Simpol and Jolitics

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Just a quickie to say that Simpol has partnered with Jolitics to provide citizens around the world with an online tool for developing global policies. Fun and easy to use, anyone anywhere can join in. Offered as a supplement to Simpol’s formal policy development process, this is a great way for citizens to exchange ideas, develop policies and vote on them. You don’t even need to be a registered Simpol supporter.

So come along and get involved!

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Ending Ecocide in Europe – thoughts on a new campaign.

eee3Today, a new campaign went live from an organisation called eradicating ecocide. This new campaign is called End Ecocide in Europe.

The aim is to get 1 million people to sign what is know as a European Citizens Initiative (ECI). This is, essentially, a citizen led petition. The following quote is from their website:

If one million citizens sign, the Commission will have to seriously consider our proposal.

Should they be successful they aim to get three measures introduced into law, namely that Ecocide shall be a crime when:

  • when the ecocide happens on EU territory (including maritime territories)
  • when EU companies are involved or
  • when EU citizens (that might be working for non-European companies) are involved.

What this bold plan shows, is an increasing recognition that the problems we face cannot be solved by individual nations acting alone. The question then, is whether even the EU is big enough to ‘go it alone’ on this?

I certainly would like to hope so. Simpol has always said that as many strategies as possible should be used in parallel to try to solve the problems we face. To get this signed into law would be a massive step forward. It would also place renewed pressure on other nations/groups, who have thus far refused to engage with these issues.

But is it enough ultimately? I’m not so sure and here’s why.

1) By and large, the worst cases of ecocide do not happen in Europe. They happen elsewhere in the world.

2) This campaign has clearly recognised the above, hence the second point on their list – ‘when EU companies are involved’. In a globalised business world, it would not be difficult for transnational corporations to simply set up a subsidiary outside of the EU.

For example: imagine that Sustainable Forestry PLC, legally based in France, decides to set up Slash and Burn Industries LTD, legally based in Indonesia. How will it be possible to prosecute the former, for the crimes of the latter?

3) The commission will have to seriously consider our proposal: How seriously? Let’s be clear here- to get 1 million citizen signatures would be a remarkable achievement. It would also place quite some pressure on the EU.

But would that pressure be enough to counter the pressure, lobbying and threats of capital flight & job losses that would inevitably come from the corporate world? Or will the fear of these things prevent action, just as it has already done at the national level?

4) Citizen signatures – based on point 3) above, I think perhaps it will take more than signatures to get this done. Perhaps votes would be a good way. Imagine what could be achieved with a million coordinated citizen votes!

I sincerely hope that this campaign works, that the EU signs this into law and that this leads on to even greater things. I thoroughly applaud everyone involved with this campaign. It has taken a massive effort to get here, from committed people who are working tirelessly for the greater good.

All I’m saying is that, should it not work, Simpol offers the next level up from this. Simpol offers citizen led policies (just like this one) the chance to use a unique, coordinated voting strategy at the GLOBAL level.

In the meantime, I urge everyone reading this to do two things:

1) Sign the ECI here: http://www.endecocide.eu/

2) Sign up to Simpol here: http://www.simpol.org/index.php?id=12

Between us we CAN get it done!!

by Mark Horler – Simpol-UK trustee.

SIMPOL – Campaign Promises

A piece written by Simpol supporter, Rob Hickey, raising some questions for us to answer…

The day after watching John Bunzl’s presentation on the Political Prisoner’s Dilemma…

…I jolted up out of my bed in a cold sweat, thinking about something he said during the presentation. No…it was not that dramatic, but I was drinking a beer, and jolted up from the couch and over to my computer to write something down. That something, you are now reading. I like thinking about real world applications of game theory (from a non-mathematical perspective mind-you), particularly when I am sitting in my car in an intersection after cars from all four directions have pulled into the center, and traffic is jammed. Somehow, I think, we could all have avoided this is we had just had a little more foresight and were, perhaps a little bit more enlightened.

Anyway, one section of the talk I felt was glossed over a bit, was that regarding the actual implementation of the SIMPOL Pledge once a politician has agreed to it. In this scenario, voters will have already voted for them on the assumption that they would implement it. John told us that it would simply not make sense for them to not make good on their promise to their electorate as it would destroy their reputation as a politician. I found this questionable as this happens constantly as is seen as standard operative procedure in politics. John partially allayed my fears by telling us that politicians will only implement the pledge when all nations (or sufficient nations) have agreed to implement the reforms that the pledge highlights, simultaneously. It is only at this point that a chance to backtrack on their pledge is possible as it is the only situation under which they might act together. However, it is at this point where John says that “not implementing the simultaneous policy would just be completely nuts for anyone” (This was from 14:08-14:14 in the video). I am not sure that it would be completely nuts for politicians not to implement it, using the same game theory logic that John highlights earlier in the talk.

At this point, it would still be possible that not implementing the policy may still be in a country’s, or perhaps more accurately, an individual politicians self-interest. On the country level, this situation would occur where the countries would be a net short-term loser with regard to the simultaneous policy portfolio such as when a huge long-term mining contract was about to be signed between a government and a multinational (although John mentions that a Tobin tax might help assuage those fears). On the personal level, if political speech was protected so well enough (as in the US) that special interests have shaped politicians decision-making through campaign contributions and organizing fund-raisers (you know, the old tried-and-true lobbying techniques), the incentive structure may still be skewed towards the direction of inaction.

Forcing a politician to implement all of the campaign promises that they have made is a ludicrous proposition and is unenforceable in practice. Political negotiation and bargaining between parties must happen and the circumstances and context within which those promises were made may have changed, making implementation harmful or even impossible. Imperative mandate, whereby parliamentary deputies can only enact policies that those electing them tell them that they can enact have been ruled illegal in some jurisdictions. This has happened in some cases because such a policy limits the freedom of the representatives themselves and helps mitigate extreme views or populist tendencies among the electorate.

In the U.S., making false statements regarding ones military accomplishments has been regarding as protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution (the amendent protecting the freedom of speech and also the right to petition the government, which protects lobbyism) in the case of United States v. Alvarez in the US Supreme Court in 2012. This seems to point in the direction that any attempt to restrict speech in a political campaign, even if made in bad faith would fail on constitutional grounds. As such, a legal solution to this tradition of breaking campaign promises has nearly no chance of success despite its distastefulness to many voters. Some bottom-up approaches have been attempted to address this issue though, such as the Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact website that tracks the degree to which President Obama has kept his campaign promises and which has won the Pulitizer Prize for its work1. But the degree to which this affects election outcomes is questionable, I think.

I am, yet again, playing devil’s advocate here as I believe that a bottom-up approach to solving global issues, as SIMPOL attempts, is a valiant effort. I just deeply fear that for the reasons previously mentioned that such an approach will not happen fast enough, or deep enough to address global issues. This is most clearly visible regarding climate change, where some scientists claim that the extremity of measures measures needed to meet current climate targets have reached the point of absurdity and by implication, impossibility2.

Governments and the 5 stages of grief

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross created and introduced a model of grieving, a hypothesis commonly known as the five stages of grief. These were 5 emotional responses shown by those suffering grief. This model has, of course, been greatly contested over the years when it comes to its application in individuals.

However, I actually think it is worth considering in the context of the plight faced by current national governments. As a consequence of destructive international competition, governments are severely restricted in the policies they can put forward and implement. Accordingly, we now have governments which are effectively powerless in the face of global markets and globalised money.

The end result is that government, as it currently exists, is dying. In this context, there is perhaps much that the Kübler-Ross model can tell us.

So here it is:

The stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA, include:[2]

  1. Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
    Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.
  2. Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
    Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.
  3. Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
    The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…” People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example “Can we still be friends?..” when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death.
  4. Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
    During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the ‘aftermath’. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation.
  5. Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
    In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person’s situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.

See what I mean? This model actually gives me some hope. It seems likely, by this reckoning, to get much worse in the short term. But if we can move through to the final stage, to acceptance that the current system cannot persist, we can have have hope for the future – for something better.

Interestingly, there is a related model called the Satir change model, which is clearly based on the same principles, only describing it in a group setting.  Here’s a diagram of that model:

satir_graph

The failure of this model, for me, in the context of the present governmental situation, is that is present the trigger as a ‘foreign element’. In our context, which is the entirety of global civilisation and governance, no foreign element is possible! Instead, the trigger is a quality inherent to the system as a whole.

Nevertheless, I think by combining elements of both models, we can create a synthesis that shows how events may progress as we go along. The compatibility of the models can be neatly seen here.

kubler-ross-satir

Equally, my hope from earlier is not diminished, but rather strengthened by this synthesis. I can see that, though times may be hard and getting ever harder, through Simpol, we can look to a better future.

Mark Horler – Simpol-UK

Towards a new paradigm

James David Parker – Trustee and Political Liaison Coordinator for the Simultaneous Policy UK (SIMPOL-UK)

When Galileo Galilei claimed that the earth revolved around the sun instead of celestial subjects revolving around the earth it broke away from conventional knowledge. This eventually led to a new level of understanding and cooperation. Human centric laws encourage people to ‘believe’ the myth that we are separate from our environment and thus ‘conquering’ technology continues to develop; which attempts to create a civilisation independent from nature.

If Global Governance was encouraged then people would regard themselves as part of the globe and recognise their dependence on the ecosystem and therefore more collaborative types of eco-technology would develop.

We need international laws that develop earth centered strategies in order to develop eco-technology as a means of social – economic responsibility and international security.

It is apparent that a growing human population and self-centred world economy have increased the pressure on our ecosystem. The agricultural land, climate, forests, coastal areas, lakes and oceans have all shown signs of excessive strain and ill-treatment. Some have argued that humanity is far away from environmental constraints but evidence overwhelmingly shows that the environmental capacity to support us is already being exceeded. The simple truth is that a far ‘greater’ level of international cooperation is needed if humanity is going to survive this crisis. The problem lies in each country’s pursuit of its own interest’s to gain comparative advantage over other states.

This is achieved by a total commitment to economic growth based on the production, utilisation and consumption of natural resources. In that it is argued that by destroying the rain forest within a territory it would lead to a ‘comparative advantage’ by raising exports and therefore gaining short term economic growth. However this would lead to long term unsustainable economic growth since the rain forest essentially keeps the ecosystem in balance and thus the ecosystem is the foundation of economic growth.

The Industrial Revolution defined the competitive nature of the nation state and sovereignty creating classical liberalism.[1] However at the same time it changed the relationship between humanity and nature (developed during the Enlightenment philosophy from Hegel, Descartes and John Stuart Mill) where human activities were seen as separate from nature. While the perceived idea of separation between humanity and nature led to advancements in certain areas, such as global ‘human’ communications and the expansion of urban infrastructure; in the long term however, this unconscious delusion hasn’t allowed the basic ecological conditions of life to continue to thrive on earth because it is enclosed within national interests.

As the Environmental Lawyer Cormac Cullinan stated:

Our species has a major governance crisis, and far-reaching changes in how we regulate human behaviour are essential for the sake of the Earth and all its inhabitants. A good starting point would be to recognise that our governance systems are still based on the philosophies of Descartes, Bacon and Newton. They saw the universe as a complex machine that we could understand by dissecting and analysing its component parts. Allied to this was the conviction that humans are the rightful owners and masters of this universe of objects, with a right to use it for the exclusive benefit of the human species. This world-view created a barrier between humans and ‘nature’. It also led us into the dangerous delusion that we can disengage ourselves from the fate of the planet and live happily in a human world in which technology can provide all we desire, instead of the Earth providing all we need.”[2]

 

The industrialized countries developed their economies over the past 150 years in part by treating the atmosphere and natural resources as free and unlimited and therefore unconsciously generating the great quantities of GHGs. We have since become conscious of this process and have become more aware of our interconnectedness with nature through quantum physics, ecology, global communication, and holistic understanding.

Therefore we need to act more intelligently and responsibly and need to transcend the dysfunctional and out dated modes of production that are now endangering the planet.

As the Philosopher Thomas Berry stated:

Our ethical traditions know how to deal with suicide, homicide and even genocide; but these traditions collapse entirely when confronted with biocide, the extinction of the vulnerable life systems of the Earth, and geocide, the devastation of the Earth itself.”[3]


[1]For example see: Adam Smith ‘The Wealth of Nations’ (1776)

[2]Cormac Cullinan ‘Justice for All’ Article published in Resurgence Magazine No.216. (Sept/Oct 2002)

[3]Thomas Berry ‘The Great Work: Our Way into the Future.’ Crown Publications (1 Feb 2000) p104

 

Simpol and the Power of We

Today is Blog Action Day. Thousands of bloggers from around the world are coming together to tell stories of The Power of We. Here’s a quote from the organisers:

We choose this theme for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the popularity of the your suggestions; Community, Equality, Transparency/Anti-Corruption and Freedom, in our theme poll.

Secondly, The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around he world.

Well, I couldn’t not get engaged with that. Simpol is absolutely all about The Power of We. Democracy is the power of we! Well, it should be. But here is where the problem lies.

Our democracy, our rights, our freedoms, our chances and our choices – all the things that make up the power of the people – have been diminished in recent years.

The power of unrestrained competition (and indeed consumption) has led us all into a ‘race for the bottom’ which erodes and, eventually, washes away all that we should strive most to protect.

We desecrate the natural world in our race for raw materials. We abandon community in the pursuit of economic survival. We dismiss peace and instead commit ourselves to the horror of war. Perhaps most of all, we ignore the fact that we are a cooperative species, because we are focussed on competing.

Our entire world – and everything that really matters in it – are being held hostage by money, markets, competition and corporations. Change is virtually impossible within this system.

Simpol has the power to change this. With Simpol, across the world, we the people come together and create the policies we want – the global policies we so desperately need.

Once we’ve done that, we agree to vote for ANY politician (within reason) who pledges to implement those policies.

WE create the policy and WE then make the politicians compete for our votes by agreeing to those policies.

So, with Simpol, The Power of We is the power to turn the whole system upside down. It is thus the power to bring about true democratic global governance. From that global, people powered governance can come real and lasting change.

The world we dream of seeing – a world of peace, prosperity, justice and sustainability – is not so far away as it seems. WE can get there together!

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP)

Today, I signed a petition via Avaaz.org to stop what they are calling ‘the corporate death star’. Now that’s obviously a bit over dramatic in order to attract attention. But to be honest, it would be hard to find a worse piece of legislation for democracy than the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

This agreement is being negotiated in the utmost secrecy by global corporations and various national governments. No one outside this select group is being allowed to see any documents from these meetings – not even the respective parliaments etc of the countries negotiating it.

The purpose of the agreement appears to be to extend various, already draconian copyright and patent laws. In this sense, it is the latest in a long line of efforts that include the failed ACTA and SOPA. Clearly all of these, and especially the TPP are worth fighting just for being what they are.

But what is especially worrying is the secrecy and the fact that, if it passes, it will be very difficult indeed to undo. In fact, it is likely to become an international norm.

So here we have yet one more example of governments and corporations colluding, to the detriment of the rest of us. But there is something else here. Many people will be tempted to blame the corporation, to accuse them of immorality.

But what this actually shows is that transnational corporations recognise the essential need for global rules. They see that this is the only way to operate in the global marketplace. Unsurprisingly, they seek to bring about legislation that will most benefit them – which is to say, make them more money.

This should not really shock us, as it is exactly what a business is supposed to do! The morality, the regulation, the control is supposed to come from governance. That governance is supposed to be derived from us, the people. If the corporations can see that global rules are necessary, isn’t it high time that the rest of us caught up?!

As Simpol founder John Bunzl recently put it:

“You’re not going to have a sustainable global economy unless you have governance that’s on the same scale as the economy it’s supposed to bloody govern!”

It’s up to us, the people, to combat this. Right now, I urge you all to go and sign the Avaaz petition in order to try and stop this now.

But, in the longer term, we’re simply going to have to create citizen powered global governance. It’s the only way to stop this happening over and over again.