Society & culture
Boom time for doom and gloom
Self-loathing is the new sense of entitlement. Discuss.
According to Hollywood it’s the end of the world and it’s our fault. The film of Cormac McCarthy’s book, The Road, is ample evidence of the misanthropic loathing of human achievement. It is, we are told, a tale of environmental destruction. Avatar, the biggest grossing movie of all time, is similarly about the evils of the human species. Avatar took 140 million globally at the box office in just three days. We are, it seems, engrossed with films about the end of the world as we know it. As the Economist magazine recently pointed out: ‘In the rich world the idea of progress has become impoverished. The popular view is that, although technology and GDP advance, morals and society are treading water or, depending on your choice of newspaper, sinking back into decadence and barbarism.’
So, is it really the end of days? Don’t be ridiculous. First of all, apocalyptic predictions are nothing new. Recent outbreaks of panic have included Y2K, which was going to send us back to the dark ages unless we spent money like there was no tomorrow. We’ve also had (or didn’t) BSE, SARS, DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) on long-haul flights and Avian Flu, none of which caused anything like the amount of death and destruction many feared.
Global warming is a current concern, although even this fear has been supplanted by global cooling in some quarters. Going a further back we’ve had the Cuban Missile Crisis (1960) and Mutually Assured Destruction (the 1960s and early 1970s). Going further back in time, Honor de Balzac said in the late 19th century: ‘I expect a catastrophe. I really believe in the end of everything’; to which one could add Mohammed’s declaration in 7th Century Arabia that the Last Judgement was nigh. Zoroaster (1,300BC) similarly predicted that The End was around the next corner and Daniel and Revelations declared that all hell was about to break loose. Only it didn’t. What every single one of these predictions has in common is that they were all partially or completely wrong.
We’ve had our ups and downs of course (the Black Death, a couple of World Wars and so on) but we are still here. Life goes on. Moreover, some of these apocalyptic scenarios end rather well. The Book of Daniel ends with the Kingdom of God and The Book of Revelations ends with the Heavenly City. God is in control.
Maybe that’s what’s different now. As the writer Daniel Kalder points out, there is ‘no redemptive framework … no sacred texts’ for many of us nowadays. Hence, the pessimism. Contemporary apocalyptic forecasts are also based upon ‘evidence’ and, while this can be flaky, government policy is influenced and such predictions become a self-actualising reality.
Interestingly, the word ‘apocalypse’ doesn’t mean what we generally think it does. The word derives from the Greek meaning to uncover or reveal, which brings me back to Cormac McCarthy’s book.
I’ve haven’t seen the film yet, but the book it’s based on is a deeply dark and depressing tale. But its ending is, to me at least, upbeat. It is a book about the struggle for survival in a hostile and alien environment, but it is also about a human journey, one where hope, decency and love triumph over evil and despair. It is, in a way, a love story about a father and a child in which the child’s natural naivety and optimism shine through. ‘Are we still the good guys?’ he asks his father at one point. The answer is ‘yes’ and the young child’s empathy and concern for others overrides all else.
But why are these tales of doom and gloom so popular right now? The answer is events. 9/11 was caused by a group that, while not seeking the end of the world per se, did want to destroy a part of it. Recent wild weather and the GFC have also made us rather jittery. According to Dr Richard Landes, an apocalypse expert at Boston University: ‘Our love for the apocalypse is connected with our own sense of our own importance … it appeals to our megalomania.’
Doom and gloom is something we tend to think about when there are not enough real threats present. Landes also makes the point that the West is naturally an apocalyptic culture ever since the days of the Victorian missionaries. Landes goes on, ‘If it [the apocalypse] seems more intense now it’s because modern society is built on the idea of constant change, and so we need to constantly think about the future.’ I think this is true, but I’d add that the level of change is now relentless and we feel that we can’t cope. Furthermore, our faith in familiar frameworks (the church, government, the police, scientists etc) has started to crumble due to other events ranging from Enron and Weapons of Mass Destruction to the recent Climate Change email debacle.
So relax. The fact of the matter is that some issues we worry about (eg, volcanos) do not have a human cause and probably don’t have a human solution. We will have to adapt that’s all. It’s not the end of the world and even if it were, there wouldn’t be anything we could do about it. So we might as well have a nice doomsday.
Ref: The Spectator (UK), 19-26 December 2009, ‘It’s the end of the world. Again.’ D. Kalder. www.spectator.co.uk See also, The Weekend Australian (Aus), 16-17 January 2010, ‘There’s still hope for the good guys’, F. Furedi, www.theaustralian.com.au and The Economist (UK), 19 December 2009, ‘Onwards and upwards’, www.economist.com
Links: Prepare for the End: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Apocalypse’ by Daniel Kalder (Pub 2011)
Cyber crime of a different kind
This is hard to believe but it appears to be totally true. A couple that met online in South Korea, Kim Yoo-Chul (aged 41) and Choi Mi-sun (aged 25), recently allowed their small baby daughter to starve to death because they became obsessed with raising an ‘avatar child’ in a virtual world called Prius Online. Their virtual baby was apparently more satisfying than their real life one. According to police reports, the pair, both unemployed, left their daughter at home alone while they spent 12-hour sessions raising a virtual daughter called Anima from an internet cafe in a suburb of Seoul.
It’s easy to dismiss this story as being about a depraved couple that took their love of computer games too far. But perhaps this tale is more apocryphal they we imagine. For example, South Korea is in many ways more advanced than most when it comes to all things internet. The country opened a government sponsored internet addiction clinic back in 2002 and all Korean police stations now have cyber-bullying units. Korea is in some ways the shape of things to come. I don’t simply mean that internet addiction will become a recognised medical condition in the West (it will), but that companies are now designing computer games and virtual experiences that deliberately play upon how our subconscious brains work. For instance, screen-based gambling machines are now designed to attack known vulnerabilities so that people spend as long as possible on machines. The aim, in industry parlance, is to make people ‘play to extinction’.
Perhaps that’s why 77% of floor space is now given over to gambling machines in Las Vegas compared to 45% back in 1980. As Christopher Caldwell commented in the Financial Times recently, ‘Designing machines to be pleasurable or useful is one thing – designing them to be addictive is quite another.’
Ref: Financial Times (UK), 13-14 March 2010, ‘Games prey on your mind’, C. Caldwell, www.ft.com
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Search words: virtualisation, digitalisation, online, internet
Trend tags: -
Rise of the BRICs
If you are trying to explain the future, nothing quite beats an acronym. The acronym BRICs was coined by Jim O’Neil, Chief Economist of Goldman Sachs in London, in a briefing paper issued on 30 November 2001. The briefing (Building Better Economic BRICs) described how four nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China), chosen on the basis of population, economic development and attitudes towards globalisation, were reshaping the world in terms of economic power. The briefing note also boldly predicted that by the year 2041 (then revised to 2039) these nations would eclipse the six largest Western nations in terms of economic output. In other words, Russia, Brazil, India and China would soon reshape the world, not only in terms of money but also in terms of influence and ideas.
Critics immediately dismissed the BRIC concept as self-interested Goldman Sachs spin, especially because their figures were based upon a linear extrapolation way out to 2050 and because China had by far the strongest economy. Some critics even tried to respond with acronyms of their own. As a result we saw BRIMCK (adding Mexico), ALBRIMCKS (adding the Arab Region and South Africa), CHIME (China, India, Middle East) and even the CEMENT bloc (Countries Excluded from the Emerging New Terminology). Even Goldman Sachs had a go themselves coining a new acronym, N11, to describe the Next 11 countries (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam).
However, despite the cynicism, nobody to date has managed to shoot the BRIC tag down. In fact, following the recent GFC, the concept seems stronger than ever. Asian power is still rising and, with the exception of Russia, all of the BRIC nations have emerged from the GFC stronger than their Western counterparts. Goldman now predicts that China will eclipse the US economically by 2027 and that the BRIC bloc will overtake the six leading Western nations by 2031 – ten years sooner than originally predicted.
So where do things stand currently? Globalisation is continuing and Asia (or at least parts of the non-Western world) seems to becoming more powerful. As a result, US and Western values are being challenged like never before. This includes not only Western-inspired global institutions, but also Western belief systems. Moreover, the BRIC concept isn’t a purely intellectual exercise. The BRIC lens is now being used by executives to discuss strategy and a new generation of investment bankers and government policy-makers are using the tag to view future opportunities and threats. For example, if China becomes the world’s leading car market (which it just has) this his implications for demand for Brazilian copper. Thus asset prices can be adjusted. Goldman’s estimate that by 2030 there will be 2 billion new middle-class consumers living on the planet also has dramatic implications for other resources ranging from oil and gas to water and lithium.
So will the BRICs keep growing or could some cracks start to appear in the bloc? Personally I think the most likely outcome is exactly what Goldman says it is. However, I also believe that the bloc is a disparate group and that one or more of the nations could fall over or turn inwards economically. China arguably has a real estate bubble in the making, its financial system is suspect and the imbalance of young males in its population could cause trouble if growth slows and unemployment starts to rise. Russia is a tinderbox politically and Brazil’s prospects seem to rise and fall all the time. Which leaves India. But don’t forget about the likes of the US. The US is probably more resilient than most people realise and even Japan is a case study in ebb and flow and how economic might doesn’t always translate into global muscle.
Ref: Financial Times (UK), 16-17 January 2010, ‘The man who named the future’, G. Tett. www.ft.com See also Goldman Sachs paper Building Better Economic BRICs’ (2001) and ‘Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050’ (2003)
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Search words: BRICs, N11, CHIME, globalisation, Goldman Sachs
Trend tags: Power Shift Eastwards
The new middle class
The middle class is often laughed at, especially in Britain, but it has largely been the middle class that has driven development. They have been the moderators of extremism in politics and the brainpower behind much of the past century’s economic miracle. However, their day may soon be over. In ‘developed’ nations, especially in UK, the middle classes are about to get squeezed due to high levels of government debt (cue higher direct and indirect taxation), higher energy costs and rising food prices. In short, the rising standard of living that has been expected for more than a generation could be about to evaporate and families will find themselves considerably worse of than their parent’s generation. This is frightening enough but it’s not all that’s happening.
A new prosperous middle class is rapidly emerging in countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, India, Turkey and Indonesia. In 2009, 70 million new middle class* people made an appearance on the world stage. According to Goldman Sachs (see story on BRICs) they will be joined by roughly 2 billion others by the year 2050. These people buy stuff. The Chinese purchased more cars than Americans last year and in 20 years time people living in the so-called ‘emerging markets’ will own 90% of mobile phones. But what if the ‘emerging markets’ soon swap places with the ‘developed markets’ economically. What then?
It’s not just raw spending power that makes this trend interesting either. It has always been assumed that when nations like China or India develop they will adopt broadly Western attitudes. Shanghai and Rio will end up looking much like London or Sydney. But what if they don’t? What if the new emerging middle class rejects liberalism, free markets and free speech? This is exactly what seems to be happening.
For example, the new Brazilian middle class approves of state intervention in the oil industry so as to keep foreign interest out of their country. Russia’s middle class (now 78% of the entire nation) is supportive of Russia’s autocratic leader (the one pulling the strings, not the elected leader). This new middle class is broadly supportive of authoritarian government, state control and limits on free speech and elections just so long as the local economy keeps growing. This new middle class is individualistic and supportive of free trade and globalisation but is also nationalistic, protectionist and, in some instances, spoiling for a fight with the likes of the US. In short, millions of newly wealthy people around the world are rejecting the notion that you need political freedom for economic growth and are supportive of the idea that it doesn’t matter who runs the country, just so long as they keep in running it smoothly. Meanwhile, the middle class in countries like the US is becoming suspicious of globalisation and is arguing that jobs that were once outsourced should be brought back home (see story on backsourcing). As a result, old antagonisms and special interests between nation states are starting to fray and a new world order is slowly taking shape, largely based around economic prosperity or the lack of it.
Of course there’s one area where the old and new middle classes converge. Both are anxious about the economy, interest rates, unemployment and global chaos. Both are also driven by a combination of pride and insecurity. Scary don’t you think?
By the way, one thing that connects to this, I think, is that in places like the UK and the US, there is a growing sense of unease and frustration about the disappearance of traditional boundaries. What I mean by this is that institutions like government, the police, business and science are no longer completely trusted. There is also the feeling that the rule of law only applies to the middle class. If you are at the very top you can buy your way out of trouble, while at the very bottom you can also get away with things due to a combination of victim culture, legal aid and personal bankruptcy.
Re: Newsweek (US), 15 March 2010, ‘The scary new rich: The global middle class is more unstable and less liberal than we thought’, R. Foroohar and M. Margolis. www.newsweek.com
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Search words: Squeezed middle class, emerging middle class
Trend tags: BRICs, N11, CHIME, anxiety, volatility
* Middle class is defined as someone with an annual income of US $6,000─$30,000.
More bad news (but not really)
The further into the future we look the more we seem to yearn for the past. A recent opinion poll in the UK has found that people are getting gloomier. Indeed, there is a ‘slough of despond’ as the Economist* recently put it.
In 1997, 40% of people in the UK thought that Britain was becoming a worse place to live. By the year 2007 this figure had increased to 60%. By 2008, it had risen again to 71%. Why is this so? The main reason is crime, or more accurately, fear of crime. 27% of people in the UK are apparently too scared to venture outside their own homes due to worries about drunken crime and disorder. This is strange because, according to most official surveys, crime has fallen dramatically in the UK over the past few decades. For example, the British Crime Survey (published by the UK Home Office) says that overall crime has fallen 45% since 1995. Even violent crime has declined. You are now half as likely to be the victim of violent crime as you were 15 years ago. Of course, there are flaws in these statistics. Until quite recently, Home Office statistics did not include youth crime committed by those aged under 16. Neither do these figures attach more weight to serious crimes than milder ones. But even the murder rate, surely one of the key indicators, is now at its lowest for almost 20 years and the same trend of declining crime also applies to child killings (down 70% since 1974).
So is all this fear in our own heads? Do we really have nothing to fear but fear itself?The answer appears to be yes. Despite significant social upheavals, ranging from an increase in family breakdowns to a rise in single parenthood and single-person households, Britain is not broken and is a considerably safer place to live than it used to be. One possible explanation for this is income. Until the GFC hit, the UK had witnessed rising incomes and decreasing unemployment so perhaps there was less need for so-called ‘survival crimes’. However, rising wealth means more disposable income for alcohol and serious drugs and this is obviously the kind of situation the tabloid news media feeds off, which in turn creates fear and anxiety.
Another reason for the spread of fear is that people no longer trust government statistics. It’s what they see with their own eyes that counts and if they regularly see alcohol-infused teens brawling outside pubs on Saturday nights, that’s what they remember. The other key reason is the media, but for another reason. Thanks to the internet, bad news now travels further and faster than it used to. Thus, local incidents have a habit of becoming national news and national panics.
Ref: The Economist (UK), 6 February 2010, ‘Through a glass darkly’
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Search words: Crime, fear, anxiety
Trend tags: Information pandemics
See also Weekly Telegraph (UK), 27 January-2 February 2010, ’Drunken violence and no-go zones where families fear to tread’, T. Whitehead. www.telegraph.co.uk
* I know, I’m starting to sound like an ad for the Economist this issue but there’s been some good stuff recently. I will widen my sources for the next issue.
Do Digital Natives Really Exist?
There may be less to the next generation than meets the eye. Studies into the Net Generation (also known as iGen, Millennials or Gen Y cusp) are starting to question whether the ‘born digital’ label stacks up. For example, it is widely assumed that Digital Natives learn in different ways and should therefore be taught differently. The theory goes that they prefer pixels to paper. Therefore homework assignments should be set via Twitter and lectures should appear on Facebook. There are two potential problems with this argument. First, can one really generalise about an entire generation? The assumption is that Digital Natives know something the rest of us don’t. But evidence to support this is thin on the ground. For example, a group of academics writing in the British Journal of Education Technology in 2008 made the point that there could be ‘as much variation within the digital native generation as between the generations’. Furthermore, there could also be tremendous variation between countries and even in regions (e.g. urban versus rural).
The second problem concerns the question of who’s in charge. Digital Natives will say they are, and perhaps this is true up to a point, but for the youngest members of this generation the answer is parents and educators. Therefore, if evidence is starting to appear that fast reading on screen is different to deep reading on paper surely it is up to the adults in the room to decide how best they should be educated.
As for the assertion that this generation is more activist than previous generations this also fails to match reality. They are, it appears, no more activist than their parents were when they were young and much of the new online activism is short-lived and superficial, according to a PEW Research Center report.
Ref: The Economist (UK), 5 March 2010, ‘The net generation unplugged’, www.economist.com
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Search words:digital natives, iGen, Millenials, Gen Y
Trend tags: Demographic shifts
In late 2006 I wrote this in my book, Future Files:
"If you are charged with a criminal offence in the UK, a sample of your DNA is taken and added to a national DNA database where it stays indefinitely – even if you are subsequently acquitted. So far the UK database contains the profiles of 3,130,429 people, which is 5.23% of the entire UK population. In contrast, the US DNA database contains just 0.99% of the US population, while most other national databases in the world contain the names of fewer than 100,000 people. In theory this DNA fingerprinting is a very good idea, not least because the technology allows the police to create a DNA fingerprint using just a single human cell (taken from a print on a broken window, for example). In the future police officers will carry handheld devices that can instantly upload these samples and test them against the database. These samples will then be used to create 3D photo fits of suspects, giving police officers accurate information on likely height, skin colour, hair colour and even personality type. Privacy campaigners are obviously concerned about this but the database and associated technology will be so useful that I’d expect the database to be enlarged as part of a national biometric identity card scheme.Eventually until every single person in the country will therefore be listed “for their own security”, at which point adding some kind of GPS or other location tagging component would seem an entirely logical idea. The problem, of course, with this is that once a government starts to view all its citizens’ as potential suspects there will be subtle changes to how everything from policing to law making operates."
Why am I telling you this? Because there’s an article the Washington Monthly about DNA that’s worth reading. To quote them:
"Is DNA evidence, a forensic tool known for exonerating the innocent, being used to put them behind bars? That’s what lawyer and journalist Michael Bobelian argues. DNA has a reputation for being virtually foolproof. And, indeed, when fresh DNA evidence is used to confirm guilt of suspects who have been identified though eyewitness testimony or other means, as was traditionally the case, the chances of hitting on the wrong person can be as remote as one in many trillions. But, increasingly, law enforcement agencies are employing DNA in a new way: to find suspects in cases where the trail has gone cold. In these instances, the chances of accidentally fingering an innocent person can be as high as one in three – a staggering fact that juries weighing such cases are almost never told."
You can read the full story at the following link: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1003.bobelian.html
Ref: Washington Monthly (US), March/April 2010, ‘DNA’s Dirty Little Secret’ by M. Bobelian.
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Search words: DNA, evidence, crime
Trend tags: Genetics
2020 Vision from the Lowy Institute
If you fell asleep in the year 2000 and woke up in 2010 what would be different? The list would be long and would perhaps include; The World Trade Centre, Saddam Hussein, the franc, Lehman Brothers and so on. So, taking this thought experiment forward, if you were to fall asleep today and woke up in the year 2020, what would be different? According to the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, the list of disappearances might include the following:
Governments love secrets and continue to generate them at an astonishing rate. However, keeping things secret is becoming increasingly difficult due to trends like digitalization, connectivity and cyber spying. People are also becoming suspicious of government secrecy and will increasingly ‘out’ a government if an opportunity presents itself. However, a larger trend may be that in an age of social networks people, especially younger people, are perfectly happy to surrender extraordinary amounts of information about themselves, thus making themselves vulnerable to everyone from advertisers to governments.
This is another good one. I’m not sure whether people ever entirely trusted the media, but at least there was once a pursuit of truth by certain media organizations. This is less true nowadays. The media has fragmented and newsgathering resources have been cut to the bone. The result is a plethora of media choices, all offering different versions of a story, many of which are unconcerned about whether a story is true or not. Is this a problem? You bet it is. The more that individuals can select a version of reality or personalize information to suit their own prejudices, the less chance there is for reasoned discussion, debate or agreement.
3. Pax Americana
Since 1945 the US navy has been the most powerful on the planet and has enjoyed unrivalled freedom to go almost anywhere it pleases. By 2020 this might be different, especially in the Western Pacific and South China Sea.
Six million Australians go overseas every year (out of a population of 21 million) representing an increase of 600% in ten years. However, the number of Australian diplomats has declined by 20% since 1996 and budgets are down too. You’d think that in an age of increasing globalization and rising Asian power you’d need more diplomats not less.
Over-fishing is rife in many parts of the world. For example, in Thai waters, fish density fell by 86% between 1961 and 1991. Add to this growing demand in most regions (eg, Chinese consumption of fish has risen from 11.5kg per person in 1990 to 25.6 kg per person in 2006) and it looks like fresh fish will become a luxury in the near future.
This one is a real worry. If terrorism, radicalization and government impotence continue, Pakistan may become a failed state by the year 2020. One scenario is a total takeover by the Taliban, supported by allies in al-Qa’ida and Lashkar-e-Toiba, a situation similar in some ways to the Iranian revolution of 1979. Another scenario is a many-sided civil war. Neither scenario is much fun, especially given Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
7. Capital punishment
The death penalty is still common in many parts of the world and it is estimated that 20,000 now reside on death row. However, the trend seems to be towards abolition.
8. An unchallenged US dollar
With a whopping federal budget deficit, can the US dollar survive for much longer as the world’s reserve currency?
9. The international community
Life was so easy in 1990. If the US agreed with a handful of other nations there was ‘international consensus’. No one generally bothered to ask the Africans or Asians what they thought. Not any more. More people, more states and more special interests could mean that international agreement – about anything – will be nigh impossible by 2020.
It’s a collection of small atolls in the Pacific. It covers just 26 square kilometers and has a population of just 11,000. And its highest point is 5 meters above sea level. Whoops.
Ref: The Australian (Aus), 16-17 January 2010, ‘2020 Vision: that thinking feeling’ (various contributors)
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Search words: Trends, geopolitics, politics, Australia
Trend tags: Predictions
Dirt is good
Dirt. It’s a grubby word. But for how much longer? For the past 50-100 years we have been encouraged to wash, scrub and clean our clothes, all our work surfaces and ourselves. Every year the world spends $24 billion on soap and another $106 billion on other cleaning products. This wasn’t always the case. A few hundred years ago people thought that water carried disease (sometimes it did) and people washed infrequently. There was even the theory that washing with hot water opened up the skin’s pores to allow diseases to get inside the body. Even in 1965, barely 50% of women in Britain bothered with deodorants. In short, cleanliness was considered a health risk. How the tables have turned in a few hundred years. However, this war on dirt may soon see a partial surrender.
Immunologists are increasingly of the opinion that being too clean is indeed bad for our health. A lack of bacteria on our skin, on our clothes and in our homes could be responsible for outbreaks of eczema and various allergic diseases in developed nations and numerous studies are showing that kids that grow up on filthy farms are less likely to get sick that city kids that grow up in spotless suburban homes.
So are we in for a counter trend here? It’s possible. Cleaning giant Unilever recently used the slogan ‘dirt is good’ to promote it’s OMO laundry detergent. Meanwhile, a team of researchers at Bristol University claims that bacteria commonly found in soil can affect neurons in the brain that creates serotonin, which in turn affects mood and makes people happy. So it looks like my grandmother was right when she said that we must all eat a peck of dirt before we die. I never did find out how much a peck was though.
Ref: The Economist (UK), 19 December 2009, ‘The joy of dirt’. www.economist.com
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Search words: dirt, happiness, health, clean, cleaning
QGOs are the New NGOs
If you give money to a charity it’s reasonable to expect that most of your money goes directly towards doing good deeds. However, with many of the bigger charities in Britain, a large part of your donation goes towards administration, which often includes campaigning, advocacy and education (ie, lobbying). Moreover, the sums spent on internal issues are far from modest. Of the 82 million pounds that Christian Aid received last year, only 54 million was spent doing what they say they do on the charity box (emergency and development aid). Of the remaining 28 million, 12 million is spent on putting their views across. Similar amounts are spent on ‘education’ by the likes of Oxfam and the RSPB. Mission creep like this is a problem but it isn’t the only problem.
According to the Institute of Fundraising, a registered charity in the UK is not allowed to have political objectives. But, increasingly, charities are becoming supportive of government policy and are campaigning for everyone to fall into line attitudinally or behaviorally. As one wag puts it: ‘They look grass roots organizations but in reality it’s Astroturf – it’s synthetic’.
Confused? Let me elaborate. According to figures produced by the International Policy Network, the Department of International Development (ie, the UK government) will hand out 395 million pounds to charities in the UK between 2008-2011.
Oxfam alone will receive around 35 million from UK and EU government. Christian Aid will get another 11 million, the World Wildlife Fund almost 5 million and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds almost 20 million. In other words, what were once non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now quasi-governmental organizations (QGOs).
Hardly any of these charities will tender for these funds. According to National Council for Voluntary Organizations, 25,000 UK Charities will benefit from government funding to the tune of 75% of their income. Fortunately, people are catching onto this conflict of interest. According to a survey by the Centre for Social Justice, only 4% of people would give 200 pounds to a national charity. In contrast, 31% would choose a local church or charity (ie, local organizations too small to be influenced by government or worry about lobbying).
Ref: The Spectator (UK), 19-26 December 2009, ‘All in a good cause’, E. Howker. www.spectator.co.uk
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Search words: Charity, transparency, government
Trend tags: Transparency