On the same day as David Cameron made his "big society" speech in Liverpool, the Times reported that an American company, Rent A Friend, is launching here. For an hourly fee, it will arrange for somebody to go to the cinema with you, act as best man at your wedding, or simply converse in a coffee shop. This should remind us that capitalists, far more than public authorities, have robbed us of the capacity to do things for ourselves.Neil Clark has backed Wilby on his opposition to this horrid ideology and the baleful effects in creating a fundamentally diseased and eerily denatured society. All in the spurious cause of promoting "choice" and individual "self-determination", as if people can be reduced to consumer items.
We look to manufacturers of instant meals and high street takeaways to provide food we once cooked for ourselves. Once, if we needed exercise, we joined a few (unrented) friends to play football or went for a brisk walk. Now we buy membership of a gym club. To sympathise with the bereaved, we once wrote a letter. Now we buy commercially produced cards with standardised sentiments.
Just as the "personalities" and "parties" are now just branches of PR and advertising. The fake Conservatives are no different from New Labour in holding to a vulgar and reductionist utilitarian neoliberal ideology in which sovereign consumers have rights that non-consumers or lesser consumers do not.
Forget the idea of citizenship. In 2010 the concept of the morally educated citizen is seen as outdated and people are now mere consumers and some consumers are more equal than others. It is considered the only way to motivate people by brand status and differentiation. This is pathetic. Wilby looks at how education itself could be privatised,
Cameron's speech refers to the "big society" ensuring we "don't always turn to officials, local authorities or central government". He doesn't want to stop us turning to business. On the contrary, Cameron wants to connect "private capital to investment in social projects". That, I suspect, is what the "big society" is really all about.
Parents may decide to start a school, but they will soon find it's best to bring in private money and hire private management if it is to get off the ground and survive as a going concern.
Several private companies, most earning millions from outsourced public projects, are already offering their services. Some openly admit that they aim to create branded chains of schools which they will largely control even if they do not legally own them.
It never seems to cross what passes for their minds that such a degraded worldview is both vulgar and unbecoming of honourable that treats people like commodities, as though 'human resources', a term first coined by the Nazis. Where people are assessed only according to their use value, then depersonalisation and dehumanisation will follow.
Remember what happened to those classic 19th-century self-help institutions, the building societies. Thanks to Tory legislation in the 1980s, their owners - the customers - were bribed to "demutualise" and sell out to commercial banks. For "big society", read big bonanza for big business.