A workshop with a focus on populism was facilitated by NFPB members for Westmorland Regional Meeting at the end of April. Although the term is used in a variety of ways, populism has in some ways become a shorthand term for some of the less desirable aspects of civic and political life, both in the UK and further afield.
The workshop did not try to reach a definition of populism but heard of participants’ concerns about the consequences of it and then considered some underlying causes. People were concerned about politics that oversimplifies issues, that tends to blame others – particularly minorities, that is dismissive of truth and integrity and is short-term. Political, social and economic disenfranchisement have clearly fed the anger and cynicism that in their turn are taken up and manipulated by media of different sorts.
Earlier in the workshop, Friends had identified and affirmed the many connections they already have in the wider community. The challenge is to seek opportunities to also make links and have conversations with those who don’t share our perspectives. Participants also considered fairer and more representative electoral systems and reflected on the need for cooperative and sustainable economics to address some of the roots of social conflict.
In closing reflections, the workshop was reminded that there are no easy answers and that living with uncertainty is the Quaker way. Friends spoke of the need to continue being hopeful and to support ourselves and one another.
NFPB is trying out different models of workshop to bring people together in reflection and discussion, and would be pleased to hear from Quaker and non-Quaker groups who might be interested in hosting such an event.