Second thoughts on the big society and the small state, while running through Ladywell Fields
In lots of ways, the Film Club, the Big Lunch and possibly even a community library are wonderful examples of local civil society and its potential to bring people together and create something positive: something we own because we made it, something totally outside the state. But when this sort of thing does the job the state should be doing and actually does better (e.g. when it replaces a municipal library), that's surely not such a good thing.
Should be doing? Hmm, maybe you should be doing.
Maybe communities should be doing. Maybe Fuck the State. Doing it better is "surely not such a good thing?" I say it's a very good thing.If communities "do it," then we can see which communities give a fuck, and which do not.
I have an immediate, instinctive, anarchic sympathy for the Fuck the state position. I experienced the Big Lunch I attended last year as a taste of utopia: a glimpse of a world with no state, no cars, based on everyone literally bringing something to the table and sharing it. So, why am I defending the state?Lefities love Darwin. Except when the state does it better.
I thought about this at the weekend, as I struggled through my weekly run in Ladywell Fields, my local municipal park, running past the clumps of dog-walkers chatting to each other – as I watched Beryl from number 45 chatting to the lesbian couple with the border collie . I thought about this as I ran past the parents watching their toddlers on the slides and swings, past the bench at the station end where the guys drinking super-strength lager hang out, past the football team from the Islamic centre doing their weekly training, past the medical workers from the hospital stand in the sun for their cigarette breaks, past the teenagers on their BMXs in the skate park, past the kids in their Sunday suits playing while their parents are in the church on Ladywell Road. I thought about it more when I went back to Ladywell Fields in the afternoon with my kids and some other kids I was looking after, and enjoyed with them the wonderful new adventure playground and riverside play areas paid for by central government investment, and also noted that the new facilities are also already unpleasantly marred by graffiti.