Sir Martin Sorrell is head of WPP, one of the biggest advertising companies in the world. Faced with the prospect of a shareholder defeat over his pay, most other company executives “disappear from view like a grinning Cheshire cat”. Not Sorrell. Ahead of WPP’s AGM, which saw 59.5% of shareholders vote against the remuneration report, he penned a passionate defence of his position in the FT to remind “the swelling ranks of investor ingrates” that it was he who had the vision to transform a redundant basket-maker, Wire & Plastic Products, into a global advertising behemoth worth £10bn. As an owner-entrepreneur with most of his personal £174m fortune tied up in the company, he claims to find objections to his pay rise “deeply disturbing”.
There’s one big problem with Sir Martin’s defence, said Robert Lea in The Times. He owns just 2% of the company. Having been bigged up as “the Sage of Soho” by a “complicit” media that elevated his quarterly musings “to something more Delphic”, there is a danger he has begun to believe his own spin. A 60% rise in his total package to £7.3m this year “may not be as much as that paid to his international peers”, as he argues. But it seems an awful lot to everyone else. “We may have arrived at a Citizen Kane moment, where the brilliant business-builder has begun to lose touch with reality.” Sorrell forfeited his right to act as an “imperious” owner-leader when he took his company public and pocketed a huge sum of money. His apparent stance – “pay me or fire me” – is not that of a “responsible” co-owner. It is akin to “holding fellow shareholders to ransom”.
There’s little chance of Sorrell resigning, however large his defeat. FTSE 100 chief executives were last year awarded an average total pay of £4.8m – a rise of 12%. And for all the talk of rebellion, there have been just four defeats of remuneration reports across the whole of the FTSE. Sorrell might have received a bloody nose at the hands of his shareholders but, to all intents and purposes, the shareholder spring remains a myth. The corporatocracy rules O.K.
(Adapted from The Guardian)
According to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations the number of Americans recently killed in terrorist attacks is comparable to the number crushed to death by falling television sets or furniture each year.
Yet in pursuit of the so-called War on Terror, now re-named “overseas contingency operations”, the US will, in 2012, spend $500 billion on “fighting” this ephemeral threat. It is reckoned that there are probably no more than 100 dedicated anti-US terrorists still operating, which means the taxpayer is paying $5 billion per terrorist. Add to this the individual state departments of homeland security and protection of scores of “vulnerable” Federal buildings and events through out the country, and you can easily double this figure.
Joseph Stiglitz has estimated the war against Iraq cost $5 trillion, and the war against Afghanistan will be of a similar order of cost., with no terrorist attacks on the mainland of the United States to justify such expenditure. As Philip Giraldi, writing on antiwar.com, points out, bin Laden said that he aimed to break the United States economically by enticing it to overreact to terrorist incidents. His legacy is secure and his forecast was spot on. So much for the politician’s love of country.
Where bin Laden was clever was in spotting that the constant development of warlike materials and the unstoppable growth of the armed forces and “homeland security” is the vulnerable underbelly and Achilles heel of the United States. If there is no war there is no call for bullets, tanks and planes. What then do the bullet, tank and plane makers do? There can be no end to these draining and bankrupting wars because the bigger the defense industry gets the harder it is to say “no” to them.
This will be the chief verdict after all the bills have come in and the world asks “Whatever happened to American power?” A wicked plot? Probably not; just dumb stupidity.
A 22-year-old law student boards the last bus home after a night out. She finds she’s 20p short of the £5 fare and pleads to be let on or given time to visit a cash machine. The driver refuses, leaving her stranded in Nottingham city centre at 3am, where she is subsequently attacked and raped. It’s an agonising story of “what might have been”, says Jenny McCartney, a story that should haunt not just the driver but also his passengers. While she was pleading for a full eight minutes with the driver, not one of them – as CCTV footage shows – made the slightest effort to intervene or divvy up the 20p. Had it been their daughter in such a position, they’d all have wanted others to help; yet they did nothing. Alas, “don’t get involved”, even if it means no more than a bit of “extra effort or potential embarrassment”, has become the mantra of our age. Though we live in an “era of endless gabble and self-assertion on social media”, we shy away from direct engagement with our fellow citizens. Yet it’s those little civic-minded gestures that count – in this case, “more than anyone might have imagined”. ( Quoted in “The Week”)
Comment: No Epicurean would behave so stupidly or so, selfishly.
“The philosopher A.C. Grayling has complained that the British live in a post-rhetorical culture… that British politicians talk in soundbites, and that we have to look to the US to find the tradition surviving… [Yet] the reasons Barack Obama can do what David Cameron can’t are fairly straightforward. At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, Brits don’t warm to speakers who sound as if they’re playing trumpet voluntaries to themselves. We are, in our political discourse, sceptical and deflating. In a country with a tradition of pantomime, as the former Blair speechwriter Philip Collins has pointed out, no politician could get away with ‘Yes, we can’. The reply from the other side of the house would be: ‘Oh no we can’t!’”
(Sam Leith in The Guardian)
I would add that the American media is too deferential to politicians by half. We know they are lying. We know they won’t keep their promises, and we let them get away with it without explanation. Only when you see how the leaders are treated in the British House of Commons can you appreciate what “holding a government to account” really means -and even that is not nearly enough – by far!
People of Epicurean persuasion should not get excited – the whole charade is for the benefit of the 1 per cent.
The Tucson public school system recently eliminated the whole Mexican-American studies curriculum, and banned a slew of books, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There are similar things going on all over the country, with book bannings and the firing of teachers who try to pose contrary points of view and get students to think for themselves. In 2010 the 6th Circuit stated that it is the educational institution that has the right to academic freedom, not the individual teacher. Thus a teacher, as a hired hand, has to teach what the school tells him or her to teach. The teacher has no right to teach matters of “political, social or others concerns to the community” (activist judging!) .
If Epicureanism means anything it means thinking for yourself and not bowing to political correctness or the diktats of politicians.
In his Assayer of 1623, Galileo explained his notion of the difference between the qualities, mostly found by touch, that are inherent in bodies (weight, roughness, smoothness, etc.) and those that are in the mind of the observer (taste, color, etc.)–in other words, the difference between what we call primary and secondary qualities. In this discussion he referred to bodies that “continually dissolve into minute particles”, and stated his opinion that “for exciting in us tastes, odors, and sounds there are required in external bodies anything but sizes, shapes, numbers, and slow or fast movements.” An anonymous cleric filed a report with the Inquisition in which he claimed the first citation to show that Galileo was an atomist and the second to be in conflict with the Council of Trent’s pronunciations on the Eucharist. The report did not lead to any action against Galileo. (from Greenblatt’s The Swerve)
The proposition is that the Inquisition needed to squelch the idea that objects that can be smelt or tasted are merely atoms, because this would give the faithful the idea that the Host was not, after all, the body and blood of Jesus but a rather ordinary arrangements of atoms. It was safer, in the campaign against Galileo, to focus on his views about the Earth circling the Sun, for the man in the street could see with his own eyes that that was a preposterous idea – couldn’t you see the Sum going round the Earth every day of your life?
I am about the read Redondi’s “Galileo: Heretic”. This book, very controversial, explores the above idea, that is, that Galileo’s enemies deliberately focused on the one thing that ordinary people could understand and would sympathize with the church.
Recently we had a calm and interesting discussion about same sex marriage. Ranged on one side were those who felt that the word “marriage” is freighted with a long history and belonged only to the world of heterosexuals. Yes, it was right and proper that gay unions should be recognized by the law and that they should enjoy the same legal rights as anyone else, but please don’t call it “marriage”.
On the other side, two points were made, one from a gay friend in a long-term and stable union, who told us about the stress of telling her parents about her orientation and her new partner. Had she been able to say “I am getting married”, she felt that her parents would have been more accepting. It would have meant a lot to them. Secondly
was the point, apparently shared by a significant portion of the
younger population, that there were enough social problems already,what was the point of arguing over a word? If love and
commitment were involved were not these enough? We don’t have enough
love in the world.
When the Barna Group polled Americans aged 16 to 29 on what best described Christianity, the top response was “anti-homosexual”. The other common associations were “judgmental”, “hypocritical” and “too involved with politics”. There is a fundamental change taking place in the views of young people. Politicians can no longer explain their antagonism to homosexuals by simply saying “I am a Christian”. Fewer and fewer people believe them.
From an Epicurean point of view, as long as no one sexually abuses other people (especially children); as long as they are good citizens and try to bring more happiness and joy into the world, then toleration should be the watchword. They should be ablre to use whatever word they like.
We should expect some form of wisdom, even common sense, to emerge from our rulers, whether they be the uber-capitalists or the errand boys in politics who do their bidding. To allow Wall Street and City characters, whose only talent is to make profit out of obscure financial instruments, to lord it over us, to pour money into elections and to divert money from the poor into their own pockets, demonstrates chronic sociopathy, not wisdom. This will come back to haunt the selfish and the greedy, although there is doubt whether they care as long as they get their short-term way.
The creation of a modern plutocracy unaccountable to anyone, indifferent to nation states or fellow citizens, is bad for the whole world, not just Western nations. Some intelligent billionaires see this point and recognize that more equality equals more stability, not to mention happiness. Not many, though.
Epicureanism stands for moderation in all things. So far so good. But personally I find the requirement of Epicurus to ignore politics very difficult when I see the population of formerly democratic nations sleep-walking into a new form of the government, call it corporatocracy or uncaring plutocracy.
How do other people cope with this?
Writing this in London I cannot let the opportunity go by without commenting on the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth. The Queen has been the best Head of State of any country in the world, and has been thus for decades. She has worked tirelessly for sixty years and has been a model of public service and dedication to her country. Those who want to abolish the monarchy should suggest who else could have done the job – Tony Blair?
Her moderation, hard work and loyalty are positively Epicurean.
Conversation accidentally overheard in a concert hall:
“…………It’s a Debussy piece, which he authorised with the publisher years before. But in this later edition a number of notes had been added in bar 232. There’s nothing wrong with the new notes , but I personally think that modern instrumentalists should play the original version”.
“There’s a word used to describe an alternative set of notes that can be played as the performer wishes.”
“That’s brilliant. How on earth do you know that?”
“I read about it in your own book on music theory.”