I have been to a couple of events on democracy recently. I don’t think democracy is quite in crisis yet. But I think a show down is coming. I don’t see how Johnson is going to get a new deal. I don’t see that he could get the existing or any other deal through. Parliament is implacably opposed to a no deal Brexit. Something has to give and it is not currently clear what the something will be.
Democracy as Love thy neighbour was the title of a talk by Luke Brotherton. He started by suggesting that democracy is a way to get the wisdom of the many not the few. He put forward the idea that listening is a sacred duty. We clearly have not been listening to each other – Brexit would not be happening if people felt listened to. He talked of lament as structured grief which can lead to action.
Over the past 40 years a particular type of economics, liberal economics has become more and more dominant in our culture and society. The Churches have not been terribly good at resisting that change.
However, it was when Brotherton argued that we needed to listen to people who were not like us, that the changes of the past 40 years hit home. In the 1970s, we had a shared sense of citizenship. There may well have been prejudice and snobbery, but there was a stronger sense that we are all citizens of the the same island.
Brotherton talked about a number of factors which undermine the ability to listen. One was respectability – certain ideas are seen as respectable, others are outside the pale. He noted also that it is always easier to denounce others rather than look at ourselves. And finally, he talked the modern tendancy to escapism.
In my opinion, few people, especially those on the left, are willing to confront the elephant in the room which is migration. It seems obvious to me that if you have people coming to live from all over the world, with different cultures and lifestyles, that is bound to weaken the social bond between people.
There is relatively little social mixing these days. People are in silos. Vast numbers of people are not even citizens of the UK.
Britain will be majority ethnic by 2060- roughly 40 years away. I don’t see much debate or discussion about these issues. We have this strange situation where a lot of migration is employer driven, and yet it is the left who are most in favour of high migration.
It seems obvious to me that if you create a situation in which people don’t feel they have much power over their lives, that you will create a situation in which people seek escape.
In this situation, exhorting people to listen to “those who are not like them” seems fairly futile. Brotherton drew attention to what he called “lifestyle enclaves”. Is that wanting to be with people who feel the same or avoid peoplw who feel different?
The one thing that is clear is that we don’t have a deliberative or a participatory democracy.
I also pooped into to an event on democracy in Stratford the other week where they were discussing setting up a citizen’s assemblies. They had an ex MP prominent in their ranks. That was not a good sign. Citizen’s Assemblies have been taking place in Newham to discuss local issues. The question is how to get something going on a bigger scale.I felt that the approach was too theoretical. To me, it is very much a case of just do it. They need to just invite people to self-select to be a citizen’s assembly. If you start, it might grow. But they seem want to spend time and energy getting funding etc.
The other elephant in the room as far as I am concerned is the fact that people cannot make ends meet these days. America has always been a place where people have to work 2 and 3 jobs. The UK never used to be like that. It is now.The IFS report on Living Standards came out this week. It showed that many people living in poverty are in work. None of the exprts made the fairly obvious suggestion that minimum wages in particular need to be increased. It seems to me that if on a situation where people feel that they are hard up, can barely make ends meet, work all the hours God sends and still cannot afford their rent or to buy a home that we have a situation which could be a recipe for trouble.
Part of me thinks that Brexit is an irrelevance but not because I think Jesus is in control of human history. I think it is largely an irrelevance because there are much bigger forces at work – the rise of China and Automation. I personally think a situation in which we have 10 million unemployed people is not far fetched. And I certainly wonder how we would cope. The deficit is now under control, but the National Debt continues to rise.