Friday, October 08, 2010


The last paragraph of Tav's summary of the meeting got me thinking

Jim said that councillors do all they can in the background and within the political arena, but the residents, through apathy, let the cause down.
Why? Both why is apathy the norm and why is this different? I'm just going to throw things together so don't expect any thing too coherent (not that you ever should)

The first problem as I see it is information possession. You can't get involved with something if you don't know about it. From one perspective this seems to be a problem on behalf of the public - they're not looking particularly regarding politics (another issue I'll deal with in a moment); yet consider this - I don't watch soaps; I loathe them, I cannot stand them. Yet I know the Queen Vic burned down, why? Because that's a piece of information I simply can't avoid. It appears in the papers, people discuss it around me. So what's the difference - people in general are interested in these events.

So why aren't people watching politics in the same way they do soaps. Well there's no storyline, and the plot is nigh on undecipherable. How can you get people worked up about a group adding a sub paragraph to section X of some Act they've never heard of? Until the results from such actions appear who can understand what's going on; and by that time it's law and too late.

Next up is when you do spot something you dislike it now requires time and effort to deal with. That's unpaid time and effort you have to juggle with your paid work and unpaid work such as the menial tasks of shopping, looking after the kids etc. It may seem selfish, but if it's a choice between taking care of oneself or trying to take on something that may not even have any effect on you I think most would go with the former and I can't blame them.

In terms of time and effort this also ties with understanding. In order to complain effectively you need to root through the paperwork which is often couched in terms that then require further examination; it also may mean having to deal with the council. Rightly or wrongly the perception is that this would be a hassle - authority simply isn't there to provide information to the likes of you.

Finally this last bit ties with the most depressing bit of all - what can you do about it. You're not on the council; you're likely not some large employer in the area - you're one person who gets to talk to your representative (whom you may not even have voted for) who themselves is just one person amongst a group. What possible effect can you have on this?

And yet
It was only later than I have heard from two separate sources that this uprising and outcry around the district hasn't been seen before since the hospital issue. This made me see that this looks different.
So why given all the 'problems' in arousing the public does this happen? I'm sorry to say the only thing I can offer is a confluence of events. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

We have a government that no-one voted for, making changes that no-one seems to be in favour of. We've a district council that seems to be shipping all its services to County while at the same time building itself a new headquarters. We've events taking place that seem ill-thought out and not taking into account the residents. Everything seems to be falling apart. And while most may not be examining these things in depth just like fictitious fires this is all information we can't help but absorb.

In this case I think things just went pop.


Tav said...

Now you have got me throwing thoughts together. There are three fundamentals that you have covered, these are (1) communication, (2) information, and; (3) accessibility.

Communication is strong, with a computer and Internet connection anyone can click on an email address and email their councillor, their MP, the Prime Minister, the Pope even. There is built-in spell checking, there are no envelopes, no stamps and no trip to the post box. This is one example, there are more.

Accessibility (I'll get back to information) is weak but it has improved. There are now Freedom of Information requests, anyone can email their council, the police, the government, use the words, 'This is a Freedom of Information Request' and get a response. If a response is not given the recipient is breaking the law. This is one example, there are more.

Finally there is information and I think you have covered this well. I'm sure there is information out there, but how do you get this information if you don’t know what to ask for? One example here is that the ConDem Government have ordered all councils to publish datasets of their payments to suppliers from January 2011. This is information not previously shared, not previously accessible and not previously communicated. This is one example, there are more.