Featured Image: Last week’s International week of tiger awareness with special days and events: (and the welfare of our planet is on our mind when we consider the billions of animals killed in the Australian bushfires).
We’re really sensitive to the local global connection as we tentatively mask up, socially distance and can see a connection between what’s on our doorstep and what’s happening elsewhere.
We wonder how we can make the ground and environment grow around us so that everyone can bring themselves to school, to college, to university, to training to creativity, to making, to innovating new kinds of business that will nourish and transform our lives.
Like the vision of Harry Wilson member of the Ashington Group (1934-1983 The Pitmen Painters) and the work of the astonishing Jacob Lawrence we need to nurture all our roots, develop and reconnect the present with the experience, aspiration that’s not in the data mosaic always hungry for predicting and determining who we are but not supporting life, aspiration and our depth.
We need to breathe new life into the amazing mosaics of who we are. Are you listening John P?
My parents, after the second world war, like so many people, aspired to peace, health, good design and, in their three bedroomed council house they wallpapered and furnished with design they’d seen in magazines and in films. They were working class and they were individuals with thoughts, ideas, aspirations. They’d experienced racism, prejudice and also a vast diversity in the world, growing up and during war service my father had travelled to Norway, Africa, Aden. My mum’s brother had been stationed in the middle east and Africa and the shared family experiences meant that our family like many others, made up their own mind about people and social justice: having opinions thrashed out around the kitchen table was a normal part of life.
They wanted peace, to be able to work for beautiful things, music, film, books, how they furnished and decorated their council house, how they saw learning, how they taught us, how they appreciated the community around them: but it was being reconstructed in a way that restricted freedom and steered them towards a mass culture that ‘made fools out of people’ as my mum said. They didn’t see the culture of the post war period reflecting them or the world they experienced or knew. I can remember my dad saying “Alan Sillitoe? What does he know about working people? My gran, my mum said: “Alan Sillitoe can tell every story except the one we want to hear.”
That was so true: think about how long it took ‘culture’ (that we could participate in) to ‘catch up’ with the working class, think about how long it’s taken for culture to catch up with black lives matter: I felt my parents feeling of the way their lives were being made to feel inauthentic so that they had to ‘pass’ as middle class but would be found wanting because they weren’t allowed to be themselves.
The great thing though was that we appreciated the space they created for us when we were growing up where talking, sharing, discussing, campaigning, making things in a community, plays, petitioning, was normal. It was normal to be successful at asking for something even if you didn’t realise how disadvantaged you were, we were endlessly optimistic that the right answer would get a changed result.
We grew up campaigning for equal rights even though we didn’t realise how much pressure we were under, that although we’d be participating in a wider social environment that was highly socially segregated we were building a cultural infrastructure that everyone wanted to be part of.
The way society was reconstructed after 1945 was through using military command models but as we see now, seventy years on, building supply chains around exploitative ways of seeing people and resources isn’t the way we want to live, work and die.
The old models are overwhelmingly hostile to diverse economic growth: they waste and create waste and nurture a one sided vision of society that is monopolies vs lean agile science and technology manufacturing sector (ie David and Goliath) when in fact what they’ve actually done is concentrate privilege and under privilege disconnecting all the elements of a healthy economy and society.
In 2020 we need to understand just how important it is that when the government offers contracts say for PPE and Face Masks that everyone in society who has the tech, the creativity, the materials, the imagination to make PPE and Face Masks for example, (eg: facial recognition technology to get accurate measurement, 3D printing, recycling textiles). Over two thousand companies have set up since lockdown to produce PPE and Facemasks but the quality and service aspect of meeting the need has been devolved onto the voluntary sector when we should have been supporting the community interest companies and innovators to make sustainable businesses.
If we look at the cultural significance of face masks as ways of creating great products that people like to wear has been missed as a wellbeing and health issue: having a great local source of really well made face masks will improve discussion around them and improve the product because it will become a product that doesn’t just appear in arcades, supermarkets and pound shops in an unsupervised, unaccountable and expensive vending machine, the product’s in your own local community so you have more connection with the way its made and distributed.
We need to light up the world with insight not bush fires.
At the moment, even though we have patches of great technologies, when it comes to making new businesses, we’re using the sledgehammer tools of the last century (albeit dressed up as 21st century technology).
We nominated historic privilege to speak for everyone and of course this is a gesture to the past rather than the present or the future we need.
We still need to hope and plan for representation in and through parliament because it’s a great way of telling the news and gaining from the diversity of who we are: the modern versions of the stories of the ex-prisoners of war, the migrants, the refugees and their children and grandchildren to progress into a restored vision of Britishness, Englishness, Scottishness, Welshness, Irishness in the businesses and community hubs we create.