Many thanks to those of our readers who offered thoughts on our first article on Civil Society. Responses came through Facebook and Twitter and tended to focus upon the rather vague concept they felt we offered of civil society. We accept that these comments are valid because the very notion of a civil society is personal and subject to place and experience. In short there is clearly a local and global perspective.
Our assumption for the article was that a civil society equated to a well working democratic, free, and just society. One where community cohesion is evident and where there is a shared vision, inclusion of those with diverse backgrounds, equal opportunity, and supportive relationships between groups and between individuals.
The challenge for our local communities going forward is that there is no one agreed definition of community cohesion. Definitions tend to focus on the relationship between the individual, their community and wider society. They also focus on providing opportunities for our people to interact, work together, develop positive relationships and to contribute to their community. Further they emphasize the importance of:
- A common vision
- Shared values based on democracy
- A sense of belonging and membership
The Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations (CTPSR) identifies six key facets of community cohesion:
- Interaction between individuals, communities and wider society to promote trust and shared understanding
- Active citizenship; participation in civil society; in public institutions, the workplace and in political life
- Equality of access with evidence of progress towards equality of outcome across society
- A society at ease with itself, with a real sense of security, welcome and belonging
- Respect for the rule of law and the liberal values that underpin society
- The possession of civil, political, social rights and responsibilities across the board.
Of course, readers will have their own views of the current position of our people in their communities in terms of the CTPSR six key facets of community cohesion. There is much contemporary debate about the erosion of UK democracy and the willful destruction of the conventions of our democratic processes under the rule of law. There is also debate about the rise of populism across the world as a cloak to undermine democracy. Some would say that we are living under a rapidly developing crisis for capitalism and democracy and that we need a new form of democratic government enshrined in a new economics if we are to survive intact as communities.
Interestingly the OECD in a recent paper advances a new societal contract with a new economy with values at its center.
Cohesion the meaning: the action or fact of forming a united whole
Forming a united whole when there is no unity is the difficult part. Communities are not united; the county is not united, and neither is the country. So how do we unite? Recent events show a country with deep divisions. We must start at the beginning.
Communities will face the same division as those of the country. There will be disagreement about what can unite us, but there will be fundamental agreement.
I am sure that we would all agree that we require a good education for our children. We may not agree on the best place for this to happen. That which brings us together is the belief in that education. A simple agreement but one that makes it cohesive. It will be simple agreements like this which will lead to a collective cohesive society.
Democracy in Britain is being eroded. Day by day we see reports of people being arrested for what is their fundamental rights, such as protest. As a society we have a collective right to do this. As a society if we stood together against the tirade of attacks on our human rights, there would be a more cohesive society. Governments would recognize that they could not abuse our rights and democracy would be won.
It is only by recognizing that as a collective society with fundamental agreement that we can become more cohesive, and that cohesion will lead to change. By uniting against the wrongs that we perceive and by becoming whole, uniting against this, will we become that cohesive society.
As active citizens we must stand up against that which divides us. We must unite to ensure that a cohesive society is what we need to build to go forward. We must understand each other, trust each other, and agree on what we need as a society. It is only with this we will form the bonds which will unite us as communities, counties, and the country.
We must understand our position in society and strive to include all parts of the community, no matter colour, sexuality, education, age, sex and so on. We must seek to be inclusive. Respect each other and the needs of all. Then we must unite and become the force that we can be united. This will bring about cohesion and together we will be able to face the many challenges which lie ahead. So, unite, let us do this together.
As usual we do truly value your feedback and your engagement with our Socratic discussion. Please send your responses /ideas/thoughts/ contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org