Dave – the editor

Our previous post – You CAN make a difference:) – made a very simple point about people at the grassroots making a difference in their communities. I’ve been thinking about this over the last few days. Putting a more political slant on things, both at a local authority and government level (and the corporations as well), there are many vested and intertwined interests who would much rather we weren’t empowered and doing stuff for ourselves at the grassroots. Okay, they might tolerate a litter picking* group or other activities at that level but anything that really puts power into our hands and takes it away from the top is very much frowned upon and, if it’s really considered a threat, actively obstructed.

Trust in governance, both at a local and national level, is in continuous decline. If anything, that decline has accelerated over the last few years. The same applies to the corporations and big business. Running parallel to this, there’s a steady growth in the number of people getting stuck into grassroots projects in their areas. Quite often, that’s projects filling the gaps left by a welfare system that’s hard to negotiate and is failing people. Examples of this are community food kitchens and genuine, grassroots food banks. Other projects have been formed simply because residents feel that they can do a better job than the council. Community run parks such as Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope are one example of what can be achieved.

The point about these projects is that as well as making life in the areas they operate in better, they empower those involved in them. Confident empowered activists will start asking awkward questions about the system they see failing their communities. A point is reached where the activity moves beyond putting a sticking plaster over a wound inflicted by a failing system. When that point is reached, the activity turns into this: Prefigurative action. This is when things get interesting because it’s now about building the new world we want in the decaying shell of the one we currently have to endure. It’s offering a positive glimpse of what the future could be.

That’s why the powers that be spend a fair bit of energy in trying to convince us that they and they alone have the answers and all we have to do is trust them to deliver. That’s why a project that threatens their power will have obstacles put in its way. Don’t let them get away with it… As the title of this piece states – we CAN make a difference and DON’T let anyone tell you otherwise!

* Just to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with a litter picking group because as well as keeping the neighbourhood tidy, by residents taking matters into their own hands, they’re empowering themselves:)