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

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.

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.

We will go on and on, if “they” decide so!

I wish that the Dáil and the media would stop using the mantra “the people have spoken” as if the electorate had sent a clear message with one voice and all that needed to be done now was for the Dáil to read the runes, consult the Oracle at Delphi and then to hammer out a deal, as so often before to pacify the people and all would return to normal. Do they not understand? They are still acting as if they believe in the Story they have concocted and now think it is true. Unfortunately many people in this country got caught up in that Story and began to believe that it was their Story also! Quite clearly it is not true and the electorate has begun to wake up to that fact.

The time has come for us to create a new Story, a new narrative that recognises the hopes and aspirations of a people who have given so much in the past to build a national home  not only for themselves and their families, but for those of Irish descent around the globe. They, and we, all deserve so much more in the future.

Starting from next Thursday, we need to see the Dáil elect a Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) who does not see the role as that of compere or commere of some kind of Music Hall Spectacular, but instead a person with the experience and presence who will control the unruly members with their puerile backchat and disruptive behaviour when they treat to Chamber as an extension of the Dáil bar.

The next task of the Dáil is to nominate a Taoiseach with the integrity, the understanding, the intelligence, the openness and honesty to unite the country. At the moment the leaked gossip and snippets about who is meeting whom, indicate that the focus is totally fixed on power games and has nothing to do with the good of the Nation.Note, by the way, that the agenda item is labelled, “election of Taoiseach”, not “coronation of one party or a cosy coalition”. It is an importtant role. It is a pity that political parties have turned it into an election for the largest party in the Dáil to lay claim to government and power. It does not necessarily need to be so.

From our experience of previous Governments, it is time for a Grand Coalition, preferably not a National Government, because I do not believe that we could trust every party and independent to put the Nation first, if there were no Opposition.

Such a Coalition could draw on the best talent available in the Dáil when appointing Ministers, drawing candidates from all parties or none as well as appointing independents to ministerial office. We even have the precedent of a previous Taoiseach who brought in a candidate from outside by nominating him to the Seanad first before appointing him as Minister for Foreign Affairs – Senator Professor James Dooge. A stately politician and an academic with an impish wit. I remember him lecturing us young first-year would-be engineers on the role of the engineer in sustainable development. We all had to hunt for our dictionaries when he told us with a straight face that the Plains Indians of North America were so good at sustainable living that they even made ceremonial rattles from the scrotum of the bison!

dreamstime_m_33348151The new Government will have a primary task and two main fronts for action. One front clearly is to reform the system and procedures of government, reforming both Dáil and Seanad. Such topics as participative democratic structures eventually reaching from the Dáil Chamber to the Village Community Council, use of online resources to sound the views of the electorate on difficult issues, making equality at work and in society a reality for women and men. It has been promised for a long time. It’s time that it was done now. The second front is to establish a number of task forces, each one actively led by one or more Ministers involved in that field to tackle the crises besetting us in health, homelessness, housing, infrastructure, and public utilities. There is such a mountain of work to be done that Teachtaí Dála who indulge in time-wasting manoeuvres and game playing will not be able to keep up, not to mind sneaking off early to meet their constituents, or even their pals, for a quiet one before the week-end proper starts!

These two fronts for action must be integrated and co-ordinated under the Primary Task, and make specific contributions to it. The Primary Task must dominate over all other priorities and influence their goals and their methods; but that has been almost totally ignored in the election campaign to date and most of the electorate has feared to even mention its name – Climate Change. This global challenge is the target we, and others, must meet if our human race is to survive on this planet. Generations of wilful ignorance, plain greed, and allowing the use and abuse of our global material resources, such as coal, oil, iron, precious metals, even water, to be handed over to private corporations for the enriching of their dreamstime_s_9425462owners have created the problem. Despite warnings from environmental organisations world wide and advice given by our own Green Party and their colleagues elsewhere, successive governments have used “creative accounting” and “quack scientists” to hide the facts from the electorate and lay false trails. Think of a Donald Trump clone as a member of Fianna Fáil and you will see what I mean. “Climate denier” is a polite title for what they do, including giving international guarantees that we obviously could not meet given our appoach to the problem.

We have experienced only the tiniest sample yet of what is to come. But like frightened children we, and our leaders, are hiding our heads under the blankets of feigned ignorance, hoping that the problems of climate change will just go away in the night and not trouble us again. We must prepare, starting now, and build a new way of doing, a new way of thinking, a new way of living our lives. If we do not do so, any temporary solutions we find for our current crises, will not survive long enough to see us through the final great crisis that faces Humankind.

We can go on, … we must go on, and we will go on!

unnamed

 

General Election 2015. Questions to answer?

If you think negative thoughts then you will attract negativity to you. Yes, the situation is a total mess now, and merely talking and dreaming about it will not change it. Neither will old thinking and worn out ways change it. The Game is a rigged one and we are at present caught up in it. We can change that Game by changing the Story that holds the System together. The present story is based upon the belief that we, the people, need a small group of people to take charge of our country, and then, by merely waiting for them to deliver the future that they promised and not interfering, we will have solved every problem and we shall all be wealthy, and, of course, healthy, ever after.

Yes, the System is wobbling at present. Indeed, there are fears that the global Financial System is failing, just as the world’s Climate is changing. The lies and the faults are beginning to show that the old Story cannot be maintained; it is not the whole Story. But all that is being offered in General Election 2015 are a few small groups and individuals who are challenging the Old Guard yet they are not offering any new Story. Even if the old exploiters in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour are routed, what are the newcomers offering? Sexier versions of the old Story, is the kindest I can say. In brief, all any party is offering, is that if you support them and they get in, then you and your class/group/tribe/whatever will benefit and the losers will suffer. All based on the nonsense of living our lives as part of an economy. What is the economy? May as well call it the Swings and Roundabouts game! But no, have you not noticed that one section of the world’s society has been increasing its power and its wealth, whilst for the other side, poverty is increasing and so is the percentage of the population that is affected.

All my life I have seen efforts made, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, in Ireland and in other regions of the world, to “grow” the economy! Have you asked yourself for how long more can economies keep growing? Is it possible that one day our descendents will be living in economies where their weekly take home pay will be over €1 million???? What do you think would be the price of a loaf of bread then? Nonsense. This growth is happening only because a Story was created that we can have what we want, provided we use the Market based upon debt. To pay that debt, the Banks manufacture money out of paper and charge for that service. There was a time when bank notes were backed by an equivalent value in gold that could be claimed and redeemed on demand! Needless to say that part of the Story was changed very soon.

We are now being told that the way to grow our economy is by creating a magical circle or cycle, create jobs, negotiate or dictate (or even ‘set’, now that’s a nice word!) the least amount necessary to get people to take those jobs, then those on the receiving side, use that “money” to buy goods and services at an increasing rate, paying taxes, creating more jobs, etc. I am sure you have got the idea by now. In the past, the only thing that increased in that version of the Story is that the tiny percentage of people who are at the top of the pile, got smaller and wealthier, and the rest got poorer and larger. And so it is now also. Even the fairy story of the “trickle down” effect, is like some of the present advertisements for ladies toiletries on TV, and shows no sign of any trickles! This system has brought the planet Earth to its knees, It has consumed non-renewable resources, That is the system which has been growing since the Industrial Revolution but is now beginning to creak under the weight of the lies and fantasies that it carries. Have you yet asked yourself why no Irish political party or individual candidate for election has addressed the issue and stated the obvious?

Why has no party or individual candidate stated what “issue” and what is “obvious”? In November last, at the COP21 Climate Change Summit in Paris, the Great and the Good from governments, global corporations, international institutions, and groups of environmental scientists, climatologists, presented a stark picture. Our current way of doing things on this planet is destructive, heading in the wrong direction, and if left unrestrained will lead within the next fifty years (the combined lifetime, by the way, of the next six full-term governments in Ireland) to the ‘tipping point’, or the point of no return, the point beyond which it will be beyond our control to stop an irreversible process leading to the destruction of life on this planet within the following century. Apparently we must prevent the average temperature across the globe from rising more that 1˚ or 2˚C before 2150. Some experts fear that we are on the way to a 8˚C ríse or even more. Perhaps, you should pause here to let that point sink in. And perhaps take a deep breath also.

Why then, if we have reached such a dangerous point, does no political party or candidate begin their manifesto by telling us how they, as representatives of the people of this country, are going to face that difficult period of thirty years now facing us? If they were honest and sincere when they agreed with COP21 and signed up solemnly “to do their bit” in averting that disaster, why are they not now putting forward coherent and interlinked policies for every area of government that will fall into place creating an integrated programme to tackle the real problems we are now facing?

 Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

Taking some of the main headings used in the Election Manifestoes, what are the most important issues that must be addressed if we are to solve existing problems and, at the same time, address the global problems we are now facing?

 International role of Ireland

What part can we play in ensuring the safety of our own people in times of world conflicts? What role should we aspire to play on the international stage? Do we have a role in relation to citizens of other countries? We are told that our economy is the fastest growing in Europe; what are the implications of this for us vis-à-vis other European countries?

 Health

Climate change is going to create greater and more problems for our country as the climate changes. How are we going to cope with that? We have had patients on trolleys for over a decade now. What can we do over the next three decades to ensure the our health and illness system can cope with the anticipated changes in demand. What new threats are likely to emerge in that time. With climate change affecting the geography of the country, more flooding, rising tides, what use will “Centres of Excellence” be, if our entire transport systems, our roads, our countryside, prove inadequate to get people to these Centres? How do we “join the dots” to examine and resolve the various health crises and epidemics coming to awareness? Are we sure that the internationalisation of our diet, the increase in processed foods and meals, the use of more and more chemicals in the production of food to preserve the illusion of freshness, to increase shelflife, is not causing more problems than it is solving?

 Education

Successive government experts and propagandists have told us we have a highly educated and trained workforce. That may be true in cold statistics on a spread sheet, but we also know that technology is changing very quickly and that the life time of many skills, trades and professions is shortening. If a forty-year-old employee now becomes redundant how many of his/her skills are still relevant to the job market? What systems have we in place to upskill and re-educate people for new jobs, new technologies, new opportunities. In a society where the majority of population has been brainwashed into believing that learning more than one language is unnecessary, too difficult, or pointless, can we expect to communicate with a global market where there are customers who do not share those primitive and self-serving beliefs?

And what about access to education? Is our education system fit for purpose? Upon what assumptions is access to educational opportunities based? If couples wittingly or unwittinly are responsible for begetting children, does society have any obligation or responsibility in ensuring that each child is given equal opportunity to develop and make their own unique contribution to life and to society?

 Social Welfare

What is the relationship between the individual and society? Who decides the nature of that link? Why do we appear to believe that individuals are of value to society, and qualify for full membership, only when they have a defined “job”? Should every citizen be provided with a social “wage” to acknowledge them as a member of society, encouraged to find their own role and contribution in a non-defined or a defined way (such as a job, trade, profession) as their skills or talents lead them? How do we organise society in a way that encourages and promotes communities and groups as socially supportive and caring environments, independently of any other work or institutional role an individual may have.

The above items are just some of the initial questions and issues that I believe have to be asked of a new Government. If they don’t answer those questions then what is their framework for planning? But firstly it is essential that every individual ask and answer what it is that they want for themselves, for their families, for their communities. This year we are celebrating the 1916 Rising and commemorating what it means for us, as a people and as a Nation. Their proclamation at Easter 1916 implied a view of the kind of Ireland they aspired to. As each of those leaders was led or wheeled out to execution, I wonder how far they had gone in formulating their answers to these and similar questions before their execution. I also wonder have we yet earned the right to claim their inheritance as a republic by way of the answers we now seek.

The times and the winds, they are a-changing

Our political party leaders met in a free-for-all, that would have had them thrown out of any self-respecting pub in Ireland.

dreamstime_m_58494533On Thursday night (11th February, 2016)I watched a debacular political sketch on TV3 that was worthy of ranking with the most offensive cartoons ever printed in Punch magazine in the early 20th century deriding the Irish people as simian and savage. Our political party leaders met in a free-for-all, that would have had them thrown out of any self-respecting pub in Ireland. I learned nothing new from the politicians with one small exception, but I learned a lot about the political orientation of the political experts and self-proclaimed political elite now scavenging the back lanes of politics. It wasn’t the fault of TV3 or of their two presenters who appeared shell-shocked by their inability to cope with the job on hand, apart from the evidence that they did not know how to control the mob antics they faced. It led me to reflect on something that I have been mulling over for some time. I am disgusted and dismayed by the regularly provocative refrains from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour alluding to Sinn Féin’s earlier links with militant republicanism. I am surprised, but then again, not really surprised, that no one has as yet commented on the following.

  1. Gerry Adams and his colleagues succeeded in doing what no other politician in the Southern three-and-a-bit green fields of Erin ever tried to do. They “bit on the bullet” (my apologies for such a relevant analogy), got their supporters and erstwhile freedom fighters/guerrillas/terrorists to put their arms and military equipment beyond use, to sit down with their enemies and begin a peace process. I say “begin” because I believe that there is a lot yet to be done, as there is in most peace processes negotiated internationally and legalistically.
  2. But we seem to overlook the elephantine figure next to the TV in the sitting room of Irish families today and that is, Sinn Féin is not the only Irish political institution to come from a blood-stained past.
  3. Fine Gael’s origins were in a proto-fascist militaristic tradition, with some of their leaders having fought for Ireland’s independence, with one of their favourite founders leading and carrying out assassinations and murders not dissimilar to those we now condemn in other current world conflict.
  4. Fianna Fáil’s origins were in militant republicanism, equally murderous, equally divisive, and equally spiritually squalid.
  5. The Labour Party grew out of the early Labour and Trade Union Movement assisted by the Citizen’s Army, another militant movement, that used open violence.
  6. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael went on to cry havoc on Irish society with a civil war that destroyed families, and communities, and individuals and perverted the growth of normal politics in Ireland right up to today. Many Irish trade unions have supported the Labour Party unquestioningly for decades with the result that it is now sucking on  the dried tits of the present neoliberal establishment, and there is hardly a murmur from the mouths of many trade union leaders or their members.
Since I first qualified to vote as a young man, I have never voted for either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, and neither will I do so now until their current respective leaderships apologise to one another and to the Irish people for the damage and killings and distortions their founders and ancestors imposed on our country and on our political institutions. We demanded that the British Government and Establishment do us that honour and lapped it up when the British Prime Minister and the Queen bowed to our history. Why not expect the same now from the descendents and inheritors of our own internal war and destruction? I have been a Socialist in the European and International tradition since my younger days, and spent some years with the Irish Labour Party, but they have deserted the little socialism they ever had when their earlier leaders subjected their principles to ecclesiastical nihil obstats, and they morphed into political opportunists.
But there is another, equally important dimension to this history. Last November, I launched a low-key project from my web site (www.wolflander.ie), calling on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to institute a parallel peace process at citizen and community level. In the past 4 months, almost 1,000 people, both Arab and Israeli, have registered on the web site and shared their approval and support for my project which I called the Adomnán Project in recognition of the achievement of Adomnán, an Abbot of the Iona Monastery. In 697 A.D., long before there were international Rights of Man, of Woman, or of Child, Adomnán brought tribal and religious leaders together from what we now call the UK and Ireland, for a peace synod in Birr, Co. Offaly. There they passed the “Law of the Innocents”, protecting women from family and social violence, as well as protecting all non-combatants in tribal wars. This happened in Ireland, a small island on the edge of the world then known to the tribes of Europe, including Greece and Rome, and regarded by them as a barbarian place outside of the civilisation they knew as the Roman Empire. The intervention worked, because the law was supported at local levels and backed by the tribal leaders and was implemented by the tribal and religious leaders.
Whilst I accept the need for international negotiated legal treaties and processes at the level of governments and international institutions to provide a framework for the growth of peace, these are not sufficient in themselves to bring peace and reconciliation at the level of the citizen and the community. A parallel process of community reconciliation is also required and funds must be found to prepare individuals and families and communities to come to terms with the differences between them and to begin together on the journey to a peaceful existence together. This  is still true of the peace process in Northern Ireland and much work still needs to be done there at various levels of the society and the administration.
I believe now, and I admit that it has taken me some time to reach this decision, that a Sinn Fein party in Government in the Republic of Ireland could herald a new era in Irish politics. In words adapted from Samuel Beckett, I suggest that “we can’t go on as we are, we must go on, we will go on”. Our ancestors are now calling to us on the winds of change. It is time that we responded and invited them to sit and warm themselves by our fires and help us to repair our links with an Ireland that we have all but lost. For this reason, I believe that the Irish electorate must examine and evaluate the parties that are vying for our support in this election from a new perspective. The TV debate last Thursday night followed by the various media comments and judgments since then, have led me to the conclusion that a Sinn Fein led government after the next general election has the potential to herald a new age in  Irish politics and should be given that opportunity. The current political establishment with its divisive Civil War wounds and hatreds appears to be fanning the flames of anger to an extent that will blind us to that possibility and merely re-inforce the current fault lines in our society. The choice will be ours. And only ours.

That quotation from Thomas Berry really got to me!

I was stopped in my tracks by a quotation from Thomas Berry

These Cosmic dynamics have been active for billions of years and have enabled us to come this far.That, surely, is sufficient reason for us to believe that the guiding principle are still at work.

Having confidence in the future is one essential component, without doubt, if we are to tackle the problems. But we also need to develop new ways of working that make us an aware participant in evolution, …

ThomasBerry2014-FrontCover
Thomas Berry

Today I started on the 4th module of the Pachamama Programme, Game Changing Initiative, the primary focus of which is on Evolutionary Activism and how to engage collectively with the huge issues facing the world we live in. I was stopped in my tracks by a quotation from Thomas Berry [check <http://www.thomasberry.org/Books/>]. He reminds me a lot of a similar writer, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, [see: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin>%5D from the 1950s who sowed the seeds for a break from the traditional ideas about religion to engagement with an ongoing spiritual process encompassing evolution and the cosmos. Initially he was rejected by both Vatican and Jesuits alike. Incidentally I was given a present of his book, “The Phenomenon of Man” by the late Val Rice (former Chair of Education at Trinity College Dublin (1966-2005)) who was a student with me in University College, Cork. Val gave it to me as payment-in-kind when I gave him a grind in maths-physics to help catch up after he joined our class late in the term (1961)!

Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Rather than present the quote (which I will do below, for the record), let me try to put it in my own words and in the context of our exchanges on Facebook. Most of us today are familiar with images of the Universe captured and delivered to us by the Hubble Telescope. Irrespective of religious beliefs or none, we all marvel at the sight of our galaxy, dwarfed in the midst of so many other galaxies in the unfathomable depths of the Cosmos.

When we look at the small blue planet, our home, which is in turn dwarfed by the size of our galaxy, we struggle to comprehend the relationship between that speck of life and the infinite space around it. We seem, however, to be agreed, in some way we don’t yet fully understand, that the dynamics of that Cosmos, from the very beginning at the Big Bang, right up this moment of Now, shaped the course of development of the heavens that we see above us on a starry night, they lit up the Sun upon which we depend totally for all forms of life, and they formed our own planet Earth.

Pachamama - Mother Earth -Our Home
Pachamama – Mother Earth -Our Home

These Cosmic dynamics have been active for billions of years and have enabled us to come this far.That, surely, is sufficient reason for us to believe that the guiding principles are still at work.  Yet nowadays, Planet Earth is under severe stress, not only from climate change brought about largely by human activity, but also from the exhausting of irreplaceable animal and mineral resources. Even the survival of our own human species is under threat. At local levels, in every country, conflicts are emerging, governments are failing to provide a social and environmental setting in which people, all people, can live meaningful lives, work in jobs that have meaning and reward them, feel secure and not exploited. Every day, I see reports about problems filtering from colleagues around the globe, telling me about the conflict between the EU/Troika/IMF and an impoverished Greece. Within my own country of Ireland, there is mounting anger because of the way in which austerity policies continue to hit the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, established jobs have been wiped out, artificial employment as “trainees” and in “work experience programmes” are being offered to the unemployed whose skills have become redundant, while the richest individuals and corporations seem to be getting ever richer. From planetary destruction to the loss of jobs locally, what can we do? Just turn our faces to the wall and die miserable, neglected and alone? Or is there something we can do about it? There is! We can, therefore we must!

pollution and waste
Pollution and Waste

I believe that the framing of a question is critical to the answer we receive. Perhaps we should rephrase the question if we are serious about finding an answer to our current question. In reality, there is probably little that we can do from our own resources, at local, national, and some international levels, based upon the results of our previous efforts. The question that we face is: How can we work, together, at all levels in society, with the dynamics of the Cosmos, that have brought us this far, to adjust our lives to being part of the process of evolution rather than fighting against it, like some blind Titan, standing alone, upon a Hill in Hebron, cursing the Gods he does not know or understand?

This is the  quotation from Thomas Berry, I mentioned above:

“If the dynamics of the universe, from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth… there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened our present understanding of ourselves and our relationship to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.”
[Thomas Berry
]

Rodin - The ThinkerHaving confidence in the future is one essential component, without doubt, if we are to tackle the problems. But we also need to develop new ways of working that make us an aware participant in evolution, rather than merely an outsider to a process which appears to conflict with the main ideologies in current favour. How can that be done. As part of the Pachamama Programme in which I am participating with others from around the globe, I am trying to explore ways in which I can contribute, no matter how small and insignificant the effort of an individual may be in comparison with the enormity of the challenge. At such times as this, I am often reminded of a folk song I heard and sang in the 1960s. It is the rallying call composed by Woody Guthrie in the Dustbowl of the US in the 1930s – “Two and two and fifty make a million”!

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

I shall be writing from time to time about my progress, or lack of it, as the case may be; of the ideas generated by my colleagues and other participants in the Programme; and I would love to hear from readers of this blog about their views and any work that they are doing in this area. Let;s not turn our faces to the wall, just yet ;-D. I hear two calling another two, and I can see another fifty becoming active! We will get there. As Samuel Beckett, a great Irish writer and Nobel Prize winner, once wrote: “I can’t go on, I must go on, I will go on”.