Common Weal Fife 1st Meeting – 1.12.14
The Common Weal ideology is a simple one. It asks basic questions like ‘if you could do anything, what would you do?’ There’s something fresh about the language, with phrases like ‘practical idealism’ and ‘all-of-us-first’ that make you pay attention. Words can be just words of course and before we all get tongue-tied in a world of doublespeak we need to remember that in politics words without actions often don’t make any sense at all.
The first Common Weal Fife gathering like most meetings was an activity of words: written, spoken and shared. The sheer energy of these exchanges was palpable in a room crammed with 60 odd folk with a singular purpose: to change something.
On a wet Monday night in December it was amazing to see folks from all walks of Fife huddled round tables, discussing and writing down the ideas to help shape our Common Weal. We had feedback sessions that became enthusiastic conversations about the main topics. One of the next tasks for Common Weal Fife is to bring together the content of these exchanges as best we can.
As we collate all of the written contributions here’s a little taster from the feedback sessions:
The controversy of fracking and unconventional oil and gas extraction kicked things off. The debate was passionate and informative on this key issue. The group discussed ideas on how to campaign by taking the issue to local elected representatives via local area committees or contacting local MP, MSPs or MEPs. They work for you, remember? We asked questions about our local authorities being really ‘local’ or are they over large organisations that are easy for those with influence to hide behind? Participatory democracy is a keystone in Common Weal philosophy – we should all know how to communicate our ideas, and our public opinion, to our representatives.
Next up for discussion was the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) and it’s sneaky wee pal Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This was one of those seemingly dull and boring issues that the independence referendum taught us to inform ourselves about. Although it was probably meant to sound that way. Perhaps we’re not supposed to imagine a government being sued in a corporate legal system for wanting to reverse the privatisation of the railways back into public ownership?
Common Weal Fife needs to fit into our county’s geography with its diverse population spread. There were ideas about keeping an overall Common Weal Fife to maintain a large group presence with possibility of issues based sub-groups to co-ordinate meetings/campaigns and build expertise on specific topics. There were ideas to reflect smaller areas (could they mirror Fife Council’s local area committees?) in groups that could feedback into a larger group. Certainly there was no shortage on ideas to build the structure of Common Weal Fife.
Common Weal comes as the notion of a ‘think and do’ tank: words with action. This presupposes purpose along with how to take Common Weal ideas out of the theoretical and making the idealism practical. There was talk of simply promoting access to meetings for all, especially young people. We should look at venues, locations and how to get people to events, opening out social media resources to all who want to use them and encouraging creative ideas on taking the message out. There are ways to take Common Weal ideas into daily life from shopping local to forming practical community action groups. One suggestion involves lending a hand to our community’s elderly whereby others could work their unused garden space. Not only would the garden’s owner(s) be able to enjoy the goodness of home-grown produce but they would possibly benefit from the social interaction too.
If you could do anything, what would you do?