‘Big Society?’

Orwellian prediction turning true or brilliant reformative idea? David Cameron attempted to launch The Big Society for the fourth time on Monday 23rd May, describing it as his ‘mission in politics’. Having heard little to nothing about this initiative, instantly this does not sit right with me. Maybe I am not open to change, new ideas or maybe i’m just jumping on some vaguely left-wing slightly anarchistic anti-government bandwagon.

Briefly, the main points of The Big Society are: 

  • Community empowerment
  • Opening up public services
  • Social Action
Followed by
  • The Big Society Bank, National Citizen Service pilots, Community organisers and Community first

On the surface The Big Society appears relatively appealing; communities are brought together and empowered with greater local say and opinion. Unemployment and state welfare abuse will be cut and National Citizen Service will target Year 11 school leavers to – in Mr Cameron’s words –  ‘inspire you to realise what you can achieve‘. Hang on. ‘Inspire you to realise what you can achieve’? So Cameron is going to allow and presumably provide school leavers with this opportunity for realisation? God complex much. He proposes to do this by sending 11,000 young people off on three-week placement’s (two of which are away from home) to be followed by an additional 30 hours of voluntary work. This is due to increase to 30,000 in 2012. Cameron states:

“I want National Citizen Service to inspire you to realise what you can achieve. This summer you will be able to spend two months mixing with other young people, learning new skills, and putting something back into your community.”

So why does the idea of all this just not sit right with me? Call me paranoid but the whole concept of this seems suspiciously like the first steps in bringing back an extremely regulated social system and the potentially the first steps in bringing back compulsory national service. The groundworks for later developments towards a very strict way of living, indoctrinating people from the moment they leave school into Cameron’s ideals.

As cliché as it is to bring Orwell references into this, why are there so many 1984 connotations and ideas flicking into my head on reading about The Big Society? Everything I have read about the scheme screams dumbing down, the assumption of low intellect for its audience and lack of peoples ability to understand much. There is an underlying ideology of a supreme, better and organised society. It’s not the 1950’s, we do not have close-knit communities where everyone looks out for each other.

There is no greatly detailed information or mission ideas without searching at more than a casual level, the language used to put The Big Society across is simplistic, Facebook is the first means of advertising National Citizens Service. Maybe I biased and social networking sites are the way forwards for government campaigns. This just doesn’t seem very professional for a GOVERNMENT initiative. Anyone can set up a Facebook page and publish whatever they wish. Everything today is about social networking, blogging, online media. Still, I thought an official government site would be the first means of getting information, before Facebook.

‘Empowering people to improve their lives’ and ‘putting power in peoples hands’ seems to be a catchphrase. Community focus and community empowerment with local idea’s is all part of this too. In some aspects this is great. Yet I can’t help being aware of the growing pockets of extreme right-wing areas that actively support organisations such as the BNP, EDL and UKIP. Is handing empowerment to very ‘local’ and sometimes naive area’s really a good idea? Creating local ‘leaders’ is slightly worrying.

This does not really draw much of a conclusion towards my own viewpoint, apart from unease. There are many more points I haven’t even started to cover or come towards any opinion. What do you think?