How National Service Could Save Our Communities and Economies

A modern version of national service would teach responsibility, duty, and gratitude, and help to solve some of our gravest problems.

Frequently in the news we hear about problems that threaten to destroy our communities, both local and national. The environment, lack of unskilled labour, social care crises, drug problems, poverty, hate crime, housing, libraries closing, schools oversubscribed.

The list goes on and on. Currently, the remedy for these problems is generally a bit of government money, a couple of relatively weak pieces of legislation, and a charity that can put a sticking-plaster over the wounds. That’s not good enough, unfortunately, which is why these issues too often stay on the agenda for years.

True enough, charities can be effective in some places, and legislation can successfully deal with these issues — as can extra funding if it is well-used and directed. But the best way to treat the deepest cuts into the fabric of our communities is to enlist the help of the communities themselves. We can see the problems facing our communities: friends and family are affected by them every day.

Friend lost to opioids. Child lost to poverty. Parent lost to poor social care and medical attention. Brother lost to knife crime.

Not everyone experiences these issues in the same way, and some are far luckier than others, but everyone has stories, perhaps even their own personal struggles with mental health, or finding a school for their child.

At the same time, we know that these cuts are often only deepening. Why? Because children and young people are succumbing to the poverty cycle, the portrayal of them as victims of a ruling elite’s ignorance by politicians, knife crime, and mental health problems. Too many children aren’t taught responsibility and gratitude as they should be, coasting through life and taking their health for granted.

We need a way, then, to fix the social issues we have, and ensure that they don’t deepen through the poor education of young people.

That’s why I believe in the reintroduction of national service, just for one year, which can be spent doing almost anything which is justifiably worthwhile and helpful to communities.

Here’s the broad outline: governed at a relatively local level — counties in the US, councils in the UK — young people should be required, between the ages of 16 and 25, to carry out a minimum of 1 year’s worth of national service, which can be in the military, but absolutely isn’t limited to service in the military.

Working unpaid for any charity which serves the local or wider community, establishing a project of their own, working in a public service such as a clinic or school — anything which has a positive impact on the community.

While much more is needed to solve the problems which plague our communities, and the government cannot use the reintroduction of national service as a curtain to hide behind, it could go some way to chipping away at the big issues — from a much different angle than we usually try to attack from.

Perhaps even more importantly, it would ensure a more balanced future society and teach the younger generations the values which many feel have been derided: respect, duty, and gratitude.

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