Branson in space…should he do more for his fellow humans on Earth?
In the last couple of weeks, Branson has been one of a handful of billionaires to exit the Earth’s atmosphere. This article and the questions it raises could equally apply to Musk and Bezos, but I’m sticking with Branson to make my point.
Whilst the actual amount of money Branson has spent to blast off isn’t public knowledge, there are those in society that think it a waste…an obscene waste. This is Camp 1.
If anyone in this camp voices their opinion, the population of Camp 2 descends. They reply that it’s Branson’s money, hard earned, and he should be able to spend it how he chooses. That’s it’s not his responsibility to solve the world’s problems.
My personal opinion, rightly or wrongly, would put me in Camp 1. As someone who has spent many years sitting on, or under, the breadline, I cannot imagine what it would feel like to have Branson’s wealth. I’ve never been materialistic, and I find it difficult to understand what a billionaire spends his money on. A nice car. A yacht, perhaps. A mansion. Then what? Isn’t it all just ‘bigger’ stuff after that, or the purchase of things we don’t really need?
I do get where Camp 2 is coming from…that Branson is entitled to do what he wants with his dosh—after all, I wouldn’t like someone telling me what I can and can’t spend my money on. And it shouldn’t be anyone’s responsibility but yours to better yourself in life, if you’re able to.
Richard Branson once tried to sue the NHS
However, if you’re someone who tried to sue the NHS (ergo, the taxpayer), because you didn’t get chosen for a contract, you’re not likely to be my ‘Man of the Year’. If you’re someone who takes advantage of every accounting loophole going, so that you don’t pay much tax yourself…well, you clearly don’t give a toss about anyone else. It’s therefore no real surprise to me that being the first non-astronaut in space was high on Branson’s to-do list, rather than being a kind, generous, compassionate human being.
There are actually plenty of people with good things to say about Branson (‘he did this, he did that when he didn’t have to, so kind…’), but there are just as many that paint him as a ruthless, uncaring, self-centred man. And also (more so if you’re unpopular), you have to exercise a number of tedious PR exercises when in business, if you wish to remain a billionaire, anyway.
Henry Mance, writing for The Financial Times, echoes my thoughts, in his piece entitled ‘Branson, Bezos and the pointless billionaire space race’. He talks about all the severe climate issues the planet faces over the next couple of decades, and how Branson et al could invest in the future of Earth rather than shooting up through its atmosphere. Mance says that Branson even suggested his rocket trip could help us mere mortals save the Earth. Okaayyy…well, there’s no doubt about it, then—Branson’s definitely on another planet.
Given that I’m not a billionaire, I can’t categorically state how I would spend my money if I was. But I do believe that helping others would be more important to me than having that season’s handbag. Though not every problem can be solved by money alone, they can certainly be reduced. And that would give me as much fulfilment, knowing I was helping to actually create change for my fellow Homo-sapiens, as Branson and his cronies enjoy from chasing alien species.
If it’s a legacy these guys are after, they could take a leaf from Bill Gates’ book—imagine how great your life’s work would sound in history books if you eradicated disease, put climate change into reverse, eliminated world hunger and progressed third world countries. Much better than: first billionaire in space…who ventured where another out-of-touch-with-reality billionaire went mere days later.
For everyone in Camp 2, this is my opinion, which I have a right to express. I respect you for yours, even if I don’t agree…there’s no need to turn on each other when there are such issues as those above to content with. Let’s face it, two people arguing over social media is as much use to society’s problems as a billionaire in space.
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