I’ve now written five pieces on changing Britain for the better.
Among the foolishness were some quite genuine points, especially around politics and education, which have meant me looking at what’s happening on our island.
What I have seen is a common thread in all the things I’ve looked at, which I will try and describe.
If I look at the way we deal with politics and societal problems it is characterised by a determined ignorance of the way things are.
For example, educational needs have changed as the world has changed, yet the government seems bent on keeping educational practice the same, holding to a tradition long out-dated. They are responding to a situation they believe is there, but it isn’t.
Politics itself has become the determination of parties not to see the world and help care for it, but to insist their views onto the world, to smack, push and hammer it into a shape which serves them, keeps them in power.
The law is also not a system for protecting the vulnerable as it should be, but a system for protecting the privileged and the existing structures of power. It protects property and money, position and reputation. This is why the rich and powerful often get away with light or no punishment at all.
There will always be significant levels of crime because our social structure is antithetical to contented living. We have yoked our morals, ethics and barometers of living to an axis of money and status, at the cost of our hearts and minds.
In every place there are failures of policy, unrest, unhappiness or struggle, there is one person, group or government in a position of power trying to shape the world to their selfish will – trying to hold back change that has already happened, trying to stop the unstoppable or deny what simply is and must be the case.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that there are intelligent and reasonable people offering sound advice on everything. There are professional educators who have solid ideas for the reformation of education. There are people who can help shape industry and the market, reform prison services, show a clear strategy in changing drug laws… There is expertise everywhere, but no-one’s listening.
In recent months the government has called for education reforms which go directly against expert advice, criminal justice reform which goes against expert guidance, changes to employment law which are the opposite of expert recommendations – are we seeing a pattern?
How have we ended up with a democracy in which the voice of the public is so systematically ignored?
While the root of the problem is a fight against the way things are, a refusal to accept how the world necessarily is, there is a further explanation that helps clarify why this becomes the case.
No matter how earnest or genuine they may be at the start, once somebody enters parliament they leave the world. To speak for the poor one must understand what it means to be poor. But if one rises from poverty and takes up politics, one is no longer poor, and no longer entitled to speak for them. In rising to power one loses understanding, one loses contact with the reality one wishes to address.
The very nature of our systems of power creates this separation, which reaches its pinnacle in modern ‘career politics’.
I don’t like to just moan, I like to try and put forward solutions rather than just problems. So what solutions might work here?
Unfortunately the solution is a bit abstract, but it’s the only way – to provide a solution with enough room that people can adopt it in their own way. Otherwise the solution is just an idea being forced on others – which is exactly what we’re trying to escape.
So the solution is this. We must learn to see the world, to see people for what they are and understand their modes of life. We must learn how to stop fighting the inevitable tides of life and learn instead to ride them, to flow with them, not helpless and carried, but harmonious and mindful.
Real expertise is there, on the ground floor, among the people actually living the life. It is not in the sequestrated worlds of academia, the foreign lands of politics or the minds of the powerful elite – they have become separated from the lived experience they try to shape.
We need a real democracy. The public deserve a right to veto policies they don’t believe in, to promote change they know to be right. Imagine education driven by educators, employment law shaped by the needs of employees, laws designed by the people they apply to.
We have the ability, the technology to enable this genuine democracy, and people will engage in politics again because they feel they have a real say.
Do we have a government that will be a world leader again and make this happen?
Not until we have a government for the people, not just out for election.