I used to take great pride in posting a blog every day. But now I seem to fail at least once a week. It isn’t a loss of enthusiasm; merely that my diary has become a voracious beast from which I can neither run nor hide. I’ve also been tardy in responding to comments even though I am always rather touched that people take the time to respond to my ramblings.
In a desperate attempt to fight back I have written a piece for today’s Times which should relieve at least some of the pressure by discouraging any speaking invite for a public sector conference.
I am writing this at Heathrow on my way to give a lecture in Northern Ireland.
My long term reader (sorry mum, we really must book up a drink after work soon) may remember my enthusiasm for cultural theory and its four paradigms of social change; the egalitarian, the individualistic, the hierarchical and fatalist.
A few months ago, after a conversation with RSA Trustee Lord Richard Best, I foolishly asserted that I could use cultural theory as a useful way of thinking about the continuing problem of social segregation in Northern Ireland.
Actually, I might even have been right. The theory can be applied; seeing segregation driven primarily by egalitarian solidarity within the different religiously affiliated based communities, suggesting that individualism might be the most powerful force driving against segregation (if, for example, the only new build homes are in integrated neighbourhoods), and recognising that there is little hierarchical drive behind greater integration.
The problem is that the whole thesis can be summed up in five minutes and I’ve got thirty to fill. At this point my lack of detailed (OK, ‘any’) knowledge about the nature of segregation, or of past attempts to solve it, come into play. ‘Ah’ I say to myself ‘looks like I’m going to have to do some research’. At which point, with a malicious sparkle in its eye, my diary (which has by now become an imaginary demon with gap teeth, red eyes and bad breath) replies ‘jolly good, you’ve got a window in June 2010’.
Fortunately for me I fastened like a barnacle on to a patient and wise advisor at the Northern Ireland office of the Chartered Institute of Housing. When I first explained my predicament she recommended books, then, as my appeals became more pathetic it was articles, and then finally she started to send me selected quotations (not long complicated ones, mind you).
I have no idea how it will go. I could ask you to remind me to tell you next week. But my diary tells me that by Monday I will have to have become an expert on parenting policy (thankfully, my sons don’t read my blog) and how the civil service should manage the transition between administrations.
I don’t even have time to develop my new idea for a film; (working title ‘Appointment book with the devil’, about a man who despite his external show of self confidence and control has become demonically possessed by his own diary.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.