An Uncertain Future… is exactly what we need… maybe?

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Image & quote found at https://joannahubbard.wordpress.com

There hasn’t been time for people to properly digest the full meaning of Brexit, but ever since last week’s referendum decision to leave the EU there has been a palpable air of fear and anxiety in Britain. Many of the people I have spoken to who voted Leave have expressed some concerns about where we go from here. The “I voted for it, but I really didn’t think we’d win” confession is not an uncommon statement. Some Remainers have poured scorn on this, branding them as ‘ignorant’ or ‘stupid’, but with the UK’s preferred and usual First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system the protest vote has long been the norm for British voters.

Some are decrying the democratic processes of the referendum, and perhaps it was too close a decision decided by too few people, but in many ways it was the democratic failures of the FPTP system in our general elections which guaranteed the widespread, and ultimately deciding, outpouring of dissatisfaction in British society delivered by the much more democratic referendum system.

I am not a Leaver (although I am certainly not a supporter of the EU trading bloc) and I find UKIP rather disturbing to say the least, but the FPTP system used in the last general election saw the votes of 4 million people who did vote UKIP almost completely ignored. As my own party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas, put it in the Guardian recently:

Perhaps it’s no wonder that leave’s message to “take back control” stuck. People do feel powerless. Not least the almost 4 million people who voted for Ukip at the last general election who have just one MP representing them. As the one MP for more than a million voters I know all too well how our electoral system isn’t up to the task of representing genuine political differences that exist in Britain.

If the UK’s representative democracy had ever truly represented the opinions of the people whom it claims to represent (glad I’m writing that and not saying it) then we would have a vastly different political landscape today.

Yes, we would have to stomach the opposing, sometimes even unpalatable, ideas of those we disagree with, but at least we would be actively encouraging the kind of visible and relevant political debate and activity which leads to a much deeper and more responsive democracy.

Of course it is worrying that millions of people might fall for the BS of a charismatic charlatan, but I am of the opinion that bad ideas create bad results. We have only to look at the incredibly pathetic results of the BNP trying to work at local council level to see how those who value rhetoric over reality fair in the political climate of the everyday world.

There would have to be genuine accountability and the ability for regions to recall their MP in the face of inactivity or poor performance (poor performance being a failure of duty to their geographic region rather than a failure to tow a party – or ideological – line). There would have to be a written constitution; drafted and implemented to protect the rights of all people to live unmolested by others and which guarantees liberties and freedoms for all. There would have to be the reintroduction of real political power at local levels. And there would also have to be an open and accountable system of public spending, allowing everyone to see (and ultimately decide upon) where monies derived from taxation and other state dealings was being spent; currently just 5% of all public spending is allocated by people or bodies which are publicly accountable for their actions.

All of these will be necessary moves if we are ever to wrestle democracy back from the hands of the elite pariaharchy who currently hold way too much power and shoulder nowhere near enough responsibility.

Personally, as I shall discus in a forthcoming post, I believe that the ultimate aim must be for an even deeper and direct form of democracy (one which is humanist, ecological and economic as well as political) as part of a new radical movement based on the unique problems and possibilities of life in the third millennium CE. But even the first – and in my opinion rather minor – step of introducing Proportional Representation would radically alter the face of democracy in the UK.

A parliament of many smaller parties representing diverse demographic and geographic needs would inevitably lead to greater political (and perhaps, in our gambling based global economy, economic…) uncertainty, but at least it would be better at representing a fluid and diverse nation. So, if we are prepared to believe, as the permaculturalists do, that every problem is a solution, and that every crisis is an opportunity, then an uncertain future may indeed be exactly what we need right now…

…probably…

…maybe?

The Great Undecided

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Like the vast majority of people I speak to, even at this late stage, I remain undecided with regard to the EU Referendum.

My younger, braver, more committed self would have stuck to his anarchist principles and declared: “Voting changes nothing! Why beg for sovereignty when you can build autonomy!” (there’s something rather melancholy about the fact that it takes age to really appreciate the beauty of youth, I do believe that only the under 30s should be entitled to vote 😉 )

But there are elements of this referendum which go way beyond choosing between Westminster and Brussels. Like it or not things will change after Thursday – and I fear that it won’t be for the better, regardless of the outcome, if we do not change the way we think about politics in the UK.

There is nothing simple about the choice at hand. We live on an ever shrinking planet where everything we do – every choice we make – touches on millions of lives; both human and other. It is  with regard to the ‘other’ (animal welfare, ecology, sustainability, etc.) which I have personally turned to to try and inform my own decision. Yes, we have the EU to thank for things like cleaning our beaches and preserving diminishing fish stocks, but there are also areas where Britain is way in front of the EU and where the EU is in fact a barrier to change (as Geoarge Monbiot’s Feral conclusively shows).

That younger self I referred to was a keen ecological and animal rights activist – who wore out a perfectly good body in defence of the earth (ow, my aching bones). Back in 1995 an equally youthful and much, much braver defender of animal rights, Jill Phipps, died trying to stop the live export of veal calves from Coventry airport. Veal crates had already been banned in Britain five years earlier, but it would take the EU until 2007 (17 years!) to catch up. Likewise sow stalls were banned in Britain in 1999 and the EU did not catch up until 2013. Britain was also the first to ban animal testing for cosmetics (1998), but when the EU finally banned this completely unnecessary practice (2009) its regulations were much stronger and further reaching than Britain’s.

I am not trying to use these illustrations to sway people’s opinions either way, I am merely trying to illustrate the complexity of the choice that we are being asked to make. We each have our own passions and convictions and must, therefore, consider that which is closest to our hearts when we make our decision. And yet those who have the strongest leanings in both camps are acting as if we, the great undecided, are fools for not recognising their self-evident ‘truths’. How can we struggle to make such a simple choice as ‘in or out’?

But therein lies the great tragedy of modern democracy. Boiling things down to simple, bipolar choices – Leave or Remain, Right or Left, For or Against, Them or Us – actually reduces our capability to influence the political landscape. We have the technology (shit, now I’ve got the theme tune to the Six Million Dollar Man running through my head) to make decisions based on actual policy rather than party or ideology.

Allegiance to a single party or political belief is sooooo last millennium. The dinosaur rhetoric of your average old-school politico would be laughable if, as the murders of Jo Cox, Lee Rigby or 500,000 Iraqi children (through sanctions) has shown, their dogma were not so hideously dangerous.

It is time to move on. To use the great opportunities presented to us by the communications age to build a new kind of politics. One which puts debate before conflict.One that builds unity instead of division. One which places compassion above greed. Something like the idea the very wonderful Artist Taxi Driver (@chunkymark) is outlining here:

But until then – and regardless of whether Westminster or Brussels calls the shots – the real engine of change will remain those who dare to take a stand for their convictions. Those who see what must be done and who act upon their beliefs without victimising others. Those who, with their own bodies, feed the hungry; rescue the oppressed; protect the vulnerable; give voice to the voiceless; heal the hurting; comfort the despairing; guide the lost; educate the ignorant; provide for those who have not…

These people are – and have always been… – the ones who really change the political and social landscape, no matter where they put their cross.

Speaking of which… where the hell should I put mine?

In loving memory of Jill Phipps.