A “hello” and a “how are you” are more important than ever before.
My novels explore communities and also integration, all wrapped up in the disguise of a crime-thriller.
Recently, a lot of my time has been spent talking about how my parents’ generation took the “fight” into exclusively white-neighbourhoods with a war of attrition.
We changed people’s views from considering us to be “the other” to “one of them”. I know that probably sounds “crude” but it’s really not difficult to understand how to bring communities together. You simply do just that – “bring them together”.
When I was growing up, remaining inside four-walls and having EVERYTHING come to you, whether an Amazon delivery or a supermarket-shop was not possible. It meant everyone had to venture outside and this meant that people said, “hello” to one-another, stood next to each other in a queue and asked for help / assistance whether it was a post-office counter, a corner-shop counter or a library one.
We cannot alter this monumental shift in habits. Convenience has become king. But it has come at a cost.
That “war of attrition” my parent’s generation and indeed my generation fought can no longer be fought on a familiar battlefield. Indeed, the explosion in social media has meant that narratives can quite easily be manipulated.
Fake news is everywhere.
The death of newspapers and credible, experienced journalists has meant that it is now harder than ever to decipher fact from fiction.
To explore real social breakdowns and the reasons why, we need to be able to identify manipulated snapshots.
When we factor in the economic meltdown, notably, that terrible word, “austerity” we can see that poorer communities have been disproportionately affected.
Indeed, austerity has led to people now looking around their communities and questioning, just what contribution immigrants have or have not made. I know this because I see it. I hear it.
And now, I feel it.
Lately, I’ve heard a phrase I had not heard for years, ‘…you’re ok Amit. You’re one of us…”
What does that even mean?
What is the solution?
Well, it is fairly straight-forward.
Get people talking again.
Force those simple “hello’s” and “How are you’s?” back into circulation. We need to think forward of how we might achieve this and it does not involve “think-tanks”, expensive research and focus-groups. Government could do themselves a favour by simply reading, Lord Andrew Mawson’s book, “The social entrepreneur” in which he describes how the death of progress is organisations and think-tanks who have no practical experience of life in the communities they are supposed to help. What Lord Mawson speaks of in his book and indeed what he went on to prove, was that, only by communities coming together themselves and engineering change by collaboration and integration, could they change their outcomes.
The answer is healthcare because healthcare is necessary, vital and we can force outcomes to do with community cohesion.
Although, not how the current government are doing it.
Currently, the U.K. is around 5000 GP’s short, a figure which is not going to change anytime soon. We also have a massive shortage of nurses (those bursary cuts don’t seem too clever now do they) and an ageing population, who, quite frankly do not want an online-surge of healthcare services.
As a pharmacist and before that, a corner-shop keeper, I have spent most of my life behind a counter, speaking with people, understanding them and trying to help.
Even when I’ve had customers or patients who might have judged me by my skin-colour or “background”. They may have done so the first time, perhaps even the second, fifth and fortieth time. But it didn’t last. It never does.
People create change – not process.
So, the fact that the government has decimated community pharmacy funding (a draconian cut of 12%) is so short-sighted. It is doing precisely what ruling by a bank-balance does – puts process ahead of people.
It is called COMMUNITY pharmacy for a reason. The clue is in the title. And it remains, the last bastion of a fractured high-street.
Doing our food-shopping, clothes and goods online has occurred. It has made a handful of tech companies more powerful than any one organisation should ever be. It has made integrating harder (whether race, social class or gender) because nowadays, you can quite easily exist in a bubble where vital commodities come to you. People can now (and do) socialise purely with other people who think just like they do – which means narratives can become one-dimensional and insular.
Now, there exists limited chances for those casual (and vital) “hello’s” and “how are you’s” to spark a conversation or observation which leads to dialogue and shared experiences.
Healthcare is the last place we can do this; the last place we can bring people together for a greater-good, whether that be health-related or community-cohesion related.
12,000 high street pharmacies must be the focus and beacon of a newly sculpted high-street future. We must invest fully in these community-hubs and remove massive pressures from GP-practises and A&E departments.
Honestly, it’ really not that complex a process of what needs to happen – we just have too many chiefs and not enough Indians (pun intended).
I wrote to our current health-minister last year because I wanted to bring a different view to a clichéd, broken argument to do with healthcare funding and indeed bring 35-years of people-experience to the argument.
He didn’t reply, which pretty much goes to prove my point.
People don’t matter anymore.
And this means, we all lose.