Three Ways To Change The System

Beyond ideas of left wing and right wing, beyond ideas of freedom from and freedom to there is a space that is generative and life-enhancing for everyone. It is a space where we choose to treat each other with respect, as  having value – simply because we are human. – irrespective of our differences of affiliation, birth or capability.

As former MP Jo Cox said, there is more we have in common than divides us. But this new compass of life-enhancing unity cannot be navigated by ideas of left or right  – of the entitlement of some but not of others or by the denial of difference and capability through a strict imposition of censorial, conformist egalitarianism.

At a recent conference organised by the Centre For Sustainability & Prosperity, Rowan Williams, former Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, was asked if he could point to where we might find generative opportunites to change our political and economic system which seems to be failing us in so many ways. In reply he suggested three areas that he sees as having particular potential for generative positive change.

        1. Creating opportunities For Non-Partisan Public Discourse
        2. Re-Visiting traditional values which seem to have been discarded by liberal, egalitarian elites and their followers
        3. Getting creative around building new institutions and adapting existing ones

With regard to the former, Lord Williams suggested that the mainstream press seem to have lost the distinction between news and opinion. They are largely driven by promoting unfiltered propaganda for their own interests. And sadly, even the BBC is failing us, driven as it now is by an increasing role as a global entertainment corporation and less as a specifically British public broadcaster with a remit to protect, serve and promote civil society. Given also that the effect of social media is to entrench us in our separate silos of comfortable agreement, the establishing of spaces for non-partisan public discourse is a badly needed gesture of leadership which has been largely been jettisoned by our media institutions.

In respect of traditional values, Lord Williams has expressed a clear view that mainstream philosophies of liberalism and conservatism – the two main lenses through which we have come to view the world – have lost touch with traditional values of the family and civil society. In this regard, he has suggested that in a technological, increasingly liberalist society and an incresingly powerful market with huge power to influence, our inner identities of who we think we are or should be have been enclosed without our realising it. Liberation from the domination of an unrestrained market, unconscious politics and a centralised state requires a new lens.

Finally he suggested that we need to create new institutions -that are place based or activity based – which, like the NHS, incorporate the values we want to live by. Whether these are schools, new kinds of banks or business models, institutions that integrate the values of respect, reciprocity and human dignity offer a bulwark against individual frailty and corruption and potentially create a conducive environment for a sustainable, civil society


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