Categories

Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Is Britain really broken?

Home » Blog » Posts » Is Britain really broken?

As part of his pre-election manoeuvring, Conservative leader David Cameron, according to the BBC, has today accused Labour of ‘moral failure’ and presiding over a country in both economic and social recession.

He has said the UK rewards parents who split up and is a place where professionals are told to follow rules rather than do what is best.

As an example of what he calls ‘broken Britain’, Cameron talked about the case of 2 brothers sentenced today for brutally attacking 2 other boys in South Yorkshire.

The brothers, aged 10 and 11 at the time, attacked their victims in Edlington, Doncaster, last April. They threatened to kill their victims, then aged 9 and 11, stamped on them and attacked them with broken glass, bricks and sticks. The brothers admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

While stressing that the case is not typical, Cameron cited it as a shocking example of what he calls Britain’s broken society, one of the key themes of the party’s campaign but a diagnosis rejected by the Government which said the Doncaster case was “uniquely terrible and extremely rare”.

In a book of interviews with him by GQ editor Dylan Jones, published this week, Cameron is quoted as saying: “I’m going to be as radical a social reformer as Mrs Thatcher was an economic reformer, and radical social reform is what this country needs right now.

“Margaret Thatcher in her time realised that the big challenge was reviving Britain’s economy, and we should recognise that the challenge for the modern Conservatives is reviving our society.

“It’s dealing with the issues of family breakdown, welfare dependency, failing schools, crime, and the problems that we see in too many of our communities.”

In fact, the ‘broken Britain’ theme is not new. Several years ago, Cameron tasked former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith with creating a ‘think tank’ to investigate and report on what was wrong with Britain, with a particular emphasis on social factors. Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice has produced several very interesting reports since and has been using the term ‘broken Britain’ since at least July 2007. The concept began to capture headlines in a big way in February 2009 when Duncan Smith used the outraged headlines around 13-year-old Alfie Patten fathering a child by 15-year-old Chantelle Steadman to hold up the under-aged parenting as prime example of “what’s wrong with broken Britain”.

So is Britain broken?
Well, our kingdom has a hell of a lot of problems – just think:-

  • Struggling to make any sustainable progress out of recession when many other comparable countries are clearly on their way to recovery
  • Saddled with a national debt, the paying  back of which will take decades long-term or, short-term, cripple much of the public sector through severe cuts and/or hamstring the private sector through raised taxes
  • High rates of petty crime, drug addiction and alcoholism compared to the rest of the EU
  • The highest teenage pregnancy rate in the Western world
  • Unsustainably high rates of male unemployment
  • A growing problem with gun crime and knife crime
  • Rising ethnic tensions as multiculturalism is acknowledged to have failed and the Government fails to deal with high rates of immigration – see the Blog: Is restricting Immigration discriminatory?
  • The gap between rich and poor being acknowledged by the Office of National Statistics to be greater now than it was when Labour came to power in 1997
  • Politicians widely perceived as corrupt for lining their own pockets via the public purse and permitting the bankers to outrightly rape the public purse to pay their own bloated bonuses
  • The very union under attack as the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish campaign for more powers for their devolved governments

But is it worse than it was? John Rentoul (2001) describes how Tony Blair used the James Bulger murder to attack the Conservative government of John Major in a similar way to Cameron attacking Labour today. Blair said: “We hear of crimes so horrific they provoke anger and disbelief in equal proportions … These are the ugly manifestations of a society that is becoming unworthy of that name.”

Qualitatively, I doubt that Britain is more ‘broken’ than it was when Blair cited Bulger but quantitatively maybe…. There have always been horrible, shocking crimes against children – just think of Ian Brady, Myra Hindley and the ‘Moors Murders’ back in the early 1960s. There have always been ruthless, brutal criminals – again, think the 1960s and the Kray Twins. Under-age pregnancy and alcoholism are millenniums-old problems and highly-addictive recreational drugs have long been available, if you knew who to ask. And racism, at root, is just a manifestation of tribalism.

2 things, though, have changed dramatically over the past 50-60 years:-

  • Firstly, the sheer scale of these problems across Britain is mind-blowingly larger than it was back in the 1950s. While Britain’s post-war, pre-Americanisation ‘Golden Age’, as depicted so charmingly in the Ealing films of the era, was a manufactured myth, the scale of crime, corruption, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy we experience today would have been unbelievable to most British citizens of the time.
  • The wide-scale spread of these problems – once largely the sinful preserves of the more wealthy classes – has permeated right through the ‘ordinary’ people – what used to be considered traditionally the working and lower middle classes. These ‘salt of the earth’ types generally held higher moral codes than many of their so-called social betters. I’m making huge mythical generalisations, of course; but, as generalisations and allowing for many exceptions, they pretty much hold true. For example, when I was a snobbish middle-class teenager in the late 1960s, my friends and I thought it was ‘cool’ and ‘groovy’ to smoke cannabis. However, our working class peers thought it was disgusting and anything to do with hippies was morally depraved. Nowadays, the use of cannabis amongst working class teenagers is commonplace. Whilst the older brothers of my working class peers considered it good sport to bonk a girl in the alley outside her parents’ house late at night, they thought the middle-class hippie couples living together openly without being married was going to lead to societal meltdown!

Where’s the morality gone?
Back in 1999, when I was involved in putting together the HemsMESH project under the watchful eye of Spiral Dynamics ‘guru’ Don Beck, I remember Don talking about how the British churches didn’t do BLUE any more. In other words, they weren’t projecting strong moral codes on how people ought to live, treat each other and relate to society. In Don’s view, the British churches had become dominated by liberal GREEN thinking, with its motif of whatever fulfils the human spirit and doesn’t overtly harm others is OK.

If that sounds similar to some of the hippie mantras of the 1960s or rave lyrics of the 1980s and 1990s, then you’re hearing the same codes in action. GREEN undermines BLUE disciplines and releases RED to indulge as much as it likes without restraint, aided and abetted by ORANGE technology facilitating unlimited internet gambling and beaming uncensored violence and explicit pornography into your 10-year-old’s bedroom. It seems like an absurdly simple diagnosis of the causes of our ills – and there is, indeed, much detail to fill in – but, as an overview, it’s as simple as that.

Don Beck, from ‘Bible belt’ Texas, would, of course, be highly sensitive to the failings of the British churches; but the United States is generally acknowledged to be a much more religious country than Britain. Of course, the US has many of the same problems we have and often in more extreme versions and concentrated pockets – East Los Angeles makes Brixton look relatively idyllic! However, as percentages of national populations, the problems are on nothing like the same, overwhelming scale as here. The American churches by and large make a good fight against the ‘sin’ – though it’s clear GREEN is starting to undermine BLUE in the controversy over the ordination of gay bishops in the East Coast Anglican Church.

But, in seeking to resolve Britain’s problems, we can’t just re-engineer large-scale religious BLUE and expect it to work.

You only have to look at the opposition to the so-called Islamification of Britain. It’s all but impossible, of course, but if you could factor out the extremists and their ideologies and discount the racist antipathy towards Islam simply because most of its practitioners have brown skins… then Islam offers much the same kind of solid BLUE values for living that Christianity traditionally has.

And a very sizeable part of the British people simply don’t want that. The proverbial RED-GREEN harmonic of it’s-good-for-you-to-do-as-you-like is now too embedded in British culture. As an example, for all that The Sun moans and whinges about Britain’s moral decay, it’s not prepared to do away with its page 3 girl or stop publishing photographs of various celebrities in indiscrete poses. Why? Because that’s what a sizeable number of people want, as verified by the paper’s sales and visits to its web site. There’s enough BLUE left in society at large to recognise the mess; but not enough to embrace the disciplines necessary to get out of the mess.

So, what the Gravesian approach calls a 2nd Tier approach is needed – the ability to look at all the competing codes and their values and take action in the interests of the whole, meeting all needs as far as possible within that paradigm but even being prepared to sacrifice some freedoms to establish the paradigm.

David Cameron is to be praised mightily for putting his party’s emphasis on social factors. But, if he simply wants to bring back certain disciplines, it’s going to mean as little to current British culture as John Major’s (PURPLE/BLUE) ‘back to basics’ campaign did in 1997 against Tony Blair’s (RED/ORANGE) ‘let’s make money and live the good life’ ethos.

Tags:

POST A COMMENT


Verification Captcha (human, not robot!) * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

No Responses

  1. jtwigge says

    Thank you everyone for the thoughtful responses. Personally I don’t think Britain is broken, at least not in the sense that we should throw it away.

    We are going through changes. Difficult changes.

    We have built a society that has taken away the need for individuals to survive – the state does it for them. But they still have opportunity to succeed.

    We have taken away the need for hard work because the state will look after us if we fail.

    But we still have choice.

    Without the need to work hard to survive will we choose to work hard to succeed?

    If more sections of society choose not to try then eventually the burden will become too great. And the balance will be restored.

    Will we choose consciously to intervene before we have no choice? If we do not then we will have to face up to a more difficult reality in the coming years.

    And if we are faced with that difficult reality will we pull through?

    I do not know the answers but I would like to contribute to the possibility of a conscious choice for Britain so that we, or perhaps our children, will not need to face a harsher reality in the coming years.

    I am hopeful.

    Like (1)
  2. integralian says

    Emergent Britain

    Britain can be perceived as broken or it can be seen as stuck and it can also be seen as emergent. For Britain to be seen as broken it is being viewed from a perspective that a better Britain has passed and one can convincingly construct an argument for both the truth and for the falsehood of that statement. One can view Britain as stuck and that view is easier from a position of desperation, fear and depression. The view that Britain is emergent needs us to adopt a perspective of openness, free dialogue and hope. The one thing we can currently be sure of is that Britain is as it is, and we need to find the strength that allows us to sit with that and work with what we have, now.

    For a new Britain to emerge from the imaginal cells that Jon Freeman refers to we need to have solutions which are systemic, emergent and participatory in place. We need to create the conditions for the perfect storm. Emergence comes from the ground up when the life conditions are exactly right. They are not only not from the top down, but in an emergent process, top down becomes irrelevant and impotent.

    The perceived vacuum at Government level has arisen because it has stopped listening to the true messages of how Britain is and has failed to communicate and deliver solutions which are driven by what the country needs. It has taken a route driven by personal survival offering only what it thinks the country wants to hear. We should not try and fix this vacuum of leadership but recognise it as one of the key ingredients for the perfect storm. The vacuum leaves the space for the communication of others and for those who wish to participate in generating the climate of hope, which is required for change to emerge.

    Emergence is from the ground up. It is fuelled by the recognition that if we have open dialogue with individuals who are prepared to participate and find solutions to smaller problems which mesh, without looking outside for others to “fix, large scale systemic change starts to generate momentum.

    The components of emergent Britain start to come together as we have the open conversations about not only what we see as “broken” but what we can contribute to the “fix” The process will start when individuals, team leaders, head teachers, Health Care Trust managers and CEOs each empower themselves by saying this is what I recognise as a problem that I can help solve. The fuel and missing ingredient to the perfect storm is the recognition and switch from depression to hope. That happens when individuals recognise that they have always had the power and that they can implement changes in their own life conditions and surroundings. It may start with a conscious decision as to which bank you choose to be with, a choice which can empower instead of being a source of outrage, or communicating with our neighbours about what the neighbourhood could be like if we became active in being part of the solution and then taking the vital step of implementing that change. As we progress we will become bolder and exceed our own limits, achieving more than we could have imagined when we believed that Britain was broken.

    CHE-UK has a role to play in both transmitting that message of hope but also in providing the meshwork to connect like minds and to provide insightful tools and support that actually help make the incremental shifts that jump start the emergent process.

    Modern communications such as this Blog, the internet, social networks, tele-seminars and other media provide the means to rapidly disseminate information and provide the forum for it to take place without fear and repression. The requirement is now for the message of hope and empowerment to trigger the process that will fill the vacuum left by a lack of integral leadership and replace despondency and anger as the perception changes from Broken Britain to Emergent Britain.

    Emergent Britain

    Britain can be perceived as broken or it can be seen as stuck and it can also be seen as emergent. For Britain to be seen as broken it is being viewed from a perspective that a better Britain has passed and one can convincingly construct an argument for both the truth and for the falsehood of that statement. One can view Britain as stuck and that view is easier from a position of desperation, fear and depression. The view that Britain is emergent needs us to adopt a perspective of openness, free dialogue and hope. The one thing we can currently be sure of is that Britain is as it is, and we need to find the strength that allows us to sit with that and work with what we have, now.

    For a new Britain to emerge from the imaginal cells that Jon Freeman refers to we need to have solutions which are systemic, emergent and participatory in place. We need to create the conditions for the perfect storm. Emergence comes from the ground up when the life conditions are exactly right. They are not only not from the top down, but in an emergent process, top down becomes irrelevant and impotent.

    The perceived vacuum at Government level has arisen because it has stopped listening to the true messages of how Britain is and has failed to communicate and deliver solutions which are driven by what the country needs. It has taken a route driven by personal survival offering only what it thinks the country wants to hear. We should not try and fix this vacuum of leadership but recognise it as one of the key ingredients for the perfect storm. The vacuum leaves the space for the communication of others and for those who wish to participate in generating the climate of hope, which is required for change to emerge.

    Emergence is from the ground up. It is fuelled by the recognition that if we have open dialogue with individuals who are prepared to participate and find solutions to smaller problems which mesh, without looking outside for others to “fix, large scale systemic change starts to generate momentum.

    The components of emergent Britain start to come together as we have the open conversations about not only what we see as “broken” but what we can contribute to the “fix” The process will start when individuals, team leaders, head teachers, Health Care Trust managers and CEOs each empower themselves by saying this is what I recognise as a problem that I can help solve. The fuel and missing ingredient to the perfect storm is the recognition and switch from depression to hope. That happens when individuals recognise that they have always had the power and that they can implement changes in their own life conditions and surroundings. It may start with a conscious decision as to which bank you choose to be with, a choice which can empower instead of being a source of outrage, or communicating with our neighbours about what the neighbourhood could be like if we became active in being part of the solution and then taking the vital step of implementing that change. As we progress we will become bolder and exceed our own limits, achieving more than we could have imagined when we believed that Britain was broken.

    CHE-UK has a role to play in both transmitting that message of hope but also in providing the meshwork to connect like minds and to provide insightful tools and support that actually help make the incremental shifts that jump start the emergent process.

    Modern communications such as this Blog, the internet, social networks, tele-seminars and other media provide the means to rapidly disseminate information and provide the forum for it to take place without fear and repression. The requirement is now for the message of hope and empowerment to trigger the process that will fill the vacuum left by a lack of integral leadership and replace despondency and anger as the perception changes from Broken Britain to Emergent Britain.

    Like (1)
  3. Jon Freeman says

    Keith’s penetrating analysis brings, for me, the biggest question of all. If Britain is broken, what will fix it? There is a requirement for solutions at several levels if we are not simply to oscillate up and down between BLUE and GREEN social views. But we should also first look more deeply at those views.

    I don’t subscribe to the myth of any Golden Age in Britain, and one only has to read Dickens to know that cities have always had their share of crime and degradation. And if one wishes to find the results of true-BLUE Christian sexual morality, look at the number of prostitutes in the 1850’s. Estimates for London varied from the police’s (7000) to ten times that figure from Christian social campaigners. Even these ignore the widespread abuse of domestic servants (the largest occupation for women in that era).

    The “broken Britain” viewpoint starts from a cool-colour premise. It invites individual Britons to judge everyone else as letting the side down and to blame the current government for allowing them to do so.. As Keith rightly points out, David Cameron’s view of society reverts to a traditional Tory theme around Crime and Morality. It was ever thus. And a cynic might view the focus on social breakage as a very convenient red cape to distract the bull from the economic corruption. Don’t mention the bonuses. If there is a moral vacuum, it is transparently just as great in ORANGE institutions.

    It is easy and convenient to target GREEN in this, convenient for the Tories to bash liberal viewpoints and easy for us to see GREEN’s traditional weaknesses in not containing broken Red. But these views will not assist us in a transition to second tier unless we rise above them. Cameron will take us into the historical BLUE containment of RED. More expensive police, more prisons. Yes, our BLUE values have been weakened, but Victorian resonances are not the answer.

    There is a reason why the Sun has Page 3 girls and why humans are titillated by celebrity glamour and sex. Monogamy is not an entirely natural state for the human animal. Genetically our closest animal relatives – Chimpanzees, Bonobo, Gorillas and Orangs do not work that way. Even the Islamic version of BLUE has some space for polygamy. And people have always had affairs. Prostitution itself is a perfect demonstration of the law of supply and demand (Victorian prostitution itself was partly the result of over-supply – an excess of females in the population). Our view of sexuality is still deeply inhabited by the prescriptions of the great misogynist St. Paul, whose views have been used for 2000 years by BLUE Christian power structures to suppress the population in permanent guilt, fear of sin, and the fires of Hell. Collectively we continue to be strongly influenced by this history.

    Granted, GREEN has undermined BLUE, allowed toxic Red and ORANGE. But we need GREEN, since it also has parts of the solution. GREEN also supports the rights of the human individual. It may want conformity, and have its own form of over-prescription, but we need its social care and we need its impulse away from the class system. We cannot afford to take a first-tier perspective and ratchet back down-spiral at this time. This will not bring complex solutions to complex problems.

    Yes, we need to strengthen BLUE, deal with toxic ORANGE, manage frustrated and alienated RED. But we also need to find a new form of PURPLE. The breakdown of family and community values is not primarily a sexual one in my view. In 1957, Wilmott and Young’s seminal “Family and Kinship in East London” told us what was happening as it portrayed the impact of relocating a “slum” community to a shiny new town. We broke those PURPLE bonds, and they have been continually undermined ever since by the thrust for economic mobility and a TV dinner culture, and put under additional pressure by increasing cultural heterogeneity through immigration or Americanisation. But let’s balance that with the admission that the apparently stable marriages before the sexual revolution and the changes to divorce laws, kept many people in unhappy or violent marriages, and made women a slave class. Most of all, we should not imagine, as politicians seem to do, that we can turn the clock back on those shifts.

    Instead, we must view what has happened in terms of the Spiral’s thrust towards emergence. We have to balance all of these forces, and find the virtues in all of the first tier vMEMES if we are to make the transition. If the CHE is really interested in Human Emergence, it needs to be cleverer than Cameron or Brown with their one-dimensional solutions and attempts to re-create a mythical status quo. We never had it that good. Their intellectual bankruptcy mirrors our slide into economic bankruptcy at a time when our sovereign dept (and that of much of Europe) is more expensive to commercially insure than many major corporations.

    We can look at Britain as broken if we choose to do so. It’s a perspective, one which always works, because you can always find something wrong. Or we can look at it as ready for a momentous leap, as exhibiting the instabilities which offer tipping points, as being in the flexible chaos that supports the emergence of new forms. We can see it as a dying, broken mushed-up caterpillar or an emergent butterfly, waiting for the imaginal cells to produce a new expression of its DNA.

    If CHE means anything to me, then it is around the need for the imaginal cells which trigger that new genetic expression of our double-helix. We have to raise the quality of the whole spiral. We need a new vision of coherence. We have to shift the life conditions for each level.
    We need a PURPLE that embraces both multi-culturalism and cohesive national identity. People will continue to need their ancestors and their cultural roots for as long as it takes for another two or three generations of interbreeding to produce a humanity glorying in its multi-ethnicity.
    We need to support a healthy RED, and provide a way forward for a swathe of youth who have had inadequate parenting and no induction into BLUE. Personally I would favour a compulsory National Service, but with a social, not a military purpose. Longer term, educational transformation would help, of course.
    The strength that we need in BLUE is not to be dogmatic and restrictive. There are some good BLUE-GREEN approaches in restorative justice. We need to find a way that changes the funding streams at the point where criminals are sentenced. At the moment, justices do not have to find funding for the imprisonment option when they are sentencing criminals. Any other options have to find explicit funding. It’s as if Prisons were a cheap option. They are not. They are an industry, and their privatisation merely embeds this structurally. The health service suffers the same way in support of pharmaceutical bottom-lines. Preventative thinking is impossible for a system whose financial existence depends on sick people.
    We need a healthy version of ORANGE. The belief that we can get rich simply by making money needs to die. Money itself has no value. Goods have value. Manufacturing capacity has value. Creativity and beauty have value. Happiness has value. People have value. If overnight we multiplied every bank balance by 10, put ten times as much paper in people’s pockets and increased the value of houses to the same degree, we would be exactly where we are now. Conscious capitalism is not just a shift of mechanics. It is a shift in how we view value and where we find it. Humans need to become masters of their technological and industrial creativity. Right now they are its slaves.
    We need to embrace the virtues of GREEN, to value its strengthening of the human bond, make use of its ability to create community, to support fairness and to provide caring, and we need to support a shift into a forward-looking GREEN which can see the dawning of YELLOW. We need to help it to understand that RED can be a victim and a menace – sometimes both, and behave accordingly, knowing that what Wilber calls “idiot compassion” is precisely that.

    So in my view, Britain itself is not broken. Not yet. But it is fragile and cracking. We can go back or forwards. I would like us to create very clear distinctions between our views and those of the leading parties. One thing is surely broken in Britain, and that is the political process. We may not be in a position of structural power, but we must exercise whatever leadership we are capable of.

    Jon

    Like (1)
  4. Don Edward Beck says

    Keith:

    This is one of the very best essays I have read from you; it is clear, insightful, balanced, yet hopeful. No question but that you have an excellent grasp of the “value-system” dynamics that are working in UK>

    I plan to send it to the Ambassador in Washington.

    Don

    Like (1)
  5. Colin says

    Thanks for an insightful, well considered and beautifully written peice
    c

    Like (1)