Solidarity, meritocracy and grace.

I’ve always been dubious that meritocracy ensures a level playing field and this week I found a podcast that articulated this view much better than I ever could.

The discussion references ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’ a book that describes a dystopian society in a future United Kingdom (2034) in which intelligence and merit have become the central tenet of society creating a society stratified between a merited power holding elite and a disenfranchised underclass of the less merited.  Hmmmm! 

The podcast argues that when a society believes in meritocracy it can lose its compassion.  To re-build social solidarity we need to stop measuring and stratifying by achievement and …   here’s where we can think about grace, not grace in a theological way (although you can do that if you want) but grace as an antidote to the relentless unforgiving nature of meritocracy.  Rather than judging people for what they acquire or achieve, we value people for the kinds of contribution they have made to their families and communities. 

Part of me knows that we believe in community development because we know the work we do contributes to this view of a just society, and part of me knows that that belief can be a struggle some days.  Fortunately you don’t have to look far to find examples of where this contribution is valued and understood,  from communities taking charge of their own spaces in Anderston to buying land on Ulva to simply shutting off streets so children can play.  Grace exists.  It has to.

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#100 years

My thoughts this month centre around #100years followed by the subsequent announcement of a £500,000 fund to encourage more women to become involved in politics in Scotland.   

Some twitter surfing took me to a google search to find out more information about what the political gender gap looks like now.  I was less interested in rankings (although its an eye opener!) and more interested in pace of change.

According to the Global Gender Gap Index – an annual index that measures the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas, the political dimension currently holds the widest gender gap.

It’s forecast that on current progress this could be closed within 99 years. Another #100 years does little to motivate me.  The thought however of reducing this to say 50 years or 25 years, does.  Funding is a start, but I think that we as community development organisations and practitioners also have a massive part to play.   I don’t doubt this, but the question I always end up pondering is -  politically, economically or in any other sector, is our role to empower individuals and communities to negotiate the current structures or do we have an obligation to help re-define those structures?  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

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Think, Action, change

My podcast hopping this month took me to Epicurean philosophy.  I thought I was going to gain a higher understanding of food but no! turns out Epicurus was one of the first philosophers to develop a notion of justice as a kind of social contract, an agreement "neither to harm nor be harmed".

The other fact I learnt about Epicurus was that he was one of the first ‘thinkers’ to actually turn his thinking into action to lead to change.  He bought a house with a garden and unlike other thinkers of his time who chose public spaces for their teachings, he invited others to join him, to momentarily detach themselves from the world to 'seek relief from the disturbances of the city'

I had two thoughts from this, one, we need to remember that thinking should always lead to action and two, the importance of a space to call your own.  There can’t be many that have been unmoved by Social Bite’s ‘Sleep in the Park’ campaign this weekend, a visible show of support to those without a safe space of their own.   From thinking, that homelessness is not inevitable to action, 8000 people sleeping in a park, to change, 475 homes being made available for homeless people.  

Thinking, action, change.  Epicureanism?, community development? either way it’s worth remembering.

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