"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

“No one knows what the “big society” is, say MPs

I just cannot help feeling people are being naïve about UK Prime Minister Cameron’s “The Big Society.” I think I call it Real Community, and that is a term more readily understood across the world.
“No one knows what the “big society” is, say MPs.” That is the headline in today’s newspaper.
In the same paper I read that “Paris bans beggars from top tourist and shopping spots,” as these vagrants upset and offend the shoppers. The poor and homeless begging in shop doorways and at entrances to the metro or underground whether in Paris or London are not part of a “big society.”And the only offence we should feel is that in 21st Century Europe there is any need at all for begging.
Kids roaming the streets out of boredom, getting involved in gangs and drugs; that’s not part of a “big society.” Over 1 million unemployed youngsters in the UK; that’s not “big society.” The filth and litter all over our streets; that’s not part of a “big society.” The elderly who are lonely and isolated at home, or abused and bullied in care homes; that’s not “big society.” The young family struggling to bring up their disabled children on insufficient income who don’t even know their neighbors, who wouldn’t know where they could knock on a door to get help or support in an emergency. The rogues stealing metal plaques from gravestones and war memorials because scrap metal dealers will pay good prices now for them; that most certainly is not “big society.”
Perhaps it is easier to say what a “big society” is NOT than what it is.

The people selling the Big Issue on the streets – now that IS part of a bigger society! At least they are aspiring for a better life and doing something about it. But they receive support, both from the Big Issue operation itself, and from those of us who stop and talk to them, get to know them, buy their magazine (fantastic value and cheaper than that hyper- caloried drink you have just bought), even on occasions buy them a hot drink (OK call me a softie). But little things like that, being nice to other people, helping them on their way, all help to make the world a little bit better and ARE one step towards a “big society”.

Real community starts in the streets where we live. It starts with our own families, with our neighbors and friends, and extends to friends at work, in our church, in our club or society. But it should never ever exclude others around us who share our “space.” We are all human beings, with the same needs and vulnerabilities, and even finding just a little time to help others is time very well spent in the huge scheme of things.
Of course we cannot personally solve all the seamier problems of our broken society. We will sometimes need help and support from local and national government, and from other agencies, whether this comes through regulation or from practical resources. Of course we cannot solve housing problems on our own, for example, or the gangs on “sink” estates. But Gandhi did say: “YOU must be the change you want to see in the world.” And for that change to come about we all have to start small. Start in our own back yard. And that way we WILL start to build a “Big Society.”

Jonathan Sacks wrote somewhere that  
‘A community is where they know your name and where they miss you if you are not there [Sacks’ italics] Community is society with a human face.’ 
In other words, Big Society.

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