At a dinner party on Saturday evening, I had a discussion about a) the efficacy of elections for bringing about meaningful change, and b) the desirability of the quest for perpetual economic growth (I didn’t feel positively about either of those things). Our hosts’ 10-year-old son was listening carefully, after which he expressed his intention to interview his parents about their thoughts on the election, and to film it, possibly for YouTube.
He asked for my help in compiling some questions. I know that his parents are Labour supporters, and so I geared my questions towards that. I was attempting to challenge them, but also to make them laugh.
Below are the questions I sent him. I can’t wait to see his video.
What are your answers to the questions below?
What other questions would you add to the list?
- Who are you going to vote for and why?
- Which party are you least likely to vote for and why?
- Do you think Labour are going to win?
- Isn’t Jeremy Corbyn too scruffy / old / uncharismatic to be prime minister?
- The newspapers say he doesn’t like Jewish people. Isn’t that sort of racist?
- Why do you think the newspapers say bad things about Jeremy Corbyn?
- Do the newspapers tell the truth?
- How come a company like Virgin run doctor’s surgeries if we’re supposed to have a National Health Service?
- Why do Virgin want to do it? Are they interested in people’s health?
- If Labour do win, do you think they’ll stay in power forever?
- How long do you think they might stay in power?
- If they do get into power, and bring in good policies, when they lose again – will the Tories keep those policies, because they’re good?
- If not, why not?
- Is it like a see-saw? Labour-Tory-Labour-Tory, and nothing really changes in the long-run?
- Do we have to put up with this system where we can only do good things for a few years, then it all gets rubbed out? Isn’t there a better way of doing things?
- Have there been different systems in the past? Do you think we have to have this system forever?
- If not, how do we get rid of it? Can we rise up and overthrow it?
- Can we get rid of it by voting it away?
- Who do you think is more powerful – banks or governments?
- Scientists are telling us that we’re really damaging nature, and that will be really bad for humans. Why did people do that, and what are us kids supposed to do now?
- Scientists are saying that if the average global temperature goes up by more than 2 degrees, it will just get hotter and hotter, and we’ll be in serious trouble. But isn’t temperature just numbers, and numbers don’t really mean anything?
- Can you think of a way for humans to consume more and more material ‘stuff’ every year? For example, is there any kind of material ‘stuff’ that we can consume more of every year – cars? books? socks? thimbles? Anything you can think of?
- The bigger a country’s economy, the more stuff they consume. So Americans consume more than Tanzanians, because their economy is bigger. Can you think of an exception – where a country’s economy gets bigger, but their spending power doesn’t?
- Can you think of a way to prevent people from buying more material stuff if their economy and their spending power get bigger?
- If not, it looks like (and just to stress that this is a completely unbiased question) we have to find a way to stop the global economy growing, before it’s too late, doesn’t it?
- Anyway, people with different opinions can still co-operate. I understand you’ve switched to the Phone Coop – why’s that?
- Can I have a baby brother?
I mentioned 26 questions in the title, as that last question isn’t exactly about the election.
About the author
Dave Darby lived at Redfield community from 1996 to 2009. Working on development projects in Romania, he realised they saw Western countries as role models, so decided to try to bring about change in the UK instead. He founded Lowimpact.org in 2001, spent 3 years on the board of the Ecological Land Co-op and was a founder of NonCorporate.org. and the Open Credit Network.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Anthony Hay December 10th, 2019
People were given a chance to change to a different kind of voting system, which might have stopped the see-saw, but the people didn’t want the change. Why do you think that was?
2Helen Gillam December 10th, 2019
Hi Anthony, looking at history and now….it takes a situation of fear and desperation to have the courage to make change. It appears than present self interest rather than rational forethought determines our decisions. Are there an examples where social and political occurred without violent revolution? So while we have enough ‘bread on the table’ for ourselves we are highly unlikely to rise up and change the system just because we see others are suffering.
3Daniel Scharf December 10th, 2019
Somewhat connected is a bottom-up mentoring scheme along the following lines: Reality Check: an explanation of bottom–up mentoring
There are number of responses that could be made to the consensus building around the proposition that future generations could, in may important ways, be ‘worse’ off than their parents. The older generations could spontaneously seek to share their assets with younger people (and not just their children). Alternatively, or additionally, as a first step older people could listen intently to younger people to understand more about what kind of lives they would like to lead. From this conversation some conclusions could be drawn as to what older people could and should be doing to be more of a help than a hindrance to the development of a world more designed to meet their mutual and shared interests. ‘Reality Check’ is designed to be a way of facilitating this conversation and the nurturing of greater understanding between generations. Inter-generational relationships obviously exist within families and work places but mentoring, sometimes described as ‘fierce friendships’, can more safely evolve and develop when there are no family ties or other potential conflicts of interest.
Substantial experience exists in the design of frameworks within which mentoring has taken place, but almost always intended for this to be ‘top-down’ and not ‘bottom-up’. These models have worked on the premise that the older and more experienced partner has something of value to share with the younger and less experienced. Reality Check ditches the assumptions and preconceptions on which the traditional model is based and deliberately places the younger person in the position of mentoring the older.
Mentees could or should be all those who sense that they might have lost touch with younger people and have a genuine desire to see the world through younger eyes. Mentors will be younger people who are developing a consciousness about the way that older generations might be impacting on their aspirations and ambitions. The purpose of Reality Check is to find ways to match potential mentees with older people looking for a mentor. The relationship would probably work better if the mentees and mentors have no previous relationship, have not shared friends or acquaintances, and seek to limit and maintain the relationship within a relatively formal mentoring framework.
A list of email addresses will be kept in three categories:
– those who self-identify as on younger person – normally 20 to 35,
– those who self-identify as an older person – normally over 50,
– those who feel that they are inbetweeners (35 to 50) who are interested in the subject of intergenerational justice and also in helping to operate the platform and design ways of analysing (unattributable) feedback from the mentors/mentees.
The prototype/pilot has worked along the following lines:-
– no money changes hands, but the younger mentor chooses the meeting place and the older mentee pays the bill for the food and drink,
– meetings take place at the request of the mentee but normally at about three month intervals,
– any mentoring or giving opinions by the senior partner of the younger partner should be incidental and kept to a friendly minimum. [It is the process of working out what is both desirable and could be reasonably expected of the mentee that is perhaps the most valuable to the younger mentor]
– during one or two of ‘getting–to-know-you’ meetings (the opportunity to decide that the relationship will or will not work) the mentee should be progressively open about their personal circumstances and provide a list of options they are thinking about for the next twenty years or so,
– the mentor should consider these options and express opinions (as distinct from advice) to help the mentee better understand how their choices and actions could impact on the world that they both hope to share – firstly for those twenty years and then that left to all future generations,
– the mentoring process should be a discussion that moves from the individual to the general case of the older generations and back again, with the mentee keeping a record of what has been volunteered or expected of them,
– crucially, the discussions should be without any pre-conceptions and kept in absolute confidence,
– the relationship can obviously pause or end at any time and the mentee could always seek an additional or different mentor.
Reality Check is not expecting to be involved in any administration (beyond perhaps the obligatory Facebook site) and possibly holding the list of members. There will be no ability to check the character of members joining the list and meetings should be arranged in public places at least until trust is established. Whilst mentors should help their mentee to see the world through younger eyes, and to make suggestions for future action, there will be opportunities for relaying insights and ideas to the Facebook page with meetings arranged for that purpose. One model is for the framework/concept to be adopted by existing membership organizations; providing contact lists of their members or staff falling into the relevant categories.
Many books have been written on the subject of inter-generational justice. David Willetts, former MP and now chairman of the Resolution Foundation, explained the need for a new social contract as a way of avoiding The Pinch in 2030. A new level of ‘empathy’ between the haves and the have-nots is advocated by Guy Standing in order to understand the needs of The Precariat. Ed Howker and Shiv Malik see the need for government intervention to help the Jilted Generation. In writing What did the baby-boomers ever do for us? Francis Beckett was helped by a younger person (his son) in apportioning the responsibility for the unequal state we are in. And Will Hutton’s concerns are set out in Them and Us.
Issues that might be of concern to 50/60+ somethings, individually and generally
Bus pass, Free TV license, heating allowance – are these fair and could the benefits be extended or redistributed?
Foreign travel inc air travel – historic and future carbon footprints and budgets
Car ownership and use – unequal levels of mobility, carbon budgets and distribution of land uses (eg access to supermarkets and leisure venues),
Property ownership inc Buy-to-lets – distribution of housing space, owning vs renting,
Employment/Retirement – use of time, self-indulgence, community work and volunteering, desk blocking, casual work or careers, universal basic income,
Health/social care – who can be relied on to provide these services, caps on costs, NICE decisions on medicines/treatments,
Families – what might be the consequences of keeping wealth within families, social care,
Pensions’Investments – the ‘triple lock’, who pays? is it worth younger people saving/investing?
Consumer habits inc diets – depletion of resources, biodiversity
Taxes – who pays and who benefits?
4Dave Darby December 10th, 2019
Daniel – fascinating idea. Anything that brings people together in communities is a good idea, imho. We’re part of a ‘philosophy club’ that meets monthly – in people’s homes, and talks about a different topic each time, chosen by vote at the meeting before. Includes food, drinks, chat. Would be great to spread these kinds of things I think.
5Anthony Hay December 11th, 2019
Hello Helen Gillam. In my comment I was suggesting another question the lad could ask his parents. A few years ago we had a referendum that gave us an opportunity to replace the first past the post system. Change, but no real courage needed, I don’t think. The people didn’t take that opportunity.
I think fear and desperation is coming soon in the form of the climate crisis because with our stone age brains we don’t recognise the danger.
6weavingtheseisles February 14th, 2020
Hi Daniel, Reality Check sounds really great. Is there a link to a Facebook group or anything else for if we want to add our email addresses? Depending on whereabouts I may want to participate. I’m 41 and it’s [email protected]. (I found this but am not sure if it’s the same project you mention? https://www.facebook.com/Realitycheckmentorinc/?eid=ARC_p5f705r03yaYqcwe5kwuOLE5niGTDLnC98jpK7RgBawAgQEEwzgL728QrYdzTDG_h8Tlgl0Xhep3 )