Today, I became a published author! My book 'Fractured' answers one question: HOW DO WE MEND OUR DIVISIONS? (A thread on the answer).…
Half of Brits and 80% of Americans say that their country is seriously divided. They are right. Most of our friends (if you look carefully) are people ‘just like us’. We tend to cluster with people of the same income, age, education level, race and politics. (2)
Half of graduates have no friends with degrees. Most pensioners know no-one under 35 (apart from grandchildren). A fifth of Leavers and a quarter of Remainers have no friends who voted the other way. Half of us have no friends from a different ethnic group. (3)
But our largest divide remains class. A British Barrister would have to invited 100 people round before inviting a single person who is unemployed. But why are we so divided? (4)
Why is this? It is not because of something ‘out there’. It is something 'in us'. We bias towards people who we think are ‘like us’. Academics call this homophily. I call it ‘People Like Me Syndrome’. We’ve always been like this. Birds of a feather do flock together. (5)
There is nothing wrong with this - to some extent. Not everyone wants to listen to my love for the West Wing or why Teddy Sheringham's pass to Shearer in Euro '96 for the highlight of all human history. (6)
But if 'People Like Me Syndrome' takes charge, our societies become divided and bad stuff happens. Rich kids use their networks to get the best jobs. Democracy is vulnerable to leaders who exploit division. We become more anxious and new ideas spread slower damaging the economy.
But the good news is that we have always found ways to contain ‘People Like Me Syndrome’. We have done it by creating institutions that connect us with people we didn’t choose to spend time with. (8)
Like what? Well, you can see these institutions throughout history. As nomadic foragers, we used rituals. As farmers, we relied on religious events, rites of passage and feast days. As factory workers, we had clubs and societies, mandatory schooling and the workplace. (9)
These institutions lack a name. I call them the Common Life. Human history has been an ongoing fight between People Like Me Syndrome (pulling us apart) and the Common Life (putting us back together). (10)
So why are we dividing? We are dividing because the Common Life that brought our grandparents together is vanishing. (11)
We are much less likely to join clubs and societies, we now expect to choose schools for our children and the places that we work. The result? We end up surrounded with people ‘like us’. (12)
Is this new? No. The foragers’ Common Life (of rituals) vanished when we became farmers. The farmers’ Common Life (religion & feast days) vanished when we became factory workers. Now, our grandparents’ Common Life (clubs, local schools & local workplaces) is vanishing. So what?
Well, the question we should have been asking all along is "Why is the Common Life that connected our grandparents declining?" The good news is we have an answer. The bad news is that the two villains of the piece are two things we Westerners REALLY like: Choice and Change (14)
It was Choice that killed off the mandatory parts of the Common Life. We want to choose the school for our children and the place that we work. Of course we do. But the result is we are choosing who we spend time with. Which brings People Like Me Syndrome back in. (15)
What about the voluntary parts of the Common Life? No-one was forced to join the club or society, attend the feast day or join in the animalistic ritual. To attract us in, these institutions had to perfectly fit the society of the day. (16)
But when society changes fast, the voluntary Common Lives doesn't adapt. They change too slowly. Our world has changed fast over the last 75 years and our clubs and societies have not kept up. They have become less attactive. Every generation since 1950 is less likely to join.
So how do we fix our divisions? We will need a new Common Life. A new set of institutions that connect us with people we didn't choose to mix with. People less 'like us'. (18)
So, what do we do? We have three options. (19)
Option 1 is to do nothing: Just wait for a new Common Life to turn up. It will happen, but the last one took 100 years, the previous one 1000 years. This is the strategy of almost every Western nation. That’s fine but we should stop whining about our divisions. (20)
Option 2 is to slow down the rate of change: Increase welfare, protect failing businesses, slow the movement of people, slow down technological change. To some extent - by accident - this is what the Nordics have done. A slower rate of change created space for clubs to adapt.(21)
The result is that people join clubs much like before. But I don’t think this is a credible option - just look at how much technological change is heading our way. So what is the final option? (22)
The final option is to allow change but reduce choice. It is to require us to take part - at some point in our lives - in some activities that brings us together with people who we didn't choose to spend time with, people less 'like us'. (23)
There is a country that has taken this path. It is Singapore. It has been hugely open to change. But it has created spaces where people have to mix. Schools are more mixed, people have to do national service and even housing is allocated to achieve a mix. (24)
Of course, we are not Singapore! But that doesn't mean a Western version of this is not possible. What might it look like? (25)
It might mean a month of community service for school children as part of the national curriculum, 6 sessions for new parents on how their child’s brain develops where we meet other parents, a retirement programme that gets us involved in the local community when we stop working.
Three new institutions to bond us together. Three institutions selected to be popular, worth doing for their own reasons but also - critically - able to bring us back together. A new mandatory Common Life. (27)
You might think the idea of a mandatory Common Life is inconceivable. Fine but what’s the alternative? So far – when it comes to our divisions – we have brought warm words to a gun fight. Garden parties, British values, some money for charities. It's never going to work. (28)
Anyway, every single big political changes in history – from joining the EU to leaving it, from the NHS to the welfare state – started off as inconceivable. Until they became imaginable, plausible, likely and ultimately unavoidable. (29)
The aim of my book is to start the journey from inconceivable to unavoidable for the idea of a mandatory common life. Whether you want to stop me or help me, don’t miss out on Fractured. It will change the way you see our world.… (END)

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More from @jonpayates

9 Jun
Tomorrow, I become a published author!!!! I can't believe I got here :-) My first ever book is called ‘Fractured'. It reveals why we are so divided and how to fix it. 5 quick reasons why you should get a copy: 👇
1. Discover the reality of our divisions: Half of graduates have no friends with degrees, Most pensioners talk to no-one under 35 (bar grandchildren), Half of us have no friends from a different ethnic background.
2. See that our biggest divide is not race but between the rich and the rest: A UK lawyer would have to invite 100 people they know round before inviting one person who is unemployed.
Read 14 tweets
20 May
Wish our society was less divided? Here are 20 things you can do right now.
Change who you follow on social media: Follow some new people on social media who are different from you in some way, especially those with different opinions. @MiC_Global @HdxAcademy
Take a different path: Is there part of your neighbourhood that you think of as being ‘not for people like you’? Go there and have a drink, eat a meal out, take a walk.
Read 22 tweets
24 Apr
How did rich people do something as stupid as the European Super League: a thread about a CURSED shop: The shop was five minutes from my house. Single storey, 10 metres by 5, sandwiched between two side streets and the last in a line of shops. Oh, and it was cursed. (1/n)
The first tenant wanted to sell high-end fashion. My mum and I drove past when we saw the sign. “Gone in 6 months”, we said. And it was. The curse was born.
A travel bookshop came and went. Then a body building store. And of course the mobility scooters. The curse ruled them all. They opened, suffered and died. Each time, like experienced soothsayers, we foresaw their doom.
Read 24 tweets
4 Apr
The Government's #racereport is a huge Rorscharch test. You know the one. 10 inkblots – mixed in form, colour and movement – are presented one by one. A single question is asked: “What do you see?”.

So, what do you see? A bird? A bat? A rib cage? (1/)
Know this. Your answer matters. We are not assessing your eyesight – we are assessing you. In America, custody battles are settled on your answer, medical diagnoses made, insurance claims declined. This is the Rorschach test. (2/)
We stare at the same image. The same flecks of paint, the same colours, the same blots. And yet, our mind forms different patterns, different images, different interpretations. Why? (3/)
Read 19 tweets
3 Apr
Our reaction to the Government’s Race Report tells us more than the report itself. 🧵👇
10 inkblots – mixed in form, colour and movement – are presented one by one. A single question is asked: “What do you see?”.

So, what do you see? A bird? A bat? A rib cage?
Know this. Your answer matters. We are not assessing your eyesight – we are assessing you. In America, custody battles are settled on your answer, medical diagnoses made, insurance claims declined. This is the Rorschach test.
Read 20 tweets
27 Mar
Batley Grammar School is locked down in the middle of a lockdown. Protestors gather around the gates. Asian British men standing in small groups. They stare at each other. They check their phones. They watch the nation’s media watching them. (1/)
The school is quiet, empty. Pupils stay at home. It is March 7th for them all over again. Laptops out, cameras off, teachers teaching into the void. Apart from one. (2/)
The press says he is in police protection. The headmaster says he is sorry. The Cabinet Minister says he shouldn’t be. (3/)
Read 34 tweets

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