Time to stand up and make a difference to our society

When Prime Minister David Cameron began talking up his vision of a Big Society, no-one really knew what he meant.
Six months later, and even after his keynote speech at the Tory conference, there were still many people who were left scratching their heads as to what the PM was actually going on about.
If you believe the sceptics, the Big Society is little more than a smokescreen for the massive cutbacks which are looming.
They will tell you it is the coalition government’s attempt to get volunteers and labour on the cheap for all manner of things usually delivered by professionals within the public sector.
However I, for one, am prepared to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.
This is because, whether or not “just call me Dave” truly believes in citizen power and the taking of individual responsibility, the idea of a Big Society seems to me to be very laudable in this day and age.
Irrespective of whether or not we agree with the Government’s approach to tackling the national debt, the PM’s mantra – which, in fairness, he was chanting long before the election – is a good one.
It’s good in the same way that, even if you don’t believe in God and don’t go to communal worship every week, you can still appreciate that the church does a great job in our communities.
One reason that I like the idea of a Big Society and think that perhaps it isn’t all just posturing and platitudes, is that even members of Mr Cameron’s own party are sceptical about it.
This is because they know it is a vague, nebulous concept to sell to the electorate
There are certainly no quick political wins with this soundbite.
So what is the Big Society?
In his speech to conference, the PM told us: “Your country needs you.”
He’s not wrong – on so many levels.
We’re up the creek without a paddle and we can quibble about whose fault it is all we want and crucify as many bankers as we like.
However, ultimately, we are all going to have to play a part in sorting out the current financial mess.
One thing is certain, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
That means everything from our councils to schools and local charities – all aspects of our communities – are going to suffer.
What better time then to nurture a sense of individual responsibility and to get people off their backsides and doing their bit for their neighbourhoods?
Every week in The Sentinel, I read of people bleating about their lot.
Usually, this involves criticism of public services such as councils, the health service or the police.
In their eyes, it is always someone else’s fault and someone else’s responsibility to sort out whatever the latest problem is.
This is because the Nanny State has created a class of people who expect to be waited on hand and foot and think public services are there to tend to their every whim.
Many are not prepared to lift a finger to actually help themselves – or anyone else, for that matter.
I single such people out because this attitude is symptomatic of selfish Britain 2010.
You see, you don’t have to believe in David Cameron’s Big Society vision to actually embrace the concept.
There are school governing bodies, parent teacher associations, residents’ groups, youth organisations and local charities, to name but a few, crying out for volunteers during the toughest of economic circumstances because so many people can’t be bothered to help.
Anyone who needs inspiration to get involved just has to think about the winners of this year’s Sentinel and Britannia’s Our Heroes community awards.
They include 72-year-old Barry Bailey, from Shelton, who has raised a quarter of a million pounds for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice.
Then there is 13-year-old Toby Tomlins, from Norton, who – without a word of complaint – cares for his terminally-ill older brother Barny.
What about the inspirational committee of Chell Heath Residents’ Association who scooped our award for community group of the year by transforming the lives of families in their neck of the woods?
If the PM had been present at the awards he would have seen that plenty of people in the Potteries are already practising what he is preaching.
People like my old school friend Julie Hancock, who recently took it upon herself to organise a naked calendar shoot involving women from North Staffordshire to raise thousands of pounds for the Help The Heroes Charity.
At its heart, the Big Society is whatever you want it to be.
We can all sit around and moan.
The question is, what are you going to do to help your community through these tough times and make our society a better place in which to live?
*Martin organised a sponsored, all-night ghost-hunt at The Leopard pub, Burslem, in aid of Cheethams children’s ward at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

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