People say Boris Johnson is intelligent. Well, he certainly has good recall of a mercurial and witty mind, though it does seem rather predisposed to a reliance on the Classics – when he’s not pretending to be the bumbling fool. He is clever and instinctively opportunist. Like a fox. But everyone knows intelligence has several aspects. Some are very important. Generalising, there’s how academic intelligence breaks down into the mathematical, linguistic, etc. There’s the artistic and physical. There’s artificial, of course – if the cap fits, Boris… And then, there’s the essential stuff, like common sense, intuitive, social, emotional…
An intelligence quotient test, therefore, does not really measure Intelligence, does it? It can’t. A person can be trained to take it just as one can buy extra coaching for GCSEs. If it were so reliable a test and so accurate a measure of ability school leavers could just be given their number on exit. It could be popped into a computer and CVs could become superfluous. The IQ ruse is a deeply unpleasant red herring of a platform, especially when used as justification for accepting inequality as inevitable. It screams slippery slope. Everyone with an ounce of reason, born before yesterday, understands that people are not equal in every measure. Someone is always better, faster, wealthier, prettier, funnier, stronger, luckier – yada yada. Equality under the Law is, perhaps, as much as can reasonably be expected.
Boris represents that appalling blend of both ancient and modern Establishment: Blue-blooded and Neoliberal. Like far too many in his self-elevated position, he seeks to place a market value on citizens. They are regarded as commodities with varying degrees of value and deservedness. Value as determined by those who would place more in a banker than a nurse; more in the cashier than the single parent; more in the cold-caller than the road-sweeper. If he were intelligent, he would conclude that everyone has human, social and spiritual value as an individual. But Boris would use the IQ as another fiat currency.
Everyone knows that competition can be healthy, rewarding and progressive. But to subscribe to Life-IS-Competition is an arcane feudalistic attitude and it is not a demonstration of some superior intelligence. It just shows the conceit of inherent power. How intelligent is it to have had automatic access to an upbringing which affords the highest privileges and the finest education that money can supposedly buy if what is taken from such a glorified opportunity are merely a means, the strong desire and a sense of entitlement to use it over others? Do these elite institutions teach this deliberately or is it an inevitable consequence of their curricula? Is an escape velocity involved? Are we to say ‘Poor lamb! He is a victim!’ when he has taken such a foundation and squandered it for his own ends? Not everyone from such a privileged background arrives at this state of mind, after all.
If Boris were intelligent, he would conclude that grabbing a few of the academically brightest children and gifting them with selective access is a poor second to making every state school in the land so damned good that only a fool would pay to send their children elsewhere. He would advocate that everyone has their unique worth and something to offer if they only had space and time and encouragement to discover and develop it. Education is supposed to open the mind and inform. It’s supposed to facilitate confidence, critical thinking, curiosity and a love of learning. It is supposed to reveal an individual’s potential. Look what he got from his: that humility and compassion are obstacles to a ‘cream and park’ mentality. As though human decency was a weakness.
Empathy is high-end emotional intelligence. It does not come only from shared experiences. If it did, wouldn’t there be less need of it? It comes also from having an emotional range and an imagination of things outside of and other to one’s self. It requires conscious observation, active listening and the will to understand. Boris cannot help the fortune of his birth, nor the choices made on his early behalf but he sure can help what he has chosen to do with having just about every advantage going.
If he were intelligent, he would understand that the Have-Nots do not suffer from envy. He would understand that the suffering comes from the perpetuation of outrageous injustice by those he so hails. He would understand that this didn’t happen overnight. He would realise that his competitive values contribute to the plundering of resources, the access, accumulation and hoarding of needs-in-common, the return of Serfdom… He would see that this has finite written all over it and that he accelerates his own extinction. He would admit that the systems and policies he advocates are at the expense of everyone else. He would know how insulting, patronising and ridiculous it is to suggest that Society should trust in the philanthropy of the rich and powerful. He would remember that, before the ownership of this world became a competition prize, it actually belonged to everyone. He would have as much shame in his beloved history as he has pride. He would see the context of his becoming and recognise that it is not the solution but a vehicle of cause. But, then, if Boris were truly intelligent, he would have shown some measure of common sense and wisdom ages ago.