Sorting things

I keep mulling over what is happening with the riots, the financial system, and the apparent collapsing of an old world under its own weight. Like many I keep thinking of ways to “sort it”. Each time I fall into the trap of coming up with some system or ideology or framework – all the grown up stuff that is meant to be how we fix things. But every time I come back to what I can do now, myself – how I behave moment to moment, and how I treat both myself and others.

If I allow myself to feel sorry for myself, hard done by, or victim of some perceived injustice, I give myself permission to feel justified in behaving badly.

If I think that something outside myself will make things better – God, the state, other people or buying more stuff – then I absolve myself of the responsibility for changing things and render myself powerless and a victim of someone else’s view of the world.

If I allow myself to see other people as a mass, and not made up of individuals like me, I open the door to demonising them or being overwhelmed by the futility of that mass ever changing.

If I see work as inevitably being a cog in a huge wheel with little or no control over what that wheel does then I consign myself to the life of a wage slave keeping my head down long enough to make it to my ever diminishing pension and the promise of happiness tomorrow.

And if I read mass circulation newspapers or watch mass media I exacerbate all of the above challenges and become even more powerless to change either myself or the world around me.

This is why I am so passionate about the web and the ability it gives us, to quote David Weinberger, to “write ourselves into existence”, to see the world as made up of connected individuals with the ability to shape their shared future rather than as a mass or ideologically driven herd.

This is also why I feel so motivated to work with the large corporations and institutions that so dominate our modern world. If I can help any of the individuals who make up those organisations to feel a little bit more self aware, a little bit more capable, and a little bit more able to think for themselves and speak for themselves, and to do so as part of networks of others doing the same – then I will have done my job.

Perhaps they will feel able to stand up and make their voices heard about the things that their organisation is doing that they don’t feel comfortable with or that they know deep down aren’t making the world a better place for their kids.

Maybe if we all do that we will stop fooling ourselves that the mass is anything other than individuals pretty much just like us.

Maybe if we stop fooling ourselves there will be less of a gap between the haves and the have nots.

Maybe our care for the planet will increase.

Maybe we can collectively build a new world based on tolerance and mutual responsibility before the very different one we currently inhabit falls apart.

Maybe we will be able to grow up in time.


12 thoughts on “Sorting things

  1. The masses, be it problems or people, tend to overwhelm us. A green Forest, off in the distance, can be so beautiful. Yet it is in the Forest, among the trees where we must live. I'm not sure that I, nor anyone, has a simple answer. But, in the main, I think we need to remember that at the heart of all that we do is that we must care.Thank you for an honest appraisal. I appreciate your post.


  2. Euan a few weeks back Radio 4's Book of the Week was Hood Rat which documented Karyn McCluskey's work as head of intelligence at Strathclyde police force. Gavin Knight wrote well about how Neds developed and their attitude to the police. He did well documenting how those who had dropped out of education early formed social groups based on power and fear. What we have witnessed over the last few nights are people realising that by acting in large groups they have more control than the police. We are witnessing the disaffected being opportunistic.


  3. All of this rings very true, but most of all the last – "Maybe we will be able to grow up in time." I couldn't agree more with this. I think we all need to grow up as individuals, because only then will we be able to grow up as a society.When you look at all the problems faced by humanity there's little hope of progress if we continue to desperately grasp our prejudices and remain captivated by partisan politics and the media. There must be a way we can move on from this to a more rational, pragmatic, evidence-based society… but it will only happen if us individuals take the steps towards creating it. Great post, thanks.


  4. I've actually been looking at whether I might be able to commit to helping a youth group, especially since cuts to those organisations appears to have been one factr immediately preceding the problems in London.And whilst some of my friends may think it's because I'm too much of a liberal lefty huggie hippie to go for more punitive measures after the fact, it's actually the simple choice between trying to do something which can help to avoid a similar situation in the future (and maybe help some individuals), and just going for some hefty punishments to make people feel better after the event – as a father, I'd much rather try and sort the causes, rather than seek solace in punishments…


  5. < v > Are we not also watching the disaffected learn how to acquire some power that they've not had or been denied .. admittedly clumsily and criminally .. but the issues underneath don't seem as if they will go away any time soon.Would that there were not such great divides to cross .. but (probably) more often than not the disaffected did not and do not have the major role in creating such divides.There are poor and young disaffected in countries all around the world .. we cheer them on in Egypt and Libya, etc. but want to suppress them and jail them in our countries. The contexts are different, but their feeling and drives are all too similar.And no, I am not wanting to excuse or ignore wanton criminality, but that's not the whole issue in play here (in my opinion).


  6. "A crowd of many thousands…. attacked them, seized their weapons. The troops opened fire, and after a protracted struggle, cleared the street, inflicting a hundred casualties, a score of them fatal. In the face of sustained sniping and a threatened renewal of the assault, however, the Highlanders were compelled to withdraw, moving to Penydarren House, a strategically-placed mansion, and abandoning the town to the rioters." extract from the notes on the Merthyr Riots 1831. Nothing changes. the poor, disenfranchised, the bloody minded, the opportunist will always come together. The challenge for us as a society is how we respond to it. we can call them scum and hunt them down or we could try and understand why we have allowed whole sections of our society to become disenfranchised and find a way to bring them into society.


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