I will be giving a talk on “Futurist politics in a time of crisis” in London on Saturday August 4th. In that talk I will weave various threads of the ZS idea together into a single coherent argument, and use that argument to encourage people to take action. We live in extraordinary times, and if we do not impress our values upon them, then we can rest assured that others – with different values – will.
Below you will find a kind of summary or sketch toward the presentation that I will be giving. If you have any thoughts, criticisms or suggestions to improve the ideas or their presentation I would be very much interested in hearing them.
[EDIT: Changes have been made to this post since it originally went live on July 25th. The biggest change is that fully a fifth of the post has been removed for being redundant. These clarifications are all in response to comments and in the spirit I originally intended. Since this is a work in progress, please do keep the comments coming if you have any thoughts on what is said below!]
The Pillars of Society
We are in a time of crisis. Large numbers of people are increasingly disenfranchised, squeezed on all sides and with no hope of appeal to authorities. Why? Because those very same authorities – our governments – are virtually indistinguishable from the corporate interests who are gaining most from the current situation. We live under a system where our votes essentially don’t matter. You can pick a team, but you’re not allowed to change the rules of the game. Even worse, we have been trained to think of this as a normal and natural situation. Who are we to question these powerful people? Who are we to awaken, to unify and demand change?
Most of those who see the political pantomime for what it is do not see any point in attempting to come together and do something about it, and the few who do take action splinter into small groups concerned only with narrow issues or perspectives. However, the scent of change is in the air. Throughout the Middle East we have seen dictators deposed in the last year, and across the West we have seen corporate titans fall. Now, in 2012, we are as close to awakening as we have been in a very long time. For too long “democracy” has been a hollow word, the people treated by politicians as an inconvenience to be manipulated.
A truer form of democracy would involve the establishment of a Permanent Citizen’s Assembly capable of calling for a binding referendum on any issue to be ordered by the government. I would like to tell you about a new political party working toward this future – the Consensus – and the Zero State movement it is affiliated with. It is time for us to decide upon our priorities as a civilization, and to make our will known.
2 Engines of Civilization
We must not start thinking that society will be better off “if we hang 20 bankers at the end of the street” – Tony Blair, Daily Telegraph 24-07-12
I disagree with Mr Blair. Not that I think we should be literally hanging bankers, but certainly that we should be calling them to account and constraining their capacity for criminality rather than rewarding them for it. Blair would say that, of course – his government threw money at the bankers and deregulated their industry like there was no tomorrow… and there very nearly wasn’t. We are now reaping the benefits of Blair’s “vision”, which is shared by the current governments of the US, UK, & Eurozone
Capitalism is regarded as the engine of civilization by some, and as its downfall by others. It is clearly true that our current problems have been caused by a decadent, irresponsible Capitalism, blind to everything but profit, and so intertwined with government that it is not allowed to die a natural death. Instead, these “casino Capitalists” are allowed to reap the benefits when things are going well, but are not responsible for their own losses. Their criminality is breathtaking, executed on a scale that would immediately lead to lengthy prison sentences for mere mortals in the West, and worse elsewhere. The real issue here, however, is that this is an unproductive Capitalism… a trade in myths and fictions that has become nothing more than an elaborate high-stakes game of “musical chairs”. The impetus to innovate, provide solutions, and trade fairly in things that people really need would be entirely reasonable, but the current situation (or system) is an abomination, and can be tolerated no longer.
Let us imagine that society is a house, held up by four pillars. Each pillar must have roughly the same weight placed on it if the house is to be stable. The democratic will of the people is one of these pillars, and it has been allowed to erode badly. The second pillar is the world of trade and finance, of business and economics, and the people who constitute this pillar don’t even seem to realise that the other pillars exist or are in any way important. They believe that their concerns are the only concerns that really matter, that their wellbeing is the sum wellbeing of society.
We must draw strong lines, making it quite clear that irresponsible Capitalism is not a welcome part of our society. Only business that enriches our society will be tolerated. It has become quite clear that bankers and other criminal Capitalists cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. What is required is a clear and binding State Jurisdiction Charter, in the form of a Constitution (or an amendment to existing codified Constitutions in places such as the US), which makes clear when the government can and should apply strong consequences to rogue agents within society such as banks committing criminal acts.
3 Codes of Honour
The same is true of our political and military leaders, who seem eager to blur the lines between themselves and the profiteers at every opportunity. They wage wars for oil, pretending that they do this for moral reasons, while leaving more urgent moral situations untouched where there is no oil at stake. Private companies are given responsibility for the functions of the police and prison services, even the armed forces. Often the very politicians who claim to make these decisions for the public good are directors of the companies who win these government contracts.
Even as the politicians push their warlike agenda overseas and erode our civil liberties at an alarming rate, they still manage to exploit and abuse the loyalty of the armed forces, who make it a point of honour to serve, even when they are under-resourced, unsupported, and sent to fight and die so that the 1% can avoid billions in tax every year. Police and army officers need to understand that their natural instinct for loyalty and service is being turned to the vast profit of a few, at the great expense of the nation. We need to understand that even though our armed forces have been used by politicians for immoral purposes, it is not the fault of the armed forces themselves. They live and work by a code of honour that deserves more respect than it is given by the politicians.
The house of government needs to be cleaned. We need new systems of governance which are strong enough to confidently handle the legitimate affairs of State, while respecting a strict line of jurisdiction which forbids military adventurism for profit and the inappropriate collusion of Corporatism. The best model of a non-corporate, non-adventurist military that we are aware of is the Swiss Army, which operates as a network of citizen militias with a core of professional soldiers who are solely concerned with national defense rather than expansionism of any sort.
4 Intelligence and Evidence
In addition to social and economic crises, we live in an age of ecological and resource crisis, which could destroy human civilization if it is not handled immediately and intelligently. What do our “leaders” do in this situation? They essentially ban rationality and evidence-based reasoning from their deliberations, removing advisors whose scientific evidence is inconvenient, while simultaneously going to great efforts to encourage special schools and rights for Fundamentalists, such as Creationists and Islamists. Just as the “pillars” of Capitalism and government are vastly over-emphasised in our societies, the role of critical thinkers has been systematically eroded in much the same way as the will of the people. Academics, scientists and engineers are routinely encouraged to do work that has some application or relevance to the topics of the day, and it is now time that politicians should be forced to pay heed to what our brightest and most innovative minds have to say.
If we took just 10% of the money given to failed banks in the last five years and diverted it to our most promising scientists, philosophers, artists, engineers and all others who hone the human spirit and vision of Progress, just think what we could achieve. What is required is a well-resourced Academy through which our most informed and critical citizens will be able to explore the ramifications of emerging technologies, and submit proposals for coordinated societal response to both government and the Permanent Citizen’s Assembly.
Synthesis and Transcendence
5 The Capitalist Thesis
There are those who agree that we live in a Corporate State, but who say that the answer is less restriction on Capitalism, rather than more. One such person, for example, is the American Libertarian politician Ron Paul. If companies such as banks were going to behave responsibly in the absence of effective regulation, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now. To expect companies to suddenly become sober and abandon their drive for profit at all costs just because all regulation has been removed is to defy rationality itself. These people are an example of those who see our current problems clearly, but whose conception of how to solve those problems is simply wrong, and dangerously so.
6 The Communist Antithesis
At the other end of the ideological spectrum, there are those who also agree that we live in a Corporate State, but who say that the answer is to abandon Capitalism and money altogether. These people usually advocate some form of “Technocracy“, “Resource Economy”, or “Steady State Economy”. An example of such a group is The Zeitgeist Movement, who say that they would have resources managed directly, without recourse to money or markets. Even if this was feasible, the problem is that it requires authorities who make decisions on everyone else’s behalf. Those decisions cannot be made democratically, because that would open the way to minorities simply not having the resources needed to survive.
Anyone who opposed the dictats of the resource authorities would have to be suppressed. This is essentially neo-Communism. Up to a hundred million people have already died under Communism, and with today’s technologies that number could easily rise into the billions if the Resource Economy project went awry. It is conceivable that a non-Authoritarian, non-market based solution to distributing certain resources may become possible as our technologies develop, but right now any such system would require the “old-fashioned” modes of management we are all too familiar with.
One thing that these extreme Capitalists and neo-Communists have in common is that they both say that their model has never been tried before. They say the Capitalism that is currently unravelling the fabric of our societies is not “true” Capitalism. They say the Communism which killed so many millions was not “true” Communism, or a “true” Resource Economy. This is an infantile defence – “it will be different next time” – and not a risk that we can afford to take.
I must make clear that the Consensus and the wider Zero State movement both include and welcome people who hold all of the views described above. People with such views are only “they” – rather than “we” – when they insist upon imbalance; that only the purest form of their favoured approach can be right, that all others must be wrong. The Consensus is about bringing ideas and people together to make the world a better place.
7 Consensus and Revolution
Despite the flaws in their ‘solutions’, both groups described above are composed of people who see a problem with society, and who want to do something about it. Their hearts are in the right place, broadly speaking. They just need to be brought together and pointed in a sane, productive direction. These ideas are now common throughout our societies; for example we have the Tea Party movement on the right wing and the Occupy movement on the left, apparently diametrically opposed and yet sharing a conviction that government and business share an unhealthy relationship (Tea Party want less government in business, and Occupy want less business in government). If enough people in all camps can see this common concern, then we may have a chance to effect real change. We must wake up to the fact that society has become dysfunctional, and those who profit from the situation have a vested interest in keeping us divided and ignorant.
Complex problems require intelligent, rational solutions, free from irrational tribal ideologies. We need to harness the power of the people, the industries, the political process and our greatest thinkers, without letting undue allegiance to any one of these unbalance us. We need to bring people together into a common centre, to share their ideas and talents for the best possible outcome, and this is why we call ourselves the Consensus.
8 When Comes The Hour
When comes the hour wherein water, which flows downward, will change its nature and mount upward? - Ramón Lull
Enough is enough. The time has come for us to act, or to accept our lot forever – to accept that society can never be just, and will always be owned by “fat cats”. If you don’t act now, you’ve effectively agreed to be a good servant, no matter how thoroughly you are exploited or abused.
But what can we do?
In the UK and US, the idea of a political party other than the “Big Two” having any real say in the affairs of the nation is apparently ridiculous, and that’s exactly how the Establishment likes it. Anyone who joins a major party with the hope of enacting real change will have that idea trained out of them over the decade or two it takes for them to learn the ropes and grease the right palms. Signing petitions feels good, but it is essentially an act of begging for crumbs from the master’s table, and only has significant effect if the political situation is already precarious, and even then the effect only applies to one narrow issue for a short period of time. If we truly want to change the world, we need to think big.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete - R. Buckminster Fuller
The Establishment is vast, well resourced, and entrenched. Its proponents have no intention of changing, so convincing them to do so is not a realistic course of action. As Bucky Fuller said, we must create a unified alternative – effectively a “Shadow Establishment” which clearly encapsulates and expresses our views – and encourage as many people as possible to engage with it. If we can get enough people on board, the Establishment will be forced to compete with us, or attempt to co-opt us. It will be forced to accommodate our views and approaches. If we were successful in this approach, we would then have the opportunity to change and dismantle aspects of the current Establishment, reconfiguring them in our image.
We must begin with the creation of a Permanent Citizen’s Assembly and a State Jurisdiction Charter. We will demand to be acknowledged, waging a social and political campaign to ensure that government consults the new Consensus of the People in all major decisions. Even if we cannot win a traditional election, we can put pressure on the other parties to adopt our view – that an independent Consensus of the People must be consulted when deciding the fate of our societies. If this happens, if we can force other parties to commit to this path, then all electoral outcomes will be a victory for our vision.
We have three years until the next national election in the UK. It is time to begin building our Shadow Establishment – our Consensus – and to begin vigorously spreading the word.
IT’S TIME TO COME TOGETHER TO SHOW THE ESTABLISHMENT THAT WE WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT THEIR BROKEN SOCIETY!