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…