DiEM25 and the future of democracy in Europe (Part 3)

“They can recommend changes to the Manifesto or to DiEM25’s governance, including the nomination of potential CC members.”

Advisory Panel (AP)

From its inception, DiEM25 has attracted some well-known, influential personalities from across the globe: artists and film-makers, economists and intellectuals, writers and activists. They have been helping ‘curate’ DiEM25’s thinking, events and campaigns from the very beginning. It is, therefore, proposed that they become acknowledged as a group. Thus, the Advisory Panel.

Comment:

I am not clear why it is necessary to have a specific group, the Advisory Panel, tasked with the job providing advice, when in the following paragraph it is pointed out that “Just like all DiEM25 members, they will have the opportunity to propose actions, campaigns, etc., to the Coordinating Collective (CC) as well as to DiEM25 at large.”

It is further stated: “They can recommend changes to the Manifesto or to DiEM25’s governance, including the nomination of potential CC members.”

Potential CC members may nominate themselves as part of the democratic process we are developing. Why then introduce an additional option for the AP to nominate candidates. Are DSCs and individual members entitled to nominate candidates for the CC? There is need for clarification here.

Finally, I find this statement very puzzling: “As for nominations of new Advisors, any DiEM25 member can make suggestions to the CC which then puts these proposals up for approval by the Validating Council. Is this not another way of saying that the CC has actually made a decision and is now submitting it for approval by the Validating Council? Or if the CC are merely making proposals then the V.C. is then in reality making the decision. Is it right, as I mentioned previously, for the C.C. to dodge making a decision and leave the V.C. to make the decision. As I have noted earlier, members of the V.C. are selected by lottery, serve a very short period in office and for that reason receive no money. Again, I fear that the writers of the document seem to be avoiding making clear statements about who are the real decision-makers in DiEM25. There is nothing wrong or shameful in making a decision if one has the authority and the power/ability to make such decisions. The critical question is to whom is the decision-maker responsible when making a decision and what sanctions the members have over those who make decisions on their behalf.

I must emphasise one important point at this stage, because of the many negative and critical comments that I have read in the different platforms used for members to share information. I am not saying that there is any plot or intention to avoid transparency on the part of those in the CC or any other part of DiEM25. I am saying, however, that lack of clarity in these statements is providing ammunition for those who want to be extremely critical of what is being done.

[This completes the current list of documents. Further discussions regarding other parts of the Organising Principles will be resumed after the election for new CC members]

Thank you for participating in the discussions. If you were one on the 27,000 members who signed up enthusiastically for DiEM25 at some stage in the past eighteen months, then I hope that this discussion will have re-assured you that we are still working towards our aims and we would dearly love to have participate actively in our discussions.

Thank you.

DiEM25 and the Future of Democracy in Europe (Part 2)

The Co-ordinating Collective

As noted by me in the Introductory post for this discussion thread, it is stated in the introduction to the Organising Principles, that: At the beginning, DiEM25 was put together spontaneously by initiators who conjured up, together and haphazardly, the idea of a pan-European association aiming at creating a movement for, simultaneously, democratising Europe in general and the European Union institutions in particular, enhancing democratic sovereignty at the local, city, regional and national levels. The time has come, however, to formalise this group that has been, since DiEM25’s inauguration on February 9, 2016, steering its activities into a Coordinating Collective.”

There is nothing unusual in this happening when a group gets together to organise opposition and resistance to some unpleasant or dangerous development in their environment. In fact, we should praise the initiators for taking action and drawing our attention to a situation that had really “crept up” gradually and unnoticed by many European citizens. That is what often happens. Fortunately for us, in this case, the boy who called “Wolf” was no longer a boy but an experienced adult, who with his knowledge and respected reputation as an international economist could be believed when he told us that there was a force building in the E.U. that had to be resisted. By resisting with his countrymen and countrywomen for as long as they could, he finally had to admit that this threat demanded a bigger response than one individual could command. Then working together with some like-minded spirits from different roles in life, they produced the idea for DiEM25.

In approaching this discussion I would like to focus my attention, and hopefully yours also, on certain current aspects of the Organising Principles that could become an Achille’s Heel, even for those of us who are not Greek!

From the beginning it is stated clearly that: “the proposed Coordinating Collective (hereafter ‘CC’) will not act as some central committee that makes policy”,

This clearly signals that DiEM25 is going to be a different kind of organisation. Again, we should applaud that statement. But now comes the problematical point. What kind of organisation is DiEM25 going to be? If there is no central committee to make policy, who will make it. It is implied in the sentence that policy making in DiEM25 will be different. I am worried by the use of the title “Co-ordinating Collective”. What does that mean? Let me digress a bit here to discuss some information about organisations as systems and its relevance to our discussion. If you are already familiar with this, then skip ahead to pick up the narrative further on in this document.

Organisations and the Open Systems Approach

The basic principle used here when thinking in terms of an organisation as a system, is as follows. A system is fundamentally a collection of activities that receives or requires an input, and then internally converts that input into an output. This implies that an organisation is separate from, but embedded in, its environment and so we think of it as having a boundary around it. (Sorry! I don’t have a graphics facility in WordPress to include diagrams!). Outside the boundary is the “environment” and inside the boundary is the “organisation”. Now when I use the words “organisation” and “system”, I am using them in a very general way. The United Nations, very big and complex, can be examined as an organisation, as a system. We could also describe a town or a village as a system. It could even be an individual person! It might even have been one of the very early atoms and molecules formed in the primeval slime at the beginning of planet Earth’s formation where single-celled creatures began to emerge. Is there a simple picture that we can draw to illustrate these? Can you think of a simple diagram that could apply equally as a model for the U.N. and for an individual person, or for a single-celled creature? Just think for a moment before moving on. Draw that model!

In the Open Systems approach the diagram we usually start with is a circle! Inside the circle is everything that comprises the system. Outside the perimeter of the circle is the surrounding environment. Now even that simple diagram raises questions. How does the system survive in that environment? The general answer is that it gets what it needs from its environment, works with those inputs and sends out what it produces or doesn’t need again. Why does it need inputs? Because its task is to survive while doing its primary (conversion) task. Just add boxes on the left with an arrow on each pointing to the system circle. Each box signifies a particular input. On the right hand side, draw arrows pointing away from the System circle. Each arrow represents a particular output. That’s the basic diagram for a system in an environment!

Now, take time out and imagine the circle is a system diagram of a factory whose principal task is producing cakes! List as many inputs and outputs as you can think of (quickly!). Good, now list the outputs that you might expect from such a system. (Again, just a sample will be sufficient). Finally, list the different “things” that need to be done to turn the inputs into outputs.

[Make a separate note of any lists you produce]

Again, taking the same basic diagram that we started with, answer the same questions but this time think of the system as your own body! Incidentally, what is the primary task of your body?

Finally, to bring us back to our topic, think of that basic diagram as DiEM25 and answer the same questions. It doesn’t matter whether you are “right” or “wrong” in any of these examples. In fact, there is no single “right” or “wrong” answer to this question in the real world. That is why we need an active discussion, comparing notes, discussing the similarities and differences, leading (one would hope!) to a consensus answer. At the moment, I just want to get you thinking in terms of “the system”. This last diagram will be very useful when we start analysing and planning for DiEM25.

Now for the €64,000 question. What else needs to be added to these diagrams so that each system produces the desired outputs and carries out its primary task?

Let me introduce you to two new words with which you are familiar but which I am using in a very specific way. These words are “Authority” and “Power”. How would you define them? Make a note of your answers.

Authority =

Power =

I use them as follows:

1. “Authority” is the RIGHT to do something.

2. “Power” is the ABILITY to do something.

[Important note: We very often use these two words interchangeably, as in the examples given in some of the online results. There is nothing inherently wrong in that. It will help, however,  in our discussion, if we stick to the different emphases I have given].

Think now, where does the “Authority” rest in the DiEM25 organisation? Where is “Power” located in the organisation. Put it another way. Who or what part of DiEM25 has authority. Where do we want them to be located? Who or what has power. If power rests in more than one part of the organisation, is there a difference in the kind of power available? What different kinds of authority can you identify in DiEM25? Use your own words to describe these differences.

So, how is the job of “managing” done in other organisations with which you are familiar? And how is the job of “managing” done in DiEM25? You tell me now!

  • Who (individual or group) will do the “managing things” that you and I have identified?

  • Where and how do they get the authority, the right, to do those things?

  • Who or what gives them the authority they exercise?

  • If they are a group, how should they make their decisions?

How would you describe the Primary Task of DiEM25? By Primary Task I mean the single, overall task that defines the organisation. Clearly DiEM25, like any other organisation or movement will perform many different activities but what is the over-arching task to which all the other activities contribute? Keep the definition of the Primary Task as brief and as focused as you can.

The Primary Task of DiEM25 is to

……………………………………………………………………………………(20 words or less)

Now look at the political system in your own country! We use elections to select individuals who tell us they have the ability to lead the country. In other words we give up some of our authority over our own lives and transfer it to our representatives to enable them to have the RIGHT to organise society on our behalf. Do you think those given that RIGHT also have the required ABILITY to make the decisions on your behalf? If they don’t have the ability or if they make bad decisions, what sanctions, or what controls are available to us then to control them?

That’s enough about Systems theory for the moment. Let’s take up the discussion where we left off

Applying the Systems model to DiEM25

So let’s now re-examine the statement in the Organising Principles that The proposed Coordinating Collective (hereafter ‘CC’) will not act as some central committee that makes policy”.

Co-ordinating is one important function, or set of activities, in the role of management in an organisation. But it isn’t the only one. Take time to think, from your experience, what other functions have you seen taken on by management? List them.

Functions of Management:

(or describe them as groups of activities with a common purpose)

[Make your own notes before proceeding further]

Managers make decisions, don’t they? They communicate with one another, with those senior to them, with those in other departments, with their workers, with customers, suppliers, and so on. Can you think of any other functions?

Some functions of management have been defined by those who study organisations. Carry out a web search if you want to get a wider variety of options. But, in fact, the list of management functions usually narrows down to four or five. Click on the link to find their answers. Do they agree with your ideas?

What then is the role of the CC? What do you see as the main activities and functions of the CC? From where and from whom does it receive the authority to carry out its activities? Most importantly who or what finally has the authority to give the “go ahead” for activities?

It is also stated in the Organising Principles that: “The CC will recommend to the Validating Council disciplinary action against members who have grossly violated DiEM25’s principles and/or Manifesto.” The duty of taking disciplinary action is a very serious responsibility. What is the defined role and source of authority of the V.C.? Is it right to give the responsibility for such decisions to a group of people who were selected at random, and who receive no remuneration because they are not expected to spend a long time on any of their activities?

Furthermore, in regard to the DiEM25 Principles and Manifesto, on whose authority were these principles drawn up. Who approved them. Where does it specify that the V.C. has the authority (remember, “authority” = the right) to do so? Who gives them that authority?

I am puzzled by the statement that “the CC will be assisted by (my italics) several Co-ordinators”. This statement and earlier descriptions of the activities of the CC suggest that the CC actually has a managing role and its co-ordinating role is part of that managing role. Does the CC have other managing roles and, if so, where does the authority for each of these functions come from? I understand the reluctance of those who founded DiEM25 to use any terminology that might suggest the the CC had a traditional management role because it might appear to contradict the evolution in democracy that DiEM25 represents. Nevertheless, we cannot escape the reality that while the intention is to disperse the management role, it would be ridiculous to omit some management functions. Or would it be ridiculous? What would happen if… If there is no managing role then the only result is anarchy! On the other hand, democratic management, where the activities of the management role are continually monitored and subject to sanction by the members is a revolutionary statement and principle which will require major relearning by members in regard to how we move in an evolutionary way to that desired goal without tearing the Movement apart.

It is also specified that “the CC will meet once a week … and will be chaired on the basis of a rota system that ensures a high frequency rotation of the chair (ensuring rotation at least once every three months). (So much revolving of chairs is making me feel dizzy!) Again I understand and support the concept enshrined in this sentence. I wonder, however, would it be better to use the word “moderator” (of the proceedings) rather than “chair(person)” which is a quite different role. My experience of working with intact groups (and also having watched a few of the CC videos) is that when the members are strongly committed to the work of their group, the role of the moderator is one who ensures that every member is listened to and gets a chance to voice their views. This also allows every member of the group to exercise leadership when needed or desired. The role of chairman could be perceived as anathema to this approach.

It is unclear from the same paragraph whether the statement “no provision is made for a Secretary General or President” means that “no provision has yet been made” or “no provision will ever be made”. Again I understand the motivation and the sensitivity implied by this statement. Nevertheless, making that statement before the organisation structure and system have been finalised is unnecessary and reassures no one it will never happen. Perhaps the founders are being unduly and guiltily modest lest such ambitions might be imputed to them!

In regard to the Election/Selection of the CC, I have already noticed and responded to some comments and observations in the various labyrinthine corridors of Slack where there appears to be considerable confusion about the duration for which those selected will serve. If individuals can stand again immediately after being selected to make way for potential replacements, then I don’t really see the need for the elaborate ritual of six being selected (or did they offer themselves?) but then available again for re-election. This process will in no way prevent some effective or popular people being continually elected whereas the intention appears to be to prevent that happening. I suggest this whole area needs to be examined, especially in the light of the statement towards the end that “there will be no term limits for membership of the CC”. Again, I must emphasise that I believe that the intention is good, but thDiEM25 and the Future of Democracy in Europe (Part 2)e implementation is rather ponderous and potentially disruptive. We are a Movement, and a very idealistic movement, but that does not mean there will be no political motives evident!

The statement in regard to the minimum period of membership required for members to be eligible to vote draws attention to the possibility of “rogue registrations” prior to an important vote being used to sabotage the Movement. What would or should happen if it appeared that existing registered members were behaving in a concerted and “rogue” manner to undermine the status quo of the Movement. I suggest that this could be a dangerous assumption and have a bad effect on confidence of members in one another.

End

You are invited to move now to the next section which deals with the Validating Council.

DiEM25 and the future of democracy in Europe

That is also why I am standing in the election for members of the Co-ordinating Collective. So far, I see no other candidate addressing these issues

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”

― Marcel Proust

“For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.”

— DiEM25 Manifesto


Rodin - The Thinker

Introduction and preliminary information

In the preface to the DiEM25 Organising Principles document, approved on 13 Sept. 2016, it is stated clearly that “DiEM25 has a single purpose”. This purpose is clearly described as being “to promote the principles and values embodied in its Manifesto on the basis of participatory, open-source, democratic actions by members drawn to DiEM25 for this purpose”. Later in the Manifesto these principles and values are listed as:

  • Principles:

    • to democratise the European Union;

    • to promote self-government (economic, political and social) at the local, municipal, regional and national levels;

    • to throw open the corridors of power to the public;

    • to embrace social and civic movements;

    • and to emancipate all levels of government from bureaucratic and corporate power.

  • Actions:

    • we must come together first.

    • forge a common agenda,

    • find ways of connecting with local communities and at regional and national level.

  • Inspired by:

    • Reason,

    • Liberty,

    • Tolerance

    • Imagination

    • Transparency,

    • Solidarity, and,

    • authentic Democracy.

Please read the original document in full, as I have given only an abbreviated signpost to the key items.

These principles and actions appealed to me. As a young man in the 1960s I read about the setting up of a Europe-wide democratic structure to promote the future of Europe after a disastrous war. I subscribed then, and I still subscribe to the ideals and the aims of the founders of the “European Project”. This is why, as an Irish representative at a European Teachers meeting in Milano c. 1964-5, I spoke of the need to recognise that “Europe is for all, from chambermaid to Chancellor, from bar-man to Bishop”. Not particularly elegant, but it touched people nonetheless and some have even contacted me in recent years with the question: “Do you remember what you said in Milano?”

This is why I became a member of DiEM25 in May, 2017, having been following the writings, books and blogs of Yanis Varoufakis, then following his role as Finance Minister in the new Greek Government, and again, once the DiEM25 movement was set up, I checked its early manifestations and documents to re-assure myself that it was really intent upon doing what it claimed it would do. At last, I saw an opportunity to contribute to a movement that was close to my heart. I presume that everyone reading this went through a similar process and shares my hopes for the future.

I also responded with eagerness to the motto: “Carpe diem”. I had adopted it as a mantra at a very early age when I studied Latin at secondary school in Presentation Brothers College, in Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland. My heart resonated to the urgency of its meaning, translated variously as, “grab the day by the neck, take opportunities by the throat, don’t waste time, do it now”!

Let me remind you again of the pledge we signed only eighteen months ago:

  • “We, the peoples of Europe, have a duty to regain control over our Europe from unaccountable ‘technocrats’, complicit politicians and shadowy institutions.
  • We come from every part of the continent and are united by different cultures, languages, accents, political party affiliations, ideologies, skin colours, gender identities, faiths and conceptions of the good society.
  • We are forming DiEM25 intent on moving from a Europe of ‘We the Governments’, and ‘We the Technocrats’, to a Europe of ‘We, the peoples of Europe’.

But now, however, some eighteen months later, I am genuinely fearful that the “carpe” (=grab) is becoming more like a throttling action on progress and movement in DiEM25 because of the spontaneous or unintentional behaviour of some members who are doing to their best to respond, whilst the “diem” is stretching endlessly into the distance. I say this bluntly and without apology because we do not have a lot of time to spare. I added the words “spontaneous” and “unintentional” because whilst I see the behaviour as having a negative effect on the growth of the Movement, I doubt very much that any members are intentionally aimed at stopping DiEM25 reaching its potential. Nevertheless, we must take decisive action now to correct course where it is necessary, and to explain clearly why some actions are counterproductive in their effect.

Let me remind you that over the past eighteen months, over 30,000 European citizens responded to our call and signed up as members of DiEM25.  Recently it emerged that only 3,000 have volunteered to pay a nominal fee as members to build a small budget. What has happened? Only 10% are willing to contribute a sum as small as €1 to support the cause they signed up for? I read the many complaints from those who condemned them for not paying for their membership. I thank them for not doing so, because it shook me and made me think. Have they really been frightened off by being asked for a small contribution? Have they lost interest? Last night it struck me. The idea stunned me and, like that guy on the road to Damascus, I too had my Damascus moment. That 27,000 spoke to me. They are still interested but they have lost interest and enthusiasm when the look at what we are doing. They are not frightened off, but perhaps they are bored stiff with the platitudes and the dictatorial approach of those who think, undemocratically, that we must be led by their ideas. Where are the discussions, the ideas, the debate, the cut and thrust and testing of ideas, one against the other? When we joined DiEM25 we pledged:

“We call on our fellow Europeans to join us forthwith to create the European movement which we call DiEM25.

  • To fight together, against a European establishment deeply contemptuous of democracy, to democratise the European Union;
  • To end the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquerading as merely technical decisions;
  • To subject the EU’s bureaucracy to the will of sovereign European peoples
    To dismantle the habitual domination of corporate power over the will of citizens;
  • To re-politicise the rules that govern our single market and common currency.

I am now offering myself as a candidate for election to the Co-ordinating Collective because I wish to draw attention to the silent 27,000 members who are not being heard. I am inviting the other candidates in this election to join with me in reaching out to them and telling them that we have not forgotten them; we need them in the Movement; we need them to raise their voices and renew their commitment to our joint pledge. Quite honestly and openly, I appeal to the 27,000 members to renew their commitment and vote in this election. My ideas may not appeal to them, but surely they will identify with some other candidates if they don’t identify with me.

First steps to recovery

For this reason, I suggest that we revisit the Organising Principles before we rush headlong into the future! There are items there that are interfering with the smooth development of the Movement and will continue to do so if we do not change them. These “items”, including emerging structures that have not been thought through and which are still at the “haphazard” stage, the disrupting behaviour of individuals and of groups, whether intentional or unwitting, rash assumptions about the intentions of others, and personal, group, and organisational values, whether shared or not, are undermining our best efforts no matter how hard we try.

Again, I emphasise, that before we jump enthusiastically on our horses, and ride off madly in all directions into an exciting future, that we should take time to survey the present situation and rectify those items in the Organising Principles that need reforming. I am not saying this in a way that is intentionally critical of any particular group or individual. I remind you, however, of the statement in the Section 1 of the Organising Principles (the emphasis added to the text is to focus your attention on some key phrases):

(Quoted from Section 1, Organisation Principles)

At the beginning, DiEM25 was put together spontaneously by initiators who conjured up, together and haphazardly, the idea of a pan-European association aiming at creating a movement for, simultaneously, democratising Europe in general and the European Union institutions in particular, enhancing democratic sovereignty at the local, city, regional and national levels. The time has come, however, to formalise this group that has been, since DiEM25’s inauguration on February 9, 2016, steering its activities into a Coordinating Collective.”

Already I see words and phrases indicating potential dangers, as well as pointing to real, present, dangers. “Haphazardly” is one word. It is perfectly acceptable that things might have been done haphazardly because of the time pressures. To continue on a haphazard path, however, is highly dangerous and already, I see some members reacting strongly, and at times negatively, because they recognise the need to address this issue but their way of reacting to it appears to have alienated some others and may call their own commitment to the Movement into question. Similarly, the word “simultaneously” indicates danger if we try to juggle with two different tasks without improving our organisation structure, procedures and processes. Note that already we are asking questions, such as “Are we a movement or a political party”, “can we be both”, and so on. I would remind those who are pushing for political action now, that in our Manifesto it is stated that: “If we fail to democratise Europe within, at most, a decade; if Europe’s autocratic powers succeed in stifling democratisation, then the EU will crumble under its hubris, it will splinter, and its fall will cause untold hardship everywhere – not just in Europe.”  We have not yet brought the Movement to an adequate stage of development that would support a political wing. 

That is my motivation for initiating this new thread in the Members’ Forum and anywhere else where members of DiEM25 try to meet to discuss our work. We are at a very critical stage in our development. I would also like to state clearly, that because of my experience in organisational change and development projects and initiatives, practised in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, while working as a development aid consultant with UNDP, EU, and British government sponsored projects, I am offering a set of relevant skills and experience for this task. My perspective is not theoretical but is based upon my real life experiences, both successes and failures, as examined through a theoretical framework that has been trustworthy for me. That is why I originally set up a pan-European online “DSC” (now planning to change that phrase to an acceptable format once I receive clarification). I had thought of “GTF” or Grass-roots Task Force on Policy Analysis and Review, but I had delayed the launch until I got clarification.

I am not now, however, willing to wait any longer. On my own initiative and authority, I invite you to join me in two week’s time (precise date and time will be circulated) when I shall be holding the first meeting. I shall sent invitations through the network of DSCs and other active parts of the DiEM25 structure. Our first task will be to continue the discussion that will start from this forum. That is also why I am standing in the election for members of the Co-ordinating Collective. So far, I see no other candidate addressing these issues. Neither am I clear (from what I have read so far of the candidates plans) whether any other candidates are even aware of these issues. But these issues must be addressed. Some members are speaking and writing as if we have already established a structured movement with clear guidelines and policies which can be used for a political presence. Others are rushing headlong to establish a political structure so that we can bring our message to the European electorate! I find this hard to understand and even more difficult to believe. We have not even begun to debate the issues involved in building a movement. Think of other political, democratic, and Europe-wide movements of which you have experience. Compare us with them. We are just eighteen months in existence. If we were eighteen years in existence, I would still wonder what fantasy has taken charge of our lives. It is barely more than eighteen decades since Socialism and Marxism were mooted and they are still riven with disagreements! Capitalism has been around since the Great Silk Road was a pathway and it is still riven with controversy!

This presentation will be lengthy and for that reason, I shall be making a separate post for each section of the discussion about Organising Principles. The initial documents will be presented in short instalments on WordPress and links to access them will be made available on a variety of media, such as Facebook, Slack, the Members’ Forum, and wherever else I can find. This will allow threads of comment to develop in an integrated manner on the WordPress documents. I hope that it will make it easier for members to follow the logic of what I am proposing. This is not a job that can be completed quickly yet it is essential that it be done and completed as soon as possible because the Organising Principles are essential to our performance and to our ability to perform effectively. This task must be open to detailed analysis and I hope that my commentary on the different sections will help to promote analysis and comment and encourage as many as possible to join the debate and make their voices heard. This, after all, is one of our long-terms aims for European citizens! By doing this transparently and with passion as well as objective discussion, we will show to those readers that we can, we do, and we will practise what we preach! Unfortunately, I am already reading comments from some members about the need to keep “certain issues out of the media” and a variety of fears are being expressed about what might happen if “these issues got out”. So we already are offering caveats, parsing and analysing “transparency” before we have even got around to discussing it! I do not apologise for pushing the boundaries of transparency as far as I can. I hope you will come with me.

I am not demanding or expecting that all contributors should be experts, but the concerns of all individuals, no matter what their level of competence, must be addressed if we are to live up to our claims of being a democratic organisation. Believe me, in my book there are no “stupid questions” only “stupid answers”! It is essential that we face up courageously and honestly, as well as dispassionately, to the job in hand. It is normal for members of an organisation to invest not only a lot of their energy but they also invest their personal commitment and identification in the structure and culture of their organisation. Unwittingly, we (and I include myself), must be aware that we also invest our “ego”, our “false self”, in our organisations, making it very difficult for us to be objective about issues in which we feel personally involved, affecting the behaviour, culture, and indeed, affecting the very basis of our declared commitment to this shared ideal. It will call for open, positive discussion, and the questioning of items and behaviours that we might prefer not to discuss openly. Nevertheless, for the sake of the principles we share, and the huge task that lies before us, it is essential that we face the task with love and respect for the people with whom we work, and realise that in taking on this task we must work helpfully, supportively, collaboratively, and carefully, with one another.

The following related posts will discuss the sections of the Organising Principles in the following order. Discuss them and contribute your comments, your observations, and your ideas in any order you wish. It will provide a hard test for the usefulness, transparency, and effectiveness of the various media and platforms we use for our discussions.

      1. Coordinating Collective (CC)

      2. Advisory Panel (AP)

      3. Validating Council (VC)

      4. DiEM25 Spontaneous Collectives (DSCs) and Municipal/Regional/National Committees

      5. DiEM25 Progressive Agenda for Europe: Assemblies-Policy Papers

      6. Amendment Process for Manifesto and Organising Principles

N.B. I am posting these documents on WordPress as the main forum for displaying them. I shall post links and synopses on DiEM25, Slack, and on the Members’ Forum. All of these links will bring the reader to the WordPress page where comments, observations, questions, etc., can be left. This should ensure that DiEM25 members, and any others reading these articles, will find the thread of the discussion in one place.

Eurovision 2017 as a barometer of change?

I have grown up with “the Eurovision” as an annual “festival of entertainment” in my life. In the early days of the competition I revelled in the performances that were rooted in the European cultures from which they sprang. A kaleidoscope of the shared cultures that made Europe unstable yet inspiring of a dream – a Europe of the People. It inspired me and encouraged me to walk and hitch-hike around the Continent of Europe, meeting other young people and their families in youth hostels or on campsites, struggling to understand yet hungry for the stimulation of the diverse cultures of Europe. Over the years I have begun to despair at the way that commercialism, dumbing-down, and the force-feeding of a homogenised, skin-deep world of entertainment and communication has become the unchallenged norm.

That is why, in anticipation, I was dreading what the 2017 Eurovision contest might bring. The first semi-final round last Tuesday night was awful in my view. Monotonously pallid, and pallidly monotonous. Of the 32 countries in the Eurovision finals, the following sang in their first or home language and performed in relation to their own cultures: Portugal, Hungary, Belarus, Italy, France. The other 27 sang in English. Of those only the U.K., Australia, and Ireland speak English as a national language.

The second semi-final on Thursday night was an improvement. But the banalities of the Irish commentators wheeled into action in our radio and television studios left me sickened and depressed. They seem forever to tug the forelock in remembrance of their Irish mentors in scoffing at “foreignors and their strange ways” and generally promoting and living off a John Bull attitude that “wogs begin at Calais”. I felt sorry for Brendan Walsh, the Irish contestant, a young man with potential but one who, in my opinion, was squeezed into the mould of a “remember Johnny Logan” campaign. I am sure that when he develops his own persona he will succeed. But not when he is being used to promote and recall the dreams of former glories still treasured by those who were behind the scenes for former winners.

Tonight’s result, however, with Portugal’s Salvador Sobral “ag snámh in aghaidh an easa” (swimming against the flow), celebrating his victory with his sister, Luisa, and stating that music must be reclaimed for the people, for their cultures and for their emotions, was an indicator, a straw in the wind, a wind of change that hopefully will sweep across Europe when the U.K. leaves the EU or wakes up from its dream of empire and comes to its senses. Let’s get back to our roots and start planning now.

I have met too many Irish people abroad in my forty years of overseas work, whose way of surviving was snail-like, carrying their home and their culture on their backs, using the life-buoys of Irish pubs to help them survive in an artificially secure environment. Their insecurity showed in their apparent unwillingness to participate in other cultures for fear of losing their own identity. The world is a big place and we must learn to open ourselves to the anxieties and insecurities that it brings. No roots, no growth! In an interesting way I found this Eurovision encouraging for the future of Europe. Those people who are not afraid of change and of difference cast a vote tonight. The theme of this years event was “Celebrate Diversity”! What diversity? There is still a lot of work to be done, in Eurovision, in the EU, and here at home in Ireland.

How is it all going to end?

Is it possible for us to think outside these two boxes and the fixed beam that joins them and gives them motion?

because it is a fiction that we have created, we feel the need to hide the savagery of the process by giving it a few coats of the varnish of civilisation to conceal the pain.

I have just been reading #NotesfromUnderground by #Fyodor_Dostoievsky as part of a reading list on Existentialism I have downloaded to my Samsung phone. This relates to my ongoing struggle with Life and Living and my present angst arising from the struggle between interminable feelings of regret, failure, and depression and, on the other hand, the inexpressible joy of having savoured Life and Living, tasted the happiness, integrity, and exhilaration that come from a job done with ability and courage whether or not it was deemed successful or merited accolade from others.

In my undergraduate days at #UCC, I was elected President of a small College society , called the #Academy_of_St.Thomas, which was a constituent part of the #IrishAssociationofCatholic UniversityStudents, and through that affiliated to the international #Pax_Romana movement. On one occasion we had a scheduled monthly meeting on the topic of “Existentialism”. Needless to say, back in the days of the 1960s, as an Engineering student, I was not expected to know anything about Philosophy; but the secondary school catechism (bold print part only) after a Catholic upbringing, – a definite ‘yes’, -the Bible, a qualified ‘yes’ provided it was hierarchy approved and not the King James version, – the Beatles, a definite ‘yes’. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was not the only one toTeilhardP_1947

Teilhard de Chardin

dream and to sniff revolution on the breeze. I had been given a present of “The Phenomenon of Man” and didn’t get beyond the first few pages as I my mind could not cope with the translation from French of the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin about the evolution of consciousness on this planet. Nevertheless, as President of our little College “Republic of Thought”, I was required to step into the breach when our visiting Philosopher pulled out of the engagement due to illness. Yet, he kindly forwarded his script to be read at the meeting. At the hastily called meeting of our Committee, and faute de mieux, I was given the job of reading the script. I do not remember volunteering but, “as the boy stood on the burning deck,” he remembered his duty to God and Country. Either that or the awakening in me of a gene from the distaff side. My mother was a concert contralto singer and regular performing member of the Cobh Operatic Society. Theatre was in my blood. Argol! I thought it was my duty to respond.

I skipped some morning lectures and afternoon practical to sweat the text. Fortunately for me there were enough clerical and ex-clerical students in U.C.C. in those halcyon days upon whom I was able to rely for explanations of the hard words and prayers of support to prepare me for the ordeal ahead. In any case, some of them would undoubtedly be attending the lecture. They usually studied Arts and spent the afternoon in the College restaurant drinking in coffee and the ambience of student freedom. #Gaudeamus_Igitur!

The remainder of the day is still a blur of conscience-stricken ignorance, a churning stomach, of Thomistic support, and a certain je n’ sais quoi, which I recognised many years later as what happens when scales fall from the eyes with the attendant vigorous stirring of the little grey cells and a further leap in the evolution of one human specimen. For thus, without my realising it at the time, had begun with toddler steps, my thirst for the writings of Camus, of Sartre, of de Bouvoir, for the music of Brel and Piaf, as well of the emerging Left in European literature, and of an addiction to the Theatre of the Absurd. This unscratchable itch has stayed with me, unsatisfied, irritating, threatening yet attracting, like a vaguely discerned shape perceived behind a permanent veil of unknowing.

More recent social, political, and related developments in Irish, European, and global affairs have been like patches of dried skin that have appeared occasionally on my right leg! I now know better how to deal with the latter, especially since I became familiar with energy healing, acupressure, and somatic effects relating to the left side of the brain and its connection to the right side of the body. This has now brought me to strive beyond our current binary model of either/or, black/white, yes/no, good/bad. Is it possible for us to think outside these two boxes and the fixed beam that joins them and gives them motion?

That two-dimensional system, like the cinema screen, gives us an illusion of certainty, of a three-dimensional world, that we would control. We can ignore it if we don’t like what we see. In our democratic fervour, every time the see-saw changes, we claim that “The people have spoken”. Excuse me? Even when we have accepted the will of just 51% and ignored the will of the other 49%? Sorry, but you must accept the will of the majority! Why? Why not? When we draw a line of difference in an intact group, community, or society, yet wish that unit to survive as a unit we must also provide a process, a mechanism, for the effective integration of the differentiated parts into a new picture of the old reality. This is the primary problem facing the American people of the U.S. at present. It is a recurring phenomenon in the course of our lives.

The glaring but sad reality seems to be that we do not yet know how to organise and administer systems in which there are, apparently, inherent presenting contradictions. This then leads to the lauding of one view and the vilifying of the other view. This generates spite, anger, fear, resentment, recriminations, and general negativity on both sides, but not necessarily of the same kind or of the same magnitude on each side. The longer this division lasts the deeper the division grows and the more difficult it becomes eventually to resolve the problems generated by the binary or two-dimensional system. This, in turn, leads to each side finding further justification for their views and stance in the contrary beliefs and perceived dissident behaviour of the opposition. The dimensions of the reality perceived on each side are concretised and measured in the resulting total system where they are further separated and perceived in consequence as separate irreconcilable and opposing realities. Yet because it is a fiction that we have created, we feel the need to hide the savagery of the process by giving it a few coats of the varnish of civilisation to conceal the pain. But that varnish is not rust-proof. The truth will out. Just as applying cosmetics to the face of a corpse, and replacing the former shroud with nice everyday clothes is merely an effort to negate grieving by pretence and to deny Death and Dying as unavoidable aspects of Life.

The question that arises for me then is this: would the result have been different had the inherited framework used and accepted for decision-making in politics and in life in general been different. If Pain and Differentiation are inevitable, how and when can we introduce Joy and Integration? Most importantly of all, is it possible to design and use a decision-making process that caters for both and, if possible, at the same time?

In broad terms the dominant feature of Western social systems is compromise, whereas in Eastern social systems the dominant feature described is one of consensus. In the West we tend to give virtually the same meaning to both words, “compromise” and “consensus”. I have lived and worked for extended periods in the East and in the Middle East, where I have experienced fundamental differences in meaning between the two. They each belong to different realities. These differences have resonances and subtleties that are reflected in the cultures and philosophies developed broadly across each of two halves of the globe. They have been modified with some mutual accommodation in the regions of contact and overlap between the two major spheres of influence. Compare the teachings of Socrates, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius. Compare the belief systems of indigenous tribes, of Muslims, Jews, Christians in war-torn areas of the Middle East,of the same groups in Europe, Australia, America. How did they see the world? How do they make decisions?

This basic mode that I have described, of differentiation and integration is again perceived in the subordinate regions of each global sphere of interest and culture and power, where regional units such as islands, countries, nations, and tribes predominate. Within each of these, further processes of differentiation and integration are involved. We thereby arrived eventually at what we chose to describe as the fundamental building unit of the human

220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological

species, namely “Man”. Yet within the relatively tiny duration of my personal life-span, that “fundamental” unit has been challenged and re-construed as “Wo(man)” or “Woman/Man”.  Yet further these definitions were re-defined more precisely recently as “Woman-Man”, an expanding range of human individuality with seamless transitions from one sub-division to the next, from “All-woman to All-man”, portraying a rainbow of subdivisions spanning the scale. A romantic and gentle picture of differences. This panorama is reflected in the basic building block of Life, in the DNA molecule where the blueprint for differentiation is laid down and the propensity for differences in future generations have been labeled by scientists.

This is where the problem begins. This is where “Wo(man)”, as “God”, or as replacing “God”, can, or may, or must decide the future of conscious Life on this Planet. What would you do? Would you use Science, an as yet incomplete body of experimental data and therefore subject to further change and revision as the result of incremental data? What moral and ethical principles would guide us? With what degree of certainty can we produce laws and metrification to guide us in the inevitable choices we shall have to make? Given what I have written above, how will we govern society and make decisions for the human species and all its relatives? Are we so afraid of Death, Disease, and Dying that we must strive to eradicate them and to produce the Immortal Human? Will Woman, Man, or Androgyne be the norm? Should we have brought Spirit into our discourse before now? What difference would that make to the Story of Life?

Or would you choose Nature as the model for the future of our Planet? Would you be able and willing, as our ancestors were, of necessity, to live with the reality of Death, Disease, Dying and the attendant faults in the DNA that lead to disability, to fatal abnormalities, of aberrations from the anticipated development of human life and of, as yet, unrevealed and un-encountered variations in life forms? Who would decide when an intolerable Life should end or be sedated until natural death intervened, or how would such decisions be made? And, as for Science, is there a role in Nature’s Story of Life for Spirit?

© 2017 Tony Pratschke

NOTE: I plan to develop this thesis further and to expand my ideas with further detail. I would appreciate readers leaving critical comment, opinion, and questions on this topic in the Comment box below.

 

 

 

Holmes meets McCabe!

… the obvious conclusion must be that she was digging a very big hole for herself if it were subsequently discovered that she was prevaricating or concealing information. Why would she do that?

“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth.”

(Sherlock Holmes’ advice to Dr. Watson)

Rodin - The ThinkerAs I listened to the headlines on the RTÉ ”News at One” (Monday, 13th Februaaray, 2017) and heard, yet again, a statement from the Garda Commissioner that she would not be standing aside, I was minded of the quotation above. There appears to have been an assumption in the public arena that Nóirín O’Sullivan “must have known” what was going on in the whistle-blower controversy. Add to that, the thinly veiled but apparent threat/promise from Jim O’Callaghan (F.F./T.D.) in an interview with Seán O’Rourke earlier in the day when he insinuated that RTÉ had questions to answer about a “recent radio interview with the Garda Commissioner”. I had listened to that interview and the very personal nature of her story made me wonder why that interview was taking place.

I should state at this point that I have a strong personal interest in this entire whistle-blower scenario. Back in 1979 I was a member of a consultancy and management training team assembled by NIHE Limerick (now University of Limerick) to run the first management training programme in the Garda Training Centre at Templemore, Co. Tipperary, for Garda Chief Superintendents. My role and expertise related to Leadership, Group Behaviour, and Organisation Culture. In particular, my approach is based upon experiential principles where participants learn from guided analysis and examination of their own work and life experience leading to highly personal and relevant learning. For example, instead of teaching participants about Motivation and Maslow’s Theory of the Hierarchy of Needs, I would ask them to reflect upon their work experience and identify a time when they were really happy about their work and felt confident in what they were doing. Similarly for a time when they were unhappy and uncomfortable in what they were doing. By grouping their answers into “Good” and “Bad”, it quickly becomes apparent that the “positive” factors are mainly concerned with internal factors such as feeling competent, liking the work, feeling happy whereas the “negative” factors deal predominantly with external factors, such as work environment, pressure from others, relationships with team members, superiors, and subordinates. This approach, as the saying goes, “reaches parts of the psyche that traditional teaching based upon the studies of others, of experts, cannot reach” because it comes from inside the learner and bypasses the Ego resistance to change thus leading to profound changes in behaviour.

In the setting of the Templemore Centre this approach gave me valuable insights into the culture and belief systems of the Garda Síochána at that time as a national institution. In brief it was a national institution which had internalised traditional standards of moral and ethical beliefs and related behaviour patterns that were increasingly thought to be not relevant and so were increasingly not widely accepted or practised in the Ireland of the time. This was summarised on one occasion during the course by a Detective Chief Superintendent who, in response to my question as what was the greatest change they had witnessed during their careers, said that “the greatest change was that (they) could no longer recognise a criminal by the ‘cut’ of him.”

I later made use of this and other related information I had gleaned to make a detailed contribution to the Garda Training Committee Report on Probationer Training (published by the Stationery Office) which was presented to the Garda Commissioner, Lawrence Wren, in December, 1985. This was the first of a series of Reports on Education and Training for the Garda Síochána. Further reports were planned for In-Service Promotion, Specialist, and Higher Management Training. I made specific recommendations as to how the culture of the organisation should be changed so that the Garda Síochána would be empowered and supported in dealing with a rapidly changing society. In particular, I was drawing attention to the undermining and then immanent failure and collapse of the traditional icons, symbols, and sources of authority in Irish society. From personal contacts, both formal and informal, in the course of the past fifteen years (since returning to Ireland in 2001 after a further twenty years of overseas work in developing countries and transitional economies) I believe that little has changed. It is against this background that I make the following comments.

nine-of-wandsIf Commissioner O’Sullivan had known nothing as she has stated repeatedly about the alleged victimisation of Garda Sergeant McCabe and others, the obvious conclusion must be that she was digging a very big hole for herself if it were subsequently discovered that she was prevaricating or concealing information. Why would she do that? If she had genuinely been unaware of what was happening, how was that possible? If we allow for that possibility though, then however improbable it may seem, we must also allow for the possibility that she was deliberately not informed by one or more senior members of her management team about what was going on! Why would they do that? Did one or more of her team fear that a woman Commissioner would not sympathise or identify with a traditional male ethos? What else has yet to be disclosed? Does she even yet know who has been hiding information from her? Is that the reason why she is determined to remain in office until, like a good police officer, she flushes out the mole in the organisation? Is this yet another example of “The Case of the Dog that didn’t Bark in the Night?”

Where do we go from here?

A gap is opening between Government and people. It is widening to a gulf of not knowing. And it is not just in Ireland, but in many other countries that regard themselves as democracies.

NOTE: I began writing this blog about one month ago on a Monday morning just before Christmas.

I have just been listening to the Sean O’Rourke programme, which featured an interview with An Tánaiste from Greece informing us about the progress in arrangements to bring our quota of refugees to Ireland. Earlier there was a discussion about Garda pension arrangements, trade union recognition, et al. Then an interview with Mr. Irwin, founder and now retiring CEO of the Jack and Jill Foundation about the work done by them over the past twenty years or so. Over the week-end I had listened to discussions around Irish art and culture reminding me how wonderful and unique we Irish are. Then, as I sit here listening to “O Holy Night” on the Ronan Collins Show, I check in to Facebook and the first item in my Facebook page is a comment from one of the “anti-water protest” pages objecting to our welcoming of refugees while homeless Irish people are living and dying on our streets. And that is just in the past two hours. Add to that the kaleidoscope of disturbing images and snippets from different media and I find myself torn apart, struggling with conflicted emotions.

I promised myself as I started to write this piece that I would not use adjectives or any words that carried emotion or judgment. I failed but I have gone back and edited those words so that I took the emotions back into my psyche and owned them. The result is that I now feel angry, despairing, powerless, dirtied, complicit, confused, useless, but still determined not to give in. I am listening to the RTÉ news telling me of summary executions of non-combatant civilians in Aleppo in Syria, I can’t be sure that I can continue to process and control these emotions as I write.

dreamstime_s_46142943

Nevertheless, I have devoted my whole life, sometimes with conscious focus but more often than not driven by an unconscious, inexplicable, internal tumult to confront the Unknown, and possibly Unknowable, in an effort to make sense of this chaos.

A few rocks of logic have given me a handhold to survive. And I would like to describe these before making an appeal. It is part of our human condition that we must admit and accept that we struggle to understand what Life is about. Some people accept the tenets of a received religion which gives them a measure of consolation provided they maintain their “Belief in the Unbelievable” (G.K. Chesterton’s description of religion) which appears to be based upon an assumption that “God is Good” albeit not understandable to the human mind, and “Evil” is attributable to a separate entity. Others develop the assumption that there is no “God” and that Life, the Universe, and Everything, is some kind of glorious happenstance that doesn’t require a meaning other than that “it is”, and “après moi”, not only is there no “la deluge”, there isn’t even a tear drop. Truly Theatre of the Absurd!

I began to see a glimmer of humanist hope in the middle 1970s. I had returned from a four-year contract in Zambia, working on the second largest underground copper mine in the world, where I had reached the level of Chief Training Officer. The challenge of working in a different culture and different working environment had opened my mind and led me to question many of my inherited certainties. Back in Ireland after a short spell in consultancy in the UK and Angola, I was introduced to the work of the Tavistock Institute and the work of Melanie Klein, a psychotherapist, who had studied under Sigmund Freud. Without going into the theoretical details of her work which dominated my work and my world for the following thirty years, I can summarise in lay-person’s language the essence of her work.

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Melanie Klein was a psychotherapist who focused on studying young children up to the age of two in order to understand how the human psyche (total mental system) learned how to understand and respond to the world around it. In essence she suggested that the child discovers by accident and by experimenting that there are “good” things and “bad” things about the world that can please or upset, love or hurt, and a mental boundary is thus created between Good and Evil. The good things are internalised/eaten and give pleasure, the nasties are spat out, thrown up, put beyond the boundary that was created in the psyche and externalised. This way of dealing with “objects” is imprinted in the psyche before the child has developed speech to describe its feelings and these “bottled” experiences become the basic mechanism we use throughout our life for dealing with the people and events that impinge on us. This means that we unconsciously reject anything that upsets or offends us and “project” it, like a slide onto a screen, and see it in someone or something external to us. This gives us some consolation but it doesn’t last very long because it is only the association with the external object that is projected. We are still left with the feeling response of disgust, or anger, or fear that was generated initially.

I emphasise that this is done unconsciously. But every time I see, hear, or read a rant on facebook or a report in a television/radio interview that seems to be biased, I am reminded of that mechanism and wonder what can be done to bring about a resolution of the unconscious reaction. We have been fuming with anger against those who have imposed austerity upon us, we are angry with the Government for what we believe they are doing to us. But while the anger burns away at our souls, and people suffer evictions, and loss, and pain in their lives, nothing seems to happen as a result of that anger. Innocent people, adults and children find their lives reduced to bare survival. Why? The inequalities in society are worsening. Why is nothing being done?

five-of-cupsI believe that it is essential for our very health, physical and mental, that we learn to understand this psychic avoidance mechanism. We live in an  increasingly dangerous and uncontrolled environment. Yet, if we are to survive we must come to terms with these learned responses that once served a useful purpose but nowadays are a time bomb ticking down the seconds to our destruction. I am thinking in particular about the anger, violent and palpable, that is expressed by so many people in response to the increasing violence we experience from society, from government, even from those close to us. For that reason I have been asking myself is it worth the risk of putting my head above the parapet to draw attention to this violence. Because much of it is an unconscious, “knee-jerk”, reaction to the pain experienced by so many people our instinctive reaction is to deny it. That is my reaction also, hoping that it will go away, or that someone else will take up the cudgel to attack it. That is why I have held back on posting this message since just before Christmas.

A gap is opening between Government and people. It is widening to a gulf of not knowing. And it is not just in Ireland, but in many other countries that regard themselves as democracies.