Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Big Society – A Load of Carp.

The Big Society was a fishy government stance where professional and essential reef maintenance/services (which at the time were paid for by reef tax) were hoped to be largely taken off the fins of the fish-public sector to save costs and to allow the private fish sector to profit. Any voids in fish-public sector services would be filled by small shoals of local volunteer fish or private fishy businesses who were given more opportunities to make some more quick fishy money. This appeared on the outside like a good idea as it would save the indebted reef a lot of money. The trouble for the small fish was that the Prime Fish couldn't quite explain how The Big Society would work or what his plans of implementation actually were. The fish who were already playing an active role in the Big Society of the reef (those who already had a fin on the current), had their own ideas, but couldn't quite put their fins on the detail because it turned out there wasn't much there.

In an attempt to help the Prime Fish, one of his fishy party described it as being like a "human country" where the people of "the local citizen groups extend, vivify & shape their landscape".

As the reef was already a 'Big Society' many wondered what difference it would make. Several prominent fish stood up and watered their voices to the masses to ask what difference it would make to those smaller fish who needed the services more than most. The Prime Fish said his plans would go so far as to help small fish to help themselves but it did seem an odd way to go about it. After all, besides saving the big fish more money how could this help? The branding and scheme went ahead anyway, the prime fish decreed it his passion.

No one seemed to really understand the scheme fully, but here is what we understood it to be halibut at that time:

First - the fish-public sector was cut back to save funds; volunteer fish, social enterprise and private sector fishy businesses were urged to fill the wide open waters left behind.

Second, 'The Big Fish Society' that already existed was branded and claimed for the Prime Fish's own pollocktical agenda so whatever good was to come out of it in the future can now be claimed for the governing fishy-party.

Thirdly, a chest of fishy money was made available to those groups of fish who thought they could do a job through volunteering or setting up the reef structures and facilities required to replace areas of the fish-public sector run reef that had been cut.

Finally, a general trend underpinning this particular reef was the tax concessions to private sector fishy-business, given undemocratically accountable fishy business and private individuals concessions to fill any gaps in the reef and exploit it as they wished as long as the prime fish agreed. For anything unprofitable, other private groups of fish were asked to step up to fill the gaps and keep the reef in one piece, obviously for less than it would have cost the fish-public sector.

Simply, the big solution was to tell all fish something that they already knew; that they could do things for themselves. The underlying methods to giving out such control though resulted in leaving the poorest small fish worse off but very much helping those fish who already had the means to help themselves exploit the reef more. It turned out that the only underlying plan was for the small fish of the reef to pay to privatise their reef for the big fish and as well as that they were being asked to do more in their limited spare time to make this unfair reefy system even more detrimentally unfair.

And so it turned out to be: those areas of the reef where nutrients and resources were already still flowing and where the fish were already biggest, were able to take control of their needs and improve things further. They didn't miss the reef maintenance, their small part of the big fish society stood stronger for it.

The small fish soon saw their hopes start to unravelled when the bigger fish who gained from the changes didn't have any obligations in their contracts to help the bigger encompassing society of the reef. As seems to be fish nature, when they didn't have to, they tended not to, after all, it wasn't their problem. Wasn't that what the Prime Fish's government and the fish-public sector was for. They believed the small fish should pay to improve their own standard of life like they had.

For the Prime Fish and the big fish, the reef was being run the most efficiently it could be to give the big fish the best life possible and reach their goals, they could swim the sea so much easier with lots of fishy money in far offshore banks, from reef to reef they swam, gathering all they could - to do what with, no small fish knew, all they did know is that it didn't help the rest of the reef or the worse off fish in what became 'The Big Fish Society'. As life was great for these growing populations of big fish, they praised the prime fish for such a clever plan.

At the edge of the reef, things didn't swim smoothly at all. In fairness to the Prime Fish he did get some small fish into work who had been taking advantage of the reef-system such as with benefits and the likes, but the ways in which the Prime Fish did this also put strain on the already vulnerable fish who truly did need the help and now were left high and dry.

In many highly populated parts of the reef, the poorest fish struggled and this smaller part of the big society, if anything, degraded into poverty: The small fish tried to help one another, they swam together in small groups trying to keep going, as they always did do before this prime fish had come to power.

Lots of the smaller fish also struggled to volunteer because they were not in a position to do so: Many left their school at the age of 16 weeks, went straight into a minimum wage job and began to work long and unsociable hours just to get by, stuck in their jobs. Unfortunately though, with less and less fish-public services available, their health started to suffer, their coral accommodation and living situations became more transient and stretched. Some older poor fish couldn't even afford to cool their water and fried in the summer. Parts of the reef became no-go areas where sharks would prey on the vulnerable and no chest of money from the prime fish was enough to convince enough of the bigger fish to help, there just wasn't any profit in it. The fish-public sector was just a shell of its former self. Those who could afford private care still used it's resources but paid as little reef-tax as they could afford to. To compound issues, pollution soared all over the reef and it was left to the dwindling fish-public sector to tidy up the mess.

There were just more fishes in need and fishy problems then fishes able to help.
Around that time it was also reported that many homeless Squid seeking a shelter were inking themselves all over the reef as the fish-public sector couldn't afford to fund public toilets and voluntary homeless shelters couldn't afford to keep up with growing demand.

Originally when the chest of money was offered, even those with the means to help, those who already did valuable charity work ended up struggling with the fall in resources caused when the fish-public sector was hit and their income sources diminished. Their work suffered. The money that was given out sometimes went to private groups who squanderer it on schemes that were destined to fail but with no fish-public monitoring or accountability, these schemes continued helping waste the little money available. There was just no alternative, accountability or anyone to tell them to stop.

Those who did do a great job were up against it. The cleaner fish in charge of things didn't mind, they were deluded in the belief that market forces work just the same with fishy-social-capital as they did with fishy-financial-capital. The life of a fish in these poorest areas became much worse than it had before. The small fish had very few ways to hold to account those running the required services and provisions and it soon became apparent the big fish society didn't include them. They were as good as tinned.

Some divisions at the poorest end of fish society took it upon themselves to segregate themselves from the bigger society to get by, this compounded problems and lines of divisions much worse than in times of the not so distant past appeared. Fish tensions continued to rise as blinkered educational teachings and social segregation led to further introversion , ignorance and distrust. Small fish everywhere nibbled at the very foundations of the reef in order to get by and stay safe.

The big fish in the nice parts of the reef were disgusted by the small fish and wasted no time in getting their skates on to hire security fish to protect those well kept parts of the reef. Fish society on the reef became more divided than ever before. The Big Society had splintered, the biggest divide was between the poor and the wealthy and it was the small fish who got poorer and the big fish grew richer - society at the bottom of the reef was rock bottom. In the Ocean financial league tables, the reef still came near the top for its size, it's private sector was booming but very little was seen by the majority of reef and the reef and it's society were crumbling due to the divisions.

The Prime Fish however was still sure he had done the right thing and told the masses of small fish that he had given them the opportunity to improve their own lives and society. They had failed him and their society. To the Prime Fish, it was indeed all the fault of the small fish that his plan didn't work in raising social-capital and that the reef was not the Big Society he had envisaged. When the fish-press were not focused on the Prime Fish though, he was proud at how his scheme had risen monetary-capital for his friends the big fish and the Sharks and in turn were pleased with him.

What troubled the Prime Fish most other than trying to fix the mess his reef, was that the opinion polls were showing that he was probably going to lose the next fishselection.

The Prime Fish couldn't work it out in time and although a valiant attempt to put more spin on the whirlpool fishselection campaign, the prime fish was voted out at that next fishselection, but only just; 'Don't bite the hand that feeds you' was the campaign message but it didn't help.

The outgoing prime fish then went on to work for one of the fishy-companies he had helped to grow wealthy and powerful during his time at the top of the reef. He retired to the nicest part of another reef holding the same delusion that he had done to best for all his fishy-kin from the reef and indeed the sea. Other reefs even paid him to come and speak in-front of their leaders as they wanted their reef to be climbing those financial league tables too.

...To be Continued.

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