Its been some time since I spoke from here hasn’t it. For those of you who know me, you’ll be familiar with a little of the journey my life has taken over the last 18 or so months. It hasn’t been without its challenges, and continues to offer gritty learning opportunities on a regular basis. For the time being I have moved slightly away from the world of sensory exploration and into the space of campaigning on behalf of spinal injured people, for the charity Aspire.
This has mainly consisted of highlighting the deficiencies of government policy and practice
and working with politicians in the houses of Lords and Commons to apply pressure in the right places to bring about change. What has become only too clear as time has passed however, is that a self perpetuating feedback loop seems to be in play when it comes to government policy. This both seeks to mobilise popular opinion on an issue and then use that opinion to justify policies targeted at a particular sector of society. Most notably; the ‘scroungers and shirkers narrative about benefits recipients that emerged from the Coalition government, creating the social conditions for it to then introduce draconian welfare reforms that hit the most vulnerable in our society.
Events of the last few months have demonstrated only too clearly, how, when populist sentiment is mobilised on one side or the other of an issue or cause, civil division follows. In Britain post Brexit and the US under President Elect Trump, very distinct and far-reaching fault-lines appear to bisect societies. Is this really the case? Isn’t this just a crude media portrayal of the situation. What if what’s really going on is that finally the tools and organs through which popular debate happens and decisions made,are being found wanting and fundamentally inadequate for the purpose of exploring complex social questions, let alone arriving at sustainable solutions.
It seems to me we have a choice about how we move forward from here. We can continue to act as though we are a divided society and follow that path of conflict to its inevitable catastrophic conclusion. Or we can develop new tools that enable all of us to contribute our individual perspective to the debate and enable us to collectively explore and develop solutions that work for all and not just those in power.
On Thursday this week, I was very privileged to have been involved in one such exploration at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation: