The first page of the book Love, Empowerment and Social Justice
Margaret Thatcher famously said: 'There is no such thing as society; only individuals and families'. She emphasised individuals' efforts to find fulfilment and provide for their family. Yet she did not realise that the values she promoted, of individual competition, undermine our quest for happiness in all spheres of life. Most of us are on a treadmill, trying to juggle ever more demanding work with commitment to family and friends. As the economy grows, our financial aspirations rise, keeping contentment out of reach. Globalisation threatens to undermine the security of us all, making both well-paid and unskilled workers compete to maintain their incomes. Thatcher wanted us to regard this process as natural; she was trying to undermine our responsibility for our common welfare, including that of our more vulnerable citizens.
In this book I describe how we can find happiness and contentment both in our personal lives, and by building a more friendly society, enabling us to feel valued and secure. Citizen action is vital to achieve this. We are all vulnerable to various risks, including crime, poor health care, pollution, and economic recession. Very few of us can buy immunity from these risks. However governments could do a great deal to avoid or reduce these problems. But politicians do too little to tackle them unless citizens campaign to insist that they do. If campaigns grow strong enough to influence public opinion, they can persuade governments to bring in important reforms. In addition, volunteers in community service help build social cohesiveness and prevent alienation.
In order to gain the motivation to work constructively, activists need confidence in the potential of human co-operation. I will explain how they are most likely to have gained this from understanding parents in childhood, or from emotionally supportive relations or close friends. Research shows that those who receive emotional support are much more likely than others to volunteer or campaign, as described in Chapter Six. Therefore political policies to promote
The Introduction outlines the increasing social division and conflict we face, and gives examples of how certain people have improved their communities by establishing co-operative groups.
Chapter One focuses on the stress we suffer in seeking career success, material wealth, and personal fulfilment, and describes how many of those who are particularly frustrated in these areas turn to crime. Reducing inequality will make status less important, enabling more of us to prioritise quality of life over increasing income.
Chapter Two describes solutions to the serious environmental problems our consumer society has caused. Unless citizens and governments take these measures, the Earth we hold in trust for our children and grandchildren will be gravely damaged, with ever more frequent floods, droughts, and other weather disasters.
Chapter Three shows how parents who feel good about their role respond warmly to their children's needs and thus promote their happiness and maturity. This gives the children the emotional security and self-confidence to make a valuable contribution to society.
Chapter Four describes how many adults have problems in intimate relationships because they lack emotional security. Learning to trust that they are loveable can give a person the confidence to make a committed relationship.
Chapter Five stresses the importance of crime prevention in arresting social decline. Helping troubled families is the most cost-effective long term strategy, but tough measures to protect the public are also vital.
Chapter Six explains how ordinary people can gain greater influence over the political process. Once they begin to do so, their recognition of the benefits of co-operation will enhance their ability to build a more peaceful and united society.both sensitive parenting and family stability are essential to create the activists needed to promote the health of society. Failure to introduce such policies will worsen crime, weaken communities, and increase stress-related illness. Thus the book will show the importance of the dictum 'the personal is political'.