This post is also available in: Czech
From time to time my home department draws the attention of blogging ambassadors to some international day (see my recent blog on democracy). But I hadn’t heard before about Blog Action Day, when bloggers across the world are encouraged to promote a common theme.
‘The Power of We’ – science fiction or philosophy? Neither. The theme was much more down to earth. The power of people working together to bring about positive change.
The Velvet Revolution is one of the greatest examples of the ‘power of we’. Recognized around the world, the Wenceslas Square crowds epitomize the power for public action to bring about extraordinary change. But civil action is not simply about seismic change. Day by day commitment can make a difference too, bringing incremental or preserving something valuable.
In the UK we tend to take our deeply rooted, civic society for granted. I better understood its importance once I had seen how communism eroded the opportunity and will of individuals to make a difference to their own lives and the lives of others. Even now some post communist countries view non-governmental organisations with mistrust. In the Czech Republic, twenty three years after the fall of communism, civil society is developing and gaining strength.
Famously, in the UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more members than the main political parties combined. So does the National Trust, which owns and cares for historical houses and monuments. As well as their primary role, such organisations have an educational one, and a powerful voice in informing and influencing policy.
Civil society functions at a local level too. As well as ‘formal’ institutions – school, Parish Council, church – my home village holds an annual flower show, runs a local ‘heritage bank’, cares for a small nature reserve and supports a poor Ghanaian village. Civil society, the ‘power of we’, is the fabric of society.
The ‘Power of We’ can also be negative. If we are apathetic and fail to hold elected representatives to account at the ballot box, if we fail to protect the environment, if we tolerate corruption, intolerance or abuse, these problems perpetuate themselves and slip down the political agenda. But perhaps in a democratic country the greatest opportunity offered by the ‘Power of We’ is the right to stand for office and show ourselves ready to accept responsibility for bringing about the change we wish to see.