Monday, 24 January 2011

The Big Society?

The second of @formulaic666 and I's relaunch of Crossblogination then and we're confronting the 'Big Society', the Conservatives vision for Britain.  You can go see what Paul thinks here.  Thanks to @dumbwittness for the suggested topic.
The Big Society is something that I can't help but come at from a bit of an odd angle.  As some of you probably know I work in a co-owned business and I see some of the benefits of that.  I'm also a socialist and have been for many many years although I'm no where near as politically aware as I was when I was a student.

One of the strangest things is just hearing the Conservatives talk in terms of a 'society' at all.  Thatcher didn't believe it existed and there is something refreshing about the whole idea coming from them, the trouble is when you dig into the 'whole idea' it just doesn't add up within the context of the country that most of us wake up to each morning.  It feels like spin.

Co-ownership then.  What value does it add?  At it's best people feel like they have a real voice within the business they work in, at its worst (and I feel quite strongly that this is how the government see it) it's a tick box exercise.  Give the illusion of listening to people but then make them do what THE MAN thinks is best anyway.  I've seen both sides of that, genuine empowerment of employees and real, tangible differences but sadly also the cynicism generated by doing the opposite.

The real vision of The Big Society though is giving more over to local communities on a volunteer basis, giving real people real opportunities to make a difference locally.  That's all well and good within a society where people trust each other, that doesn't have a media that runs daily scare stories about the latest thing that we all need to be terrified of and you know, where people really give a fuck about each other.  But Britain 2011 is a pretty fraught place.  Get on a tube train, say hello to a stranger and all you'll do is freak the crap out of someone.  Because there is no trust.  No real sense of society. And volunteers?  Oh... is that the queue?  No, that's everyone leaving town.

Basically it's a nice little vision to sell to middle England, but that's not where most of us reside.  Most of us live on the periphery, in a world where yes, the state and the market have got too big, but one where we've been taught that our possessions define us not what value we can bring as individuals.  Got a flat screen TV?  Tick.  Got a decent PC?  Tick.  Got an iPhone?  Tick.  Got a job to pay for this shit?  Tick.  Got acceptance?  Tick.  Wanna play an active role in the local bus service?  Fuck off.  How does that make me look cool?!

Is this is a bit odd coming from someone who did a 60 Hour Tweetathon for charity?  It feels pretty odd.  I've seen communities online do stuff for good, I've been at the centre of it for fucks sake, how can I possibly be so cynical?  That's my default position when it comes to politicians these days.  Because is it about really listening to the public?  To society?  Or is it just another piece of wallpaper to place over the schism?

The whole, 'Is Society something that's moved/moving online?' question is something to look at here another day.  But I get that I've opened the door to that debate.

The Big Society is a nice little sound bite for our delightful government to bring out when they want to feel warm and cosy, stabbing us in the back while they give us a nice cuddle.
You look so tired/unhappy,
Bring down the government,
They don't,
They don't speak for us.