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Postcards from Scotland

Why life is good

A recent article in the New Statesman discusses the dangerous discrepancy which exists between our private optimism and our public pessimism. This gap, Matthew Taylor believes, is caused by certain aspects of modernity: a sharp rise in individualism and a perception that events are beyond our control. We have come to view our authentic selves as revealed in private and personal spheres, rather than the public and social. Taylor suggests that we need to forge a new collectivism which is missing from modern life: a place where people can renew hope and develop ideas and solutions, as well as creating a more balanced and ethical media.

The research shows that our beliefs tend to imply optimism yet we seem to spend most of our time being pessimistic.  Many studies highlight that we view our own lives and situations as rosier and more under our control than other peoples.   We are unduly negative about public services, family life and the neighbourhoods of others compared to our own.  For example, people are more likely to think that their community is improving while other peoples are not.  Taylor thinks that while the media may be the obvious cause of this, it is too easy to blame the media.  The real problem Taylor suggests is both the rise in individualism (and the corresponding decline in industrial and pre-industrial collectivist institutions) and the perception that globalisation is an unstoppable force.  Taylor suggest that the focus on the individual and the tendency for us to ?feel that we are victims of processes set in train by human activity but no longer under anyone?s control? is causing this public pessimism.  He suggests that we need to address the deficit in our social optimism that ?threatens the core of our narrative?, because there are many achievements and progresses to celebrate.

Taylor suggests that there is a case for making a more balanced and ethical media and to celebrating the good things, but most of all to the forging of a new collectivism.  He says that society is yearning for new ways of working together and that this need will only be fulfilled ?when people are provided with a place for collective decision making and actions that speak to the same vision of collaboration, creativity and human fulfilment that progressives claim to be our destiny' To read the article click here

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