One hundred talks in on afternoon was massively stimulating – if the reality was a sniff of something and a taste of something else. Change: How has given me much to think about, a load of scribbled notes to follow up and some fascinating insights as to what others are up to. There is clearly a broad consensus that the current electoral system serves us incredibly poorly. And everywhere from the noisy Greeks of Syriza to the humorous Danes of Alternativet new models are popping up.
‘”There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
I’m so looking forward to Change:How? 2015 “where apathy goes to die” tomorrow!
Stories from Greece, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Bahrain, Scotland and plenty beyond – join us tomorrow to meet a world full of change-makers in just one building, Europe’s oldest alternative night club in Angel, Islington…
Alongside 100 inspirational change makers – from Stella Creasy to Heydon Prowse of the Revolution Will Be Televised, musician Steve Lawson to David Lammy MP, Rev. Giles Fraser to Flatpack Democracy, The Moneyless Man to Amelia Womack….. their personal stories and world-beating ideas…… their performances…. and a pint with them at the bar.
It will be fascinating to see whether Syriza can hold it together in the next few weeks and months in Greece and set out a viable alternative to ‘austerity’. As the current model has been such a total disaster for most Greeks – and increased their debt at the same time – it cannot be a surprise that they wanted a change.
The Change: How? event I have already mentioned will “…bring together an eclectic mix of people from the arts, politics, activism and campaigning, media and everything in between. Alongside poets, musicians, actresses, comediennes, and spoken word artists you’ll meet politicians and political activists including from Syriza, Podemos, the Pirate Party, Scotland’s radical independence campaign, The Alternativet in Denmark, even England’s home-grown flatpack democracy in Frome, and progressive members of our more established political parties. To shake things up some more, there will be activists, campaigners, community builders and organisers – people standing up for equality and justice, for an economy that serves people and planet, for radical democracy, against oppression and racism. And for so much more. Each with their own story…..”
Through fundraising, careful borrowing and spending our meagre precept income in Frome, then working with the community, we’ve gone part of the way to demonstrating that it is not necessary to be cowed down by austerity measures. I accept the Greeks have a bigger challenge, but so often Esinstein’s “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” applies. I am much looking forward to hearing some real alternatives to our increasinly hopeless staus quo – including from the Greeks – then seeing what might be relevant to Frome.
Just over 100 days until the national elections, and in Frome’s case the Town and District ones too. Independents for Frome (IfF) will be finalising our 17 candidates over the weekend. An independent group will be dealing with the tricky process of telling some people they will need to stand aside. Our success has resulted in a plethora of talented people coming forward, who’d make good councillors. And if your pool of potential councillors is the whole town, not just party members, it suddenly increases to include all kinds of interesting and keen people.
Can Democracy Work? is a three part series for Radio 4 fronted by the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson. The first episode was felt to be “a disappointment” in the Telegraph’s who felt it had “only scratched the surface” – and I basically agree, though am content to wait until the final episode before a final judgement. My gripe so far would be that the focus was entirely on parliamentary democracy, with too much time given to Nick’s well publicised spat with Russell Brand on whether people should vote at all – I’m sure their argument was entirely created to draw attention to the programme!
I took some time yesterday to read useful summaries of how new Greek and Spanish political parties are organising themselves. These groupings (Syriza and Podemos respectively) have emerged incredibly quickly from mass dissatisfaction with the impact of ‘austerity’, using new ideas on how active democracy can work, born out of Occupy and the social movements that have sprung up in both countries. They are both using an inspiring mix of community level meetings and interaction alongside social media to enable mass decision making. The challenge is to find ways of engaging with the – essentially dysfunctional – parliamentary system to gain elected representatives, in order to change the systems themselves….while not becoming part of those systems and alienating the energy of the people.
I’ve been re-reading a book I bought a few weeks ago called “From Arrogance to Intimacy”. It’s another step in the journey of us understanding more deeply how and why democracy has become a charade in this – and many other – countries. I find myself deeply saddened by a potent mix of arrogance and incompetence, in which each of these seem to prop the other up. Recent examples include: David Babbs (main man of campaign group 38degrees) who was treated with complete contempt by a group of MPs last week (“You’re not here to challenge, you’re here to be challenged…”); our District Planning Committee agreeing to a new food store and chip shop despite near universal local disapproval and rejection by the Town Council, with no one from Frome voting (and my comments disregarded because they were deemed ‘political’); and the inflexible arrogance of a similar committee who have now caused a highly acclaimed local herbalist to give up and head for Cornwall – in the process behaving unbelievable arrogantly and aloof. I could go on and on and on…..
I’ve been involved in some great discussions and meetings in the last few weeks, as groups of people fed up with dysfunctional democracy, move towards doing something about it. For all plotters there is a tricky decision as to when to ‘come out’. This may mean some less discrete conversations or it may be a fully blown public call for action. At a certain point it means there is no turning back and from then on things start to move in ways not always under control! For each group the answer will be different – the first movers are moving, but risk peaking too soon, while the casual tortoises may trundle to victory – or not get their act together!
This time of year has death written all over it. The Day of the Dead reflected in Thanksgiving, alongside Remembrance Sunday, autumn leaves and political parties.
I’ve spent a number of evenings recently tucked away in Guy Fawkes style meetings in darkened rooms with groups of tentative revolutionaries in towns around here. Ordinary people totally and utterly fed up with watching the arrogance of politicians preparing for elections with the usual bickering and unfulfilable promises.
“How much time does it take if you are a councillor?”….. “How much does it cost to get elected?”…… simple questions from people on the edge of stepping out and up to take control of more of the decisions that affect their own lives. Is there a moment at which enough people recognise that our current democracy is a sham from top to bottom?
Russell Brand helps to spread that message, but maybe too many people think he’s joking and can’t don’t quite grasp the reality? I’m enjoying testing the tipping point.
I’ve rather neglected this blog to write in other places. This has led to significant articles in STIR, Transition Free Press, Resurgence & Ecologist and (soon) Red Pepper. All fine and good except these are not seriously mainstream and probably share many readers. That’s why I was so excited to be rung by the Telegraph. I missed the first call but when they rang again I was poised to expound upon how Frome is indeed to making (Tory) Localism work and how we’ve supported subsidised charities into viable business….. Then Telegraph Man asked “So, have you ever read the Telegraph?” (I declined the 30% off offer that followed). My sadness was partly relieved by a helpful reference in Saturday’s Guardian ‘The Green party surge – and why it’s coming from Bristol and all points west’…. but I really want to talk to the Daily Mail!