Two weeks ago, I met a large Irish man, in clothes too trendy for his age and his tummy, who was the think tank impresario behind David Cameron’s new Conservative Coalition Government initiative called ‘Big Society’.
‘Big Society’, he told the room, within which I was sitting, has no strategy. There is no plan. It is an evolving, dynamic idea. My interpretation of ‘Big Society’ is that it is about empowering the people to manage their own lives, to take charge of their lives and to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions. ‘Big Society’ is about integration and connection. It is essentially about community.
Within the community at RAF Odiham, there is a road that divides the dwellings of the ranks. To some extent we could take this principle of ‘Big Society’ and apply it to our very own station. The partners of those who serve are connected to the military, but we are not actually serving. We are part of the wider military family, but we are dependents to whom, which the service is obliged due to the transigent nature of the job. At least, once a week I say the words, ‘I am not in the military’. I don’t want to be in the military. The institution is far to rigid, draconian, structured and celebratory of traditions that don’t appeal to me. Hagar loves it. He fits into it like a hand into a glove. Initially, I was fascinated by it, and I love the insider look that I have been privileged to see across many of it’s elements. At any opportunity, I scrutinise the textures, the elements, the choices and the displays of livery that the war machine adorns behind the wire. But now, I am kinda over it, the novelty has worn off, and have stopped dancing within it. Maybe, I am just getting old and growing up.
I may have entered into these nuptials naive and judgemental but that has changed. I was welcomed into the community and I have been propped up at my darkest moments by this extended family that sits outside the service and enables them to deliver their jobs. This road that divides RAF Odiham needs to be crossed. As a community it would be nice to unite the families, but before that can happen the community must want to be united. How do we do this? I welcome any suggestions. I was thinking maybe we could have Girls Night Out at the Families Club. But how do we draw people out of the safety and comfort of their homes into something new that has not been done before. This little challenge that we have at RAF Odiham to cross the road, I think the Coalition Government are going to have on a more national scale to create a ‘Big Society’ amongst little pockets of inward looking cells.
The root of the challenge of English-ness is brilliantly explained by Kate Fox in Watching the English
While you are all thinking about it – I’ll go and have a little read and see what I can unearth.