Renewing liberalism

Renewing liberalism

In his 03Jul19 Financial Times article “Liberalism will endure but must be renewed”, Martin Wolf describes, with mind wrenching accuracy, the choices to be made if Mr Putin’s dismissal of liberalism is to be satisfactorily answered. He relates the needs to who we are now and what we must do in a society whose world democracy has been in decline for over a decade.The pace of that decline is quickening. It may overtake us before we realise what is happening. Mr Putin may have done us a good turn after all.

In politics, as in much of life, a certain flexibility makes you stronger, more realistic and seen as adaptable in an acceptable way. There are times when the security of your country or your society demands the opposite. That is when something of major importance needs to be impressed on the people. The line between the two positions can be a fine and moveable one. A threatened invasion concentrates the mind unpleasantly but forcefully.

We are in an invasion moment now. Not a physical invasion but an intellectual and behavioural one. Intellect and behaviour come together as attitude. If we do not have the right attitude we cannot hope to solve the dilemma of what to do as our contribution to putting things right. My observation is that we do not have the right attitude. Without it we will keep little self-discipline in our lives. Without it our society will collapse and everything we have taught and shown our children will be to no avail. Can you contemplate such a scenario?

I take an even wider view than Martin Wolf. I think the speeding disruption to society is partly driven by the facilities our new technologies give us. To some extent all new things are toys in search of a purpose. Nothing we have produced since we learnt about fire can be as so suddenly societally demanding as the mobile phone. The computer in our hand is a bigger step than landing on the moon. With it go all the media demands of Facebook, fake news and private access to things we would never be seen looking at in public.

The media invasion is well under way. I think you know this. But when I talk to intelligent, sensible people I mostly find them trapped in their day-to-day details, pressed by compliance, arbitrary growth targets and what is believed to be shareholder demand. In reality the heads of big businesses are now our politicians because they have the purse strings. They will shape the future of the world. That should be their preoccupation. COOs should run the businesses.

This trap leads to cynicism about political decisions CEOs could have controlled, and apathy about their wider influence in a world of getting on for ten billion souls. Big used to be beautiful, now we feel it is burdensome. Individual influence is indeed small, local and confined to those you meet and sup with. Being a ‘Grass Root’ may not appeal to you as a Great Position in a million acre field. Oppression of officialdom may cause you endless trouble in your daily round.

As a top person or the head of a department or the man in charge of road sweeping or a clerk at the check-in desk you still have a Vote, a Voice and a View. These three Vs are powerful when used sensibly and responsibly. Here are five questions I suggest you ask yourself as the sun sets, promising another day:

# What have I done today to lift the views of those I have met, worked with, talked to, above the horizon of KPI and compliance to a beautiful view beyond?

# Who have I encouraged to think ‘beyond the single need’, about the future of others?

# What shall I do before nightfall and sleep to let one person know that I care about them?

# How shall I make tomorrow an even more successful day by getting people who have forgotten about it to ponder on what will make a fulfilling future?

# I may not believe in organised religion but I do think I am a soul. How can my soul become a happier, calmer and more appreciative reflection of my life?

You don’t have to be Prime Minister to have modest answers to these questions. It’s not the effort of a few leading lights that changes society.

It is not even the protest marches of millions.

 It is the small efforts of individuals practicing behaviours and styles that make us human.