Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Big Society

                                                                    The Big society

The "Big society", the grey almost corporate named policy that David Cameron bandies around and even Nick Clegg is talking in terms of this umbrella scheme. What is the Big society though?

From what I can garner and make out the Big Society appears to work as an ideal form of society in which we the people of the country take action to improve their local area and help society without government assistance. People would donate time to volunteer at charities and neighbours in need. Local people taking an active role in their area, taking a role in the running of their area be it city, borough or village. People actually doing something and not waiting for government to do it for us. Mr Cameron is encouraging us to take an active role in the running of our schools, calling the police to account and taking an active role in local councils.

To a degree I agree with the principle of the "Big Society". The British people have become lax and disinterested in politics and their local areas. People are too quick to complain about the government and the council not providing the services that they want but unwilling to take positive action to make these steps. People look to the state to solve all of their problems and provide answers. We have become so attached to the Nanny state that we can no longer rely on the state, its time that we are weaned and accept responsibility for our country. Through history the people have wanted more of a role in ruling their country, getting power and here it is. This is the ultimate expression of what I thought Localism is all about and it is something that deserves serious thought. After all who knows what the people of Medway want or need better than the people of Medway? It is common nature for people to complain about things and the actions and plans of government, local and national but very few people take an active role in it, which I think is negligent. People should take more of a role in an ideal world, we should be telling our local authorities what we think and what they should be spending our money on and how they administer our area.

So will it work? I would like to say that it would but I fear that society has become so addicted to the Nanny state and things have changed since 1940. Society seems to have become more and more insular and we close our front doors to keep out people, we view people with suspicion first. When my Grandfather grew up in the twenties and even when my father grew up in the fifties society was a lot more open, they knew their neighbours and shop keepers and could readily communicate. I can honestly say that I know only four people in my street by name and don’t even know the name of my next door neighbour. In my last house I didn’t even know that many! I’m sure, as well that the majority of people won’t want to change that. On top of that people travel a lot further to work now, more and more people commute and work long hours and do not have the time or inclination to give up their free time for projects. I know in my own life I work for approximately 45 hours a week with a further four hours a day travelling by train, my free time is taken up working on the house and more importantly spending time with my wife and daughter. I can’t even find time to take part in projects that I want to let alone other community based ones. Also I think that people have become addicted to the idea of the state providing everything they want. People want the state to have answers for them, we pay taxes for services and they don’t want to then run it. After all you don’t go into MacDonald’s, order a Cheeseburger and then go into the kitchen and help organise the making of it! Society has become complacent and insular with the creation for the welfare state and no longer want to work together.

Finally no discourse on government strategy can be complete without a brief mention of the cuts. Every policy is hurt by them and the scale of the money that needs to be saved. Now it is easy to throw easy dirt at Labour for contributing to getting us into this situation, as easy as for Ed Miliband to snipe at the Government cuts as well as his minions responding by saying:
"We would never do this…"
I always believe that it is difficult to say for definite what you would do if things were different. Anyway back to the point.
Yes local government have been pushed to the fore to save a money and this is affecting the local services and the councils are taking a lot of stick and protests for cutting services. I think this is right though. I believe that local government should, not only be more self sufficient but also accountable. We should be taking active roles in the councils and protesting, not just complaining after the fact and then blame the national government!

The Big society is an amazing idea and society could take this utopian vision and evolve into something that would set us apart from the rest of the world, a progressive society with people working for the benefit of not just itself but for the individuals as well. It just strikes me that the majority of the populous are not interested or have the time to take part properly and also the vast national debt and governmental cuts is not the best starting point for this move and easily attract sceptics.

But as a closing statement: Come on Britain. Prove me wrong, embrace the responsibility and make this a better country, one we can be proud of.

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