From political consumerism to tribal civic cultures
There’s a growing need for people to feel part of tribes if they cannot aspire to be Mr and Mrs Average…and that’s not just to have an inked visage of Alex Salmond or your arm tattooed with Nigel Farage. We need to listen and get under the skin of civic cultures like the SNP and UKIP have.
The Independent segments voters from Squeezed Semis to Harassed Hipsters. But how can we categorise people when many will move between different economic categories — from unemployment, low paid work, then back into unemployment? What will happen when the middle class will suffer the same symptoms of globalisation as the working class?
“There’s an earthquake about to hit us. It won’t be today, but it’s on its way. The working classes have been here already. They’ve watched whole industries shipped out to China and wiped out. They’ve seen the service-industry work that’s left go to immigrants who think they’ve won the lottery with the minimum wage. Now it’s time for the middle classes. Savour your Sauvignon while you can”.
We need to understand people’s preconceptions, their personal theories of change. We need to find ways that bring people from different backgrounds together, that acknowledge their differences & similarities, but focus on how they can change together, rather than apart.
Moving from a smart to an empathetic politics
We need to be even more aware of the power inequalities that suffocate and constrain not only our actions, but our imagination. There’s no use having five million conversations and using sophisticated tools if you can’t understand people, engage and persuade them.
We need to understand and recognise these tribes. We shouldn’t try and dilute…or oppose them. We have multiple identities. We should understand and want to empathise with people who aren’t like us.
But we also need to acknowledge that social democracy and the infrastructure it used to build had perverse consequences. The welfare settlement and trade unions haven’t necessarily helped everyone, they’ve priviliged people who work in full-time permanent work. We should move beyond the binary opposition of workers and businesses, especially with people who don’t fit the traditional model of 9–5 full time permanent employment, with increasing numbers of people self-employed.
The liberation struggle for individual rights has obscured the need for more collective rights that bind people from different backgrounds together, rather than the perception that communities compete against each other for special rights.
We should also build the capacity for people to have the time and space to look after themselves and their loves ones, as well as time to think critically about the world around them. How we share what we’ve got that will shape how we feel and behave.