Firstly, a happy new year to all of you kind folk who read my ‘Thinking Aloud’ blogs. The turning of the year always makes me reflect on what has been and what might be in store in the year ahead. I recently discovered some mind maps and collages David and I had made as we visioned our future and was struck by how much we could tick off as achieved. It was a good feeling and reminded me of the power of setting positive outcomes.
However, when I went into our local bookshop in December to buy Christmas books for my teenage great-nieces, I was directed to an area of the shop for ‘teen books’, almost all of which were dystopian. There were stories of aliens, viruses, robots, environmental catastrophes destroying life and the world. How miserable, I thought, and not surprising that so many of our young are suffering from anxiety.
I managed to find two books that were more optimistic in tone but it made me think how difficult it must be for young people to have a vision of a better future when all around them is 24/7 news of disaster and uncertainty, digital games of violence … and Brexit! We have always had dystopian books, of course, and I probably read quite a few of them as a teenager – Dostoevsky wasn’t exactly a song and dance, nor was Camus’ The Plague, nor Kafka’s Metamorphosis. We had the Cold War, the potential of nuclear warfare, economic instability, and most of Europe dominated by one authoritarian regime or another, and yet our concerns were, I think, tempered by post-war optimism, the rose-tinted view of life portrayed by Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn movies, and not having endless news reports of misery or disaster brought into our sitting rooms from one part of the world or another. We didn’t have the technology for such things.
What concerns me today is that no one is giving us a vision of a better future. All we get is the negative and the divisive. In my experience, both as a development coach and in my own life, I have found that when people have a vision and set goals they frequently achieve them. If we, as a country, have no aspirational vision, no tangible goals in this muddle and mess of Brexit negotiations, how are we to achieve them? How are people to know what they need to do to create prosperity and happiness in this country?