Saturday, 22 February 2014

Are you tired of hearing about the BIG SOCIETY?

Very disappointed to receive this message from the prospective Green Party candidate for Ipswich recently:
"Big Society is not owned by the Tory Party - it is for all of us. And yes the State is not the answer to everything. Its also about people as individuals and communities. I am not a top down man, but a grassroots up enthusiast.
Remember the state is more often than not controlled and manipulated by corporate elites."

My response was:
"Beg to differ.  By using this Tory phrase we are giving this government kudos.  It is a phrase that even Tories are increasingly embarrassed to use. 
 The State is what we make it.  Often it is our only defence against predatory and unaccountable multi-national corporations."

In addition it is worth noting that as "a grassroots up enthusiast" he fails to appreciate that the phrase originates among Tory spin doctors and the nudge ideology - TOP DOWN!  What happened, anyway, to the Green mantra: Small is beautiful?

Among many others, Jonathan Freedland  highlights the problem with the concept of BIG SOCIETY in today's Guardian:

The subtler argument from the right is the one that celebrates the food banks' admirable embodiment of communal self-help. Surely the church should be happy that neighbours, not some faceless state bureaucracy, are helping the hungry? Nice in theory, until you see the extreme pressure food banks are under, the days they run out of food, the fact that affluent areas often, and predictably, get more donations than the poor areas that need most. That's the trouble with a voluntary system, designed to give emergency help only: it cannot cope with what is a nationwide crisis.
The benign, big society view also fails to reckon with shame. I spoke to a Glasgow volunteer who told me she knows of men too proud to use their local food bank, who instead walk miles out of their way so they can get food for their families without being seen by their neighbours. They cannot afford the bus, and the walk home carrying bags of tins is hard, but it preserves at least some dignity. I learned too of the single mothers who fear visiting a food bank, thereby admitting they cannot feed their children, lest they be deemed incapable and their kids taken into care.
This was why Britons sought to put the Victorian era of charity behind us, why we decided that sometimes a state service is better: because there is less shame in claiming a nationally mandated benefit than in going to a church hall, being handed a food parcel and having to nod your head and say thank you.

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