Opinion: Aspiration exasperation

inspiration - Some rights reserved by h.koppdelaneyI love Friday nights. They keep me grounded and motivated simultaneously, they’re the week’s reset button. The fact they usually involve the pub and a reasonable amount of alcohol is completely coincidental.

I’ve been um-ming and ah-ing for ages over an article for LibDem Voice along the lines of “Aspiration Exasperation”. Politicians talk about aspiration easily enough but it bothers me. Aspiration for what? What I take from it – and I would be delighted to hear I’m wrong on this – is that they mean aspiration to achieve a higher income and therefore be able to buy more stuff with impunity. That’s not what they actually say, as they don’t define it in any way, so I have no real justification for my prejudice on this. But still, I want them to define aspiration. I want them to say “and your aspiration may be to make the world a better place, it may be to become a Nobel Prize winning physicist or an artist, or to take care of your granny, or be a good mum or a really good friend, to minimise your carbon footprint or be a super-model or to reach level gazillion on your x-box game. Or – perhaps best of all – aspire to be yourself, unencumbered by other’s expectations.”

(Incidentally, it is quite easy at midnight on a Friday to write of people’s aspiration to be unencucumbered, which is a whole different image.)

Interesting conversations this evening about Mastermind with a recent contestant and inset day training with a teaching assistant have led me to ruminate further on inspiration rather than aspiration. I love inspiration. It inspires me. Seeing other people inspired, as I did tonight, inspires me. Inspiration is contagious. Not so aspiration I think. Sometimes, yes – if your aspire to make sports coaching accessible to all children at our school, I’m happy to share that. Other times, well… you know. good luck to you – honestly – but actually what difference does it make to me if you aspire to a larger house and a promotion?

So I looked them up on Roget:

Aspiration: goal, hope

Synonyms: aim, ambition, ambitiousness, craving, desire,direction, dream, eagerness, endeavor, fire in the belly, hankering, inclination, longing, object,objective, passion, pursuit, push, right stuff,urge, vocation, wish, work, yearning

Inspiration: Idea, stimulus

Synonyms: afflatus, animus, approach, arousal, awakening,brainchild, brainstorm, creativity, deep think,elevation, encouragement, enthusiasm,exaltation, fancy, flash, genius, hunch,illumination, impulse, incentive, inflatus, influence, insight, motivation, motive, muse,notion, revelation, rumble, spark, spur,stimulation, thought, vision, whim

Much in common,(barring afflatus and inflatus) but oh how much less selfish and more exciting inspiration seems to me. And doesn’t inspiration lead to aspiration? I can inspire you to aspire to reach your potential. I can’t aspire you to do anything. We can inspire each other with the aspiration to win.

In short, compared to inspiration, aspiration is a dull target to aim for. Let the Conservatives aspire while we inspire.

* Karen Wilkinson is Chair of Thornbury & Yate LibDems and co-founder of the non-aligned campaign “Parents Want A Say”

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9 Comments

  • ‘Aspiration’ has almost joined the set of empty words – things like ‘reform’, ‘modernisation’…

  • This wasn’t a very inspirational read, and now I feel a little exasperated.

    Hope I got the definitions right!

  • The Tories are against aspiration, they talk about it so incessantly to try to convince you otherwise.

  • On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand, dare seize the fire?

  • Aspiration in the real, but simple sense of the word, is to set and then attempt to achieve a goal which you think will improve your standing in life.

    Politicians like this word because everyone has aspirations, whether it is the child who wants to win a card game or the young lady who wishes to become the Next Prime Minister. This means that any politician who says he/she supports ‘your’ aspirations is fundamentally saying something any listener can connection with.

    However, there is another thing about aspirations that MPs like, and that is that the success or failure of ones aspirations can easily (rightly or wrongly) be blamed on the individual in question, rather than society and by extension the MP.

  • For a liberal, aspirations have to self-defined, like identity. Of course we have our heirarchy of aspiration with the desire to become oneself at the top, a moving target.
    The important thing for us is to stress the validity of any aspiration that doesnt interfere with other peoples aspirations & not to sound snobbish about aspirations that sound unworthy to us.
    Also we should be very sparing with the “hard-working” meme. For many Labour & Tory supporters “to work is to pray” but we should insist that “we dont pray that way.”

  • Sorry, insert “be” between “to” & “self”.

  • If “aspiration” relates to improving quality of life – in terms of personal health, housing opportunities, education and employment opportunities – then I am in favour of it! It should be recognised that many Tories have a different view of “aspiration” from that of most Liberal Democrats……….

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