Alternative Editorial: Constructing 2018

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By Indra Adnan, co-initiator of The Alternative UK

This is an editorial from our Alternative Weekly Newsletter (sign up here, and previous newsletters here) which begins to pull together the many strands of socio-political change reported in our Daily Alternative blogs and give some shape to the emerging politics of the future.

Like many of you, we spent a lot of time amongst family over this past week, finding ourselves in conversation with a wide range of generations. It was the best possible preparation for looking ahead to 2018 as genuinely alternative ways of thinking and acting were on offer – often framed by age as well as circumstances.

Each generaration had their own divides. We saw a couple in their mid-90s, living precariously but determinedly on their own, with social services propping up their autonomy. Their story was one of bewilderment: with only the mainstream media as a channel to the outside world, they are scared of the future, sorry that post-war glories have faded.

Another 103-year-old lives alone, still eating and exercising with military discipline and reading only the books she gets from the library and magazines on subscription. She’s heard that anti-ageing drugs are on the horizon and laughs: who knows, she says, how long she’ll keep going?

What they have in common is that both find it hard to understand their grandchildren – they simply cannot recognise their reality. The ‘kids’ are digital natives: always connected, rarely bored (though constantly distracted) and natural global citizens – meaning not fazed by cultural diversity. Their fluidity was baffling to their elders and was quickly criticised as lacking in seriousness.

Listening into these young people’s conversations, I could hear that they lack some of the entitlement to secure jobs and housing that their parents enjoyed. Yet they are also less bound by conventional notions of career and family. Their psychological and emotional literacy is high after years of training – from Big Brother to Facebook – but their confidence tends to lie in the strength of their friendship and affinity networks.

If there was a divide amongst the youngest, it was between those who bought the idea that their parents had ruined their futures – no security, a dangerous, failing world – and those who believed the best is yet to come. Surprisingly, some of the more prosperous millennials were more anxious than those without traditional support networks. Those with less to lose who had the mind-set of living in the present moment, taking each day as it comes.

A common theme of conversation was Trump and the nature of fake news. Almost all agreed that it was hard to know what to believe any more. Yet I heard, more than once, that there was comfort in the evidence that we were all discussing the media, becoming observers of our own susceptibility.

So when the mainstream media tells us that this is the year of great global challenges, how many will be in thrall to their pronouncements? When Russia hosts the World Cup after what will likely be a controversial general election, will we be any less interested in whether England makes it to the quarter finals? Are we on tenterhooks because South Korea is hosting the Winter Olympics and may provoke North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il to compete for attention with a well-timed nuclear weapons test? Should we be?

As Brexit looms will we become obsessed with the fault line between hard and soft, maybe even dragged into the call for a general election that no-one is confident of winning – because no-one has a clear political or social vision for the future of Europe?

What IS the alternative agenda for 2018? We’ve been looking back over the 9 months of daily blogs that report the many many socio-political initiatives into which people are investing their time and energies. From that we deduce that, contrary to the shrink-back-in-fear scenario delivered by the mainstream, 2018 could be a year of radical political entrepreneurialism. New forms of participation, new styles of leadership, new explorations of power.

With our support, a number of firsts are kicking off. In March, a whole host of long-established actors – from Permaculture Association to Solidarity Economy and Transition Towns – will be holding CtrlShift: Emergency Summit for Change in Wigan, giving rise to a new political vision for a more connected I, We and World .

In April, in partnership with the Real Ideas Organisation, the Mayor of Buckfastleigh, Flatpack Democracy and Transition Towns, The Alternative UK is beginning a political laboratory process  in Devon. Over three months it aims to awaken all those taking part to their own power for change. Amongst other tools and practices, the labs will equip local communities to take back control over their councils, birthing a new culture of participation and well-being.

In May People Power Brum will be attempting a Flatpack Democracy style take-over of the Birmingham City Council, but bringing with them Liquid Democracy and Citizens Assemblies . Each of these initiatives will be championing advances made by a variety of actors in the town, city or region – joining the dots between different acts of political innovation.

While each will have its own local expression, all will directly address how the health of the individual is directly connected to the health of the planet. Each will harness the power of creatives to re-imagine politics and be future positive – unafraid to work with technology to usher in a better future for people in their own communities. On The Alternative UK website we will be plotting their progress, showcasing the prototypes that arise. Together with all our co-creators we will make sense of what is happening at local, national and global levels.

In the second half of the year, we are planning our first Alternative political festival, bringing together for the first time, all the actors we have been platforming since March 2017: for that, watch this space.

None of this will come easily. Political entrepreneurship requires hutzpah – courage and a lot of cheek. But it’s more fun than being overly defined by the past, hoping that ‘one last heave’ will finally deliver us power. This way every day is a challenge, an act of imagination and creativity that has as its reward more participation, more connection and more sense of possibility.

We only ask that if you are reading this, you consider how you can add your energies to this task this year. Become a co-creator, initiate a laboratory, stand as an independent in your local community. Or if you have no time, make a donation to those who can.

So when you are reading the mainstream news that our lives are on hold until Donald Trump steps back from his threats to Mexicans, Palestinians, Russians, Koreans. You know there is an Alternative. Because you are busy building one.