Arwa Mahdawi: The president and his supreme court nominee have been claiming they rose to the top all on their own. Sadly, stretching the truth is not confined to them
If you are very clever and work very hard, you can achieve anything. We know this because successful people are always telling us so. They got where they are because of their work ethic: rich parents, the right connections and random chance had little to do with it.
See, as exhibit one, man of the moment Brett Kavanaugh. You know, the judge who really likes beer and seems to hate women having autonomy over their reproductive systems. When Kavanaugh appeared before a committee to defend himself against accusations of sexual assault, in between sniffles he argued that he has earned everything he has achieved, including his undergraduate place at Yale University. I have no connections there, he said. I got there by busting my tail.
Kavanaugh may have busted his tail, but he was also stretching the truth; his grandfather went to Yale. Which sounds like a connection to me. Of course, the fact his grandfather was an alumnus doesnt necessarily mean Kavanaugh didnt get into the prestigious university on his own merit. However, there is a good chance his family ties were considered in the admissions process. In the US, a lot of universities, including Yale, treat legacy applicants, family members of alumni, more favourably.
Lets move from Kavanaugh to an equally delightful master of the universe: Donald Trump. One of Trumps favourite subjects of conversation is how he is a self-made billionaire who got to the big league off the back of his abnormally high IQ and a negligible $1m loan from dad. Which, by the way, he paid back with interest. I hate to call Trump a shameless liar, but evidence suggests his self-made schtick is fake news. An investigation by the New York Times found Trump actually received about $413m (317m) in todays money from his dad, most of which was from dubious tax dodges. You need to have a passion for alternative facts to square that with being self-made.
Its not just the likes of Kavanaugh and Trump who have deluded themselves, and seek to convince others, that their success is solely the result of hard work. The insidious myth that we live in a meritocracy is, unfortunately, also peddled by liberals who consider themselves woke. Take late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, for example. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Kimmel deflected a question about diversity by insisting: Comedy is very democratic. The people who are great rise to the top; the people who are good rise to the middle; and the people who arent good dont make it.
Im not being funny, but that is nonsense. As comedian Greg Proops pointed out on Twitter, there are three white men named Jim hosting late-night comedy/chatshows on US TV. And these guys are basically clones; I honestly cannot tell the difference between Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. Which leads one to conclude that either guys called Jimmy are born more hilarious than everyone else, or there may be some kind of systemic discrimination at play.
On the subject of meritocracy, I reckon it is only fair to give a dead white guy the last word. So, I leave you to ponder the wise words of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster. The billionaire duke was once asked what advice he would give a young entrepreneur. He replied: Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror. If only the Kimmels, Kavanaughs and Trumps of the world could be so honest.
For self-care tips look no further than the Conservative party
Theresa May isnt too keen on the news at the moment. A Downing Street insider told the Sun that the PM has stopped reading the paper to protect her from a daily diatribe of woes and preserve her wellbeing. I am rarely in agreement with May, but she is certainly on to something when it comes to the therapeutic benefits of avoiding inconvenient facts. In the current political climate, ignorance is bliss.
Preserving your wellbeing by ignoring the news isnt the only good advice to be mined from the government: the Tory party is a veritable treasure trove of self-care tips. Lets start, for example, with the adage dance like nobody is watching, something the prime minister has taken very much to heart lately. We would all do well to be more like May: dancing has been proved to ameliorate cardiovascular health, boost mood and stave off the uncomfortable feeling that the country is on the brink of self-inflicted economic collapse.
Another thing you can do for your mental wellbeing is move your money to Ireland. The considerable uncertainty of Brexit can wreak havoc with your blood pressure; alleviate your stress levels by following Jacob Rees-Moggs patriotic example and moving assets elsewhere. Brexit is so much easier to deal with when you have an EU safety net to fall back on.
Speaking of which, an additional top tip from the brave Brexiters is to apply for EU residency. Nigel Lawson, the former chair of the Vote Leave campaign, started the application for his French residency card earlier this year. Cest un peu hypocrite, non? Absolutely not, said Lawson, who thinks it is ridiculous to be worried about Brexit, particularly when you live comfortably in France. It is impeccable logic such as that, I reckon, that got Lord Lawson where he is in life.