Stephen Hawking is calling for a polarised post-Brexit Britain to reconsider the value it places on money and material wealth in order to have hope for the future.
In an essay for The Guardian, the celebrated physicist outlined how the EU referendum was influenced by attitudes towards wealth and the way our society prioritises money and the accumulation of possessions.
Hawking highlighted how the referendum verdict could have a detrimental effect on the availability of funding and grants for important research such as the work he has carried out throughout his career.
“Money is also important because it is liberating for individuals,” he writes. “I have spoken in the past about my concern that government spending cuts in the UK will diminish support for disabled students, support that helped me during my career. In my case, of course, money has helped not only make my career possible but has also literally kept me alive.”
“Cash can set individuals free, just as poverty can certainly trap them and limit their potential, to their own detriment and that of the human race."
As a severely disabled man, Hawking said he is in a unique position in that money is simply a means to an end so that he can work, and the possessions wealth could afford him are not something he could ever appreciate. He said this attitude was becoming more widespread. Questions over the real value of money are engendering an important shift in behaviour which is in turn inspiring new “cathedral projects” and ways of thinking about a future for the next generation.
“People are starting to question the value of pure wealth. Is knowledge or experience more important than money? Can possessions stand in the way of fulfilment? Can we truly own anything, or are we just transient custodians?”
Hawkings urged a divided Britain to accept its fate and move its focus to changing the general attitude towards money that helped foster such a division in the first place, warning the human race is in the midst of “perilous times”.
“Such pressing issues will require us to collaborate, all of us, with a shared vision and cooperative endeavour to ensure that humanity can survive. We will need to adapt, rethink, refocus and change some of our fundamental assumptions about what we mean by wealth, by possessions, by mine and yours. Just like children, we will have to learn to share.
“If we fail then the forces that contributed to Brexit, the envy and isolationism not just in the UK but around the world that spring from not sharing, of cultures driven by a narrow definition of wealth and a failure to divide it more fairly, both within nations and across national borders, will strengthen. If that were to happen, I would not be optimistic about the long-term outlook for our species.”
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