323 - Where do we go from here? | Scoins.net | DJS

323 - Where do we go from here?


So Trump has gone, perhaps. Whether the conditions that cause either to rise to such elevated heights have also gone, I somehow doubt. If we view the closeness of the US position to confirm that several competing issues caused division —for or against the individuals or their parties or their policies—then we might also surmise that nothing is actually resolved. 

Cummings has also gone, until the next campaign, again with 'perhaps' as a qualifier. The UK too has a vacuum at the top that needs filling with competence. Personally, this is much more a matter of concern as it is likely to have direct personal effect.

That there are things wrong with both nations is, surely, not in dispute. The huge numbers of poor, the level of precarity, ¹ the lack of social mobility  the inability to feed the family without charity, the disparity between rich and poor, haves and have-nots; all of these are markers that such nominally rich countries are in some ways, quite poor.

That only skirts around the problem and it doesn't find the roots at all. We have many things we could and should be paying for, each of which is supported by a history of recognising the problem and doing little or nothing that has any lasting effect in terms of repair.  Setting up commissions and writing reports only serves to delay any action and indeed that appears to be the political tool; demand an inquiry, then when the report appears in the fullness of time, the political world will have spun on to a place where whatever the issue is can be fairly safely left either in touch or out of touch. Whichever, it can be ignored. Most of the time we come up with some huge number of required spending to 'fix' the issue and that alone is enough excuse to carefully walk on the other side. Yet each time we do that we fail our society and out society fails us; at some point we actually have to make some changes in a positive direction towards fixing any or all of these issues.

The solutions are generally presented as expensive. Maybe the problem is the money, but that only serves as a measure of how big one of these problems is and the cost of one of the apparent solutions. 

For example, we might agree that the NHS is underfunded. Quite what do we mean by that? Do we mean that nurses are paid too little?  ² Do we mean something much different, that we want the NHS to be big enough that any and all complaints can be treated? Suppose we increase the funding of the NHS by 20%; does that fix the problem or does it instead move us to a new position of similar excess demand? Perhaps the issue is that demand exceeds supply, in which case we should look at decreasing demand: that would mean increasing self-help, increase local provision but, most significantly, changing the health of the nation such that we are, fundamentally healthier. Probably we need both, but that we need to pump-prime the process by using some of the first increases in NHS funding to turn the Illness & Injury Service into the Caring Service into more still, the Health Service. So that is not only rolling up the care homes around the country—in effect nationalising them to an extent—but also changing the outlook for working on wellness, both mental and physical. It might be that 20% is far too little. But look also at what is spent in caring that is outside the system and that points to some possibilities about how that could be funded.

We have education issues. Not just what I've written about already, that having it free allows it to be perceived as worthless; not just moving what we require as core and allowable content to more nearly reflect what subsequently occurs; not just aiming at exam results; not simply drawing a line at 18 or 21 and saying 'done', but ensuring that education continues to be available throughout life in Britain. All of those, and all together. We need a wholesale change that is seen to work and that is seen as moving the nation to a place that we can agree should be better. 

We have political issues. These might well be what it is we have to solve so as to make change on any of the other fronts, and if so, that goes a long way to explaining why we have made so very little progress in the last 50 years. We have a very powerful establishment, such that they maintain their positions of power with little change and less movement towards evening up the balances of power. I continue to see the pandemic as presenting opportunity for more complete devolution and I think that this offers positions that might well benefit all; regional politicians move to positions of control, residents become nearer the immediate power, at national level a lot of detail is moved elsewhere, especially if properly funded by (re)moving central taxation, so that the nation state is run more as a federal government and that then allows the FPTP system to continue, hopefully in a way that makes its sensitivity to opinion change an asset rather than a liability.

We have social issues. It is immensely wrong that we have and need to have food banks. This is evidence that our governance has failed us. What is a government for, if not to protect its people? We have people sleeping rough in sizeable numbers and we have slowly developed ways of reducing that, thanks to the pandemic, only to backslide with alarming speed as soon as the emergency is declared over. We should be able to fix this in a more permanent way, providing paths from destitution to productivity, many of which perhaps closely relate to changes in education.

We have housing issues. We may well convert retail premises to housing, but one hopes we can do that in line with regulation and at a reasonable standard, or we'll only create future equally bad problems. We could hope to build more where we want housing to be —which is not the same as where current demand is, since we want to cause people to move such that there is some levelling up of the north. Which id not the market as it is right now, but where we would like it to be. That connects, to my mind, with immediate roll-out of things like complete internet coverage and fast broadband for all. 

We have energy issues. The general commitment to reduce the national carbon footprint requires a wholesale change in how we generate heat, power and electrical energy. That demands a move away from fossil fuels such that national energy supply has to be renewable and nuclear, transport must be hybrid or electric - and that perhaps part of the solution is reducing demand for such things overall, less transport and less energy. That calls for a change in the way we behave; not least, perhaps we need to face up to a lot less travel, including holidays abroad.

The health issues discussed earlier overlap too: we have allowed ourselves to become fat and unhealthy and those struggling to do no more than survive is far too high. Many of the issues we recognise are interconnected. Years of austerity may well have improved something like our financial standing as a nation but it has not done much for quality of life and less still for the evenness of that quality. We need solutions. We need solutions that integrate with 'where we want to be' and we need solutions that we can be persuaded to afford.

I continue to think we need fewer children and, if possible a lower population. But then we need to accept that many of our habits and mechanisms must change to reflect that. I continue to think we need more education and to accept responsibility for our actions (including the consequences of having many children). I continue to think there could usefully be a salary cap, such that the earnings pyramid was a lot flatter. I continue to think that we need a similar flattening of the pyramid of privilege and perceived power, so that people are called to task and are answerable. 

How we do that in ways that still allows for any action to occur is less clear. How we apparently spend these vast sums without at the same time making ourselves incapable of paying for them, I also do not understand. But I do see that we need to make moves that cause such changes to begin.

DJS 20201116

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Many related pages within this site, linked and not. Notably short is good links to discussion of social issues, where perhaps it is 313-snippets that ought to be linked.

footnote characters        ¹  ²  ³    ⁵  ⁶  ⁷  ⁸  ⁹  

1. Precarity (also precariousness) is a precarious existence, lacking in predictabilityjob securitymaterial or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.        Wikipedia.

2. Salaried general practitioners (GPs) earn £58,808 to £88,744 depending on the length of service and experience. GP partners are self-employed and receive a share of profits of the business. https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/general-practice-doctor

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