Have you noticed we aren't hearing anything from government recently about the Big Society concept they were heavily pushing? it seems that the gentleman responsible for promoting it very quickly discovered he didn't have the necessary time for this "good work" while holding down a full time job. They didn't think about that did they?
If, as is being suggested, retirement is moved to 70 or 75, and at the other end of the spectrum of life the unemployed have to do community work in exchange for benefits. If both partners in a relationship need to work in order to afford a home while simultaneously raising children and helping elderly parents. who is going to enact the Big Society?
Having at various times lived in the inner city, a huge private housing estate, a university campus, a supported housing complex and my beloved island of 150 souls, it was on Lindisfarne that i saw Big Society made manifest.
Maybe it has something to do with a community made up of several generations within a family that can be traced back for centuries, or the camaraderie of living up close and personal with unpredictable nature via the tides. maybe there was an element of "them and us", tourists and dwellers. or maybe they were just really nice humans.
It was lovely to see hot meals being taken to housebound family. kids going home from school via granny, auntie, uncle, sister, brother, friend. young people breaking their teeth on the world of work in local businesses and coffee shops. neighbours looking out for each other, carol singing together, sitting out frequent power cuts in the pub together, laughing at weddings, crying at funerals, chatting in the street. sounds idyllic doesn't it? of course there was conflict and argument, but nobody was overlooked and nobody HAD to be alone.
I'm sure for some it felt suffocating or intrusive, but it was very attractive to watch and there are definite lessons to be learned, if only that "big" society seems to work better in "small" communities.