Face Palm Sunday

Face Palm Sunday
Bella Caledonia, by Mike Small 


With the sociopath and his mannequin daughter dictating Tomahawk diplomacy by whim, and the denials by Putin and his psycho-proxy being cheered-on by some confused souls, it’s difficult to get too excited about the imminent arrival of the Easter Bunny.  But some of the madness seems much closer to home.


The Observer published a gushing feature about Josh Littlejohn’s Granton village project today (‘Social entrepreneur Josh Littlejohn: ‘I want to build a utopia for the homeless’’) that just reeks of uncritical shallow self-congratulation.


It’s difficult to know where to begin.


We could start with the casual and relentless assumption that ‘entrepreneurs’ can and will deliver solutions to deep-seated social problems. This is rarely challenged, it’s just assumed to be some sort of instant panacea. The idea stems from giving the ‘social entrepreneur’ automatic status, as if you can ‘innovate’ your way out of power relations. It’s the tail-end of Apprentice culture. It’s the end result of the hegemony of business-class-culture and its the outcome of years of sloppy social enterprise boosterism.
We could also just say outright that ‘crowdfunding to solve homelessness’ is just offensive.


We could continue by saying that many people working with homelessness think the problem has some crucial flaws, none of which seem to be touched on (at all) by this extensive feature. The potential for ghettoisation, the inclusion – or exclusion – of people with drink and drugs issues – are both highly problematic.


The whole thing’s weirdly paternalistic and most of the coverage seems to centre around a hero-leadership model that seems crashingly inappropriate. Then you can add the celebrity culture that seems very excited about George Clooney coming to Social Bite but completely disinterested in the detail of the village proposal.


Meanwhile, while we focus on this and similar projects (aimed at giving housing to twenty people) – we just close our eyes to the structural problems of our massive homeless crisis, endemic inequality and a generational housing crisis.


I’m not deriding Littlejohn, or Social Bite or ‘innovation’, these are probably great things, and we need the ideas and energy of thousands of people to shift the institutional inertia that besets much of Scotland –  this just seems one-dimensional, and, well, awful.


This whole phenomenon maybe started with Jamie Oliver being given the job of solving our food system, and now somehow Leonardo DiCaprio eating a sandwich, or a ‘CEO Sleepout’ (god help us all) is somehow a great thing.  There is nothing systemic or transformative (or even scaleable) about any of this. It just stands out because nobody really knows what to do any more.