I like the declaration of independence, especially the second sentence. “We take these truths for granted: that all people are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights (and that these include having 30 people in our garden.) ”
I shudder at those dark days when our gardens were empty of 11-a-side football matches with four substitutes, a referee and three assistants. Finally, I can simultaneously host a baseball game and a performance of Twelve angry men.
It is more important to be free from my bubble. I walk the world – I am no longer surrounded by people genetically “like me”. Instead, we can all open our doors to the rich pageantry of life (well, five people).
But as you welcome “The Chosen Five” to your home, take a closer look. How diverse do they seem? Don’t they seem – just a little bit – quite similar? Here’s the truth – they probably are.
Across the West, as our societies have become remarkably full of differences – in terms of race, income, age, politics and education – our social circles have remained remarkably full of people “like us”.
Half of graduates have only graduate friends. Most retirees have no contact with millennials to whom they are unrelated. Half of us don’t have friends of a different race. A fifth of Remain and Leave voters in the Brexit referendum are not socializing with anyone who voted the other way around.
Our divisions remain the most important by class. A qualified lawyer should invite 100 people to his garden before inviting an unemployed person.
So what? Why is this important?
The problem is, these social divisions matter. They weaken our democracy, creating opportunities for chief dividers like Donald Trump. It’s much easier to convince half the country than the other half to lie if your supporters never meet the other half.
Our class divisions make our country less fair. Why? Because “it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know”. In a divided society, middle-class children have access to networks that the poorest children never know. As the research presented in my new book shows, these divisions slow down our economies and increase our anxieties.
But then what? It is a free country. If I want to spend all my time like this, that’s my business. If that means poor children stay poor, our democracy becomes tribal and our anxieties skyrocket. There is nothing we can do about it.
This is madness. This is also the West’s current approach to our fractures. So far virtually every government has sought to bridge our divisions by appealing to British values, hosting a few garden parties for the Queen and using the flag more.
We bring warm words to a shootout. This is the approach of the Barrington Declaration to our divisions: do nothing and hope all is gone.
It’s time to change course and start bringing our society together. Here is my radical proposal. We should be forced – at times in our lives – to spend time with people “not like us”. Yes, you read that right.
We are forced to pay taxes. We are mandated to be part of a jury. We have a mandate to drive at a certain speed. We live with these appalling impositions. Why? Because it benefits our society. What our society needs right now is that each of us spend some of our time on this earth with people who are not quite like us.
What would that actually mean? It could look like this: a community service program for teens as part of the school curriculum, a fully funded parenting program for new parents that brings together parents from different backgrounds, or a national retirement service helping us transition to a new parent. life after work. Three new institutions, designed to begin to rebuild our country.
The end of the Covid-19 pandemic is in sight. The end of our biggest national crisis since 1945. We should learn from this generation. They did not spoil their crisis. He had brought them together – in combat and on the home front. Connected like this, they saw something wrong with their society. People got sick and died, unable to afford treatment.
They didn’t shrug their shoulders. They acted. They built a free national health service when the need arose. This crisis revealed a new problem. We have become socially estranged from each other and this is making our society sick. It’s time to stop shrugging. It’s time to get out of our bubbles
Jon Yates is an author and charity leader. His book, “Fractured: Why Our Societies Are Coming Apart And How We Put Them Back Together Again”, is published by HarperCollins June 10