Many alternatives in changing times

The level of violence is far less in London than in Libya, but the attitude that informs our facade remains similar. That need to control, the reflex to shove down and out, different views and lifestyles. At the national level there is a ritualised display of opposition, but locally in businesses, with authorities, taxmen and parking attendants, for example, we’re still being pushed around. We’re not brandishing weapons, but we are being fined, filmed and having our time wasted. It’s at a nuisance level – the limp hand of petty bureaucracy.

One distressing area of cultural dissonance is the social contract which sends us through twelve years and more of education, and then leaves hundreds of thousands of school leavers unemployed. As if there isn’t enough to do! There are hundreds and thousands and millions of ways we could improve the quality of life, but our system is geared up to one alternative – just one. This representative democracy is a start, but its not enough.

There is not an alternative, but hundreds and thousands and millions of alternatives. How can organisations structure themselves to release this latent talent, and to include those who have traditionally been marginalised into long-term unemployment?

The hanging gardens of Babylon give us a clue. This ancient wonder of the world, illuminated city life with its fragrance, beauty and artistic delights: sculptures, ceramics, fountains and people strolling through. Could we not let our imaginations fly. As the old Chinese proverb says: If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk; if you want to be happy for three days, get married; if you want to be happy for ever, make a garden. Our gardens and estates need a lot more love. Yes, the order and beauty of our royal parks, but far more than that. Gardens, parks and estates are public spaces that could, with careful planning and management, be places where those who are unemployed can begin; at first to volunteer, then find a place and be part of a team. Couldn’t we make our parks and public spaces beautiful? Couldn’t we work with our people and include them in a grand design to make our towns and cities lush and attractive? Isn’t this a better way to spend the day than parked watching a screen. producing notions or pieces of paper destined for the bin within a week?

It’s the difference in between Bill Gates who developed his successful software to amass a fortune; and Tim Berners-Lee who gave the world wide web to everyone, for free. One is battling valiantly, with great attention to publicity, to distribute types of vaccine and education around the world, in the best way he knows how. The other distantly and without media attention, has enabled our Arabian Spring. Both are good in their own way – and there are so many ways.

Lets go make some beautiful mosaic for our public realm. Long live the Arabian Spring in London. Shame about those henchmen who want to smash things up, with no creative outlet for their frustration.

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