As I get older and, given the circumstances of my early life, I am very conscious of what might have been. Perhaps that is why my favourite poem is one by Robert Frost. It’s called “The Road not Taken” and, for those of you not familiar with it, I include it here:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry that I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having, perhaps, the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though, as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day.
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way,
I doubted that I should ever come back.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood and
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference.
The reason I quote this is because, by force of circumstance. I took that path and have found that, in my case, the paths have again become one. Moreover, with the experience I have gained, am now doing what I should have done when I was 20. That is, writing. Yet I am very aware that there could be another world and other paths which brings me, in my usual round about way, to my subject for today’s blog, which is the world as it might be.
Now, I don’t suppose there are many of you that thing that the way this country functions (or may correctly, doesn’t function) these day is much to your liking. In fact, the recent referendum in Scotland showed that nearly half the population voted for independence. In my opinion, largely because that reject the extreme market driven politics practiced south of the border. Greed and avarice seem to be its driving forces and the lowest common factor its goal. Unfortunately for me and those like me, I want caring and sharing and the highest common factor. And, no, it need not be a pipe dream. Look at what Norway has done with the money from its oil reserves oil and compare that with what we have done with ours. Then consider that this was, probably, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Oh, dear, we’ve blown it again.
If you should still believe that these are just wonderful dreams, I would like to welcome you to Goodland. Goodland is where:
The President refuses to live his state mansion and gives away 90 % of his salary living on the national average wage
There is a constitution written by its citizens
When financial sector fell apart, speculators bore their own losses and guilty were taken to court not bailed out
The banking system is mutually owned
Small businesses are helped
Wellbeing is more important than economic growth
There is national plan for free health and education
There is subsidised childcare
There is support for elderly people
Where cities are greener
Where fossil fuels will be phased out by 2017
Where the business sector has well organised and productive co-operatives
Where there is a shorter working week available by choice
Not fantasy, it exists albeit with each of these spread throughout the globe
Jose Mujica of Uruguay is the president driving 1987 Beetle, he is guarded by two policemen and a dog
Iceland is the country with a new citizen drafted constitution ready to be accepted
It also also allowed the banks to fail and imposed temporary controls on the movement of capital to provide wiggle room
Port Alegre in Brazil is where, since 1990, citizens have met every week to decide how much of the city’s budget should be spent
Interestingly, in 7 years it has led to a doubling of access to proper sanitation in poor neighbourhoods
Germany is the country with Mittelrand where its banks have to be useful as well as profitable
The Mondragon region of Spain has co-operatives employing 80,000 people generating 14bn Euros
Holland is the country with the shorter working week
Bhutan is where success is not measure by GDP but GD happiness including 151 variables from good governance to education, living standards, cultural diversity and ecological resilience
Nicaragua is phasing out fossil fuels by 2017 and Germany is planning for 100% renewables by 2050
Ecuador has a National Plan for Good Living with the aim of reasserting the country’s authority by putting its own social and economic objectives above those of the market
While we tie ourselves in knots trying to devise methods to pay for our healthcare, Denmark has a tax system which pays for free health and education, home help for elderly people and nearly 75% of childcare
Far from harming the economy, higher taxes stimulate investment in infrastructure, R & D and education
This country could, indeed, be different as can be demonstrated by the examples above. It is, merely, the will and imagination that is the problem. Are we so lacking that we cannot create our own Goodland, our Big Society? I’m sorry but I think the people of this country of ours deserve better.