Listen to some mainstream politicians for a while, and regardless of party, you’ll hear the same noises: Tough choices. Hard working families. Economic growth. Austerity. Unemployment figures. Benefits cut. GDP. Efficiency. Workforce. Crime. Fraud. Poverty...
You know how it goes.
What you will not hear mainstream parties talking about is quality of life. I suspect they want us to mistake spending power for quality. Spending power is relatively easy to measure and you can make graphs and claim you’ve proved something. Actual quality of life does not crunch into tidy numbers as easily, which tends to dissuade those who like making graphs from wanting to talk about it.
The more time we spend working and consuming, the more money moves around in the economy (that’s essentially all GDP really measures). If GDP is the love of your life, then more GDP equals more good, and what else needs discussing? The trouble is that working and spending does not equate to quality of life.
Feeling respected contributes to quality of life. Currently that’s pinned to your job and your earning potential, as though no other human qualities have any worth. There should be more to happiness and human dignity than work alone, and unpaid work should be just as dignified as other forms.
Being well contributes to quality of life, but our whole system focuses on patching up sick people. We aren’t talking about the lifestyle issues contributing to obesity and addiction, nor are we talking about the work stress creating an epidemic of mental health problems.
Working all the hours there are so you can just afford to keep a roof over your head is all too common. That’s survival, not quality of life. Barely seeing your partner or children, and having no time, energy or resources for a social life is not good news. We need a better work-life balance for all. We need to value family life, community life, friendship and leisure. All we hear about is ‘hard work’.
The Green Party has a radical idea: Wouldn’t it be great if politics was about trying to improve everyone’s quality of life? Wouldn’t it be great to have a political system that took wellness seriously, and treated people as though they had a right to a rewarding and happy life, rather than having to scrabble just to exist? Of course if you’re running flat out and exhausted all the time, sleep deprived, badly fed, lacking for rest and struggling to meet the next bill, it’s hard to find time to think about these things. The more pressured you are, the easier to is to keep you going along with the demand that you work harder and longer for less.
And yes, we are talking about cultural revolution.