We're in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyones arguing over where they're going to sit.
COPs and Robber Barons
“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.” So said Greta Thunberg of 2021's COP 26. She is absolutely right but, there is little else ‘leaders’ can do, since they don’t actually have any power to control the global system.
Capitalism is controlled by an ‘invisible hand’ as Adam Smith described it, with which wealthy property owners, by making decisions in their own interests, affect society as a whole, like a ouija board leading us all to extinction. Governments around the world are entirely dependant on capital investment to maintain and grow their economies. If the economy falters or fails, people look for new leaders who promise that only they can fix the economy. Most politicians learn to do what the economy needs if they want to stay 'in power'.
The term ‘robber baron’ has been applied to the wealthiest of investors since the 19th century. The most powerful owners of coal and steel, then oil, and now data, ultimately, have control of the world and how decisions are made. This is no conspiracy—they don't trust each other any more than we should trust them, it's simply the inevitable result of a system based on the accumulation of private property. Investors have an incentive to make short term decisions for their own profit. Politicians have an incentive to get re-elected.
Each year the world watches as leaders gather and many hope that this time will be different. Why would it be? As long as we are forced to compete with each other simply to survive on the planet, it’s not reasonable to expect that we will suddenly begin to cooperate to solve global issues. Sadly, even to prevent our own extinction. Again, as Greta Thunberg said: “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”
First we need to design a cooperative system which can grow to include everyone on the planet so that we can replace capitalism and competition, with community and cooperation.
It has been eight years since Naomi Klein published This Changes Everything in which she "challenges us to abandon the core 'free market' ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems." Klein suggests that activists around the world are creating a collective movement to stop fossil fuel production which she calls 'Blockadia'. However, it is incredibly difficult to organize such a movement and, so far, it appears that capitalism is better organized to stop it .
The internet allows us a chance to begin building a new system gradually. For millennia people have tried, but only succeeded briefly, with communes, cooperatives, revolutions, and religions. They have always been based on ideological principles though, and eventually they reach a maximum number of people willing to agree with that ideology, and then the cooperation either gradually or rapidly disintegrates. Or, they go to war with another such group.
We need a new way to organize ourselves which is not based on ideology.
Democracy From Below
We are all members of communities. Usually many. Our family; our neighbourhood; our workplace or school; religious or cultural community; sports, social or book club...
We participate in communities which we choose to be part of, and feel comfortable in, where we can discuss politics and practice democracy together with people we can trust.
That's where Democracy From Below starts.
It must be designed with certain principles in mind to keep it truly democratic:
Elected representatives must not benefit personally from the position, and they should be immediately recallable by those who elected them. Otherwise, there are opportunities for corruption.
The decision making system must be transparent and accessible to all. Otherwise people won’t trust their elected officials, as is often the case now.
Our political voice counts in any community organization that we are a part of on a regular basis. In our community we can feel free to voice our opinion, participate in debate, and vote on the issues that matter to us. Together with our community, we'll choose representatives to a local Council. Everywhere around the world these truly democratic local governments will elect regional councils representing all the people of the world. This mechanism will allow all of humanity to function as one community. Many union federations function democratically this way already.
We will create a World Council similar to the United Nations but democratically controlled by all of humanity together.
As we grow this democratic community, we will gradually have influence over, and eventually be able to replace the current political systems (democratic or not) all around the world.
As individuals, we can participate democratically in any or several of these types of communities and elect representatives to a Local Council.
Each Local Council will send representatives to a Regional Council:
Each Regional Council will send representatives to a World Council:
So, how do we build it?
We begin by building a democratic web platform cooperative together. A digital community centre for the world.
Facebook has showed us a better way to organize people. Imagine if facebook had been created as a democratic cooperative instead of a profit seeking corporation. It would now be a democratic organization of over 2 billion people, perhaps even in a position to demand the changes we need in the world. The problem with the internet though, is anonymity. No one can trust anyone else, and cooperation requires trust.
A simple requirement of registering a community that we are part of (workplace, school, religious or cultural community, neighbourhood…) will remove the element of anonymity from the platform cooperative. Each individual’s behaviour on the platform will then be self-policing, because their community will find out about any anti-social behaviour they get up to.
If we create an amazing website that provides all the good things people want from the internet without the anti-social crap, lots of people would want to join. The requirement of registering a community when they join, will gradually create a global network of self determining communities. Council Democracy.
How do we get people to join and use it?
We make it useful and tell others about it. Just as Mark Zuckerberg did with facebook, but this one will belong to the people and we won't sell each other's data to get rich. The internet is full of useful platforms and apps created by individuals and corporations to make money. People use them (sometimes reluctantly) because they are useful and there are no better alternatives available. We need to make those better alternatives here.
Activists and organizations working for social change will be the easiest to convince, so creating tools for such work on the platform will help with this. There are millions of people all around the world working very hard for positive change. In most cases, that change depends upon convincing those in power to make different choices while leaving the political system intact. The point of this platform is to provide a centralized way to organize everyone together in order to to change the political system itself. Only then can we make decisions together that will change the world.
What will the future look like?
Humans have lived in competitive societies governed from above for so long that it will take time for us to learn how to use democracy together. Our democratic network will have influence in parts of the world sooner than others, but useful ideas spread quickly. Gradually the current political systems (democratic or not) will become less and less relevant. Partisan political divisions will be less important as individuals debate ideas in their communities rather than simply cheer for 'their side'. The reason a small minority has controlled the world for so long has been by dividing and conquering the majority. The people united will never be defeated. We can then learn together what humanity's potential really is.