David Cameron recently visited China. I heard that he swapped notes with Chinese leaders about his “big society” idea. Apparently it shares common ground with China’s “harmonious society” drive. I’m not so sure. I don’t think that Britain is the place for Chinese-style harmony either.
One prominent sign of local harmony is the ongoing makeover of villages. Travelling through our area I see lovely little parks, fancy pagodas and grand arches across entry roads. A lot of money is being spent on outward appearances, not so much on social benefits, pension schemes and healthcare. But who’s going to complain when everything looks so pretty?
Some pundits see signs of grassroots democracy in the “harmonious society.” But in a democracy, you elect leaders and let them get on with making the decisions. This kind of grassroots democracy is more like a dodging of that responsibility. Decisions are made only after they have been discussed at all levels of the community. All very harmonious if everyone agrees where to put the new pagoda, but what if they don’t? Perhaps they follow the exhortation I spotted on a wall in town, painted in the big characters of old-style propaganda: “Fight for a harmonious society!”