When we look at the rise of the alt-right (including Trump & BREXIT) it is sometimes helpful to look at the big picture rather than the specific political battles taking place. This big picture suggests that we’ve been complacent in taking Democracy & Liberal Values for granted for much too long. We now need to Articulate/Rejuvenate & Protect our Democracy from vile self-destructive ideological forces from within because if anything we now know what’s at stake. We should begin with a more aggressive bottom-up approach in terms of governance/participation from the local level upwards – it’s called decentralisation of power. What we have is a system of representation through elections, but elections are not an end of themselves and unless they are effective in achieving true participation they’re kind of pointless and here are some of the problem with elections & referendums;
- No proper assessment of political candidates that is based on substance rather than personality & party allegiance. We need to establish a more effective – party agnostic – system of assessing political candidates that is more penetrating to establish expertise, views and personality traits considering the importance of the role they play in our democracy.
- There are no sufficient local forums for the public to become more engaged/better informed about local/national policies outside party narratives to ensure they are better positioned to objectively assess/debate important policy issues.
- Once elections have concluded there is no mechanism for the public’s continued engagement in policy formulation/implementation; a quasi authoritarian state is created where public opinions no longer count beyond the ballot box then party politics & lobbyist take back control.
We really should start a genuine process of re-evaluation/analysis of our current political structures and mark out the obvious failures of our current system of governance. It won’t be an easy process particularly that we’ve been conditioned to accept the current paradigm of politics as a given-so the first port of call is to challenge this notion and accept that we need to go into this review with fresh minds/approach. Why? Well because what seems to have happened is that the system designed to serve the people and prioritise matters of national interest has turned into one enormous beast that allows flawed policies to rule the day, alienate voters and serve the rich. Here are some pointers (and I’ve added a link to related posts);
- Party Politics;
- Divisive Politics that puts Party Politics over Country
- Policy formulation mostly driven from the top-down rather than one focused on local/regional contributions in policy formulation (grass root advocacy)
- Party Branding/Policy driven by empty ideology rather than a pragmatic vision for the future based on facts NOT fiction
- Lack of opportunity/will to bring in new/fresh leadership with current bias towards experience rather than new vision & challenging status quo.
- Elections Matter: In the past this was considered a given but it turns out that it NOT as straight forward as we might have thought when considering issues I mentioned above relating to elections & referendums.
- Political Influence: Increased influence of unaccountable/unelected Lobbyists/Interests Groups (internal/external) – which in a sense is formalising corruption. Party and political campaign funding is a prime example of this and we’ve been condition to accept this as reality and just march along “smiling”.
- Media Bias: Media that has gone from reporting politics to driving political narratives/views; a form of money in politics considering that these are businesses that tend to reflect views of owners/donors.
- Public Misinformation/Prejudices: Public that is quite happy to make political & moral judgements without full comprehension of the subject matter. Our system has been specifically designed for representative democracy. But when it comes to the public making political judgments whether it comes to elections or referendums they seem to be voting largely across narrow party lines/narratives driven by power brokers or prejudices rather than actual facts/information; a political eco system we’ve been conditioned to accept. This situation has become even worse in the last few years with organised political disinformation campaigns (sometimes directed by foreign governments) to push out false narratives/information in order to influence elections. These I would suggest are acts of treason that should be severely punished under our criminal justice system as they are an assault on the core fabric of our form of governance as a society/nation.
These are certainly are some of the chronic issues that need to be addressed ASAP. But then again we now have more pressing issues to contend with including fighting against alt-right ideologies/ideologues. However to fight our political battles we need to do so on the basis of our own set of Liberal/Democratic values/principles many subscribe to NOT based on the narrow party political narratives. We also need to keep an eye on the flaws of the current system – some of which are mentioned above – so that when seeking to resolve internal political conflicts we should do so in a way that avoids exacerbating these issues.
OK, well sounds OK but how about translating all this mumbo jumbo into some form of action. Well, one way I see this in terms of current BREXIT debate – to take it as a very relevant example – is for activist groups on all sides of the argument to stop bashing each other and instead reach out to each other in order to debate the issues objectively/collectively to try and reach consensus based on compromise away from the politics of this thing. The debate should take the form of a public debate/forum and chaired a panel of specialised academics (as an option) to help steer the debate and ensure there is clarity of objectives and a fair process for all sides. The debate should also invite specialists on key subject matters related to BREXIT so that we know exactly what we’re up against with facts/evidence rather than narrow narratives driven by political ideologues. The key objective of this is to help unite the country under a singular/inclusive vision on the way forward – and a process to get us there (IN or OUT) – and then drive politicians in that direction through all forms of activism. Now I have to be honest, as important as this target may be, it is NOT half as important as the following core objectives;
- Establishing a new approach for grass roots political activism that is pragmatic in nature and allows people to be better informed on important topics following the facts as a matter of course rather than convenient political narratives. Facts/Pragmatic thought need to be part of our DNA – from early age – if we are ambition about our future and keen to maintain influence in this world.
- Moving away from the approach of discussing important political matters in independent silos driven by political hacks & ideologues. Rather we need to pierce the bubble of silos and bring people to discuss highly contentious political issues in open public forms (onsite & online) in formats that put a premium on facts NOT fiction & compromise NOT intransigence. This is what a true forward looking Democracy should look like in this day/age rather the isolated reactionary/clan-based silos we seem to have been living in for for some time now – one promoted by rogue politicians and lobbyist. There are also some people who seem to think that rudeness & personal insult is part and parcel of political debate – NOT so despite the fact that political debate within the British parliament is becoming more repulsive than ever.
- Finally we need to ensure we know/appreciate our history and the hard lessons of the past if we are to build a solid foundation for our future. This may be an obvious one here but sometimes it helps saying because we do tend to forget particularly when talking about sacrifices people made for us to get where we are – and I would suggest much further down the line than we’ve actually ended up at the moment.
Bottom line for me is that whatever critical issues we face in this day/age unless we have a mechanism to fix issues related to the broken Democracy we live in and which I eluded to above – a mechanism that is based on political activism – driven from local Town Halls rather than Whitehall – one which is solution centric and based on compromise – we will continue to run aground every time we hit a political wave until we finally hit a Tsunami that can destroy us from within. So whether or NOT you agree with the approach I propose what is needed is a change of course within our political eco system and our role as activists is to help protect Democracy and NOT taking it for granted this while allowing it to evolve/adapt to changing times.
After all Democracy ain’t easy form of governance and it’s certainly is NOT about preaching or assumptions of idealism. Rather it’s about a real value proposition of progress/change – one that does NOT discriminate or alienate.