Opinion

In the face of this emergency, revolutionary thinking is required

To prevent further poverty and homelessness, John Bird says radical, emergency thinking is needed immediately

Homeless on Victoria Embankment

Tents of homeless people on London’s Victoria Embankment are evidence of the emergency we face. Image: Contributor: Travers Lewis / Alamy

A stopping, a halting, a reflecting is required of us in a time of galloping events. According to the Levelling Up ministry, the latest figures for street homelessness show a 26 per cent increase in two years. So here is a government source admitting that their plans to get rid of street homelessness by 2024 are unlikely to be achieved.  It’s an emergency, and one of many.

Covid and inflation continue to undermine the authority of government actions and intentions. Our social fabric is being eroded because of the pandemic’s bitter legacy, and inflation seems to make social planning a mere unpalatable irrelevance.  

We are being screwed by the Ukraine war which is making more people in the world poor because of inflation. Covid has decimated the ranks of those at the lowest pay margins. And yet, this new reality is not being grasped. The government shows no urgency in bringing this emergency into focus. Before Covid and the Ukraine war there was Brexit, whose costs echo and resound through all of our current crisis and needs. But there is no cogent analysis of the current emergencies and needs that we can bring to bear on strategising for solutions.  

There is no ‘war cabinet’ mentality: ministers seem to be continuing on their merry time-honoured way when what is needed is strong central strategic coordination – even though the Ukraine war is changing everything in terms of the geopolitical world order. Even though inflation is throwing up more poverty than any other event in the last 100 years.  

And add to the above the erosion of the environment that throws up increasingly unpredictable weather, drying up our tomato supply, not to mention our cucumbers.  

A 23,000 increase in the number of deaths brought on by the clogging up of hospitals and their A&E departments makes us feel we almost live in a war zone. Yet where is the strategy from central government to make the most of resources, and the use of emergency powers to lessen the damage being done to society?  

The overplayed and overused term ‘the perfect storm’– I even used it on the BBC myself last week – explains it all: the coordination of resources and support needs to be brought together almost as a Ministry of the Emergency.  

Emergency powers are dangerous tools of government if used politically. But if used to prevent mass homelessness, unnecessary deaths, social collapse and a massive increase in poverty, then they are deeply essential.  

Concentrating the public mind on the troubles we face is not an easy task. Sectional needs and concerns are given priority over the need to move beyond emergencies. But the pain will last longer unless we have the central leadership that has been lacking throughout the current emergencies.  

We have had appalling political and social leadership for much of the past 23 years, since we entered the new millennium. All the big problems we have to navigate now are largely due to the decisions our global leaders have been taking. The galloping rate of crisis after crisis has been orchestrated by some of the most miserable thinking imaginable.  

Our leaders are not thinkers. They fudge and fake understanding. The time has come to reinvent thinking. To sweep away the shite thinking that dominates our great universities, producing the asinine fools that compound our global problems.  

A revolution in thinking strategically around how we get through the emergencies that are gutting
our world.  

The only way to respond to emergencies is to embrace them and reduce them by strong emergency thinking. Then we can say goodbye to them.  

Coordination is supremely called for now. The government has to embrace the emergencies as a prelude to seeing our way through them and ending them.  

But reflect we must, halt and gather our thoughts, and act. 

John Bird is the founder and editor in chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

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