The end of January is apparently an especially depressing time. Blimey – it gets worse? Too many things already contribute to the plethora of reason to keep my head under the pillow. Environmentally I now know a lot about what Australia has been facing, but also ask why I’ve only just clocked the worst drought in Zimbabwe for 100 years? (see Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders” failing to thunder, above). While the good people of Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries have done virtually nothing to contribute to these catastrophes, the same cannot be said of Australia’s decision makers, who now surely have reached a pinnacle of ineptitude? These tragedies for life on earth (with an estimated billion dead animals in Australia’s fires so far) come from a lethal mix of far right politics and climate denial.
Australia’s PM fits into the group who have ‘….perfected the art of persuading the poor to vote for the interests of the very rich’ as described by George Monbiot in an inspiring article on the need to ‘rewild politics’, to crash out of the self perpetuating disaster we have fallen into and trust in the people. This, as he says, ‘does not require the blessing of central government, just a confident and far-sighted local authority’. This direction is shared by one commentator after another calling, as John Harris) does, for ‘revival to tap into the energy for change’. There is fertility in chaos – but can it be harnessed?
Most of us know all this and it just drives us towards deeper sadness and disengagement because as individuals we seem so powerless. All I know how to do to avoid falling helplessly towards the end of January and beyond is promote my genuine belief that we have to take power ourselves at the levels we know and control. (Though I start to feel like a one trick pony, failing to find different ways of saying ‘we do not live in a democracy’ in the hope this inspires energy towards building one.)
My efforts focus on Flatpack 2.0 – Power tools for Reclaiming Local Politics – which is selling steadily as we head towards 800 UK elections in May and who knows how many elsewhere. It was written to support new ways of creating radical participatory democracy at community level and can hopefully inform new energy for these elections. I will be sharing ideas from the book in Bexhill on Sea on January 18th, where the local council has consistently refused the development of a new town council…. maybe my story can help change things a bit? And on Tuesday January 21st I and a select bunch of others who have taken and used power well at a local level, will be running a free video conference to share ideas, all welcome!
That event is hosted by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) Future Democracy Hub which links to the Rebellion’s third demand for ‘A New Politics’. XR made the connection at its birth between the climate and environmental disasters that now cascade around us and our terminally incompetent systems of governance. At the heart of the problem is that what I have just described as ‘terminally incompetent’ is working perfectly for the people who own and run the system (except that even some of them are now finding their paradise homes inflammable). To break the link between government failure and the climate emergency really does require a political system reboot.
For me, the only way to retain a semblance of sanity, as an individual facing apparently insurmountable challenges, is to get to know better the place where I live, and to continue working towards building a functioning resilient self controlled community. I invite you to explore doing the same as we enter this decade, take up a metaphorical pitchfork and reclaim politics from those who have stolen it.
Taking Power at the Local Level – January 1st 7,00 pm