Magazine article New African

Fear the Greeks Even When They Bring Gifts (1)

Magazine article New African

Fear the Greeks Even When They Bring Gifts (1)

Article excerpt

"It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's 
time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB--General Well-Being"--David 
Cameron, leader of Britain's Conservative Party 

I am sorely tempted to start with the World Cup and the high standard of play by the Africans, especially Ghana's splendid victory over the much-fancied Czech Republic. But Satan go away, I won't fall for the temptation. Rather, I want us to look at something else. On 22 May, David Cameron, the young man who now leads Britain's Conservative Party, made what, to me, was the most important political speech I have heard in my entire journalistic life--and you are looking at the long end of 26 solid years. As usual, the British media reported it for one day and dropped it, but Cameron's recommendations, if followed, would be the thing that saves this world from the slippery slope of self-destruction on which we are journeying. And those who have ears in Africa, please pay attention.


Never mind his youthfulness, David Cameron does have some wisdom to impart: "Today ... I want to set out a new political agenda ... on real life as it is lived," he said on 22 May. "In a series of speeches over the next few weeks, I want to look at the things that matter most in people's lives. Working life. Family life. And what we might describe as community life--neighbours, surroundings, local institutions ... How can we in Britain master the challenge of providing people with work that adds not just to the quantity of money in their pockets, but the quality of their lives?"

He continued: "Too often in politics today, we behave as if the only thing that matters is the insider stuff that we politicians love to argue about--economic growth, budget deficits and GDP. Gross Domestic Product. Yes, it's vital. It measures the wealth of our society. But it hardly tells the whole story. Wealth is about so much more than pounds or euros or dollars can ever measure. It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB--General Well-Being."

And what is it? "Well-being," he explained, "can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It can't be required by law or delivered by government. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships. Improving our society's sense of well-being is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times. In an ever-more competitive world, we have to be constantly vigilant in the battle to secure investment, create jobs and spread opportunity. But we should also acknowledge a vital truth that the pursuit of wealth is no longer--if it ever was--enough to meet people's deepest hopes and aspirations. I think it's increasingly clear that the spirit of the age demands social values as well as economic value."

The young Tory leader pressed on: "We hear a lot about the bracing winds of globalisation--footloose capital, buccaneering business, accelerating change. And we are often told that we have to embrace the change, not resist it. But that's too simplistic. On one level, of course, we have to be comfortable with change. But on another level, the human level, we have to remember what makes people happy, as well as what makes stock markets rise.

"What makes us happy, above all, is a sense of belonging--strong relationships with friends, family and the immediate world around us. That's about permanence, not change. It's about the personal, not the commercial ... We know there is a deep satisfaction which comes from belonging to someone and to some place. There comes a point when you can't keep on choosing, you have to commit. If so much of our modern globalised consumer culture ultimately seems unsatisfying, then it is because it fails to satisfy this deep human need . …

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