By Robert Hickey, Simpol Supporter and blogger.
Recent (and not so recent) developments regarding internet “leaking” websites (Wikileaks being the most prominent) and the nature of the web itself, allow for a decentralized conduit for information sharing and begs questions about the implications for a transnational citizens movement as well as for simultaneous policy implementation. I suppose that intuitively, one would think that only good can come from freer and more widely available information on things ranging from military spending, environmental compliance, and political corruption. But if we dissect this issue a bit more, the waters here, I think, begin to appear a bit murkier.
Recently released Wikileaks documents show that there has been a kind of ‘wink-and-nod’ policy between the United States and China on emissions targets leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 20091. Additionally, a number of news outlets have revealed a concerted effort by American secret services to undermine the climate talks by requesting Foreign Service officers to gather information on the compliance record of various countries with Kyoto and other bilateral agreements2. These pieces of information, as well as hanging development aid in front of poorer countries, were then to be used as bargaining chips in gaining concessions in future climate deals.
Let’s go a bit deeper on this through an analogy. It is illegal in a casino for two or more people to come to the power table in collusion with each other. This is a form of cheating which significantly alters the dynamics of the gaming environment. In such a rigged scenario, the skill of the players is marginalized. It is not the best player that will necessarily win, but those who, by an explicit agreement between them, completely alter the rules under which optimal playing conditions may result. Additionally, a card counter, having more information about the nature of the game and the odds of success in front of him, does the same thing; changing the rules, but without the help of another person. Either way, it is not the strengths and weaknesses among players that emerge in such an uncompetitive environment by bringing the best players or player to the top, but rather serves the interests of only one or two players in their attempts to take most of the chips for themselves.
Clearly, pointing out that there are cheaters and hustlers among those at the table is important if the other players can do something about it. But what if those players are the only ones with the high stack of chips? What if they give a couple chips here and there to the other players at the table, so that they will stay in the game? In such a case, what will these other players do if they know these big players are cheating? More accurately, what can they do? They too, benefit from the system in some way, certainly more than being off the table. Reverting back to the climate issues, this is the same reason why many countries don’t press the major polluters to play fairly, after all, they too benefit from the game, at least for now, even if they have a more forward looking view of the global economic, environmental and social situation. They would play the hand given to them at such conferences to the best of their ability in obtaining the climate deal that they wish to see, but they are outmuscled. Maybe this is a bit blunt, but as the old American proverb goes “A Smith and Wesson beats four aces.”
In Simpol terms then, to disengage from the game, is to disengage from the global economic competition. But as it stands now, it is the only game in town. Better to be a player then to be played, isn’t it? So even if freely available information and transparency among governments is
the trajectory in which our political, economic, and social systems are headed, will this really translate into actual change? Will such information, in effect, simply reinforce what we already know to be true? And this knowing, may mean that more and more people and leaders will see that such underhanded dealings are taking place constantly, that realpolitik, stuck in the modern phase (rather than post-modern or most holistic levels) of consciousness rules the day, may make other leaders more reticent to start enacting long-term policies in order to ensure the continued survival of humanity on this planet.
In other words, more information may mean that more governments will see what other governments are actually doing and that makes them more reticent to take the first step in meeting voluntary or involuntary policy targets. Unless this information is coupled with a mechanism for redress, I think it creates only more apathy and a descent of human consciousness to the lower common level in order to ensure survival at that level. Therefore, the result of increasing amounts of information is the need for a mechanism of redress of such information. Simpol provides the bottom up foundation for the election of leaders to enact a simultaneous policy to address grievances. A top down approach, driven by global leaders changing from a growth model to a sustainable, high-quality of life paradigm is also, I believe, necessary.
But what if citizens, down-trodden by the cartelization of the economy, wish to play the same game as the hustler? The powerful create the reality in which all must live, given their economic and military power. To me, it would seem that the last thing on the minds of leaders of countries that have a citizenry with living standards barely above subsistence level is environmental or financial regulation; they need to provide economic opportunity. Avoiding a descent towards the lower common denominator is why it is so important that all players at the table agree to the rules of the game simultaneously, so that the playing field is level.
This is at the heart of the Simultaneous Policy; that it is the commonly agreed upon rules of the game which create benefits for all into perpetuity which is essential for our species, rather than a zero-sum game in which players try to grab as many chips as possible before the game is over and we all cash-out.
1 Traufetter, Gerald. Copenhagen Climate Cables: The U.S. and China Joined Forces Against Europe, Spiegel Online, 12/08/2010 http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,733630,00.html
2 Carrington, Damian. WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord, Guardian.co.uk, 12/2/10 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/03/wikileaks-us-manipulated-climate-accord