4 Responses to There’s lots of prejudice and stupidity, but it isn’t from citizens

  1. Garry Haywood (@_garrilla) says:

    Although I didn’t imply that the public were stupid or incapable of participating in this #juryofthepeople I am sceptical of the process.

    This scepticism is not drawn from a patronising attitude to the ‘ordinary people’ – I’m one of them/us – but it does come from a lived experience of being a social campaigner at both the level of community and at big P politics for the past quarter of a century.

    On big matters of self-interest, which is what the ‘feral elite’ all about, I find that most ‘ordinary people’ that I encounter are mostly bound by a culture of self-interest themselves. Most people I have conversations with about paying cash to avoid VAT don’t see that these little things add up to one bad thing. Most people I know who run their own ‘private’ empires through freelance working would rather pay themselves a small salary and take the remainder in capital gains because it is tax efficient and then, most of the of ‘left’ leaning associates I know complain about the lack of fund available in their sector. Most of the ‘ordinary people’ that I encounter believe that its OK to steal a little time of work if they can get away with it. This doesn’t make them stupid, its makes them as self-interested as the next-person. This is why I’m sceptical. Its not a question of passing judgment on other people, simply an observational account of 3 decades of adulthood trying change things and realising that most people don’t want stuff to change.

    I’m always reminded of Joe the Plumber, the hard working self-employed tradesman that tackled Obama about high-wealth taxes. After a few weeks in the limelight it occurred to some hack to ask him how much he would lose. It turned out it wouldn’t effect him as he was several pay scales away from wealthy enough to endure these taxes. Asked why he was so vociferous on the matter he replied that he hoped one day to become that rich and wouldn’t want to be taxed at that rate. And while I disagree with approach, I know that he speaks for a lot of people I encounter in my *ordinary* life in Liverpool.

    I agree with you that participation frequently exposes that the ‘collective’ view is a complex one. Ironically, I believe the peoples jury on the ‘feral elite’ will be no different. Self-interest is a complex matter, do we need a peoples jury to tell us this?

  2. Simon Burall says:

    I share your basic analysis that the vast majority of people act in their self-interest for the vast majority of time. The existence of inspirational leaders and individuals who manifestly don’t do this, Aung San Suu Kyi and Ghandi for example, or the countless examples of selfless heroism during times of war or crisis don’t invalidate your main point. In fact they go to show that self-interest is incredibly complex as you say.

    While I’m also not sure that a people’s jury is the right way forward, I am convinced that engaging citizens more in the complex trade-offs that are required in a modern society will help to surface some of the complexities of self-interest. It will help to highlight to an individual where their different self-interests are in conflict, it will help to identify common ground where it assumed there is none, and it will help to identify new solutions to problems which are assumed to be intractable.

    Just because people are self-interested isn’t a reason to cut them out of decision-making; and it also doesn’t, as you say, make them stupid. Indeed it is because people demonstrate such complexity of self-interest that we must involve them more.

  3. Pingback: Who’s afraid of the active citizen? | Involve

  4. TIM says:

    I can’t say I have read the guardian article but I would say most people are tuned off my politics. Leaders such as Ghandi evoked hope, a person with hope is not going to be motivated to get involved. Angry or stupid people become such people because they feel they have no power.

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