What Big Society?

seductive grains

seductive grains

An hour after waking up this morning, I felt I wanted to go back to sleep again to avoid crushing feelings of despair after listening to the news and thinking about big picture issues of the world around me. Not my immediate life: I am very contented with that. No, it is the whole Big-Society-thing, and the future-of-humanity-thing.

I awoke to an item on BBC Radio 4 about how the spending cuts are going to adversely affect volunteer culture. I was admittedly still half asleep, but I had a few moments pondering the initial paradoxical absurdity of the statement before I sadly understood the point being made: volunteer programmes still need funds for things to happen. so then I was sunk into despondency about society in general and the Big Society in particular. It then struck me that i still don’t actually quite understand what the Big Society is, or is supposed to be. I didn’t manage to work it out before the election, and felt irritated at the time that the Conservatives didn’t seem too fussed about explaining it in simple terms. I must admit, I didn’t look too hard to find a definition; I just felt if it was so important, it ought to have been broadcast in words of one syllable.  Now it has became one of those terms which is just ‘understood’ (except it’s not) and the longer this goes on, the more you find yourself nodding along, and then, worse, actually using it. And eventually if you nod along enough, you sort of absorb it as if by osmosis. Probably incorrectly.

And so the Big Society is perhaps not going to be a panacea, and this is all I need to hear after finishing the most depressing book of the decade last night. The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith poetically but firmly lays bare the destructive nature of agricultural practices of the last few thousand years. It convincingly demonstrates how globally we are living a completely unsustainable lifestyle, but most depressingly, the only solution requires a degree of self-sacrifice and selflessness that even the Big Society functioning on all fronts will not be able to achieve. If you care about our planet and don’t mind acute feelings of powerlessness and helplessness, read the book.

Maybe though I don’t need to worry about how the world’s population will be feeding itself in a few decades’ time. Radio 4’s Start The Week looked at the Mayan prophesies about the world coming to an end at the end of next year. It quite cheered me up after The Vegetarian Myth. I feel I now have moral freedom to indulge in hedonistic acts of pleasure and rampant excessive consumerism in order to make the most of the time remaining until December 2012.


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