“We’re scared of our power because it means we might have to act”, declared the economist and author Anne Pettifor at the first of the Imagine2027 talks in October 2017, organised by Cambridge Commons, a local affiliate of the Equality Trust.
Pettifor, a co-director of the think-tank PRIME, told the packed hall at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge that one of the first principles of changing the financial system in favour of greater equality, was to realise that we were a crucial part of the system: “You and I create the money supply every time we apply for a loan.” Therefore, we have the collective power to change things but we had to be willing to use it. She warned that, “…we might have to do something uncomfortable and we’re scared of that. We’d rather not think of ourselves as powerful.”
Pettifor’s other key point was that to change things for the collective better we had to examine and understand the current system as a diamond cutter would examine and understand an uncut diamond before setting to work to change it.
In the same month, Oxford geography professor, Danny Dorling, author of numerous books on the blight of inequality in the UK, told the audience that in sharp contrast to schools in Europe, schools in the UK were “exam factories” that produced “stupid children”. He continued: “I teach more children now with more A-stars and A’s than I ever have in my life before. And they do not turn up as budding little geniuses. They turn up as identikit kids who have been trained like a hamster on a hamster wheel.”
Dorling’s answer for 2027 is to develop one big state school for each local area based on co-operation not competition: “One senior management team, one set of sites, you could call it the Oxford University Super Academy Wonder School! I don’t care what ridiculous name you come up with and then you can begin to move teachers between sites because there’s only one school.” If you get this right, he said, the country’s inequality levels would decrease and most UK private schools would die out.
In November, Sir Michael Marmot, author of the Health Gap and FBA Director of UCL’s Institute of Health Equity noted that since 2010 health inequalities have increased in the UK. He pointed to the US as a possible harbinger of things to come. There, non-hispanic Whites have been becoming sicker due to alcohol and drug abuse, liver disease, suicide and violence. He added that during the last Presidential election, the higher the causes of mortality in the US due to drugs, alcohol and suicide by geographical area the more likely people were to vote for Donald Trump. Spending public money on programmes that closed the health gap was a moral issue, Marmot declared, not a question of economics.
Social media can be a force for good, said Helen Margetts, an Oxford professor of society and the internet, such as the time when a photo of German football fans holding a huge Refugees Welcome banner was posted. Speaking in November at Imagine2027, she said: “It’s very feasible to imagine that there may have been have been refugees from war torn Syria who saw that image at the German football stadium, and might have changed their course of action.”
A buildup of “tiny acts of political participation” via social media could be a force for equality, said Margetts, and that people were using the medium to improve their job prospects, address issues of social isolation, get civically involved and enhance knowledge and awareness.
But, said Margetts, here is a darker side to social media that needs to be analysed, understood and tackled. In particular, fake news, computational propaganda, echo chambers, trolling and tiny acts of cyberwar.
For those that missed these talks, there are videos online at: www.imagine2027.org.uk
DON’T MISS OUT IN 2018!
The task of imagining and creating a more equal society in the UK continues in 2018 with a host of new star speakers.
ECONOMICS: 18 January 2018
Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, will provide new insights into how to reimagine the economy, so that it addresses the realities of our social and planetary boundaries.
BASIC INCOME: 1 February 2018
Guy Standing, well known for his studies of the growth of a precariat in modern economies will explain how a basic income would lead to a fairer Britain.
SENSE OF BELONGING: 22 February 2018
Environmentalist, writer and author, George Monbiot will talk about the new politics of belonging.
CLASS: 8 March 2018
Faiza Shaheen, director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies will be tackling the issue of class and social mobility and how to reach a fairer 2027.
FEMINISM: 22 March 2018
Former prison officer turned stand-up comedian and writer, Ava Vidal will explain how intersectional feminism can determine a fairer future.
TECHNOLOGY: 5 April 2018
Herman Hauser, a physics PhD who became a leading technology entrepreneur and venture capitalist as well as co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners, will discuss how technology can be a force for social good.
CHANGING EVERYTHING THROUGH TAX: 26 April 2018
Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research UK and Professor atCity University, London, discusses the power of tax policy to create a more equal society.
BOOK NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT
All lectures are held in Cambridge, mostly at Anglia Ruskin University (details provided when tickets reserved). Places are free and can be booked easily through Eventbrite. However, seats are being snapped up fast and those interested in attending need to reserve their places now. For more information visit the website: www.imagine2027.org.uk