Monday, 16 March 2009

DIY and the future of care This morning the BBC offered us the future of car care - a garage in Norfolk where space can be hired out so that car owners can modify or service their own vehicles. "They will save money, but they can also come and learn. The more you get into it, the more adventurous you'll become," said entrepreneur Nathan Devlin. "If you need me to help out, I charge £20 per hour." (I'm old enough to remember, if my dad pulled into a garage to fill up with petrol, a bloke in overalls came out and served him. The man would unscrew the chrome cap from the tank using a clean cloth, then reach across purposefully for the pump nozzle. 'Service stations' they were called. It even happened to me in my early motorcycling days). This afternoon I heard about a system in Kuwait where patients in long-term care are encouraged to become ‘expert’ in their own conditions and to support other sufferers with the same condition. Certain sources of established expertise, whch may or may not include the internet, are presumably there if needed. Nothing surprising here really - it's the natural trajectory for the outsourcing, co-production and responsibilisation of us citizens, for too long deskilled in servicing our own bodies and societies. And no more than we deserve, I'm sure. I'd just like to note that servicing your car in Nathan's garage, or working with other sufferers to understand the details of your illness, is likely to provide rich opportunities for social interaction - further eroding the social separateness of expert and consumer, reasserting a connection between the practice of everyday life and its direction. Which reminds me: when Monty Don remarked that "All politicians should have an allotment, and if they don't keep it up properly they should lose their jobs" it's the same necessary nagging at the habits of the old order. What bothers me is that although I'm starting to come across more examples of care initiatives that revive informal social relations as a natural spin-off, few make reference to this in their descriptions or write-ups. Because we've been conditioned to not even recognise it, far less value it. That's what the quiet revolution is about, that's beginning to stir.

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