As a reluctant capitalist, it sometimes disturbs me that I have been so good at it. I even begrudgingly admire many of the entrepreneurs who have gone further – but question what drives them, and some of the outcomes. Like Peter Pan, most are inspiring brats, refusing to accept the limits that most people acknowledge as they mature.
Branson, Bezos, Jobs, Musk, Zuckerberg; I would wager most are insatiable, damaged men, seeking to fill an intangible inner hole with tangible outer success. That never works, so on they go, with a gnawing dissatisfaction that nothing on Earth can fulfil – perhaps why most of them want to colonise space.
BBC Radio Four’s ‘Inside the Brain of Jeff Bezos’ gives a fascinating insight into the world’s richest man; his obsession with meeting customer demands, and his willingness to take risks. Perhaps most interesting is his insistence that Amazon will always stay at ‘day one’ in its cultural development, because ‘day two’ implies “stasis, followed by irrelevance, agonising and painful decline, and death.” A Peter Pan if there ever was one.
On the day Riverford became employee owned, I said my biggest fear was not that we would now do something stupid, but that we would stop being (occasionally) stupid; that we would grow up and become boring. So I recognise Bezos’ resistance to organisational ageing.
But we must all grow up if we are to successfully share this planet. Having created the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, Amazon might be the world’s most environmentally damaging company. Even Bezos has acknowledged that “when unlimited demand meets finite resources, the inevitable result is rationing.” His answer is a highway to space; always looking up and out. What we really need is for those powerful, inadequate men to look within. Until they attain some human perspective, their rockets create more problems than they solve.
In search of mature, rocket-free inspiration, Riverford supports the Oxford Real Farming Conference: an annual meeting of unconventional farmers, cooks, campaigners and scientists, who measure their achievements not in market dominance, but in bees, worms, trees, good food and fulfilled lives. This time it’s online (7-13 January 2021), so anyone can access it. Visit orfc.org.uk to book your tickets for hours of enlightening talks and challenging debates. I wholeheartedly recommend it.