Since the point of this blog is really to help me develop my thinking and try to get it into some sort of order, the feedback I get in response to posts is going to be very important to me. Several people have taken the time to email me so I’m going to capture a couple of the key pieces of that feedback and my instinctive responses so they’re in one place for me later. I’ve left them anonymous where appropriate because they commented via email – do feel free to join them, or add your thoughts by commenting on this post, the original, or posts in the future. I might be the writer, but if this inquiry is going to become anything at all, it’ll be driven as much by you as me.
First, a very thoughtful friend of mine sent me this, a powerful parable of the role of the feminine in the rebalancing of our societal logic. I think this relates directly to ideas of Consumer and Citizen – feminist ethics, and in particular the idea of an ethics of care as opposed to the very masculine, consequentialist approach of utilitarianism is something I want to explore further. My instinct is that utilitarianism is very much the underlying philosophy of the society I live in, and it may well be at that level that we need to find a new way to look at the world. Others are sniffing around this space as well, and asking some very big questions – for example, James Featherby, former partner at magic circle law firm Slaughter & May, wrote in a recent pamphlet called ‘Of Markets and Men’ of the implicit role of utilitarian thinking in bringing about the financial crisis. More to come on this.
The second thing I want to pick up now and come back to later manifested in the comments made by a couple of different people. First, a fellow alumnus of my master’s said this:
“Not sure where this fits but having read Daniel Kahneman I was intrigued by his Desert Island Discs interview and this clip. In it he talks about how people need a very bright future to give up a monochrome present – to risk losing £10 people want to have the possibility of winning £20. How often can we (even in full Marketing Mode) conjur up a future world of sustainability that is twice as good as the one we’re asking them to leave behind?”
Second, Ed Gillespie from Futerra sent me his own recent blog on ‘Doom and Bloom’ which in some ways explored similar territory (and contributed some lovely ideas and insights regarding the nature of progress in particular – I recommend it), but came back, as the comment above does, to the idea that we need to ‘sell the sizzle’.
This is starting to get to the heart of why I think we need to start talking to people as Citizens rather than Consumers, as I hinted at the end of my post. The problem with this logic is that we are always trying to sell a future that is going to be better to people as Consumers – i.e. in the pattern which currently dictates how we live. I simply don’t think this is possible; certainly not at the level of something at least twice as good, which loss aversion theory suggests would be needed.
What I do think is possible – and in fact potentially a whole lot more exciting and fulfilling – is co-creating (not selling) a future that is going to be better with (not to) people as Citizens (not Consumers). It’s the difference between people buying into something, and being part of the project, versus simply buying something and expecting it to fulfil its promise to them.
I am fully aware that this is a little ill-formed at present. But that’s why I’m doing this – so please do join in, comment, criticise, help, whatever!