Saturday, July 14, 2012

A ramble on the state of society

I've been thinking a lot recently about our society. What sort of society we have, what sort of society we want, and what would the consequences be of a change in the way we organize ourselves? The gap between the haves and have-nots has widened considerably in the past few years in the UK. I consider myself lucky, and when I read about gang deaths in inner city areas I feel just as alienated by them as when I read fashion articles in the newspaper and see people paying £300 for a dress. Both of those things are so far removed from my world that they don't seem to be part of my reality, even though I know £300 seems like a small amount to some people, and gangs and violence are simply a part of living to others.

In the UK there is still a class system. It's rather odd that most people think that the class system is a thing of the past. For a long time I felt classless, and believed that I could move within any strata of society without feeling above or beneath others, but nowadays I think that's completely unrealistic. In the past I have seen the monarchy as the lynch-pin for the whole system. More egalitarian societies seem to be run better without a monarchy, or with a monarchy which considers itself more ordinary, like the royal family in the Netherlands who take to a bicycle from time to time. I still see the monarchy supporting the whole caboodle here, but it is, of course, more than that, and involves the services, the schools and universities, and the way thing have always been done too. At its heart is a system which is protecting the status quo, resisting change... and so what we have to ask is whether what we have is worth protecting, or should be swept away.

 I feel that it is a great shame that women haven't fought for a way to take control of the things that they would do differently. Not only do men have a fairly secure hold on commerce and politics, but they are also controlling the institutions which are traditionally the responsibility of women... wouldn't we tackle the drug problem differently, would we jail those who possess and are addicted to drugs? How would we handle prisons in general, wouldn't it look much more like the Swedish model than the British? The tragedy of the past 40 years of feminism is that women have been the worst offenders when it comes to belittling and devaluing the things which women traditionally took responsibility for... looking after people, raising children, being caring and nurturing rather than paternalistic and judgemental. It seems to me that a society which values only the male and not the female is an unbalanced society, and the sickness and violence that we see in our population are a result of that.

We all want to hold tight to our bit of turf, our possessions, our right to our castles, when actually, we all know that giving brings more pleasure than taking, and doing things for other people makes us feel much better than doing things for ourselves. Caring for others and reaching out to them feels so much better than grabbing what we can for ourselves. It has to be cohesive and coherent, though.

The big problem I have with David Cameron's Big Society is that what the government is doing at the moment in cutting the incomes of disabled and ill people is not caring and inclusive. How in hell he expects people who are not capable of work to obtain money if the government cuts their money off, I do not know. Some of them will have to throw themselves on the mercy of charities, but others will have a stark choice between starving and crime. I want my society to look after the vulnerable and old, and I do not want private companies brought in to decide that people with terminal illness or lifelong disabilities are fit for work when they are not. I want a caring society, and this isn't it. In the past revolutions, the problem has been that the new system of government and organization has been forced upon people against their will. To reach the goal of a caring society without that, one would have to convert people and make them desire it, and be willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve it. Would that be an impossible task? I don't know.

I sense a change in the way that people think about these things, and a desire for things to improve for everyone. How that is to be achieved is a question. There is a movement which aims to return humanity to a form of communism, providing welfare for all and removing the right to possessions. I see that doomed to failure because it assumes that we are all the same, and we are not. No system of organizing humanity which doesn't recognize our individuality is going to succeed. Money is at the heart of our system at present, the need to obtain money in order to obtain all the other things which people need... shelter, food, energy, clothing. What would the result of removing money from the equation be, I wonder from time to time? If we provided the basic necessities of life and allowed people to do what they wanted otherwise? People assume that everyone would become indolent and stop working, but I wonder how true that would be. Some people aspire to the life of living on the couch watching daytime tv, but I can't think that's many people, or for long. It's boring. On the other hand, sometimes it has only been the need for money that has got me out of bed on a cold morning. I have usually done jobs I liked, and which I enjoyed, but even though I am not strongly motivated by money to do a good job, I am motivated to keep doing it by the money that I have earned... ok I am confusing myself now.

Maybe we can think of ways to set up self-supporting systems... for example, building in small units for elderly people alongside schools or colleges, and giving brownie points to children or young people who help the elderly...building multi-purpose schools which can become community centres or health centres if the birth rate goes down...rearranging our cities and towns to enable people of all ages to help each other. Giving them places to meet and spend time together. I don't know any of the answers, but I do know that we can't go on as we are... there have to be some changes to the way that we do things... the current system has too many casualties, too many people addicted to drink and drugs, too many homeless or living in terrible conditions, too many young men alienated from education and their families.