It' strange how often apparently unconnected events turn out to be linked. Yesterday, Conservative leader David Cameron gave a keynote speech to party activists in Tooting. Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary under the Dispatches banner on Channel 4 showing the extent of Britain's alcohol problems, the growing epidemic of liver disease among young people and the inability og Government to rein in the brewing industry and supermarkets even though it is estimated that treating alcohol-related illness and accidents costs the NHS (that means you and me) £2 billion per year.
How are these two linked ? David Cameron spoke unconvincingly about "social responsibility" in his speech. He seemed unable to say what he meant by the term apart from the rather trite observation that Gordon Brown would prefer to solve social problems by legislation and the power of the State while the Tories want to rely on individuals.
I'm sure "Dave" won't mind but let's try and help the chap out as clearly he and his advisors are a bit light in the clarity of thought department:
"Responsibility" in my view can be broken down into three areas: - Personal, Social and Civic.
Let's start with Personal Responsibility - put simply, this is about looking after yourself. This means using the widely-available information to develop a personal lifestyle that maximises life expectancy and minimises illness. That probably means cutting out smoking and drinking, eating sensibly and getting exercise. None of this is rocket science but Governments could do so much more as could the private and public sectors in encouraging better lifestyles.
Of course, illness happens but that doesn't mean going to the GP every time you get a cough. It means using the NHS not just as a service to treat illness but as an information source for the prevention of illness. Personal Responsibility also means acting sensibly - wearing a seat belt if driving and not using a mobile phone when driving either.
Social Responsibility can be best defined as comporting oneself with dignity, respect and tolerance. This means sensible behaviour in public, civility and good manners. This in many ways compliments Personal Responsibility. It also means not pushing and shoving on public transport. I also think it means setting an example for children and others and respecting the elderly and infirm.
Civic Responsibility is about we behave within our communities. This means not only a good relationship with neighbours but also involvement in civic and community affairs whether through school, Church, residents' association or by sitting on local Parish, District or County Councils. This also includes taking a responsible and positive attitude to the community and to the other individuals in it.
None of the above requires a line of legislation but it does require a commitment from our leaders to carry through, if not a moral revolution then a change in emphasis away from measuring personal achievement or status through material gain toward a more holistic approach whereby we measure our status through our personal, social and civic attitudes and undertakings and not by how much "bling" we own.