Wednesday, 08 December 2010

How the government is encouraging people to get more involved in politics Some observations on yesterday's news. It's about information, poverty and power. First, I was struck by the extent to which the government's bullying of the BBC has pushed it to the right. BBC TV coverage of events in Westminster was almost devoid of any attempt to analyse why protestors were angry. The BBC has become afraid to say anything that might upset the authorities. Luckily for them, they had a couple of over-paid celebrities to get excited about. (Incidentally, it obviously wasn't just students, there were other citizens protesting. It suits the establishment to explain the protests as just young people being over-exuberant). I'm perplexed though at the lack of attention paid to the abandonment of education maintenance allowance (EMA), which is a proven way of supporting young people from low income families who want to stay in education. Secretary of State Vince Cable described EMA as 'enormously wasteful'. Well, it helps poor people with the objective of trying to equalise opportunity, so why would this government want to fund it? The arrogance and complacency seem impregnable. And they're surprised that people are angry. We don't get many opportunities to be proud to be British (and frankly I don't look for them) but yesterday sort-of counts. While Wikileaks has left most of America apparently supine in acceptance of the arrogant stupidity of its bullying powermongers, in London people have come out and shown the politicians and authorities that their stupidity is unacceptable. I use the word 'unacceptable' because the Haves have been queuing up to use that word with reference to yesterday's street performances. And I use the word 'stupidity' with reference to leaders in the US and UK who have completely failed to grasp the role of new communications media in these confrontations. It's laughable how the establishment feels that the old hierarchies built on hierarchical communication systems (most obviously the bible and the pulpit, but by extension the analog divide generally) can still be depended on to keep people in their places. Yes, the old question 'why do we have such stupid people in power?' applies as forcefully as ever, but it's gratifying that ethical hacking globally, and the use of google maps to outwit the police in central London, are exposing the powermongers' attempts to deny social justice. One of the tenets of community development is that nothing succeeds like adversity, and this is shown to apply at the national scale. Sometimes in community development we are disappointed at people's reluctance to get worked up about things; sometimes we are taken by surprise at the vehemence of the response. I count myself among those who have been surprised, and refreshed, at the sudden and fierce discovery of readiness to take political action. It has value which is increasing in proportion to the declining credibility of those in government.

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