In part 4 of this series Alain de Botton argues that if you met someone very “successful” who had lots of fame, money and respect and asked them why they were successful and they said it was just luck you would think they were being unduly modest. On the other hand if you met someone who was a “failure” and asked them why they had not succeeded and they said it was just bad luck you would think they were trying to hide something. Essentially luck has disappeared as a plausible explanation for what has happened in our lives. Winners make their own luck is the punishing modern mantra.
In traditional societies high status and the respect it brings may have been inordinately hard to achieve but it was also pleasantly hard to lose de Botton argues. Modern society makes status dependent on achievement, primarily financial achievement. The nature of the economy which society has created is making that achievement ever more precarious.
For most of us our work is the chief determinant of the amount of respect and care we will be granted but the globalised economy is making that work more unstable, opening up an anxiety-inducing gap between what we need and what the world will give us.
We seem determined to remove any excuse which we might point to for our failure at a time when more and more of us are less secure in our jobs than ever. What consolations are available to the unsuccessful when the world doesn’t give them the respect they need?
This part of the the programme looks at whether religion is a consolation to those who are not successful in terms of fame and money. Take a look at this short video clip and decide if you agree with the conclusions.
Posted by Shona Lockhart, 16th June 2012