Solutions, not problems

I had one of those rare moments this weekend when several disparate things came together to form the germ of an idea. And not just any idea, but something that has changed the way I think and inspired me to do something about it.

It started with a discussion my wife and I had over a cup of tea early on Saturday morning about the parlous state of the British economy (yes, it’s all go in our house) and the growing realisation that the Government is very much out of its depth in knowing what to do about it.

I then read an article about the Occupy protests in London, in which the columnist took the protesters to task for failing to have a point. I think this particular criticism was a bit harsh, but I did have to agree that there was a lot of protesting ‘against’ things and not a lot of arguing ‘for’ things.

Tents outside St. Paul's Cathedral

Occupying London, but what's the answer? (Source: Neil Cummings / Flickr)

Then, some time on Sunday night, I read another article somewhere else (I really must make a note of these things when I read them, so I can find them again) that presented the results of some research into electoral voting patterns. The researchers made a very compelling argument, supported by data, that British voters do not vote for charismatic leaders, but rather for the leaders who seem most able to provide the answers to the questions of the day.

I found this quite heartening, because it flies in the face of how the media – and, indeed political parties – present our electoral choices. There’s a lot about style, but not much in the way of substance. But it appears that it doesn’t have to be this way. We are not, it turns out, as shallow and unthinking as people would have us believe.

So here’s the deal. As a society, we’re facing a fair few problems, from economic inequality to climate change. We want big ideas for how to address them, but all that appears to be happening is that everyone’s arguing about the problems, rather than what to do about them. We know what we’re against, but not what we’re for.

This, quite clearly, isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need ideas. And we need to recognise that we can’t afford to wait for our political leaders to come up with something. So what can we do about it? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I plan to find out. Any suggestions gratefully received…

2 thoughts on “Solutions, not problems

  1. Good piece. I was myself enlightened when I visited the Occupy San Diego protestors over the weekend – there was a lot of intelligent thought within the protestors – contrary to how the media had prjected the protests.
    In the era of social media, there is a lot we can accomplish without the politicians. We could pick up a small local issue – say the community parks in our city and come up with ways to improve them while communicating with other citizens via social media – once we have the first success, we would have planted the seed for the political structure in the 21st century.


    • Thanks Ajay. I agree that it’s difficult for people with good ideas to get their message out. Some of the media here in the UK are quite good, but most tend to focus on the ‘newsworthy’ bits rather than on what’s actually going on. I hope, like you, that social media will help people to communicate directly with each other. In terms of local issues, I’m very impressed with the High Line city park in New York, an excellent example of what a small group of people can do if they work at it. I like your blog, by the way.


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