In Brave New World Revisited Aldous Huxley wrote of his dislike of large centralised systems which were ineffective:
“We know that, in a very large and complex society, democracy is almost meaningless except in relation to autonomous groups of manageable size; nevertheless more and more of every nation’s affairs are managed by bureaucrats of Big Government and Big Business. It is only too evident that, in practice, the problem of over-organisation is almost as hard to solve as the problem of over-population. “
The piece discusses examples of “…self-governing, non-hierarchical communities of production, which were also communities for mutual aid and full human living.” One such example Huxley gives is the Peckham Experiment in South-East London which ran from 1935-50. This was the first Pioneer Health Centre which enabled families to receive annual medical checks (an MOT for your body rather than that precious car), offered space for social activities, had a swimming pool, schooling facilities and a farm nearby to grow and sell organic produce in the centre. The experiment appears to have been a huge success and understood the importance of a ‘healthy’ community (Big Society?) rather than just a disease-free community. The centre was forced to close as officials setting up the National Health Service believed it was unnecessary and it could not raise the money to continue.
In New Cross there is an expensive new health centre with superb doctors and treatments but I can’t help feel disappointed at the introverted, unfriendly and unused ground floor. This is a place where ill people come to get advice. Is there an opportunity to integrate health and community centres into one building as an extroverted focus for community and family development? In a Balanced Society we need to make sure that a healthy lifestyle consists of more than just popping pills to rid us of disease. Could ideas in the Peckham Experiment be part of that solution?
Peckham Experiment pool