It would be nice to dream of big changes, which politicians could somehow ‘deliver’ (unhelpful word) for us, like ordering something from a mail order catalogue, then sitting back and waiting for some 90 percent empty white van to rush around next day. But voting and politics can only do so much.
Nevertheless, if we create small openings and keep pressing for further constructive openings, we could help to bring about a fruitful period of change, emerging out a a new kind of partnership between imperfect but relatively sincere and reasonably helpful politicians and - well, imperfect and relatively sincere and reasonably helpful citizen activists and groups of many kinds.
One hopeful development might be for UK troops be be brought back from Iraq in fairly short order. Hopefully they could then be given further training so as to be able to assist in peace-keeping, conflict resolution and other constructive efforts around the world, including large scale environmental work as carried out by the Indian Army.
Fair Votes and participatory democracy
So far as Fair Votes is concerned, hopefully if nothing else the Liberal Democrats will insist on serious progress towards the Single Transferrable Vote system of voting, which requires multi-member constituencies but both delivers a reasonably proportionate outcome and allows us to number our preferences, so that no vote is wasted and allowing new parties, coalitions and independents to stand without splitting the progressive vote.
How far we move down that road will depend on the balance of arithmetic advantage, the number of Labour and/or Conservative supporters of electoral reform who emerge, and the degree of clamour, not just from the grass-roots of the Liberal Democrats but also from the many other parties and civic bodies who support electoral reform.
Even if the goal cannot be attained at
once, we should look to see progress on the lines of e.g.:
a referendum which first asks voters to retain status quo or change; and if change then to number two or three options in order of preference, including STV and an ‘open list’ Additional member system in both of which voters, not party leaders, get to determine which candidates are elected from each party’s slate.
the introduction of STV for local government across the board, as in Scotland, or at the very least an Act empowering a local switch to either of these electoral systems if either a majority of councillors or ten percent of a local electorate trigger a referendum on the issue.
The Party form becoming less dominant
among those working for change
In 1905 ordinary citizens had few or their own networks of information and self-organisation and therefore party leaders and officials had much more power. One gift of the Internet is that it allows ordinary people and civil society groups to communicate and link up in patterns of constructive activity no longer dominated by the rivalries of political parties, nation states and companies driven by profit (and debt).
With the introduction of proportional representation and preferential voting the way could be open for a variety of new local forums and city-regional and bio-regional coalitions to emerge.
Cross-fertilisation between ‘government’ and participatory self-governance
At the same time new experiments in best practice governance could see a new kind of partnership evolve between formal representative democracy and participatory democracy, with stable frameworks for participatory budget-setting, deliberative citizens juries, citizen initiatives, collaborative themed weeks and months in which national, regional and/or local conversations go beneath the official truths that usually sustain us (and leave us hungry).
One of the surprise developments in the Scottish Parliament has been a whole series of cross-party groups (which any four MPs from different parties can set up). These are formally part of the Parliament and assisted by the Parliament’s secretariat, but they can draw in as full participants a wide range of stakeholders with special interest or expertise in railways or domestic violence or affordable housing or whatever the group’s focus and workplan is.
Likewise, we could also expect to see a strengthening of the work of the 'Ministry for Peace' which has been started autonomously by a network of peace organisations with parliamentary sponsorship (John McDonnell), and sees itself as the seeds of a properly funded official Peace Ministry which is both a department of government and a body which constantly brings in and works with NGOs.
Whether or not we succeed in balancing the Parliament more and more of us need to raise our sights and thicken our networks into larger clusters and ‘guilds’ and parallel ‘ministries’, why not?, which can both criticise and block civil servants and those in authority when necessary, but also encourage them and help them mainstream the new cultural practices (or ‘memes’), proposals, technologies and arrangements which we need.
Areas of work for other 'alternative ministries'
AFFORDABLE ECO AND CO-HOUSING, SUSTAINABLE BUILDING
THE OPEN SOURCE REVOLUTION IN SOFTWARE, COPYLEFT
ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF ENERGY
SOCIAL CREDIT - ALTERNATIVES TO USURY AND DEBT SLAVERY
ALTERNATIVE AND HOLISTIC APPROACHES TO HEALTH, RECOVERY, NUTRITION, LIFESTYLE, WORK, ENVIRONMENT
ALTERNATIVES TO PRIVATE, PAYING AND POLLUTING TRANSPORT
TOWN-TWINNING, ECO-TOURISM AND MEANINGFUL CULTURAL AND INTERFAITH EXCHANGES
And back to each of us
I believe that a LibDem government or coalition would be more likely than a Labour or a Tory government to go down the sorts of road indicated above, e.g. to decouple government and public bodies from Microsoft and instead rely on the superior software available for free from the Open Source movement. But whether we get such a government or not we in any case need to go as far down these roads as possible, while resisting as best we can the constant pressures in unwholesome and anti-social directions.
However to do so we ourselves need to learn how to meet with each other in radically new patterns, including eating and living and celebrating and working with each other, not always in short meetings dominated by the ‘best’ (?) talkers!
We need to risk coming together to share our pain, our fears and our hopes, without distracting ourselves down well-worn grooves of denunciation or dogmatism or pretending things aren’t too bad and some simple solutions are at hand!
We need musicians and artists and poets and dramatists to work with communities and movements to help us to tap into the power which can come when a community faces each other with real honesty and love in our hearts (as when a new Gorsedd stone circle is blessed in the Welsh Eisteddfod tradition). What myths and symbols and liturgies can help us connect with our love for our true 'Motherland'?
And on a personal level, every time we say Another World Is Possible, do we not also need to commit to Another I/we is possible? What personal disciplines and routines or spiritual practices are we following so that we can gradually grow and ground ourselves and as far as possible avoid the depleting of the spirit which comes from too much TV, noise, consumption, rush, busyness, gossip, complaining, narcissim and idealised fanatasies?
When we realise how suffering and how stuck we are individually and as a society, then paradoxically perhaps at last new openings for creative utterance and deep hearing and dynamic caring action can occur.
May all beings be free. May all beings