Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Article excerpt

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, likes making and keeping New Year resolutions. In recent years he has learnt Mandarin, read 25 books, run one mile every day, and created a robot-butler to organise his home. But this year his New Year resolution is more high-minded than usual. 'My personal challenge for 2017,' he writes, 'is to have visited and met people in every state in the US by the end of the year.'

Why should he want to do a thing like that? The reason is that, although only 32 years old, he is one of the richest people in the world and therefore seen as guilty of elitism; and, although through Facebook he enables more people to keep in touch than ever before in history, he is assumed, like all 'elitists', to be out of touch with 'ordinary people' and incapable of understanding their needs and desires. He clearly wants to dispel that impression.

'Technology and globalisation have made us more productive and connected,' he says. 'This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging.' It could almost be Theresa May talking when he adds: 'This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.'

The departing American ambassador to Britain, Matthew Barzun, was openly accused of elitism by a carpenter called Mark in the Midlands ('a proud Brexiteer who does not want his surname published' the Sunday Times called him), who objected to the ambassador's claim that the 'special relationship' still thrived despite Barack Obama's warning that Britain would go to the 'back of the queue' for trade talks with the US if it left the European Union.

'You do not have a clue what the ordinary, average, non-establishment British person thinks of the USA,' Mark told Mr Barzun in an aggressive email. His Excellency retorted that he had met countless ordinary people throughout Britain during his time here, but also generously conceded that 'your point is well taken: it is so important that we will engage and not get trapped in within walls of our own making'.

So even people as well-intentioned as Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Barzun accept that both the US and Britain suffer from an unbridgeable gulf between the 'elitist' and the 'ordinary person'. …

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