Friday, 14 October 2011

The disengagement strategy

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As a society becomes increasingly corrupt (such that real motivations of officials are selfish and short-termist rather than truly operating in pursuit of the 'officially-designated' functions) the citizens tend to develop the default of 'disengagement'.

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This means a disposition to avoid contact with institutions; because to ask for help is to draw attention to oneself, with potential to be drawn-into the pervasive corruption.

Disengagement is, of course, exacerbated when organizations are ineffective and unlikely to provide genuine help.

In a corrupt society, institutions are - on the one hand - dangerous and - on the other hand - useless: so it makes sense for the majority of people to have as little to do with them as possible.

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So, ordinary, decent people tend to avoid, if possible, calling in the police or consulting lawyers; sick people would try to avoid medical contact or hospital admission; a private 'economy' grows detached from the sight and influence of the public administration; and the population increasingly ignores government and media information - as being merely propaganda - and instead relies on personal experience and trusted personal contacts.

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In the past England stood at the extreme opposite of this kind of corruption and ineffectiveness - with a high level of trust and confidence in 'officials': police, national and local government; the 'serious' media (the BBC, the broadsheet newspaper); doctors, nurses and the National Health Service...

Yet I feel a culture of disengagement emerging ever-more-strongly in the past couple of decades and accelerating year on year.

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2 comments:

  1. I agree. My father once told me "In America everything is run on the assumption that everyone is dishonest but in Britain it's assumed that everyone is at least middling honest until there is evidence to the contrary." That seems to me to be reasonable as an approximate description of the way things were. Not now. If we need a symbol of The Fall, Mr and Mrs Blair fit the bill (which is not to deny the existence of such as Mr Lloyd George).

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  2. Viewed from the other end of the kaleidoscope, one could also call it re-engagement: with family, with tradition, with community, with remaining trustworthy local institutions.

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