Edmund Burke comes back into fashion

Slung Low’s food bank was, like its theatre performances, a large-scale production. But it was by no means the only initiative of its kind to emerge during the pandemic. Over the past 18 months, 4,000 mutual aid groups formed across the country, staffed by millions of volunteers, who patched together safety nets for those in need. Whether delivering food, helping elderly people or supporting those with deteriorating mental health, many mutual aiders fast realised that help is a two-way street. For some, it provided an immediate way to practise political values. Other volunteers I spoke with said it offered them meaning and purpose in a way that actual, paid work did not.

Could this flourishing of mutual aid and volunteering have a sustainable effect on the way we do politics, or will it simply evaporate as the pandemic recedes from view? Regular contact with Holbeck’s community, many of whom live in deprivation, has been an altering experience for Slung Low volunteers, one they can neither forget nor untie themselves from. Food banking is an exchange of much more than groceries: care, connection and trust passes between people, too. “We are part of the community and beholden to each other now,” Alan Lane, the theatre’s artistic director, told me when I visited the food bank in June.

The only pity here is that The Guardian doesn’t realise it’s echoing Burke and all that stuff about the little platoons. They’re just too ignorant to see the connection.

10 thoughts on “Edmund Burke comes back into fashion”

  1. I doubt whether it’s ignorance, at least someone at the G must know of him. It’s that Burke was a philosopher opposed to large government and thus must be wrong and unmentionable in the G even when his philosophy espouses what we now call grass roots activism. The minds of the readers must not be contaminated with non-Guardianista thought!

  2. They’re just too ignorant to see the connection.

    Or, of course, the role of the Welfare State in destroying those little platoons.

  3. If “millions” is only 1 million then each of 4000 organisations has 2500 volunteers each. Sorry but I call bullshit on that.

  4. @Ecks… That would be 250 volunteers per… You’re out by a factor of 10. Still somewhat unlikely though.

  5. I imagine an outfit called Slung Low gets a lot of requests for sweet and sour chicken with special fried rice.

  6. By coincidence a mention of Grover Cleveland over at Chiefio’s produced this quote from him on vetoing a bill proposing to hand out subsidy to farmers in Texas.

    “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

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