2017: the year for resilience
The curtain has closed on the post-truth year of 2016. A new window opens into 2017.
Given the political, economic and cultural earthquakes of 2016, the year ahead could look pretty terrifying and uncertain. We may feel anxious. We may have visions of moving to a remote island where we could block out the worry and anger about the increasingly unattractive western world.
But there is another option. Resilience. With a big dollop of hope.
Raymond Williams said that “to be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing”. Resilience is our best antidote to fear, anxiety and withdrawal.
There are four types of resilience (psychological, political, economic and spiritual), and we’ll need to draw on them all in the year to come.
Resilience is one element of psychological capital – practices that we can use and hone to keep us strong in the face of the biggest blows:
- Self-efficacy – how confident and self-assured we are when faced with a difficult task;
- Optimism – how positive we are about doing well now and in the future;
- Hope – how determined we are to strategise and work hard towards a goal; and
- Resilience – the extent to which we can bounce back from something tough (like losing a job or a contract).
While hope and optimism might feel tough right now, these are tools that we should draw on every day to keep us focussed and unafraid. We’ve got them on the wall in our ‘thought centre’ (our office) for good measure.
There are lots of people working on political resilience. For example, the Compass report, Secure and Free, highlights affordable, feasible, gradualist and sustainable proposals from a range of people and groups to build resilience through policy and politics:
- Make above inflation increases in the national minimum wage the norm in periods of economic growth (Centre for Social Justice), and make improving productivity and improving the quality of employment mutually reinforcing policy objectives (Smith Institute).
- Develop a state-supported house building programme designed to the highest environmental standards (The Good Right), improve security for home-owners through a ‘right to sell’ and a ‘right to stay’, so that those who can no longer meet mortgage repayments can sell their properties but remain as tenants paying fair rents (Friends of the Earth), and curb future rent growth to improve security for tenants (Civitas).
- Unleash the power of the social sector (Centre for Social Justice) and implement non- financial help for families and relationship support (various).
- Make early childhood education and care a specific and distinct element of the universal care and education system, free at the point of delivery (various) and create significant real increases to child benefit (Fabian Society and Sir Tony Atkinson).
- Build agreement around a shift from welfare for some, to social security for all, right through to older age (Compass).
While advocating for these political changes we can also achieve political resilience through the time-honoured practice of resistance and the emerging practice of collective impact. Both start with collaboration and deny that we’re powerless in the face of the political and cultural forces we face. We are all one part of the mosaic working for change, and collectively we are a force for political resilience in the face of fear, xenophobia and hate.
The key components of economic resilience have been around for a while – think locally act globally – but are still important. Rethinking the way we live at a local level will ultimately impact the wider world.
We become citizens of the world by becoming citizens of healthy communities. Understanding the principles reflected in local planning can give insights into the principles reflected in the world community. Local solutions can provide an effective alternative to globalisation structured by highly centralised organisations pursuing interests in ways that are destructive to healthy communities.
Locality is one organisation that models and supports community-led self-sustaining initiatives that tackle the forces of centralisation and globalisation that have alienated and disappointed so many. As George Monbiot writes, “it’s time to champion new approaches to politics, economics and social change. There is no going back, no comfort in old certainties. We must rethink the world from first principles … The market alone cannot meet our needs; nor can the state … There is one element conspicuously absent from the dominant ideologies: the commons”. Communities owning and running their own places and spaces will help make then stronger and feel more in control.
New forms of community and social enterprise that are locally focussed (not the hyped up social enterprise blah-blah that has become so prominent in recent years, and is really just private enterprise by another name) can produce economic resilience and change at the local level, and also have global outcomes. One example is the city of Marinaleda in the province of Seville in Spain. It’s a self-identified social-democratic and cooperative municipality of 2,700 people, where poverty has been eradicated and where there is no police, no crime, little unemployment and the freedom to build your own home on communal land.
Sound unrealistic? Combining psychological, political and economic resilience is at the heart of the story of Marinaleda.
And finally – or perhaps foremost – is spiritual resilience. In the face of religious beliefs that promote oppression and fear we suggest spiritual resilience begins with a fundamental commitment – the rejection of religious fundamentalism in all its forms and the recognition of otherness and the freedom to be at peace with yourself. Other than that we have no prescription – just an invitation to reject the fear and oppression of fundamentalism and embrace freedom.
So as we move out of 16 into 17 we invite everyone to embrace resilience in a way that challenges, informs and transforms fearlessly.
Do not ever give up – or in!