A previous blog noted that graduating from being concerned to being active is a huge step for most people and recomended taking that step, for the betterment of society at large and the comfort of finding oneself in good company. There was no suggestion that it will be plain sailing. Experience will demonstrate that successfully solving any social problem prompts the question of why the problem ever occurred and that leaves a deeper conundrum to deal with.
By either an intuitive or a methodical investigative route, dedicated activists eventually arrive at what they consider to be the root problem – one that once resolved should have profoundly beneficial outcomes for all those resulting discomforts that arise in the public sphere. Enter the activists dilemma – how to persuade enough activists to shelve their pet projects and get behind the one that really matters? A plea for collective action is the usual rallying cry. If simplicity and complexity are incompatible, simple solutions don’t resolve complex problems. Is there a way around this barrier?
Greatly enhanced access to higher education coupled with globalisation and the IT revolution has resulted in massive increases in human capacity – including that of community activists. Are most social problems caused by failures in communication?
Consider the New Economy Organisers Network (NEON), which exists to strengthen the movement working to replace neoliberalism with an economy based on social and environmental justice. NEON does not campaign per se; it provides a sophisticated, adequately resourced online platform for activists who believe it’s time for deep changes to both our economy and our politics. There they can interact to seek support and advice from contemporaries, without having to first convert them to a particular ideology. Monthly social get-togethers cement ties in a con-jovial atmosphere.
Initially NEON was London centric. Recently it branched out into Bristol. Now it’s in the process of setting up shop in the home of the Peterloo Massacre, Manchester – a city where council leaders do backroom regional governance changing deals with George Osborne, without consulting the public or their democratically elected MPs, and welcome the (reportedly) most authoritarian Chinese leader since Mao Tse-tung.
Manchester is, understandably, bursting at the seams with diverse and competing activist networks. Hopefully NEON can help glue them together into a functioning cohesive whole. Manchester badly needs it. It’s not the only place.