Updated: Apr 29
I had a long chat online with some old friends a few days ago. Although spread across many countries, we all knew each other growing up in Central Scotland and we still have much in common. This is particularly true when it comes to our wish to live in a good society. By good, we all agree we mean kind, fair, decent, and equal.
After enjoying nostalgic memories about our shared earlier years, the subject got round to the world we find ourselves in today. Covid-19 and lockdown were of course to the fore, but so too were some of the major contradictions about our society that have emerged in a unique situation such as this one.
We were all of much the same view. Despite the tragedies of the pandemic, the enforced lockdown it has caused has allowed many of us to experience positive aspects of life that our busy, consumerist lives have prevented us from seeing for decades. Things like the many paths through local woods, some time to stop and stare at nature, the absence of noise of traffic, the deeper blue, clearer skies, and the songs of birds.
We all feel that we should take this unprecedented opportunity to remake our global economy as we restart it, in a way that kept the world cleaner, quieter, less rushed, and less polluted. This would resolve the even greater calamity of our times, the climate crisis.
We also want a world where we will continue to celebrate the roles of essential workers, and recognise that every one of us is of equal worth in society. If we are all equally important, then everyone should be rewarded roughly equally in terms of income and overall wealth.
All of us who were involved in this conversation are middle-class, and successful, financially and career-wise. Most have spent most of their working lives in the private sector.
We turned the conversation towards how likely it would be that those witrh the real power in the world would strive to achieve our vision of a better society for all and for the planet. Most were not optimistic. The general view was that, despite all the current praise for the heroism, altruism, bravery, and sacrifice of key workers, when it comes down to sharing wealth, the powerful and the rich - and for the most part the rich are powerful, and the powerful are rich - just won't entertain it. They would rather see millions continue to die unnecessarily, and the planet ruined for future generations than give up any of their own accumulated wealth or exalted positions in society.
Sadly our group seemed jaded about the chances of achieving anything of real worth through political engagement. One of the group, who himself is in a senior role in a global, hi-tech, corporation said "You just disengage".
Howtragic is this. Someone, hugely successful in his private and family life, felt a huge hole in his life because he feels disconnected from the process of democracy and societal progress. He felt that those whose consent is needed to effect the major changes to a fairer and safer world are simply not prepared to share their wealth or give up their power, both of which are needed if a good society is to be accomplished.
To be disengaged from involvement in the direction of your own society causes significant mental ill-health. I believe that a high proportion of people in every walk of life and in every country are suffering from grief or mourning in this matter. Grief at the seeming death of a vision of the good society, mourning the loss of what once seemed possible, but now doesn't. I think even the rich and powerful, the very people who stand in the way of a decent society and a stable climate, are rended twisted and unhappy inside because they too are disengaged, not with power, but with peace of mind, purpose, belonging to something of worth.
I am writing this in the hope that it reaches some people in positions of power. I hope it helps them realise the serious effect on people's health right through society of a sense of impotence in our political and "democratic" system. I hope it awakens in them the reaslisation that they too suffering mentally from this imbalance and from the destructive effects of climate change. Maybe, just maybe, the change we want will come.