My Friday blogs are often philosophical in nature. And so it is today. So what more conducive environment from which to philosophise than the 1.45 from Leeds to London KX. Plato eat your heart out (that’s if the at-seat service is working)!
Over the last two days I have been caught in a couple of discussions about definitions and terminology in public involvement. Caught is an apt term. Like bugs in a web, you can see the participants in such discussions struggle violently to begin with. Then, before long, they submit totally to their fate which is to be forever entangled. Or gobbled up by the word police.
It is such a shame. I was brought up to believe that language sets us free. And, here we are, feeling bound and tied to an uncertain and probably bleak future by our inability to find the right words.
But that is the problem. I think we are looking to words to do too much for us. They should enable, empower, enable us to communicate and be understood. However, we must do the rest.
But in public involvement I am afraid we are reaching the point where we are allowing words to be so controlling of our thoughts and those of others that they are approaching dogma. Is that what we really want?
My English teacher used to say that you have to know the rules to break the rules. So, I respect the different definitions of involvement, participation, engagement or whatever. But I refuse to lie down in front of, or be bound by, them. In fact half the fun is pulling them apart and putting them back together in different ways. And the context in which we are doing this is always changing which is why a spade will not always be a spade however much we would like it to be.
Like the writer or poet our task is to find better stories to tell that resonate and describe what it is we are doing and make people want to write their own chapter.
In similar vein, i totally get things like ‘the ladder of public engagement.’ In fact I enjoy these things and often find them helpful. But I’ll be damned if I am going to test everything I do by them and throw the things out which don’t quite match. In fact I have often walked under them and survived. And I am sure their authors would want me too.
Anyway, where there’s a ladder isn’t there more often than not a snake as well?