Simpol and Jolitics

Untitled

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!

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 – bridging the void

Some people ask me what my vision of and for Simpol is. Others say that Simpol is not enough, that we need to move beyond the current model. There is often talk of new paradigms. All sorts of interesting ideas come up all the time. There’s the Zeitgeist Movement, The Venus Project, the Free World Charter, The Commons Movement and many many more.

But there’s a problem. This (to borrow a well known meme) is how I see the world right now:

So, the question is, how are we to cross this void? The answer of course is that we must overcome the problem of destructive international competition. I should probably explain that a bit.

We all know that competition can be a great motivator and a driver of real progress. It has been the driving force behind some of the most positive changes in our society. It has most certainly enabled us to live a better quality of life than might otherwise be imaginable. But, like any system, it has its weaknesses.

Any competition that is useful always exists within a wider cooperative framework. Think of any competitive sport, for example, and it will be clear that there are rules to which all competitors must adhere.

The problem we face now is that -with the advent of globally mobile capital, transnational corporations and effectively all powerful global markets – no such rules are in place for these entities. So competition – unrestrained, unregulated, unstoppable – becomes a destructive force. A free-for-all takes place with no rules. If we return to the sporting analogy, we can see the easily the damage such a state of affairs would do.

We must, then, bridge this void. We must bring globally mobile capital, corporations and markets back under proper democratic control. We, the people, must cooperate to drive our politicians to cooperate, in turn, at the global level. We must, in short, create global governance.

Once that is done, we will have crossed that void safely. Once on the other side, all these other ideas and paradigms become possible. So Simpol is not a end in itself. It is, in fact a beginning for a better future for all.

How do I see Simpol? Simpol is that bridge.

Democratising the Global Political Commons

Simpol-UK and our friends over at School of Commoning are holding an event in London. It is entitled Democratising the Global Political Commons and will be held on 07/05/2012. Here’s a brief description of the event:

Power today resides in the global space; that is, with entities such as transnational corporations or the rich who can move across national borders. Governments, being nationally rooted, cannot deal with global problems. So how are we, citizens, to reclaim the global political commons? How are we to hold global capital accountable?

Speaking will be the renowned commons advocate James Quilligan and Simpol-UK Trustee Mark Horler (that’s me!).  We would love to see as many of you there as possible, so book your place asap!

 

The Occupy Movement and the August Riots – a common thread?

What is described as “The most comprehensive statistics published so far on people charged over the August riots in England” have been released.

In news that will shock no-one who has the slightest idea about these things (and doesn’t have an axe to grind), the rioters have been shown to be broadly ‘poorer, younger and of lower educational achievement than average’.

But what is interesting and perhaps surprising is that only 13% of those arrested were gang members. In fact apparently ‘a government spokesman said: “In terms of the role gangs played in the disorder, most forces perceived that where gang members were involved, they generally did not play a pivotal role.”‘

At the same time there has been quite some controversy as the big progressive/leftist organisations attempt to get in on the Occupy action.

What links these two cases then is spontaneity and a wholesale rejection of traditional structures and leaderships – political and otherwise. Be it the gangs that (supposedly) run our streets to the gangs that (supposedly) run our country – it seems people are no longer willing to simply follow, to be told.

The people clearly want to decide for themselves, to take back their right to make a choice and to voice an opinion. What’s more, people are increasingly willing to get out there spontaneously to spread and share that message and that right.

Spontaneity is a kind of disorder, born of a lack of faith in the established order. But human society has a certain way about it and it will re-organise itself soon enough.

What will be very interesting will be to see how it does that and how it ends up.

We live in interesting times!

David Cameron at the Conservative Party Conference

By Mark Horler, Simpol supporter, blogger and networking officer.

It seems only fair, having looked at Miliband’s performance at the Labour conference, to do the same for Mr Cameron in Manchester.

After his opening remarks, Cameron began his speech proper with the following statement:

“people have very clear instructions for this government: lead us out of this economic mess, do it in a way that is fair and right – and, as you do it, please build something worthwhile for us and our children. Clear instructions, clear objectives and, for me, a clear understanding that in these difficult times it is leadership we need…”

To be honest I find it hard to know where to start with this. So I’ll take it one remark at a time:

  • Lead us out of this economic mess – That’s some chutzpah there! The two main parties have been telling the same economic story for years. The main problem though is that this statement takes as a given that it is even possible for this government (or any national government acting alone) to take us out of this economic mess. This economic mess is global – it’s story is one of globalisation, ever increasing corporate power and commensurately decreasing democratic power via national governments. To get out of this economic mess requires truly radical global reforms – reforms which are well out of reach for any one national government!
  • Do it in a way that is fair and right – There are all sorts of progressive movement organisations that have been, for the past year, noting and publicly decrying the total lack of fairness in austerity programs both in Britain and elsewhere in the world. It has been shown over and again that austerity programs increase inequality and hit the most vulnerable hardest. Yet they do nothing to challenge the global status quo that is the real root of our problems.
  • As you do it, please build something worthwhile for us and our children – well, this just takes the biscuit doesn’t it?! The way we live now we are putting every single future generation across the world at risk. We are putting our future as a civilisation and perhaps even as a species at risk. Somehow I don’t think cutting budgets in one country is enough!
  • for me, a clear understanding that in these difficult times it is leadership we need – Is it? Is it really? Or is it time we realised that nation centric governments acting alone and competitively with no real power or policy in an increasingly desperate world is just not enough anymore. Isn’t it actually time we saw that governments are being overrun by the pressure of destructive international competition. Is it not time that we, the people, take back the power, make our own agenda across the world and drive our governments to implement that People’s Agenda? The huge numbers of protests springing up across the world from – western democracies to the Arab spring – suggest that it is indeed very much time for those realisations and actions to take place. It is consensus and cooperation and direct global democracy we need – not more of the same failing system!

It’s not for Simpol to judge any party on national issues – Simpol deals only with global issues. But the statements being made by Cameron (and others across government, Labour and Lib Dem parties) are inextricably tied up with – yet strangely silent on – global issues.

It’s time for us to do it for ourselves. Join Simpol; join our open, free and participative global democracy. Join us in really making the difference to get our WORLD working… together.

Politics – A dirty word?

Though it has been oddly absent from the so called mainstream media, the recent occupy wall street movement has been making big waves within the wider progressive movement. I read somewhere – although irritatingly I can’t find it now – that ‘the movement has been characterised by a coolness, even hostility towards traditional politics’.

The focus has been on another way of doing things. I read this brilliant blog recently, which did a great job of illuminating what they are trying to do at liberty plaza. It’s so good in fact, that I am going to make a lengthy block quote from it:

Living occupation is the antithesis to colonialism’s deadly occupation. Living occupation works by bringing daily life back to circumscribed spaces. More than simply putting our bodies where they don’t belong, as living occupiers we live our lives where they don’t belong. We take private space and we use it for doing everything that we do in the course of our lives: talking, reading, acting, thinking, arguing, laughing, dreaming, dancing, urinating, defecating, loving, cooking, eating, building, playing, sleeping. By giving up our private lives, we return space to the public and we make room for the possibility of a life worth living. In living occupation, not only do we do everything in public; more than that, what we do, we do together as a public.

Another very well written blog piece by Rortybomb points out that this different model is very much a conscious choice and is a definite rejection of representative democracy:

The ideology of the alter-globalization movement was contained in its practice. What seemed to outside observers like a chaotic mish-mash of messages at protests staged by Marxist groups was actually a conscious choice to allow a diversity of viewpoints to be expressed. And what seemed like a tedious attention to meeting process was the result of a commitment to direct democracy and rejection of a politics of representation in favor of a politics of participation.

This is all fine and well but it risks throwing out the baby with the bathwater in my view. Specifically, rejecting the politics of representation is fine, especially in favour of a politics of participation – a position which accords neatly with the Simpol philosophy.

However what it seems is happening in practice is a rejection of the concept of politics altogether.

Jodi Dean argues that:

Once the New Left delegitimized the old one, it made political will into an offense, a crime with all sorts of different elements:

–taking the place or speaking for another (the crime of representation);

–obscuring other crimes and harms (the crime of exclusion);

–judging, condemning, and failing to acknowledge the large terrain of complicating factors necessarily disrupting simple notions of agency (the crime of dogmatism);

–employing dangerous totalizing fantasies that posit an end of history and lead to genocidal adventurism (the crime of utopianism or, as Mark Fisher so persuasively demonstrates, of adopting a fundamentally irrational and unrealistic stance, of failing to concede to the reality of  capitalism).

Doug Henwood then argues from that:

An agenda—and an organization, and some kind of leadership that could speak and be spoken to—would violate these rules. Distilling things down to a simple set of demands would be hierarchical, and commit a crime of exclusion. Having an organization with some sort of leadership would force some to speak for others, the crime of representation.

But without those things, as Jodi says, there can be no politics.

 

It seems then (and please forgive me for all the block quotes) that politics has indeed become a dirty word. It has become, in the minds of many, inextricably linked to the format (and failures) of representative democracy (and all the other political systems before it).

But politics is so much more than that. In spite of all the jargon that seems to fly around these days, the simplest and best definition I have yet found for politics is this, from good old wikipedia:

Politics (from Greekπολιτικός, “of, for, or relating to citizens”), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions.

 

From this we can see clear as day that this ‘rejection of politics’ is in fact an act of politics!

Politics is, in this sense, something utterly unavoidable for a social species such as ours. It is the naturally self organising principle inherent to all diverse and dynamic social groups. There are of course many many models for this organisation to take place.

So returning to Rortybomb’s blog, we are looking for an organisational model that encourages participation. That model IS direct democracy and it is surely this that they are trying to create within the Occupy Wall Street movement (along with the aims set out above regarding reclaiming public space and life).

There is a problem though, in the form of policy. Graeber’s Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology argues that:

The notion of “policy” presumes a state or governing apparatus which imposes its will on others. “Policy” is the negation of politics; policy is by definition something concocted by some form of elite, which presumes it knows better than others how their affairs are to be conducted. By participating in policy debates the very best one can achieve is to limit the damage, since the very premise is inimical to the idea of people managing their own affairs.

Not to be rude, but this strikes me as nonsense… and a pretty central piece of nonsense at that. Borrowing again from Wikipedia:

A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s).

So in any direct democracy it should be perfectly possible for the people to decide the policy. Indeed, in an earlier blog piece, I quoted from the etymology dictionary the origins of the word democracy from the Greek for people (demos) and rule/strength (kratos).

So where has all this epic block quoting and pondering got us? Well, we have established:

  1. Politics is any self organising principle within a social group -and is therefore NOT a dirty word.
  2. Representative democracy should be replaced by direct democracy.
  3. Policy for that direct democracy should be decided by the people so that they can form their own agenda.

Those last three words are truly crucial for me. In spite of the great work being done by the wall street occupiers, there has to be a way forward after that. No occupation can last forever after all.

Rather than being a dirty word, politics must be seen for what it is, the only long term way forward. Rejecting it will lead to what Henwood describes as a ‘paralysis of will’ (see my previous piece Mainstream Dreaming for my thoughts on political and intellectual paralysis).

For one last quote, Henwood finishes his piece thus:

Occupiers: I love you, I’m glad you’re there, the people I talked to were inspiring—but you really have to move beyond this. Neoliberalism couldn’t ask for a less threatening kind of dissent.

 

This is the point where Simpol comes in. We are political. We recognise that politics is a necessary element in society and arguably the only way forward long term. We are providing a means for genuine direct democracy and the creation of an open and participative people’s agenda.

Occupy Wall Street  is an brilliant social and political movement, no doubt about it.  Simpol is its natural successor and the way forward to really change the world.