty, you’d most certainly not be Mayor of London. And to be quite frank, I hope you aren’t for much longer, because the last thing we need in this country is another egocentric, self-righteous prick in office.

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