A significant and valuable July 29, 2016 Guardian article by Stephen Hawking, who like some others of us is disabled

A July 29, 2016 Guardian article by Stephen Hawking is entitled: “Our attitude towards wealth played a crucial role in Brexit. We need a rethink.”
The subhead reads: “Money was a key factor in the outcome of the EU referendum. We will now have to learn to collaborate and to share.”

The opening paragraphs read:

Does money matter? Does wealth make us rich any more? These might seem like odd questions for a physicist to try to answer, but Britain’s referendum decision is a reminder that everything is connected and that if we wish to understand the fundamental nature of the universe, we’d be very foolish to ignore the role that wealth does and doesn’t play in our society.

I argued during the referendum campaign that it would be a mistake for Britain to leave the European Union. I’m sad about the result, but if I’ve learned one lesson in my life it is to make the best of the hand you are dealt. Now we must learn to live outside the EU, but in order to manage that successfully we need to understand why British people made the choice that they did. I believe that wealth, the way we understand it and the way we share it, played a crucial role in their decision. As the prime minister, Theresa May, said in her first week in office: “We need to reform the economy to allow more people to share in the country’s prosperity.”

Later in the article, Stephen Hawking notes:

So I would be the last person to decry the significance of money. However, although wealth has played an important practical role in my life, I have of course had a different relationship with it to most people. Paying for my care as a severely disabled man, and my work, is crucial; the acquisition of possessions is not. I don’t know what I would do with a racehorse, or indeed a Ferrari, even if I could afford one. So I have come to see money as a facilitator, as a means to an end – whether it is for ideas, or health, or security – but never as an end in itself.

Interestingly this attitude, for a long time seen as the predictable eccentricity of a Cambridge academic, is now more widely shared. People are starting to question the value of pure wealth. Is knowledge or experience more important than money? Can possessions stand in the way of fulfilment? Can we truly own anything, or are we just transient custodians?

5 replies
  1. Dave Bush
    Dave Bush says:

    Living in Britain, I thought I would like to comment on this. I’m not exactly sure what Stephen Hawking is trying to say, but certainly we have people who have worked, schemed and lied to push Brexit and make massive amounts of money from it. Is he aiming at them? Some of the very few people benefiting from Brexit are the hedge fund managers who have moved their money around to massively benefit from the falling £.

    https://www.channel4.com/press/news/brexiteer-jacob-rees-mogg-estimated-have-earnt-ps7m-investments-referendum-according You probably won’t know who Rees-Mogg is, but he is presumably one of the people Steven Hawking is taking aim at. Rees-Mogg is your epitome of a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but not being content with £millions in his pocket, he used his position as a politician to play a prominent role in the Brexit debate, and his position as a hedge fund manager to make £Billions out of it.

    I was an active part of campaigning to Remain, mainly because I didn’t wish my Continental friends to look upon us as little Englanders. It gives me no pleasure that the people who voted to leave are now beginning to realise just how much we have been screwed over by the money pushers and how much damage has been done to the nation. I can not understand why they were so willing to ignore the blatant lies that were being spread about the EU at the time, because they were so obvious, but there were so many issues being thrown at the fan during the referendum that many thought they had something to gain. Of course any gain they think they made has been vastly outweighed by what they have lost. I think that, like the rest of the world looked on at America and wondered why on Earth they thought Trump could be a president, the rest of the world must have looked at us and wondered why on Earth we wanted to become a little insular country with no influence on the rest of Europe and the World even, and to have a good go at self destructing our economy.

    I don’t want to take up too much space here and regurgitate all the arguments, but I just wanted to try and explain how saddened I, and so many of us are, at it all. Half the country is still very angry over Brexit and will probably remain so. As part of my childhood was spent in Quebec back in the 1950s with all the problems between the French and the English, I am particularly sensitive to the unpleasantness of segregated groups within a society. The closer we can get together the better.

    And for it to happen because people fell for the lies and manipulation of the grubby money pushers just rubs salt into the wound. And where to now? Very likely the dissolution of the United Kingdom itself.

    Apologies for this post in your blog, Jaan but I hope it is ok for you. I won’t be offended if you remove it. I have removed all the swear words!! Lol!
    Cheers, Dave

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Good to read your comment Dave! I much appreciate having the opportunity to read your comment. It helps me to understand things, which in my case I can only view from afar.

  3. Dave Bush
    Dave Bush says:

    As I write, we are once again suffering rioting in Northern Ireland and this is how I see it. We can point absolutely directly at Brexit as the trigger. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-56684571 It is very sad and depressing. I left Canada in 1960 and moved to England with my family and so I am not fully aware of, and cannot comment on, the present day dynamics between the two communities in Quebec, but in the 50’s there were certainly resonances with Northern Ireland. I am ¼ Irish, ¼ Welsh through my grandmothers and I spent most of my teaching career in a Roman Catholic secondary school in the midlands of England, so I have a lot of Irish friends who keep me informed as to what is actually going on.

    The Good Friday Agreement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Friday_Agreement helped smooth over “the troubles” between the two religious communities in NI, but a large part of it was due to the EU with its common market allowing unfettered travel between Ireland, NI and the rest of the UK, with there being no borders of any sort. Thus NI residents could identify themselves with Ireland or the rest of the UK as they chose. Those who wanted Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland were happy, as were those who wanted Northern Ireland to be part of the UK.

    However, with the mess made by Brexit, the UK left the common market without any sensible deal of any sort and has had to set up border controls to stop smuggling between the UK and Europe. But our PM, Johnson, promised there would be no border controls between NI and the rest of the UK at the same time as saying that the border between NI and Ireland would hardly be noticed. https://news.sky.com/story/the-pm-said-there-would-be-no-checks-but-there-will-be-11991803

    This of course was always going to be impossible and was pointed out by some. To the shame of our media, our politicians on all sides, and I’m afraid, a third of the electorate entitled to vote (that’s all it took for such a momentous change in state), nobody seems to have cared. Crazy!

    So to cut a long story short, pretty much everybody in NI is upset and it hasn’t taken much to stir up the factions again.

    I only write this in response to Jaan’s article in the hopes that it helps shed some light on what is going on over here in the UK. There is so much to be said about Brexit and how it has come about, but I cannot sit in front of my keyboard all day! We are at the lowest of the low with our politician’s at the moment and it so dismays me that we are in the hands of such incompetents.

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I have read about Irish history and the history of the British empire at some length, and find news and opinion articles about Brexit of interest. However, because I do not live in the United Kingdom, these topics (Northern Ireland and Brexit) are more at a distance, for me.

    I’ve written at this website about the history of the Stratford Festival, in Stratford, Ontario where we have lived since 2018. I’ve read several books by and about Tyrone Guthrie and have much enjoyed learning about British history from reading about his life and times. I’ve also read a book by Alec Guinness which I found of much interest for similar reasons.

    With regard to religious differences, I’ve found it of much interest to start reading a Doctor of Creative Arts dissertation by Siobhan McHugh entitled: “Oral history and the radio documentary/feature: intersections and synergies” (2010).

    Given that I’ve been working over the past year on a book project (about the life and times of a speech therapist and researcher in Alberta, Canada), which is largely based on interviews, I’ve found this dissertation of much interest and value.

    By way of providing a sense of the contents of the document, an excerpt from the abstract reads:

    This Doctorate of Creative Arts is based on a two hour radio documentary/feature series entitled ‘Marrying Out’, which draws on 50 oral history interviews recorded by the candidate on the topic of family conflict and sectarianism associated with mixed marriage between Catholics and Protestants in Australia to the 1970s. The series seeks to harness the aesthetics of long-form crafted radio so as to allow oral history to achieve its fullest force, by emphasising orality while enhancing the interview’s ‘listenability’ and impact through carefully judged radio production techniques.


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