A New way
A new dawn
It doesn't take a genius to realise this is an extremely challenging period for Manchester. But it's also the best time for reflection as we take a look at the way things were before Covid-19 came along. Our city was at gridlock, had shocking air and water quality, was overpopulated and starting to suffer from unbelievable city centre diseconomies of scale. All of which are symptoms of severe physical and mental environmental concern - and would have led to eventual economic and social collapse anyway.
Whilst I'd argue that Covid-19 has accelerated the inevitable collapse of our city, I'd also say that it's created opportunities for the future. Being faced with adversity, obscurity and uncertainty is always the best time to consider new ideas and change to a new order of things. Speaking philosophically, Covid-19 might actually prove to be Manchester's 'old man's friend'.
Most people now care deeply about the environment. However, both local and national statistics indicate that the Green Party is merely a left wing pressure group that can't win elections. I think this is because it doesn't mentally engage the electorate with a welcoming ideology, but rather a Marxist dogma which is a complete turn-off for most people. So, if the ideology you want to vote for isn't available, the only thing left to do is to invent it.
Dialectic environmentalism as an alternative is not a dogmatic idea but rather, as the title suggests, the start of a debate around how we make our situation better and more engaging - therefore bringing the mental and physical environment we all share into the centre of Manchester's politics. I see it as an ideology that rejects the current concept of political collectivism and introduces the notion that one can be an individual that's respectful, responsible and free, but also belong to something that's shared by everyone and everything.
Dialectic environmentalism ... a new synthesis?
The dialectic process was devised by the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Fredrich Hegel (1770-1831), as a way of understanding how the world changes over time. Hegel saw history as a dialectic driven by ideas (idealism), always moving forward to some 'end point' by the clashing of old ideas (thesis) with new ideas (antithesis), and eventually settling at a new equilibrium (the synthesis) until the whole process starts again.
'Dialectic materialism' is the term that underpins the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, many of which were written here in Manchester. In short, it's seen as the battle between the bourgeoisie (the rich) and the proletariat (the poor), over who owns and controls material resources and possessions.
For simplicity, my idea is that the thesis (capitalism) and the antithesis (Marxism), which have literally been at each other's throats for the last 100 years or so, now need to give way to a new synthesis, which I put forward as 'dialectic environmentalism'.
I believe that one's mental and physical environment is now deemed more important than material possessions. I'm therefore simply proposing a movement from materialism (capitalism versus Marxism) towards environmentalism.
Whereas Hegel, Marx and Engels were intellectual geniuses of philosophy, I concede that this idea is only in its infancy and needs developing by better intellectual minds than my own. But I'm certain this is the direction in which the ship must now sail.
The debate about our physical environment (water purity, air quality, deforestation, habitats, eco systems, optimum population levels, microgeneration, macrogeneration, ice caps, permafrost, plastic in the oceans, autarky, diet, fashion etc) can't begin until the prevailing mental ideology is taken care of and our selfish, short-sighted, narrow-minded approach to the world is challenged and eradicated. Unlike those of my political opponents, who always argue about material resources, the new ideology and strategy I'm proposing for Manchester won't cost a penny to implement.
At the outset, it includes (in no particular order):
1. Love. The climate of hate which exists with our current two-party political system is divisive. It should now be abandoned in favour of a more compassionate and civilised way of approaching things.
2. Fairness. The world is an unfair place, but those who acknowledge this concept and seek to correct it will always gain the respect of others and, in doing so, will help create fairness of opportunity. Unfairness of opportunity is rife in Manchester in 2021.
3. Simplicity and clarity. The world is already a complex place, so there's no need to make simple things complicated. People on the whole want and deserve clarity over the political decision-making process, together with accountability.
4. Balance. A society needs balance to survive. We currently have huge divides of opportunity, prosperity and expectation in our city. These have widened considerably over the last 40 years, in an area that measures just 493 square miles.
5. 'Ad hominem'. A lot of the best ideas in life are put forward by people we dislike. There's a need to separate people from their positions.
6. Rhetoric. One of the most dangerous things in life is to listen to and be persuaded or manipulated by articulate people who talk a good game. It's important to recognise this, as the person who sits quietly in the corner may have the best ideas.
7. Conjecture. Always try and seek complete information, and accept that your subjective reality and version of the truth may be wrong. This approach opens the mind to new ideas, preventing indoctrination and making society more receptive to positive change when new or updated information becomes available.
8. Humour. The concept of 'No malice intended' constructive banter is being eroded to the point of cultural genocide. If we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves here in Manchester, we lose the ability to unite.
9. Intimidation. No one has the right to make another person's life a misery. Breaking negative domestic and social cycles is part of this.
10. Mistakes. A fear of mistakes leads to a risk-averse mindset, which is the enemy of entrepreneurial spirit, curiosity and creativity. It's those who are prepared to take chances and fail, but learn from their mistakes, that will help the city recover quickly. With the advent of social media, we now have a non-forgiving, counterproductive and judgemental culture which never lets a person forget their mistakes. We must be allowed to make mistakes if we're to progress.
11. Non-racism. Racism is a dangerous and nasty cancer in our society, but anti-racism has arguably become a form of chemotherapy with serious side effects. A move to the third position synthesis (a non-racist, non-judgemental society based on equality) has to be the aim for this city as soon as possible. This was the position taken by Nelson Mandela in the latter part of his life. It stands to reason that pressure groups can't be allowed to dictate and demand anything beyond equality, despite what's happened in the past.
12. Youth and the elderly. Whilst acknowledging the achievements and wisdom of our elderly by showing them compassion, a society works better if it puts young people first as this leads to long-term thinking.
13. Long-termism. Instead of working in four year election cycles, the city should work on longer-term, 30 year generational cycles with an eye on the next 100 years.
14. Planning. Our city planning is a total disaster and should now be handed over to artificial intelligence, as humans can no longer be trusted with the decision-making process of what goes where. Optimisation will never be delivered by the democratic process, as 'Nimbyism' will always prevail.
15. Nature. A respect for nature, habitats and air quality goes without saying. We need to abandon the city's greenbelt policy and shift our focus to ensuring a higher percentage of space rather than defended scrubland. Areas of natural beauty need to be protected, including woodlands and habitats, but wide open spaces of unattractive land unfortunately give us the best opportunity to build a city for the future. Green spaces with tens of millions of trees can be moved to fit the artificial intelligence plan.
16. Waste. We need to abandon the domestic recycling of plastics as it's no longer acceptable for Manchester's waste to end up in the oceans of the far east. We need to focus on 'Reduce and reuse,' and make sure the city's waste is dealt with here rather than exported elsewhere for power generation. We need to turn a cost into an income stream for our city, and divert that income into much-needed services.
17. SHED (Sleep, Hydration, Exercise and Diet). This has to be part of our local school curriculum. Making sure children can create up to 10 balanced meals from scratch by the time they're 11 isn't that difficult to achieve, given that every school has a kitchen. Adults who aren't vulnerable need to take responsibility for their own health to free up resources for those who need and deserve the NHS and social care services. The 'fat / thin' debate is for vanity, but a citywide fitness policy will make us all sharper for the cause. Walking is free, and encouraging people to move more during the day is not a fascist policy.
18. History. Encouraging more historical tours and new museums for the city will help tourism flourish by mining our rich cultural heritage, which spans the Industrial Revolution to our modern music scene. The taking down of statues, such as that of Friedrich Engels, has to be a democratic decision, but I'd keep them where they are as a source of education.
19. Institutions. The police, the fire brigade, the ambulance service, our schools, hospitals, care services, parks and many other institutions have to be rebuilt with morale, respect and appreciation. Civic pride in our institutions is vital for our brand to succeed. I'd also be keen to see the Government's environmental department relocate to Manchester.
20. Ideas. Cross-pollinating old, current and new ideas will always promote the concepts of curiosity, creativity and collaboration. Manchester is currently running a one-dimensional, left wing ideology with virtually no opposition at the decision-making table.
21. Opsimath. It's never too late to try something new and learn a new skill.
22. The arts. Literature, painting, music, architecture, theatre and design all need a renaissance here in Manchester if we're to guarantee freedom of expression. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the pressure of creativity has been built up behind a dam that will eventually be broken. It's vitally important to let that pressure flow out into Manchester like a tsunami of culture.
23. 'Kaizen'. A Japanese term meaning 'continuous improvement,' which should be instilled into every management system.
24. Business. Manchester businesses need to start treating their employees as assets rather than costs. The retention of staff is a key performance indicator for any organisation where Karl Marx's theory of workplace alienation is put into place as a barrier to exploitation.
25. Family. I believe in the promotion of the family unit and community. A 35 hour working week based on productivity, not clock-watching, will help facilitate a successful work-life balance.
26. Civic pride and community spirit. The religious communities promote this concept, but most secular communities have no idea who their neighbours are. This needs to change quickly.
27. Organisation. Apart from a few brilliant artists who present their best work in chaotic situations, I've never come across anything successful that's also disorganised. Greater Manchester is currently a badly-organised region.
28. Time-keeping. Anyone who's consistently late is also inconsiderate towards those who are waiting. There's currently a very poor culture in GMCA meetings where wandering in late is acceptable, which needs to be addressed quickly. Like in the private sector, all these meetings should also be costed so the general public know what they're paying for.
29. Investment. As part of devolution, we must have access to the financial markets so we can invest in rebuilding our city. The various councils now need to generate and yield their own income, which can only happen by separating investments and costs.
30. Opinion. You're allowed to have one.
31. Skills. Developing new skills in our city through correctly-funded apprenticeships is essential, particularly for those who didn't pass their exams at school. We need to be aware that most 14 year olds are bored by a National Curriculum that suits neither their personal development needs nor those of our city.
32. Quality housing. I advocate working towards a '£400 a month Shared Ownership scheme' to provide quality, affordable accommodation in a similar way to the Singapore model.
33. Equality of Opportunity. In order to level up our 'in need of attention' towns, this has to be one of our ultimate targets. However, no one can guarantee equality of outcome - which is a mistake always made by the Labour Party.
Conclusion: 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin.' Voltaire (1759)
We cannot leave our fate to blind hope and optimism, as no one will help us who doesn't also want to control us. Everything we need to make this city one of the best in the world is right here - and the Covid-19 pandemic has given us the chance to take a good, hard look at ourselves. Somehow we need to marry the economy with the environment which is going to be both a threat and opportunity to the way we live.
With devolution, the future is the city but: 'We must cultivate our own garden,' and become a place that's envied around the world. We are a land area of 315,000 acres and our aim has to be that others around the world look at our garden as a place to copy.