England Swings

Reflections on our extended stay in England:

Look east, way way east:  Canadians tend to look southward for new ideas, trends and perspectives.  More and more of us are now looking eastward to the UK and continental Europe for inspiration and practical solutions to tough social and environmental issues. England, Denmark, Spain, France and Portugal are forging new approaches and new relationships among government, business and the civil sectors to deal with social challenges.

Beyond political ideology: These UK thinkers, doers and writers care deeply about social, economic and environmental justice.  However, most have moved beyond traditional left-right distinctions and are searching for solutions beyond traditional political boundaries. These include: Geoff Mulgan, Charles Leadbeatter, Louise Pulford, Phillip Blond, Rowena Young, Armartya Sen, Arthur Wood and Louise Savell.  Check them out.

Look east but not too far:  In previous posts I expressed envy at the effective working coalitions and partnerships within the civil sector and with business and government in the UK.  I looked too far east, skipping over Quebec.  It is worth noting that non profits, cooperatives and other civil sector organizations and social movements, are full fledged participants in social economic development in Quebec.  We should study the impressive organizing job done by Quebec civil society to unite their sector; develop partnerships with unions, businesses and the Quebec Government and to provide badly needed capital to finance and provide care to Quebecers.  Check out the Chantier de l' economie sociale, led by the indomitable Nancy Neamtam.

Civil Society is in the air: Civil society is prominently involved in political debates and public policy discussions in England especially during the election. I returned several times to the best book store I have ever been in, Hatchard's (established in 1797!) partially to see the display of election manifestos and assorted books on politics and the economy. And partially (well mainly) to pick up a few more books to add to my column sculptures.

Centralized, tightly interconnected networks do collapse:  There is nothing like being marooned against your will, under a volcanic ash cloud to make you appreciate Thomas Homer Dixon's The Upside of Down- Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization.  He writes about the dangers of being too tightly coupled, interconnected and centralized. And about how quickly complex systems, societies and booked air flights can disappear.

Monuments to learning, discovery and the imagination:  Wandering
around Oxford's town centre I was struck by how much architecture tells
us about the enduring values of our society.  And how conducive the Bodleian Library, Christchurch Cathedral and the Sheldonian Theatre are to lofty thoughts and bold thinking. Dear Vancouver what are
we doing? Contemplating a casino complex in our city centre. What will future
generations think about this monument to greed and excess? What great imaginings will it inspire?

Monumental Love:  No monument to royalty, general or politician in London compares with the Albert Memorial.  Erected by Queen Victoria on the death of her husband Albert.  True love never looked better, especially at night.

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