I once spent a lot of time with a senior officer in the British army who served in the Falklands War. In the heat of The Battle for Goose Green, with his commander dying of wounds, a bullet came the way of this second-in-command. In his pocket was a book by the 20th century desert mystic Carlo Carretto. He claimed it "took the bullet" - and saved his life.
a way of making sure you
are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected
to you, proving that you are alive.
Two things come to mind: "No shit, Sherlock" and "Dear Waterstones the Booksellers, please close your branch in Hampstead High Street and give these chaps something else to worry about."
However, there is a bigger point.
As the U.K. Government starts to exact a price for bailing out the Royal Bank of Scotland and the United States Government deals with a request for $21bn of additional financial support for the motor industry, the role and relationship of the state to not just the banking sector but all aspects of daily life is changing.
In the process of re-aligning the deck chairs, a new form of 'command and control' industrial economics and public management is taking shape.
Combined with the rent-a-quote where-am-I-in-the-bestsellers-list clever-dickery of James, Lewis and de Botton, there's a danger that the networked devolution of power that's been celebrated over the last few years and caught the attention of public managers across the world gets rubbed out.
So it may be worth just to remember what's gone on over the last decade to embed the idea that aggregation of human expression, purpose and intent is a valuable foundation for social, economic and political progress:
The rise of partnership working, public-private partnerships and local asset-backed vehicles in urban renewal has established an ethos of collaborative working.
Privatization and outsourcing of public services, the rise of ‘joined-up’ government, consumer choice and technological innovation has shifted hierarchical organisation of government to more networked forms of public management.
The rise of ‘place’ as an organizing principle of local government and city planning now acknowledges that the built environment is more than just the organisation of the interests of land-owners and users but a web of experiences and physical, social, cultural and financial relationships.
Government emphasis on citizen participation, the Third Sector, democratic governance and inclusive economics has set on record the role of the community in the provision of public services.
Social and cultural entrepreneurs have become an increasingly important part of urban development, alongside landowners, speculators, planners and architects; bringing to economic development a new cast of characters who have an acute, populist mindset and combine skills in entrepreneurship, thought leadership, stakeholder management and project delivery.
The rise of Web 2.0 and online entertainment platforms have revealed a consumer appetite for informal, purposeful and semi-visible public networks.
The increasing use of co-design as a method for originating and developing ideas – from creating a new park to the development of open source software – has revealed an understanding of the opportunity and value of sharing emotional, as well as intellectual property.
Popular participation in voting for performers on television by telephone and text messaging has revealed that people like to engage with and not just consume products and services.
And popular take-up of Crazy Frog and online ‘widgets’ mark an appetite for viral advertising and the power of marketing by word of mouth.
Now I am not going to write this list down and tuck it in to my shirt to absorb forthcoming bullets.
But if you - like me - are committed to advancing participatory culture and helping government and the private sector enter an age of social sustainability and interactivity, it might be worth you drawing up your own list and keeping it to hand.
Or keep a close watch on what's going on - and decide whether to bin all of this as history.
Mickey Mouse pictures courtesy of Rey Misterio.