I can afford to give up much of my lifestyle, because I’ve got a lot left over to cushion me – Barack Obama – COPS 26 – 08/11/21
I listened to BBC Radio 4’s documentary on the Nuremburg Trials over the weekend. It was a weekend when I also learned about
- The extent of consultancy contracts supplementing 30 MPs salaries
- The payment of MPs expenses by Unions
- That the largest delegation at COP 26 was from the fossil fuel lobby
What all four stories had in common was that none of those accused of the misuse of their power, claimed to have any guilt, despite it being obvious to me and everyone else that their behavior was/is unacceptable.
Of course it’s wrong to equate a £400 per night hotel bill with participation in genocide, but the features of “denial” are the same; people are following order/common practice, the end justifies the means, if it weren’t us , it would be someone else- I have a right…
It’s the final one that grates most, the entitlement of those who have grown up in a world where earning ten or more times the average wage is not just acceptable but a recognition of status. The entitlement of Nazi War criminals to be treated as very important people, the right of politicians to “level up” their standard of living (ok – maybe I am stretching the point ..)
We should not underestimate the behavioral bias that exists because of entitlement and it’s all about denial. We simply don’t want to be told that we are in the wrong, though we are happy to admit it in retrospect when we write our memoirs or tell our life stories to our kids and grand kids.
Learning from present failure seems to be beyond us. Which is why the Government had to be dragged out of the mess they got themselves into last week by their advisers -still kicking and screaming it was doing nothing wrong.
The point of journalism and commentary on social media is to provide the alternative view to this bias. I hope that it is a function of this blog too. It seems extraordinary to me that intelligent people can remain in denial and seriously. But they can.
When I worked for Allied Dunbar and Eagle Star, they were owned by British and American Tobacco. Allied Dunbar brought in better rates on life insurance for non-smokers, BAT bulked. Eagle Star didn’t, they were credited. There was a sign at BAT trustee meetings saying “thank you for smoking”, cigarettes sat in silver holders on the table in front of you as you peered through the smoke at those you were reporting to.
I suspect we will look back at the Fossil Fuel Delegation at COP 26 as incredulously as we do the attitudes of the Nazi war criminals, neither have much remorse, neither would change the past and both groups are fighting an existential threat. The entitlement and denial of wrong are so breathtaking that they almost get away with.
There is a point when medical evidence about smoking , or the climate evidence about burning fossil fuel becomes so overwhelming that you cannot pretend any longer. We now have smoker life insurance rates and smokers get better annuity rates. We now feel guilty not owning an electric car an I want to know where the electricity powering my lifestyle is coming from. I will make my purchasing decisions in future based more on Environmental , Social and Governance factors as I become more aware of the impact of ESG on my and my family’s future.
This goes for pensions too. I am increasingly attracted to L&G’s fossil fuel fund rather than its Future World fund for the conviction of the former and the lack of conviction of the latter. Frankly, I have lost patience, I have moved towards Greta’s “blah blah blah” for what I have seen over the past week.
I do not want to put up with low-earners having to wait till 2025 to get promised Government incentives, I don’t want to participate in debates over protected rights to the NMPA, I do want to talk about why we are selling workplace pensions without the pension.
Pensions is as full of these bias’ as other areas of public life and I have been as guilty as anyone. The activists I used to laugh at – like Sally Bridgeland on her bike – I now see as heroes. And as I have seen the bias’ I have against activism exposed for what they are, I see myself having to change my ways far more radically than I had thought.
There are no “buts” or “almosts” anymore
What is clear to me now is that we cannot afford to wait ten years to set out on our personal paths to net zero, nor can we tolerate the egregious behaviors of those in Government but most of all , we cannot continue to countenance our own excesses. I do not need a car- my car is going.
I do not need to fly, I am not flying. I do not need to travel to meetings if the meeting can be better conducted on Zoom. I have legs to walk and run, I will use them!
We cannot drag out the path to the Paris targets any longer and as I enter my 7th decade on this planet, I will try to learn to change , from those like Greta and my son Olly, who practice what many of us preach.