What is the ‘Big Society’ if not an attempt to rebalance the governing forces in our lives – that of the State and big business. This duopoly, increasingly co-dependent, exercises power and control through patronage, scale and inertia. The two are locked in a smothering embrace. New Labour’s ‘third way’, an honest but failed attempt to break the duopoly, only served to strengthen the reliance between big business and the public sector.
For many, particularly the poorly educated or those with limited assets, it represents exclusion - a type of spectator sport - as decisions are ever more centralised and taken by a self serving elite.
One could argue, ‘it was ever thus’. But no period of history is ever comparable. The UK faces unprecedented issues – a large and ageing population reliant on state aid, high levels of personal and government debt, multinationals wielding significant political influence and increasing personal freedoms and expectations. Technology and science now play a central role in our lives whilst philosophy and faith, often a counterbalance, are relegated to the sidelines.
Life and living has never been more complex, but fundamentally people haven’t changed. Basic needs that bind people, families and communities - belonging, safety, being social - have been demoted or taken for granted and it is our ‘wants’ that are increasingly indulged. Consumption is the new creed. The shopping mall our place of worship.