by Waheed Saleem, chairman of the Lunar Society
The Lunar Society founders were radical thinkers, who during their time dramatically changed society, which we continue to benefit from today.
Our forefathers included eminent names such as Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood, Richard Edgeworth, Thomas Day, Thomas Bicknell, Joseph Priestley to name a few. These men changed the world in every sphere of life from science, engineering and public policy.
Meeting in Soho House in Birmingham on the day of the full Moon, to enable them to get home after their meetings, the ‘lunatics’, as they were commonly known, laid the foundation to the industrial revolution, discovered oxygen, harnessed the power of steam, and pioneered the theory of evolution.
As well as the scientific and engineering discoveries the Lunar men were at the forefront of societal changes. This included being the first to inoculate their children against small pox; Wedgwood opened one of the first female only schools; Thomas Day, the political campaigner wrote and campaigned against political corruption and the extension of the voting franchise.
What is not commonly known is that the Lunar men instigated the anti-slavery movement, with Thomas Bicknell writing an anti slavery poem, ‘The Dying Negro’ (1773), Wedgwood produced medallions showing a chained slave with the motto “Am I not a man and a brother”.
These were passionate, optimistic, idealistic individuals who marked their place in the world, as the new class, the non conformists and reformers whose domination we feel now.
Today’s Lunar Society will be at the forefront of thinking through the challenges facing today’s society and instigate intellectual debate and discourse with leading thinkers on developing radical solutions that will benefit generations to come.
This debate will not only involve members but will also be extended to wider audience through social media and through this column.
During my term of office as chair of the Lunar Society, we will consider three major themes of poverty and social exclusion; science and technology and social consciousness.
I would like to start a debate on developing our thinking on poverty and social exclusion.
This has become the major issue affecting our society, with people in our towns and cities living on a day to day basis, making decisions on either feeding their children or paying their bills.
Jackie Monroe’s blog , a 24-year-old single mother living in poverty, brings home the plight of people living in these conditions.
So what can the radical solutions be?
The restriction of space will not allow me to develop these in detail, but these will be the subject of on-going discussion by the Lunar Society.
Should the Government rescind the bedroom tax and review all the welfare reform changes on the impact these have on the poorest in society, undertaking poverty impact assessments?
If the Government guarantees a job to all working age people will this create a fairer society?
Can the Government impose financial sanctions on people to encourage people to get a job or would it be better for people to have never ending encouragement and support as financial sanctions will have a detrimental impact on the poorest in society?
Are pay day loan companies such an scourge on society that they should be banned?
Should the Government introduce a legal living wage and maximum salary, thereby ensuring companies pay proportionally, who needs a £1 million to live comfortably?
Can we introduce price controls on all essential services e.g fuel, energy, food to ensure people are not left in destitution; is our tax system fair and proportionate to all?
These are some of the issues the society will continue to debate and develop our thinking to understand the radical solutions required to mark our place as the modern day ‘lunatics’.
- Waheed Saleem is chairman of the Lunar Society