We are living in uncertain times. The global economic crisis that has come to fruition over the past year has created a long overdue debate on politics and economics in Britain. For decades, we have relied on a political narrative driven by reliance and trust on markets; and a belief that markets will self regulate to create a more equitable society. Up until recently there was a general acceptance in the mainstream media, amongst politicians and from the general public that the City looks after the markets and we get on with our daily lives.
The current situation we face however means we can no longer continue to operate in such a way- the “elephant in the room” has fixed itself so firmly in front of the television that we can no longer resist asking it to get out the way.
However, amidst the gloomy headlines and alarming unemployment figures, we are presented with a new space in which to open debates about a better future for our society.
‘Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next?’ This was the headline of a recent comment article from the Guardian. This question is central to the debate that has dominated the columns of articles and blogs over the past weeks and months. What is the guiding idea from which to unite for a better Britain? The crisis we face is so great, the challenge so difficult, the opportunity for the youth of Britain to do nothing is however, inevitably, so easy.
In his article (referred to above) author Eric Hobsbawm argues of the need for a progressive policy for action for Britain; one that addresses the needs of people and not the markets. He identifies a central hypothesis, that is, we do not know what the solution is for a better future for Britain. The problem is clear- we live in a society that negates the need of people and that favours consumerism, dumbed down versions of reality- delivered in overdoses of fly-on-the-wall documentaries- and a desire for aesthetically reassuring behaviours.
Access to health care, education, employment and social prosperity are issues at the fringes of everyday discussions at a time when they must be placed at the centre.
‘The test of a progressive policy’, writes Hobsbawm, ‘is not private but public, not just rising income and consumption for individuals, but widening the opportunities and what Amartya Sen calls the “capabilities” of all through collective action’.
If we are to develop ideas for a progressive guiding vision from Britain, we must ask the questions that will enable us to realise our capabilities. We must ask the questions that government “can’t” with a general election looming on tax, on reforming global governance and on regulating an out of control global financial sector. There are signs that a narrative is developing on an international stage following the principles agreed upon at the G20 summit. But principles are little else without the leadership and guidance from which realise that a more equitable society is a destination to which we can arrive, should we choose to demand it.
Compass Youth- A space in which to create a vision for a new future for Britain?
Over the past few years, Compass has demonstrated examples of visionary leadership in calling for a renewed debate on a mixed economy- an economy that is inherently political. Compass Youth offers a space for progressively minded individuals, the next generation of political leadership, to explore ideas about a future Britain that puts people and their capabilities at the heart of government. At this time, the risk for the youth of Britain of doing nothing, comes at a high price, yet the hardest thing we can do, is to do something. But what is that something?
British society is increasingly shaped by a culture of consumerism and a focus on the individual over that of society. Society blames central government for the negative interferences in our lives- whether this be youths causing anti-social behaviour or the poor interest accumulating on our savings. And rightly so in some respects. However, the ease at which we point the blame, sometimes sits uncomfortably in a vacuum of leadership and a better vision.
That one man can bring so much hope, inspiration and generate individual leadership in the United States demonstrates clearly that we all have our role to play in shaping positive change within our societies. Compass Youth offers us a forum in which to challenge ourselves and our ideas and to overcome the most difficult challenge of all- to do something.
There is no guiding idea- no one big idea- from which to advocate but upon the foundations of a socially progressive movement of democratic socialism; we must now begin to ask the big questions:
- Why are we not talking about higher levels of taxation for those earning obscene amounts? This is not as much a political question as it is a question on moral obligations;
- Why does Britain not galvanise its sense society and with this increased levels of responsibility for neighbours and fellow citizens?;
- How can the ideas of a more equitable progressive policy agenda be transferred to an election winning manifesto?
Adam McNicholas, check out my blog at http://www.aplatformformyideas.blogspot.com/
Thanks to TobanBlank for the photo published under Creative Commons Licence