Bound together in a moment

13th November, 2011 11:13 am

When you have a job like I do, one which sprawls mercilessly across the week, respecting neither the sanctity of weekends, evenings and – when it gets really tough – the wee hours of the morning, you start to lose a sense of the quality of time. Mondays feel the same as Fridays; weekends the same as weekdays; holidays the same as term-time. Certain moments in the year, however, still feel special, are still more than just another moment built on top of all the ones that proceeded it , and for me one does above all others: it’s not Christmas Day, nor the last day of exams or the first day of the holidays, but a short moment on the morning of the 11th November.

Despite being fully aware it was about to happen, there was something awe-inspiring about seeing – as I did in the National Library of Scotland café on Friday morning – a whole room full of people (and on the TV screens, a whole nation) fall from gentle hubbub into total silence and rise to its feet, all completely unprompted.

It is remarkable, I think, that in a society so atomised and so individualised, each of us with our own never-ending list of things to do and troubles excising us, that a single idea is powerful enough to bring us together as one, albeit for a brief moment. In any of the other two minuteses at any other time of the year, 65 million people would be doing 65 million things, but the weight of history hanging over that moment – the enormity of the sacrifice that millions have made so we might live a better life – forces us to all do the same thing.

In a world where so much is happening and at such a seemingly unstoppable pace, the fact that almost all of us (except for those who have forgotten what day and time it is – shame on them – or those who are just plain ignorant – even more shame on them) will put everything aside and pause in respect for a few minutes is very heartening indeed.

I didn’t set out to make a political point, but one has nevertheless occurred to me, so here it goes:

There appears to be a general acceptance of the fact that the past couple of decades have seen put paid to the possibility that people can be bound together by some common sense of purpose or a common feeling, that the ties that bound us together in the past have been eroded by changes economic and technological and that we’re all doomed to scuttle along in our individual rat races, driven along not by grand ideas but by the need to get on and get ahead in life.

Moments like today show that to be an exaggeration. There are still moments in which millions of people – however individualised, however split off from one another by the nature of modern life – can be brought together by a powerful idea. The ties that bind, then, are perhaps not eroded, but just latent. Those in politics who believe in the power of ideas to change the world – and particularly those belonging to a party which recognises that we achieve more together than we do alone – would do well to think about this.

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  • Anonymous

    I like this a lot, thankyou.

    I also agree with the premise, and it’s times like this which bring
    out the important aspects of our lives into focus.

    I think the future of our society depends on communites and people
    working more closely together; finding the common ties that bind,
    not pull people apart.

    That “cohesiveness” has been eroded on some levels, for some time now,
    due to a variety of factors.
    These need identifying and being worked upon.

    Our son took part in local Remembrance services this morning as part of his
    scouts’ duties; it was an outdoor service that brought out large sections of the community,
    and was moving and inspiring.

    It’s times like these I feel proud; also discover there is far more connection between all of us in our vicinity than is obvious on a day to day basis.

    It would be good to capture that and create that communiy spirit more often,
    not just on special days.

    Thanks again, Jo

  • Dan Heap

    @Joanne28:disqus 

    Thanks for your very nice comment. I think that’s the first one I’ve ever had that either a)Doesn’t just repeat the gist of the article or b)Attacks me because the commenter hasn’t properly read and therefore understood it.

    While I largely disagree with Blue Labour thinking – particularly the way in which it tried to introduce some very un-Labour conservatism into the party – I think Glasman was onto something in trying to emphasise the importance in the way we campaign and develop policy of understanding how people relate to one another in their everyday lives and of recognising that we are linked together by bonds other than simply economic ones.  Despite the many changes that have created a more fragmented and atomised society, there are still a whole of ties that bind us, often at the local level. They perhaps have fallen into disrepair, but they haven’t been destroyed. Building a reinvigorated party and a successful, energetic governmment will depend on harnessing the power of these links.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Dan,

    I’m sorry I didn’t realise you had left a reply.

    Thanks so much again, and may I just say it’s the wider philosophical questions like those raised by your self which interest me far more than than just the day to day minutiae of partisan politics.

    I suppose it’s the “vision” thing, (and values;) much like the
    Occupy movement has managed to encapsulate many people’s thinking;
    not always easy to articulate.
    But it does seem to be all about collective values,
     ideas and “consciousness.”

    Would really like to hear more!

    Great stuff, thanks again Dan.

    Jo

    • Dan Heap

      All the rest of my stuff is at http://www.danheap.co.uk.  I did something in the same vein a while back, that time about the whole ‘squeezed middle’ claptrap.  http://danheap.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/hitting-the-snooze-button/

      • Anonymous

        Hi Dan,

        Good to hear from you, and thanks so much for that.

        I’ve made a note!

        PS- look out for Ben Cobley on LL;
        I think you’d get on well;
        seem to have similar perspectives perhaps.

        Will definitely look up your writing Dan.

        Kind regards, Jo.

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