Led by Henry Tam
WEA National Conference Workshop
Henry Tam’s thoughtfully constructed ideas on ‘Reciprocity’ certainly gave his enthusiastic audience food for thought. Are moral values old fashioned? Or does the notion that equality is simply ‘treating other people as you would like them to treat you’ hold any resonance in our consumerist society?
Henry scampered through ideas from evolutionary biology and psychosociology to convince us that reciprocity is embedded in human nature and cuts across all faiths, cultures and moral traditions. So why don’t we do it automatically and how can we overcome the barriers?
Using ideas of Power Difference, Communal Bonds and Masculinity Values we thought about the factors that facilitate reciprocal societies and the audience easily guessed that the nations with the least concern about hierarchy, the most inclusive communities and the most gender neutral nurturing values were Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.
The UK, perhaps surprisingly after listening to Richard Wilkinson’s key note speech, faired reasonably well on our low power difference (we really don’t like people telling us what to do!) and high communal bonds (we are open to people from communities other than our own) but we are still loathe to encourage nurturing and empathy as a male trait.
Inequality happens because Reciprocity is lost eg because the natural empathy of children is destroyed by negative feedback and learned prejudice; or when people can’t see the personal benefit of contributing to public services and perhaps most of all just because inertia takes over. But the most inspirational part of Henry’s talk was that we can do something about it and it really isn’t that difficult. We just need to work together! Get organised; Find allies; Publicise what we are doing and finally know when (or not!) to compromise.
Adult education has a role in helping people find their voice, maximising the outcomes of lobbying and campaigning and building alliances that tell the world we can make it a better place. We just need to get the bankers to reciprocate!
Written by Pearl Ryall