Today's guest post is by London Peppercommer Sandhya Shyam
Sounding suspiciously like Nineteen Eighty-Four Newspeak, the newly elected British government
is busily unfolding it’s most dramatic manifesto yet, Big Society. Yes, they actually named it Big Society, an umbrella phrase to describe what will be a gradual transfer of power from the state to the communities. David Cameron and his merry troupes are busy announcing initiatives that will see volunteers and local community groups adopt significant administrative and policy control of local schools, rural housing schemes, post offices, libraries, museums etc.– you know, those things called jobs that people used to get paid for.
Cynicism aside, I actually genuinely appreciate the concept of empowering people and making communities responsible for issues that impact them directly. Britain for the last decade at least has suffered from being spoonfed. Huge chunks of society happily depend on handouts and for the government to tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Big Society, in theory at least, is designed to get people thinking for themselves again.
Though Britain has a strong culture of volunteerism, I wonder who actually will participate and where will they find the time? An Audit of Political Engagement in 2009, found that ‘half the public do not want to be involved in decision making in their local area and over half (55 percent) do not want to be involved at a national level.’ At the very least, perhaps Big Society might cure the curse of apathy. Still, who are these charmed few who will be running our country? I’m pretty sure that my own local despot will be the busybody at the end of our street who keeps reminding us that the plants in our window box are a little too tall.