The Corona virus has taught us much about what is really valuable, both as individuals and communities. It has brought out the worst and the best in people and communities.
Working with their community in response to the pandemic people, who have never done so before, have had the chance to come forward and shine. Some will have recognised and enjoyed finding their capabilities and recognition while others will want to return to ‘normality’ as quickly as possible. My current interest is in how we keep the potential activist on board as the tide of temptation removes the opportunity for change.
The State is moving fast to ensure that it gives just enough to satisfy those who have recognised both their own capacity and the dire limitations of the political system. Eventually some new bike lanes will emerge, but not enough to dent the power of the car; some grass will not be cut, so we feel better about insects, but where are the initiatives to build on that new community engagement?
The pandemic has highlighted how some local organisations can play key roles in their society, while others have failed to respond in ways that are fit for purpose. The last few months have clearly illustrated the need for a massive change in the way some local councils operate. Too many councils have proved to be totally inadequate during the pandemic. while groups like Mutual Aid have emerged to provide crucial support to their communities,. More than ever at the town and parish level it is crucial that well functioning local councils work in genuine partnership with these community groups.
I believe our focus must remain on the local, to what is happening closest to our homes . It is there that lies the greatest potential for us to make real changes Now is the time when these newly engaged and empowered people should step forward. Not just to prop up creaking structures and systems, but to get elected themselves and fundamentally change their councils so they can provide a truly participative democracy. This will mean changing the way many local councils operate. Councils can and must constantly be looking for ways to engage and involve people – exactly as has happened over the last few months.
Change has to come from below – from you and me. Central Government has never really been interested in ‘community’; it has proven time and time again that its main aim is to centralise, to take power for itself. However, I believe that if citizens insert themselves into the arcane structures that exist at community level they can then rebuild them as fit for this century. Not just in one town, but in every town and village then maybe we can start a Movement that creates real change from below based on what the people want and need, not what a few people at the top tell us we want.
From today the Flatpack Democracy website is much changed, along with the various Flatpack groups and pages on social media. A small dedicated band of us have set out to support groups of individuals who want to work together to stand in the May 2021 elections. Our support is based on the last decade of experience in Frome and a plethora of new ideas from new councillors, and others from around the country who are working get this crucial layer of democracy functioning better.
If you, or anyone you know, wants to get involved – and why wouldn’t you – have a look at our website and share it with others. Occupy the system.