Ian is an award-winning writer, editor, speaker, innovator and the founder of Independent Thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia and has a privileged view of education and education systems globally.
In which Independent Thinking founder Ian Gilbert suggests that, despite earlier promises, now is indeed the time for that fanfare for the common man and woman.
In 1942 American composer Aaron Copeland wrote a fanfare inspired by the idea that the West was entering the ‘Century of the Common Man’. It was a released in March of that year when people across the US were filling in their annual income tax forms. As Copeland said at the time:
“I am all for honouring the common man at income tax time."
In recent years, the common man and woman might be surprised to believe that this is their century, as they lose their jobs, their homes, their security, their communities and their prospects to a society that seems set on idolising the uncommon ones – the stars, the elite, the billionaires, the influencers, the bankers, the political and social elite, the TV academics, chefs and Love Island attention seekers, the media moguls, the overnight sensations.
Even the technology is taking centre stage in our adoration. Even as it takes our jobs from us.
But we have suddenly noticed something. We need the common man and women. We don’t need the others.
In her deeply divisive book Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand paints a picture of a world that comes to a halt because the elite stop working and take themselves off to some hideaway that only they know of. It’s a nice fiction but the reality, as pointed out by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman in his wonderful book Utopia for Realists, is very different.
When the New York refuse collectors went on strike, the city ground to a halt in days. When the Irish bankers went on strike, no-one noticed, for months.
It is the refuse collectors, the nurses, and yes, the teachers, who should be paid their worth he argues, not the hedge fund specialists who don’t make money, they simply move it and who don’t create value, they steal it. As he points out:
"For every dollar a bank earns, an estimated equivalent of 60 cents is destroyed elsewhere in the economic chain. Conversely, for every dollar a researcher earns, a value of at least $5 – and often much more – is pumped back into the economy."*
Even the BBC, who are under a great deal of criticism for its apparent institutional bias towards this current government (one sick man ‘improving’ is the bigger story than ‘938 people died today’ is just one example) has finally come out on the side of the common man in this amazing (‘amazing’ because it is so uncommon) piece to camera from Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis:
If ever there was an opportunity for a rebalancing, for a global reset of what and who is important, this is it.
If ever there was an opportunity for schools to embrace a curriculum that is less about knowing your place and more about creating a better one, this is it.
If ever there was a theme tune for that moment, this is it.
Play it loud, so the common men and women can hear it on their way to work in the shops, the buses, the streets, the classrooms and, of course, the hospitals. [ITL]
*Bregman, R. Utopia for Realists, (2017), Bloomsbury
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