This week saw the launch of a new British political party, Change UK. It remains to be seen whether this centrist anti-Brexit party will fare any better than the Social Democratic Party (SDP) formed by the ‘Gang of Four’ Labour rebels in 1981. During the last few years British politics has polarised into hard left and right positions, so a centrist reaction is no real surprise. But will this party, under the leadership of Chuka Umunna, really bring any change? After all how does change come about?
In your own personal life things can sometimes change rapidly. An accident, an illness, a death, the ending of a relationship. The certainties of the past can evaporate in the blinking of an eye. The future that you thought you were going to be living dissolves in front of you. Sudden change like this can be followed by shock, tears, and disbelief. Before the slow process of assimilating new circumstances into your life inevitably follows. When you are presented with change in this manner, you need to integrate it, and then somehow get on with your life. Remember life is not about what happens to you, it is about what you do with what happens to you.
Change can also come about in an more evolutionary manner too, for an individual, an organisation or a country. Here the existing systems and thinking have been effectively dealing with the problems that the people are facing. But then there is a slow creeping realisation that this is no longer working. Doubts and frustrations begin to rise. We know that something is wrong, but we’re not quite sure what. For an individual this might manifest as personal issues; in a family there may be strife and discord; in a business there may be signs of decline; and in a community or country there could be stress and conflict. People often react to this sense of disquiet by assuming that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the structures or systems. Rather it is that we aren’t executing, implementing or enforcing these properly. We need to tighten our belts, tighten security, tighten regulations, and then get on with it. This is a tinkering with the structure whilst keeping its main features intact. At this point we look back to the past unquestioningly and uncritically. Perhaps we may even make an icon out of the past. “My grandmother said that everything was better in her day.” We forget that things weren’t actually better, we delete everything that was bad. We only remember the comfortable feeling of knowing the good parts, and knowing how to deal with the bad parts. However, where real systemic change is demanded this sense of getting back to basics just won’t work.
Today I think that the world, definitely the Western world, is in this period where we are getting a sense that change is required. But right now we are still trying to tweak the system, without yet admitting that it is the system that needs to change. The most obvious symptoms of this are climate change, and massive, undefendable wealth imbalances. These two things have been highlighted recently with climate protests in the UK, and the burning down of Notre-Dame Cathedral in France. Within days of the destructive fire destroying the roof and spire of this Paris landmark, very rich people were making huge donations to fix it. The question, which others have raised too is, why were they not already using this money to alleviate social problems? As far as both climate change and wealth imbalance are concerned our current political and economic structures and systems will not deal with these problems. This is because they create and perpetuate the thinking and behaviour that produces these two massive 21st century human problems in the first place. As a race we cannot begin to solve these problems without realising that there are other ways to organise ourselves and live as humans on Earth.
Right now there aren’t enough people who accept that deep change is required. So we will continue to tinker around the edges, make proclamations, and set targets. Maybe even create new political parties. Perhaps things haven’t yet got bad enough for people to realise that they need to change. Sometimes, the pain of things remaining the same needs to be greater than the perceived pain of change, before people will contemplate proper change. But change to our political and economic structures and how humans live on Earth is coming… brace yourself folks.
“We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims.” – Buckminster Fuller.