Alternative Editorial: At The End Of 2018
By Indra Adnan, Co-inititaor AUK
2018 has been a helluva year. As we move toward 2019, both the UK and the USA are in stalemate positions. The UK Parliament is a painful spectacle, with the two main parties split and gaming each other as the country veers towards the cliff, aka Brexit. In the USA, a President is at odds with his Congress, using his powers to shut the whole show down until they give him what he wants.
And it’s not only the usual behemoths who are demonstrating the ineffectiveness of 20C politics for 21C conditions. Sweden has also been without a government now for over three months. They have been unable to produce a working coalition to run the country, as neither of the two main parties can accommodate the phenomenon of the rising ‘right’.
And as each of these governments sent their politicians home to their super-comfortable Christmas holidays, no doubt encouraged to get some rest, there will be families all over those nations feeling a direct hit from the breakdown. Jobs are at risk and benefits will be unpaid in the US. Homes and security are threatened in the UK. There is fear of extreme social disruption in Sweden.
What are we looking at here? Of course, the details are vastly different in each case. Yet there are common factors. These could boil down to too much power being concentrated at the top of each nation. And the newly complex arguments of our globalised world can no longer be resolved along old party divides, operating at the national level.
The people are rising, because in this age of connectivity and social media, they are finding the means to take back a little power for themselves, in order to express their own hopes and fears. But who the people are - and what they demand - is not homogenous or coherent: it is diverse and complex. The old electoral and party systems and ideologies can’t possibly capture or even help articulate it. The can only problematise and fear it. There are no mechanisms for engaging with it, learning from it, advancing with it.
And as the parties oppose each other head on, unable to cooperate or even reach basic decisions, the planet burns. For the millennials and those even younger, this is tantamount to watching your parents argue about who has the right to put out the fire that is raging around them. Or who is allowed to feed the baby while it starves in front of you. Greta Thurnberg said it so well in her address to the climate conference COP24 in Poland.
What we have been doing in A/UK, to the best of our ability in 2018, is to focus elsewhere – on the very people who are coming up with alternatives to the powerlessness on show and amplified by our media. Our message has been, relentlessly, that new ways of behaving, organising and responding to the crises are already in action in small pockets all over the planet.
From the new practices and toolboxes of localism, to the new structures and mechanisms of municipalism. We have charted breakthroughs in sustainable energy, means of producing and distributing food, new ways to live together, work creatively, build a new economy.
Every week we call upon people to shift their gaze and see the opportunity in front of us all. To notice each other’s work, link arms and show ourselves what complex human beings can do when they come into relationship with each other: that is, build safer, stronger communities that are both resilient and creative. And capable of delivering at a town or city level what the national level has failed to do. When enough of us are doing that, we begin to change the direction of the nation from below. And that nation can begin to model to others what is possible for networks of nations to do for the planet.
In 2019 we expect to step up significantly with the evidence of what is possible. Already in the coming year we are looking at multiple strong new narratives of human potential. Some are arising from different US states, working below a Federal government still intent on controlling everything from Washington. And the possibility of a new kind of politics that might capture the greater autonomy now being expressed. Watch this space.
Stories of green ‘transition’ from Seoul, Rwanda, Kamakura sit alongside the many green shoots arising across Europe. Watch this space.
And if we can progress our own work in towns and cities in the UK, we will find stories of solidifying community networks that bring forth a new idea of what politics could look and feel like when it is fit for the 21st Century. What can people, connected to each other across old divides, achieve to bring their own region down to carbon neutral by 2030? And in so doing, release reserves of energy and creativity amongst the people themselves – so ready to re-imagine their daily lives and culture away from the Westminster model of helplessness.
To do all of that, to be able to keep offering you an alternative to build on, we need your support. Please keep sharing the news. And please consider contributing something – the price of a Netflix film once a month would be fabulous - to keep the ball rolling. Whatever we focus on, all of us, is what we will grow. And we are committed, 24/7 to giving you that focus in 2019.