Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summary of interview with Peter Manning

Peter Manning kindly received me in his lovely home and made me coffee before we settled in for our discussion of virtue. He is a concerned man who thought deeply as we talked.

For Peter, virtuous people take responsibility for their actions, reflect on their behaviour, and keep trying to live better lives - going through the cycle of apology and forgiveness whenever necessary. He is concerned that we are moving from self-regulation of behaviour to regulation imposed from without - guidelines from government that try to mandate standards. Not only is this virtually impossible, in his view, but it also actually disempowering as it means people can abdicate responsbility, theoretically doing what is expected of them to a minimum standard. An added concern is that this minimum standard is further limited by the press that consistently sends us messages that people in "modern Britain" are limited, sinful, unvirtuous, and not to be trusted. These two occurances are huge barriers to embedding virtue because they make us wary of forging relationships.

Peter does think consciously about his behaviour and tries to act virtuously, knowing full well, that he does not do so all the time. Behaving virtuously makes him feel good about himself and his fellow man. It also provides some structure and purpose to his life in that it helps him to feel positive and progressive and it engenders trust between people. Virtous behaviour is easier when you have strong relationships.

In times of uncertainty developing relationships is is more important than ever: people are re-evaluating their lives and thinking about new ways of living. We have an opportunity to develop a new common understanding but we need to feel able to take risks and develop new approaches. To that end, he encourages people to develop links in small groups where they can get to know people and with whom they can ideally have daily contact. He also believes that leaders of organisations have important roles to play in embedding virtue, indeed he feels it should be a part of their job. However they need to make themselves accessible, thinking more of what others need than what they need to stay in their positions of power.

For more on the virtue project and links to other interview summaries, please see an earlier post: Behavioural Change: The Way out of this Mess? (for the virtue project)

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The whole interview will be available shortly. Please post a comment if you would like to hear it. Thanks.

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