Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Institutional identity

There are very few national newspaper columnists who are regularly worth reading, but Simon Jenkins is one of them. In my view, this is because he turns his gaze often onto subjects that his peers consider beneath them. Most columnists tend to think of themselves as Very Important People. They write about what cabinet ministers said to them in corridors, what the opinion polls tell them about the latest political wheeze and what the real story is behind the PM's relationship with his chancellor.

They mistakenly imagine that this makes them not only important but relevant, and they are usually wrong. Most people, I would wager, don't give a stuff about such things. What they do give a stuff about is how political decisions actually affect their lives. On this subject, our 'opinion formers' are often curiously silent. This may because they don't actually know.

Anyway, Jenkins had a piece in the Guardian a few days ago which took on the current wave of Post Office closures with gusto. It interested me because his findings were very similar to mine: rising anger all over the nation about the destruction of local communities by an alliance of big government and big business - and a rising tide of resistance to it. Also, and crucially, a recognition that the small, the local and the everyday matter hugely to people - because it is where we all live. Jenkins, for me, sums it up nicely in his last paragraph:
The government's Orwellian hostility to the institutional identity of British communities can only promote alienation and indiscipline. It turns communities into bleak, car-reliant dormitories, devoid of places of casual association. It removes the informal leadership of the resident teacher, doctor, police officer, shopkeeper. What central government may think it saves in the general, it loses in the particular. It is in the particular that people live.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This should be a subject with interest/support from both left and right but i suspect the formula right will resent the attack on 'marketology' and the formula left will confuse 'place with race' as you once put it