Lacking imagination

If you’ve come to read about craft projects, you might want to look away now as I’m going to have a bit of a rant…

In recent years the UK has been faced with a great deal of change. When, for example, the decision was taken for the country to leave the European Union, it was possible (not likely, given our politicians, but nevertheless, possible) to use the break to make some radical changes to our social and economic structure and improve our country. Similarly, the current threats to our environment, from pollution of all kinds and over-use of resources, call for a change to our way of thinking and could be considered to offer opportunities for change that would improve the lot of everybody whilst also protecting the earth.

I’m not surprised, however, that those in power have not seized the moment, but have chosen to hand grimly onto old paradigms that are, quite frankly, outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Just because the country has functioned on the basis of an economic model that values finance over social care, manufacturing over repair, construction over health provision, social class over skill and where you were educated over intelligence does not mean that we have to continue to do so. The book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner* highlights the fact that much of our economic thinking is based on financially valuing what, in the 18th century, were considered (privileged) male activities and simply expecting the activities of 18th century females to simply happen with no financial recompense. In our modern world, it’s quite clear that such economics lead to all sorts of problems with supply of the people (nurses, carers, repairers, growers, nurturers) and things (nutritious food, clean air and water, soil, biodiversity) we actually need, whilst we are taught to value bankers, billionaires and acquisitiveness.

What is worse, we are brainwashed into thinking that happiness comes from things, and that if we can just own the latest technology, clothes, car or whatever, we will feel fulfilled. Modern economics demands that we buy into this (literally) otherwise the whole system will collapse. Now, I am not advocating system collapse, because when that happens the most vulnerable suffer most. But I do think that , with creative thinking and an appreciation that values other than those embedded into our economics could be our focus, perhaps we can move forward in a more equitable and sustainable way.

There is ample research, for example, on the idea of a circular economy. Currently, we have a linear economy, with extraction of resources being followed by manufacturing, consumption and, all too soon, disposal. A circular economy, in contrast, decouples economic activities from resource extraction, focusing on maintenance, reuse, refurbishment whilst minimising any materials/energy leaving the system. There is a need for skilled individuals within this system, so workers have special value too and are nurtured.

You can find out more here and here or simply search for the term online and you’ll find all sorts of examples and ideas.

Another change that we need to make is to value social care. Our local newspaper today highlighted the pressures in the area on domiciliary care staff, and this seems to be an issue country-wide. Carers have been under especial pressure during the pandemic and it is time that their role was re-evaluated. The Women’s Equality Party has been vocal on this issue, with their leader, Manu Reid highlighting the fact that “care is seen as an expense rather than a valuable investment”, going on to note that “like all forms of care – our government still relies on the fact that women will do it for little or no pay”. Continuing to regard care as a burden and not a key part of the effective functioning of the country harks back to old Adam Smith. Remember, that economics is a fiction… money only has value because we all pretend that it does; intrinsically, it doesn’t, it’s just a way of keeping score. And if we accept this, we can allocate different “scores” to different things. It’s hard to get your head around the concept, but it really is possible to have a different economic model.

Of course the problem is that our current government and politicians are so invested (literally and metaphorically) in the way things are that they are unable to see beyond it. What we need are leaders with vision, with creativity, and with the ability to educate the populace to see that the current way is not the only way. I understand that a major paradigm shift like this is difficult, but on our finite earth is is essential if we are to care for the planet and the people on it. We can all make a little difference and work towards some of the ideas introduced here, but it is those in power who have the potential to drive big changes forward. So, next time you have a chance (or make a chance) to interact with any of our elected leaders, I encourage you to raise some of these issues and see if you can’t open their eyes and spark their imagination.

-oOo-

* His mother (what a surprise)

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33 Comments

  1. Nikki

     /  September 28, 2021

    Hear hear! We need to move towards a circular, regenerative economy that values human health and the health of the planet above the endless accumulation of private wealth – I’d suggest reading ‘Doughnut Economics’ by Kate Raworth, if you haven’t already.
    I often wonder, if research and innovation were focused on genuinely useful things (self cleaning bathrooms, anyone?) which can also be defined as robots/machines that make women’s lives better, instead of pointlessly trying to make racing cars/boys toys faster/more bling, then ALL our lives would be improved, and the Adam Smiths of the future can learn to not only cook their own dinner, but cook for the whole household.

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  2. Nikki

     /  September 28, 2021

    I’d challenge any politician – when we have a climate crisis ALREADY here, NOW is the time to radically change our demonstrably destructive economic system. What are you waiting for, the floods to reach your front door?

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  3. You’ve packed a lot in here! I agree with you on many things – the absurdity of distinguishing between ‘social class’ and intelligence/ability, the low value placed on care work, the division of labour, the veneration of billionares, the concept of inherited privilege, and the horror of pollution. A significant change in these perspectives will take generations to develop – and no, there will be no kickstart to change with your current government. I think, ultimately, most politicans are a short-sighted bunch, not just in the UK but here, there and most everywhere else as well (I can think of a couple of exceptions, or apparent ones at least, but I could just be being extremely naive).
    We differ on our opinions of some things – the viability of renewable energy supplies, for example, and an economy based on a free market – and I’m not sure that a circular economy wouldn’t bring some problems of its own, but it is always good to analyse why things are as they currently are and try to make changes for the better. We humans have certainly made an almighty mess of so much!

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    • I think the important thing is for us all to examine whether the current system is working and to think about it, rather than just accepting the status quo. I don’t think there is a single ‘right’ answer and progress can always be improved by sensible discussions and investigating different ideas.

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  4. It is a horrible time of crisis, that so many are living in questionable apathy and dying unanswered.

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    • Sadly there is far too much apathy out there.

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      • We must do what we can. Say what we feel. Be the example of something wholesome. To know that we are free to say “No, I don’t think that is right” and “Wow, you’re amazing and doing great things” with the please and the thank yous in all the right places. I might be wrong. I don’t know. I worry that some kind people who do good are a target. It’s a time of confusion. I am attempting to be alert to the signs of what is wrong or a con and what is the moral course of action. People are out to get what they can and some are very tricky, clever, but tricky! We need ethics, but be on our guard (I must becoming wise in my old age).

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  5. I’m with you and pleased to read such a good piece on it. I’ve seen some other things lately on this issue and your article is concise, clear, and pointed. Love it. I’m getting that book…

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  6. Yes, this. Just don’t get me started on the evils of the raw-materials-based economy here in Australia. We all know it’s bad for the environment. We all know the boom can’t last (witness our current problematic relationship with China, our biggest resources customer), and we all know that no attention or resources have been directed towards finding a replacement and sustainable prop for our economy. The problem is that huge swathes of the population are inextricably tied to resources for employment, housing, infrastructure and the very life of the community. It’s a tough one… There is change, but it is glacially slow.

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  7. At one point there was a circular economy – but then suddenly all kinds of radical modern inventions evolved. One of things that I hate hearing, is that younger generation telling me the elder “it’s all your fault”…when it’s nothing of the kind!

    Okay, we didn’t have a lot of the modern conveniences in my “time” but I don’t remember suddenly thinking “I would prefer a plastic carrier bag to carry home my shopping” when the paper carrier bag did a fine job and I could use it for all kinds of other things, covering my school books, rolling it into paper logs to get the cold range going (not me, but my mother did…) but there were oddles of things we did “back then…” finally putting them in the councils’ recycling bin…

    Or that radical new writing tool, known in this hemisphere as a Biro (ball point pen) was such an easy object. No more ink, no more blotting paper, no more mess. Easier to transport

    Or that big household appliance, that some how there was no way to repair it…parts had changed. And as for electronic cords, none fit the new gadget and what to do with them…I recently had a going over a large box, most of which ended up in the bin.

    Often very tiny objects that somehow have no life cycle.

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    • Things changed so gradually that we didn’t notice. There’s no point in blaming individuals, we need the experiences of older generations and the vision of the young… working together is what’s required now.

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  8. I am faced right now with the issue of a linear economy. I have a house well half a house full of things I have no use for. Mr E did, I don’t. And can I give away the tools, no-one has spaces for them. Electronic components, I thought there was a shortage of them, no takers. Perfectly Good clothes, charity shops too full. I am just hoping the redundant furniture can be taken by a charity. Books and DVDs are wanted.
    I read somewhere of a chap who has set up a lending library of tools, things you only use once in a blue moon to lawnmowers. Now that is a sensible idea.
    Just like there being no shortage of fuel just lorry drivers, there is no shortage of stuff, just the means of sharing it.
    Its annoying me a lot because I know one of the obstacles to people getting a job is the lack of a smart interview outfit. Imagine just being able to borrow and return them…. And I can’t even donate them to a charity shop .
    Flower pots are another bug bear, I have found 100s of them in the garage…. Why?
    Enough from me, an interesting post.

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    • Nikki

       /  September 29, 2021

      I know of specialist charities that will happily take good quality ‘interview-appropriate’ clothing as their remit is to help those looking for work, succeed through the interview process. Maybe you can find one local to you?
      Tools – is there a makespace near you? They always appreciate tools.
      As for flower pots – I love them 🙂 Is there a gardening/allotment group near you who would appreciate some?
      I’m sorry you might be feeling overwhelmed with a half house full of things that are of no use to you. Take your time in sorting through them, if you can. I suspect it took years to acummulate them, so it will take a little time to sort through them, and find good homes for them all (not easy, I know).
      Some charities (e.g. British Heart Foundation) also offer collection services – see if they can help, especially with furniture/big items. Wishing you all the best!

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    • So difficult to find the right home for “stuff” isn’t it. We really need some sort of directory in which you can look up the thing you have and see who needs it. I’, sure all of Mr E’s things could go to a good home if only you could locate it. And all this whilst dealing with your loss… it’s so hard. Big hugs x

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  9. I agree with you basic premises but when I look back and see how things have changed in my lifetime often for the worse. I think that it may take a long time to develop a better system. However that is no reason for not making a start. These days I am often conflicted between buying things to keep people in jobs and not buying new because what I have is perfectly serviceable. Same thing with taking the bus (pre Covid) to keep the buses running or walking because it is better for my health. As someone who brought up her own children, I think that child minders/nurseries should be paid a decent amount but if they were would women be able to afford to go to work since some of the money of that transaction would go to the government in tax. No-one taxed the care I gave my family. Just a few points that come to my mind when I try to create the perfect system.

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  10. Wow, I really liked this post!!

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  11. Going Batty in Wales

     /  September 30, 2021

    I wish leaders would lead from the front! At best they seem to act like sheepdogs trying to keep the flock together and therefore going at the pace of the slowest. At worst they are mendacious because they want those well paid directorships when they leave office. I don’t know what the answer is other than monitoring my own behaviour. What I do know is that if the banks were ‘Too big to fail’ then surely the planet is also. The magic money tree stumped up to bail them out so presumably it could pay for the needed changes for other issues.

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  12. Very nicely explained and so beautifully and articulately said 👌

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Yes, we need to educate the politicians !

    Liked by 1 person

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