Johnnie Moore

Citizens

connections between unhurried conversations and the idea of citizens
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Jon Alexander's book explores the shift from consumer to citizen

Transcript of this video:

In his book, citizens, the author Jon Alexander offers us three different stories to describe our potential role in society.

The first story is the Subject story, and that’s the one that most of our ancestors would’ve lived with.

Highly constrained lives where you basically do as you’re told by your local warlord or your king or your emperor.

And then in the last few decades, we’ve, many of us moved from that to the Consumer story, which is more appealing.

In the Consumer story, our role is to use our market power to exercise choice and get what we want out of life, which gives us a greater sense of power, but I think has a lot of drawbacks.

Often the choice is quite trivial: which of 50 different sorts of yogurt do you want in the supermarket?

Actually that choice in, in the end becomes a bit frustrating and paralysing.

And it also infects our politics. You get consumer politics where the deal appears to be a party makes you a series of promises and merely by voting for them, you think that you are going to get what you want.

In the UK there are many people saying, oh, this isn’t the Brexit I voted for.

As if by merely voting for something, you are magically entitled to have it come about exactly as you wish. Well, that’s sort of how marketing works. That’s how consumerism works.

So Jon proposes a third more attractive story, which is the Citizen story in which we become more proactive and shape our own lives.

The way I would put it is we actually engage with the difficulty of life rather than falling for a series of simplistic and false solutions.

Now there’s quite an overlap I think between Jon’s idea and what I’ve been discovering this past ten years working on unhurried.

I’ve hosted hundreds of these unhurried conversations, typically over a coffee, often with no agenda, where people come together and speak.

And the only rule of the conversation really is that we don’t interrupt each other it’s been an amazing and satisfying experience because what people I think often discover is just by sharing experience together we come to realise that we’re all actually human beings trying to make sense of a stressful and complicated world, and we are not here to fix each other.

But an unhurried conversation is if you like, a way of working together where we are not being tricked into consuming a whole lot of stuff, maybe a cup of coffee.

Now, the Consumer model often promises us that kind of companionship and fellowship, but usually attached to the consumption of lots of food or wine or travel or clothing, or to have a lifestyle apartment.

I always remember how lifestyle apartments were typically marketed: less with pictures of what you’re actually buying and more with pictures of happy couples in wine bars, clinking glasses of wine together.

As if to say by buying this apartment you can create human fellowship rather than human fellowship being something which I would say is almost like a fundamental right that we have as human beings – if we choose to do the work of relating to each other.

 

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

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