Friday, July 30, 2010


‘I’m proud of my son because he’s so ambitious’, a friend’s elderly mother said to me recently. ‘So was Harold Shipman’, I reminded her. She looked more offended than reminded but I got to make a point and have a laugh while I was at it and that’s the main thing isn’t it?

I mean, ambition is all well and good for the person who has it but is it really an admirable trait? It might be if the ambition is to cure cancer but what if it’s a weird ambition like Harold Shipman’s? Even if it’s just a normal ambition, like an ambition to get a promotion for example, I still don’t see what’s so admirable about it. Such an ambition would be in no way ignoble but that doesn’t make it admirable. It just ‘is’. Admiring somebody for having such an ambition would be like admiring somebody for having long arms or something.

Intelligence is another attribute that is considered admirable but actually isn’t admirable at all. Like its overrated bedfellow ambition, intelligence is just an advantage that can be used for good or bad. Harold Shipman must have been intelligent to get away with what he did for so long, not to mention getting the qualifications to become a G.P. in the first place but is that admirable?

Now, people might think I’m just saying this because I failed all my exams and don’t get out of bed until The Afternoon Show comes on but they’d be wrong. I don’t hold a grudge. I’m just making a point. I don’t expect people to admire me because I’m stupid and lack interest in life in general so why should they insist I admire them for possessing the opposite traits? In fact, now I’m thinking about it, I could argue that laziness and thickness are more admirable than ambition and intelligence. If Harold Shipman was thick and lazy he wouldn’t have been able to pass his medical exams or bothered his arse playing God with the lives of so many pensioners. So, in a way, if Shipman lacked the traits that get so much praise in our culture he might have been a better person. Or at least, a safer person for old people to be around.

So, to close, if you are reading this and you consider yourself to be an ambitious and intelligent person then good for you and I am not, for one second, suggesting that you are like Harold Shipman. All I’m saying is that you are more like Harold Shipman than I am. It’s just an observation. There is no reason to get uptight about it. I know how uptight you ambitious sorts can be. That’s another aspect of that particular attribute that’s unworthy of admiration now that I think about it.
OK, I’ll leave it there.

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