Thursday, October 16, 2014

The pursuit of loneliness and the affordablility of housing

This is a letter written to the Guardian in response to an article by George Monbiot.

"George Monbiot (Life in the age of loneliness 15 October) does not
refer to the role that our planning system has played, at least as an
accomplice, in creating the loneliest 'society' in Europe. During the
next few years hundreds of thousands of new homes will be built,
mostly following a model that could reasonably be described as
“pandering to privacy". In 1968 an American sociologist Philip Slater
suggested that,  “The longing for privacy  is generated by the drastic
conditions that a longing for privacy produces.”  We seem to be in
this vicious cycle where our individualism makes it increasingly
difficult to provide mutual support and affection. Private housing is
being designed to be not only privately owned but anti-social in its
occupation.  Planners should be engaged in the provision of co-housing
where care and companionship are the norm."

The Slater book was called the Pursuit of Loneliness and the vicious circle he describes has been dividing society since he identified the insidious effects of privacy. 

On unrelated matters I thought that I would share a thought from a friend about how to make climate change conversations more compelling. Mutually Assured Destruction or the Path of MADnesss is well understood as one of the factors which induced nuclear powers to keep their weapons under wraps for the second half of the 20th Century.  MAD would seem equally apt in respect of the effects of climate change and should be an inducement to all emitters to agree to reductions.

On the topic of acronyms I am now using SI units (not for Systeme International - mm, cm, m, km etc) but for units of Self-Indulgence as a handy label for individualistic behaviour.  Examples would be a long haul flight to a sandy beach being close to the max of 10 points but the same flight to help care for ebola sufferers would be zero.  A short haul to attend a conference that was being skyped/streamed would be about 5.  We then move to degrees C of curmudgeonliness, where my complaints about the planning system are at least 5 and would be much higher if not justified by the facts.

A new week and a new initiative to build 200,000 plus dwellings per year. This time it is the Labour Party failing to understand that we have reached the limits of affordability ie all  housing for those not being able to climb onto the housing ladder through earning at least a living wage  (and in most places much more) has to have a public subsidy. This subsidy whether for rent or purchase goes straight to the landowner.  Why would the majority of voters not support a scheme for the compulsory purchase of land designated for housing in development plans - with ample funds going to physical and social infrastructure?

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