British Values

August 12, 2011

A week ago I was chatting with my good friend Jon who used to live in London, but moved back to the New York. We were talking about the different types of stress we noticed on both sides of the pond since we last saw each other. This is a little extract from our conversation:

me: here it’s not about ego

its about liability

Jonathan: ?

22:16 me: there is a lot of stress because the system is going to get stuck soon

22:17 and everyone tries to be according to the system so they can’t be blamed if something will go wrong

Jonathan: how will it get stuck?

22:18 me: the UK is still a mediaeval country

Jonathan: like with knights and horses?

me: the rules just emerged

like everyone made them up gradually

22:19 not like the French, they had Napoleon to clean it all up

and the German had their dark side of history where they thought they could all clean it up

UK never had a revolution

except the industrial one

22:20 so the rules of the country are still mediaeval

Jonathan: hm

me: but that is also good, because it allows people to stay creative


22:29 Jonathan: you’ll have to tell me more about this systemic UK thing later

i gotta go to a beisbol game

Well now we are one week further, we still have food and games but the world has made a significant change again for the forth time or so this year.

Despite I can get very annoyed with the UK (especially when liability takes over common sense), I also like this nation because it gives space and freedom to innovation. I use the following slides sometimes in work-presentations to explain innovation and to illustrate the good and bad sides of innovation.

This brings me to the following scene from Network 1976 and the London basmati looter 2011 (see below).

I haven’t seen the whole movie and I don’t know the context of this looting so my apology if I jump into conclusions here.

People got mad in England the last week and what they are saying is “I am a human being goddamit, my life got value”. Unfortunately innovations in this country have reduced or skewed the understanding of value towards the concept of Tesco Value. Tesco provides value because it’s cheap, but the downfalls are that its not of high quality, you always get more than you need, it creates a lot of waste and it destroys communities. The Brits (with the English on top) love this concept.

The problem in the current British society is that they put young people in a Tesco-value box without looking to the real value inside. We are creating an enormous mess behind us, we are facing an aging population, credit crunches and massive environmental problems. And now we are treating our young people as cheap forces. The question on how to deal with the problems we created will be their problem to solve.

The reason behind my argument about cheap forces is that one of the main innovations in the UK, the 24/7 consumption society, is based on favouring big companies who are not in need of skilful people. Traditional entrepreneurship, by small business where people build up skills, are doomed to fail in this model.

This basmati looter is as mad as hell and he can’t take it any more! In my economic view, what he is saying here is that he can get more value out of a bag of low quality rice than what he would gain from his time within a free society. In my sociological view, what he is saying is that he doesn’t respect Tesco value and he rather go to prison (by being recognisable on the picture) than to put his time in creating value in this society turning around cheapness.

Now Mr. Cameron wants to put some young people in the box of “Parts of our society are not broken but sick” I am not totally clear on how he sees the difference between broken and sick, but I think Mr. Cameron should look further than a few parts of the society.

I would put the looters in the box of skilled people with high potentials for the future society. They have the skills to create social change, be entrepreneurial with a very limited amount of resources (just a mobile phone) and being able to influence communities.

And I would like to finish this post with some good old British humour. What we need is nurturing our kids, not giving the little boy a little scare Mr Cameron.

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