18 June 2007

We have ways of making you cohere

I shall be doing some deconstructing of the recent government publication Our Shared Future (output of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion), a document which appears to be steeped in mediocratic ideology.

As Not Saussure points out, most people need neither a shared national vision nor a government initiative to make them do their best to get on with people. Chances are, any attempt to enforce such good behaviour will only lead to resentment and hence have the opposite effect. But I don't know whether the people behind this stuff care. Who knows, perhaps the real point is not to calm people down, but to stir them up.

Here's a taster to get the ball rolling, from the Foreword by Commission Chairman Darra Singh.

What we all have in common is a desire to build a strong society where civility and courtesy are the norm, where people are at ease with change, and are committed to being good neighbours and active citizens. A society where opportunities for advancement are there for the taking and prosperity is more evenly distributed.
"What we all have in common ..."
No we don't.
"... is a desire to build a strong society ..."
I don't want to "build" anything, I'd just like to retain the vestiges of civilisation which remain. And I don't know what a "strong society" is but I'm not sure I like the sound of it.
"... where civility and courtesy are the norm ..."
They still are, to some extent, the norm — better leave well alone and hope they don't stop being so altogether. To the extent they've already stopped, it's unlikely the government will be able to reinstate them.
"... where people are at ease with change ..."
Why should it be automatically desirable to be "at ease with change"? Depends entirely on whether the change is good or bad.
"... and are committed to being good neighbours ..."
People aren't "committed" to being good neighbours, they either are or they aren't good neighbours. If they're not, trying to get them to "commit" won't help.
"... and active citizens."
What is an "active" citizen? Does Singh mean "politically active"? Is he implying that the average citizen is not politically active enough? But why should it necessarily be a good thing to be more "active"? Does he perhaps mean "activist" i.e. more supportive of social change in a left wing direction?
"A society where opportunities for advancement are there for the taking ..."
Opportunities are created by the economy. You can't generate additional ones like some kind of deus ex machina, only redistribute the ones already there (or reduce them). How are they supposed to be made more "there for the taking"? Sounds like the standard Blairite statist fantasy: that the government can take credit for creating opportunities out of thin air, or for making them more accessible.
"... and prosperity is more evenly distributed."
Sorry, why do we need prosperity more evenly distributed? Could we at least have some arguments for this. A government publication shouldn't simply take it for granted that we share the authors' politics.