Inequality: Reflections from Lincolnshire (Guest Blog)

Looking ahead to our Local Groups and Activists’ Day this summer (date to be confirmed) we are pleased to publish the reflections of Alan Gurbutt, from our Lincolnshire group, on last year’s event and on action he’s taken since…

I attended The Equality Trust (TET) Local Groups and Activists’ Day in London on the 14th of July 2018. This was shortly after the launch of The Inner Level (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2019) which looks at the effects of inequality, not least upon mental health from a global perspective and how more equal societies reduce stress to promote healthier lives. I represented the TET local group, Greater Lincs (Humber to the Wash), which I founded 18 months before the meeting, on issues of rurality and education, from a multicultural perspective, given the East of Lincolnshire’s changing demographic.

During the day, I compared the Scandinavian model of comprehensive education to the selective system of grammar schools in England and highlighted benefits of learning in a comprehensive education system in terms of pooling rural resources and workforce development. Following the event, I invited people from Lincolnshire to a meeting, contributed to group discussions and studied research on inequality delivered by Professors Wilkinson and Pickett in the form of powerpoints, recorded audio, and from their books. I came away thinking that more needs to be done to tackle inequality if we are to protect people’s mental health. There was, however, a consensus that economic inequality is bad for everyone, rich and poor.

For myself, I have gained a deeper insight into the challenges presented by capitalism and neoliberalism on a global scale, upon mental health and the natural environment. In terms of mental health, the realisation that the way austerity is making people feel is not their fault was already something I had considered, but it was good to have discussions around this and to realise other people felt the same. 

This needs reverberating across the world. We need to focus on love, life and family values and less on things that we don’t really need. As a global citizen I care about people and the planet. I now need to share my enthusiasm within my nursing practice. The feedback I received for iterating, “it’s not your fault, the economy is making life precarious” was positive. The trick now is not to over-complicate everyday issues, but to keep challenges real for everyone to understand. I learnt from attending these meetings and speaking that I do have the confidence and knowledge to represent my frame of reference and to accept that I do have internal bias that can skew my ideas. 

It was agreed that there are always opportunities to develop ideas around inclusion (in terms of making a difference we used the TET manifestos to address local issues) but it’s often difficult to talk about economic inequality without offending people higher up the income scale. But I believe our global future depends upon developing transformational leaderships styles from which to build unity and collaboration for the greater good. Leadership for me is about being open to change and to other people’s views, as life is constantly changing across and within global cultures. 

Alan Gurbutt – for Greater Lincs (Humber to the Wash)

This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.